Awards Rankings and Lists

OSCAR VOTING OPENS — AJ’s Personal Ballot — Picking the Winners of the 92nd Academy Awards

Today the Oscars open up for the final voting. The cases have been made and the results are about to be tabbed. With only a week until the big dance, we have our last chance to make our case to voters on more than a dozen races still in progress. Below, I’m writing up my personal votes in each category. In many cases, I would go home a disappointed voter. Still, you have to have some integrity about it all.

Below are the nominees at the 92nd Academy Awards.

Best Animated Short Film

“Dcera”
“Hair Love”
“Kitbull”
“Memorable”
“Sister”

This one comes down to “Kitbull” or “Hair Love” at the end of the day. “Memorable” made a strong push and might be the strongest craft on display. Yet the stories of the other two stuck with me. I think that “Kitbull” will have its own admirers in the years to come. But while I want to reward the dog and cat show, I can’t help but vibe with “Hair Love.” It’s the one that continues to stick with me.

Voting For: “Hair Love”

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Brotherhood”
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbors’ Window”
“Saria”
“A Sister”

I’m not always the biggest fan of the live-action shorts, but “Nefta Football Club” is why this category was made. There’s little chance it will be expanded into a full-length film, and it gives off a Coen like energy. The comedy and crime blend perfectly together. Sign me up.

Voting For: “Nefta Football Club”

Best Documentary Short Subject

“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk, Run, Cha-Cha”

This one has some really great work, but “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” combines for the most emotional and progressive of the bunch. The message of the film and the subject matter feel important today. Despite the gravitas, you feel during “Learning to Skateboard,” “In the Absence” feels astounding. The footage feels impossible, and the consequences are earth-shattering. Few films ever rip your heart out like this one.

Voting For: “In the Absence”

Best Sound Editing

Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

For the unaware, Sound Editing focuses on the creation and capturing of sound. Each individual effect crescendos to immerse you in the film. The sound of bodies hitting dirt, gunshots, a lightsaber igniting, or the roar of an engine are all instances of sound editing. Unfairly regarded as the loudest category, Ford v Ferrari receives my vote here. Simply executing the complexities of a race engine would merit the prize, but the next level sounds of tools, tires, and more make Ford v Ferrari one of the best examples of the craft in years.

Voting For: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Just as important as the implementation of sound, the balance of a soundscape evokes emotion. The sound mixers set the levels for each sound, as well as integrate score, dialogue, and source music into the story. While Ford v Ferrari dominates the individual sounds created, 1917 thrives on the use of each element of its soundscape. The integration or disappearance of Thomas Newman‘s score might be the most important aspect of the film after its cinematography. While each film had fun with its musical cues, none worked on me quite like 1917.

Voting For: 1917

Best Cinematography

Rodrigo Prieto, The Irishman
Lawrence Sher, Joker
Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse
Roger Deakins, 1917
Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

It’s Roger Deakins in a walk. Congrats to Sher and Blaschke for their nominations. The two don’t measure up.

Voting For: Roger Deakins – 1917

Best Original Screenplay

Rian Johnson, Knives Out
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin Won; Story by Bong Joon-ho Parasite

This was a tough one. I would be okay with anyone but 1917 winning here. They would all be deserving. Marriage Story does not quite do it for me, but I can respect the craft on display. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood features the best Tarantino screenplay since Inglourious BasterdsKnives Out was quite the triumph, and almost stole this prize. However, Parasite executes mystery, comedy, and violence better than the last two here. It’s my favorite film of the year and a big reason for that is the screenplay.

Voting For: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin Won – Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay

Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Todd Phillips, Scott Silver, Joker
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes

I think that Anthony McCarten delivers the most surprising screenplay of the year, simply because it should not be anywhere near as entertaining as it becomes. Yet Gerwig is my pick. This one sticks with you long after you walk away, and her adaptation is amazing. She could very easily become the next screenwriting virtuoso.

Voting For: Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

I do not love any of the films nominated here except for Little WomenSaorise Ronan dominates this in my mind. My number two would be Scar-Jo, and then there’s a mountain before Erivo arrives. Ronan delivers the definitive performance of Jo March and should be rewarded justly.

Voting For: Saorise Ronan – Little Women

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Another category where I do not see a bad winner. DiCaprio gives some of the best work of his career. Driver will have other great performances, and Pryce delivers his best performance period. It really comes down to Banderas and Phoenix for me. While I know that Phoenix deserves an Oscar, this is neither my favorite performance of his nor is it the best version of The Joker. Meanwhile, Banderas delivers my number one lead actor performance of the year. The subtly and heart he delivers remains one of the most endearing performances of the decade. It’s raw and emotional, but with a restraint that you do not expect. I’m going to back my guy, even if he will likely lose this prize on Oscar night.

Voting For: Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Unfortunately, I do not find Dern’s performance that captivating. She’s perfectly fine, and nomination worthy. However, the win feels excessive. Neither of Robbie’s roles really felt special to me, even though the Bombshell turn allows her to showcase the breadth of her talent. The real standouts are Pugh and Johansson. Pugh’s hurt by the young Amy moments, which feel out of place despite the cohesiveness of the rest of the film. Meanwhile, Johansson puts on a clinic. It’s some of the best work she’s ever done, both endearing and comical. She sells the moments with both children, giving Jojo Rabbit the moral compass it desperately requires. Combined with the double-nomination, Johansson deserves the win here.

Voting For: Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Hopkins, Hanks, and Pacino each have Oscars on their mantles and none turn in better performances than Pesci or Pitt. It’s a tough choice between the two. On one hand, Pesci plays drastically out of type, becoming a quiet devil that slowly corrupts those around him. He’s more menacing than he ever was in Goodfellas, a feat in its own right. Yet Pitt cashes in on decades of his movie stardom. He also gets to be funny, charming, and he sells the most anxiety-driven moments of Tarantino’s latest. Ultimately, the tie-breaker comes down to the Oscar argument, and the fact that we can avoid Pitt becoming Robert Redford 2.0 gives us the out.

Voting For: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Best International Feature Film

Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland 
(North Macedonia)
Les Misérables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)

Parasite.

No matter what.

Voting For: Parasite 

Best Animated Feature Film

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

While Toy Story 4 and Missing Link seem to be the likely winners with Oscar. Despite that Klaus and I Lost My Body feel like the arthouse picks. I love all the films in this category and it pained me to pick one. Ultimately, I settled on the uniqueness of I Lost My Body. There has never been a winner like it, and the French film would have been a strong choice for Best International Feature in most years. It’s morose and excitingly experimental. It certainly feels like the only film that truly utilizes the medium to enhance its storytelling. I’ll side with this film every time.

Voting For: I Lost My Body

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

While For Sama certainly has the emotion behind it, the fact that there have been so many documentaries on Syria removes some of the sheen. This allows Honeyland to fill the unique and creative void within a series of deeply depressing films. Meanwhile, Honeyland combines a heart and political intrigue to create a shockingly relevant story. This film should not be so impressive. Featuring some of the best cinematography of the year to boot, Honeyland earns its place among the best of 2019.

Voting For: Honeyland

Best Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit

Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Some bland nominees here leave us with only two real choices. The style and grace of Little Women serve it well. It makes for a very good runner-up. The variation and ever-changing use of costumes in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood makes this a shoo-in. The Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton costumes feel instantly iconic. The Sharon Tate wardrobe deserves the Oscar on its own. Mixing in dozens of other looks for the Manson family, TV show extras, and Bruce Lee lookalikes show some real range. It’s a fun film, and the costumes add textures to Once Upon a Time that make it a romp.

Voting For: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Another category filled with mostly frustrating nominees. Joker has one good character, and even then, it’s not particularly impressive. Bombshell makes celebrities look like celebrities. Judy does the same but worse. Maleficient has some interesting character designs, but they’re mostly variations on each other. Almost by accident, 1917 wins. Its use of prosthetics, mud, and blood wounds make for interesting moments, especially within the context of a one-shot film. This becomes the most impressive feat of the makeup, which puts it over the goal line.

Voting For: 1917

Best Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Parasite

A big reason that 1917 feels as majestic as it does comes from the production design. The trenches and journey across the frontlines are treacherous and impressive. Few images will stick in my mind more than the race through the ruins of the town at night or the No Man’s Land sequence. However, the art of Parasite cannot be ignored. The paintings on the walls play into the story. The geography of the house matters, and we learn every inch of the house at the film evolves. However, most impressive is the original house for our protagonists. They built the entire city block and went on to flood it. It recalls Rear Window in the best of ways, and no other comp feels as apt as for the modern-day Hitchcockian story.

Voting For: Parasite

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman

The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Honor the franchise. An underwhelming group of nominees leaves us with an ideal way to support the greatest superhero franchise of all-time. It’s the highest-grossing movie of all time, creates characters from whole cloth using CGI, and was actually fun. The only other one of these films that I could reasonably give this to is 1917, and while the effects were good there, I prefer the ones in Avengers: Endgame.

Voting For: Avengers: Endgame

Best Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You,” Breakthrough
“Into The Unknown,” Frozen II
“Stand Up,” Harriet

I really don’t like the field this year. However, of the nominated films, “Into the Unknown” is the only one that I enjoyed within the context of the film. He actually mattered to the storytelling of Frozen II, unlike “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman. I am a firm believer in the idea that this category should be exclusive to songs that play within the context of the film. It wears the theory of the film on its sleeve and voting for “Into the Unknown” awards the film as a whole.

Voting For: “Into the Unkown” – Frozen II

Best Original Score

Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

A very tough decision from top to bottom, but Thomas Newman wins me over for 1917. After all, he dials into the tension and highs of the war epic better than most recent composers. Shockingly catchy and every bit as epic as the story it tells, Newman captures lightning in a bottle.

Voting For: 1917

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

This was a tough one to choose between. Jojo Rabbit features some genuinely pleasing montages and hits its comedic timing to near perfection. Joker builds intense sequences, and considering some of the stories about the absurdity of Phoenix, assembling this film feels like it was difficult as hell. Ford v Ferrari captures the anxiety and mania of a racetrack. Parasite builds tension like few movies ever could. Yet The Irishman feels like a masterclass in editing. Thelma proves once again that length does not stop

Voting For: The Irishman

Best Director

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Two of these directors were never going to get my vote. Mendes was instantly disqualified in my mind because he already has an Oscar and two masters are present who do not have one. Simultaneously, Phillips was disqualified because it’s little more than imitating Scorsese. I can’t possibly vote for the imitator.

While my heart wants to give it to Scorsese, the true master of cinema who deserves his second Oscar, I cannot do it. Bong Joon-ho earns another Oscar on the night, and rightfully so. His film is heads-and-above the best in the field, even in one of the best years for cinema in recent memory. I believe in rewarding directors for their very best work, and he’s the only director here with that distinction.

Voting For: Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Best Picture

1. Parasite

2. Little Women

3. The Irishman

4. 1917

5. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

6. Ford v Ferrari

7. Marriage Story

8. Jojo Rabbit

9. Joker

Unlike the other categories, I’ve ranked the films above. That’s because the Oscars use a preferential ballot in this category, deciding that consensus matters more than passion. Rather than game the system and drop a film like 1917 into last place, I’ve ranked them as I saw the year in film. I sorted these based on my original rankings of the best of the year, but eagle-eyed readers may catch a shift. That’s right, I continue to improve Little Women in my rankings, and as it was the last film I watched before I submitted my Top 10, it does not really surprise me. Greta Gerwig was robbed, and it will stand out as the definitive version of the story.

However, the winner remains Parasite. There are plenty of times where the Best Picture winner should have been a foreign language film, so I do not necessarily see that as a motivating factor for me. Instead, I cannot help but fawn over the achievement, the craft, and the skill to build something so unique. For as unlikable as the members of this family are, I want to spend days watching their lives. Bong’s skill will never be in doubt again after Parasite, and rewarding this film avoids having to give Bong a make-up win in a decade or two.

Who would you want to win in each category? Leave your own picks in the comments below!

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