Oscar predictions: Can ‘Parasite’ upset ‘1917’?

Jake Coyle

NEW YORK (AP) — Ahead of Sunday’s 92nd Academy Awards, Associated Press (AP) Film Writer Jake Coyle shares his predictions for a ceremony with a lot of locks but the potential for a few surprises.

BEST PICTURE

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

Will Win: Parasite

Should Win: Parasite

A combination of photos show scenes from six Oscar nominated films, ‘Little Women’, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’, ‘Ford v Ferrari’, ‘Parasite’, ‘Joker’, and ‘1917’. PHOTO: AP

Should Have Been a Contender: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The last-arriving contender, Sam Mendes’ World War I film 1917, has seemingly, fittingly run away with it. The top-prize winner of the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the BAFTAs, 1917 is the clear favourite.

But I think Bong Joon Ho’s universally beloved Parasite could pull off an upset that would rank alongside the underdog win of Moonlight three years ago.

Taking best ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild showed that Parasite has perhaps the most important vote in the actors (they make up the largest percentage of the film academy), and academy membership has also grown more international in recent years.

The time may be right for the first foreign-language film to win best picture, and Parasite deserves it.

BEST ACTRESS

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo, Harriet; Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Saoirse Ronan, Little Women; Charlize Theron, Bombshell; Renee Zellweger, Judy

Will Win: Renee Zellweger

Should Win: Saoirse Ronan

Should Have Been a Contender: Alfre Woodard, Clemency

Zellweger is already a winner for Cold Mountain in 2004. But her fragile yet powerhouse performance as Judy Garland in Judy is that irresistible thing: a comeback story. The part reverberates with Zellweger’s own history; she and Garland are both former American sweethearts.

She’s a fine choice, but the verve and velocity of Ronan’s great performance in Little Women shouldn’t be overlooked. Formidable as this category is, it would have been better with Woodard’s fully inhabited, devastatingly still performance as a prison warden in the spare Clemency — not to mention Lupita Nyong’o’s ferocious double act in Us.

BEST ACTOR

The Nominees: 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

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Should Win: Adam Driver

Should Have Been a Contender: Andre Holland, High Flying Bird

After several years of lethargy, best actor is the year’s most competitive category.

The next five options — including Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) and Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name) — are equally good. Phoenix, like all of this year’s acting favourites, has been the clear front-runner for some time, for his morose yet limber Joker.

But Driver’s performance in Marriage Story is the real show-stopper here; a more nuanced and rewarding performance that culminates beautifully in song and tears.

A shout-out also to the exceptional Holland, whose guileful, fast-talking NBA agent in High Flying Bird felt like a thrilling fast break.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The Nominees: Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell; Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Florence Pugh, Little Women; Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Will Win: Laura Dern

Should Win: Laura Dern

Should Have Been a Contender: Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Dern has won every precursor award ahead of the Oscars, and is poised to win her first Academy Award. That’s cause for celebration. Dern has been one of the finest actresses in Hollywood for decades, and her fearsome divorce attorney in Marriage Story is indelible, particularly her fabulous monologue on the double-standards of modern marriage.

But this category is also missing some worthy actresses, including Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers) and Shuzhen, who played the grandmother unaware of her own cancer diagnosis in Lulu Wang’s tender family drama The Farewell.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The Nominees: 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

Will Win: Brad Pitt

Should Win: Brad Pitt

Should Have Been a Contender: Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

Nothing is more certain this year than Pitt’s win for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, a movie that perfectly showcases Pitt’s sly charisma.

His march toward his first acting Oscar has been fun, too, in a string of acceptance speeches (thanks to an apparent joke writer helping him out) filled with memorable one-liners. The talent in this category is extraordinary — Pesci or Hanks would win most years — but it’s still a shame there wasn’t room for Snipes’ irresistible prima donna actor-turned-director in Dolemite Is My Name or Rob Morgan’s powerful death row inmate in Just Mercy.

DIRECTOR

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

Will Win: Sam Mendes

Should Win: Martin Scorsese

Should Have Been a Contender: Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mendes appears the favourite here for the technical acumen of his seemingly-one-take 1917.

The pristine command of Bong would be a better choice but so would the colossal achievement of Scorsese in The Irishman. He has won Best Director only once before. And in 2019, Scorsese not only produced a career-crowning masterwork but mounted a passionate defence for the future of cinema.

Greta Gerwig deserved to be among the nominees here for her thrillingly vibrant Little Women, but so did Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), whose talent with texture, performance and authenticity doesn’t announce itself, and can go underappreciated.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Nominees: 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

Will Win: Parasite

Should Win: Marriage Story

Should Have Been a Contender: Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodovar

A screenplay win for Parasite would signal a real chance for a best-picture victory.

But also worthy here are two deeply personal scripts: Baumbach’s stirring portrait of divorce Marriage Story and Almodovar’s unfortunately overlooked Pain and Glory, a sublime, autobiographical work.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Nominees: The Irishman, Steven Zaillian; Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi; Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver; Little Women, Greta Gerwig; The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Will Win: Jojo Rabbit

Should Win: Little Women

Should Have Been a Contender: The Laundromat, Scott Z Burns

Waititi’s clever, poignant script for the Nazi Germany coming-of-age romp Jojo Rabbit appears to have the edge here. There is understandably wide respect for Waititi’s idiosyncratic and daring sensibility. Yet, Gerwig’s script inventively pulled apart Louisa May Alcott’s much-adapted novel — only to put it back together again.

DOCUMENTARY

The Nominees: American Factory, Julia Rieichert, Steven Bognar; The Cave, Feras Fayyad; The Edge of Democracy, Petra Costa; For Sama, Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts; Honeyland, Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov

Will Win: American Factory

Should Win: Honeyland

Should Have Been a Contender: Maiden, Rolling Thunder Revue

The sheer number of great documentaries being made today can hardly be accommodated by one category.

Just for starters the snubs here include the uplifting Maiden,about an all-female crew in a worldwide 1989 yachting race; Scorsese’s fiery Dylan documentary Rolling Thunder Revue and the enthralling archival project Apollo 11.

American Factory, the first film released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, is the most likely winner.

But Honeyland, about a singular Macedonia beekeeper, is exquisitely intimate and yet resonates with global environmental allegory.

INTERNATIONAL FILM

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Jan Komasa; Honeyland, Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov; Les Miserables, Ladj Ly; Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodovar; Parasite, Bong Joon Ho

Will Win: Parasite

Should Win: Honeyland

Should Have Been a Contender: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

This will be an easy win for Parasite, with potentially bigger awards to come.

But little in this awards season was more disappointing than the lack of attention for Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

The period French romance, my favourite film of 2019, narrowly missed out on being France’s submission.

France instead chose the muscular police procedural Les Miserables. Audiences will at least have a chance to catch up to Sciamma’s sensational film when it properly opens in theatres next week.