Movie buff and Sky Cinema host Alex Zane reckons this could be an easy year to call all the big Oscar winners.

 

He’ll be covering the Academy Awards ceremony live, from a showbiz rooftop in LA.

But before he hot tailed it to La La Land, he gave us the down-low on all the movies he thinks will bag a statue on the night.

It seems crazy that Oscar night is almost upon us, but after more than a decade of being held at the end of February/beginning of March, cinema’s most-talked-about night of the year will be taking place almost a month earlier on 9 February.

It’s an effort to combat that most dreaded of afflictions, ‘awards season fatigue’.

Stars have to remain bright eyed and bushy tailed for the big night, as viewers prepare themselves for another procession of the same perfect smiles on an awards show red carpet – albeit the biggest one of the year.

Along with its new date, this year’s Oscars have followed through on best actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix’s suggestion by providing 100% plant-based snacks in the foyer beforehand.

But once this year’s attendees have wiped the beetroot juice off their fingers, and headed inside the auditorium, it will be business as usual as an incredible line up of movies vie for their place in movie history.

The Joker in the pack, both literally and figuratively, leads the way this year with 11 nominations, while Sir Sam Mendes’ visual marvel, 1917, Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to show business, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and Martin Scorsese’s epic The Irishman snap at its heels with 10 nods apiece.

With most of the other award shows having already declared by now, the films and filmmakers who look likely to be walking away with an Oscar this year can be said with at least some certainty.

So, we’ve crunched the numbers, examined the science and kicked a few brown paper bags under the tables of Beverly Hills restaurants, to bring you the most likely winners in the big categories at this year’s 92nd Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Joe Pesci – The Irishman

This is the year of the Brad Pitt comeback, it’s like the ‘McConaissance’ without the snappy title.

The last 12 months have seen him turn in a couple of career best performances as an astronaut seeking answers in the astounding sci-fi Ad Astra and as laid back stuntman Cliff Booth in Tarantino’s phenomenal Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood.

It’s the latter that has seen him pick up a Golden Globe and SAG award on the way to his undoubted glory on Oscar night.

While the performance is a tour-de-force of charm and chiselled abs in its own right, it’s his appearances on the awards circuit thus far that have made him a shoo-in.

Whether he’s wearing his own name tag at the Oscars luncheon or teasing Tarantino about his foot fetish at the Globes, he’s been a walking charm cannon, firing off superb soundbites in every direction.

Add to that the totally ‘unplanned’ photo of him congratulating Jennifer Aniston backstage at the SAG Awards, that sent news outlets into a meltdown, and it’s a fairy-tale story with an ending to match for Brad this year.

Likely Winner: Brad Pitt

Outside Chance: No-one, it’s Brad’s night.

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell

Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh – Little Women

Margot Robbie – Bombshell

While there’s still anger bubbling away in some far flung corners of the internet towards The Academy for its snub of Jennifer Lopez and her incredible performance in Hustlers (and it really is up there with Out Of Sight as her finest work), what’s done is done.

The name that we’ll be hearing on Oscar night in this category is going to be Laura Dern for her powerhouse performance as Scarlett Johansson’s divorce lawyer in the Netflix drama Marriage Story.

She’s loved and respected by her peers already in Hollywood, which is never a bad thing in terms of picking up votes from the Academy members, and has recently been celebrated for her work on the mega-hit TV show Big Little Lies.

In Marriage Story, Dern steals every scene she’s in and while her co-stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are also nominated in other categories, it’ll be Dern alone who takes home a statue on Oscar night.

If Dern doesn’t win, it’ll be because of Kathy Bates. She receives the sole nomination for Clint Eastwood’s excellent biopic Richard Jewell and gives a heart-breaking performance as a mother defending her son.

It is unlikely, but she could be the surprise upset for Dern on the night.

Likely Winner: Laura Dern

Outside Chance: Kathy Bates

Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

Antonio Banderas – Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Adam Driver – Marriage Story

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

True to the unpredictable nature of the character himself, the film with the most nominations at this year’s Oscars is that most unlikely of things, a film based not only on a comic-book character, but a comic-book villain.

That said, despite its unprecedented haul of 11 nominations, there’s a real chance that it will end up only walking away with one actual statue on the night, and that will be for its leading man Joaquin Phoenix.

The Academy has form when it comes to rewarding actors transforming themselves physically, just ask Christian Bale for The Fighter, but Phoenix’s performance is more than just weight loss.

His Joker is both tragic and terrifying, sympathetic and scary.

Phoenix is an actor who tends to go to strange places with his performances, and while some critics have – rather snobbishly – pointed to his work in The Master a few years ago as superior to Joker, this is one of the most electrifying performances of the year and makes him the nailed on favourite to win.

If there is to be an upset it will come in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s got no shortage of fans in the Academy having been nominated multiple times and winning for The Revenant.

If there’s a problem it’s that – Brad Pitt aside – the awards chatter seems to have gone quiet for the movie in general, which is usually a sign that votes have gone elsewhere.

Likely Winner: Joaquin Phoenix

Outside Chance: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo – Harriet

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Charlize Theron – Bombshell

Renée Zellweger – Judy

If there’s one thing that Hollywood loves it’s movies about Hollywood.

If there’s another thing Hollywood loves it’s when an actor’s life in some way mirrors that of the character they’re playing.

Finally, if there’s a third thing Hollywood loves, it’s a comeback.

Only one actress on the list ticks those three boxes with such bravura this year, and that is Renee Zellweger with her performance as Judy Garland in Judy.

The film follows the final chapter in Garland’s life and, while the movie itself is a serviceable if not particularly ground-breaking biopic, Zellweger’s performance is astonishing and reminds us of what an incredibly talented performer went missing from the screen during the six year hiatus she took from acting in 2010.

Having won an Oscar for Cold Mountain back in 2004, Zellweger looks a dead cert to reclaim her place on the A-List with a win this Oscar night.

If it’s not Zellweger (although it most assuredly will be) then it’ll be Scarlett Johansson who’ll be taking the stage for her much-lauded performance in Marriage Story.

Likely Winner: Renee Zellweger

Outside Chance: Scarlett Johansson

Best Director

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

Todd Phillips – Joker

Sir Sam Mendes – 1917

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Bong Joon Ho – Parasite

Filming a movie as though it was shot in one continuous take is not a new idea, Alejandro Innaritu did it with Birdman in 2015. He also walked away with the Best Director Oscar that year.

That’s why Sir Sam Mendes’ application of the same audacious technique in his stunning WW1 drama 1917 has catapulted him to the top of the most likely to win list for Best Director.

That and the fact he won the Directors Guild Award, a sure sign of taking home the trophy on Oscar night.

Mendes was clearly doing a little bit of practice while making his second Bond film Spectre, as the Mexican set opening using the same single shot technique and is the finest moment of that movie.

Here, he delivers scene after scene of visually beautiful and unforgettable images that make 1917 such an immersive experience and a must-see on the big screen. The Academy does love films that are best watched at the cinema.

If it’s not Mendes, then one of modern movie-making’s great auteurs should finally be recognised by the Academy for more than just his writing.

While the Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood seems to have lost some momentum recently, there’s still the possibility that Quentin Tarantino will be rewarded with that elusive Best Director Oscar.

Likely Winner: Sir Sam Mendes

Outside Chance: Quentin Tarantino

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

1917

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Parasite

There was a time when the best director Oscar and the best picture Oscar went hand in hand and whoever picked up the statue for directing would see their film go on to triumph as best picture.

However, looking back over the last decade we have seen the directing and picture Oscars going to different films more often than ever before in the history of the Academy Awards.

It’s made the handing out of that final best picture award on the night a whole lot more exciting, even without the help of Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and a preoccupied accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That said, this year looks likely to buck the trend as Sir Sam Mendes makes his way back to the stage for a second time on Oscar night to pick up the award for Best Picture for 1917.

The combination of his impressive direction and Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography make it the film to beat this year.

However, don’t write off Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood just yet.

While the buzz does seem to be centring on 1917, never forget how much Hollywood loves films about itself and especially ones that rewrite history with a much more enjoyable, rose-tinted, Hollywood ending.

The charming double act and undoubted star-power of DiCaprio and Pitt also can’t hurt its chances for the big prize.

With the preferential voting system for this particular award – members are required to list their choice for winning films in descending order and only when a film gets more than 50% of the vote is it declared the winner – there’s always the chance that Bong Joon Ho’s blistering black comedy Parasite could nab the top honour.

It’s traditionally very, very hard for foreign language films to win in the big categories but if any movie can do it, it’s this.

Meanwhile, despite having the most nominations of any film this year it’s unlikely Joker will be winning here.

Of course it’s great to see a comic-book movie getting this amount of recognition from The Academy, but that doesn’t mean they’re quite ready to give it their biggest honour.

It’ll have to make do with its billion dollar box office and being the most profitable comic-book movie in cinema history…

Likely Winner: 1917

Outside Chance: Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Sky Cinema’s live and exclusive coverage of the 92nd Annual Academy Awards starts on Sunday night at 12.30am and is preceded by a simulcast of E!’s preview show E! Live From The Red Carpet at 10pm, all on Sky Cinema Oscars.

(c) Sky News 2020: Sky Cinema host Alex Zane shares his Oscar night film predictions