Movies

The Doomsday Oscar Ballot

The wins that, together, would hail the dawning of the Great Annihilation.

Moloch sits onstage at the Oscars.
An artist’s rendering of King Solomon’s Oscar prophecy. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Matt Petit - Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images and Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Wikipedia.

Ever since Louis B. Mayer first proposed the idea at a banquet in a private dining room deep beneath Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel in January of 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been dedicated to one goal: producing a slate of Oscar winners that is so accursed, so evil, and so contrary to the laws of God, man, and nature that the howls of agony from moviegoers around the world awaken Azathoth from his deathless slumber at the center of the universe, rending time and space forever asunder and ushering in the Age of Excruciation. Although the academy has diligently pursued Mayer’s vision of cosmic annihilation at the hands of unspeakable elder gods in the decades since, their unholy rites have always failed.

Or almost failed: In 2006, the prize was nearly within its grasp. At the moment Crash was announced as the Best Picture winner, a night watchman at the site of the Ambassador Hotel, then mid-demolition, reported that the walls of the Embassy Ballroom dripped blood, and the evening broadcast of local radio station KDLD was briefly interrupted by the sound of a hideous, inhuman voice, laughing with awful delight. Although the universe was not destroyed that evening, the night wasn’t a total loss: Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor, and the next morning, a janitor at the Los Angeles Central Library discovered a hidden chamber in the central tower containing the remains of former city librarian Mary L. Jones’ alchemical laboratory. Jones’ notebooks had long since been rendered illegible by the elements, but a single sheet of vellum of unknown origin, scrawled with what initially appeared to be a variant of Agrippa’s celestial alphabet, somehow survived.

Two weeks ago, that scroll was finally deciphered—it turned out it was written in Wingdings—and although it will be some time before it is fully authenticated, it appears to be the Necrocinematicon, the legendary prophecy of doom said to have been written by King Solomon during his studies into Canaanite god Moloch. The good news is that the Jones scroll will add immeasurably to our understanding of the ancient world. The bad news is that Solomon, working in roughly 927 B.C., seems to have somehow written a description of the 92nd Academy Awards: “Babylon the great will rise once more to the west, and all the world will partake of her sins and plagues, and they will make them a molten statuette to worship, and offer it 91 sacrifices, but on the 92nd, the seal will be opened.” Stranger still, it ends with what appears to be a more or less valid ballot for the 2020 Oscar ceremony. Theologians and awards season experts say that although Solomon’s choices would undoubtedly make for a terrible Oscar ceremony, they don’t seem to have been chosen based on the quality of the films in question but rather on the amount of pain, suffering, and confusion they would cause if they won in their categories.

Although the Necrocinematicon prophecy is just a list of categories and names, and doesn’t include any commentary on the winners, we’ve reached out to occultists and awards race watchers—all of whom are wiser than Solomon when it comes to the motion picture industry, in the sense that it didn’t exist in Solomon’s day—to try to decipher what we can expect to see happen at this year’s Academy Awards. Here, then, is Slate’s Oscar prophecy, divined from the writings of King Solomon himself. Fingers crossed.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

The first award of the night will be disappointing, perhaps, but not particularly ominous until Johansson, halfway through a run-of-the-mill acceptance speech, begins speaking in tongues. She will be as surprised as anyone—and will quickly be ushered off stage.

Documentary (Feature): The 92nd Academy Awards

The first moment of truly alarming weirdness in the ceremony will come when presenter Will Ferrell opens the envelope for the winning feature documentary and discovers that the winner is apparently (a) a television program (b) that is currently in progress. Most of the audience will believe this to be a joke, until Oscars director Glenn Weiss, moving stiffly and unnaturally, as though his limbs were not completely under his control, leaves the production booth for the stage to accept an award he is not eligible for, for a television program he has not yet finished directing. He will thank “the movies,” stagger off stage, and never be seen again.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

No one involved in presenting this award will notice that the card reads “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” not “Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White, for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” Fortunately, she’s not one to hold a grudge.

Costume Design: Jojo Rabbit

As with Johansson’s win, no one will be too alarmed by another Oscar going to Jojo Rabbit until the acceptance speech, a tribute to designer Hugo Boss, whose work was such an inspiration for Jojo Rabbit’s costumes.

Production Design: The Hollywood & Highland Center

Once again, the presenters will be caught flat-footed at the contents of their envelope. This time, with no one to present the award to, the hapless accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers will be brought out to try to figure out what has happened. But as the presenters huddle onstage, the card with the name of the award winner will be ripped from one of their hands by a sudden gust of wind, float through the air (pursued by PAs) out the emergency exit, and land in the mouth of one of the elephants that looms over Hollywood & Highland, where it will burst into flames and vanish from our dimension forever.

Cinematography: Lawrence Sher, Joker

This will just be a normal Oscar win for Joker, which will cause enough suffering all on its own.

Sound Editing: Joker

Again, there’s no need for anything supernatural to happen for a Joker win to please Azathoth the Devourer.

Sound Mixing: Joker

Azathoth loves Joker is what we’re prophesying. It’s like his favorite movie, practically.

International Feature Film: Joker

This one will be a big disappointment for Parasite, but not to the Elder Gods.

Film Editing: Unknown

At the moment that the winner for film editing is announced, the television broadcast will unexpectedly cut to a time lapse shot of a decomposing fox. With director Glenn Weiss nowhere to be found after his unexpected Oscar win, no one at the ceremony will notice, and the winner of the Film Editing Academy Award will never be known.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

The TV broadcast will abruptly resume in the middle of Anthony Hopkins’ acceptance speech, capturing the last two minutes of Hopkins’ five-minute performance of that tongue noise he did in The Silence of the Lambs.

Animated Feature Film: I Lost My Body

The Oscar for Animated Feature Film will be awarded to I Lost My Body without incident, except that the stage monitors that were supposed to show a clip from the film will instead show grainy black-and-white footage of a hand of glory, floating endlessly in the void.

Short Film (Animated): “The Cameraman’s Revenge”

It is not clear to anyone why the envelopes demand that the Academy Award for short animated film be given to “The Cameraman’s Revenge,” a pre-Soviet experimental stop-motion film from 1912, in which the carapaces of dead insects are made to enact a grim tale of adultery and revenge porn. It is clear, however, that the beetles that begin streaming from the award envelope are very real and very hungry.

Documentary (Short Subject): “Faint Hearts Don’t Sell Fair Ladies”

This isn’t even a film, it’s a Jam Handy filmstrip designed to train salesmen to successfully convince women to purchase a 1960 Chevrolet Corvair, the unsafe at any speed car. The moment the envelope is opened, a ghastly voice will be heard throughout the theater, intoning “Although a woman is sensitive to color and style, and will probably be most immediately attracted to them, it’ll take facts to get her signature on the order.”

Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame

Azathoth loves this movie.

Short Film (Live Action): “Electrocuting an Elephant”

Electrocuting an Elephant,” Thomas Edison’s 1903 film of the death of Topsy at Coney Island, will not actually win this award. No one will win this award. But “Electrocuting an Elephant” will spontaneously play on the monitors behind them as the awards presenters open the envelope and their heads burst into flames. The broadcast will cut to a crowd reaction shot, and the sound of thunderous laughter and applause will play over footage of hundreds of stars, none of whom are laughing or clapping. When the camera returns to the stage, the presenters will have vanished completely.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Jojo Rabbit

As Solomon knew, there is no novel that cannot be improved by adding an imaginary Hitler to it. Finally, the academy will acknowledge this truth.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Parasite

Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won will be halfway to the stage before the presenters—two actors who seem familiar but whose faces keep blurring and shifting—read the rest of the card, specifying that the parasite in question is Ba’al-El, the Worm Who Sleeps Not, who will promptly erupt from the stage and swallow up the unlucky screenwriters.

Music (Original Score): Randy Newman, Marriage Story
Music (Original Song): “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Randy Newman

Randy Newman wins are not all that surprising, but his solo performance of “O Fortuna”—delivered in the original Latin and sung in Newman’s avuncular style—will not be what anyone was expecting.

Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Even Azathoth appreciates a performance this electrifying.

Actress in a Leading Role: Judy Garland, Renée

This will truly be one of the most horrifying awards speeches in Oscar history, although the moment where Garland thanks Louis B. Mayer will be pretty touching.

Directing: Todd Phillips, Joker

As Phillips takes the stage to receive his Oscar, the walls of the Dolby Theatre will crumble and fall, giving the frozen, terrified audience their first glimpse of the eerie blue light streaming from the manholes and sewers along Hollywood Boulevard.

Best Picture: Joker

Azathoth’s triumph will be complete, and the Age of Excruciation will begin in earnest. So be it, so be it, so be it, amen.

We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see how accurate Solomon’s Oscar prophecy turns out to be, but one thing is certain: It’s going to be a big night for the movies!