Who will win big at the Oscars 2020
By David Levesley
We may not have the nominees yet, but already some Academy Award favourites are beginning to emerge. Here’s GQ’s pick of the films most likely to win big come February
With the film festival circuit done and dusted, the last few waves of potential contenders for the 2020 Oscars have begun to hit cinemas. It’s a year of interesting twists: critically maligned movies have won crucial awards, streaming services continue their rise to be major Academy contenders and several of the awards feel truly wide open.
We take a look at the runners and the riders, the likelihoods and the anomalies, the strong narratives and the opportunities for surprise underdogs to reign victorious.
© David Appleby/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock
Rocketman has been percolating for a while as a serious Oscars contender. Both for its performers and for the film as a whole, it has been building up a good head of steam to be nominated for a plaudit or two. “The film of [Elton] John fits his life like an expensive sequinned glove,” said Jonathan Dean in our review. “You feel your body soar on occasion, when music plays while a jet-fuelled career takes many unexpected turns.” Read our Rocketman review.
Critics have been deeply, deeply apathetic about Taika Waititi’s film: one described it as Wes Anderson making The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. But the film won the all-important Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award, which is an exceptional gauge of Best Picture noms and sometimes of winners. As the Oscars did, last year, show an interest in being as interested in audience appreciation as critical lauding, Jojo Rabbit could continue this pattern.
© Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Having astounded viewers at Toronto, femme-heist gem Hustlers is getting a lot of buzz. It’s got that based-on-a-true-story bleakness and naturalism down pat, but there are also all kinds of reasons to think a movie that nobody anticipated even being good might not make it to the shortlist. That being said: the fact of the matter is that it’s an exceptional movie, well-made and sensitively put together. It deserves this kind of accolade. Read our Hustlers review.
Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie is a safe bet for the Best Picture shortlist. In a year when there are no clear films expected to steamroll awards season, a big sweeping picture full of big names that takes a look at the movie industry itself – which the Academy tends to love – feels likely. Read our Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood review.
Already being discussed in multiple other categories, Noah Baumbach’s latest movie, a tightly scripted emotionally charged but deeply heartfelt dissection of divorce called Marriage Story, seems like a shoe-in for the Best Picture category. It’s now available on Netflix, so you’ll be able to assess its merits there.
© Niko Tavernise
Having won the Golden Lion at Venice, Todd Phillips’ Joker is on a solid trajectory towards maybe being nominated for Best Picture. With Black Panther proving that a new, audience-engaged Oscars might be paying more interest to films born from the world of Marvel and DC, there’s a chance that Joker – just for the sheer buzz it has – could wind up on here. Read our Joker review.
© Wilson Webb
It feels like it’s been a while since a legacy book adaptation got a chance at the Oscars: one could, if one wanted, argue Black Panther was one; 12 Years A Slave reimagined the autobiography of Solomon Northup and Les Miserables was nominated in 2012. Besides these, there haven’t been many nominees in recent years adapted off classic literature. The last one may just have been The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button in 2008. But a big star-studded reimagining of an iconic text in Western literature? Maybe Little Women, which has so much energy around it, could buck the trend.
© Netflix 2019
Like a Michelin-starred tasting menu of all the greatest talents from the golden age of cinema, The Irishman has all the buzz to wheedle its way up into the Best Picture category. Plus, the rise of streaming service movies continues to be a compelling narrative and this feels like a movie that stands Netflix in good stead to maybe win its first Best Picture Oscar.
Sam Mendes’ cinematic retelling of a story his grandfather told him – about a messenger with a crucial, lifesaving message they must deliver to other soldiers in the First World War – doesn’t have much known about it at this point in time. What we can say is that Mendes is damn good and that he has cast every amazing white British man alive in a role (including GQ Awards winners Andrew Scott and Richard Madden… not that we’re biased). Plenty of British stiff-upper-lip-during-war dramas get Oscar buzz and 1917 may be no different. We’ll have to wait till Christmas to know more.
Lulu Wang’s family dramedy starring Awkwafina has received a warm reception and looks tipped to, somewhere or other, rock up in the Oscars. It sits in an odd mid-ground: the Golden Globes considered it a foreign film due to the amount of non-E Will it get a Best Picture nod? It’s harder to say with this one than with many: it’s been lauded, but it’s not being carried on shoulders the way others have been. But it feels like more Asian narratives could do with the kind of spotlight an Oscar nom would give The Farewell and it’s proved it deserves the added support.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood
A film that could have been schmaltzy and twee, this cinematic adaptation of a magazine profile of Fred Rogers has been praised since it premiered at Toronto. It feels like much of the discourse is focused on Tom Hanks getting praise (and we hope Matthew Rhys gets some love too), but the film could still be a contender itself.
© Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Le Mans ’66 (Ford V Ferrari)
Biopics with big names have good pedigree at the Oscars. Le Mans ’66 doesn’t feel like it’ll shake up the establishment the way, say, Moonlight winning did, but it has all the elements to end up on the shortlist.
An American crime thriller starring Adam Sandler and Idina Menzel? What a time to be alive! Already getting attention on the festival circuit, Uncut Gems could be a surprise success in any number of categories, though really the attention so far is predominantly on the cast rather than the whole.
Rian Johnson’s electrically funny whodunnit with an all-star cast has been lauded post-Toronto for its script. A modern Agatha Christie-esque comedy does feel like the sort of thing academy members are likely to watch and love, so Knives Out might see more than just awards for its screenplay.
A Hidden Life
Terrence Malick’s latest movie was lauded at Cannes. It also features two major international actors – Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz – in their final screen roles. It’s also a movie about the Second World War, which is solid Academy-beloved territory. It is still, however, a somewhat inscrutable movie by a director whose last few movies have received… mixed receptions.
© Andrew Cooper
Leonardo DiCaprio/Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood
Both DiCaprio and Pitt are given an awful lot of material to work with in Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood. DiCaprio gets to play Shakespearean, washed-up and slapstick comedy in pretty rapid succession, while Pitt has never been more charming and powerful. Could both be nominated? Absolutely. Though it feels – with both a Tarantino lead and Ad Astra this year – this year feels like more of a chance to celebrate Pitt’s talent.
© Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Christian Bale/Matt Damon for Le Mans ’66 (Ford V Ferrari)
It’s a big year of male duos and another are the leads of Le Mans ’66: Christian Bale and Matt Damon. It’s anybody’s guess, but both are actors the Academy loves.
Robert Pattinson/Willem Defoe for The Lighthouse
Of all the categories The Lighthouse is likely to get a nomination for it’s Best Actor for its two big leads Defoe and R-Patz. It feels like Pattinson’s transformation from YA heartthrob to arthouse darling deserves some sort of reward and it’s a while since Dafoe got the chance to win an Oscar, which he astonishingly has never done.
© Peter Mountain
Anthony Hopkins/Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes
The Netflix-produced adaptation of Anthony McCarten’s play The Pope feels ripe for a nomination: two hugely talented British actors in meaty, delicious roles? Check. A film about religion? Check: it feels like the Academy loves a bit of Catholicism. This feels like a good chance for one or both to get nominated. Not that Hopkins needs anymore Oscars, mind you.
© Niko Tavernise
Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
Chatter seems pretty focused on Joaquin Phoenix absolutely landing a nod for his role as the Joker in the eponymous DC film. With Heath Ledger proving it’s a rich seam to mine as a performer, this could be the chance Phoenix gets the attention he so richly deserves from the Academy after years of nominations.
Adam Driver for Marriage Story
No part of Noah Baumbach’s latest white-people-in-turmoil movie Marriage Story seems to be immune from Oscars buzz. Adam Driver’s performance as its male lead is among them and for good reason: he really loses himself in the dad who is being told he might not get to be a dad any more and even sings a bit of Sondheim for good measure. After he earned a nomination last year for BlackKklansman it could be nice to see him go from bridesmaid to bride.
Antonio Banderas for Pain And Glory
There’s always a thrill when an actor in a best foreign language nominee gets into the best acting categories: a reminder that good performances with subtitles are often erased from the main areas. Remember Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose? Or Emmanuelle Riva for Amour? Banderas is a more familiar face to the Academy than they were at the time (actually that might be doing Riva a disservice, but I think the point still stands) and some are hoping that his turn in Almodovar’s latest might find him here.
Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name
While Dolemite seems to have not gotten too much attention so far, Eddie Murphy’s performance in it has. Some have described this as a kind of comeback narrative for Murphy, which feels trite considering a similar “Look, Eddie can do serious” story arc was cast around Dreamgirls. Nonetheless, Murphy could up for a Best Actor nomination this year.
Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems
The chatter has been all consuming for Adam Sandler’s performance as a jewellery store owner and gambler in this crime thriller. There’s always one outlier rumoured early on – there was Molly Shannon in Other People or Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion, both rumoured for 2016 – and Sandler seems to be the dark horse this year.