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Oscars preview: '1917,' 'Parasite,' Brad Pitt and more predicted to win big at Sunday's Academy Awards

Brad Pitt stars in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." [Columbia Pictures photo]
Brad Pitt stars in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." [Columbia Pictures photo]

An abbreviated version of this story appears in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman. For the full list of Oscar nominees, click here

And the Oscars will go to ...
Brandy McDonnell shares her Academy Awards forecast

After two months of preliminaries marked by plenty of drama but not much actual suspense, the cinematic awards season closes Sunday night with the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.

Through the gauntlet of Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, England's BAFTAs and more, the winners in several categories - especially the four acting contests - have become practically set in granite. Writer-director Sam Mendes' technically innovative and emotionally charged World War I tale "1917" is the clear-cut favorite in the nine-film best picture competition, although Bong Joon-ho's timely thriller "Parasite" and Taika Waititi's World War II satire "Jojo Rabbit" might qualify as pale dark horses.

The promise of more uproarious one-liners from Shawnee-born movie star Brad Pitt, who has done an admirable job of charmingly mixing up his parade of best supporting actor acceptance speeches, is supplying virtually the only anticipation going into Sunday's Oscars broadcast.

In an almost impressive twist, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has managed to script a ceremony that is both boring and controversial - and the two outcomes are not unrelated.

In the four acting categories, only one performer of color is nominated: Cynthia Erivo for her portray of former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in “Harriet." Powerhouse performers such as Tulsa native Alfre Woodard for "Clemency," Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” previous Oscar victor Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Golden Globe winner Awkwafina for “The Farewell" were all left off the final ballots. Not only is the dearth of diversity not a good look for the Academy, but all the snubs also have left the acting contests devoid of intrigue.


Likewise, the Academy selected an all-male slate in the best director category, with Mendes for "1917," Bong for "Parasite," Todd Phillips for "Joker," Martin Scorsese for "The Irishman" and Quentin Tarantino for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" snapping up the nominations. Directors Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”), Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”) and Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) were regarded as potential nominees but were left out. Had she been nominated, Gerwig would have been the first woman in history to be nominated for best director twice - she became just the fifth woman nominated for best director in 2018 for "Lady Bird" - and a nod in the all-important category might have set up a battle of the Oscar-bait between her "Little Women" and Mendes' war epic.

Alas, the plot and players have been set, so there's not much left to do except wait for the Oscars to come to their inevitable conclusions so that Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro can finally get to Oklahoma to starting filming their next potential award-winning movie, "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Going host-free for the second straight year, the Academy Awards will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC. Here are my predictions for this year's Oscars:


BEST PICTURE

Nominees: “Ford v Ferrari," “The Irishman," “Jojo Rabbit," “Joker," “Little Women," “Marriage Story," “1917," "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," “Parasite”

Will win: "1917"

Should win: "Jojo Rabbit"

Mendes, co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns and legendary Oscar-honored cinematographer Roger Deakins deliver some of the most memorable cinematic moments of 2019 - and arguably of any war movie - with "1917," which brilliantly devised, written and lensed to look as if it was shot in one long, unbroken take. The incredible technical feat is matched with intimate, immersive storytelling. Although "Jojo Rabbit" and "Parasite" are unique cinematic experiences that keenly balance humor, suspense and heartbreak, given the Academy's love for war epics and period films, it's hard to imagine "1917" won't take home the top prize.


BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: Martin Scorsese, "The Irishman"; Quentin Tarantino, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"; Bong Joon-ho, "Parasite"; Sam Mendes, "1917"; Todd Phillips, "Joker"

Will win: Mendes

Should win: Bong

Bong's South Korean blackly comedic crime-drama boasts a singular cinematic vision that taps into the zeitgeist while hair-pinning through breakneck plot turns. But the technical wizardry of Mendes' WWI drama, coupled with his personal connection to the material - the film is loosely based on his grandfather's experiences in the Great War and dedicated to Alfred Mendes' memory - make the Brit the one to beat.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees: 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"

Will and should win: Pitt

Pitt already is an Academy Award winner, but not as a performer: He shared in the best picture honor in 2014 as one of the producers of "12 Years a Slave." This is his fourth acting nod, and it seems fitting that he should win for a role that so effectively showcases his cool charisma, as the stuntman pal and sidekick of a fading actor (DiCaprio) in Tarantino's revisionist ode to Hollywood's golden age.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

Will and should win: Dern

This category is dominated by the kind of stellar performances that prove that supporting roles can actually make or break films, but Dern is just the right balance of sympathetic and sharkish playing a high-powered Los Angeles divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach's curiously titled family drama.


BEST ACTOR

Nominees: 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"

Will win: Phoenix

Should win: Banderas

Both Phoenix and Banderas carried their wildly divergent films, but Phoenix is a four-time Oscar nominee whose painfully skinny and haggard turn as Joker supplied the kind of physical transformation that Academy voters love to honor. Plus, Phoenix managed to transmogrify an 80-year-old DC Comics villain that has already earned an Oscar for another actor (the late Heath Ledger for 2008's "The Dark Knight") into yet another relevant and memorable character.


BEST ACTRESS

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo, "Harriet"; Scarlett Johansson, "Marriage Story"; Saoirse Ronan, "Little Women"; Renée Zellweger, "Judy"; Charlize Theron, "Bombshell"

Will and should win: Zellweger

My favorite performances in this category - Nyong’o in “Us," Awkwafina in “The Farewell" and Woodard in "Clemency" - were all among the omissions that are making these Oscars so white. In light of the snubs, it's hard to imagine that the Academy won't reward Zellweger's empathetic and engrossing portrayal of Judy Garland in the final days of her life. It's a fearless, starry turn in which she not only played a desperate single mother broken by drug abuse and abused by the Hollywood system but also delivered a convincing vocal performance as one of the shiniest stars ever to sing on film.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees: Noah Baumbach, "Marriage Story"; Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, "Parasite"; Rian Johnson, "Knives Out"; Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns, "1917"; Quentin Tarantino, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Will and should win: "Parasite"

The "original" in this category simply means that the script is not based on an preexisting material, but "Parasite" also happens to be the most original - as in creative and unusual - contender in this category.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees: Greta Gerwig, "Little Women"; Anthony McCarten, "The Two Popes"; Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, "Joker"; Taika Waititi, "Jojo Rabbit"; Steven Zaillian, "The Irishman"

Will and should win: "Jojo Rabbit"

Both "Little Women" and "Jojo Rabbit" are radical reimaginings that manage to respect the source material while bearing the distinctive stamp of their respective auteurs. Gerwig infused a freshness and timeliness into her version of the Louisa May Alcott's often-adapted classic "Little Women," but Waititi transformed Christine Leunens's intriguing novel "Caging Skies" into the kind of kooky and affecting satire that only he could devise - and that gives him the edge here.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Nominees: "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," "I Lost My Body," "Klaus," "Missing Link," "Toy Story 4"

Will and should win: "Toy Story 4"

After the perfect, full-circle ending of 2010's “Toy Story 3," I was skeptical when Disney/Pixar announced plans to add another installment to the groundbreaking franchise. But the brilliant minds at the trailblazing animation studio managed to accomplishing the seemingly impossible with yet another entertaining and emotionally resonant adventure for Woody, Buzz and their playtime pals.


BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM (Formerly foreign language film)

Nominees: South Korea, "Parasite"; Spain, "Pain and Glory"; France, "Les Misérables"; North Macedonia, "Honeyland"; Poland, "Corpus Christi"

Will and should win: "Parasite"

The Academy again renamed its best foreign language film this year, now calling it the best international feature film. In this era of more multicultural filmmaking, it's more than just a cosmetic change, though, as it distinguishes between films actually produced in another country from films like "The Farewell," which was lensed in China and told mostly in Mandarin but is an American production. (The same goes for the big winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Minari," which is primarily told in Korean but is an American production filmed in the Tulsa area.) By any standard, though, "Parasite" is a great film and deserves to win this category.

ON OKLAHOMAN.COM

Follow along with my live coverage of the 92nd Academy Awards starting at 6 p.m. Sunday at Oklahoman.com and on Twitter @BAMOK.

-BAM


Related Photos
Brad Pitt stars in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." [Columbia Pictures photo]

Brad Pitt stars in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." [Columbia Pictures photo]

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Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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