Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations
By Bob Garver
[email protected] The Super Bowl may be this coming weekend, but the weekend after is the Super Bowl for movie critics: the 92nd Academy Awards. Here are my thoughts on the ever-popular acting categories, though you’ll notice that I’m consistently underwhelmed by the nominees. Feel free to have passionate opinions where I don’t.
• Actor in a Leading Role: Antonio Banderas for “Pain and Glory” Leonardo DiCaprio for “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” Adam Driver for “Marriage Story” Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker” Jonathan Pryce for “The Two Popes” This could have been an interesting race if voters had decided that DiCaprio doesn’t need yet another nomination and instead gone with Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”), Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite is My Name”), or my personal favorite, Paul Walter Hauser (“Richard Jewell”). Admittedly they did make a nice outside-thebox choice with Banderas, but I don’t see him as a serious contender for his little-seen film. Driver could play spoiler, but I think voters are looking for more of a powerhouse as opposed to realism. As much as I’d love to see the too-long-unrecognized Pryce win the award, this race belongs to Phoenix.
Even the people who hated the movie (and there were many) lauded his performance, and it’s funny to think that a character as unconventional as The Joker has led not one, but two actors to Oscar glory.
• Actress in a Leading Role: Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet” Scarlett Johansson for “Marriage Story” Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women” Charlize Theron for “Bombshell” Renee Zellweger for “Judy” Note: I did not see “Harriet,” so I can’t weigh in on Ms. Erivo’s performance.
I’m a little upset that Awkwafina didn’t get nominated for “The Farewell,” but it’s not like she wouldn’t be eaten alive if she had. Zellweger as Judy Garland is a lock.
Like Rami Malek winning for playing Freddie Mercury last year, this race could be called based entirely on the actor’s courage to take on the role of a larger-than-life showbiz personality. But unlike with Malek as Mercury, I’m actually in agreement that the resulting performance is Oscar worthy.
• Actor in a Supporting Role: Tom Hanks for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” Anthony Hopkins for “The Two Popes” Al Pacino for “The Irishman” Joe Pesci for “The Irishman” Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” This is such a boring category, with four actors that have already won an Oscar vying for a second (or third) that they don’t need. Pitt is the outlier, and fortunately he’s also the frontrunner. I didn’t care for his movie (I think it’s Tarantino’s worst), but he’s such a Hollywood darling that he’s bound to win eventually, it might as well be here.
• Actress in a Supporting Role: Kathy Bates for “Richard Jewell” Laura Dern for “Marriage Story” Scarlett Johansson for “Jojo Rabbit” Florence Pugh for “Little Women” Margot Robbie for “Bombshell” Dern is the frontrunner for playing cutthroat divorce lawyer, but I think that has more to do with people wanting to recognize her career than the performance itself. Bates is my favorite, but she’s such an awards show mainstay that it’s hard to get excited about her winning again. Pugh’s performance got swallowed up by Saoirse Ronan, Robbie’s by Charlize Theron.
Johansson is overshadowed by… Johansson for her lead performance in “Marriage Story” that got much more attention than this noticeably brief appearance. Dern didn’t blow me away, but her manipulative performance (in that she’s good at manipulating other characters, not that she’s unfairly trying to garner sympathy) seems to have voters’ attention.
• Adapted Screenplay: “The Irishman” “Jojo Rabbit” “Joker” “Little Women” “The Two Popes” “Little Women” is easily the most recognized source material here (at least in terms of story, not character). I see voters trying to mitigate complaints about the all-male Best Director category by giving Greta Gerwig a win here for making empowering additions to the overly-familiar text.
• Original Screenplay: “Knives Out” “Marriage Story” “1917” “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” “Parasite” Tough choice here, at least among the Best Picture nominees (sorry, “Knives Out”). I’ll go with “Parasite” because voters like to give Screenplay awards to plucky underdogs that can’t cut it in major categories (as with previous winners “BlacKKKlansman” and “Get Out,” along with my own prediction for Adapted Screenplay).
• Directing: Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman” Todd Phillips for “Joker” Sam Mendes for “1917” Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite” To me, this category is intrinsically linked with Best Picture. I never pick a director to win this category if their film isn’t my pick for Best Picture, and vice versa. So in the interest of not spoiling my pick in the main event, I’m not going to give away my pick here, just know that it corresponds to Best Picture.
• Best Picture: “Ford v Ferrari” “The Irishman” “Jojo Rabbit” “Joker” “Little Women” “Marriage Story” “1917” “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” “Parasite” First of all, scratch “Ford v Ferrari,” “Jojo Rabbit,” Little Women,” and “Marriage Story.” No nomination for the director means that there isn’t a lot of confidence for the film (though admittedly “Green Book” did pull off Best Picture without a nomination for Peter Farrelly last year). There’s a case to be made for all of the remaining films. “The Irishman” has prestige on its side with the reputations of Scorsese and the cast reuniting for familiar subject matter. “Joker” has popularity on its side, both in terms of box office ($335 million domestically) and total nominations (11). “1917” has momentum on its side, it’s most likely the film voters have seen most recently and will be the biggest player at the box office in the weeks leading up to the show. “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” has the industry on its side, Hollywood loves a movie about Hollywood (as with previous winners “Argo” and “The Artist” just in the last decade).
“Parasite” has critics on its side, with the highest score on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic among other accolades. So I have to look for reasons why the five front-runners should lose. “The Irishman” is on Netflix, something of a crime against the still-theaterbased industry. “Joker” earned some scathing reviews and comic book movies are a notoriously tough sell to Oscar voters. “1917” didn’t get any nominations for its cast and voters already named a one-shot movie Best Picture five years ago with “Birdman.”
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” came out over six months before the ceremony and I didn’t like it, which ought to count for something. “Parasite” also didn’t get any nominations for its cast, and it’s in Korean, which will turn off voters averse to subtitles. It’s tight race, as it should be, but I’m going to go with “1917.”
World War I is grandscale subject matter and the Oscars deserve a grand-scale winner. Congratulations, “1917” and Sam Mendes, you’re my picks for Best Picture and Director, respectively.
Contact Bob Garver at [email protected]