Hopefully, you’ve noticed that this week I’ve gone a bit Oscars crazy on the blog. Every year I watch all of the Best Picture nominations before the ceremony and this year, as I was already well ahead, I decided to get through as many as possible. This meant that I was faced with a load of films that I wanted to review. With my schedule as it is, I’d still have been reviewing my Oscar watches two months from now. So, I decided to just go with it and get them done this week. It’s not been easy but I’m getting there. This weekend is going to be interesting but I’ve come this far. As of today, I’ve only got a couple (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Pain and Glory and Richard Jewell) left to watch. I’m not going through foreign films, short films, or documentaries otherwise I’d probably die. And I know there are two films nominated for technical awards only that I haven’t seen (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and The Lion King) but I’ll have to live with that. Despite that, I’m going to talk about my winners for the main categories. That is the people I’d like to win not who I think will win. We can talk about that before the awards on Sunday when I’ve seen everything I’m going to see.
I’ll be honest, I would be happy for the majority of the nominees to win this award. It was hard to narrow it down to just one. Really, there are two films that I don’t think deserve to win (Joker and Ford v Ferrari) and one film that I loved but isn’t a Best Picture film (Jojo Rabbit). The rest were all pretty flawless examples of film making. So, why Parasite? It was just such a well-made and original film. Bong Joon-Ho told that story beautifully and managed to juggle so many different aspects of the story. It was funny, dark, scary, and it had an important message. It’s a film like no other.
Actor in a Leading Role
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
I’ll be honest, I’ve not necessarily been blown away by the nominees in this category this year. I’ve still not seen Pain and Glory at the time of writing this so Antonio Banderas could really blow me away. But the rest all seem quite, meh. Once Upon a Time isn’t the best DiCaprio performance and, though he looks quite at home as a Cardinal, Jonathan Pryce was just Jonathan Pryce with an accent in Two Popes. He’s a great actor and he was great in that film. But, it just feels like we’ve seen him do that kind of thing before. Joaquin Phoenix was the best thing about Joker by a mile but I think Adam Driver’s performance in Marriage Story was breathtaking. The best acting of last year by far.
Actress in a Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
As you know, I’ve been critical of the Oscars lack of diversity this year, so you may suspect that my choice comes down to some kind of desperation to appear woke. But it isn’t. Cynthia Erivo was sensational in Harriet. She showed such strength and authority in that role yet was still vulnerable and human. It was such an undertaking to get that character right but Erivo brought everything to that role. It was an inspiring performance. Something that I can’t say about the rest of the women in the category. All of them gave good performances but it didn’t make me feel the same way. Scarlett Johannson gave one of the performances of her career but that film was Adam Driver’s. She just got lost. And as for the probable winner? I still think Rene Zellweger’s portrayal of Judy Garland was a pure caricature. Like a late-night sketch that got a bit too serious for its own good.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Joe Pesci/Brad Pitt
What is it with the men this year? They’re just old and fairly uninspiring. No offence to these guys but I wasn’t really set on fire by any of them. Anthony Hopkins is a reliable and undeniably great actor. Is The Two Popes his greatest role? No. It was Anthony Hopkins being Anthony Hopkins. Al Pacino is another amazing talent. Was The Irishman his best performance? No. It was Al Pacino being Al Pacino. I’ve not seen Tom Hanks yet but, as we learnt from The Post, he’s not necessarily making waves much these days. So, it has to go between Joe Pesci, who made a memorable comeback in Martin Scorsese’s epic, and Brad Pitt, who had a stellar year in 2019. Let them share it.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Laura Dern (Honorable mention: Florence Pugh)
So, I can’t say anything about Kathy Bates yet, cause I’ve yet to see her in Richard Jewell. But the rest of these women were fine. Do I think Scarlett Johannson deserved a second nomination for Jojo? No. Do I think that spot should have been used for someone who deserved it more? Yet. Do I wish J-Lo was up there? Hells yes! But we have to work with what the Academy has given us. And what they’ve given us is an incredible performance by Laura Dern and a fantastic performance from Florence Pugh. I admit that Margot Robbie was one of the best things about Bombshell but I just think Dern has the edge. She was vicious and I loved it.
Animated Feature Film
Klaus/ I Lost My Body
Boy, Netflix has really cornered the animation market recently. Klaus was an absolute surprise in their Christmas output last year. It looked great and was such a charming family story. I Lost My Body was an unforgettable and, at times, anxiety-inducing film. Both of them have a level of sophistication that is lacking from the other Hollywood offerings in this category. I enjoyed Toy Story 4 but it was kind of joyless after the flawless Toy Story 3. The How To Train Your Dragons franchise is fun but its never really blown me away. Missing Link was technically brilliant but it can’t match these two for narrative. It’s a clear choice but the Academy won’t like to admit it.
Roger Deakins – 1917 (Honorable mention: Jarin Blaschke – The Lighthouse)
No offence to the other nominees but I don’t even want to pretend that there’s another choice here. Not only was 1917 a piece of technical wizardry but Roger Deakins has only won one Oscar in his career. Just give it to him and stop being such fucking dicks.
I don’t pretend to know much about the later categories and normally wouldn’t give my opinion. I don’t have any real knowledge of what it takes to do the job, so why should I deign to give my opinion. Yet, I had to celebrate the costume design in Greta’s adaptation. Each sister is given the perfect outfit and the themes that follow all of them throughout the film is impeccable. It’s exciting to notice the detail that went into it.
Bong Joon Ho/Sam Mendes
Again, it’s an interesting mix of people here. I’ve made it well known that I think the inclusion of Todd Phillips is a joke and the exclusion of Greta is insane. But, I can’t do anything about it now. At least I can be safe in the knowledge that there’s no fucking way Phillips can win. I mean Scorsese is in the same category. If you can vote for Coca Cola why the hell would you name Tesco Valusocorscoe Cola as the best soft drink? Instead, let’s give it to Bong Joon-Ho for his mastery in Parasite or Sam Mendes for keeping 1917 together. Scorsese and Tarantino just did what they always did and they didn’t do it any better. Let’s celebrate great talent instead of just expected talent.
Makeup and Hairstyling
Bombshell – Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
I talked about this in my review of Bombshell but these guys are absolute wizards. I don’t know how they did it but god they made Charlize Theron, one of the most recognisably beautiful women the world, look like someone completely different. I still don’t quite believe that it was her.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
There are some very decent nominees in this category (and one rip-off of Martin Scorsese in the guise of a comic book movie – adding insult to injury). So, I could happily see most of them walk away with the prize. In my heart though? I’d love to see Greta get it for taking a much loved and oft adapted book and making it feel new. She gave this novel new life and made it speak to a modern audience. It was delightful and I say that as someone who wasn’t a massive fan of the original source material.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Honorable Mention: Parasite)
Again, some interesting options in this category. Marriage Story is Noah Baumbach’s greatest film and the script has some great lines. Knives Out was fun and original but it felt very safe and obvious. Parasite is a fantastic narrative and had a lot of funny moments. But, for me, you can’t beat a Tarantino screenplay. The fact that I love Once Upon a Time so much does trouble me at times but you can’t deny that Tarantino knows how to put a script together. Of course, it’s possible that I’m only picking this because I know it’s not going to win.