Mandatory Favorites: Our Picks of the Biggest Oscar Underdogs for 2020
It isn’t hard to predict who will win an Oscar. By the time the Academy Awards roll around, we’ve all been subjected to award show after award show and the favorites in the film industry are clear. Rather than adding to the dogpile of praise that certain movies, actors, and directors receive, we want to focus on the underdogs — those performers and creative minds that will likely be overlooked by the biased voting bodies behind the biggest, most prestigious awards. These entertainment innovators deserve recognition, too, and today we’re doling it out.
Cover Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Best Motion Picture: 'Ford v Ferrari'
There's no way Ford v Ferrari will win Best Motion Picture in a field crowded by a war movie, historical dramas, and tales of male disenfranchisement, but wouldn't it be fun if, just once, a car racing moving took home the coveted golden statue?
Best Director: Bong Joon Ho For 'Parasite'
In a category stacked with cinematic legends (Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino), an Oscar favorite (Todd Phillips’ Joker) and a war film (Sam Mendes’ 1917), Bong Joon Ho won’t win for Parasite. But he should, because this inimitable film is groundbreaking both in subject and execution. It's like nothing you've ever seen and likely won't see again as long as Hollywood keeps recognizing (and funding) the same old directors and their tired projects.
Best Actor: Antonio Banderas in 'Pain and Glory'
Banderas hasn’t had a lot of award-worthy acting opportunities through the years. But in this stirring drama directed by Pedro Almodovar, Banderas plays a film director (likely a stand-in for Almodovar himself) who reunites with the actor from his breakthrough film. That tense interaction alters his life and work forever. Though the favorites for the Best Actor Oscar are Adam Driver for Marriage Story or Joaquin Phoenix for Joker, we think veteran Spanish actor Banderas deserves a shot at recognition; Driver and Phoenix have the rest of their careers to accumulate great roles and accolades.
Best Actress: Cynthia Erivo in 'Harriet'
It's hard to believe Harriet Tubman has never before been the subject of a big biopic, but until this film, she hadn't. And while the script feels lacking at times, Erivo's performance never falters. She convincingly conveys the grit, grace, and triumphant journey of one of history's most important women.
Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci in 'The Irishman'
When it comes to The Irishman, everyone’s focused on Robert De Niro’s performance as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, Al Pacino’s depiction of Jimmy Hoffa, or Martin Scorsese’s directing. But Joe Pesci reluctantly came out of retirement to play Russell Bufalino, and he puts in a career-best effort as the quietly powerful, multilayered mob boss.
Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie in 'Bombshell'
Laura Dern certainly deserves an award for her turn as a pit bull divorce lawyer in Marriage Story, but we’d love to see Margot Robbie scoop up an Oscar for her role as Kayla Pospisil, an “evangelical millennial” turned Roger Ailes whistleblower and composite character of 20 real female Fox employees.
Best Original Screenplay: 'Knives Out'
Knives Out is unadulterated entertainment at its finest, which is why it won't win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. But this film, written by Rian Johnson, won audiences over with its unexpected plot twists, clever turns of phrase, and whodunit surprises. Why can't having a good time at the movies be rewarded? Not every Oscar needs to go to a downer.
Best Adapted Screenplay: 'The Two Popes'
It's tough to make a pair of holy men in conversation interesting enough to warrant two-hours-plus of viewing time. But screenwriter Anthony McCarten managed to do it for this Netflix film, creating engaging repartee between conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and trailblazer Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) that changes Benedict's mind and softens Francis' heart -- with many laughs along the way.