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2019 Oscars Preview

I’ve been following movies and the Academy Awards for as long as I can remember and for more than a decade I’ve made it a point to see all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the big ceremony. I will release a ranking of my favorite Best Picture nominees and which ones I think will win.

Most years it’s pretty clear which two or three films have a chance to take home that golden statuette.

Last year, I assumed Roma, A Star is Born and Green Book would be the best contenders and Green Book was victorious.

The Shape of Water was no surprise to me the year before that, although Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri had a chance to upset. 

And the battle between La La Land and Moonlight was pretty clear, although little did we know the announcement would be so complicated.

For this year, there’s four or five films that have a chance, which is kind of odd.

Parasite, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman and Jojo Rabbit all lead the pack when you consider wins in previous award shows leading up to Oscar night. Awards like the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Screen Actors Guild, the BAFTAs, Writers Guild and more are all predictors of who will win. But no clear frontrunner has emerged.

So here’s who I’m predicting will take home the gold this Sunday.

BEST FILM: PARASITE

This will be historic because it’ll be the first time a foreign language film takes home Best Picture. Considering there’s no real frontrunner, I think that history will persuade voters and they’ll choose this genre-bending thriller from South Korea. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if 1917 or Once Upon A Time in Hollywood win since they won best drama and best comedy at the Golden Globes.

BEST DIRECTOR: SAM MENDES (1917)

There’s a good chance that Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite) or Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time in Hollywood) win, but I think the voters will split the vote between best picture and best director and honor Mendes, who previously won in his debut film American Beauty. 1917 is a technical marvel and while it might not have the acting or emotion of Marriage Story or the other nominees, it’s definitely a superbly crafted film that’s amazing to look at.

BEST ACTOR: JOAQUIN PHOENIX (JOKER)

Like the rest of the acting categories I’ll mention later on, he’s been sweeping the award show circuit and his win is nearly guaranteed. Not only did he give an excellent performance in Joker, but he’s long overdue for this award after giving amazing performances in Walk the Line, The Master, Her and more. Personally, I also really like Adam Driver’s performance in Marriage Story and he’s an Indiana native but I think he’s going to have to wait for another year.

BEST ACTRESS: RENEE ZELLWEGER (JUDY)

I watched this movie and while I didn’t love the film I was impressed by her performance. She inhabits the role of Judy Garland and she’s been sweeping the awards circuit. Personally, it felt a little Oscar-baitey to me and I would have preferred Saorise Ronan in Little Women, but Zellweger will likely take home her second Oscar on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: BRAD PITT (ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD)

Brad is due. Again, another actor who’s been sweeping the awards and he’s been around for so long and has appeared in so many Best Picture nominees and his only Oscar win so far was as a producer for 12 Years A Slave. He’ll finally win an acting Oscar and it’s fine by me since he gives a career-best performance and shines in a film that I really liked but I didn’t love. Despite any of my issues with the movie he was in, Pitt was electric on screen and I applaud his win. I am disappointed though that Willem Dafoe wasn’t nominated for The Lighthouse, a small black-and-white indie film released by A24 this year. You’re glued to the screen when he acts in this film and Dafoe is past due for an Oscar win (I was disappointed that he lost Best Actor to Gary Oldman two years ago. Dafoe was fantastic in The Florida Project that year).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LAURA DERN (MARRIAGE STORY)

This might be the only win for this fantastic movie made by Noah Baumbach, husband of another Best Picture nominee director Greta Gerwig. Dern brings her character to life and shines in only a few scenes and she’s also sweeping the awards leading up to the Oscars (notice a pattern?). I don’t see her having much of a threat but Scarlett Johannson could upset. I’m happy that newcomer Florence Pugh received a nomination but she won’t win. I was surprised that Jennifer Lopez was snubbed for Hustlers. I wasn’t surprised but disappointed that Zhao Shuzen wasn’t nominated for The Farwell. She was the heart of that movie.

MY PERSONAL RANKINGS (1 BEING MY FAVORITE):

9. JOJO RABBIT

8. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

7. THE IRISHMAN

6. JOKER

5. 1917

4. LITTLE WOMEN

3. MARRIAGE STORY

2. PARASITE

1. FORD V FERRARI

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) 

★★★★ 

Birds of Prey was pretty fuckin’ dope. It kinda plays like a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Tank Girl. It’s a strange cocktail of deviance and decency. The lead actresses all slay and Ewan McGregor appears to be having a blast playing the Big Bad. It’s cool to see a major motion picture directed, written and fronted entirely by women. Birds of Prey is gurl power AF in its conception and execution, but never preachy about it … it’s too busy setting up its next elaborately-executed fight sequence or paying off a punchline. 4.25/5 stars.

The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen

★★★★½ 

Matthew McConaughey is the central figure of The Gentlemen and the most prominent fixture in the picture’s advertising. That said, while great in the film he’s not in it a ton and probably gives the fourth best performance. I was more impressed by Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell – all of whom shine brightly here. The soundtrack is chock full of bangers – I especially enjoyed a sequence set to El Michels Affair’s cover of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” This is a return to Guy Ritchie’s roots and can stand toe-to-toe with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. It’s arguable that the picture is unnecessarily complicated, too clever by half and unrelentingly un-PC. That was true of Ritchie’s calling cards and it’s true here, but who really gives a Phuc when the flick’s this fucking fun. You either dig this stuff or you don’t. I mostly just wanted a tartan tracksuit and a pint of Gritchie afterwards. Long live and God bless the Toddlers!

Just Mercy

Just Mercy

★★★★★ 

Just Mercy is the best film of 2019. The fact that it got no Oscar love is an immense oversight and injustice. Jamie Foxx’s performance was the one hyped before the movie dropped (and he’s admittedly very, very good), but this is undoubtedly Micheal B. Jordan’s movie. I feel privileged as a moviegoer that I’ll hopefully get to see decades upon decades of Jordan’s work. Sidney Poitier passed the baton to Denzel and now the baton is being passed to Jordan. There’s a bunch of performances worthy of nominations here – Jordan’s, Foxx’s, Brie Larson’s and Rob Morgan’s. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton and the film itself deserved Academy love too. More important than Oscar consideration is that Just Mercy could actually effect change. We need more Bryan Stevenson’s in this world – the more people who know his story and the stories of the men he advocated on behalf of the better. 5/5 stars and my highest recommendation … also, bring Kleenex.

Bad Boys for Life

Bad Boys for Life

★★★★ 

I’m not gonna lie – I got a big ol’ nostalgic, movie nerd boner seeing that Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films lightning logo up on an IMAX screen.
Bad Boys for Life is a lot of fun, but it’s probably my least favorite of the franchise. There’s a cool twist that I didn’t see coming. There are also some horrendous special effects and new characters that I liked and loathed in equal measure. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bring it though. The filmmakers also reprise a character who I was overjoyed to see return. This installment simultaneously has the most heart while being the most violent.
The flick leaves the door wide open for another sequel. Given the commercial and critical reception to this one, it’s Bad Boys for Life indeed.

Underwater

Underwater 

★★★½ 

A movie made for those who wanna see Kristen Stewart run around in her underpants while sopping wet and get thrown through the air repeatedly in slow-mo. Underwater alternates between visual dynamism and incoherence. The monsters are pretty cool-lookin’ … what you see of ’em. The cast is generally pretty likeable … yes, even T.J. Miller … too bad he seems like such a shitbag in actuality.

1917

1917 

★★★★ 

Take Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, Gravity and Battlefield 1, throw ’em all in a blender, hit puree and the result is 1917.
Sam Mendes’ movie is undeniably beautiful – it’s one of the best-looking films of the year as shot by esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins. It also sports a splendid score from Thomas Newman. All that said, it’s kinda boring.
Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk mop the floor with this movie. 1917 lacks the tension of Gravity. The picture kinda feels like it’s on rails like Battlefield 1, but your buddy’s hogging the controller and you’re stuck simply watching. 1917 ultimately packs some emotional wallop in the late goings, but most the movie you’re stuck with ciphers you don’t really get to know. The picture also strains the realms of believability – there are some A-Team gunfight dynamics at play here – our primary protagonist is pretty much a crack shot and the Jerries can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Ultimately, 1917 AKA Saving Leftenant Blake is a technical marvel that veers into emotional hollowness. It’s more sizzle than steak, but what sizzle …

Little Women (2019)

Little Women 

★★★★★ 

Quite simply Little Women is exquisite. Greta Gerwig improved upon the already impressive game she displayed with Lady Bird to make one of 2019’s absolutely best films. Its cast is uniformly excellent. The costumes, sets and cinematography are stunning. Alexandre Desplat’s score is gorgeous. Gerwig fucking with Louisa May Alcott’s chronology further plumbs emotional depths. Feminist, humanist, funny and moving – Little Women’s a damned near perfect movie. The student’s exceeded the teacher as the new Gerwig > the new Noah Baumbach.

A Hidden Life

A Hidden Life

★★★★ 

If A Hidden Life were 45 minutes shorter it’d be a masterpiece. The movie kinda reminded me of The Irishman in that after the first hour I thought this was the best film I’d seen all year … then each fell into the trap of repetition. Both movies depict mob mentality and our protagonist is every bit as stubborn as Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa. This is easily the best Terrence Malick movie since The Tree of Life. This thing is undeniably exquisite-looking and sounding. If I had my druthers it’d get Oscar nominations for cinematography and its score.
It’s kind of amusing to see August Diehl play a character that’s the antithesis of his Inglorious Basterds role. Diehl is an interestingly handsome actor – he kinda looks like a combination of a younger Christopher Walken and Americana statesman Jason Isbell. I could watch the dude ride a motorcycle all damned day. I can’t decide if Diehl’s character is virtuous, prideful or both, which makes the film interesting even if it’s overlong.
“Christians” who are still supporting 45 should be required to watch A Hidden Life before hitting the voting booth in 2020 for a glimpse at what truth faith looks like. 4.25/5 stars.

Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell

★★★★½ 

Richard Jewell was fairly fuckin’ outstanding. I didn’t see it as being particularly politicized. It’s first and foremost the story of a simple, decent man being railroaded by the powers that be. Additionally, it chronicles the relationship between that man and his mother as well as the man and his friend/lawyer. Kathy Bates is the one getting all the awards buzz (much deserved – especially for her press conference scene), but I thought Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell were equally excellent.