The biggest night for the film industry is coming up this weekend: the 92nd Academy Awards. Hosted by ABC, this near century-old event has only changed with its decline in relevance. The Oscars, in recent years, have become much more associated with their lack of recognition of underrepresented voices than its appreciation for cinema as a whole, which should only instill apathy for the award among their viewers. That being said, an Oscar award remains the highest honor that can be bestowed on a cast and crew for a film they have dedicated blood, sweat and tears to — which is enough motivation for me to write this article. But, before I actually talk about the movies that have been nominated, I want to recognize some films I happened to watch last year that are just as deserving as these other movies of acclaim.
My Snub List, or Movies I Thought Deserved More: “Booksmart,” “The Lighthouse” (nominated only for cinematography), “High Life,” “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” “Midsommar,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “Dark Waters,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (nominated only for Best Supporting Actor), “Waves,” “Honey Boy,” “Uncut Gems,” “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and “Judy” (nominated only for Best Leading Actress)
The Big Hitters: These are the usual suspects for insiders — the movies that have been getting buzz for months, especially the films that come out of the festival circuit, which are oftentimes the most nominated and likeliest winners of the night. Generally, these movies are propped up with a sort of pedigree, meaning that there are legacy names attached to them (a large part as to why people of color and women aren’t nominated as often). The big hitters this year are: “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “1917,” “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.”
The Irishman — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 10
I love this movie. It’s a perfect bookend to this era of Scorsese film — it’s an epic, it has some of the greatest American actors of all time and it perfectly captures how Marty’s perception of the rock-star gangster has evolved. The movie leaves you in a state of shocking pity in how you can feel so sad for such a terrible character and evokes debilitating fear for the isolation and oblivion that come with old age. It is long and can seem at times a little tedious to get through, but the ending affords all of that.
I’ve spoken with a friend of mine who is much better at predicting the Oscars than I am, and he says that this movie is going to get shut out. But I don’t happen to think so. This movie has the names, has the pedigree and has the quality behind its push. I don’t think it’s going to win a majority of the 10 Oscars it’s nominated for, but I think it has Best Director and Best Supporting Actor in the bag.
Marriage Story — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 6
Another one of my favorites of the year, “Marriage Story” follows the initially amicable but soon-turned-ugly divorce between a theater director and an actress. It brilliantly portrays the reasoning, misconceptions and aggressions coming from both sides so that the viewer isn’t necessarily in between the two but understands where each side is coming from. It also unravels their marriage and compares it to their professional dynamic, one of the most interesting aspects of their marriage.
This movie is pretty locked in for the Oscars it’s going to win. Laura Dern has won nearly every significant award for her role leading up to the Oscars: the BAFTAs, the SAG award and the Golden Globe. I would consider her a guarantee for the Best Supporting Actress category. Where I think this movie is a tossup for a win in the Best Leading Actress category; Renée Zellweger has swept in the preceding award shows, but her movie has lost a bit of momentum coming into the Oscars season. Personally, I think Scarlett Johansson is going to pick up Best Actress, but I’ll happily be wrong if Zellweger wins.
Parasite — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 6
I think this film is my favorite of 2019, and maybe one of my favorites of all time. It’s something I have never seen before — it’s daring, provocative and funny. There’s a shift in tone in this movie that coincides with a shift in the understanding of the overall framework of the narrative the family has spun. It is done masterfully and subtly, which is also strange considering how bonkers this movie really is.
This movie’s chances for Sunday night are much less set in stone. It’s definitely winning in the Best Foreign Film category because it’s the only movie in that category to be nominated for Best Picture as well. I also think it’s a shoo-in for Best Original Screenplay, but this movie has the potential to be the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture. It would be a shame on so many levels if Best Picture went to anything else; this movie has been lauded by critics and audiences alike and would make a powerful statement about mainstream American cinema. I hope dearly this movie wins, but I have a growing suspicion that it won’t.
1917 — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 10
Having seen this movie rather recently, I don’t understand why it has garnered as much attention and buzz as it has. It felt like a dollar store version of “Dunkirk” with the dialogue of a “Call of Duty” video game. I felt bored throughout the film, except for the three-minute running scene near the end, and could not wait for the credits to finally roll. It felt shallow and redundant in the context of the war genre, which contains some of the greatest films both cinematically and thematically.
I don’t know what this movie is going to win — probably because I don’t like it very much. I think its best shot is for the cinematography work done by the prolific Roger Deakins. This movie has the momentum it needs; it has won Best Picture at nearly all of the significant awards preceding the Oscars. I hope it doesn’t win and would actually be quite mad if it does.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 10
Here’s a controversial take: I don’t get why this movie is nominated for Best Picture either. I like this movie, but I don’t love it. I appreciate the fact that Quentin Tarantino brought together a cast that was almost made for a reflection on stardom in Hollywood, and the cast did a fantastic job. I sort of separate the movie into three lenses, all of which have an interesting take on the situation at hand: the has-been, the never-was and the rising star. The core story at work is fascinating, but I just feel there’s too much fat around the interesting stuff for it to be amazing.
That being said, my opinion has absolutely no bearing on what’s going to win or lose, and there are a bunch of people who adore this movie. That being said, I don’t think this movie is going to win that many Oscars. I think the sure-fire bet is on Best Production Design; Tarantino recreated old Hollywood to a near-perfect degree (just look at the marquees as Margot Robbie walks into the theater). I think its second strongest bet is on Best Supporting Actor, even though I think Al Pacino is taking it for “The Irishman,” because Brad Pitt has been sweeping in the award shows leading up.
The Nods: I would consider these movies the dark horses of the race. These are the unsung heroes of the Oscars; they often show up for the nomination and go home empty-handed. It’s not impossible that these movies will win, just improbable — and I’d love to see it. Without any type of recognition for these cinematic darlings, the Oscars would look even more pointless in the eyes of cinephiles than they already do. For me, this year’s nods are “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women” and “Ford v. Ferrari.”
Jojo Rabbit — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 6
While I don’t love “Jojo Rabbit” as much as some other people, it should 100% be on display at this award ceremony. It’s refreshing and a fascinating dissection of why and how hatred can be fomented in people. I sadly think this movie is going to leave empty-handed by the end of the night, but I would be pleasantly surprised if this movie wins Best Adapted Screenplay.
Little Women – Number of Oscar nominations this year: 6
The elephant in the room this Oscars season is that for yet another year no female directors received a nomination — an especially cruel outcome considering the brilliant work of writer/director Greta Gerwig in creating “Little Women.” Many have not given “Little Women” the attention it deserves because this is the sixth film adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott novel. But “Little Women” doesn’t simply retread the past; Gerwig reimagines the story by jumping between multiple time points instead of sticking to chronological order. Even as she changes the source material, she remains true to the heart of the story, and the spirit of the March sisters shines like it never has before onscreen.
Gerwig could possibly take the award for best adapted screenplay, but the only expected win is for Jacqueline Durran for costume design. Saoirse Ronan (Jo March) and Florence Pugh (Amy March) both delivered top-notch performances for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. But in a particularly competitive year, it would be a (pleasant) shock if either took home the prize.
Ford v Ferrari — Number of Oscar nominations this year: 4
“Ford v Ferrari” is a straightforward popcorn flick that was an absolute joy to watch. It was one of my favorites from last year, with Christian Bale and Matt Damon absolutely killing it in their respective roles. However, I don’t expect it to win much beyond a few technical categories like sound and editing.
The point of the Oscars is to appreciate cinema and for some reason we’ve decided as a culture that a trophy, plaque or a certificate is the best way to recognize different achievements. There is nothing wrong with symbols of gratitude, and in a lot of ways these symbols are soothing because they’re unequivocal — you won the Oscar for the category you were nominated for. Yet still, there have been many films that have won Best Picture that couldn’t matter less to me. If I were to create something (which I hope to someday), I would want to leave an imprint on the audience, because the ideas that I would bake into what I create mean something to me — and it means something to me that those ideas mean something to the people watching. So when you watch a movie, let it wash over you — give it meaning, because these awards don’t.
Katherine Swartz contributed to the “Little Women” section of this article.