Who will, could and should win the 2020 Academy Awards

Illustrated collage of scenes and characters from the 42nd Academy Awards Best Picture nominees
Armaan Mumtaz/Staff

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This year’s Oscar nominations showcase some of the year’s best films, and, as usual, shower praise on some of the worst. The field for the 2020 Academy Awards is a strong one: Noah Baumbach’s immaculate drama “Marriage Story,” Quentin Tarantino’s triumphant “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” Greta Gerwig’s heartfelt reimagining of “Little Women” and even Rian Johnson’s crowd-pleasing whodunnit “Knives Out” all managed to get on the board.

With help from a slew of predictive ceremonies — including accolades from industry guilds and the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice and British Academy Film awards — we’ve identified the front-runners and begun crossing our fingers for some welcome surprises. So get ready to fill out your ballot, judge a bunch of red carpet looks and desperately pray for an Adam Driver win — here are our predictions for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.

— Grace Orriss

Best picture

  • “Joker”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “1917”
  • “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “Little Women”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Ford v Ferrari”

This year’s best picture race was initially pitched as a showdown between Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, but it’s quickly devolved into a runaway for Sam Mendes’ sweeping, one-take war drama. In addition to big wins at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, “1917” took the top prize at the extremely predictive Producers Guild Awards, positioning it as the clear front-runner for the Oscars’ chief honor. “Parasite,” which received the award for best ensemble at the SAGs, and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” winner of best comedy or musical at the Globes, have the most potential to pull off a surprise win. Considering the damning lack of acting nominations for “Parasite” and the absence of an editing nomination for “Once Upon a Time,” however, a surprise looks unlikely.

— Grace Orriss

What will win: “1917”

What could win: “Parasite”

What should win: “Parasite”

 

Best director 

  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
  • Todd Phillips, “Joker”
  • Sam Mendes, “1917”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

Sam Mendes’ “1917” is, in every sense, a technical achievement. An emotionally stirring war drama filmed to appear as if it is a single, continuous shot, the film is bolstered by convincing, powerful performances from its leads. It is surely an achievement in directing, and Mendes, who has already taken home a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Directors Guild Award and a BAFTA for best director, is essentially a lock to take home the Oscar on Sunday night. But considering the film’s recent surge in major categories at precursor ceremonies, an upset victory here for Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” is still a small but real possibility.

— Anagha Komaragiri

Who will win: Sam Mendes, “1917”

Who could win: Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

Who should win: Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

 

Lead actor

  • Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”

Phoenix has yet to miss out on a single precursor award, taking home wins in this category at the SAGs, Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and BAFTAs for his overly showy, contrived performance as Arthur Fleck in “Joker.” Though Adam Driver’s career-best performance as Charlie Barber in “Marriage Story” is infinitely more nuanced and authentic, our pick for the best male performance of 2019 currently occupies a disconcertingly distant second place spot. This award is Phoenix’s to lose — and he won’t.

— Grace Orriss

Who will win: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

Who could win: Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

Who should win: Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

 

Lead actress

  • Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
  • Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
  • Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy”

In a year that could have featured a more nuanced and progressive slate of lead actress nominations, the current race for best actress not only feels locked-up, but completely underwhelming. Renée Zellweger is essentially a lock to take home the award for her lead role in the biopic drama “Judy,” playing Hollywood legend Judy Garland in the final years of her life. Zellweger has been praised for a meticulous, convincing performance, but recognizing another biopic performance feels tired. In a more competitive scenario, Saoirse Ronan — a four-time nominee whose performance as Jo March in “Little Women” was energetic and inspired — would be taking home the prize.

— Anagha Komaragiri

Who will win: Renée Zellweger, “Judy”

Who could win: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

Who should win: Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

 

Supporting actor 

  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
  • Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Make no mistake — this is Brad Pitt’s year. Sure, the award does serve as the often-scorned “career Oscar,” considering the actor’s long-running, illustrious status as a Hollywood A-lister. But in a group of fascinating, memorable performances, Pitt’s turn as stunt double Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” is knowing, funny and incredibly subtle. Both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are excellent in their distinct supporting roles in “The Irishman,” and Tom Hanks’ transformation into Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is as astounding as it is strangely comforting — but Pitt is the deserving front-runner through and through.

— Anagha Komaragiri

Who will win: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Who could win: Al Pacino, “The Irishman”

Who should win: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

 

Supporting actress

  • Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
  • Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”

It’s heartening to see Florence Pugh — who gives the strongest performance of this lackluster bunch as an endearingly snotty Amy March — nominated here for her work in “Little Women.” Both Pugh and Scarlett Johansson, who also enjoys a lot of academy affection as a dual acting nominee this year, could potentially spoil this category — but it’s unlikely that either of them will knock Laura Dern off of her throne. Supporting actress has been a clean sweep for Dern this season, a pattern that’s guaranteed to continue at this year’s Oscars. Among this unusually weak competition, her biting take on the Hollywood divorce lawyer is a lock to win.

— Grace Orriss

Who will win: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Who could win: Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”

Who should win: Florence Pugh, “Little Women”

 

Adapted screenplay 

  • Steven Zaillian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, “Joker”
  • Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”

 Greta Gerwig’s creative restructuring of Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century classic “Little Women” doesn’t merely remain faithful to the source material, but improves upon it. The dual timeline allows audiences to connect with every character in the ensemble, making every relationship in the film feel earned rather than contrived, and imbuing the film with authenticity and emotion. While Gerwig seemed like an early front-runner, taking home the Critics’ Choice Award for adapted screenplay, the recent surge of Taika Waititi’s World War II fantasy “Jojo Rabbit” at the Writers Guild Awards and the BAFTAs gives it an edge in the race.

— Anagha Komaragiri

Who will win: Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

Who could win: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”

Who should win: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”

Embarrassing that this is nominated: Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, “Joker”

 

Original screenplay

  • Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, “1917”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “Parasite”

In a ceremony that’s shaping up to be pretty predictable, this is one of this year’s few close races. Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won won this category at the BAFTAs and the WGA Awards (where Tarantino is ineligible). Tarantino won at the Globes and Critics’ Choice. The academy’s historical preference for local, English-language fare gives Tarantino the edge here; plus, voters will likely want to see the writer-director awarded somewhere as his best picture chances continue to wane. But don’t count out “Parasite” — based on its recent momentum, it could very easily coast to a win.

— Grace Orriss

Who will win: Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Who could win: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “Parasite”

Who should win: Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”

 

Documentary feature

  • “American Factory”
  • “The Cave”
  • “The Edge of Democracy”
  • “For Sama”
  • “Honeyland”

What will win: “American Factory” 

What could win: “Honeyland” 

What should win: “American Factory”

 

Animated feature

  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
  • “I Lost My Body”
  • “Klaus”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “Toy Story 4”

What will win: “Toy Story 4”

What could win: “Missing Link”

What should win: “I Lost My Body”

 

International feature

  • “Corpus Christi”
  • “Honeyland”
  • “Les Misérables”
  • “Pain and Glory”
  • “Parasite”

What will win: “Parasite”

What could win: “Pain and Glory”

What should win: “Parasite”

 

Cinematography

  • Rodrigo Prieto, “The Irishman”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”
  • Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Who will win: Roger Deakins, “1917”

Who could win: Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” 

Who should win: Roger Deakins, “1917”

 

Editing

  • Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, “The Irishman”
  • Tom Eagles, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Jeff Groth, “Joker”
  • Yang Jinmo, “Parasite”

Who will win: Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, “Ford v Ferrari”

Who could win: Tom Eagles, “Jojo Rabbit”

Who should win: Yang Jinmo, “Parasite” 

 

Production design

  • “The Irishman”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “1917”
  • “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • “Parasite”

What will win: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

What could win: “The Irishman”

What should win: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

 

Costume design

  • Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson, “The Irishman”
  • Mayes C. Rubeo, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Mark Bridges, “Joker”
  • Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”
  • Arianne Phillips, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Who will win: Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”

Who could win: Mayes C. Rubeo, “Jojo Rabbit”

Who should win: Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”

 

Makeup and hairstyling

  • Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker, “Bombshell”
  • Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou, “Joker”
  • Jeremy Woodhead, “Judy”
  • Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
  • Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole, “1917”

What will win: Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker, “Bombshell”

What could win: Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou, “Joker”

What should win: Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker, “Bombshell”

 

Original score

  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”
  • Randy Newman, “Marriage Story”
  • Thomas Newman, “1917”
  • John Williams, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Who will win: Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”

What could win: Randy Newman, “Marriage Story”

Who should win: Thomas Newman, “1917”

 

Original song

  • “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” from “Toy Story 4”
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”
  • “I’m Standing With You,” from “Breakthrough”
  • “Into The Unknown,” from “Frozen II”
  • “Stand Up,” from “Harriet”

What will win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”

What could win: “Into The Unknown,” from “Frozen II”

What should win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”

 

Sound editing

  • “Ford v Ferrari”
  • “Joker”
  • “1917”
  • “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”
  • “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

What will win: “1917”

What could win: “Ford v Ferrari”

What should win: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

 

Sound mixing

  • “Ad Astra”
  • “Ford v Ferrari”
  • “Joker”
  • “1917”
  • “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

What will win: “1917”

What could win: “Ad Astra”

What should win: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

 

Visual effects

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “The Lion King”
  • “1917”
  • “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

What will win: “1917”

What could win: “The Irishman”

What should win: “1917”

Grace Orriss is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @graceorriss.

Anagha Komaragiri covers film. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @aaanaghaaa.