Bung the food back in the freezer. Roll up the red carpet. Cancel the staff that can still be cancelled. Given that we know whos winning, there is really no need to bother with an Oscar ceremony this year. Right?
For the second year running, all the acting favourites are odds-on with the bookies. Go ahead. Wrap yourself in the flag and yell for Saoirse Ronan to convert her fourth nomination into an Oscar. But she isnt winning. Her turn in Little Women is (rightly or wrongly) viewed as just one component of a dominant ensemble. In contrast, Renée Zellweger gets to masticate every splinter of scenery as the immortal Ms Garland in Judy. A leading high-street bookmaker has Zellweger unbackable at 1/18. That same turf accountant – despite normally pulling in homers – puts Saoirse as remote as 25/1. Tiocfaidh ár lá. But not when theres a showy movie about a Hollywood legend in the way (even if nobody much likes it).
You can similarly mark down Joaquin Phoenix (mad in Joker) for best actor, Brad Pitt (smooth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) for best supporting actor, and Laura Dern (dynastic in Marriage Story) for best supporting actress. In recent years, thanks to a preferential ballot that works similarly to those being scrutinised across Ireland this weekend, best picture has been trickier to predict. But Sam Mendess 1917 looks to be cruising.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins and director Sam Mendes on the set of 1917. Photograph: François Duhamel/Universal Pictures
How do we know this? We are not going to pretend that Im stomping the pavements of West Hollywood in search of Academy voters with inside knowledge. (Though I have spoken to two or three.) Its simpler than that. Over the last few decades, a series of precursor awards have sprung up to act as opinion polls for the coming election. By far the largest branch in the Academy is the actors. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) thus represents a whack of Oscar voters and, at their awards last month, they put gongs the way of Renée, Joaquin, Laura and Brad. The Golden Globes dont represent anyone, but the quartets victory there further hammered home the inevitability. Last weekend, they all won at the British Academy (Bafta). Mendess pseudo one-take war film triumphed with Bafta, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. So, it does look as if we have a favourite there.
Hold on. There are still reasons for the tolerant movie fan to heed the upcoming awards. For a start, the unusually compacted season – the Oscars are a full three weeks earlier than last year – has disrupted rhythms in ways that question the reliability of traditional predictors. Second, an upset this year could trigger one of the most joyous nights in Oscar history.
The feel-cool story of the season has been the unstoppable rise of Bong Joon Hos Parasite. Not just the first Korean film to get a best picture nomination, it is the first from the peninsula to score a nod in even best international picture (formally best foreign language film). The odds are still against it. It has six nominations. An unprecedented four rivals are in double figures: Joker scored 11; 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Irishman registered 10. Voters may feel theyve done their duty by passing Parasite the international prize. If, last year, Roma, directed by Academy favourite Alfonso Cuarón, couldnt become the first film in a language other than English to win then what chance does a social satire from Korea have?
Andrew Scott and Richard Madden in 1917
Well, Parasite was the first foreign film to win best ensemble at SAG – something Roma couldnt manage – and, whereas Cuaróns flick was more admired than loved, the enthusiasm for Bongs breakneck farce is unmistakable. We can, at the very least, mark it down as a plausible second favourite. (True awards nerds will want it pointed out that Parasite would also become only the second winner of both best picture and the Cannes Palme dOr.)
Nobody can say for certain, but Roma may also have suffered from a bias against Netflix productions. This musing points us towards another of the questions still hanging over the 2020 Oscars. How few awards could the streaming service secure? Scoring heavily with The Irishman and Marriage Story, Netflix beat all other studios with 24 nominations. We are predicting just two of those to deliver Oscars: Laura Dern for Marriage Story and, much less certain, American Factory as best feature documentary. To use the language of US sports, Netflix could conceivably go 1 for 24 here. Martin Scorseses The Irishman, another Netflix release, is competing in some races – notably in editing and directing – but the team cannot rule out skirting The Color Purples unenviable record of 11 nominations and no wins. If Netflix does underperform, will the company continue to invest so heavily in theatrical features?
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse
There is not much the Oscar organisers can now do about the near-total whiteness of the acting nominees. That unpleasantness will, at least, provide the presenters with material for self-deprecating humour. For the second year running the show is going with no formal host. Last year, the broadcast reversed a long decline in viewership figures and, tightened up to a relatively tidy three hours, won decent reviews from Oscarologists. It makes sense to stick with a winning formula. All this is good news for Galways Eímear Noone. We may not see Saoirse at the winners podium, but, shepherding excerpts from the best score nominees, the distinguished composer becomes the first woman ever to conduct at the Oscars. All that and Billie Eilish too.
Best PictureFord v FerrariThe IrishmanJojo RabbitJokerLittle WomenMarriage Story1917Once Upon a Time in HollywoodParasite

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: Parasite

Mendess war flick would become the first film ever to win with neither an editing nor an acting nomination. So, there is some hope for Parasite. But 1917 is on a roll everywhere else.
Best DirectorMartin Scorsese, The IrishmanTodd Phillips, JokerSam Mendes, 1917Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in HollywoodBong Joon Ho, Parasite

  • Will win: Sam Mendes
  • Should win: Bong Joon Ho

This is the most competitive of the tip-top awards. It has often split from best picture in recent years and, like Alfonso Cuarón last year, the foreign director could score a consolation prize.
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Best ActressCynthia Erivo, HarrietScarlett Johansson, Marriage StorySaoirse Ronan, Little WomenCharlize Theron, BombshellRenée Zellweger, Judy

  • Will win: Renée Zellweger
  • Should win: Scarlett Johansson

You can rely on the Academy to go for the most acting rather than the best. But Scarlett deserves it for giving Marriage Story its beating heart.
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory
Best ActorAntonio Banderas, Pain and GloryLeonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in HollywoodAdam Driver, Marriage StoryJoaquin Phoenix, JokerJonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

  • Will win: Joaquin Phoenix
  • Should win: Antonio Banderas

We knew Phoenix would get one eventually. Its a shame its for one of his more unrestrained turns. Antonio is right there, guys!
Flornece Pugh in Little Women
Best Supporting ActressKathy Bates, Richard JewellLaura Dern, Marriage StoryScarlett Johansson, Jojo RabbitFlorence Pugh, Little WomenMargot Robbie, Bombshell

  • Will win: Laura Dern
  • Should win: Florence Pugh

Daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, Laura is cashing an IOU for Hollywood royalty. Pughs time will come.
Al Pacino in The Irishman
Best Supporting ActorTom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodAnthony Hopkins, The Two PopesAl Pacino, The IrishmanJoe Pesci, The IrishmanBrad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

  • Will win: Brad Pitt
  • Should win: Al Pacino

Category fraud alert! Pitt is clearly a co-lead in the Tarantino film, but if the studio rates him as supporting the voters will play along. Pacino has a right to feel cheated.
I Lost My Body
Best Animated FeatureHow to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden WorldI Lost My BodyKlausMissing LinkToy Story 4

  • Will win: Toy Story 4
  • Should win: I Lost My Body

All conquering Disney may have to settle for just their traditional animation win this year. But there is affection for Netflixs Klaus and the lovely French romance I Lost My Body.
Best Adapted ScreenplayThe IrishmanJojo RabbitJokerLittle WomenThe Two Popes

  • Will win: Little Women
  • Should win: The Irishman

Having missed out on a best director nomination, Greta Gerwig will probably get her Oscar for writing. But Jojo Rabbit won with both the Writers Guild and Bafta. Neck and neck.
Best Original ScreenplayKnives OutMarriage Story1917Once Upon a Time in HollywoodParasite

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Should win: Parasite

They love Tarantino and will queue up to give him a third Oscar in that category (rather than the directing statuette he really wants). But Parasite, guys?
Best CinematographyThe IrishmanJokerThe Lighthouse1917Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: The Lighthouse

Pseudo single take. Much loved pro. You can carve Roger Deakinss name on the thing now. Jarin Blaschke, who did such amazing work with vintage equipment on The Lighthouse, will be happy with the nomination.
Best DocumentaryAmerican FactoryThe CaveThe Edge of DemocracyFor SamaHoneyland

  • Will win: American Factory
  • Should win: Honeyland

Any one of the five could win. But Steven Bognar and Julia Reicherts American Factory, concerning a Chinese-owned facility in Ohio, is the first release from Barack and Michelle Obamas production company. Do the math(s).
Best International Feature FilmCorpus ChristiHoneylandLes MisérablesPain and GloryParasite

  • Will win: Parasite
  • Should win: Parasite

Unless a meteorite strikes the Dolby Theatre, the Korean film is walking this. It will be the first from that country to triumph here.
Best EditingFord v FerrariThe IrishmanJojo RabbitJokerParasite

  • Will win: Parasite
  • Should win: Parasite

Parasite has to win somewhere other than best international picture, doesnt it? We reckon this is the place, but the much-loved Thelma Schoonmaker lurks for The Irishman.
Best Sound EditingFord v Ferrari,Joker1917Once Upon a Time in … HollywoodStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: 1917

If 1917 does go on any sort of streak then it should mop up these technical categories. Which is fair enough.
Best Sound MixingAd AstraFord v FerrariJoker1917Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: 1917

See above. Its the sort of film that wins these things when theres no musical in the (ahem) mix.
Best Production DesignThe IrishmanJojo Rabbit1917Once Upon a Time in … HollywoodParasite

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Should win: Parasite

The house in Parasite is (cliché alert) a character in itself, but the voters will love the nostalgic LA chic in the Tarantino movie.
Best Original ScoreJokerLittle WomenMarriage Story1917Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: Joker

Thomas Newman has been nominated 15 times without winning. He should convert for 1917. Hard on Hildur Guðnadóttir who, with Phoenix, is the standout talent in Joker.
Best Original SongI Cant Let You Throw Yourself Away, Toy Story 4Im Gonna Love Me Again, RocketmanIm Standing With You, BreakthroughInto the Unknown, Frozen IIStand Up, Harriet

  • Will win: Im Gonna Love Me Again
  • Should win: Into the Unknown

None of them are much cop, but a win for the Rocketman tune will get Elton onto the stage. There are worse reasons to vote for a nominee.
Best Makeup and HairBombshellJokerJudyMaleficent: Mistress of Evil1917

  • Will win: Bombshell
  • Should win: Bombshell

Its basically the Joker versus Megyn Kelly here. Bombshell probably deserves it for the bravura transformations. But the Joker is the Joker.
Nicole Kidman in Bombshell
Best Costume Design
The IrishmanJojo RabbitJokerLittle WomenOnce Upon a Time in … Hollywood

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Should win: The Irishman

Hollywood has more flash, but The Irishman does delicious things with its own more period work. Such collars.
Best Visual EffectsAvengers EndgameThe Irishman1917The Lion KingStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: The Irishman

Once again, 1917 will probably take it in a technical sweep, but, though many have reservations, the de-aging in The Irishman definitely breaks new ground.
Best Animated ShortDcera (Daughter)Hair LoveKitbullMemorableSister

  • Will win: Hair Love
  • Should win: Hair Love

Were just going with the one we like most here: the lovely tale of an African-American girl getting her hair right for a special event.
Best Documentary ShortIn the AbsenceLearning to Skateboard in a WarzoneLife Overtakes MeSt Louis SupermanWalk Run Cha-Cha

  • Will win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone
  • Should win: In the Absence

Skateboard leans towards the Academys taste for war stories (and won at Bafta), but In the Absence, the story of a Korean maritime disaster, is the standout.
Best Live Action ShortBrotherhoodNefta Football ClubThe Neighbours WindowSariaA Sister

  • Will win: Brotherhood
  • Should win: Brotherhood

The study of a Tunisian family in turmoil covers much ground in a short space of time. Also from Tunisia, the funny Nefta Football Club is worth a look.