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Film Obsessive’s Academy Award Predictions 2020

The Film Obsessive crew is back to discuss their predictions for all 24 categories of the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. We previously provided our reactions to the controversial nominees but now we shift our focus, and any bias towards the snubbed, to those actually up for the awards.

Our writers found consensus on thirteen total categories meaning just less than half of the remaining categories are up for grabs in this low-stakes contest between resident film critic Don Shanahan, film critic and editor Will Johnson, and staff writer Stephanie Edwards.

Click here for the Academy’s official ballot so you can follow along. With the exception of Best Picture, we followed the order on the ballot in terms of our predictions below. Enjoy.

Best Picture

Scofield runs on a field with an explosion and fellow soldiers behind him

Will’s Pick: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Stephanie’s Pick: Parasite

Don’s Pick: 1917

Commentary: The odds-on favorite is 1917 but a friend of mine on Facebook (simply the best source for news and accurate info) said that film’s ranked second on Gold Derby’s odds list has won the Best Picture Oscar in the last few years. Right now Parasite sits at second place with 6/1 odds. However, Once Upon is listed at 13/2 odds which is pretty darn close to second. Seeing as the Academy loves to award Hollywood portrayed on film, I think Once Upon is the dark horse here and I’ll put my chips down on it. I wouldn’t be displeased with 1917 as it is an amazing film, as is Parasite. The only one I’d be disappointed in seeing win would be Joker which is probably the most heralded mediocre film this century.—Will


Listen, I think 1917 is a great film and I know in my brain that it is likely going to win this category. But my heart is, and always will be, with Parasite and that is why it is my pick to walk away with the big award of the night. Parasite premiered with a bang, winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes, and really hasn’t lost any hype or momentum since. Recently, my local theatre had a one-night-only special screening of Parasite and there wasn’t a single empty seat in the house, with attendees ranging in age from teenagers to retirees. Why do I bring this anecdote up? Well, I think it speaks to the power of Parasite truly being what Bong Joon-ho wants it to be: a universal movie-going experience that transcends language and cultural barriers. Whether it is the class struggles, the indictment of capitalism, or the meditation on how far someone would go in an act of desperation, Parasite has something that will leave a mark on everyone who watches it. Although 1917 may be a technical achievement, Parasite truly represents the excellence that all filmmakers, actors, VFX artists, screenwriters, and anyone living with creative passion should strive for in 2020. If Parasite doesn’t win Best Picture, it’ll be another blight on the Academy’s record and an indication of its member’s ignorance when it comes to international film.—Stephanie


Late surges are a rare but very real thing, and we’re watching one right now with Sam Mendes’s 1917. Not since Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby fifteen years ago has a last-minute qualifying movie that held its public release until January put itself so firmly at the top of the awards season heap. The trend for every single Best Picture winner since 2005 (and I mean all of them, go ahead and look at the list) has been to earn as much high-end film festival acclaim as possible through the fall to become a critic-fueled word-of-mouth must-see mini-phenomenon conveniently landing in audience laps during the holidays. The slow burn then grabs enough praise and people to ride off through the Oscar curtain sunset. That’s not 1917. The movie hung back and hit like a ton of cinema aficionado bricks with victories of one-upmanship in almost every category it’s nominated for. Oh, the musical score of Joker provoked anxiety? Fine, here’s Thomas Newman shattering your survival nerves. Oh, was The Lighthouse striking with its black-and-white photography? Bam, here’s the legend Roger Deakins making a multi-faceted war film crane and strafe to look like one f’n take.  The same duels are repeated for visual effects, editing, production design and more. 1917 came out to wow with all the polish possible and now it’s racked up the PGA, Golden Globe, and BAFTA to look like the film to beat. Its final conquest will be Oscar gold.—Don

Best Actor

Will’s Pick: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Stephanie’s Pick: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Don’s Pick: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Commentary: Unless the Academy has an Olivia Coleman surprise up its sleeve, Phoenix is getting the Oscar whether I or some others want him to or not. My preferred choice, of what is available (since Adam Sandler was completely snubbed for Uncut Gems), would be Adam Driver who gave a soulful performance in Marriage Story. But sadly he will not get the gold here as Phoenix’s wins at the Golden Globes and SAG put the odds in his favor.—Will

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt sits in his car with a yellow Hawaiian shirt

Will’s Pick: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

Stephanie’s Pick: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

Don’s Pick: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

Commentary: I honestly don’t have too much to say here. All four acting categories are a lock at this point, including Brad Pitt for Supporting Actor. At this point, I’m looking forward to him winning just for his acceptance speech, since he’s been killing the speech game all season long. I respect Pitt as an actor and a producer who makes a point of supporting, funding, and promoting diverse films and filmmakers, and I am truly looking forward to seeing him win on Sunday.—Stephanie

Best Actress

Will’s Pick: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Stephanie’s Pick: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Don’s Pick: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Commentary: Here we go, right off the bat, voting with my head and not my heart. I don’t think Zellweger should win. She has her Oscar and other people have done the biopic route better and in superior films. Out of the field, Scarlett Johansson deserves this more. Out of the entire universe, it’s still a travesty that Lupita Nyong’o isn’t here to win this category outright. Kudos to Cynthia Erivo representing minorities, but she will have to be happy with the “the nomination is the reward” ribbons they likely give out in the swag bags. The same goes for Saoirse Ronan’s resume. Her year is coming. Lamentations and grumbles aside, Zellweger won the SAG Award from her peers and that’s enough for her to carry favor into this quick turnaround Oscars. Damn, though, I wish this was an “ingenue” year where Scarlett has a surprise moment for the ages.—Don

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern talks to Scarlett Johansson on a couch

Will’s Pick: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Stephanie’s Pick: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Don’s Pick: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Commentary: This one seems to be the ‘in-the-bag’ category this year and Dern has dominated in virtually every critic/review body’s award offerings, being nominated (or winning) in over 40 different events, including big wins at the Golden Globes and SAG. The BAFTAs and Oscars could be a complete sweep of the major acting awards. The Dern family is a heralded one: Bruce Dern, Laura’s dad, has two Oscar nominations and Diane Ladd, Laura’s mom, has three Oscar nominations. Marriage Story is Laura’s third Oscar nomination and this year she hopes to end the family drought at seven and take home the gold trophy. It seems very likely this will be the case.—Will

Animated Feature

Will’s Pick: Klaus

Stephanie’s Pick: I Lost My Body

Don’s Pick: Toy Story 4

Commentary: I Lost My Body is a French release and another Cannes prize-winner that made the festival circuit last year before ending up on Netflix. I’m not too well-versed on the art of animation, but this film hit me in the feels and used its medium to craft a macabre, whimsical story about a young man and his hand. It really is between Klaus and I Lost My Body for this award and I am going with this one because I think it takes ambitious risks with the subject matter and with its animation style that the Academy members will recognize.—Stephanie


Four soldiers look at something off screen while standing in a trench

Will’s Pick: Roger Deakins, 1917

Stephanie’s Pick: Roger Deakins, 1917

Don’s Pick: Roger Deakins, 1917

Commentary: If there was ever a “Lock of the Night” in the artistic and technical categories, it’s this one. There’s not a contender in sight, even among the four other nominees present that can compete with Deakins’ godly work in 1917. The only shockers possible would be Hollywood-loving-Hollywood for Robert Richardson or the indie crowd boosting up Jarin Blaschke. The latter will likely settle for a Spirit Award the night before. This is all Deakins and it should be. His creative work between crane, drone, and Steadicam use is beyond outstanding.—Don

Costume Design

Will’s Pick: Jojo Rabbit

Stephanie’s Pick: Little Women

Don’s Pick: Little Women

Commentary: This is a tough one since all five films nominated are period films. Usually, there might be a futuristic sci-fi offering or a fantasy film to balance everything out. Of the five nominees, only two were nominated by the Costume Designers Guild Awards in either their period film or contemporary film categories. Of those two, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and Jojo Rabbit, Jojo Rabbit won at the CDGAs and seems to be the most expressive and colorful. But is that the basis for winning? Once Upon had the most lived-in feel and, being a Tarantino film, was dedicated to pinpoint accuracy. In the end, I have to go with the period film the designers themselves chose.—Will

Best Director

Will’s Pick: Sam Mendes, 1917

Stephanie’s Pick: Sam Mendes, 1917

Don’s Pick: Sam Mendes, 1917

Commentary: After winning the PGA and the DGA, Mendes has this one in the bag. 1917 was an ambitious project that came out as crisp and clean as it could thanks to Mendes’ direction. Although I don’t think Mendes would even be in this conversation without Roger Deakins (and thus the film owes most of its award and audience success to him), the “like it is one-take” style decision Mendes made for this film really works for me and never came off as gimmicky. I think the choice added immensely to the fabric of the film and Mendes will be awarded for that on the big night.—Stephanie

Documentary Feature

A large group of workers in an auditorium look at a presentation

Will’s Pick: American Factory

Stephanie’s Pick: Honeyland

Don’s Pick: American Factory

Commentary: I’ll be blunt. For the second year in a row, the best and most beloved documentary to reach actually reach the public consciousness and get a devoted audience failed to even get nominated. Apollo 11 follows Won’t You Be My Neighbor in the complaint line at the grievances department. Like the Fred Rogers chronicle last year, the collection of NASA’s unseen footage has swept nearly every major lead-up award (over 30 by my research) up until its omission. That leaves a wide-open field where a crystal ball and a bucket of Windex is needed to get a picture at what documentary could win this Oscar. The distant second place documentary in the awards department (with six wins) is Honeyland. That would be a safe bet, but once you factor in Hollywood’s political leanings during this unpopular Trump era and something like American Factory emerges as a cosmopolitan pick that genuflects in the direction of former President Barack Obama, whose production company backed the film. Just you watch the Obamas show up and impress on the red carpet as well.—Don

Documentary Short

Will’s Pick: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

Stephanie’s Pick: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

Don’s Pick: St. Louis Superman

Commentary: As of publication, I’ve been able to see three of the five nominees in this category so it would be disingenuous of me to say which film deserves a trophy over the other. What I will say is that In The Absence is technically the most revealing as it utilizes social media posts, phone videos, and homemade footage to look into the sinking of the South Korean passenger ship MV Sewol which led to hundreds of untimely deaths. However, Learning to Skateboard is the most moving I’ve seen, focusing on a school for young girls in Afghanistan, a place where women are discouraged to even talk, let alone learn. It’s powerful and tense and, of what I have seen, deserves some love.—Will

Film Editing

A South Korean family unfolds a pizza box in their living room

Will’s Pick: Ford v. Ferrari

Stephanie’s Pick: Parasite

Don’s Pick: Parasite

Commentary: I have gone back and forth on this category for days now and have finally decided to go with Parasite. After awarding Best Editing to Bohemian Rhapsody last year, I have a hard time figuring out what the majority of Academy members actually think good editing looks like. However, it is hard to ignore that the editing in Parasite does wonders to keep up the film’s pace and is also to thank for keeping audiences on the edge of their seat, especially throughout the third act. The peach montage (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it) is, in my opinion, some of the most operatic and brilliant editing I’ve seen in a film recently and I really hope the Academy voters will feel the same. I do still have a weird inkling that The Irishman somehow will pull off a sneak attack and take this category, so I’ll sneak that one in as an honourable mention.—Stephanie

International Feature Film

Will’s Pick: Parasite

Stephanie’s Pick: Parasite

Don’s Pick: Parasite

Commentary: Take everything you remember about last year’s Oscar run for Romarewind it, replace Roma with Parasite, and edit the numbers from 91st to 92nd. You will then have this category and this Oscar night. Parasite simply has to win this award, even if it has a real shot at the top prize later in the night. If Bong Joon-ho’s film was a slam dunk for Best Picture, I’d understand spreading the wealth down here to Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory (though the legend already has two Oscars on his mantle) or the other nominees. Since Parasite is fighting staunch competition for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, this natural category remains the proper place to ensure an award to the best-reviewed and most acclaimed movie of the year.—Don

Makeup and Hairstyling

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie stand in an elevator

Will’s Pick: Bombshell

Stephanie’s Pick: Bombshell

Don’s Pick: Bombshell

Commentary: The trio of makeup/hairstyling artists behind Bombshell (Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker) had the toughest job of all the nominees this year: making Charlize Theron, an Amazon goddess with her own distinctive features, look exactly like someone completely different, in this case, Megyn Kelly. The work on Jon Lithgow (Roger Ailes), Spencer Garrett (Sean Hannity), and Kevin Dorff (Bill O’Reilly) is also excellent and rather unsung compared to the amazing work on Theron. Similar work was done on Renée Zellweger for Judy but I don’t think it is compelling enough to take away Bombshell’s achievement.—Will

Original Score

Will’s Pick: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Stephanie’s Pick: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Don’s Pick: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Commentary: Sigh. I guess if Joker has to win something, it might as well be Best Score. I’m not a fan of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for this film and I think it sounds much too similar to a lot of Ramin Djawadi’s work for Game of Thrones. However, if the criteria is to award the score that enhanced the narrative of a film, this score did do that, but it did it too well in that I don’t think the film would hit any emotions if the loud, overbearing score was removed. Anyway, this score is fine but Newman’s work for 1917 would be my preferred choice.—Stephanie

Original Song

Taron Edgerton as Elton John performing in Rocketman.

Will’s Pick: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”, Rocketman

Stephanie’s Pick: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”, Rocketman

Don’s Pick: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”, Rocketman

Commentary: That same voting base that loved Bohemian Rhapsody so highly last year to the tune of four nearly inexplicable awards will find their comfort food leftovers in this category with “I’m Gonna Love Me Again.” The five nominees all promised to give outstanding live performances at the event, but the specter and regard for Sir Elton John is too much to deny. He wins over what would be an excellent statement spot for “Stand Up” from Harriet performed by Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo. The Oscars have gone that route before, but never at the expense of a universal legend on the level of John’s. In my opinion, the best song of the year wasn’t even nominated at that was “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” by Jessie Buckley from the under-seen Wild Rose. That soulful ballad would have outdone all five of these.—Don

Production Design

Will’s Pick: 1917

Stephanie’s Pick: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Don’s Pick: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Commentary: This is another toss-up category with both 1917 and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood being the favorites. I have to give 1917 the edge as the sets had to be carefully crafted to serve the unique one-take filming style. The multiple trenches and destroyed church set alone are worthy of an Oscar. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joker’s Scorsese worship get the honor either but for my own purposes, I’m picking 1917.—Will

Animated Short Film

Will’s Pick: Hair Love

Stephanie’s Pick: Hair Love

Don’s Pick: Hair Love

Commentary: Hair Love packs so much emotion into a short few minutes and Matthew Cherry is so passionate and excited about his film that I would really love to see him take it. The film has gotten a lot of social media buzz and I think that will be enough to make it a buzzword title for Academy voters.—Stephanie

Live Action Short Film

Will’s Pick: Brotherhood

Stephanie’s Pick: Saria

Don’s Pick: Brotherhood

Commentary: Folks, no matter how invested or discerning of a cinephile as many fashion themselves to be (including these very article authors), very few dive deep to the level of short films. Even the best Oscar prognosticators get to this category and either resort to deep research or dart throws to a list on dartboard over their cubicle. Let me tell you, there is buried treasure down here in the world of short films and Brotherhood is one of those shiny gems. This powerful drama set in Tunisia details family strife amid potential fears of terrorist membership. This one pushes the right buttons, nerves, and heartstrings on that dartboard.—Don

Sound Editing

Christian Bale, wearing headphones, Matt Damon, and a few others men look at a car engine

Will’s Pick: Ford v Ferrari

Stephanie’s Pick: 1917

Don’s Pick: 1917

Commentary: I feel like Ford v Ferrari and 1917 are going to split the sound categories but determining which one is hard. For one, I wanted to make sure I knew the difference between the two. According to the New York Times’ article on the topic, “sound editing is about collecting the sounds needed for a film. Sound mixing refers to what is done after they are collected.” I took a look at the past decade of winners. Sound Editing primarily went to films that either focused specifically on sound itself (like Arrival and Bohemian Rhapsody) or were sound intensive and cacophonous, like war films or Mad Max: Fury Road. Sound Mixing primarily went to the winner of Sound Editing six out of nine times in the ’10s. The outliers were either about music (Whiplash, Les Miserable) or was a war film (Hacksaw Ridge). So, in other words…I have no idea! But I recently listened to the Sounds Works Collection podcast and Ford v Ferrari’s Sound Mixer Steve Morrow explained the way the sounds were collected and it seems incredible. So I made the best “educated” guess with this info.—Will

Sound Mixing

Will’s Pick: 1917

Stephanie’s Pick: 1917

Don’s Pick: 1917

Commentary: If a film’s sound mixing is so good that it makes me sit up and take note of how good characters’ boots sound squishing in the mud, it deserves all the sound awards.—Stephanie

Visual Effects

Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man stare down an opponent.

Will’s Pick: The Irishman

Stephanie’s Pick: The Irishman

Don’s Pick: Avengers: Endgame

Commentary: This is a tougher category than it looks and one where I’ve been wrongly surprised for years now. Too often it seems, the best or most expansive work is passed over for some level of inside niche or closet favorite that seems then so much lesser in comparison. Look no further than the zero amount of love given in this category to the Planet of the Apes trilogy and their superior innovations. Four of the five nominees here have a real shot. The Lion King just won the matching guild award from the Visual Effects Society (VES) and that’s still the majority of the voting body here. 1917 brings Best Picture credibility to this category for those who want to give it a sweeping shower. Likewise, The Irishman brings a badge of prestige as well and feels like a prime example of one of those niches and private favorites that sneak wins. I’m going to roll the safe dice and say the big boy that is Avengers: Endgame wins. I hope the ABC telecast camera is quick and cold-blooded enough to cut to Martin Scorsese for a reaction watching an MCU roller-coaster win more Oscars (as in one) than his own epic opus. Take that, “cinema.”—Don

Screenplay (Adapted)

Will’s Pick: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Stephanie’s Pick: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Don’s Pick: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Commentary: I am personally rooting for Taika Waititi and this category is his best shot to win as Jojo Rabbit is a long shot for Best Picture. But I believe this one will go to Gerwig. Not only is it deserved as Little Women was a refreshing take on familiar material but Gerwig’s snub as Best Director kind of guarantees a win here. It would be the first time since Diablo Cody won for Juno that a woman will have won the award if the prediction plays out and that is 12 years too long to wait for gifted women to be chosen again. Expect that drought to end.—Will

Screenplay (Original)

A man and woman sit next to a toilet looking at their phones

Will’s Pick: Bong Joon-Ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite

Stephanie’s Pick: Bong Joon-Ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite

Don’s Pick: Bong Joon-Ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite

Commentary: I don’t want to jinx it, but I think Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won are a lock to win Original Screenplay, as they should be. They’ve walked away with all of the major guild awards, which are usually indicative of who the Oscar winner will also be. I’ve already waxed poetic about my love for Parasite at length so I’ll just say that the script for Parasite is my new gold standard for what I want to achieve as a screenwriter and I imagine many others writing in the genre, and the Academy, agree.—Stephanie

Written by Film Obsessive

This article was written by one or more members of the Film Obsessive staff.

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