Oscars 2020: Which films should we be looking out for?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Arthur Fleck in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative’s “JOKER,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Arthur Fleck in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative’s “JOKER,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. /
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Knives Out
Knives Out — Courtesy of Lionsgate /

Deep in the race

The 2019-2020 Oscar season has a unique mixture of long-touted favorites and surprises filling up the race, the most recent example of this being the emergence of a new contender in the form of controversial director Rian Johnson’s whodunit murder comedy, Knives Out. Sold as a subversive take on the classic murder mystery story, Knives Out was embraced by critics and audiences alike, becoming a success in spite of opening against the second weekend of Frozen 2.

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Even better is the film’s sudden popularity among awards voters, having gained critical nominations at both the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe awards, including acting nominations for Daniel Craig and Ana De Armas.

While it is highly unlikely that either of them will get shown love at the Oscars, there is still the strong possibility of the film’s acclaimed screenplay getting a Best Original Screenplay nomination, which is still its highest chance at Oscar gold.

That being said, the film’s success COULD propel itself into the Best Picture category. Its showy, awards-friendly, and exactly the kind of film many people could tune in to the Oscars for. Keep a close eye on this one.

Another film to watch out for is internet favorite, Greta Gerwig, and her work on the modern adaptation of Little Women. Gerwig has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to her acting roles in films like Frances Ha and 20th Century Women and of course her Oscar-nominated directorial passion project, Lady Bird. Her break into mainstream awards play here is the key to Little Women thriving for this year.

It may have missed out on a good chunk of the Golden Globe categories this year, but the film is still surging with loads of Critic’s Choice nominations, a Top 10 of the Year endorsement from the AFI, and strong attention towards Florence Pugh for Best Supporting Actress. She still has a ways to go, but I wouldn’t doubt the potential of the film too much. Neither will I deny the strong chances it has at Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations. Gerwig’s popularity reaches farther than we might think and that may be enough to help Little Women soar.

Keeping up with the trend of historical films, we also have Taika Waititi’s polarizing anti-hate satire, Jojo Rabbit, alive and in the mix. Serving as Taika’s follow-up to the hugely successful Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit‘s sensitive subject matter was both embraced and lambasted at this year’s TIFF,  winning the People’s Choice Award but still being passionately hated by its critics. As we’ve seen with the previous year’s nominees, this is a common trend for Oscar-nominated films.

That trend may continue with Waititi’s lampooning of the Nazi party, which is earning strong marks from many mainstream awards outlets for its adapted screenplay and the supporting performance from 2019 Oscar mainstay, Scarlett Johansson. These categories could be what keeps the film afloat, but don’t be too shocked at a Best Picture nomination. With the influx of younger Oscar voters coming in this year, they could be the ticket for Waititi’s oddball film to be embraced on the big stage.

What many of you shouldn’t also be shocked by this year is the presence of Netflix, who seem to have finally proven themselves to be an Oscar-worthy distribution company. The late awards contender, The Two Popes, is proof of this, coming to the party fashionably late, but impressing with its recent nominations at the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor for Jonathan Pryce, and Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Hopkins.

The talkative drama, which focuses on the conflicting viewpoints of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, didn’t exactly hit the race running, as it was buried in its limited theatrical play while other limited releases managed to find an audience. It received a handful of nominations in some critic circles, but nowhere near anything like the frontrunners I’ve yet to talk about.

However, Netflix’s reputation as a force to be reckoned with and the credentials of Pryce and Hopkins have given this film hope for the Oscar season. Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor are the most likely nominations, but Best Actor and Picture aren’t out of the equation.

The Farewell photo via A24 press
The Farewell photo via A24 press /

As for A24, the company behind the 2016 Best Picture winner, Moonlight, and the Oscar-nominated Lady Bird and First Reformed, their biggest hope lies in one of the most successful platform films of the year: The Farewell. Constructed by writer-director Lulu Wang on her experience as a Chinese-American immigrant, the family drama won the hearts of critics and general moviegoers with its impressive theatrical run, grossing nearly $20 million despite being a film heavily reliant on subtitles for the Chinese language.

The insane story of a Chinese family keeping the secret of a cancer diagnosis from the family matriarch is a prime example of a screenplay that truly speaks for itself. The story deals with the issues stemming from being stuck between two halves of a self and the logic of Chinese families. It is by far the strongest in the Best Original Screenplay category and it is gaining some serious traction in the Best Actress category for Awkwafina. Don’t count out A24 in securing a spot for Best Picture either.