The 2020 Oscars: A Reading List

January 27, 2020 | Viveca

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The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will be televised on February 9. Controversy resulted in last year's Oscar ceremony proceeding without a host. According to the organizers, this worked out so well they are planning to go Hostless in Hollywood once again. Also absent this year: diversity (with few exception). Controversy continues – just ask Stephen King. The media is also a-buzz with some notable Oscar snubs: director Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers, and Ryan Egerton for Rocketman.  

On February 9, get your popcorn ready, print off your handy Oscar 2020 ballot, and get ready for Hollywood's big night. Some of the Oscar nominated films are available to borrow from the Toronto Public Library – some have not yet been released on DVD.

Our Annual Oscar Reading List:

Irishman Irishman2

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa by Charles Brandt / The Irishman directed by Martin Scorsese

All available formats

Martin Scorsese's recent remarks to Empire magazine article assembled avenging fans after the legendary director stated that Marvel movies were "not cinema." The Academy didn't agree – Marvel's The Black Panther won the Oscar for Best Picture. Scorsese is certainly a contender for an award this year: his epic-length crime film about Frank Sheeran, a truck driver turned hit man, earned ten Oscar nominations. This was the first time that Scorsese worked with Al Pacino who played the role of Jimmy Hoffa. 

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino, Joe Pesci), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects


Caging Skies JoJo Rabbit

Caging Skies by Christine Leunens / JoJo Rabbit directed by Taika Waititi

All available formats

Based on Leunen's 2008 novel, JoJo Rabbit is the story of a young member of the Hitler youth who discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl. Waititi made a splash with his last film Thor: Ragnarok

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design


Killing Joke Joker

Batman: The Killing Joke: by Alan Moore / Joker directed by Todd Phillips

While Todd Phillip's Joker was not based on any one particular Joker story, his central character draws on DC Comics' legendary villain. The Toronto Public Library carries material featuring the Joker in all his various iterations.  This film leads with 11 Oscar Nominations, despite the controversy generated by its main character. Is the Joker a sad story about the human condition? Or merely a poster boy for whiny entitlement? 

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing/Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design


Little Women Littlewomen_onesheet_1400x2100_v1

Little Women by Louisa May Allcott / Little Women directed by Greta Gerwig

All available formats

Louisa May Allcott's 1868 classic has a timeless, cross-generational appeal with many different film and television adaptations available to borrow from the Toronto Public Library. Gerwig's interpretation is the latest version. It's up for Best Picture – but not for Best Director, as many critics have noted. 

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design


End of the Rainbow Judy2019

End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter / Judy directed by Rupert Goold

You can also borrow the End of the Rainbow's sheet music.

Renée Zellweger does her own singing for the role of Judy Garland. Critics agree that Zellweger captures not only the essence of Garland's tragic life, but her magnetism and star quality in this moving tribute to a legend in decline. 

Oscar nominations: Best Actress (Renée Zellweger), Best Makeup and Hairstyling


Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood A_Beautiful_Day_in_the_Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Fred Rogers / A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood directed by Marielle Heller.

This book includes Tom Junod's original 1998 Esquire article "Can You Say . . . Hero?" about one of the most beloved men on television. It's also worth checking out the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? for further viewing. 

Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hanks)


The Pope The Two Popes

The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision That Shook the World by Anthony McCarten / The Two Popes directed by Fernando Meirelles

All available formats

This biographical drama focuses on the historical (and imagined) events surrounding the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis. 

Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Jonathan Pryce), Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Adapted Screenplay


Ford vs Ferrari Ford Ferrari
Ford vs Ferrari: the Battle for Supremacy at Le Mans 1966 by John Starkey / Ford v Ferrari directed by James Mangold

This is based on the true story of the rivalry between the Ford motor company and Ferrari. 

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing


And more films... 

Here are nominated films not based on any books/articles that are available to borrow on DVD from the Toronto Public Library.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Pain and Glory

Once Upon a Time in Hollwood directed by Quentin Tarantino.  You can also borrow the soundtrack on CD

Tarantino's ninth film is full of his trademark tropes: Pop culture, revenge fantasies and ultra-violence. And feet. 

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design


Pain and Glory directed by Pedro Almodovar

A film director in his decline reflects on various encounters throughout his life.  

Oscar Nominations: Best International Feature Film, Best Actor (Antonio Banderas)


Rocketman Ad Astra

Rocketman directed by Dexter Fletcher

This biographical film dramatizes the life and career of rock star Elton John. Egerton won the Golden Globe for his performance as Sir Elton.

Oscar nominations: Best Original Song


Ad Astra directed by James Gray

Brad Pitt is an astronaut who doesn't play by the rules – and embarks on a mission in deep space in search of his father. 

Oscar nominations: Best Sound Mixing


How to Train Your Dragon The Hidden World Toy Story 4

How to Train Your Dragon: the Hidden World directed by Dean DeBlois

Oscar nominations: Best Animated Feature Film 


Toy Story 4 directed by Josh Cooley

Oscar nominations: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Song



Missing Link directed by Chris Butler

Oscar nominations: Best Animated Feature Film


For Sama Honeyland
For Sama directed by Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts

This PBS documentary focuses on war as experienced by a woman as it traces her life in Aleppo through to the birth of her daughter. 

Oscar nominations: Best Documentary Feature


Honeyland directed by Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov

This critically-acclaimed documentary follows the life of Hatidze Muratova, a beekeeper in North Macedonia. This film has already won many awards including the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Oscar nominations: Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature Film


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