Oscar nominations 2020: rounding up this year's front runners

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The 2020 Oscar nominations are in, indicating potential success for a clutch of movies at this year's Academy Awards.

So, roll out the red carpet and place your bets as we round up the front runners in this year's race to the Oscars...

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

When you put together a sprawling ode to Tinseltown's Golden Age and the cast-iron reputation of Quentin Tarantino, you can expect Oscar gold. And Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hasn't disappointed, claiming Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Tarantino, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt.

Of them all, we can expect Best Original Screenplay to be Tarantino's closest shot at glory. He's won this twice before, for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, and he also has past form with Best Supporting Actor. Two of his movies have yielded Oscar wins in this field for Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), so this might stack the deck in Pitt's favour. (Add that to his Golden Globe win, and he's a credible front runner.)

Tarantino has, however, got a track record of losing out in the Best Picture and Best Director fields. Given these categories are especially strong this year, maybe the Oscars will placate him with an award for screenplay and leave it at that? After all, if you recognise Tarantino's dialogue, you've essentially recognised the soul of his movies, right?

That said, given Hollywood is said to be Tarantino's penultimate movie, maybe the Academy will recognise the magnitude of this with a win for Best Picture? There are few, if any, filmmakers like him, and if he's squeezed out by the competition for Best Director, maybe the voters will make it count in the most important category of all. After all, Hollywood loves a movie that reflects back on itself (Sunset Boulevard et al).


Joker has had a bumpy ride so far, riding a crest of acclaim at the 2019 Venice Film Festival before being engulfed in controversy immediately prior to its theatrical run. But all that furore has arguably brought the movie more attention that it might otherwise have received, the proof being recognition in the Best Picture category. In fact, it's the most nominated movie of the year with 11 to its name.

It's no mean feat for a grimly compelling, violent comic book thriller that is among the most challenging of this year's Oscar race. It's the kind of achievement that may well change the narrative around comic book movies, showing that they can grapple with profound and difficult subject matter (like Logan did in 2017).

Of course, Joaquin Phoenix was a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination, and Todd Phillips has been recognised for Best Director, controversially above the likes of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (for Marriage Story). With the Golden Globe under his best, consider Phoenix a strong contender for the Oscar, not to mention composer Hildur Gudnadottir, who adds an Oscar nom for Best Original Score to her earlier Golden Globe win.

As for the film itself, will it be too hot for the Oscars to handle? Maybe they'll go for something more 'traditional', as in a genre that's tracked well with the Oscars before? Maybe the war movie? And on that note...


War movies tend to track well with Oscars – just look at the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk as relatively recent examples. However, those dwelled in the era of World War II. The period of the First World War is somewhat less well travelled in cinematic terms, although that hasn't prevented powerful drama 1917 from winning over the Academy.

This 'one-take' movie (actually several stitched together) flaunts its remarkable technical aspects to the audience. It's therefore little wonder that Sam Mendes has been recognised for Best Director – no doubt this is also propelled by his cache with the Oscars bodies, given his 1999 win for American Beauty. That said, the sheer technique of the movie might well overshadow the qualities of its screenplay, nominated in the Original category – this is perhaps perceived as a movie of visuals, rather than narrative intricacy.

Roger Deakins is surely the front runner for Best Cinematography – his astonishing shaping of light and landscape becomes a character in and of itself. Surprising, however, that Oscar-winning editor Lee Smith is absent from the nominations – maybe the lack of traditionally obvious edit points in the movie turned the Academy away?

Meanwhile, Thomas Newman lands his 15th nomination for Best Original Score. This celebrated composer has been a perennial bridesmaid ever since 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, so it would be tremendous to see him recognised. However, Joker's Hildur Gudnadottir appears to have the weight of publicity on her side, not to mention a stack of prior awards wins, so Newman may well end up losing out – again.

Little Women

Having been largely passed over at the Golden Globes, Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women is making up for lost time at the Oscars. How delightful it is to see the burgeoning Florence Pugh grab her first nomination, for Best Supporting Actress – it's validation for one of the most versatile young performers working in cinema today. She humanises and deepens the often one-dimensional character of Amy March, working in tandem with Gerwig's incisive writing and direction.

Complementing Pugh's nod is another Best Actress nomination for Saoirse Ronan, who adds to past nods that include the likes of 2015's Brooklyn. And while Gerwig was disappointingly passed over for Best Director, she's surely delighted with a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Her deft reworking of Alcott's classic text has met with unanimous acclaim so consider her the front runner ahead of the likes of Joker.

And the movie has triumphed where it needs to, with recognition for Best Picture. If Gerwig wasn't going to be nominated, possibly squeezed out by formidable competition, then the Academy surely couldn't ignore the rapturous response to the movie as a whole. Little Women was widely acclaimed as one of 2019's best films, a feast for the senses, emotions and intellect, and in yet another award season marred by controversy over progressiveness, consider this something of a riposte.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

No Star Wars movie since the franchise's inception in 1977 has landed Oscar nods for Best Picture or Best Director. Sadly, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker didn't buck the trend, although it did pick up expected nods for Best Visual Effects and other technical fields.

The film's most significant nomination was Best Original Score for John Williams. This is his final Star Wars score, and it's clear the Academy was keen to recognise the extraordinary heritage of his work on the saga. That makes him the second-most-nominated person in Oscar history (52), after Walt Disney. Whether this sense of nostalgia will help Williams convert a nomination into an Oscar win (his sixth) remains to be seen...

Jojo Rabbit

Like Little Women, this quirky offering (loosely based on Christine Leunens' book Caging Skies) was largely passed over at the Golden Globes. However, Jojo Rabbit has made it count in the Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director categories.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi has picked up his first Oscar nominations for the movie, signalling his movi from quirky comedy (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and blockbusters (Thor: Ragnarok) into something relatively more serious. Or, at the very least, an offbeat movie dealing with a very serious theme – in this case, the Holocaust.

Scarlett Johansson has also been recognised for Best Supporting Actress – as the most 'ordinary' character in Waititi's irreverent 'anti-hate' satire, she no doubt resonated most with the Oscar voters. Johansson has doubled her chances this year, having also been nominated for Best Actress with Marriage Story. She's never won before, so, like Waititi, can she make this year one to remember?


South Korean movies may play well with the art house/film buff crowd, but getting them to break into the mainstream is a tough thing to do. So, let's credit Bong Joon-ho and his lauded black comedy Parasite, which has been recognised in multiple big categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film (replacing the Foreign Language slot) and Best Original Screenplay. It is, in fact, the first-ever South Korean movie to be recognised in either of the Best Film categories.

Much as we'd love to see Original Screenplay go to Rian Johnson for his devilishly witty Knives Out, the sheer weirdness of Parasite may tip the scales in the latter film's favour. Joon-ho is the celebrated director behind the likes of Snowpiercer and Okja, and his latest movie is a home invasion oddity with a strong eye on the 21st century class divide. It's a movie with social commentary and entertainment value on its side, as per all of the director's movies, and this must have helped breach the divide with the Oscar voters.

Ford vs Ferrari

The biggest surprise of the evening? It had to be Ford vs Ferrari's nod for Best Picture. Not that the movie didn't deserve it: James Mangold's dramatisation of the Carroll Shelby/Ken Miles bromance at the 1966 Le Mans race was critically praised for its technically accurate aspects. And it also managed to locate real human emotion in the midst of a story driving by roaring engines and raging testosterone. Little wonder the movie was recognised for sound mixing and editing.

Even so, just as Shelby and Miles had a tough task ahead of them building a car that could compete with Ferrari, consider the movie a relative underdog in a race that also recognised several heavy-hitters. These were The Irishman, Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Parasite.

Who was snubbed at the 2020 Oscars?

It was disappointing to see Taron Egerton shelved for his portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. And it's downright bizarre to see Lupita Nyong'o ignored for her masterful dual performance in Jordan Peele's Us – in fact, that movie, a critical and commercial hit, didn't land a single nomination.

And for all the talk of progressiveness, the absence of The Farewell's Lulu Wang and Little Women's Greta Gerwig in the Best Director field is disheartening. Both films featured sublime, sensitive helming that drew excellent performances from the actors involved – on that point, we were hoping that Awkawafina would have a chance to capitalise on her Golden Globe win for The Farewell.

Still, it isn't the Oscars if people don't feel a teensy bit angry come the end of it.

Which of the above movies do you think will triumph at the 92nd Academy Awards? The big night gets underway on the 9th of February, so tweet us your responses @Cineworld.

Click here for the full list of 2020 Oscar nominations.

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