The 2020 Academy Awards: And the Oscar Goes To…

Christopher Karr


Highbrow Magazine contributing writer Christopher Karr, a film buff and critic who has spent considerable time watching (and re-watching) this year’s Oscars contenders, offers his Should Win/Will Win list:


--Should Win*

--Will Win


Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

Marriage Story


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood



Parasite is the best movie of the year, and Joker is a close second. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Academy resisting Tarantino’s exquisite plunge into 1969 Hollywood. The movie is catnip for voters. Plus, Parasite is destined to get its due in other categories. 


Best Actor

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


In any other year, my money would be on Leonardo DiCaprio. But Joaquin Phoenix’s unfathomable performance is instantly iconic. No other actor — living or dead — would be able to pull off anything close to his completely idiosyncratic interpretation of a classic character. 



Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy*


For everyone in this category except Renee Zellweger, the nomination is the award. (I think I’m the only one who wasn’t convinced by Scarlett Johansson’s strained, unfocused effort in Marriage Story.) Even though Judy is a mediocre film, Zellweger’s total possession by the ghost of Judy Garland is chill-inducing. I get goosebumps just thinking about those song numbers. 


Best Supporting Actor

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*

Are the other farfetched “movie star” nods designed to ensure that Brad Pitt is a lock? No matter — Pitt gives the performance of his career as Cliff Booth. He so embodies the essence of cool that 50 years from now, filmgoers might say, “Who’s Brando?”



Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Laura Dern, Marriage Story*

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell


Even though Kathy Bates is a living genius, I didn’t see Richard Jewell. (No one I know did.) Margot Robbie and Florence Pugh’s nominations are perplexing. Was this year starved for supporting female performances, or did the best ones get unfairly overlooked? Dern wins by default — she was the best part of Marriage Story.


Best Director

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Todd Phillips, Joker

Sam Mendes, 1917

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite*


It’s unfortunate for Todd Phillips that his monumental achievement with Joker — the best American film of the year — is rightfully overshadowed by the absolutely jaw-dropping work of Bong Joon Ho. Parasite is a masterpiece, and its director deserves his accolade. 


Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman, Steven Zaillian

Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi

Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver*

Little Women, Greta Gerwig

The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten



The screenplay for Joker is a masterclass in cinematic storytelling. (See for yourself.) Every image in the final film aligns magnificently with the image painted into the text of the script. The Joker screenplay is essential reading for any aspiring or seasoned screenwriter. By comparison, the other nominated scripts are mini-disasters. 


Best Original Screenplay

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, Jin Won Han*


The screenplay for Parasite is one of the greatest original scripts in recent memory. It has a dazzling, Shakespearean depth. Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay is flawed (especially that unacceptable ending, which flirts with canceling out the significance of everything that leads up to it), but the vision he expressed on the page merits recognition. 


Best Cinematography

The Irishman, Rodrigo Prieto

Joker, Lawrence Sher

The Lighthouse, Jarin Blaschke

1917, Roger Deakins

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Robert Richardson*


The thrilling accomplishment of Richardson’s retro cinematography cannot be understated. His technique and craft elevated the content of Tarantino’s vision in a way that leaves you overwhelmed. 



Best International Film

Corpus Christi, Jan Komasa

Honeyland, Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov

Les Miserables, Ladj Ly

Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodovar

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho*


There’s no contest here: Parasite deserves an Oscar for Best Foreign Film of the Decade. 


Best Animated Film

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Dean DeBlois

I Lost My Body, Jeremy Clapin

Klaus, Sergio Pablos

Missing Link, Chris Butler

Toy Story 4, Josh Cooley*


Toy Story 4 isn’t even the best entry in the series, but it’s better than the other nominees. 


Author Bio:

Christopher Karr is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


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