Whatever else you want to say about 2019, there were a hell of a lot of good movies. And some of these even got nominated for Academy Awards!
The only real lingering stench from last year's clusterf...ork is the reminder that Green Book is (until Sunday night) your reigning Best Picture winner. And also the return to the "no hosts" approach that ... sort of worked last year? Did anyone care? Are you finally ready for the return of "Uma-Oprah?"
Besides that, the show returns to the usual format: All the nominees in the Best Song category will perform (get ready for some maximum cringe with "I'm Standing With You"), there will be an "In Memoriam" reel (that probably forgets Barbara "Lursa" March and Robert "Get him a body bag!" Garrison), and no one will dare make fun of Tom Hanks's asshole son.
But there may yet be some surprises in store. For the last four years, the Best Picture award has not gone to the odds-on favorite (Roma was expected to win last year, and let's not forget Moonlight's awkward win over La La Land). Is this a concerted effort by the Academy to buck trends, or a cynical attempt to keep viewers' attention before they switch to Curb Your Enthusiasm? Guess you'll have to watch to the end to find out.
... which plays right into their hands. Anyway, here are the Houston Press's picks for the 92nd Oscars.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kathy Bates - Richard Jewell
Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Margot Robbie - Bombshell
Who Should Win? This is one of the few categories where it's hard to make an argument against the favorite, and the Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTAs would appear to agree. Despite an eleventh-hour push by her co-star Scarlett Johansson (albeit for a different movie), Dern should take this in what's the second (or fifth)-closest thing to a lock category.
Who Will Win? Duh, it's Laura Dern. She really made me care about the problems of couple who can afford residences in both Manhattan and Los Angeles.
Who *Really* Wins? Fans of political acceptance speeches, because this will be just one of many.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
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
Who Should Win? The quality of performances in The Irishman work against it here, as Al Pacino splits the vote with Joe Pesci's return from retirement. And it's too bad, because Pacino is the closest we've gotten to "Classic Al" since ... Angels in America? The Insider? His Jimmy Hoffa is the stuff of legend.
Who Will Win? But it won't matter, because Brad Pitt has this on lock.
Who *Really* Wins? People breathlessly following the evolution of Pitt's stand-up comedy career.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Toy Story 4
Who Should Win? If you follow the odds-makers, this category is almost a dead heat between Toy Story 4, Klaus(!), and Laika's Missing Link. The stop-motion studio has never won an Oscar, having lost to Disney and/or Pixar five straight times.
Who Will Win? While I have no faith in the Academy, I think it'd be nice if Missing Link beat Disney's latest naked cash-grab.
Who *Really* Wins? Everyday schlubs like me, who get a sympathetic break from all the sexy glamour when the animators approach the podium.
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Misérables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)
Who Should Win? This is a pretty stacked category that just happens to be led by what may be the best movie of the decade.
Who Will Win? That said, I really don't want this to be Parasite's only major award.
Who *Really* Wins? At least you'll get a look at North Macedonia's second ever Oscar nominee.
"I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away" - Toy Story 4, Randy Newman
"(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" - Rocketman, Elton John, Bernie Taupin
"I'm Standing with You" - Breakthrough, Diane Warren
"Into the Unknown" - Frozen II, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
"Stand Up" - Harriet, Joshuah Brian Campbell, Cynthia Erivo
Who Should Win? This is my regularly scheduled reminder that Diane Warren has now been nominated for an Academy Award 11 times and has yet to win. I didn't see Breakthrough, and while "I'm Standing with You" is perfectly innocuous, I'm betting none of the Academy bothered to watch it either.
Who Will Win? New Elton John trumps new Randy Newman, so "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman takes it.
Who *Really* Wins? Were you looking forward to another 3.5+ hour Oscar broadcast? Because almost 20 minutes of that is going to be musical numbers.
Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women – Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story – Randy Newman
1917 – Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – John Williams
Who Should Win? Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, and John Williams are respected names, to be sure, but Iceland's Hildur Guðnadóttir is on another level.
Who Will Win? And as such, Joker should win.
Who *Really* Wins? Those of us who don't go to the bathroom during this category.
The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto
Joker – Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke
1917 – Roger Deakins
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Robert Richardson
Who Should Win? It says something when the tentacular love triangle is only the second most arresting thing about The Lighthouse. Alas, this isn't Blaschke's year.
Who Will Win? Congrats to Roger Deakins, who's going to make up for a 13-nomination drought by winning two years in a row.
Who *Really* Wins? Crusty landlubber Academy voters who haven't yet been exposed to the glories of Willem Dafoe's beard.
The Irishman – Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi
Joker – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Little Women – Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes – Anthony McCarten
Who Should Win? It depends on whether the Academy feels more strongly about their usual weakness for Holocaust fare or throwing a sop to a woman who really should've gotten a Best Director nod.
Who Will Win? I think Little Women, because I can practically hear the Academy's collective head gears turning while they ponder, "Well, we gave it to the black guy last year ..."
Who *Really* Wins? I bet Taika Waititi will be wearing something cool, so watch for that.
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 and Han Jin-won
Who Should Win? Loved Knives Out and Parasite. I also have a great deal of affection for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but Quentin Tarantino has won this award twice, and the Academy keeps track of shit like that. Honestly, I'd be fine with any of these nominees except 1917, because come the fuck on.
Who Will Win? Man, I really think they're going to shaft Bong Joon Ho & Han Jin Won. So in spite of what I just said, I'm going with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Because the Academy loves fellating itself most of all.
Who *Really* Wins? All of us, if the Knives Out clip includes Michael Shannon yelling, "I’m not eating one iota of shit!"
That line was improvised, incidentally.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Renée Zellweger – Judy
Who Should Win? Erivo and Theron very good in mediocre movies, while Ronan was excellent in a very good movie.
Who Will Win? Which means of course Renee Zellweger is going to win (see the Original Screenplay entry) for a not very good at all movie.
Who *Really* Wins? Internet sleuths determined to figure out if Zellweger was drunk or just Texan at the Golden Globes.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
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
Who Should Win? Banderas was wonderful in a movie nobody saw, and DiCaprio may have given the best performance of his life that no one will take seriously. Meanwhile, Driver might be the best actor under 40 working today. Ultimately, none of that will matter.
Who Will Win? Because here's the thing: whatever your take on Joker and what it does or doesn't say about white male rage or Todd Phillips's Scorsese fetish, Joaquin Phoenix is really good.
Who *Really* Wins? Phoenix went after gun violence at the Critics Choice Awards and "systemic racism" at the BAFTAs, so make sure your popcorn's popped.
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Todd Phillips – Joker
Sam Mendes – 1917
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
Who Should Win? At first I was going to say, "Anybody but the guy who directed the worst Bond movie of the Daniel Craig era," then I remember Todd Phillips was nominated.
Who Will Win? Sam Mendes, because apparently we can't get enough gimmicky, cliche-ridden war movies.
Who *Really* Wins? Bitter movie types like myself who'll point out that, not only has Mendes already won this award, but it was for another over-hyped film that has aged terribly).
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Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Who Should Win? While I am heavily in the tank for Parasite or OUATIH (looks like a Van Halen album) If forced, I could make arguments for every movie in this category except probably Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, and 1917. Guess which one of these is probably going to win?
Who Will Win? This category has been trending towards 1917 for weeks now, which makes a certain amount of sense. After all, when all your country's movies are A) about one of the World Wars or B) Austen adaptations, you tend to get the benefit of the doubt.
Who *Really* Wins? The Houston Film Critics Society and every other organization that gave this award to Parasite.