Saturday, February 08, 2020

Oscar Forecast: “1917” with a Good Chance of “Parasite” or “Hollywood”

I’d just like to set the record straight right now and say that if “Jojo Rabbit” wins Best Picture in a complete shock, I actually called it back in November. It has steadily been nominated or won all the right awards to swoop in for a surprise win. People’s Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival? Check. Golden Globe nominations? Check. SAG ensemble nomination? Check. Best Film Editing nomination, technical nominations, acting, and writing nominations? Check. Heart warming story that makes white people feel better about themselves? Check. Sure it doesn’t have a Directing nod for Taika Waititi but neither did last year’s Green Book and look what happened. Having said that, is it likely to win? Probably not. It hasn't actually won any of the major precursors (ie, DGA, PGA, SAG, BAFTA, Critics Choice, Globes, etc) I’m just saying if it does, don’t pretend like you’re shocked, because I just laid out its path to victory right here. It can easily win Adapted Screenplay and something else (and even if it didn't win anything else “Spotlight” won BP and only for its Screenplay, so there). I’d argue it has a bigger shot than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at this point. Ok I’m glad I got that off my chest. Let’s get to it...


Who Will Win: 1917.
At this point I’d be pretty surprised if it didn’t win. It makes the most sense to me on paper. This is one of those weird years where every movie nominated has some kind of thing working against it. 1917 has no acting nominations which doesn’t really hurt it but certainly doesn’t help. Slumdog did it way back in 2008. It also didn’t have a SAG Best Cast nomination (but neither did Green Book or The Shape of Water and they turned out ok). It also doesn’t haven an Editing nod (but I guess editing doesn't matter when your film is shot as if it one continuous take right Birdman?). The thing really helping it is the fact that Sam Mendes is practically a lock for Best Director. But Picture and Director have split a lot in the past decade so odds are that a split could happen yet again. But to be safe I’m going with my gut and 1917. Parasite could win but I’d be really shocked if a film also nominated for Best International Film (previously Best Foreign Language Film) would win Best Picture. Unfortunately, a lot of Academy members see a win there as an appropriate consolation prize. (Isn’t that right, Roma?). The only other real possibility is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood whose lack of an editing nomination is more egregious. Hence why I believe Jojo is actually in “third place.” What it really come down to, like I've said in the past, is cracking the code of that damn preferntial ballot. The movie that wins BP will be ranked either first, second, or third on the most ballots. So divisive films don't really have a shot. I think 1917, Once, Parasite, and Jojo all have a decent shot of appearing high on lots of ballots. Truth be told I have no freaking idea what’s going to win, I’ve been wrong the last four years in the row, so you should probably stop reading this now.

Who Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
“Marriage Story” is technically my favorite of the nominees, but I think it’d be nice for a Quentin Tarantino movie to take the top prize, so that’s probably how I’d vote. I pretty much love all the BP movies this year except for The Irishman, a film I admire more than I actually like. And I still haven’t seen Little Women. My preferential ballot would probably look like this: 1) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 2) Marriage Story 3) Jojo Rabbit 4) Parasite 5) Joker

Should of Been Nominated: Us.
Jordan Peele’s impeccable craft was even more honed in his sophomore effort but I suspect an early release date—and the sheer divisiveness of the film—did it no favors.

Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917.
He won the DGA, so it’s practically guaranteed. Unless a surge for Parasite sends Bong Joon Ho to the podium, which could happen. But I suspect he’s more likely to win in Screenplay.

Should Win: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite.
The direction in 1917 is fantastic of course, but Mendes has an Oscar and there’s nothing quite like Parasite, so Bong Joon Ho deserves it.

Should of Been Nominated: Greta Gerwig, Little Woman or Lulu Wang, The Farewell. What does a lady have to do to get a second (or even a first) Best Director nomination, geez?

Will Win: Rene Zellweger, Judy.
You’ve probably heard this already, but these four acting categories are locked up tighter than Fort Knox. If Zellweger doesn’t win I’d be shocked.

Should Win: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story.
I’ve always liked Scarlett Johansson, but I never really started appreciating her until her various turns in the Marvel films. And especially this year in a one, two, three punch of Avengers Engame, Jojo Rabbit, and Marriage Story. This was the year of ScarJo. She deserves to win against Rene’s over-the-top borderline SNL sketch work in “Judy.”

Should of Been Nominated: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.
I’m still not over it, Academy. Scarlett gave two great performances in two movies and you nominated her twice; Lupita gave two great performances in one movie and got zip.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker.
Geez, it’s getting to the point where playing the Joker is an automatic Oscar. If Phoenix doesn’t win I’d be shocked.

Should Win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story.
This is a tough call. I’m not a Joker hater like 98% of Film Twitter, but Driver is so freaking good in Marriage Story that it makes me sad that he hardly has a chance. His quivering chin deserves an Oscar all its own in that scene at the end of the film when he read’s his ex-wife’s open letter to him. AND HE SINGS.

Should Have Been Nominated: Taron Egerton, Rocketman.
Sure, the Academy should of nominated more people of color, but the one white person who really, really should have been here was Taron.

Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story.
Marriage Story’s only likely win will occur here, especially without Jennifer Lopez here to give her any competition. If Dern doesn’t win I’d be shocked.

Should Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story.
No one is gonna say this is the best Laura Dern has ever been, but she’s certainly a scene stealer and the film offers her plenty to do what she does best.

Should of Been Nominated: Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers.
I’m still in mourning.

Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Hollywood legend/heartthrob Brad Pitt is finally going to win an acting Oscar (he has one for producing 12 Years a Slave, fun fact). One of the last really great true movie stars, Pitt is actually much more successful as a quirky character actor and he’s finally getting his due. If Pitt doesn’t win I’d be shocked.

Should Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
If Pitt wins the Academy would have gotten it right for sure.

Should of Been Nominated: Song Kang Ho, Parasite.
The cynic in me thinks Parasite had no acting nominations because they didn’t know who was who in the film. But that’s what iMDB is for, people.

Will Win: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit.
Initially I thought Greta would win this in a cakewalk, but I think there’s more love for Jojo than most people think. He won the WGA award which is telling, but this race is far from over. If Jojo even wants a chance in hell of winning Best Picture it should probably win here first. Look for Little Women to take it if Jojo isn’t as beloved as we thought.

Should Win: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit.
Another divisive film according to all the cool people on social media, I think it’s a brilliant satire. Does it go as “dark” or take as many “risks” as it could have? Perhaps no, but it certainly doesn’t play it safe. Besides, rewarding the umpteenth adaptation of Little Women just feels like the boring, stuffy Academy of yesteryear.

Will Win: Bong Joon Ho & Jin Won Han, Parasite.
Deep down, I feel like Quentin is probably going to take this, but I feel like the Academy will want to reward the film outside the International Film category. It’s certainly the most original script of the bunch. Foreign films don’t traditionally prevail in the Screenplay categories, but it isn’t unheard of. It certainly doesn’t help its case.

Should Win: Bong Joon Ho & Jin Won Han, Parasite.
Certainly one of the most original films of the year. I wouldn’t cry if Quentin won, but he’s won twice.

Will Win: Klaus.
Okay, hear me out. Toy Story 4 is probably going to win, but it’s not quite the lock you think it would be. Not having Frozen II as competition helps, but besides Toy Story 3, the Academy rarely rewards sequels in this category, and that third film had a Best Picture nomination. Klaus was on Netflix and was widely available to everyone AND it just won a slew of Annie Awards (and the BAFTA) which are also very predictive of where the industry is leaning. Having said all that, I won’t be surprised if Toy Story 4 wins, but sometimes you just have a feeling and the need to take a risk.

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Ok, full disclosure here. This is the first year where I haven’t seen ANY of the nominated animated films. I started watching Toy Story 4 but never finished it. This feels like such a “meh” year for animation. I probably wouldn’t even vote here if I had the privilege but the Dragon films have never won so I’m willing to throw it a bone.

Will Win: 1917.
Did you SEE what Roger Deakins was able to accomplish? Now that Deakins has finally won an Oscar, I’m betting on him winning a half dozen more times over the next decade.

Should Win: 1917.
No contest this year.

Will Win: Little Women.
Conventional wisdom says Little Women wins this in a cakewalk, but even royal period piece The Favorite couldn't win against the more colorful Black Panther last year. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything particularly flashy this year (especially since Dolemite is My Name and Rocketman got snubbed). So unless the Academy wants to reward the nostalgic Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or even Jojo Rabbit, I don’t see how Little Women doesn’t win this, considering it’s the only category here with dresses.

Should Win: Little Women.
What a lame category this year, huh?

Should of Been Nominated: Rocketman.

Will Win: American Factory.
Another year another round of shocking omissions. With no Apollo 11 in site, I guess the only English language film takes it. Plus its on Netflix and easily available to voters.

Will Win: Ford v Ferrari.
When looking at the nominees in this category it makes the most sense. What doesn’t make sense is that this could be the only award Ford v Ferrari wins. It’s rare for a film to win Editing as it’s only win. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo pulled it off, but that was a surprise upset. Which makes me think that Ford v Ferrari could actually win one or both sound awards…

Should Win: Ford v Ferrari.
I still don’t know how anyone puts together a film like this and ends up as sane person.

Will Win: Parasite.
One of the most sure things of the night besides the acting categories. If Parasite doesn’t win this it’d be the shock of the decade.

Should Win: Parasite.
Hands down. I don’t even need to see the other nominees to know that.

Will Win: Bombshell.
Like Vice last year, Bombshell is about actors being transformed into real life people. Everyone makes a big commotion about the makeup on Charlize Theron, but more impressive is the prosthetics on John Lithgow leaving him practically unrecognizable.

Should Win: Bombshell.

Will Win: Joker.
I, like most Oscar-obsessed people, were prepared for composer Thomas Newman to finally win a freaking Oscar. And then the woman who wrote the haunting score for Joker started winning all the awards. And folks, it looks like Newman is gonna lose for yet another Best Picture frontrunner helmed by Sam Mendes. At least if Joker does win, it’ll be the first time a woman won an Oscar for Best Score since the 90s. Newman still has a shot, but don’t count on it.

Should Win: 1917.
Jesus what does Thomas Newman have to do to win a friggin’ Oscar?

Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman.
What somewhat dull year for original songs. Especually when the best song wasn’t even nominated (that would be ‘Catchy Song’ from “The LEGO Movie 2”). You’d think one of the songs from the animated films would prevail but that seems unlikely. Though watch out for a possible win from Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo and her team from “Harriet” who could pull a Lady Gaga here.

Should Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman.
I mean if I HAD to choose…

Will Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The set design of 1917 was so integral to how that film was actually made but I feel like films that are set predominately “outside” rarely win in this category. I think the transformation of 1969 Hollywood will be too flashy to ignore here. (If the modern-set La La Land could pull it off Once should have no problem). Besides, this category is notoriously tied to the Best Costume Design award, and the last film to win this award without also being nominated for Costumes was 2009’s Avatar. It really could go either way. Unless Parasite pulls an upset…

Should Win: 1917.
The film deserves to win for the burning church scene alone. Though the house in Parasite was practically its own character.

Will Win: 1917.
I was way off last year when I went with A Quiet Place here. Truth be told, Best Picture nominees really do well in these categories since the BP lineup expanded to up to ten nominees. That means it’s truly a race between 1917 and Ford v Ferrari. A part of me thinks Ford v Ferrari is gonna win this and Film Editing because it’s so rare for a film to only win Film Editing and nothing else. But I’m going with the war film for both…
Should Win: Ford v Ferrari.
Flip a coin really. Both films are aurally impressive.

Will Win: 1917.
I’m pretty sure I understand the difference between these sound categories more than your average Academy member. War films and music films and generally loud films tend to win here. Either 1917 or Ford v Ferrari could take this. I think general love for the war film that’s also the BP frontrunner will sweep these tech categories ala The Hurt Locker.

Should Win: 1917.

Will Win: 1917.
My hunch has always been “The Lion King.” I mean look at that movie, it’s 100% visual effects. And The Jungle Book won just a few years ago. But no one seems to be going with it. It’s hard to win against a BP nominee in this category, but the little film Ex-Machina did it when it was up against THREE BP nominees. And that’s why. With only 2 BP nominees in the category this year, 1917’s subtle but effective effects work should prevail over the de-aging in The Irishman who no one really liked much anyways.

Should Win: The Lion King.
I hated this movie but good effects are good effects.

Will Win: “Hair Love”

Will Win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)”

Will Win: “The Neighbors’ Window”

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Tethered, the Manson Family, and May Queens, Oh My! The Best Films of 2019

I think it put it nicely last year: "Another year another list of the best films of the year. It was a pretty great year. Such a great mix of films, funny, scary, sad; the year brought me through various emotions. My criteria for the best movies of the year are based purely on two main factors: artistic merit and pure rewatchability. These are the movies that I would want to watch again and again and ones I feel like have something to say either artistically or about the world around us. They may not all be instant classics and they may not be YOUR choices but that’s what so great about opinions, everyone has them and no one is ever wrong. Let's do this."

1) Us (dir. Jordan Peele). Mr. Peele did it again. Another winning Twilight Zone-like thriller this time about the end of the world. Marketed as an intense home invasion movie, the film is actually of a much larger scale and has a lot to say about society (like "Parasite"). And best of all for the viewer the film asks more questions than it answers which leaves the audience with enough fun stuff to chew on afterwards. An outstanding cast led by an amazing Lupita Nyong’o, a witty script about killer doppelgangers, an utterly fantastic music score from Michael Abels, and fun symbolism & clever Easter eggs (plus leftover rabbits from The Favorite!) set the stage for this scary – and surprisingly funny – good time; a movie I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since its March release. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele’s brain concocts next.

2) Avengers: Endgame (dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo) Easily the most satisfying film of the year, this action-packed, emotionally draining end-cap to a decade-plus worth of entertaining, big budget world building packs a wallop of fun. The film is a direct follow-up to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War where the evil Thanos used the infinity stones to wipe out half of the world’s population, including many of the Avengers themselves. The first act of the film is set several years later as the remaining Avengers deal with the aftermath. Then the film takes a fun detour into Back to the Future II territory by time traveling into the events of the previous Marvel movies as a final stand. The film is utterly fantastic for those who are into this sort of thing – sure it’s just a studio “product” but it’s one made with heart and is a rousing crowd-pleaser. I’ve watched this film over and over again and get completely lost in the 3 hour epic that is filled with fun performances, a wonderful Alan Silvestri score, and a bittersweet ending that pays off in spades.

3) Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach) Isn’t divorce fun?? A modern day “adult drama” in the vein of Kramer Vs. Kramer, “Marriage Story” follows a couple on the brink of divorce and how it affects them and their child. Weaving equal parts humor and humanity, Baumbach directs his leads Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver to career high performances (not to mention a fantastic supporting cast). Best of all he refuses to make either character the villain or hero – you can easily identify with either based on your own personal take (for the record, I sided with both of them, sue me). The film introduces these extremely likable people and puts them through an emotional wringer, introducing smarmy divorce lawyers and wacky family members along the way (praise be to Julie Hagerty). The film works in vignettes and recalls the brilliant work of filmmakers like Woody Allen and James L. Brooks. The movie’s opening and closing moments are magnificent; I just want give this movie a hug and sing “Being Alive.”

4) Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino) Quentin Tarantino’s gorgeous love letter to Hollywood. Leonardo and Brad are simply fantastic here as an aging movie star and stunt double respectively. Tarantino expertly weaves together his fictional characters and real life people, like actress Sharon Tate (a wide-eyed, infectious Margot Robbie) and the Mansion clan and takes a note from his revisionist history expertise. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Tarantino’s previous historical dramas but this Hollywood-set adventure really spoke to me in a way the others haven’t. Easily Tarantino’s best movie since the first Kill Bill, the film oozes with period details and moments of comedy and humanity. The film offers a fantastic setup for a climatic final act that is utterly Tarantino. This is the closest we’ll ever get to Tarantino making a fairy tale and it’s a glorious good time.

5) Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Waititi) What a delightfully wacky and beautiful film this is. Taika Waititi’s glorious satire is set in Nazi Germany and offers a quirky tale of a Nazi idolizing boy named Jojo who is shocked to learn that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. Oh and his imaginary friend is Hitler and he’s played by Taika Waititi. An all-star cast is completely game for this wacky film that is at times side-splittingly hilarious and then also dead serious. Waititi lampooning Nazism isn’t a new thing, but in this day and age it’s a shocking wake-up call to our horrifying past. Roman Griffin Davis is spectacular in the lead role as are his other young co-stars. Scarlett Johansson gives another charming performance here. For some reason this film has endured an unfair backlash and I have no idea why; this is far from the typical WWII drama so anyone who insists this is Oscar bait is wildly off base. This really shows Waititi showing his skills and I can’t wait to follow his career from here on out.

6) Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster) Along with Jordan Peele, Ari Aster is two for two as far as I’m concerned. Midsommar, like Hereditary, is a disturbing horror tale, but the approach is wildly different. Set in sun-soaked summery Sweden, this dark tale is a complete contrast to its bright and sunny locations. The film follows a young woman named Dani (soon-to-be-big-deal Florence Pugh) who travels to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends after recently suffering a family tragedy. The young couple’s already rocky relationship is tested when they visit their friend’s creepy commune to witness an authentic midsommar festival. They should of stayed home… Midsommar is bathed in gorgeous bright lighting and colors. What a beautiful and disturbing film.

7) Booksmart (dir. Oliva Wilde) Essentially a “female Superbad” - but oh so much more - this uproarious and beautiful film finds two straight-laced high school seniors on the brink of graduation making the decision to have a night of debauchery when they realize their goofball classmates got into great colleges AND partied hard all four years. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are perfectly cast and have amazing chemistry as best friends who hesitantly try to cram four years of fun into one night. The film is filled to the brim with fun and wacky characters but the film really has something to say about the perspectives of young people you rarely get to see in mainstream films. This hilarious film deserves all the pomp and circumstance its received since its release.

8) 1917 (dir. Sam Mendes) The best war films aren’t really about war and nothing is more of a prime example of that than Sam Mendes’ WWI thriller 1917. A race against time, the film follows two British soldiers on a seemingly impossible mission. The entire film is a simulated long take – stitched together to appear as if there are no edits – and is a sight to behold. It’s not a new concept; Alfred Hitchcock basically pulled it off in 1948’s Rope. And “Birdman” even pulled off a Best Picture win just a few years ago, but this experiment has never been done on such a huge scale. Mendes and his wondrous team somehow pulled it off and it’s glorious.

9) Parasite (dir. Bong Joon Ho) This is the movie that you can’t stop thinking about once you’ve seen it; as if it’s burrowed into your brain like, well, a parasite. This thrilling dark comedy from South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho is certainly one of the most original and expertly made films in quite some time. As someone who sees watching foreign films sometimes as a bit of a chore (all that reading!) I found this endeavor particularly digestible. A fascinating take on the upstairs/downstairs concept (not unlike let’s say “Us”) this brilliant social commentary about the haves vs the have-nots is so well crafted throughout you just simply can’t believe what you’re watching. A poor family cons their way into the lives of a rich family and then, well, to know any more is to ruin the experience. See this striking film now.

10) Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson) Way more than just an update of Clue, “Knives Out” is a spectacularly fun ode to the mystery drama while also attempting to make a statement about the world we live in. An absolute dynamite cast highlights this fun little flick about a rich family patriach who seemingly dies from natural causes… but someone suspects foul play. Enter Daniel Craig and his syrupy Southern accent as he tries to make sense of the case. Everyone is firing on all cylinders here: Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and especially the lesser-known Ana de Armas in a pivotal role. This movie is fun from beginning to end and offers enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

11) Joker (dir. Todd Phillips) The love it or hate it take on the popular comic book villain is a dark and disturbing portrait of mental illness headlined by a stunning Joaquin Phoenix performance. There have been gritty, violent comic book adaptations before but this movie owes more to the early filmography of Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. The film is a reflection of our own current state of affairs sadly. And yet I was still transfixed and entertained. Phoenix’s portrayal of a maniac slowly losing his mind is jaw-dropping and the film is gripping from beginning to end.

12) Ford v Ferrari (dir. James Mangold) Cars? Snooze. Race cars? Bigger snooze. But something about Ford v Ferrari is sheer excitement for me through and through. I was pleasantly surprised by this extremely entertaining story about men who wanted to build a Ford car that could beat the Italian Ferrari in the Le Mans race in the 1960s. “Based on a true events” are so prevelant currently its hard to find a movie that doesn’t have some alleged true story behind it, but Ford V Ferrari is supremely well-made mid-tier studio movie that features really likable characters, stunning cinematography, and all the feel-good beats this kind of story can offer without ever coming across as too “LOOK HOW GREAT AMERICA IS.”

13) Hustlers (dir. Lorene Scafaria) “Showgirls” meets “Wall Street” in this light and fluffy dramedy featuring an extremely charming Jennifer Lopez as a senior stripper who turns to ripping off her Wall Street clients after the 2008 financial crisis. Yet another piece of entertainment with a strong point of view. We rarely get to see the types of characters portrayed in “Hustlers” and I really found their story fascinating. The film has a lot of humor and heart and while it may seem “sleazy” it is anything but and features a wonderful ensemble of talented female actors. This film needs to be adapted into a musical like now.

14) Ready or Not (dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett) A truly bizarre and ultimately fun horror-comedy that plays like an even more messed up version of the home invasion thriller “You’re Next.” A young bride must play a game with her new, rich in-laws – as is tradition with the family – and a simple game of Hide and Seek turns into a night of murder and mayhem. Samara Weaving is fantastic bride who must defend herself from her psychotic in-laws and the supporting cast is filled with actors who all seem to be having a blast. I did and you will too.

15) Rocketman (dir. Dexter Fletcher) A brillaint and fun take on the usual music bio-pic. The life and times of the eccentric Elton John has been turned into a flashy musical featuring his own songs with characters who breakout into song. Taron Egerton is outstanding as Elton and does all his own singing. Comparisons to last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody are numerous and expected; I loved both films but they they’re actually wildly different in their approach. A beautiful, glossy Hollywood musical extravaganza and I’m all for it.

Who could just limit themselves to just 15 movies?? Here are six more:

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Two great films in one: a truly fun Spidey adventure, arguably more so than Homecoming and an emotionally satisfying follow-up to Avengers: Endgame.

Uncut Gems – Stress-inducing to the max. Adam Sandler is fantastic as an unlikable guy making constant bone-headed decisions. The final act is Hitchcockian.

Crawl – A truly fun monster movie. A kinda cute and corny father-daughter drama. A gripping disaster flick. Did I mention there are killer alligators??

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker – The Skywalker saga is wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way. No real complaints from this non-Star Wars fan. This new trilogy is my favorite. Sue me.

Bombshell – Charlize Theron is one of several amazing performances in this gripping and funny docudrama set in the crazy world of Fox News.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – So much better than I had anticipated, this true life story about how Mr. Rogers changes a disheartened journalist’s life will warm your heart. And possibly make you want to wear cardigans.