The 2020 Oscars: What to watch out for

The 92nd annual Academy Awards take place Feb 9.

By Sammie Purcell
BU News Service

This Sunday, the Hollywood elite will gather to crown last year’s best movies, filmmakers, actors and more for the 92nd Academy Awards. As you spend these final days trying to fit in a last-minute screening of Judy, here are a few things to keep an eye out for.

The Big Picture

1917 . Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“1917,” Sam Mendes’s World War I epic, is the clear favorite to win Best Picture and has been raking in the accolades ever since its release. The film won Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes, with Mendes taking home Best Director, and won the big prizes at the Directors Guild of America Awards and the Producers Guild of America Awards. Since directors and producers make up a pretty hefty chunk of the Academy’s voting body, it stands to reason that “1917” has a good chance at winning big on Sunday. 

“1917” is a great movie – an obvious, loud choice for Best Picture – but a great movie. But in many critics’ books, the designation of “best” belongs to a much more unlikely candidate. 

“Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-ho of South Korea, took the world by storm last year. It has already made history and raked in a few awards of its own. The Academy has the chance to make some history itself by honoring the genius of this film on Sunday night. Will “1917” win as expected? Or will the world be shocked and delighted by this foreign film and masterpiece? Tune in to find out. 

Who to NOT look out for: 

2019 might as well be called “The Year of J-Lo.” She was everywhere, most notably diving back into acting with a star turn in the movie “Hustlers.” She took great pains to remind everyone that she’s not just a pop star, or a style icon, or quite possibly the hottest woman alive – she’s also an incredibly talented actress. 

But it seems the Academy didn’t enjoy her return as much as the rest of the world.  Lopez was decidedly snubbed this year, and she’s not the only one. 

Lupita Nyong’o in Us. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Lupita Nyong’o gave not one, but two riveting performances in Jordan Peele’s “Us” early last year. Eddie Murphy gave a dynamite performance in “Dolemite is my Name.” “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s intimate family portrait, was shut out of every category. And no matter how electrifying his performance in “Uncut Gems” was, Academy voters didn’t take Adam Sandler seriously enough to give him a nod. 

After the #OscarsSoWhite movement began in 2015 and a “Moonlight” Best Picture win in 2017, it seemed the Academy was making strides toward diversity. This year, that’s not the case. Almost all of these films focus on main characters of color or women, and their absence serves as a jarring reminder of just who makes up the majority of voting Academy members. These would-be nominees will be sorely missed this year. 

The year of Brad

Brad Pitt stars in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” / Photo by Andrew Cooper. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Brad Pitt. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Well, ladies and gentlemen, the man is back and better than ever. He’s out here giving you everything you want during an Oscar campaign. Whether he’s bestowing Leonardo DiCaprio with a blessed nickname, cracking jokes about Tarantino’s foot fetish or reuniting with Jennifer Aniston, Pitt has been campaigning nonstop for an Oscar. 

And he deserves the recognition. As Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Pitt shines in what may be the best performance of his career. Watch out for his win and another witty and charming acceptance speech – seriously, who’s writing the man’s jokes? 

A tribute to a legend

Last year, Kobe Byrant took home an Oscar for his short film “Dear Basketball.” This year, he’ll be remembered in the wake of his death with a tribute.

It’s a shocking statement and still doesn’t feel quite real. It’s hard to articulate how much Bryant meant to the NBA and the city of Los Angeles, but in the wake of his death, most major televised events have tried by paying tribute to his amazing career in different ways. Alicia Keys gave an emotional speech inside the Staples Center during the Grammys. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira honored Bryant during the halftime show at the Super Bowl. It will be touching to see how the Academy chooses to honor such a beloved figure. 

A not-so-little upset

Let’s look at some numbers, shall we? This year, Saoirse Ronan earned her fourth Oscar nomination for her performance as Jo March in “Little Women.” She is 25 years old.

Of the acting nominees, only four have more acting nominations than Ronan, and they’re all older than her: Leonardo DiCaprio is 45, Tom Hanks is 63, Al Pacino is 79 and Anthony Hopkins is 82.

Some nominees – Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger and Kathy Bates – are tied with Ronan for acting nominations. They are also all at least 20 years her senior. 

Saoirse Ronan as Jo March in “Little Women”
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

In “Little Women,” Ronan gives a sensational performance, paying tribute to a beloved character while drawing on the story’s modern sensibilities. The general consensus seems to be that this award is a lock for Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in “Judy,” but is there a chance for Ronan to win? 

While four Oscar nods would suggest she’s widely respected by her peers, Ronan may be settling into a familiar pattern – raking up a plethora of nominations before winning for a performance that many don’t consider her best. 

It’s happened to many a talented actor. Fellow nominee, Leonardo DiCaprio, was nominated four times before he finally won for “The Revenant” in 2016. Some great actors still haven’t been honored with a win. Amy Adams has six nominations and no wins, Glenn Close has seven and Peter O’Toole, while the recipient of a 2003 honorary award, has eight acting nominations and no wins. 

There’s no doubt Ronan will deliver more amazing performances. The question is which one will the Academy recognize her for.

We will have to tune in Sunday to see how the night plays out. Until then, you can listen to us discuss the awards on the BU News Service podcast later in the week, and I’ll be updating my thoughts on the night Monday afternoon.

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