Award season is my favorite time of the year. We start in early September with the Emmys, then work our way through dapper suits and sparkling dresses to the big show, The Oscars! Personally I have always been partial to the Golden Globes, loving the effervescence and comedy of that award show. At the Globes we get to see TV and Movie actors mingle together in their not so natural habitat. That being said there is no denying the gravity of the Oscars, and the culmination of a year in film. This is what actors work their whole lives to achieve receiving accolades that fortify legacy and titles that can propel there careers to the top of the entertainment industry. This is where the best of the best gather to compete. This is the Olympics of film.
Let’s get right down to it. The 2020 Oscar race for “Best Picture” is an exciting one. Some years tend to be uneventful and uninspiring. Some years boast a clear winner long before the winner is announced. This year has so many truly great films in the running, it is hard to predict a clear winner. I do have a few thoughts on who will win, so let us begin.
Ford vs. Ferrari
The Staff Pick
The heartwarming story of two titans of industry. Although the movie boasts the big brand names of “Ford” and “Ferrari”, when it comes down to it, this is a story about the underdog. The performances by Matt Damon and Christian Bale as Carrol Shelby and Ken Miles will truly stay with you long after the credits roll. I was personally blown away that I was so invested in a movie about race cars. But that’s the thing, it isn’t just about rubber on the pavement. This movie is about overcoming immense obstacles and achieving the impossible despite insurmountable odds. I was captivated every step of the way. Christian Bale deserves all the Oscars for his ability to reel you into the complicated and interesting life of Ken Miles. There is a particular scene, where Ken Miles is sitting on the tarmac at night with his young son that has stuck with me. The feeling it gave me is was hard to forget. This movie is about more than race cars, it truly embodies the relationship between a son and a father. Although I don’t think it will take home the win, Ford vs. Ferrari is my pick for best movie of 2019.
The Big Guns
Martin Scorsese teams up with Netflix to bring you the story of an outsider becoming involved with a prominent Pennsylvania crime family. The question is what sets it apart from every other mobster movie? At its core, The Irishman is a story about trust. Frank Sheeran played by Rober De Niro builds his way up through the ranks out surviving his counterparts by earning respect through loyalty and heart. This isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory for Scorsese, who has made a career of roughing up a variety of criminals up in one facet or another throughout his films. Call me old school but can we just take a minute to address that this is one of two Netflix films nominated for Best Picture? With streaming services taking over the TV categories at award shows, it was really only a matter of time before this would happen. Still, bringing in big league names like Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino is a major win for Netflix. While I don’t think this 3 hours and 30 minute juggernaut of a film will take the award for Best Picture, it is obviously deservant of it’s accolades. Everything Martin Scorsese touches tends to turn to gold but with the competitive category this year it doesn’t have quite enough to bring home the coveted statue.
Here we have a comedy set in Nazi Germany about a young boy with an imaginary friend named Adolf Hitler. Jojo soon learns his mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, is hiding a Jewish girl and Jojo must keep the secret for their family. From the wickedly creative mind of Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit gives you everything you didn’t know you were looking for in a Nazi comedy. In my opinion Waititi is one of the most interesting, creative, and hilarious directors that most people have never heard of. His acting prowess also deserves accolades as I’m sure it helps his skill of being behind the lens. As someone who has been a fan since Flight of the Conchords days and who thinks What We Do in the Shadows is one of the best comedies in the last ten years, I am not the least surprised that his film is on this list. In my humble opinion it is about damn time he gets the recognition he deserves! Unfortunately, it is rare that a comedy takes home the Oscar for Best Picture considering the last “comedy” to win was The Artist in 2011. The fact of the matter is the Academy just doesn’t vote in favor of movies like these, so it would be a safe bet to say that Jojo Rabbit will not be winning Best Picture.
The Dark Horse
The world was watching with bated breath to see if Joaquin Phoenix could fill the very big and empty shoes that Heath Ledger left behind. It takes an immensely refined character actor to play the Joker while capturing the subtle yet outlandish madness of this villain. With characters such as these that have been played by so many as well as being reinvented so many times an actor and director have to walk the line of staying true to a beloved name while simultaneously bringing thier own creative context to the role. To step into a role that was so widely loved must have been quite the undertaking for Phoenix but if anyone could do it, it would be him. I had my reservations and probably a few biases before sitting down in the theater. To say I was blown away by Phoenix’s performance is an understatement but we also need to give credit where credit is due. Todd Phillips was able to create a whole new world and a whole new story so eloquently and effortlessly that you almost forget that this is about a comic book. There is definitely a cult following rooting for this film to win Best Picture. Unfortunately I don’t think it will have the votes from the Academy to carry it through.
Let’s hear it for the only Best Picture nominee with a female director and all female cast! This is Greta Gerwig’s second solo directed film and her second nomination for best picture. That is a pretty damn good track record; so if you are not paying attention to her work, it is about time you start! As someone who grew up watching the Gillian Armstrong adaptation of the beloved novel, I was both thrilled and apprehensive for Gerwig’s version. If there is one thing Gerwig is successful at, it is writing and directing female characters. This classic tale was in nothing but in good hands and did not disappoint many. She brings new life into a classic story without interfering with the vision so many of us have grown up with. I believe Gerwig has a long career in front of her, filled with multiple awards, but Little Women will not be the film to take home Best Picture.
The Indie Favorite
Our second Netflix movie on the list and quite frankly is the most emotionally stirring as well. In Marriage Story we are able to see a family’s ability to come together while simultaneously falling apart. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver showcase the story of Nicole and Charlie grappling with the heart wrenching process of divorce. With the way statistics are these days, you either have experienced divorce in your own family or know someone who has. Noah Baumbach throws us into an emotionally raw journey with peaks of undiluted joy and valleys of egregious despair that glues the viewer to the screen even when you want to look away. Even though there is a movie about the downward trappings of war on this list, Marriage Story almost feels heavier. I applaud Baumbach for taking on a topic that most storytellers tend to glaze over. On a side note, Adam Driver might be one of my favorite actors of all time. With his background in theater work which is showcased in the film his ability to transform seamlessly in any role he takes on always surprises me. I would be thrilled to see him win Best Actor. The buzz around Marriage Story might be the biggest of any on this list and there is a chance they could surprise us all and win. Crazier things have happened.
After sweeping the Golden Globes, I have a sneaking suspicion that 1917 might take the Best Picture title at the Oscars, and it would be well deserved. Well executed war films tend to win big at award shows and this is especially true with the demographic of the academy voters. Sam Mendes is no stranger to award ceremonies, having directed many nominated films but this was his first attempt at a World War epic. Personally, world war films are just too hard to watch and while I can appreciate the gravity and quality of the film it isn’t something I rush to the theater to see. I always know I have to prepare myself for intense emotional responses to war sagas and 1917 was no different. This movie separates itself from other war epics by focusing on the inner turmoil of the individual rather than the goals of the many. Following the story of two British Corporals on an urgent mission and made to feel as though it was filmed in one continuous take. 1917 finds a way to draw you in immediately and not let you breathe until the very end. The heaviness and urgency can be felt through every single minute of this film. These men never get a break or relief on their mission and as a viewer neither do you. Mendes created a film that can speak to a multitude of viewers and will resonate with almost anyone that watches it. If I had money to bet, it would be on this film to win Best Picture.
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
The Possible Surprise
Tarantino is back with fellow Oscar darlings Leonard Di Caprio and Brad Pitt. Now if that isn’t a winning trio, then I don’t know what is. Set in the infamous Summer of 1969, we are introduced to fading actor Rick Dalton and his stuntman/best friend Cliff Booth, played by Di Caprio and Pitt respectively. As with most Tarantino films be prepared to be surprised with eloquently delivered gore. Hollywood provides us with the typical Tarantino graphic content but in a way you may least expect. A champion at building tension and delivering with a big payout. Tarantino takes his own twist on a well-known sensationalized Hollywood murder. We have all heard the story of Charlie Manson’s dogs and Sharon Tate but I can almost guarantee you haven’t heard or seen it through Quenten Tarantino’s mind. If I could spend a day in someone’s head, it would be Tarantino even though I am not sure I would be able to recover from what I would see in there. His satirical and somewhat sadistic take on the world is something to be admired and maybe even feared. Whatever method there is to his madness, the man makes GREAT films even if they aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. I am still pretty convinced 1917 will take the cake on Sunday, but if anyone could edge them out it might be Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
Some of you might be wondering how or why a foreign film by a relatively small Korean director made the list but you need to reconsider. If there is any movie on this list I would insist you watch, it is Parasite. We meet three different families with three different stories that all intertwine. The level of storytelling that Bong Joon Ho is able to present to the audience is truly unparalleled. Pay very close attention because every detail and minutia Joon Ho gives us relates and affects the others. Each layer builds onto another leading to an unexpected and shocking climax that you will be forced to remember. The high caliber of cinematography must also be praised, where any single frame in the film creates a beautiful picture. I was turned on to Joon Ho’s work accidently while trying to find a horror film and stumbling upon The Host. Enticed by the trailer I instantly knew I would love this film. Oh, and let’s not forget that it got 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost unheard of. So yeah, go watch it. I guarantee you will not forget it. Out of all the films nominated, I would be the most thrilled to see this one pull through!