Oh, hey! I didn’t see you there.

So… Feel like talking about the Oscars?

 

The Nominees:

Bong Joon-ho won the triple-crown. BONG JOON-HO WON THE TRIPPLE-CROWN!!

Best Picture:

I can’t stop smiling. I thought about writing more, but the award-recipients could only say it better.

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
*Parasite*

Actor in a Leading Role:

Enough said.

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
*Joaquin Phoenix – Joker*
Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Actress in a Leading Role:

“Dreams really do come true.”

Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Scarlett Johanson – Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
*Renee Zellweger – Judy*

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Is this really the first Oscar Lura Dern has won??

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
*Laura Dern – Marriage Story*
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Margot Robbie – Bombshell

Actor in a Supporting Role:

“Ain’t that the truth.”

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
Al Pacino – The Irishman
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
*Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood*

Directing:

YES. YES. BONG! “The most personal is the most creative.” And a standing ovation. Brilliant, and well-deserved. 

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Todd Phillips – Joker
Quinten Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… In Holywood
Sam Mendes – 1917
*Bong Hoon-ho – Parasite*

Adapted Screenplay:

Originality pays off.

The Irishman
*Jojo Rabbit*
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

Original Screenplay:

Bong, my man, you deserve it. Wholeheartedly. 

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
*Parasite*

International Feature Film:

Well, I guess I don’t have to be angry.

Corpus Christi – Poland
Honeyland – North Macedonia
Les Miserables – France
Pain and Glory – Spain
*Parasite – South Korea*

Animated Feature:

Wow! A real surprise!…

How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
*Toy Story 4*

Original Score:

Yup.

*Joker*
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Original Song:

“Well, this doesn’t suck.” Hell yeah, Elton. Hell yeah.

“I Can’t Let you Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
*”(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again)” – Rocketman*
“I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
“Into the Unknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

Documentary Short:

I’m absolutely desperate to see this short.

In the Absence
*Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone if You’re a Girl*
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Chacha

Cinematography:

The man is a genius, what else can I say?

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
*1917*
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Best Documentary Feature:

Time to see it, finally.

*American Factory*
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Production Design:

Justice. Bounty Law? There’s a joke in there somewhere.

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
*Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood*
Parasite

Sound Mixing:

Sound sets the stage, and this movie used it to its fullest.

Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
*1917*
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Costume Design:

Good clothes, great rewards.

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
*Little Women*
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Film Editing:

Cool!

*Ford v Ferrari*
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

Sound Editing:

A worthy winner, to say the least.

*Ford v Ferrari*
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Animated Short Film:

This looks like a remarkable film, and I can’t wait to see it.

Dcera (Daughter)
*Hair Love*
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Live-Action Short:

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
*The Neighbors’ Window*
Saria
A Sister

Makeup and Hairstyling:

“Debraaaaa!!!! Bombshell won! Debraaaa!!! I was also in The Irishman, Debraaaaaaaaa!!!!”
       – Ray Romano

*Bombshell*
Joker

Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Visual Effects:

Subtle effects for the win!

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
*1917*
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

A few quick thoughts on the Best Picture Nominees

If you want to know what I thought of the Best Picture nominees, here you go. If you’d rather cut to the chase, scroll on.

I can’t remember a year in the time that I’ve been writing about the Oscars in which I’ve liked more of the Best Picture nominees, but a choice has to be made.

Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari is a well-directed, well-acted sports movie. Unfortunately, in spite of its many strengths, it’s just not much more than that.

Little Women

Little Women is an exemplary adaptation of a classic novel, another phenomenal entry in Greta Gerwig’s already outstanding portfolio, and a clever modernization of the work that doesn’t want for intelligent (and all-to relevant) meta-commentary.

The Irishman

The Irishman is Scorsese at his best: stunning period pieces, perfectly-cast performers, cinematography and shot composition that instantly transports you to a bygone era, and a story that takes its own sweet time to develop. Unfortunately, it’s also saddled with at least 90 minutes of unnecessary runtime, which – by the time you hit three hours, supposing you watch it all in one sitting – means that whatever emotional impact the story could have had is unfortunately buried under a mountain of visually appealing, well-acted monotony.

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is raw, honest, and painful. Nobody is the “good guy,” and nobody is the “bad guy,” even though Adam Driver’s character is kind of a mega-dick. But in a way, that’s the point. Everyone has their own story, even in a shared narrative. Noah Baumbach’s unflinching portrayal of the bitterness, anger, selfishness, and (dare we hope) hope that comes from the quiet dissolution of a relationship may be the best of its kind.

Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit is one of the most quirky films I’ve ever seen, in the best way possible. Taika Waititi’s able direction makes a story that could have easily veered into The Boy in the Striped Pajamas territory into something relatable, humanistic, and strangely funny. Leave it to Waititi to turn a story about a devoted member of the Hitler youth (whose imaginary friend is Hitler himself) into a film that will make you laugh out loud and hold back tears in the same two hours.

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood is Tarantino’s most self-indulgent (and unsettlingly foot-fetishy) film to date. It’s a love letter to a time period that he clearly admires, and maybe even mourns. It’s long, and at it can feel slow. But it’s filled to the brim with insanely precise production design, costumes that enhance the setting rather than distracting from it, and top-notch performances, including an iconic turn by Brad Pitt, and a fully-committed Leonardo DiCaprio. For all of its faults, it’s hard not to respect the wealth of craft and talent that went into making this film, and its almost impossible not to enjoy it.

1917

Writers and critics often use the term “in the trenches” to describe the presentation or perspective of war films that stay close to the ground, near characters, and in the thick of the action. That term fits 1917 to a T, even when the characters aren’t actually in trenches – although they frequently are. The film is presented as two continuous shots, with one well-executed break between them. The sense of intimacy, urgency, and presence that this evokes elevates what could otherwise have been a rote, melodramatic story to another level.

Joker

Joker may be the most nominated film of the year with 11 nods, but it’s probably also the most divisive. Some people see it as the “mature superhero film” we’ve been waiting for. Some see it as a joke (no pun intended) that’s playing on the current state of political unrest in the United States. Others seem to think that it’s an invitation to the more violent members of society to act out their horrible fantasies. I think it’s a movie.

Perhaps as evidenced by the fact that I’m giving Joker more than one paragraph, I’ve seen it more times all the way through than any of the other nominees. I’m still not sure why. All of the other high-profile films directed by Todd Phillips (that I could bring myself to care about) left me feeling either flat, vaguely annoyed, or generally frustrated.

Joker feels different. The script alternates between bland, obvious, and insultingly simple, and overarching themes are either muddled or superficial. But still, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s brilliance hidden beneath the surface. Maybe that’s Joaquin Phoenix’s stunningly physical performance. Maybe it’s the imagery of Arthur Fleck going up and down sets of stairs, and acting differently each time he does so. Maybe it’s that the way his dancing – and the way it evolves over the course of the story – reflects something about his psyche. Maybe Phoenix is the thing that makes this character, and by extension, the film, work. Either way, there’s something there.

Parasite

Parasite is the single best argument I’ve seen for including international films in the Academy’s major categories. It’s directed with the able hand of a visionary who is a master of their craft. The story speaks not just to one nation, but to all, because so many of us face the same struggles. It exudes metaphors and lives in a house (almost literally) built of evocative imagery. Perhaps most importantly, it has something to say and says it well.

Predictions and Picks

 

Best Picture

My Prediction – In my opinion – especially after last year – it’s never a good idea to underestimate the Academy’s tendency to stick to safe, foolproof, (overwhelmingly white/male) movies. With that in mind, my best guess is that 1917 will take home the big one. That’s not to say that Green Book and 1917 are on the same level, but a WWI epic does seem like The Academy’s cup of tea. Of course, there’s always a chance that Parasite will pull out a win.

My Pick – It’s got to be Parasite. It presents its themes without pretention, develops its characters without melodrama, and showcases its imagery in a sturdy way I haven’t seen in an Oscar nominee for a long time. It’d also be nice to see an international film (with subtitles, no less) pull off a big win.

 

Lead Actor:

My Prediction – Joaquin Phoenix. He could have won for Walk the Line. He could have won for The Master. Hell, he could have won for You Were Never Really Here, even though he wasn’t nominated. But the way he moves, the switch he flicks that takes him between hysterical laughter and stone-faced rage, and the pure physicality of his performance in Joker just can’t be matched.

My Pick – Joaquin Phoenix, of course.

 

Lead Actress:

My Prediction – I think we all know it’s Renee Zellweger.

My Pick – See above.

 

Supporting Actress:

My Prediction – That statue is probably on its way to Laura Dern for Marriage Story.

My Pick – Laura Dern’s performance pales in comparison to Scarlett Johanson’s in Marriage Story, but since they’re nominated in two different categories (and Johannson is likely to lose Best Actress to Renee Zellweger), I’ll toss my support into the Scarlett aisle.

 

Supporting Actor:

My Prediction – Tom Hanks is a Hollywood darling, and Mr. Rogers is more relevant now than ever. But if I had to guess, I’d say one of the two men nominated for The Irishman: Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.

My Pick – That’s got to be Bradly Pitt from Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. It might be my favorite performance of his across his whole career.

 

Directing:

My Prediction – Sam Mendes.

My Pick – For as much depth as I’ve found in Joker, as singular a filmmaker Tarantino may be, and as visionary Scorsese is, none of them is the best director on the list this year, for the films nominated. That honor belongs to Bong Joon-ho.

 

Adapted Screenplay:

My Prediction – This one’s tough. I suspect that it’ll go to either Jojo Rabbit or Little Women. 

My Pick – This one’s got to be Jojo Rabbit. The moral relevance of a young person realizing that someone who is different from them, who they’ve been taught to fear – especially in our current political climate – can’t be overstated. When you add in director/Hitler-player Taika Waititi’s background, it only becomes more moving. What’s most impressive, though, it that the film manages to be genuinely hysterical, quirky as hell, and powerful enough to elicit tears, all without relying on the gravity of its subject matter to raise the steaks.

 

Original Screenplay:

My Prediction – Uhh… I’ve seen all of these, but damn. Let’s roll the dice and say Parasite.

My Pick – I’m torn between Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood and Knives Out. Up against the wall, I’ll throw my weight behind Tarantino, even though Johnson’s script for Knives Out was exceptional.

 

Foreign Language Film:

My Prediction – Parasite. If it’s not Parasite, it probably should have been.

My Pick – See above.

 

Animated Feature:

My Prediction – I’m not proud of this, but I haven’t seen any of the nominees. I think I’ll roll with Missing Link, just because it won the Golden Globe.

My Pick – I love Pixar, but as retroactive justice for Anomalisa, I’ll take anyone else this year.

 

Original Score:

My Prediction – Hildur Guðnadóttir –  Joker.

My Pick – Predictions and picks are two very different things, but Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker is evocative, atmospheric, and brilliantly supportive. John Williams composed the score of my childhood, but Guðnadóttir’s work this year leaves The Rise of Skywalker in the dust.

 

Original Song:

My Prediction – (Insert intelligent comment, perhaps containing irony or meta statements). Probably the one from Frozen 2.

My Pick – I’m still salty that Rocketman and Taron Egerton were overlooked by The Academy, so let’s say “(I’m gonna) Love Me Again.”

 

Documentary Short:

My Prediction – Just like last year, I am a failure at catching documentary shorts. So, I’m going with Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone if You’re a Girl, because the title is brilliant.

My Pick – Same movie, same reason.

 

Cinematography:

My Prediction – This one’s going to the man, the myth, the legend: Roger Deakins, for 1917. The camera work is astounding, the composition unreal, and the scope unbelievable.

My Pick – If there’s a better living cinematographer than Roger Deakins, I’ve yet to see their work

 

Documentary Feature:

My Prediction – Yet again, I’ve seen none of these. But I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of American Factory, so that sounds good.

My Pick – After watching none of these, I’ve decided to stick to my instincts and say American Factory, with The Edge of Democracy as a close second.

 

Production Design:

My Prediction – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. It has to be.

My PickOnce Upon a Time… In Hollywood, or either I have a fundamental misunderstanding of what “production design” means, or The Academy does.

 

Sound Mixing:

My Prediction – 1917.

My Pick – Maybe they’ll throw Ad Astra a bone?

 

Sound Editing:

My Prediction – Also 1917.

My Pick – This might be one where Ford v Ferrari actually has the edge. The sound really made you feel like you were behind the wheel, whether you wanted to be or not.

 

Costume Design:

My Prediction – I think this one’s going to either The Irishman or Once Upon a time… In Hollywood.

My Pick – I’m conflicted, but I’ll say Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, with Joker as a close second.

 

Film Editing:

My Prediction –  Probably Jojo Rabbit or Parasite. 

My Pick – I have no idea. The Irishman could have used an editor who wasn’t afraid of cutting unnecessary scenes, and I have issues with some of the editing in Joker. I think I’ll side with Parasite.

 

Animated Short:

My Prediction – I’ve seen precisely zero of these shorts, so I’ll say Dcera (Daughter).

My Pick – No reason in particular, I just like the way it sounds.

 

Live Action Short:

My Prediction – Look, I know. I’m a bad movie fan. Let’s put that behind us and say The Neighbors’ Widow, because it sounds kind of sad, but in a way that attracts voters.

My Pick – See above?

 

Makeup and Hairstyling:

My Prediction – Bombshell.

My Pick – The way that everything came together in Joker – especially the symbolism of Arthur’s asymmetrical face paint, his tears, and the blood that splatters onto his face, is too good to ignore.

 

Visual Effects:

My Prediction – Either Lion King or Avengers: Endgame.

My Pick1917. I’ve always preferred subtle visual effects to overt ones. That’s why 1917 worked so well for me. The effects were used to enhance scenes, not define them. Nobody had to flip a city on top of itself to raise the stakes, and none of the characters were digital recreations of preexisting characters or beings. While the technology that allows such characters to come to life is incredible, what 1917 achieved with special effects more impressive to me than anything Disney has produced to date.

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