Oscars 2020: who will win at this year’s Academy Awards?

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Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Margot Robbie in Bombshell… Some of Hollywood’s biggest names are favourites to win awards at cinema’s night of nights. We break down their chances.

Could this year’s Best Supporting Actress winner have clinched the award with a pole-dance routine?

Maybe. If, on 9 February 2020, you see Jennifer Lopez up on that Oscars’ podium, hoisting her little gold statuette aloft, you’ll know that it all came down to a pair of eight inch Perspex heels and a dance routine choreographed to Fiona Apple’s Criminal. This is how Lopez makes her grand entrance in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, one of the most-talked about film scenes of the year. If she wins Best Supporting Actress – which some Oscar pundits are saying she will – then you’ll know it was because that pole-dance routine.  

She has competition though: Best Supporting Actress is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races at this year’s Oscars. Actually, both of the female acting categories are stacked with major contenders, all of whom will be vying for nominations. (And the men? Well, we’ll get to them.) From Lupita Nyong’o in Us to Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern in Marriage Story to the three ladies of Bombshell – Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman – there is some serious Hollywood star power in this year’s Oscars race.

Here are some Academy Awards predictions…  

Best Actress 

Judy: Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland in biopic
Judy: Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in the biopic.

We’re calling it: 2020 is the year of the Best Actress category. There at least six women with very strong claims to one of the five nomination spots, and at least three others who could sneak in. Right now, Renee Zellweger (who won this category at this year’s Golden Globes and BAFTAs) is looking like the frontrunner, courtesy of her indelible performance as Judy Garland in the last six months of her life in Judy.

But Theron had a transformation, too, to play controversial news anchor Megyn Kelly in Bombshell. Hot on both of their heels are Scarlett Johansson with a career-best performance in Netflix’s Marriage Story, as well as Saoirse Ronan as trailblazing Jo March in Little Women and Awkwafina’s quiet and reserved presence in The Farewell. Right now, it feels like Zellweger’s to lose.

Safe bets:

Renee Zellweger – Judy

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Awkwafina – The Farewell

Charlize Theron – Bombshell 

Could sneak in:

Lupita Nyong’o – Us

Alfre Woodard – Clemency

Cynthia Erivo – Harriet

Florence Pugh – Midsommar 

Best Supporting Actress 

Hustlers: Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez

Two scenes, two very different supporting characters, two contenders. This category is really between Lopez, whose Hustlers turn was a study in crafting a sympathetic anti-hero, and Laura Dern in Marriage Story. As Nora, a glossy Los Angeles lawyer drafted in by Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole to help her with her divorce, Dern is power, strength and elegance in one Roland Mouret Galaxy Dress-wearing package. Her one blistering monologue, ripping into the great myth of the ‘perfect dad’, will be taught in acting schools some day. Dern at both the Globes and BAFTAs this year, but that is by no means to say that this is a one-woman race. 

Also playing are Margot Robbie as a young journalist in Bombshell and Florence Pugh, whose Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is getting rave reviews, and we’d be thrilled to see Shuzhen Zhou, who broke everyone’s hearts as the cancer-stricken Nai Nai in The Farewell grab a nomination. But this one really is between Lopez and Dern. Game on.  

Safe bets:

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Margot Robbie – Bombshell

Florence Pugh – Little Women 

Could sneak in:

Shuzhen Zhou – The Farewell

Annette Bening – The Report

Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey

Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit 

Best Picture

Parasite: could this movie win Oscars?

It’s the biggest prize in cinema, and the highest award on offer at the Oscars. So who is going to win? There are a couple of big hitters this year: a sprawling new drama from Martin Scorsese, a sprawling new drama from Quentin Tarantino, a sprawling new drama from Sam Mendes… But what about the shocking South Korean critical hit Parasite, which has wowed audiences at every film festival it has screened at and continues to grow momentum? It won Film Not In English Language at the BAFTAS and Best Foreign Language Film at the Globes, so could 2020 be the year a foreign film wins Best Picture? 

Maybe. Or maybe it’s the year of Marriage Story, an unflinching and heartbreaking examination of what happens when a marriage falls apart, a Netflix movie with some of the best acting performances of the year. Or maybe, 1917, the World War I film that swept the floor at this year’s BAFTAs and Golden Globes, is destined for a hat trick? Or maybe it’s Greta Gerwig’s year, if you believe the glowing early reviews for her adaptation of Little Women. (And they really are glowing. One critic called it “genuinely thrilling”.) Or maybe it’s none of those things and Joker is going to do what it did at the Venice Film Festival and win everything? 

Safe bets:

Parasite – Bong Joon-ho

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino

Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach

Little Women – Greta Gerwig

Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi

Bombshell – Jay Roach

Joker – Todd Phillips 

1917 – Sam Mendes

Jojo Rabbit: after winning the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, could Oscars be next?

Could sneak in:

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood – Marielle Heller

The Two Popes – Fernando Meirelles

Ford v Ferrari – James Mangold

The Farewell – Lulu Wang

Waves – Trey Edward Shults 

Best Director

Little Women 2019 film by Greta Gerwig
Little Women: Florence Pugh stars as Amy March in the forthcoming adaptation directed by Greta Gerwig, second from left, alongside Emma Watson as Meg, Saoirse Ronan as Jo and Eliza Scanlen as Beth.

Last year, the Oscars disappointed with an all-male directing nomination lineup that was in no way reflective of how many fantastic female-helmed films had been released that year. Here’s hoping 2020 does not repeat that mistake. It shouldn’t, given the fact that there are at least four women who have made expertly crafted films in 2019, and who deserve that nomination. We’re talking about Greta Gerwig, a previous Oscar nominee in this category for Lady Bird, alongside Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood), Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers). 

Who are we kidding, though? Oscars gonna Oscar. So it will be probably be a lineup of dudes with Gerwig thrown in there as the most high profile of the female group. Expect Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese to get nominated. Fun fact: Tarantino has never won a Best Director Oscar, but his chances are spoiled somewhat by 1917 director Sam Mendes (who won Best Director at both the BAFTAs and Globes) and, the buzz around Bong Joon-ho, the celebrated South Korean director whose film Parasite is a cinematic sensation.

Safe bets:

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Sam Mendes – 1917

Could sneak in:

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

Lulu Wang – The Farewell

Lorene Scafaria – Hustlers

James Mangold – Ford v Ferrari 

Best Actor 

Marriage Story: Noah Baumbach's movie is a tale of divorce with a happy ending.

There is some serious star power in this category, from Joaquin Phoenix’s transformation in Joker and Phoenix’s Joker co-star Robert De Niro’s inscrutable hitman in The Irishman to Leonardo DiCaprio’s operative performance in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

But we’d like to stump for some of the quieter, less showy performances this year, like Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Driver is so good in that movie, so able to be both navel-gazy and winning, that you can see why Johansson’s character Nicole fell in love with him in the first place and why she has to divorce him, even though it’s breaking her heart. 

Safe bets:

Adam Driver – Marriage Story

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Robert De Niro – The Irishman

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory

Could sneak in:

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name

Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari 

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood
Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Brad Pitt, Oscar winner. Come February 2020, this is probably something that we will be able to say about the man who has been charming cinema audiences for the better part of the last three decades. OK, he’s already got an Oscar. But it was for producing 12 Years A Slave. If he wins for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, essentially for making a bad man likeable by sheer virtue of him being Brad Pitt, then it will be an acting Oscar, and who doesn’t want Pitt to have one of those? He has already won this category at the Globes and BAFTAs this year. In our opinion, he is a shoo in.

Counterpoint: Tom Hanks. Everyone’s movie dad has never been better in A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, the tale of a cynical man’s friendship with Mr Rogers, one of America’s most iconic children’s show hosts. It’s the supporting role of the film but Hanks fills the movie with his warmth and wisdom, so much so that when he’s not onscreen you wonder where he’s gone. But there are other veterans in this category, too, like Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse) and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy). Is it too stacked for relative newcomer Timothée Chalamet (Little Women) to sneak in? 

Safe bets:

Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

Joe Pesci – The Irishman

Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse

Jamie Foxx – Just Mercy

Could sneak in:

Alan Alda – Marriage Story

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes

Sterling K Brown – Waves

Timothée Chalamet – Little Women

Images: Lionsgate, Warner Bros, Sony, Fox, Netflix, Universal, Neon, Big Beach

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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