WHO WILL WIN? My Official Oscar Predictions

The Oscars have been a little less predictable in recent years, especially for the big prizes. This year is no different. While the four acting awards are pretty much in the bag, some other big ones are still up for grabs, including Best Director, Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay and even Best Picture. There are plenty of reasons to watch Sunday night, not the least of which to see Bong Joon Ho’s translator get her well-deserved moment in the sun.

Here are my predictions as to who will WIN Oscars on Sunday.
My predicted winner is in bold.

BEST PICTURE:
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
PARASITE

BEST DIRECTOR:
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
SAM MENDES, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

BEST ACTOR:
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Read moreWHO WILL WIN? My Official Oscar Predictions

Birds of Prey

Warner Bros

Who knew that there was such a need for a sequel to Suicide Squad. The film that became a punchline and seemed to symbolize the lack of focus and decline of the DC Comics film universe now deserves credit for introducing us to the character who just may breathe new life into that once-floundering DC brand. In Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Harley Quinn, as played by Margot Robbie, is the hero we didn’t know we needed at the exact time we need her and the film dedicated to her is a colorful and fun antidote to all the dreariness that has come before.

Coming off the massive success of Joker last year, Warner Bros and DC are smart to release Birds of Prey now, as we are still simmering in that gritty and dark world of a crime-ravaged and cruel Gotham, where compassion and kindness are non-existent. Propelling us light years ahead but still deep in the mire, Birds of Prey focuses on Harley Quinn the character, quickly separating her from the Joker, her raison d’etre, and moving her into her own space. Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, Birds of Prey is a film wholly about identity and it succeeds in finding the exact right tone not just for the DC universe, but for the real universe in which we live now. There is no better time than now for Harley Quinn.

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The Rhythm Section

Paramount

Revenge has largely been a male domain in Hollywood, but, lately, there have been plenty of movies featuring female characters seeking to right some very bad wrongs, from Widows to In the Fade to Peppermint. And now there is The Rhythm Section, a new revenge thriller starring Blake Lively, directed by Reed Morano. Unfortunately, this film ultimately provides neither catharsis nor satisfaction.

Lively, who first found fame on the television show Gossip Girl, showed the world that she had a serious side when she turned in a scene-stealing dramatic performance in Ben Affleck’s gritty The Town in 2010. She gets serious and dramatic again in The Rhythm Section, playing Stephanie, a woman who is on a harrowing self-destructive path in the wake of tragedy. We first meet her as a bruised and drug-addicted prostitute on the streets of London, suffering mightily from the emotional trauma of having lost her parents and brother in a plane crash. Into her life comes a journalist (Raza Jaffrey), who tells her the plane didn’t crash by accident, it was actually blown up by a terrorist and he knows who it is. This sets Stephanie on an odyssey to become a full-blown assassin, set on tracking down and eliminating every person involved in the bombing, all by herself.

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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.

Read moreMy 2020 Oscar Nominations Reactions

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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