Friday, January 17, 2020

Top Nomination Picks for The 92nd Academy Awards

From epic war features to compelling dramas, Hollywood churns out quality films and performances worthy of recognition all year long. Out of the mass selection of potential nominees, only a sliver goes all the way to the Oscars. As nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced this past January, the fervor of who will win at this year's award show became a traditional hot-topic debate between critics and movie goers. With the prestigious ceremony on its way February 9th, 2020, it's time to share my top picks of potential winners from Best Original Score to Best Picture.

Who do you hope will win at the 92nd Academy Awards? Feel free to share your thoughts and your picks in the comments below!

Best Original Score: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Joker has been one of the most controversial nominees since Green Book won Best Picture in 2019. Having snagged eleven total nominations, the odds are high it could take home more awards than  predicted here. One sure bet is Hildur Guðnadóttir's haunting score, one that she composed before seeing the movie and managed to fit the film's tone perfectly. Hildur picked up Best Original Score at the Critics Choice Awards and was the first solo woman to win the same category at the Golden Globes. There's likely to be a repeat 'performance' here.

The only upset I could predict is John Williams winning for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. After composing the central Skywalker saga, which has reached the end of the road, he could easily pick up a win as an ode to his legacy. He's been nominated 52 times, but has only ever won five.

Best Original Song: I'm Gonna Love Me Again by Elton John

Director Dexter Fletcher's jukebox musical Rocketman was a Cannes darling and continued its momentum since it hit theaters in summer 2019. After journeying through John's life of success and downfalls, the song is a perfect fit to celebrating his sexuality and achieving sobriety. While critics and fans considered Taron Egerton's performance as one of the show's biggest snubs, his collaboration and Elton John with co-writer Bernie Taupin took home a statuette at the Golden Globes. You can listen to all of the Best Original Songs at Entertainment Weekly, but it's this one that's great to have on repeat.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917

Roger Deakins is to cinematography what Martin Scorsese is to directing. At the core of 1917's strengths is its breathtaking approach to make it seem as if the film was completed in one-take. Utilizing incredible tracking shots and crafting clever breaks between scenes, the film is an impeccable example of how a cinematographer can make a 'typical' war film revitalize the genre. It's almost impossible to think this isn't Deakins's year after racking up 14 Academy Award nominations and not a single win. Unfortunately, when it comes to Deakins as my chosen winner, I've been wrong before.

Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame

Despite everything it takes to make a Marvel movie, theme park flicks aren't well-respected by Hollywood, especially during award show season. Though Marvel has become the industry's leading money maker, a consistent crowd-pleaser, technological game-changer, and improving storyteller, the studio has been consistently sidelined to other technical categories at the Academy Awards. This time, Avengers: Endgame only secured a nod in Best Visual Effects. With shots like the one above, it'll be a massive oversight if the Avengers don't snap this up.

Best Production Design Dennis Gassner 1917

Best Production Design: Dennis Gassner, 1917

When a director is making a period piece, the crew has to utilize contemporary tools and landscapes to fit seamlessly into the past. Everything in 1917 comes down to the timing, organization, and  research of recreating the World War I battle trenches. Production designer Dennis Gassner makes No Man's Land come to life from transferring scale models into real locations to testing different varieties of mud and dirt. In a world of exquisite and ingenious use of green screen, 1917 tackles practical effects by going big or going home. It's likely Gassner will be doing the latter with an Oscar in hand.

Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran, Little Women

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Little Women

Not all period films look alike. At first glance, it might seem like the beloved characters are only wearing typical garments from the era, but a closer look with Durran reveals the characters' development, their changing relationships, and the switch in timelines Gerwig implemented in her script and direction. Similar to director Greta Gerwig's skill to revitalize the fourth adaptation of Little Women into a bold retelling, costume designer Jacqueline Durran remixes contemporary and Civil War era-appropriate details to dress the March family and company in an entirely new way.

Best International Feature Film Parasite

Best International Feature Film: Parasite

Since film festivals kicked off last year, Parasite has remained among one of the most popular and talked-about films of the season. If one inch subtitles weren't such a turn-off to conventional Academy voters and movie-goers, no doubt Parasite would be leading the way in nominations and wins. Even though it's failed to pick up nods for acting, director Bong Joon Ho walked away with the Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, and tied with 1917 at the Critics Choice Award. In a separate category highlighting other significant international films, Parasite will be the clear winner in big part due to its mainstream success.

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Hollywood's golden boy Brad Pitt has captivated movie goers with his good looks since his on-screen debut in Thelma and Louise. Breaking out of the mold as more than eye candy, Pitt's carved a career for himself in a variety of dramatic, comedic, and action roles - the latest as a charismatic stuntman in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It's the type of role that seems 'basic' on the surface level, but wouldn't work with anyone else in the part. While it feels like he's due for the gold statuette as another 'legacy' award, Pitt's supporting work to Leonardo DiCaprio stands out on its own with or without a body of work behind him that clearly shows his range.

Laura Dern Marriage Story Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

This category contained some of the biggest twists for nominations with Scarlett Johannson, Kathy Bates, and Florence Pugh for JoJo Rabbit, Richard Jewell, and Little Women respectively. However, similar to Academy Award winners Alison Janney and Frances McDormand, Dern continues to be one of the industry's most compelling female veterans. Her subtle yet powerful performance as a lawyer using gender politics to take a stand in the courtroom and for her clients' benefit is one of her best roles yet. She's been cleaning up at all of the award shows, and the Oscars will cap off a year of justified wins for her.

The only upset I can imagine in this category is Pugh - not only did the twenty-six year continuously captivate everybody with three major film roles last year, her portrayal of Amy March truly changed a common perception of the character that hadn't been achieved before.

Joaquin Phoenix Joker Best Actor

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

This is one of the least exciting selections of Best Actor nominees to come along in several years. None of the performances jumped off the screen for me, so this one's based on the facts: Phoenix has delivered far more compelling and invested performances before, but his turn as Arthur Fleck has had movie goers, critics, and comic book fans talking for months on end. The make-up, laugh, dancing, and psychological breakdown has clearly resonated within the industry and general public. Despite mocking journalists at the Golden Globes, but taking home accolades left and right similar to Pitt and Dern, this is a lock for Phoenix.

Renee Zellweger Judy Garland Oscars

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Zellweger's performance as one of the 20th Century's biggest icons primarily shows how much an actor can carry a traditional biopic much further than it could without them. Similar to my other picks like Phoenix and Dern, sometimes the story of the nominees are just as important as the performances themselves. While this isn't to say that Zellweger won't win based on her transformation to become Garland, there are other elements at play here such as many regarding this as a comeback for Zellweger after a much-needed media break and Zellweger's win would make up for the Academy Awards snubbing Garland on three separate occasions. #sweetpoeticjustice While this category among others called into question the Academy's so-white movement, Zellweger has taken the lead to win and it'll be a well-deserved.

Quentin Tarantino Nominee Best Picture

Best Picture: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Since Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was released last year, one of the major element's of the film and Tarantino's campaign has been the importance of being his ninth work so far. Diving deep into everything that Hollywood loves about itself, and Tarantino loves about movies and film-making, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood ticks off a lot of boxes to win. Tarantino hasn't won the big one for any of his films yet, only garnering nods for Best Picture and nods/wins for Best Original Screenplay. Similar to Scorsese's win for The Departed, Hollywood's looking to give an iconic filmmaker his due from his ultimate grand slam, and Tarantino would fit that bill.

Best Director Nominee Sam Mendes 1917

Best Director: Sam Mendes, 1917

The Irishman and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood seemed like sure-bets on the road to the Golden Globes, and then 1917 came out of nowhere for the biggest prizes. While 1917 only appeared to be like every other war epic, director Sam Mendes flipped the genre upside down. It has all the makings of a Best Picture winner from its epic scale to pure artistry of the cinematography and production design. Some films would not garner as much recognition if it wasn't the man (or woman) behind the curtain pulling all the strings. And Mendes will go all the way with his one. There could also be a repeat surprise with Sam Mendes and Bong Joon Ho tying in this category, which initially occurred during the Critics Choice Awards.

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