Oscars 2020 predictions: Who will win best picture, actor and actress

Best Picture

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

As your Oscar-pool guru, I would be remiss in predicting any best-picture winner besides 1917. The Sam Mendes-directed war movie has taken top honours from both the Producers and Directors guilds as well the director and drama prizes at the Golden Globes, and that’s the sort of awards-season war chest no other contender can compete with. Though it debuted late last year, 1917 is cresting at just the right time: After six weeks of release, it’s made more than $120 million domestically, and it occupied the No. 2 slot at the box office last weekend.


I still can’t shake the feeling that Parasite could pull off an upset, in much the same way Moonlight vaulted over La La Land just three years ago. Bong Joon Ho’s widely loved South Korean thriller would be the first foreign-language film to win best picture, and by picking it, voters could help rehabilitate the academy’s reputation for being too insular and white. The film’s cast members garnered a standing ovation at the Screen Actors Guild Awards even before they won the top prize of the night. Parasite has passion, no doubt.

Is that enough? I’m playing it safe with 1917, but stay tuned: It’ll be close.

Best Director

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

Five of the last seven Oscar races have come down to a split in the top two categories, so is it possible that even if 1917 wins best picture, Bong could still be rewarded with the best-director Oscar? Yes, though I wouldn’t bet on it: When such a split occurs, the directing winner usually hails from the bigger, more technically audacious film, and that describes Mendes and his long-take war movie to a T.

Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker; Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Oscar voters are drawn to the tangible act of transformation, and though many of the nominees in this category are playing against type — including DiCaprio as a washed-up actor and Banderas as a quiet artist wrestling with pain — there is no more ostentatious act of transformation than Phoenix’s wrenching, intensely physical performance as the Joker. Considered by many to be the best actor of his generation, Phoenix has never won an Oscar. That will change on Sunday.

Best Actress

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

Sixteen years after Zellweger was awarded her first Oscar, a supporting-actress trophy for Cold Mountain, she will again return to the winner’s circle for playing a down-and-out Judy Garland in the last year of her life. None of the other contenders ever amassed enough momentum to truly compete with Zellweger, who’s been sitting pretty as the favourite all season. She’ll now become the 21st woman to win more than one Oscar for acting.

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Though the 56-year-old Pitt already possesses an Oscar for producing the best-picture winner 12 Years a Slave, he has never won an Academy Award for acting, and his confident performance in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood offers a full-throttle testimonial to his star power. After charming and unexpectedly funny acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, there’s no way Pitt goes home on Oscar night empty-handed. Don’t you want to know what he’ll say?

Best Supporting Actress

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

Dern has a clear path to victory here: The only supporting-actress contender who had earned a comparable amount of buzz was the Hustlers star Jennifer Lopez, and she didn’t even make the list of five nominees. For voters who enjoyed Marriage Story, a vote for Dern ensures the movie won’t go home empty-handed, and the 52-year-old actress is an enormously well-liked figure enjoying the sort of career resurgence that Oscar is always eager to reward.

Original Screenplay

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won; Knives Out, Rian Johnson; Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach; 1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns; Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino has won the original-screenplay Oscar twice before, so he can’t be counted out here. Still, the path to best picture almost always goes through one of the screenplay categories, and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood has lost much of its momentum for the top award. The best-picture front-runner 1917 is probably too sparse a screenplay to win in this category, so I expect the win will go to twisty Parasite, the night’s other big contender for the top Oscar.

©2020 The New York Times

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