The Oscars Big 5: What should win, what will win

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The 92nd Oscars are on Feb. 9.

Andrew Bailey and Andrew Bailey

The Oscars are this Sunday, and like every film fan, I’ve been deciding who I think should win, and who I think will win, in various categories given the nominations. The most coveted of the awards, referred to as “The Big Five” are Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay (adapted and original). So here are my picks for those major categories:

Best Picture

Should win: ‘Parasite’

The third film in Bong Joon-ho’s unofficial trilogy of movies commenting on social class and being at the bottom of an oppressive system, “Parasite” is undoubtedly the best of the three. Starting off as a capital-D dark comedy about a lower family in South Korea trying to con their way into a better situation, the film takes an unexpected tonal shift in the third act that it maintains until the end, hammering home the point that poverty cannot be escaped in the current system with unsubtle symbolism and in-your-face despair. And that’s just the narrative. The cinematography and editing combine to create a beautiful presentation of a dreary tale, as well as the masterful acting on display, especially with the incredibly wide range of the main family of four.

Will win: ‘1917’

“1917” has everything the academy is looking for in a Best Picture. A tried-and-true setting for an intimate story about overcoming impossible odds? Check. A well-done, engaging and uncommon technique that makes audiences see an unoriginal narrative in a different way? Check. Making a statement that virtually everyone can agree with but presenting it in a way that makes it feel like a groundbreaking thought? Check. Incredibly emotional? Check. This movie ticks all the boxes of Oscar bait and then some. While this is definitely one of my favorite movies of the year, the film plays it safe while being just risky enough to make it seem like it’s turned war films on their heads.

Best Director

Should win: Sam Mendes, ‘1917’

Putting together a nearly seamless one-take film is in and of itself an incredible directing feat. But, throw in the gorgeous cinematography, haunting and varied set design, emotionally compelling performances from actors spanning every corner of the U.K. and swelling score, and it would be crazy to not award this one to Sam Mendes.

Will win: Martin Scorsese, ‘The Irishman’

If there’s one man who can do no wrong in the academy’s eyes, it’s Martin Scorsese. The acclaimed director is back on his home turf: very long mob movies with Al Pacino, Joe Pesci or Robert De Niro. In this case, he has all three and more. The only factor that may sway this out of Scorsese’s favor is that it’s a Netflix movie. However, Scorsese’s royalty in film elitist circles will most likely be enough to overcome this.

Best Actor

Should win: Joaquin Phoenix, ‘Joker’

Ah yes, controversy. Did Joaquin Phoenix’s performance cause a massive uptick in violence across the country? No. Did a lot of people think it would for some reason? Yes. If that’s not enough alone to show just how terrifying, pitiable, maniacal and literally show-stopping Phoenix’s portrayal was, then let me float this hot take: Phoenix’s Joker is on par with, if not better than, Heath Ledger’s portrayal. Whether it’s his unsettling laugh, the way he made viewers root for a despicable lunatic or the undefinable “it” factor he brought to the comic book character, this was a tour de force of Phoenix’s phenomenal talent.

Will win: Joaquin Phoenix, ‘Joker’

I know what you’re thinking: But he’s playing a comic book character! The academy would never go for that! Well, they did with Heath Ledger. Although his untimely death likely played a part in why he received the posthumous award, his performance didn’t feel like a comic book character. He felt like he was playing more of an insane terrorist in a crime thriller. The same can also be said for Phoenix’s Joker; he felt like he was playing a certifiable psychopath in a drama about madness, not a caricature of evil ripped from the panels of “The New 52.”

Best Actress

Should win: Renée Zellweger, ‘Judy’

There’s nothing like seeing a famous figure be brought back to life on screen, and that’s exactly what Zellweger did—to a T—in her portrayal of Judy Garland. Garland’s troubled relationship with fame and performance is no secret, and Zellweger displays her emotional extremes and simple desire to entertain so well that it feels like Garland is actually playing herself in this biopic. If there were a commonality among a majority of the acting nominees this year, it would be how they garnered immense sympathy from audiences, and no one did it better than Zellweger.

Will win: Renée Zellweger, ‘Judy’

It doesn’t get more Oscar-baity than a biopic. The academy goes head-over-heels for actors and actresses that can convincingly play someone who actually lived. While fair arguments could be made for Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” and Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” the academy will probably shy away from “Harriet” due to the controversy surrounding it and Erivo, and Megyn Kelly is still alive.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Should win: Anthony McCarten, ‘The Two Popes’

Turning one of the most tumultuous times in the Catholic Church’s history into a two-hour film is no easy feat. Writer Anthony McCarten did that exceptionally well, while also getting into the psyches and thought processes of the incredibly regressive Pope Benedict and the refreshingly progressive Pope Francis. The dialogue is witty, the narrative unfolds well and neither is painted as an outright villain; they’re just two popes trying to come to an agreement on how the transition of leadership should go and what their religion’s future should entail.

Will win: Greta Gerwig, ‘Little Women’

In what is being widely considered the best adaptation of the source material, the sixth theatrical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s acclaimed novel is a safe bet. The original book is a milestone in the history of American literature. It modernizes the classic tale, especially in its appropriately meta-subplot of Jo’s search for a publisher for her book, while still being faithful to what made the novel important and groundbreaking. Greta Gerwig has more than proven her skill with screenplays in 2017’s “Lady Bird,” and her fresh take on “Little Women” only further proves it.

Best Original Screenplay

Should win: Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won,‘Parasite’

Everything about “Parasite” meshes together to create one of the best films in the past few years and the screenplay, penned by the Bong Joon-ho, the director, and Han Jin-won is the foundation for it. While class struggle is nothing new, the two families opposing lots in society are displayed in every movement and word they speak. Even the dialogue and actions of the poor family when they are masquerading as rich is done in such a way that matches their situation extremely well.

Will win: Quentin Tarantino, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

Tarantino’s screenplay is so solid that it feels like it could have actually happened. On top of that, it’s a film about Hollywood, with Hollywood in the title, critiquing Hollywood (but not too much, of course) and is being judged Hollywood’s version of the Skull and Bones secret society, with a crossover into a real-life event thrown in for good measure.