My piping hot 2020 Oscar predictions

Who the eff knows how a film in which Frances McDormand wanders the American West turned into this year’s Best Picture frontrunner. Perhaps Academy of Motion Picture Farts and Biases looked at those prairies, chins a-tremble, and mourned what the pandemic had done to their summer vacations. I overrated Nomadland at the time. My friend Jack Hamilton’s recent Slate essay picking apart the film’s muddled politics and shall we say delicate treatment of producer Amazon deserves a read. Lacking any self-consciousness about presenting characters whose courtesy obscures to the probability that they’ve got MAGA flags hoisted on their trucks, Chloé Zhao has no instinct for romanticizing landscapes, for she understands how landscapes in part construct our identities. An ameliorating factor? Of course. There are worse talents for a writer-director.

In other words, Nomadland ain’t The King’s Speech. It isn’t any Oscar bait in recent years. Should it win Best Picture — I suspect it will — it’ll be one of the least embarrassing winners in history. Recall: this will happen thirteen months after the Academy awarded already-a-popular-classic Parasite its top prize. Nomadland‘s purported open-endedness is a relief in the context of Best Picture winners.

So, really, the rank Mank and Aaron Sorkin’s Neil Simon approach to racial politics are the only gaseous entertainments. Vanessa Kirby eked out a well-deserved nomination for Pieces of a Woman while the Academy, forgetting its history of rewarding these transgressions, overlooked Ellen Burstyn in the same film. A dozen years after being promoted as the new Audrey Hepburn or something, Carey Mulligan earned a second nomination as a new-ish Jessica Lange for Promising Young Woman.

Our asses spent hundreds more hours on sofas watching Netflix and Amazon. Somehow it paid off.

Herewith are my predictions in the major categories. This year I skipped Best International Feature. But watch Quo Vadis, Aida? You must.


Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman – The Father
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari

Hélas, Glenn Close! Nominated eight times, she came close to a (undeserved) win for 2018’s The Wife. Her mortifying turn as a hillbilly hosfrau in Ron Howard’s adaptation of J.D. Vance’s red state almanac might’ve earned her the (undeserved) trophy had not Yuh-Jung Youn’s own take on a gimlet-eyed granny won precursor awards. Had I been a voter, Olivia Colman’s watchful, wary daughter opposite Anthony Hopkins in The Father or Maria Bakalova’s masterful example of performance art in the Borat sequel would’ve split my vote.

WHO WILL WIN: Yuh-Jung Youn
WHO SHOULD WIN: Maria Bakalova, Yuh-Jung Youn, or Olivia Colman


Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield –
Judas and the Black Messiah

As gleeful in their commitment to category fraud as Trump voters are in sticking it to the libs, Academy voters put two marvelous actors from Judas and the Black Messiah head to head, but Daniel Kaluuya has the momentum. My colleagues and I in of the Florida Film Critic Circle selected Paul Raci , who as Sound of Metal‘s NA counselor is refreshing and bullshit-free.

WHO WILL WIN: Daniel Kaluuya


Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Solid to remarkable examples in this category, all of them. To imagine Hollywood would give Frances McDormand her third Best Actress award as the wanderer in Nomadland wouldn’t eat away at the neocortex, but apparently more voters have watched Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman in recent weeks. Mulligan has never convinced me of her power; even in films like Wildlife she has the air of a talented dilettante giving a role a nice try. Watching Promising Young Woman (whose title ironies reflect how the Academy regards nominees in this category), I kept thinking how adeptly Charlize Theron or (in the sixties) Tuesday Weld would’ve played Mulligan’s role. Still, a win for a character and a performance this ferocious would shake the cobwebs from this biopic-prone category (NB: I haven’t watched The United States vs. Billie Holiday)

WHO WILL WIN: Carey Mulligan
WHO SHOULD WIN: Vanessa Kirby, Carey Mulligan, Frances McDormand


Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Gary Oldman – Mank
Steven Yeun – Minari

I groaned in December when Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman looked like the frontrunners. Time has softened my attitude toward Hopkins’ turn as the titular character in The Father, disappearing into the fog of senility. But the award will go to the late Chadwick Boseman’s extended purr of a performance as the comer in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Another beneficiary of category fraud, but a delicious one; Boseman’s capacity to hold the screen rarely got an opportunity this ripe. In fact, every one of these actors save Oldman did terrific work. Now that the secret’s out about Steven Yeun, let’s make sure he’s not overlooked again like he was for 2018’s Burning.

WHO WILL WIN: Chadwick Boseman
WHO SHOULD WIN: Anyone but Gary Oldman.


Will Berson & Shaka King – Judas and the Black Messiah
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Abraham & Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Few categories reward the Academy’s idea of subversiveness than this. Expect the tradition to continue when Promising Young Woman‘s Emerald Fennell walks on stage.

WHO WILL WIN: Promising Young Woman
WHO SHOULD WIN: Sound of Metal


Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Jena Friedman, Anthony Hines, Lee Kern, Dan Mazer, Erica Rivinoja & Dan Swimer – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller – The Father
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

The play on which The Father relies is a deft piece of inspired superficiality that I trust works better onstage (I kept thinking what the late Mike Nichols would’ve done with it; the thing is pitched exactly at his glib command). I’m inclined to reward it here.

WHO WILL WIN: Nomadland


Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
David Fincher – Mank
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round

I praised Chloé Zhao’s achievement earlier. With the Director’s Guild win, she’s a lock.

WHO WILL WIN: Chloé Zhao


The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Had this been 2019, The Trial of the Chicago 7 might’ve leapfrogged over the competition. Thanks to COVID lockdowns, perhaps Academy voters gorged on West Wing reruns and concluded that Aaron Sorkin, like uppers, is bad for the adrenal glands. It would shock me if Nomadland would lose. But I know nuthin’. I don’t even get paid for this shit.

WHO WILL WIN: Nomadland

3 thoughts on “My piping hot 2020 Oscar predictions

  1. Nomadland and The Father haven’t come out here in the UK yet, but of the ones I’ve seen, only Minari and Sound of Metal held my attention. Mank proved a cure for pandemic insomnia. Trial proved one of those annoying things where reading the real story on Wikipedia is much more memorable. Promising Young Woman was the biggest disappointment and seemed to lack any real subversive edge to me – it felt like I May Destroy You but done with caricatures instead of human beings.

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