Vail Daily movie columnist and entertainment editor select winner picks for 2020 Oscars |

Vail Daily movie columnist and entertainment editor select winner picks for 2020 Oscars

By Jenniffer Wardell and Casey Russell
Special to the Daily

The 92nd Academy Awards air Sunday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. on ABC. The Vail Daily’s Movie Guru columnist, Jenniffer Wardell, and the entertainment editor, Casey Russell, decided to pick who will take home the golden Oscar statues. Here’s who we’re thinking will win in the big categories of the night.

Best Picture

“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” is one of few Tarantino films that mass audiences can relate to.
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Jenniffer: “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”
Honestly, I don’t want to be right on this one. The truth is, though, that Hollywood loves nothing more than talking about itself, and if you can add history into that then so much the better. Also, this is the first movie Quentin Tarantino’s ever done that feels even remotely accessible to wider audiences, and they may want to reward him for that alone. Also, the script was incredibly snappy, and people are weak for a good one-liner.

Casey: “1917”
I, too, hope I’m not right on this one. It’s dark both in cinematic color palate and subject matter. There are literally two females in the entire film, and one is an infant. I don’t think a smile crosses George MacKay’s character’s face one time. If there’s one thing the Academy loves as much as talking about itself, its golf-clapping for other white men like themselves, and “1917” has a lot of white men. Yet, Sam Mendes did a fantastic job on this movie. The one-cut editing trick thing should not be underrated, and it’s a rare war movie that’s both action-packed and emotionally intelligent. I don’t think I liked it, per se, but I appreciated it from an artistic and narrative standpoint.

Best Director

“1917” recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Motion Picture.
© Universal

Jenniffer: Sam Mendes – “1917”
The Academy loves it when directors get a vision in their head and bring it to the big screen, especially when it’s slightly different than anything else out there at the moment. “1917” fits that bill perfectly, with a minimal script but a structure designed to suck people in. My heart wants the movie to get best picture, but it’s most likely to be recognized here. 

Casey: Sam Mendes – “1917”
In an ideal world, Greta Gerwig would get this for “Little Women.” However, she was totally and 100% snubbed for this category: just ask Issa Rae. So, I’ve been forced to pick someone else. I’m picking Sam Mendes because yes, he did a good job. But he’s not the pick I have in my heart. By the way, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” shows a distinct inability to edit his narrative. (Three hours for a mob movie? No thanks, the only three-hour movies I have time for are the extended cuts of “Lord of the Rings.”) That was disappointing because I love Scorsese.

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Best Actress

Jenniffer: Renee Zellweger – “Judy”
Not only did Zellweger already pick up a Golden Globe for the role, but her performance was exactly what the Academy adores in this category. Zellweger absolutely commanded the screen as a flawed, complicated character, earning extra points for being nearly unrecognizable in the role. Also, the performance is something of a comeback story for Zellweger, which gives the entire thing just a little bit more of a glow.

Casey: Saoirse Ronan – “Little Women”
I am pulling hard for my girl Saoirse here. “Little Women” was one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. I’m sure many of you are sick of me saying this in columns, but I would have loved it even if they hadn’t shot some of it in my hometown. Jo’s speech had me sobbing, and Ronan’s deliverance made it feel even more relevant today than it already was as a piece of text. I’m not confident in this pick, but it’s the pick I had to make.

Best Actor

Both Wardell and Russell believe that Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in “Joker” deserves the Best Actor award.
© Warner Bros

Jenniffer: Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”
I’m convinced Phoenix’s performance made the movie so successful, so if it’s going to be rewarded I want it to happen here. It’s the perfect culmination of Phoenix’s tendency to let himself be consumed by roles, powerfully reflecting how the character himself was consumed and transformed by desperation and mental illness. If I was ever going to actually care about the Joker as a character, it would be because Phoenix was playing him. 

Casey: Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”
If he doesn’t get this, I’ll be shocked. I agree with everything Jenniffer’s said above. I liked the movie as a whole and Phoenix’s portrayal of one man’s decent from mediocre human being to unhinged criminal is what made it difficult for me to stand up in the theater when the movie was over. Joaquin, I hope you have a very good therapist.

Best Supporting Actress

Jenniffer: Laura Dern – “Marriage Story”
I want so badly to be able to say Florence Pugh for this one, but a Golden Globe win in this category is a huge indicator of whether you’ll do the same at the Oscars. Also, it’s a fantastic role for Dern, who gets to be fierce and ruthless while still being utterly believable. Just like with Zellweger, it’s exactly the kind of performance the Academy loves to reward. 

Casey: Scarlett Johansson – “JoJo Rabbit”
I’ve been told that Johansson is even better in this than she was as the lead in “Marriage Story,” so that’s what I’m going with, because she was very good in “Marriage Story.” Although I believe all these women – the other nominees not previously mentioned are Margot Robbie for “Bombshell” and Kathy Bates for “Richard Jewell” – are amazing actresses and will definitely deserve it if they win.

Best Supporting Actor

Jenniffer: Tom Hanks – “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
To be honest, Brad Pitt is probably going to take home this one, because the Oscars love nothing more than to disappoint me. But if there was any justice in the world, Hanks would take home the win for so beautifully embodying the soul of Fred Rogers. The two men look almost nothing alike, but for a few hours it felt like Rogers was with us again. 

Al Pacino plays union master Jimmy Hoffa in “The Irishman.”
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Casey: Al Pacino – “The Irishman”
Okay so I may be picking this one because the odds of me at least getting the right movie increase (Joe Pesci was also nominated for “The Irishman”) but at my Italian American Christmas, all my parents and grandparents could talk about was how great Al Pacino was in “The Irishman.” They said he got Jimmy Hoffa’s demeanor spot on. I wasn’t alive when that was a thing, but when my non-artistic family says something in a higher cultural stratum is good, I’m inclined to believe them. And I do now that I watched the movie.

Best Animated Feature

Jenniffer: “Missing Link”
I never would have predicted this one before the Golden Globes, but now I think it has a real shot. It’s hardly the deepest movie Laika’s ever made, but the animation is still as beautiful as anything else the studio has ever done. More importantly, it was a mainstream, big-screen movie that wasn’t a sequel. Disney shot themselves in the foot last year by relying on sequels to take this category, and they might have done the same thing again. 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Saoirse Ronan has worked on a few films that at least saw nominations from the academy, including last year’s “Lady Bird” as well as “Brooklyn” and “Atonement.”
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Casey: Greta Gerwig – “Little Women”
If Gerwig doesn’t win this, I will be genuinely pissed. Gerwig took a beloved classic, if a little dated, and modernized it while still keeping it historically accurate. That’s difficult. Her location scout should get an award because they picked the perfect places – all within book author Louisa May Alcott’s home state Massachusetts. The way Gerwig wrote Jo’s speech doesn’t seem out of place or time but yet feels so true to all the little women watching the film 200 years later. The editing and chemistry between the March sisters give this film a chance to transcend the period film genre, which while I love, can be corny, old school and overly dramatic. She also adjusted the ending of the book to align with Alcott’s original vision, while leaving a bit of mystery and room for interpretation. I’m a huge fangirl for “Little Women” and I don’t care who knows it.

Jenniffer Wardell is the Movie Guru columnist. Contact her at Casey Russell is the entertainment editor at the Vail Daily. Contact her at

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