An early look at the 2019 Oscar race

By Julien Rodger

With festivals like Toronto and Venice providing more insight into the fate of some contenders, early September is the official beginning of the Oscar race. Here are some brief predictions:

Best Picture

The frontrunner: Once Upon A Time.. in Hollywood

It’s a star studded, major work by one of the best directors of all time, and films set in the same city and profession as most of the voters is a bonus. It’s a love letter to Hollywood, actors and the history of both which I expect the Academy to embrace it more than anyone.

Next up: Marriage Story, The Two Popes, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, Parasite, JoJo Rabbit

Marriage Story is the likely critics choice of the year with 100% on RT and 96 on MC. Noah Baumbach films traditionally haven’t been embraced by the academy, but with the divorce setting drawing comparisons to Kramer vs Kramer his time for a major Oscar breakthrough is now and the film has a chance to win Best Picture. The Two Popes is off to a strong start with 100% on RT and 83 on MC and Fernando Meirelles has had Oscar success before for City of God. Early word on the Mr. Rogers film A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is also excellent with 95% RT and 82 MC. Joon-ho Bong’s Parasite is being hailed as a masterpiece by its supporters with 100% on RT and 91 MC. The dark horse to go all the way is Taika Waititi’s JoJo Rabbit, the winner of the TIFF People’s Choice Award. Despite having only 73% on RT and a paltry 52 on MC, it falls into the camp of critics being cynical of it being a modern day Life is Beautiful and making too much light of a horrific event in the Holocaust, but audiences coming out of it with an emotional reaction that should play well with the Academy. After Green Book took that very audiences over critics route all the way last year starting with its own TIFF People’s Choice Award win, it can’t be counted out.

Biggest shoes to drop: The Irishman, 1917

All eyes are on Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic reuniting Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, while an impressive trailer suggests 1917 could be Sam Mendes’ return to the major stage twenty years after American Beauty.

Best Director

The frontrunner: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time.. in Hollywood

Win or lose Best Picture, this is the best opportunity the Oscars are going to get to reward Tarantino’s exceptional career. Baumbach taking both big prizes for Marriage Story would be the most likely spoiler, and the high upside, low downside projects The Irishman and 1917 have potential as well to swoop in.

Best Actor

The frontrunner: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Phoenix is now the most overdue actor after DiCaprio’s win for The Revenant and Joker looks like an overwhelmingly showy performance that’s right up his wheelhouse. The route for DiCaprio’s win would be actors emotionally connecting to his role more than anyone else as they did for Emma Stone’s character in La La Land. Adam Driver in Marriage Story shouldn’t be slept on however, with career best reviews he would be a frontrunner in less competitive years, and with Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern as strong contenders in Actress and Supporting Actress and the film’s strength in Picture, Director, and Screenplay, there is potential for a near unheard of domination for the film.

Best Actress

The frontrunner: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Biopics have a long history of delivering actors Oscars, and a story about Judy Garland near the end of her life has great material for Zellweger to chew on who is receiving career best reviews. It’s also ideal material for an actress long known for singing her own parts such as in Chicago or Down With Love. With an 88% on Rottentomatoes (although only 66 on MC) the film looks to have delivered enough to earn it’s “all about the actor” status in this year’s race. The story of Renee’s career comeback could seal this one. Scarlett Johannson taking Marriage Story to the win and capping off a true career year along with Avengers: Endgame and JoJo Rabbit, would be the next most likely winner.

Best Supporting Actor

The frontrunner: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time.. in Hollywood

Pitt gave a true movie star performance and as a major producer his connections may push him over the line much like how George Clooney for Syriana and Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side were taken care of by their friends. Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (Yes, he is supporting) would be a major threat but there’s a reason Hanks hasn’t been nominated in 18 years and they once inexplicably snubbed him for Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks in the same year, he hasn’t cared about campaigning for decades. It is time for him to be nominated again, but indifference could cost him the win. The category is stacked with other actors such as Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in The Irishman, Alan Alda in Marriage Story, Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse among those in the mix.

Best Supporting Actress

The frontrunner: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

With her character actress chops and respect in the industry Laura Dern was born to win Best Supporting Actress at some point and with a strong contender like Marriage Story the time looks to be now. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers is becoming the critical favorite but it’s unclear if the film will maintain Oscar buzz beyond her. Zhao Shuzhen as the grandmother in The Farewell is also a threat to pull off the upset. Margot Robbie may have too little speaking lines in Once Upon A Time.. in Hollywood to win but if the film dominates has an outside chance to overcome it with sentimentality to Sharon Tate. She also has a chance to be nominated for Bombshell.

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