My 2020 Oscar Nominations Reactions

The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced yesterday morning. While they didn’t hold too many surprises, there were some things that jumped out at me.

1. My “no guts, no glory” prediction that Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) would sneak into that fifth Best Actor slot came true! It was a tough prediction, considering Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari) and Taron Egerton (Rocketman) were favored to get in, but my heart and my gut said Pryce would snag his first career nom and I was right. He’s so well deserving, not just for this film, but for an entire career. So that’s what made me the happiest.

2. What made me the least happy was seeing Todd Phillips get the fifth slot for Best Director. It’s no secret that I despised Joker as a film, feeling it was not only massively depressing with no character arc, but it also felt, to me, like a total rip-off of other movies. While Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (more on that later) was truly phenomenal, the movie left me quite cold. To see that it led the field with the most nominations (11) was disturbing enough, but when I saw that Phillips got the coveted final Best Director slot over the likes of Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Celine Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) or Lulu Wang (The Farewell) was hard to swallow.

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My 2020 Oscar Nominations Predictions

It’s already here….the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards are being announced on Tuesday, January 13, bright and early. You can watch them live, as they will be streamed on the official Oscars channel.

The Oscars are going without a host again this year, so we will need to rely on the nominations and awards to create all the buzz and drama. This year is shaping up to be a “Netflix vs. the World” event, much the same as last year, when Netflix’s Roma was in the serious hunt for Best Picture. This year, the streaming giant has gone all in with TWO movies, The Irishman and Marriage Story, so we will see if they can break through. Adding to the drama is the South Korean critical darling, Parasite (my favorite movie of the year) and the most Academy-friendly movie Quentin Tarantino has ever made, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Rounding out the likely nominees are a couple of traditional studio movies, Ford v Ferrari and 1917. There are some dark horses that could pop up and ruin the party for the front-runners, like The Farewell or Pain and Glory, but no matter what happens, it’s been a great year for movies and the choices have been strong all the way around.

So here’s my annual limb climb as I try to predict who’s names will be announced on Tuesday morning. My predictions for who will be nominated in the 11 major categories for the 2020 Academy Awards (predicted nominees listed in alphabetical order):

BEST PICTURE
1. 1917
2. Ford v Ferrari
3. The Irishman
4. Jojo Rabbit
5. Joker
6. Marriage Story
7. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
8. Parasite
9. The Two Popes

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Bombshell

Lionsgate

We are in a time in American history that undoubtedly will inspire countless books, movies and mini-series in our near future. I’m sure every over-50, white actor in America (and England and Australia) is practicing his Donald Trump impersonation as we speak, preparing for all the auditions that are soon to come. The Donald Trump story needs to come to its conclusion before scripts can be written, however, so they will have to wait a little longer for their big moment. But some peripheral stories have already played out and are already starting to find their way to our screens, the first one being Bombshell, the story of Fox News and the downfall of Fox News head Roger Ailes. While not specifically a Donald Trump movie, Fox News and Ailes were significantly involved—perhaps even responsible—for the rise of Trump and certainly his demagoguery in this country. While we still have Trump, Ailes is gone, and this is the story of how one woman exposed the sexist toxic culture at Fox News which led to the downfall of the most powerful man in television news.

Charles Randolph’s original screenplay tells the vibrant and colorful behind-the-scenes story of what Fox News was like under Ailes’s iron fist. Ailes had a long and successful career guiding politicians before he moved to television and NewsCorp chairman Rupert Murdoch let Ailes run the Fox News division as he saw fit. While Ailes saw the gap in news coverage and successfully crafted a network that appealed to an audience that had heretofore felt left out of the mainstream coverage of national politics, he did so at the expense of the women who worked for him. In the raging and long overdue #MeToo era, perhaps nobody short of Harvey Weinstein was as culpable of creating a toxic work environment than Ailes and Randolph’s script, paired with Jay Roach’s direction, attempts to paint the picture of that toxicity with broad strokes.

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1917

Universal Pictures

It’s often said that we take for granted the sacrifices of those who have fought in war. There is no greater human frailty than the one that insists we settle conflicts with violence. Wars are the ultimate betrayal of humanity’s promise. It is because of the debt all who come after owe to all those who fought before that there have been and will always be war movies. There is no better way to translate the breadth and scope of loss and the intimate cruelty of war than by reenacting it. Some of the best films of all time have been war movies, for a reason. There is no greater drama and when done well, a war movie can tap into the deepest emotions and provide an epic tale on a vast canvas.

I have seen a lot of war movies, but I have never seen one quite like 1917.

1917, the latest film from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, is a cinematic triumph. It is a testament to the incredible power of the medium, a textbook example of what can happen when every artist, every department, every designer and every actor work together to tell a story. 1917 has a very simple plot: two British soldiers must get a message from one regiment to another, across enemy lines, during World War I. The stakes are high, the challenge is great. That’s it. Two men must get from point A to point B. What happens from there is an astounding choreography of acting, cinematography, sound, production design, score and direction that is beyond words in its precision and effectiveness.

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A Hidden Life

Fox Searchlight

I’m not a religious person, but there’s been something about Martin Scorsese’s 2016 drama Silence, about a pair of Jesuit priests in the 17th century who risk their lives to spread Christianity that has really stayed with me. The idea that someone could hold their beliefs and their faith so deeply that they could literally risk their life for it was truly a staggering one to me. In that film, all they needed to do to save themselves was to denounce God—to just speak it and they would be free. But their faith and devotion wouldn’t even allow them to speak against their faith, which seemed totally insane to me. I kept thinking, nothing can change what’s in your heart, what does it matter what you speak or what you do? But perhaps that movie has really stuck with me because maybe, just maybe, I’ve realized that true faith and belief is actually the other way around: it is, in fact, what you do that matters.

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Richard Jewell

Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood is a big fan of the unsung American hero. Three of his last four movies have been based on true stories of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. American Sniper, Sully and the 15:17 to Paris have all been about regular guys, placed in ordinary situations that became extraordinary and tell the story of how each of them found a way to be heroic, just by doing what comes naturally to them. Now 89, it seems apparent that Eastwood is drawn to these stories of everyday heroism and enjoys bringing their tales to light.

So it seems natural that it is Eastwood who would bring Richard Jewell’s story to the big screen. Jewell was the security guard for the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics who discovered a suspicious backpack under a bench and alerted authorities, who confirmed the threat and started to clear the area. The backpack, which was in fact a bomb, exploded before everyone could be moved out of harm’s way and two people were killed and hundreds wounded. The loss of life could have been much higher, however, if it hadn’t been spotted. Jewell was hailed as a hero but then became a suspect when a perpetrator wasn’t quickly found. What resulted turned into the worst case of media whiplash this country has seen. In a matter of days, one ordinary man went from hero to villain in the eyes of the world. And behind it all was a man whom nobody really knew.

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Seberg

Amazon Studios

Jane Fonda is getting arrested every Friday for the rest of the year protesting the lack of action on climate change. She’s 81.

Although there are a handful of celebrities today who use their status and fame to bring attention to the causes they care about, Fonda reminds us of the decade when activism was a more urgent calling for famous people. In the sixties, the fight for civil rights and the Vietnam War prompted several prominent people to step outside their comfort zone and speak out about what they perceived to be injustices and harmful policies. Fonda was front and center back then, too, perhaps the most famous celebrity activist, then and now.

While Fonda was by far the most famous face of the sixties protest culture, there were other celebrities who made an impact, including Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando. And there was Jean Seberg, the American actress who became the icon of the French New Wave after starring in the famous Jean-Luc Godard film, Breathless (1960), who became the most tragic face of ‘60s celebrity activism and whose story is told in the new movie Seberg, directed by Benedict Andrews and starring Kristen Stewart.

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The Irishman

Netflix

In my review for the new Terrence Malick film, A Hidden Life, I found myself comparing it to Martin Scorsese’s film Silence. That 2016 film seems to be stuck in the head of many reviewers right now, as some reviewers have compared it to Scorsese’s current film, The Irishman. They feel The Irishman is a companion piece to Silence, as they are both meditations on mortality.

I don’t see that at all.

For me, Silence was a meaningful, meditative essay on individual belief, whereas The Irishman is a bloated gimmick. The films I was reminded of the most while watching The Irishman were Goodfellas and Casino, two of my favorite Scorsese pictures, not because The Irishman is as good as those films, but because it feels like a lazy rip-off of both. I truly hate to say it, but The Irishman left me confused and disappointed. Disappointed in what I’d hoped would be another Scorsese triumph, and confused as to what exactly it was supposed to be.

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