Time for the hottest of hot takes: I have moved “Jojo Rabbit” into third place in my Oscar predictions for Best Picture. Bold, I know. Like most other prognosticators, I think the race has been narrowed down to Producers Guild, Directors Guild and BAFTA champ “1917” vs. Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild winner “Parasite” … probably. As of this writing I’m betting on “1917” with “Parasite” right on its heels. But I previously wrote that some third option might sneak up the middle like “Moonlight” did three years ago, and I think that potential usurper would be “Jojo Rabbit,” and here are five reasons why.
1. It scored key nominations across the board
It has flown under the radar because, to be frank, it hasn’t won all that much. But it has been nominated almost everywhere: Best Picture at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, an ensemble nomination at the SAG Awards, and it made the American Film Institute’s list of the best films of 2019. Then it picked up writing wins from the Writers Guild and BAFTAs for its adapted script, beating heavy hitters “Little Women” and “The Irishman,” among others. At the Oscars it even earned a surprise nomination for its editing and won at the ACE Eddie Awards. Plus it pulled off an upset at the Costume Designers Guild Awards against “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” So it has consistently shown strength against other top contenders.
2. Like “Green Book” it was snubbed by the Oscars for directing, but it was nominated by the Directors Guild
Okay, it didn’t get the Oscar nomination for Best Director, but guess what – neither did “Green Book” last year. However, Taika Waititi did earn a nomination from the Directors Guild – just like “Green Book” last year. Like all the other nominations and wins mentioned above from various guilds, that indicates strong support from the industry at large. And let’s face it: Best Picture and Best Director have only matched five times in the last 10 years at the Oscars, and both “Argo” (2012) and “Green Book” have demonstrated that a directing bid from the academy is now more or less optional if you want to win Best Picture, especially if the academy can still award the director as a writer or producer (or both).
3. It stands out as the most feel-good nominee in the pack
Even though its subject matter is heavy – the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust – “Jojo Rabbit” is a warm, sentimental comedy in a year without very many warm, sentimental comedies in the running. “1917” is about the devastation of war. “Parasite” is a crowd-pleaser, but also has tragic, horrific dimensions in its take on class struggle. “The Irishman” and “Joker” are about brooding sociopaths. “Marriage Story” is about a heartbreaking and acrimonious divorce. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is often funny and nostalgic but it’s also about, you know, the Manson Family. “Ford v Ferrari” is a crowd-pleaser too, but that particular true story doesn’t have a particularly happy ending.
That leaves “Little Women,” which does challenge “Jojo” for the feel-good crown, but movies about women are still a risky bet at the Oscars, where only three female-centered titles have won Best Picture this century: “Chicago” (2002), “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) and “The Shape of Water” (2017).
4. It’s timely, and it has a strong rooting factor
Like “Green” Book,” which tackled racism within a comfortable buddy comedy/road trip formula, “Jojo Rabbit” is a self-proclaimed anti-hate film styled as a coming-of-age comedy about a boy (Roman Griffin Davis) unlearning his Nazi indoctrination from a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) being harbored by his mother (Scarlett Johansson). It won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, just like recent Oscar champs “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and, yes, “Green Book” (2018). And it got a grade-A Cinemascore, indicating that it was a hit with viewers (“Green Book” got an A+). And on top of that, it’s a message Oscar voters might like to send as anti-Semitic hate crimes rise in the US.
5. It’s divisive, but “Joker” took the heat off of it
If “Jojo Rabbit” wins Best Picture, the filmmakers may want to thank “Joker.” Because while “Jojo” received mixed reviews from critics who didn’t agree about Waititi’s take on Nazi Germany, it didn’t generate nearly as much vitriol as “Joker,” which is downright hated by some of its detractors. Even “1917” has received some backlash as it has ascended closer to the top of the Oscars pack.
“Jojo” has flown more or less under the radar, maybe because it wasn’t taken as seriously as a threat to win Best Picture as four other movies racked up double-digit totals on nominations morning (“Joker” with 11 and “Hollywood,” “1917” and “Irishman” with 10 apiece). Prognosticators like me weren’t paying as much attention to “Jojo,” so it didn’t become a controversial flash point, so even if voters don’t rank it first, they could easily rank it among their top two or three films of the year, and that’s crucial when it comes to the preferential ballot that decides Best Picture.
“Jojo Rabbit” could be the film that some Oscar voters love and most Oscar voters like, the formula for a surprise Oscar champs in this day and age. If it does win Best Picture, I’m going to slap my forehead thinking it was obvious in hindsight. Or maybe I’m overthinking this and it really is just “1917” vs. “Parasite.”
Be sure to make your Oscar winner predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on February 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.