2020 Oscar Predictions — Best Picture

Twitter was ablaze the morning the Oscar nominations were announced. Joker received 11 (count ’em, 11!) nominations? No The Farewell? No Uncut Gems? No J-Lo? No Greta Gerwig for Best Director? No this. No that. Why this, but not that? There was room for X, but they choose Y? Blah-blah-blah.

The grumblings from Film Twitter is not without their merit. The Academy is known for its massive oversights year after year, and this has become particularly evident in the past few years. But there is a futile exhaustion to the Film Twitter banter, which is equal parts righteous, ironic, furious, annoyed, and contrarian. The reality is that the Academy is a somewhat arbitrary selection of industry insiders choosing what is culturally relevant. It has its limited import, but it is not worth getting up in arms about.

The Nominees:

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

Will Win: 1917

Could Win: Joker

Dark Horse: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood


1917 and Once Upon a Time..in Hollywood come out of the Golden Globes with the show’s highest honors, but the Globes are, at best, a spotty barometer of Oscar success. This said, 1917 is an exceedingly conventional choice for Best Picture (not to diminish what is impressive about the film), which could mark it the frontrunner. It has the most recent theatrical release, which makes it more buzzy. It is a period piece war film from an Oscar-winning director that touts the impressive capabilities of Hollywood filmmaking. It is inoffensive.

And, most importantly, it recently won the Producers Guild Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. This is the single strongest indicator of what film will win Best Picture (less so now that the Academy has changed their voting procedure for Best Picture, but this is nevertheless important).

Where 1917 is the least controversial nominee, Joker is (inexplicably) the most controversial film of the year. The irony of a Scorsese pastiche beating Scorsese for a Best Picture Oscar notwithstanding, Joker has a better shot at winning Best Picture than any comic book film that came before it. It railroaded the festival circuit by winning the Golden Lion (two Golden Lion winners have went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars: Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and The Shape of Water). It grossed over $1 billion. Joaquin Phoenix appears to be a shoo-in for Best Actor. And the film pulled in all the nominations that point the way to Best Picture (an acting nom, director, screenplay, and editing).

I have so little hope of Parasite winning Best Picture that it’s depressing, but Bong Joon-ho’s film has a better chance of winning than any other non-English-language film that came before it. One would hope that the language barrier is not a true impediment for the Academy, but signs point to them having an intense English bias. Parasite received no acting nominations, for one. But more importantly, the Best International Film category has always been the Achilles’ heel for non-English films, as it serves as a consolation prize where Hollywood can acknowledge non-Hollywood films while reserving Best Picture for something else.

But let’s space out the pack a bit. Center your sights on 1917, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite, and The Irishman when it comes to your ballots. Believe me, Little Women and Marriage Story are worth seeing (Jojo Rabbit and Ford v Ferrari to lesser extents). But they all missed out on the key nomination in Best Director. Yes, Argo won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination, but it had, for whatever reason, a lot more buzz going into the show. I think the only film that could edge into Argo territory is Jojo Rabbit, simply because it has a likeability factor.

It is absurdly early to make any declarative statements about what film will win Best Picture, but as of now I see the potential of each film ranked as follows:

  1. 1917
  2. Joker
  3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  4. Parasite
  5. The Irishman
  6. Jojo Rabbit
  7. Marriage Story
  8. Little Women
  9. Ford v Ferrari

I think the PGA going to 1917 has put it over the top in terms of betting odds. But I cannot deny that it is an uncertain year for Best Picture. You have prominent Hollywood names like Scorsese and Tarantino. You have films that the Academy wouldn’t normally champion which nevertheless have winning potential in Joker and Parasite. There is upset potential in this list, to be sure. It will be interesting to see what happens.


As always, thanks for reading!

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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)


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