once upon a time in hollywood
by Alan Yudman
It’s that time of year again. The Academy Awards are a little more than a week away as I write this. The Oscars are a little more than a week away. If you follow this blog, you know I have seen all the Best Picture nominees and all the Best Director nominees. I have some holes in my Acting category knowledge having not seen The Two Popes, Richard Jewell, Harriet or Judy. Like all of twitter that will not stop me from sharing a largely uninformed opinion. Welcome to the USA in 2020.
First let’s talk about the misogyny in the room. There were no women nominated for Best Director. And it’s not like there were no viable films from which to choose. All the directors I’m about to mention helmed films that rated 85% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. Some have more extensive resumes directing foreign films, acting or writing. But all are deserving: Mati Diop (3 features), Lulu Wang (3), Olivia Wilde (1), Alma Har’el (6,) Marielle Heller (3), Lorene Scafaria (3) and Greta Gerwig (3, but 11 screenwriting credits). I’m sure I am leaving someone out, but at least I’ve acknowledged their excellence. Then there is the latest version of “Oscars so white”. Antonio Banderas is the only minority nominated in the male acting categories and Cynthia Erivo is the only woman of color in the female acting categories. It continues to baffle how the academy ignores minorities and women after several years of backlash. Even expanding membership over the past few years hasn’t solved a problem that needs fixing.
Ok, climbing off the soapbox now and walking up to the ballot box. Here’s how I’m laying this out. I will give you my pick in a category and then who I believe will win. For most I will link to my review and will argue who should replace whom. Yelling about someone not being nominated while not being brave enough to remove an undeserving nominee seems a little cowardly. Here goes:
Choice: Joaquin Phoenix
Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix
Phoenix did what he always does. He transformed himself for a role. JOKER is not JOKER without him. He is the sole reason that movie was watchable at all.
Choice: Saorise Ronan
Prediction: Rene Zellwegger
Zellwegger has won every acting award for JUDY leading up to the Oscars. So this is as “no brainer” a no brainer as there is.
LITTLE WOMEN features a great ensemble, but it revolves around Jo and Ronan is the force of nature that makes us root for her.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Choice: Joe Pesci
Prediction: Brad Pitt
Like the actress category, Pitt has won everything for ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. But Pesci’s quiet, nuanced performance as mob boss Russell Buffalino in THE IRISHMAN is completely different than anything he has ever done before and it gives the movie a bit of heart.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Choice: Laura Dern
Prediction: Laura Dern
Yeah, yeah.. Jennifer Lopez was done wrong by not being nominated at all. But Dern gave 2 standout performances in LITTLE WOMEN and MARRIAGE STORY. She should win for both.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Choice: Thomas Newman
Prediction: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Guðnadóttir won the Golden Globe for JOKER and it definitely fits the dark and weird tone of the film. But give me a big score anytime. It was close for me between Randy and Thomas, but I had to pick Thomas for 1917.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Prediction: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
This is a incredibly competitive category. It’s not that THE IRISHMAN, KNIVES OUT or 1917 are undeserving. I would replace 1917 with UNCUT GEMS. But Bong Joon Ho’s PARASITE made you think, laugh, cry and shocked the hell out of everyone. It’s damn near perfect.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Choice: LITTLE WOMEN
Prediction: LITTLE WOMEN
The Academy’s version of a consolation prize for not being nominated for Best Director, Gerwig gets the screenplay trophy.
Mendes won the DGA award. His movie is great. But PARASITE was something greater than all others. Throw out Todd Phillips and replace him with Gerwig. As Dana Stevens wrote in Slate, did LITTLE WOMEN direct itself? Phillips is riding Phoenix’s coattails.
Roger Deakins is a god. The one shot “stunt” wasn’t so much a stunt as the tool that drew the audience into the story. Amazing achievement.
For the same reasons Bong should win screenplay, his film should win Best Picture. This story is at its base about income inequality. It shows what is wrong with global economies while entertaining you for 2 hours. JOKER does not belong on this list. Replace it with UNCUT GEMS and add KNIVES OUT (the Academy can nominate up to 10 and only chose 9 this year). 1917 has gotten all the love from The Golden Globes, the DGA and the Producer’s Guild. That is a pretty good predictor of Oscar success.
Ok, that’s it for this year. I’ll check back in after February 9, 2020 to see how I and the Academy did.