Oscars 2020, part two
By Marc Glassman
Why are the Oscars being held this Sunday? No one seems to know what prompted the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science to move the big ceremony to early February, which created panic attacks in the industry all fall. Luckily, wiser heads have prevailed and the next two Oscar celebrations will return to late February. That allows audiences and journalists the time to see all the nominees reasonably, not helter-skelter. Heck, I used to enjoy the Oscars when they were held in late March—but then you’d have to be a Zoomer to remember those times.
Kvetching aside, your industrious film critic has seen all the major films, some even twice. That doesn’t mean that my predictions will turn out alright as my friends and colleagues Jean Stillwell and Mike Duncan know all too well. I am taking my nominations seriously this year and haven’t made too many “vote with my heart” selections. These are, I believe, the winners, with some commentary supplied to persuade you to vote my way this year.
Last week, sixteen categories were selected—you can see them online—leaving eight today, including the big ones: best picture, actor, actress, director and, for me, best documentary and animation features plus the live action and animated shorts. The films this year are very good to brilliant; if you have time, see them all!
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” (W)
Marc’s comments: My heart says Parasite but my head scolds me, “get a grip!” The Academy isn’t ready to vote for a Korean film and, anyhow, Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece will win Best Foreign film. The two other leading candidates are 1917 and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.1917 did win at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes but this ceremony is in Hollywood, baby. Most Academy voters remember the Sixties and Sharon Tate. They will have enjoyed Tarantino’s fresh take on the Manson family and even more so, the brilliant depiction of what the film industry was like in 1969. Hard to say this, but Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is an underrated film—until Sunday night.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” (W)
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”
Marc’s comments: It will come down to two of Hollywood’s quirkiest leading men, Adam Driver and Joaquin Phoenix. Neither is conventionally handsome but both are fine actors, who don’t mind going to the dark side when the role requires it. Driver has his moments in Marriage Story but this may not be the time to be playing an empowered male dealing with a divorce. Joker is even more difficult for some older Academy viewers to stomach but Phoenix can rely on people accepting that he’s playing a crazy man wearing a highly theatrical mask. Hollywood loves big scenes and Phoenix supplies them—winningly–in Joker.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Renée Zellweger, “Judy” (W)
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Marc’s comments: This one is nailed down. A mannered actress, Zellweger is perfect as the coming-apart-at-the-seams late Sixties Judy Garland. No one else has a chance.
Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (W)
Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
Marc’s comments: I think this is Tarantino’s year. One can make arguments for all the directors but I see the Academy finally embracing Tarantino for a hugely entertaining evocation of Hollywood at the end of the studio era
“The Edge of Democracy”
Marc’s comments: Honeyland. It’s a strange and truly unique film, worthy of nominations in both the Foreign Film and Doc Feature categories. Set in Macedonia, an area of the world that few have encountered, it’s properly exotic in a way that will be appealing to the Academy voters. Unlike war-torn Syria, strife laden Brazil, or the American rust belt, Honeyland presents us with an ancient land, enmeshed with traditions, and a woman, who is surviving by her abilities in working with bees. There’s enough conflict from neighbours to make the film compulsively watchable while an ecological message—beloved by the Academy—can quietly work its magic.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Missing Link” (W)
“Toy Story 4”
Marc’s comments: Here’s another head/heart one. Will Academy voters watch the three indie features—Klaus, I Lost My Body and Missing Link—or will they go with yet another Dragon or Toy Story film? Sad to say, I think Toy Story 4 wins this category though I’d love to see Missing Link’s team grab the Oscar. Heck, I’ll go for it. Missing Link it is.
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Hair Love” (W)
Marc’s comments: Lovely films—and they’re all made by independent animators. Memorable about an artist with dementia is astonishingly good but a bit complicated for the Academy. I’ll go with Hair Love, a stylish tale of a dad giving his daughter a new hairdo with a payoff that’s bound to be affecting.
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbors’ Window”
Marc’s comments: Very well made films, most of which embrace the structure of short stories, with a twist or revelation at the end. The strongest for me is Brotherhood, a drama about a family struggling with the effects of ISIS on their lives. The film has the feel of a feature: everything is properly in place from location shots to closeups on the main performers. Political, emotional and personal: this is an excellent film.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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