Oscars 2020: Predictions For Every Category RSC makes semi-informed decisions about the 92nd Academy Awards!

This year has been a strange one for cinema – isn’t it always? – and the 2020 Oscars race is at once wide open and largely locked up. A good number of the big categories seem to have a clear frontrunner, while the technical categories may be anyone’s statue to claim. Here at RSC, we’ve seen and reviewed just about all of them, so we’re bringing you our thoughts and predictions for the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony.

Joker got 11 nominations, while The Irishman1917and Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood got 10 nominations apiece. Then came JoJo RabbitLittle WomenMarriage Storyand Parasite with 6 nominations each.

Our big prediction for the year is that 1917 will sweep the big ones this year. It’s up for 10 awards, and I suspect that it will take a good number of those.

A few weeks ago, I gave my initial thoughts on the nominations and snubs. Some of those may be repeated here, as I’ve had more time to think about them. However, I’ll focus more on the actual predictions of who (I think) will win vs. who should win. I do, of course, reserve the right to lament some of the inevitable losses that just shouldn’t be.

Best Live Action Short Film
  • “Brotherhood”
  • “Nefta Football Club”
  • “The Neighbors’ Window”
  • “Saria”
  • “A Sister”

The shorts are always hard to predict because of accessibility. But I did my research as much as I could to fill in the gaps of what I’ve not seen. To be fair, I’ve only seen “Brotherhood” and “The Neighbors’ Window,” but I can confidently say that “The Neighbors’ Window” deserves the win here. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking story of relationships and assumptions in the face of the inevitable curveballs that life throws at you.

RSC’s Pick: “The Neighbors’ Window”

Best Documentary Short Subject
  • “In the Absence”
  • “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
  • “Life Overtakes Me”
  • “St. Louis Superman”
  • “Walk Run Cha-Cha”

Strangely, I haven’t yet seen the film that I believe will win at the 2020 Oscars, but I’ve seen the four others. “In the Absence” tells the tragic story of the failed rescue of a sinking ferry in South Korea – it is heartbreaking and infuriating. “Walk Run Cha-Cha” uniquely presents an all-too-true story about immigrant families and their struggles and passions. These two stood out among the ones I’ve seen. Yet the one that seems determined to win is “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” and I’m yearning to see it.

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

Best Animated Short Film
  • Dcera (Daughter)”
  • “Hair Love”
  • “Kitbull”
  • “Memorable”
  • “Sister”

I’ve seen three of these five films: “Hair Love,” “Kitbull,” and “Memorable.” “Memorable” is a surreal French stop motion film about the effects of memory loss and old age–it’s weirdly beautiful and strange. “Hair Love” and “Kitbull” are ripe for the award. They’re heartwarming and funny, and I think “Hair Love” will just edge out the adorable “Kitbull.”

RSC’s Pick: “Kitbull”

Best Visual Effects
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • The Irishman
  • The Lion King
  • 1917
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Much like last year’s Infinity War, much is being made of the visual feast that is Avengers: Endgame and the fact that the Marvel movies seem always to ever be the nominee and never the winner. Moreover, many people see the final Star Wars film and its explosive finale or the innovative de-aging of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman as deserving of the statue. However, it seems that 1917, with its clear rise in awards victories over the past few weeks, may just take it.

RSC’s Pick: 1917

Best Sound Mixing
  • Ad Astra, Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
  • Ford v Ferrari, Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow
  • Joker, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
  • 1917, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano

Sound mixing focuses on the entirety of the sound in a film – the soundtrack, the balance, everything. Each of the films here (well, honestly, not exactly Joker) excels in this category for the 2020 Oscars. Ad Astra boasts a subtle sound balance reflecting space and the introspective nature of Brad Pitt’s performance; 1917 is a war movie and a feat on all the technical fronts, and its score propels the tension forward while the sound in the film is used to great effect, both soothing and startling and offering suspense; but Ford v Ferrari just powerfully showcases sound in all its forms here. And that’s why it’s our pick.

RSC’s Pick: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Editing
  • Ford v Ferrari, Don Sylvester
  • Joker, Alan Robert Murray
  • 1917, Oliver Tarney, Rachel Tate
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Wylie Stateman
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Matthew Wood, David Acord

Much of what I said about Sound Mixing applies here. Sound editing focuses on the creation of sound for the film – the foley work, the effects. While 1917 does some amazing work here creating the soundscape of World War I, and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood transports us to the late 1960s and recreates the golden age of Hollywood productions, Ford v. Ferrari just knocks it out of the park.

RSC’s Pick: Ford v Ferrari

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

This is a strange year for Best Song at the 2020 Oscars. Honestly, none of them blow me away. Two are very fine and the rest are, honestly, forgettable. It could go to Harriet‘s “Stand Up,” bringing Cynthia Erivo her well-deserved EGOT. I’d be very fine with this–it’s a good enough song dragged down by a really bad movie. I think, however, the safe bet is “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Elton John’s song from his musical biopic. It’s exactly what the Oscars ordered in many ways, plus it’s gained repeated wins this awards season.

RSC’s Pick: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”

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

This has been a great year for film scores–one of my favorite categories at the Oscars. Alexandre Desplat’s score for Little Women is, in my opinion, the best score of the year. It’s eminently re-listenable, it perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the period. At the same time, Thomas Newman’s score for 1917 absolutely propels all the action and tension for the film; it’s a gripping score. However, after multiple wins in recent weeks, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker is the most likely winner. I don’t believe it’s the best score by any means. It’s experimental–for which I applaud it–and strange, which perfectly reflects the surreal film. It’s just not one that rewards multiple listens.

RSC’s Pick: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Best Production Design
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabit
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  • Parasite

Every one of the films nominated for this award at the 2020 Oscars fully deserves their nods. Four of them go the traditional route and transport us to a place and time in the past, recreating a bygone era in all its facets. On the other hand, Parasite creates a sense of place through its lush design and contrast of the families’ homes. It’s a feat of creation. This is a difficult category, and I could see it going in a few directions. However, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood transports us to a very specific time and place in pitch-perfect detail. It’s got movies-within-the-movie, productions-within-the-production. It’s utterly deserving of this award.

RSC’s Pick: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Bombshell
  • Joker
  • Judy
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • 1917

To be quite honest, I recognize I’m in the minority here. I think that Bombshell, the frontrunner and my prediction for this award, has some good makeup, but I do not believe that it stands out as much as everyone else does. It, to me, is no real revelation or deep achievement. While Charlize Theron is the spitting image of Megyn Kelly and John Lithgow looks unrecognizable as Roger Ailes, I think that Nicole Kidman’s makeup just does not work–at all. I mean, I think it’s distractingly bad. At the same time, Joker’s power is not in the makeup, but in Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant performance. On the other hand, Renée Zellweger’s transformation is perfect and should be the winner here. She is Judy Garland. In fact, I have multiple times forgotten that it’s Zellweger because of how much she is the spitting image of Garland. And yet, people are loving Bombshell for the 2020 Oscars, so I think that’s the choice.

RSC’s Pick: Bombshell

Best Costume Design
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Each of the films in this category–as usual, and understandably–are period pieces, lavishly constructed and costumed. Each could walk away with a win this year. Little Women is a likely winner; it’s adapted from a classic novel and is critically beloved (and it’s my favorite film of the year). However, for my money, I think that JoJo Rabbit and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood both take more risks overall. Tarantino’s deeply complex film boasts a wide range of productions and recreations while JoJo just draws us into 1940s Germany–and that cardboard Nazi costume! Despite my deep love for Little Women, I believe that both films deserve the win more. So I’m going out on a limb for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

RSC’s Pick: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Best International Feature Film
  • Corpus Christi, Poland
  • Honeyland, North Macedonia
  • Les Miserables, France
  • Pain and Glory, Spain
  • Parasite, South Korea

Come on, everyone, like last year’s Roma, with Parasite having a Best Picture nomination, this one is the clear winner for International Feature at the 2020 Oscars–and I’m hoping for The Big One going to director Bong Joon-Ho. But here, it’s clearly going to be Parasite, which is a phenomenal film deserving of all the glory.

RSC’s Pick: Parasite

Best Editing
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • Parasite

For much the same reason that Ford v Ferrari is my pick for the Sound categories, it deserves it here. The frenetic pace of the races is largely due to the precise editing. At the same time, I have to ask: how in the world is 1917 not among this list? A film that’s presented as one take relies on precise, non-showy editing to seamlessly accomplish its monumental goal. And it’s ignored here? What is happening in this world? Regardless, Ford v Ferrari just does some masterful things with its editing.

RSC’s Pick: Ford v Ferrari

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

Netflix is always strong in its documentaries, so it’s no real surprise that it’s got the frontrunner: American Factory. It’s a powerful documentary with a good, uplifting story with backing from the Obamas. Plus, I’m from Ohio, where the eponymous factory is; I went to the University of Dayton, and it’s great to see one of my adopted hometowns represented here. It’s going to win at the 2020 Oscars. However, I’d like to put in a good word for the moving, heartbreaking documentary For Sama. The moment this comes out–rent it. It’s deeply sad and is a must-watch.

RSC’s Pick: American Factory

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

This is another pretty easy one: it’s 1917. For all the reasons I mentioned in the editing category, this film relies heavily on its brilliant, purposeful cinematography from Roger Deakins. He’s not far off of his win for Blade Runner 2049, and it looks as though he’s ready for another one here. Some of the best visual moments of the past decade are found in 1917.

RSC’s Pick: 1917

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

This year, we have a neck-and-neck competition between Klaus and Missing Link. On one hand, Klaus won at the BAFTAs and swept the Annie Awards for Animation. On the other, Missing Link is getting a good number of accolades including the Golden Globes. So, it’s a toss-up but I’m going to go with Klaus after the Annie awards win, which will be another good (albeit minor) showing for Netflix.

RSC’s Pick: Klaus

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

This was a great year for scripts. Noah Baumbach’s script for Marriage Story is tragic and heartbreaking; Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is brilliant and hilarious and complex; 1917 by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns is minimal yet stark and meaningful. However, I think it’s going to be a toss-up between Tarantino’s amazing Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and Parasite by Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han. They’re both brilliant and subtle and ostentatious all at once. M.N Miller raved about Tarantino’s introspective opus here, and so did I in my retrospective. Parasite is important and meaningful, reflective of our still apparent class problems not just in Korea but throughout our world. The Oscar could go to either, but the safe money is on Parasite, though my heart hopes for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

RSC’s Pick: Parasite

Tyler Howat's Top 10 Films of 2019

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • The Irishman, Steven Zaillian
  • Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi
  • Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
  • Just Mercy, Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham
  • Little Women, Greta Gerwig
  • The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Jojo Rabbit is on the rise here, with Taika Waititi’s black, anti-racism comedy winning multiple awards, including the Writer’s Guild. It’s likely going to take the award, but my heart stands firmly–maybe foolishly–with Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. She was unrighteously snubbed for Best Director (though she did get a nomination for Best Picture), and her brilliant script has stuck with me–stunningly adapting a century and a half old novel pitch-perfectly into the modern-day. So, folly or not, it’s my choice here.

RSC’s Pick: Little Women

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

I was deeply impressed by everyone on this list except for Al Pacino, who should easily have been replaced by Shia LeBeouf from Honey Boy. In this case, I think Brad Pitt has it locked for being his well-deserved subtle, cool performance in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, but I’d also love to see Joe Pesci get an award for his own mature, reserved performance in The Irishman.

RSC’s Pick: Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

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

Laura Dern has this one tied up with a nice bow. No question, after getting multiple wins across multiple categories this season (BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globe, New York Film Critics Circle, and SAG), Dern is winning this one, hands down.

RSC’s Pick: Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best 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

Joaquin Phoenix has racked up an impressive list of awards this season: BAFTA, SAG, Critics Choice, Golden Globes, Hollywood Critics, IGN, and others. This is his award already, and while I didn’t love the film, he earned this one, hands down.

RSC’s Pick: Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

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

The most deserving person on this list is Saoirse Ronan for her portrayal of Jo March in Little Women. She’s one who will continually be up for awards and will continually be overlooked. And it’s a shame. Nothing against Zellweger, but no one can touch Ronan’s performance here. However, it seems that Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland is the one to beat, and it seems to be a lock. I hope I’m wrong here.

RSC’s Pick: Renée Zellweger in Judy

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

I ranted a good bit earlier on when the nominations came out that no women were nominated this year in a year where multiple women stood out, head and shoulders, above the rest. Greta Gerwig, Alma Har’el, and Lula Wang each should have gotten a nomination over Scorsese or Phillips here. That being said the other four men each deserve their nomination–Bong Joon-Ho and Sam Mendes are the two vying for the top choice in this category. I think that, while I love Parasite and would be perfectly happy to see it win the top two categories, I think 1917 has the momentum to take it.

RSC’s Pick: Sam Mendes for 1917

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

This summer, I’d have said that Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood would be a lock at the 2020 Oscars, and I’d still love for Tarantino to get that win. I want to see a Korean film–a foreign language film–take the win, as well. It’s big for people to see that there’s more out there than just English-language films (I’ve made it a goal for the year to watch more non-English films). However, it’s pretty much a lock for 1917. That’s not a bad thing at all. 1917 is an amazing, emotional, meaningful film that everyone should see. Some of the best, moving moments in cinema came in 1917, and I loved it. I want to see it get the recognition it deserves, and it’s a good, safe pick this year.

RSC’s Pick: 1917


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Tyler Howat

Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.

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