Toughest race at the Oscars 2020

Updated: 08 February, 2020 07:25 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Making predictions for the Academy Awards, 2020, only reveals what a sterling year 2019 has been for Hollywood!


Whether on social media or offline, one of the things I find sorely missing in all conversations on Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is how playfully the picture is plotted. People come out ruminating far more on the intensity of class-divide that the movie strikingly shines a light on. Don't let that bog you down about Bong's film. Which is already in Korean, with English subtitles, picking up an unprecedented six Oscar nominations, including for the Best Foreign Language Film, that it'll certainly take home.

I know how such a résumé intimidates mainstream audiences. Can't reiterate more: Parasite is an out-and-out fun film — to start and end with. Now go catch it, whether or not it wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards on February 9, Sunday night (Monday morning, for Indians).

1917 are the frontrunners for the Best Film nod
1917 are the frontrunners for the Best Film nod

For, the Oscars is not merely an award. It's a statement that the Academy makes, through the choice of its films, reflecting on the changing world. And the rich-poor divide expressed through Parasite is hardly a statement unique to 2020. What is?

Honestly, Taika Waititi's splendid farce, Jojo Rabbit. It's about a little boy in Hitler's Germany. Unless you've been living under a rock, or in complete denial (same thing), you know what the world is currently grappling with — authoritarian leaderships, pushed to the top by a brainwashed band of cult-worshipping adults, spreading hate against an imagined 'other' that they've been lulled into assuming the worst about. That's Jojo Rabbit, as a film. Will it win? No.

Phoenix in Joker
Phoenix in Joker

Because it's hard to match the film-making flourish of Sam Mendes in 1917, that remains the most anti-war film, in the history of war films. And God knows we could do with that statement too — now, more than at any time in the recent past. That said, just look at the competition — what a year it's been for Hollywood; or the Oscars, as it were.

In any other year, Todd Phillips's dark, deep Joker would've hoped to gobble up all the top trophies on its own. Probably won't. Even James Mangold's Ford v Ferrari could've been a front-runner, for all you know. Says a lot that the only Best Picture nominee that bored the crap outta me was Greta Gerwig's period piece Little Women (and that too because it just seemed too irrelevant in my buzzing head, that's all).

Johansson in Marriage Story
Johansson in Marriage Story

For a simple example, you only have to compare Guy Ritchie's pure gangster thriller The Gentlemen this year, which is in the sort of domain Quentin Tarantino could lord over in the '90s. Look at where Tarantino is, at present, as an auteur, at the top of his game, with the semi-fictional Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!

Speaking of which, those few who vaguely dismissed Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, because they found it long, or slow or whatever, I'm pretty sure, years down the line, will wonder what the hell they were thinking when the Master delivered his masterpiece. No, it's not Goodfellas or Casino. Mull over the final 30 minutes of The Irishman, and you'll see in it a genre being lifted to meditation on life itself.


No Hollywood studio was willing to touch The Irishman. Netflix pumped money into it. As producer, Netflix has the most nominations at the Oscars this year — Noah Baumbach's gut-wrenching Marriage Story, and Fernando Meirelle's unusually cinematic The Two Popes, being the other toasts for web as the new cinema! Academy ought to reflect this change on its prize-winners' roster.

Will they? Well, the only Oscar that Scorsese ever received was for the Hong Kong adaptation, The Departed (2006). Come on! And I don't even want to go into history and pluck out Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), almost indisputably considered the greatest film in Hollywood history. It didn't win an Oscar. Which film did? How Green Was My Valley. What's that? Never mind. Just feeling better about listing films that should pick up the top awards this year. Won't feel terrible if they don't.

Oscar Predictions


Best Film: 1917
If not, then? Parasite

Best Director: Sam Mendes (1917)
If not, then? Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
If not, then? Adam Driver (Marriage Story)*

Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci (The Irishman)

Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
If not, then? Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)

Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
If not, then? Charlize Theron (Bombshell)*

Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
If not, then? Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
If not, then? Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Todd Phillips (Joker)
If not, then? Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes)

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First Published: 08 February, 2020 07:02 IST

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