It’s Oscar time! Threats of the Corona virus notwithstanding, the host-less awards show will air February 9, 2020. Beyond the fashion, limo lock, glitz and glamour, millions of viewers eagerly await the results in the 24 categories—and hopefully, unlike the Iowa Caucus, winners will be announced. The 2020 Oscars have their share of controversy, Oscars are so white, no female directors nominated, and the renaming of the Best Foreign Language Film as Best International Feature Film but with the rule unchanged, so that films are only eligible if they aren’t in English. The category is designed to honor the country, and many countries have English as its official language, so why call it International when you would retain the foreign language requirement? But enough of that. This forecast has been accused of running longer than the show itself, so it’s time for me to just KISS (keep it short, stupid) and release the Fearless Forecast!
ANIMATED FEATURE: Toy Story 4—a sequel which usually doesn’t fare well in repeat wins. But considering that Frozen II was snubbed, all the Disney/Pixar fans will flock to Toy Story 4. Second choice: Missing Link.
ANIMATED SHORT: Kobe Bryant, RIP, won this last year for Dear Basketball. This year, Hair Love is my choice. Pixar’s KitBull is second choice.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: American Factory. It has former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as executive producers, backed by Netflix, with a story that focuses on a decaying auto industry in Ohio whose working class is neglected by the current administration in favor of billionaire corporate owners. Second choice would be For Sama about the brutal war in Syria from a female filmmaker. And third choice would be Honeyland about a struggling beekeeper, which is also nominated for International Feature Film and may have a broader following.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: These are all depressing. Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (if You’re a Girl)-is about a school in Kabul that teaches young girls how to skateboard in between the rest of their studies is the front runner, and my choice. Second would be St Louis Superman about Bruce Franks, Jr. an African American Activist elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of Black Lives Matter; he steps down but his crusade against gun violence continues. In The Absence is a Korean movie about the MV Sewol sinking that killed over 300 people many of them schoolkids. Life Overtakes Me is from Netflix about a strange physical ailment that seems to be happening only in Sweden called Resignation Syndrome that renders children of refugees comatose for months with no apparent reason. Walk, Run, Cha Cha is about Vietnam refugees whose back story unfolds as they take up ballroom dance lessons in L.A.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Two Popes has an excellent story; but it never happened. The Irishman is rambling; Little Women is modernized, Joker scores more for acting that writing, I haven’t seen Just Mercy, so I’d go for JoJo Rabbit, written by Tika Wititi based on Christine Leunens “Caging Skies.”
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood—Quentin Tarantino has won this award twice before (Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained). The movie has a nostalgic feel and it’s about Hollywood. Close competition would be Parasite, but voters will reward it more in the International Film Category and not the screenplay.
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Sets set in 1960s Hollywood. Hard for voters not to go for this.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins for 1917. A continuing story bathed in light and shadow bringing the viewer into the forefront of the first world war.
FILM EDITING: Ford v Ferrari. High velocity cars at Le Mans. Matt Damon and Christian Bale slugging it out. Genius.
VISUAL EFFECTS: 1917. Comic book, sci fi, and fairy tale movies are no match for a war movie with rat-infested bunkers, flooded trenches, bombed out buildings, flowing rivers, with chopped down cherry trees and fields of wildflowers. I don’t know what The Irishman is doing in this category. Maybe for the quick drying cement?
SOUND EDITING: 1917. It’s a war story, but it has a mellow and fluid sound within the dramatic score.
SOUND MIXING: 1917. Throw in the bombs, and the river current, and that somber Wayfaring Stranger song as the troops prepare for attack. Haunting.
ORIGINAL SCORE: Joker. Iceland’s’ Hildur Guonadottir who has won Golden Globe and Critics Choice. Fresh face and sound. A female. And a score that supposedly inspired Joaquin Phoenix’s acting.
BEST SONG: I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away but it’s Time to Let It Go Into the Unknown and Stand Up for the winner: I’m Gonna Love Me Again from Rocketman.
COSTUME DESIGN: Little Women. Only because there’s too many of them, and they go dancing and courting in them.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: OMG, it that really Charlize Theron or Megyn Kelly? Can’t believe your eyes-- stunning work.
INTERNATIONAL FILM: Parasite. Extremely wicked and highly entertaining plot of one family to rise beyond their poverty at the expense of the wealthier family they serve. A black comedy thriller from an Asian director, screenwriter, and cast. I saw this and thought: it’s an amazing movie, but who’s in my basement? Will it rise and win Best Picture too? Read on.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Laura Dern for Marriage Story. She’s won the Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice awards, and J. Lo has been snubbed a nomination, so she’s the most likely winner. Trivia: an 8-year old Laura attended the 1975 Oscars when her mom was nominated for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Do the math.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Ever since he bared his chest in Thelma & Louise, his work has been undervalued. It’s about time this pretty face is recognized for the great actor he is. Whether he takes his shirt off to receive the award will depend on the air conditioning at the Dolby Theater.
BEST ACTRESS: Renee’ Zellweger for Judy. Transformative. She melted like lemon drops into the role.
And voters may well be voting for Judy Garland who never won an Oscar.
BEST ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker. Visceral acting to the point it hollowed his abdomen. And the Joker Stairs are now a tourist attraction in the Bronx.
BEST DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes for 1917. The horrors of war have not been presented in such a stylized manner until now. This from the man who won the 2000 Oscar for his directorial debut in American Beauty which also won Best Picture. Two decades later, history repeats itself. Bravo!
BEST PICTURE: Nine nominated films. I’ve seen them all. There’s a backlash against Scorsese for dissing Avenger movies so The Irishman won’t win. Well, it was way too long and boring too. Marriage Story is a divorce story and it doesn’t rise to the level of Kramer v Kramer, so I don’t know what the hoopla is all about. Little Women is a modernized retelling of a classic. Well cast and acted, coiffed and costumed, but I don’t see it being embraced but more relegated as a period piece for the snobs to enjoy. I enjoyed JoJo Rabbit, but a story about a Nazi enthusiast, no matter how cute or young be it a satire won’t wing it to win. Joker is amazing but it’s essentially a comic book story, no real-life gravitas.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood has a local appeal to the movie industry insiders, but this category is for everyone, and it may just not have enough insiders to carry it. Parasite is a creative and shockingly entertaining film about the evil that men do to get ahead in this world. It starts funny, gets dark, then deadly. Not your standard winning film.
Then we have 1917, a war movie unlike any other war movie I’ve seen before. Total newcomers play the lead as they are tasked with a mission to cross over enemy territory to warn their compatriots to call off a planned attack on the Germans who are planning a trap on them.
It’s the artistry of the tale telling that mesmerizes. No large-scale geopolitics of war, just the men on the front lines, and those in the crossfire. It is masterful film making; done in continuous long takes with a single viewpoint, making us the viewers walk along with them as they carry out their mission.
It’s so relatable, it could have been me if I were alive then. And the horrors of war depicted are not gory carnage but rubble and remnants of what was whole and beautiful, now ruined and wasted, and for what cause? 1917 makes you think and reflect on the horrors of war; of man’s heroism to protect and save, and to learn how not to repeat the past.
About our guest contributor: Vidor is a Filipino 'transplant' working as a tax research attorney in the US. He is an art, architecture and film enthusiast.