This Sunday, awards season is coming to a close with the 92nd Academy Awards. Despite being one of the latest award shows of the season, the Oscars always tend to generate the most buzz and controversy, thanks to persistent and valid criticism like #OscarsSoWhite.
But with a superhero movie and South Korean film gaining some of the most hype, the face of the Oscars are trying to change. Here are some predictions and preferences on what and who will take home awards in some of the biggest categories of the night.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Who will win: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Who should win: Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Almost no movie generated as much hype in 2019 as “Joker” did. Whether it was because of hype or controversy, the movie became a staple of culture last year and no aspect of the film defined it more than Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the film’s titular character.
Phoenix will probably walk away with the Best Actor award Sunday. Admittedly, it is an impressive performance and Phoenix is one of the most interesting and varied actors of our time.
But Adam Driver’s reserved performance as Charlie in “Marriage Story” ekes out as the best performance in this category. Although his role wasn’t the most unique, especially for Hollywood — Driver plays a theater director with a mild temper going through a divorce — his delivery is much more impressive than Phoenix as the Joker.
It would not be a complete disappointment to see Phoenix walk away with the Oscar, but Driver deserves it, especially after serving his time in the rough Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Who will win: Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Who should win: Scarlett Johansson
On the other side of the divorce in “Marriage Story” is the sympathetic Nicole, played by Scarlett Johansson. In the film, Nicole is definitely less at fault than Charlie, but Johansson still balances Driver’s performance by distinctly reacting and defining herself. Whereas Charlie has a temper, Nicole just wants to live her own life and move to L.A., but with Charlie, she feels that won’t happen.
Admittedly, there aren’t many performances in this category that are even Oscar-worthy (Saoirse Ronan is a good pick, too), so Johansson’s performance in “Marriage Story” is a bit of a no-brainer.
Who will win: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Who should win: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite)
“The Irishman” is a big event in cinematic history; Martin Scorsese is one of the most accomplished directors of our time. People are still indebted to his style of directing, including also-nominated “Joker” director Todd Phillips, as “Joker” is almost a reimagining of Scorsese flicks “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy.”
The fact that “The Irishman” is probably the last film that will have three of his most-utilized actors (Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino) nearly guarantees this Best Director win.
Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” is simply a better directed film. Every performance is perfectly executed, which isn’t the case in “The Irishman.” The pacing of scenes is immaculate and tightly done, which is nowhere near the case with “The Irishman’s” bloated running time. “Parasite” is a nearly flawless film, and Ho is a big proponent of love, making him most worthy of the accolade.
What will win: “Joker”
What should win: “Parasite”
There are honestly several films that could take the most prestigious award of the night home on Sunday. “Marriage Story” has a strong fanbase and powerful acting performances to back it up. “The Irishman” could win for reasons stated above.
But it seems likely that “Joker” will win. On some level, the Oscars are a popularity contest, and no film in 2019 was able to drum up the hype that film did. Sometimes the Oscars pull a surprise win — see “Green Book” in 2019 for a bad example, “Moonlight” in 2017 for a welcome one — but nothing would shock and surprise simultaneously like a “Joker” win would.
“Parasite” should win this award. It is one of the most refreshing narrative films of the past few years, as well as one of the crowing cinematic achievements of the 2010s. It is a shining entry-point into cinema outside of the United States. The attention it has drummed up since release has been amazing to see, but the cherry on top would be to see Bong Joon-Ho, the rest of the cast/crew and the film receive the night’s top honors.
It is unlikely to expect this outcome, as “Joker” is a popularity force-to-be-reckoned-with, but if the Academy picks “Parasite,” it will be a win for fans of popular and underground cinema everywhere.
Alex Whetham is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @alexo774
Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum.