I’m a little late in posting my thoughts on this year’s Oscar race. Here goes.
BEST PiCTURE: In my opinion 2019 was not the greatest year for movies. Summer blockbusters were tepid at best. A couple of little films stood out. When the nominations for picture of the year came out, there weren’t a lot of surprises. “The Irishman” was the early front runner, with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…” not far behind. “The Irishman” is very well done, but way too long. “Once Upon a Time…” is a good Quentin Tarantino film, but I’m not sure it’s his best. The latest leader is “1917”, a World War I epic. It’s different and interesting, even though it meanders a bit. “Parasite” is a South Korean tale about the class system. I think ‘1917″ will win, but this is one of the categories that could surprise us. Frankly, I am not enthusiastic about any of the nominees.
BEST ACTOR: Joaquim Phoenix looks like a sure thing for this category. His performance was intense, showing a dissent into madness. All of the others nominees were quite good. Leonardo DiCaprio added another good performance as an almost has-been actor in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…”. Jonathan Pryce made Pope Francis’s back story compelling in a film that was almost all dialogue. Antonio Banderas was finally nominated for the Spanish film “Pain and Glory” and Adam Driver gave a great performance in “Marriage Story”. It was arguably his best performance to date. He will probably win an Oscar some day.
BEST ACTRESS: This is probably the category with the strongest nominees. From the beginning it has been Renee Zellwegger’s award to lose. Her performance as Judy Garland in her last year is mesmerizing. In any other year Charlize Theron in “Bombshell” would probably be the front runner. Her Meghan Kelley was spot on. Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman was also great, making the historical figure human. Sairose Ronan continues to give realistic, interesting performances as she did in “Little Women”. Finally Scarlett Johannson is nominated for her nuanced performance in “Marriage Story”.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: It looks like Brad Pitt is the front runner in this category. He was really the center of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…” plus the feeling in Hollywood is that he deserves the award. I thought Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers was equally as good, but this isn’t his year. Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were incredible in “The Irishman”. Pacino, especially, was great, giving a real performance for the first time in years, not just shouting at the camera. Finally, Anthony Hopkins made me take a new view of Pope Benedict, a not totally sympathetic character. Still, this is Pitt’s year.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: It is nice to see that there are so many strong roles for women. Laura Dern, as the smarmy divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story”, has been winning a lot of the pre-Oscar awards. She was very good, playing a not-too-likeable character. Kathy Bates, as the mother in “Richard Jewell” gave another good performance and was the heart and soul of the film. Florence Pugh as Amy in “Little Women” added something to that role that predecessors couldn’t. And Margot Robbie did an excellent job as a harassed employee of Fox News in “Bombshell”. Look for her to be nominated in the future. If I were voting, my choice would be Scarlett Johansson in “Jo Jo Rabbit”. I have always liked her as an actress, but she gave a warm, funny and deeply moving performance as the title character’s mother. She stole every scene she was in.
BEST DIRECTOR: This race is between Sam Mendes for “1917”, Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…”, and Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite”. Todd Phillips for “Joker” and Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman” don’t seem to be in the running. Tarantino’s chances depend on how the Academy views his film. He may just get the writing award as he has done in the past. “Parasite” will win Best Foreign Film, but I don’t think the director will take home the prize. That leaves Sam Mendes, who did a good job in “1917”.
There are my thoughts on the Oscar’s top 5 categories.