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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS.Joaquin Phoenix, a lead actor Oscar nominee (Arthur Fleck, aka Joker) for “Joker,” which tops 2020 Oscar nominees with 11 nominations. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS.Joaquin Phoenix, a lead actor Oscar nominee (Arthur Fleck, aka Joker) for “Joker,” which tops 2020 Oscar nominees with 11 nominations.

Picking Oscar nominees a successful challenge

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Paul Willistein in Focus

I don’t run cross country (as I did as a teen on the team at Southern Lehigh High School; badly, but I finished the races).

I don’t skateboard (as I did with my buddies down Main Street, Coopersburg, in a Halloween Parade back in the 1960s).

I don’t compete in demolition derbies (as I did twice at the Allentown Fair, first for an article for the Bethlehem Globe-Times and then for The Morning Call; in the second derby, I won Judge’s Choice).

What do you do at age 69 on the cusp of 70 (May 17) to challenge oneself?

You attempt to predict, not only the Oscar recipients, but Oscar nominees.

And thus I undertook the 2020 Oscar nominees challenge.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the 92nd Academy Awards ceremonies honoring 2019 theatrical motion picture releases, 8 p.m. (EST) Feb. 9, Dolby Theatre, Hollywood and Highland Center, Los Angeles, and televised live on ABC-TV.

“Joker,” the first R-rated theater motion picture to garner $1-billion-plus at the box office, leads the race with 11 nominations, with “The Irishman,” a partly-Pennsylvania-set mob opus; “Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood,” an LA story rewritten large, and “1917,” the World War I one-shot wonder, receiving 10 nominations each.

“Parasite,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Marriage Story” and “Little Women” each received six nominations.

I limited my 2020 Oscar nominee predictions to the seven categories in the annual Lehigh Valley Press Focus section “Readers Pick the Oscar Winners” contest. Deadline for contest entries by email, U.S. Postal Service or entry form drop-off is 5 p.m. Feb. 7.

My Oscar predictions for the seven Focus contest categories for the 2020 Oscar nominations were published in the Jan. 8 and 9 Lehigh Valley Press Focus print editions and Jan. 9 web editions. The Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 13. Here’s how I did with my picks:

Lead Actor: Two of five

Lead Actress: Three of five

Supporting Actor: Three of five

Supporting Actress: One of five

Director: Five of five

Best Picture: Eight of nine

Animated Feature: Three of five

Lead Actor

I correctly picked two of five lead actor Oscar nominees: Adam Driver, “Marriage Story,” and Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker.”

I didn’t pick Antonio Banderas, “Pain And Glory”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood,” and Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes.”

I incorrectly picked Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”; Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell,” and Al Pacino, “The Irishman.”

Lead Actress

I correctly picked three of five lead actress Oscar nominees: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”; Charlize Theron, “Bombshell,” and Renee Zellweger, “Judy.”

I didn’t pick Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet,” and Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women.”

I incorrectly picked Awkwafina, “The Farewell,” and Lupita Nyong’o, “Us.”

Supporting Actor

I correctly picked three of five supporting actor Oscar nominees: Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”; Joe Pesci, “The Irishman,” and Brad Pitt, “Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood.”

I didn’t pick Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes,” and Al Pacino, “The Irishman.”

I incorrectly picked Sam Rockwell, “Richard Jewell,” and Kang-ho Song, “Parasite.”

Supporting Actress

I correctly picked one of five supporting actress Oscar nominees: Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell.”

I didn’t pick Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”; Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”; Florence Pugh, “Little Women,” and Margo Robbie, “Bombshell.

I incorrectly picked Laura Dern, “Little Women”; Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”; Margo Robbie, “Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood,” and Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey.”


I correctly picked five of five director Oscar nominees: Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”; Todd Phillips, “Joker”; Sam Mendes, “1917”; Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood,” and Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite.”

Best Picture

I correctly picked eight of nine best picture Oscar nominees: “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” “1917,” “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” and “Parasite.”

I didn’t pick “Ford v Ferrari.”

I incorrectly picked “Bombshell” and “Richard Jewell” for 10 nominees when there are nine nominees of a potential 10 nominees in the 2020 category.

Animated Feature

I correctly picked three of five animated feature Oscar nominees: “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”; “Missing Link” and “Toy Story 4.”

I didn’t pick “I Lost My Body” and “Klaus.”

I incorrectly picked “Frozen II” and “The Lion King.”

Snub Hub

Given that I picked a majority of nominees in five of the seven categories, the 2020 Oscar nominees challenge was almost as thrilling as zooming down the steep street at the J. Birney Crum School District Stadium in Allentown, which I did as a teen on my Hobie skateboard and wiped out, bouncing on my right hand and head “rear end over tin cups,” as my dad said, looking on horrified.

Oscar picks, correct or not, are only half the story. The rest of the story has to do with those not nominated. You might say Oscar wiped out, too, for 2020.

In my Snub Hub analysis, which I started last year, there are some clear trends, or, if you will, “untrends” for the 2020 Oscars.

Once again, Oscar nominations are lacking in ethnic and gender diversity. Members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who vote to nominate their peers in each of the Oscar categories, had plenty of opportunities.

Greta Gerwig would have been a great choice in the director category for “Little Women” (Gerwig received an adapted screenplay Writers Guild of America nomination for the film, which is also a best picture Oscar nominee), as would have Lulu Wang, director of “The Farewell,” for which Awkwafina was overlooked in the lead actress category, after becoming the first Asian actress to receive an actress in a musical or comedy Golden Globe.

Also in the actress category, that Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t nominated for “Us” is a disappointment, especially since Nyong’o is nominated for a female actor in a leading role Screen Actors Guild award.

In the actor category, Adam Sandler was regarded as deserving of an actor Oscar nomination for “Uncut Gems,” as was Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” making some wonder if Oscar voters have a bias about comedians taking on serious roles. Taron Egerton for “Rocketman” is also among the MINs (Missing In Nominations), as is Christian Bale for “Ford v Ferrari,” although Egerton and Bale each received male actor leading role Screen Actors Guild nominations. Egerton’s duet with Elton John, whom he portrayed in “Rocketman,“ for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” by John and Bernie Taupin, garnered a best song nominee. The lack of a nomination for Robert De Niro, as Frank Sheeran, “The Irishman” in “The Irishman,” receives the Snub Hub award for the 2020 Oscars.

Although unmentioned in most Oscar snubs handwringing, once again director Clint Eastwood was not nominated in the director Oscar category, this time for the worthy “Richard Jewell.” for which Kathy Bates received a supporting actress nomination.

In the supporting actress category, many are all a Twitter about the absence of Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” even though she’s nominated for a female actor supporting role Screen Actors Guild award. The dual nomination of Scarlett Johansson as lead actress for “Marriage Story” and supporting actress for “Jojo Rabbit,“ the 12th actress to be nominated for the actress and supporting actress category in the same year, could have provided an Oscars dance card.

In the supporting actor category, the absence of Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy” is being noted, especially since he received a male actor in a supporting role Screen Actors Guild nomination.

The animation feature category has two big surprises by omission, notably for two Disney movies: “Frozen II,” the biggest-grossing animation feature ever, was frozen out (“Frozen” won the category in 2014), and “The Lion King,” the computer-generated imagery reimaging, aka, remake, for which Beyoncé’s song “Spirit” didn’t receive an original song nomination.

On to the next challenge: the “Readers Pick the Oscar Winners” contest.