Staff Selects: Oscar Hopes

Joker picked up the most nominations and 1917 seems to be the predicted winner (at least according to most of our staff) for this year’s Oscars, but we’ve got other films in mind for what we’d like to see take home the gold this Sunday:

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Best Picture: Marriage Story

Though it was initially seen as a frontrunner with rave reviews from the festival circuit and it remains my favorite of this year’s Oscar nominees (and my second favorite film of 2019), Marriage Story has taken something of a dive in recent discourse surrounding the awards and failed to pick up hardly any momentum towards winning the Best Picture prize. Noah Baumbach has never been a particular favorite of mine but he put many of his usual trappings aside, prominently the overly cynical characters, and made a film that was a heartbreaking but hilarious mediation of the end of a relationship. Every performer is at the best they’ve ever been and every aspect of the film is tightly calculated to deliver something profoundly moving in a way few films are. Unfortunately, as with The Irishman (another one of my favorites of the year and an early favorite to win the prize), momentum stalled, perhaps due to a continued bias against Netflix films that may have been a factor in keeping Roma from winning last year. More likely, the reason for the lack of momentum is the entire lack of taste among awards bodies (that definitely led to Roma losing to Green Book last year). If I could have one wish for Oscar night, it would be that they actually choose the best of their nominees for only the third time in the last thirty years and give Best Picture to Marriage Story. [Henry Baime]

Best Adapted Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Sure, I’d love to see Marriage Story win Best Picture – it would be my favorite winner since The Departed – but I can’t imagine a better outcome for the night than Greta Gerwig taking home the gold for her extraordinary Little Women screenplay. The film is in no shortage of strengths, most notably the abundance of incredible performances which bafflingly relegates a rarely-better Chris Cooper (and forever-acclaimed Meryl Streep) quite far down the list of praise. Also, the remarkably elegant set design, costuming, and cinematography perfectly frame the emotional journey these characters take. Ultimately though, Little Women’s overwhelming success is intrinsic to the inventive, refreshing, and unique take on the well-trodden material. Gerwig brilliantly underscores the film’s emotional core by altering the story’s chronology and piecing together fragmented moments from the past and present, so that her version of Little Women stays true to the source material while simultaneously invigorating it. It’s a stunning achievement that will, unfortunately, likely go unrecognized on Sunday. [Kern Wheeling]

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Best Original Screenplay: Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

I know Parasite is looking to take this award, and that movie is the internet’s baby, but for as tight and clever as that script is, when I think of great writing from last year, all I can think about is Marriage Story. I’m a sucker for some great dialogue, and the script for Marriage Story has the best that Noah Baumbach’s ever written. It’s less text and more blood splattered onto the page; it feels so raw and personal, and it’s the rare screenplay that doesn’t sacrifice its form for its rawness. Everything lines up so neatly and beautifully, but unlike any of the other nominees in the category, you can’t feel it happening to you as the machinations of the plot come into focus. It’s the best sort of writing, where it’s just good enough to preserve the magic trick to even the most disillusioned filmgoer. It’s a spectacular work of authorship, and Parasite is looking to maybe be a Best Picture contender so…please? Please let Marriage Story have this. [Davey Peppers]

Best Actor: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Based on the statistics of this year’s awards season, it’s safe to say that Joaquin Phoenix is the one who will take home the trophy of Best Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. But if I could pick one nominee that should get the trophy come 10 February, it’s a no-brainer that it would be Antonio Banderas. His performance as Salvador Mallo in Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory is truly remarkable. He provides vulnerabilities and a sense of regret in a very subtle way while at the same time bringing humor that allows us to engage with his character more easily. Though Salvador is basically a semi-autobiographical character, never once does Banderas come across as impersonating Almodovar. If anything, it is the way he handles Salvador’s addiction and creative crisis with empathy and nuanced that gives Pain and Glory even more emotional resonance. [Reyzando Nawara]

Best Supporting Actress: Florence Pugh, Little Women

Florence Pugh was cast in the role of Amy March in Little Women shortly after she had finished playing the grief stricken Dani in the indie horror film Midsommar. Going from such an emotionally draining film to something a little lighter managed to work amazingly in Pugh’s favor. Her work was most definitely of note with such diverse performances in the incredibly strong cinematic year that was 2019. She fits in well with the powerhouses her supporting actress nomination stands alongside. 

Pugh brings a charm to the unlikable Amy that somehow turns her devilish behavior into something the audience looks forward to every time she is on screen. She plays her dual role of a mischievous young Amy and an older wiser Amy well. She maintains a spirit of playfulness throughout the entire film, and that perhaps is the most impressive aspect of the performance. Pugh plays two distinct parts of a person in different stages of life but she retains the same base the entire time. That is most definitely something that makes her a strong contender for the award and furthermore, an actress that has proven herself through her amazing performances in nearly every role she has been cast in. [Dani Ferro]

Best Supporting Actor: Al Pacino, The Irishman

Of all the Academy Awards’ categories this year, none is more enticing and stacked than Supporting Actor. Between Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt, and Al Pacino, this illustrious group of gentlemen share a cumulative 21 nominations and 6 wins. Based on the awards circuit, it’s safe to say that this Sunday, Brad Pitt will be winning again. And despite being an enormous fan of his – leading nom in Ad Astra erasure – I would preferably love to see my childhood favourite actor winning,  Al “HOO-AH” Pacino. It’s always crazy to see that of his previous nominations, that include The Godfather Part 1 & 2, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, his first win came from 1993’s Scent of a Woman. Many have claimed Pesci’s subdued and against-type performance in The Irishman to be the superior of the three, but even with my bias aside, you cannot tell me that Pacino doesn’t steal every scene he’s in as Jimmy Hoffa. He makes that film and allows for his screen legend compatriots to bounce off of him with such ease. It’d be nice for a man of his iconic calibre to take home one more win, before he gets too old. [Lee]

Best Production Design: Parasite

The Academy’s production design award typically goes to fantastical fare (such as Avatar or Black Panther) or recreations of historical periods (like Lincoln or The Shape of Water). Films set in the modern real world hardly ever win in this category, but this year the modern nominee should beat out all the period pieces. Parasite’s production design is a miraculous creation, reflecting the class warfare taking place on screen and cranking up the “upstairs/downstairs” mentality up to eleven. Grungy and underlit, crowded sub-basement apartments clash with carefully trimmed green lawns and immaculate high-class rooms with expensive furniture.
Art director Lee Ha-jun crafts the parallel worlds of the lower-rung Kims and the high society Parks with a brilliant eye for color and design. Cool and damp basements and bunkers contrast with the bright and clean Park living spaces to create one of the most memorable sets for any film in recent memory. If there’s any justice in the world, Parasite will be able to count Production Design in its upcoming haul of awards on Sunday night. [Cole Duffy]

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

This has to be one of the most heated races for a category in quite some time. While I would ride the Greta Gerwig train to the moon if she was nominated, thanks to Little Women’s incredible sense of intimacy that could only come from her, I’m gonna stick with the oldie on this one. It’s sad to think that in a year of Scorsese v Tarantino (Bong Joon-ho also deserves loads of recognition) for Best Director, neither of them will probably win. Put me in a room with the two of them and make me choose, though, and I’d have to go with The Irishman as the better directed film.

I wouldn’t even know where to start if you asked me to describe Scorsese, but he did the unthinkable and took a gangster movie, thought of in the public consciousness as the same old schtick before it came out, and made it one of the most emotionally resonant and depressing works of last year. I wouldn’t be upset in the slightest if he won, though I sadly don’t have the confidence to put my money there. [Jen]

Best Picture: The Irishman

I’d be lying if I said that I was still as engrossed in awards season as I once was, but the exclusion of The Irishman this entire season, repetitiveness of winners at previous shows, and infatuation with middling efforts such as 1917 and Joker, have made it clear that it’s all a joke. Parasite gaining notoriety amongst members is welcome, but is most likely just a ruse, and the academy will continue to award mediocrity because it sells.  It started last year with the academy infamously awarding the absolute worst choices possible, but this year seems to be the nail in the coffin. Pair this with the near ostracization of new and exciting voices in countless categories, in favor of the usual suspects, and you have yourself a show going out of style and running out of ideas. Maybe wanting The Irishman to win contradicts this, but it’s the best of the bunch by far, and the craft is undeniable. Will it restore my faith in the Academy? Probably not, but it’d make me feel like I didn’t waste four hours of my life. [Vincent]

Staff Selects

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