Academy Awards

Breaking Down the Nominees for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards

This year's line-up includes a diverse roster ranging from divorce dramas to psychological thrillers.
January 7, 2020
9 mins read

Guess what, everyone? It is that time of the year again, and the Academy Awards are queuing up for their 92nd show since 1929, which will air on Sunday, Feb. 9.

This year has been one for the boys, as shown by both the Golden Globes nominees and winners, as well as by various predictions for the upcoming Academy Awards. Many, if not most, of the nominated films this year feature a male-dominated cast and male directors, save for the hopeful and rather underrated Greta Gerwig with her female-dominated cast of “Little Women.”

Currently, voters are in the process of narrowing down the nominations to about 50 or so total films, filling the 24-plus categories that make up the Academy Awards. Ultimately, the final nominees will be announced on Jan. 13.

Nevertheless, there is already speculation regarding who will reign champion in each of the categories this year. With the Golden Globes wrapped up, critics, filmmakers and fans alike are casting their lots about who will (or should) win an Oscar in the coming weeks.

While there has been an abundance of amazing films this year, the Academy tends to settle on a select few for the major categories. Quentin Tarantino’s hangout film opus “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” has a promising shot at taking home a few wins, but so does Bong Joon-ho’s class parable “Parasite,” Todd Phillips’s controversial comic book subversion “Joker” and Lulu Wang’s poignantly dramatic comedy “The Farewell.”

But, is the forecast anticipating any signs of sweeps this year? If we go strictly by the Golden Globes nominees, no one film is expected take all of the Big Five categories (best picture, best original screenplay, best director, best actress and best actor). However, if the Oscars subvert the Globes and stick Noah Baumbach on the list for best director, then “Marriage Story” would be the only film to possibly take all five.

But what are the top picks for each category? (Hint: It’s not “Cats.”)

Best Picture

The selection for best picture is a long and varied list, to say the least. “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” is posed as a top contender, according to Vanity Fair. But “1917,” “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” are nothing to scoff at, especially knowing that the former took home a Golden Globe for the same category.

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Voters will have to choose between films from many different (and rather unconventional) genres this year, which includes a drama, foreign language thriller, comedy and period-piece/crime film.

Additionally, this could be the second year in a row that a foreign language film has a real chance at taking this category. Last year, “Roma” (directed by Alfonso Cuarón) was a serious consideration for the award, but was ultimately defeated by “Green Book.” This year, both “Parasite” and “The Farewell” could have a shot at taking the crown.

Best Original Screenplay

The original and adapted screenplay categories usually follow suit with best picture, and the 92nd Academy Awards will likely be no exception. Any movie buff who knows anything about film could tell you that “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood,” “Parasite” and “The Irishman” will secure spots on the list, with Quentin Tarantino, Bong Joon-ho/Han Jin-won and Steven Zaillian penning the scripts for each listed flick respectively.

Anthony McCarten is the outlier of this list, as “The Two Popes” was nominated for a Golden Globe. Even though Tarantino is projected to win this category, it still feels up in the air, as these are all strong films.

Best Director

Again, no surprise here. Tarantino, Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) and Bong Joon-ho make the cut once more. Granted, two other directors might give them a run for their money. Todd Phillips, who, like the other directors, was nominated for a Globe, might pull off a win in this category for envisioning the dark world and psychotic character of “Joker.”

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But, even more so, Noah Baumbach could take the award: His two stars, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, have been heavily lauded for their execution of Baumbach’s script, which the writer-director ultimately had a hand in.

Best Actress

While Scarlett Johansson delivered a stellar performance, Renée Zellweger’s portrayal of the great Judy Garland in the Rupert Goold directed biopic “Judy” is expected to overtake this category after the actress won a Golden Globe.

However, if Zellweger doesn’t cut it at the Oscars, it’s plausible that Charlize Theron will for her role of correspondent Megyn Kelly in Jay Roach’s “Bombshell.” However, one could still hold out hope for rising megastar Awkwafina, who proved her range in acting through a stellar performance in “The Farewell.”

Best Actor

This category is a tough nut to crack this year, as several men have a shot at taking home the Oscar. To start, Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for his starring role in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” which he has a chance at taking if the film wins best picture.

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However, Adam Driver and Joaquin Phoenix are not to be forgotten. Phoenix delivered a bone-chilling method acting performance of Arthur Fleck (aka the Joker), for which he took home a Golden Globe. Meanwhile, Driver captivated the attention and shattered the hearts of everyone that watched “Marriage Story,” making him a solid contender against an already-stiff competition.

Best Animated Feature

Often overlooked, the animated category has a history rife with amazing pictures such as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Coco” and “Zootopia,” just to name a few. However, for the 92nd Academy Awards, the category, unfortunately, is lacking.

“Missing Link” took home the prize at the Globes this year, but “Frozen II” seems to possess the most promise at the Oscars — if only due to its status as the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Of course, it’s not the numbers that matter, but the constructive critical reception of the Disney sequel has been surprising, considering the market’s overwhelming case of sequelitis.

That being said, “Toy Story 4” has nurtured a solid standing from critics and fans alike, but has little excitement to offer coming off its 25-year-long stretch. Meanwhile, the re-adaptation of “The Lion King” garnered mixed reviews and brings little to the table with regard to original storytelling.

Best Original Song

It’s anyone’s game this year for best original song, though the head honchos look to include the tracks from “Frozen II” and “Rocketman.” The song from the latter, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” earned a Golden Globe, but Idina Menzel’s “Into the Unknown” captures a powerful, yet chilling spirit that might earn it the Academy Award.

Best Original Score

The last three years of winners for this category at the Oscars have been a mishmash of talent. Last year, “Black Panther” took the crown, following the scores for “The Shape of Water” and “La La Land” during the previous seasons.

Therefore, it’s difficult to predict in which direction the Academy will decide to go for 2020.

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In a surprising yet satisfying turn of events, Hildur Guðnadóttir earned the Golden Globe for her work on “Joker,” which is a subtle, complex, darker departure from the grandiose styles of the previous Oscar winners.

And while we’re heavily rooting for the lone woman in this category, there’s a chance the Academy might swing in the other direction and opt for the romantic, melodic approach of Thomas Newman’s score for “1917.”

The 92nd Academy Awards will see a slew of great films that represent quality filmmaking and cinematic prowess. However, it’s not an end-all do-all for the award winners, as there are many films (including those that were never nominated) deserving of praise, or — at the very least — a watch.

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