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Movie Guru: A first look at potential Oscar contenders for the 2020 Academy Awards

"The Irishman" has Robert DeNiro in contnetion for Best Actor and Martin Scorsese in contention for Best Director.
Special to the Daily

This year might not be over yet, but the 2020 Oscar buzz is already well underway.

Several potential awards-season favorites have already pulled ahead of the pack. From war dramas and dissolving marriages to mobsters and supervillains, each major category is already full of several strong contenders. If they can keep their momentum until next February, they’re all still in for quite a fight.

Best Picture

The biggest surprise of this category is Sam Mendes’ “1917.” Opening early next year, the movie is a technical marvel constructed to look like it was all filmed in a single continuous shot. More importantly, it’s a breathless, heartbreaking, utterly beautiful journey that no one who watches will ever forget.

There are also several other films with a solid shot at the top award. Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” are on a lot of people’s Best Picture lists, but so are several more intimate films. Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” is breaking everyone’s hearts, while Greta Gerwig managed what may be the best adaptation of “Little Women” of all time. Also hot in the running is the horror hit “Parasite,” a Korean movie that deals with the biggest monster of all — finances.

Best Director

This category almost looks like a copy-paste of the Best Picture category, with the directors of all the above films in contention here as well. Still, there are a couple of new faces who have muscled their way into the running. Terrence Malick may get rewarded for his quiet, harrowing “A Hidden Life,” while Lorene Scafaria may make her mark with “Hustlers,” which I reviewed earlier this year and enjoyed.

Best Actor

If there’s a frontrunner in this category, it’s Adam Driver. His work on “Marriage Story” is both nuanced and painfully honest, both tender and self absorbed by turns. He even sings, a surprisingly beautiful rendition of “Being Alive” that he manages to transform into yet another moment of insight.

He’s hardly alone in the category, though. Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio are both familiar faces, here for their work on “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” respectively. Joaquin Phoenix is also a strong contender. As I wrote in my review, his performance as the lead character in “Joker” is the most memorable part of the movie.

Best Actress

This category might be the toughest fight of all the major awards this year. Some of the strongest performances of the year have belonged to leading ladies, including Awkwafina in “The Farewell” and Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet.” Two movies full of amazing performances by women, “Bombshell” and “Little Women,” Charlize Theron and Saoirse Ronan are front runners for each of their respective films in this category.

If there’s a favorite, though, it might just be Renee Zellweger. Her transformation into Judy Garland for “Judy” turned a lot of heads earlier this year, and no one seems to have forgotten it. She was the heart and soul of the movie, and there’s a solid chance she’ll be rewarded for it next year.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at themovieguruslc@gmail.com.


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