Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Thinking Oscars in Odd Year: If This Were A Regular Season, Today Would Be November, Not January, 8th


If this were a regular year for the Oscars, today would be November 8th, not January 8th. You see the Oscars will take place at the end of April, not February. The eligibility period will end at the close of February, instead of December.

All of this makes for a little conclusion. The best films of 2020 won’t align with the Oscar nominations for 2021. But we will persevere.

So far I’m reading a very eclectic bunch of ideas for Oscar nominations on the various prognostication sites. Some of them seem accurate to me, some are wildly off base. Some are pipe dreams. Many postulate about films no one’s seen. Some include films the public hasn’t seen. It’s very confusing since by and large none of the nominees will really be seen in theaters.

This is the year of the theoretical Oscar.

The Big Board for prognostication is the website Gold Derby. Their batting average isn’t very good, but they’re very enthusiastic even in their insistence on being wrong. You have to admire their zeal. One thing they’re getting right is that “Nomadland,” which the public hasn’t seen, is the Best Picture. It leads their list. And mine. Chloe Zhao will be nominated for Best Director, and she should win.

Frances McDormand leads “Nomadland,” and if Viola Davis doesn’t knock her off from “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” McDormand could have a third statue. To my mind, McDormand and Davis are followed by — at this date, these three: Meryl Streep in “Let Them All Talk,” Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman,” and Sophia Loren in “The Life Ahead.”

Gold Derby is heavy on Vanessa Kirby in a movie I don’t like called “Pieces of a Woman,” and Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”– a movie no one has seen. Andra Day, a great singer, might be terrific. But this is all supposition. Another choice of theirs is Meryl Streep in “The Prom,” a terrible movie that should not be Ms. Streep’s Oscar push. Her work in “Let Them All Talk” is superior.

Among Best Actors, no one is better this year than Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.” It’s simply a knockout performance, above and beyond. Hopkins just about levitates. No one should beat him. There is, however, a big push for the late Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey.” Nomination, yes. Win? He would be the sentimental choice. Is that fair to Hopkins?

So far my next three would be Tom Hanks in “News of the World,” Delroy Lindo in “Da 5 Bloods,” and Steven Yeun in “Minari.” I haven’t seen– and most others haven’t — “Judas and the Black Messiah,” so I can’t say if Lakeith Stanfield should be in the mix. Riz Ahmed is very good in “The Sound of Metal,” but I don’t think he’ll make it. He and Steven Yeun may trade each other off, but I think “Minari” is the better movie. PS I loved Dev Patel in “David Copperfield,” but Searchlight treated this movie like a distant cousin who owed them money.

Best Picture: “Nomadland,” “Ma Rainey,” “The Father,” “Minari,” “News of the World,” and “Soul” are my immediate choices. Of the films that have been seen, “Da 5 Bloods” is good enough to be in there. So is “Tenet,” which somehow has gotten slagged off. Nolan’s imagination deserves the nom if nothing else. That’s 8. We have two films we know nothing about — “Billie Holiday” and “Black Messiah.” That could make the 10. There’s a big big push for “Mank,” even though no one really likes it. I’d go for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Supporting Actor:  Sacha Baron Cohen probably has the lead from “Chicago 7.” I’m okay with that. But Mark Rylance is the less flashy, more textured deal here. And Frank Langella soars as Judge Hoffman. So what can you do? David Straithairn in “Nomadland” is like Tom Hanks. He’s just so good you think he’s not doing anything. He is. I think Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is the big surprise in “One Night in Miami.” He’s the standout. But my choice for Best Supporting Actor is Glynn Turman in “Ma Rainey.” He cannot not be in the final 5. Watch him again. It’s a consummate performance.

Supporting Actress: this is one wild category this year. I would take all five of the Gold Derby picks. Olivia Colman, from “The Father.” Amanda Seyfried from “Mank.” Ellen Burstyn from “Pieces of a Woman.” Yuh-Jung Youn lights up “Minari.” Glenn Close is far more sly than you’d think in “Hillbilly Elegy,” a movie that didn’t deserve its bad rap.

But I had three Supporting Actresses on my card that have been ignored: Candice Bergen is essential to “Let Them All Talk,” doing her best work ever. She’s deceptively good. But actors who are thinking of “Let Them All Talk” for SAG ensemble should give this some thought.

Ditto Marisa Tomei in “The King of Staten Island,” whose work here is the glue of the film. And my off beat pick is Valerie Mahaffey in “French Exit,” who needs a second (or first) look here– no big PR campaign behind her. She is so good in this film, it would be a mistake to leave her out.

Bergen, Mahaffey, Seyfried, Close, Burstyn. I could live with that.

But stay tuned…it’s all quite fluid right now…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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