Parasite is not all that big of Surprise: Oscar 2020 Recap

Parasite is easily the most critically acclaimed film of the year and Director Bong Joon-ho has made some other very interesting and unique films. He is a life long student of film making, American films in particular. Perhaps my favourite moments of last night were is nods to Martin Scorcese, one of his idols, and Quentin Tarantino, who has been talking about Bong’s films for a number of years now.

“Parasite” is a winner of four major awards and joins a select few international film films as four time Oscar Winners. (“Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “Fanny and Alexander” being others). Its will go down in history after 92 years as the first flim entirely in a foreign language to win the top prize. Its a worthy choice in my books. Its not a typical Oscar film by any means.

All four acting categories went as expected. Loved Brad’s speech and Laura Dern’s speech. Renee rambled and Joaquim had a couple of poignant moments but but I would rather hear him talk about developing his character.

If there is one thing I hope people heard, it was his shot against cancel culture, about dismissing people entirely because of one past (often percevied) nistake or joke. “I was a scoundrel” he said, with a great choice of words.

I loved Eminem’s surprise performance of his Oscar winning “Lose Yourself”. Loved it. There is a lot of buzz about “how random” that was today, but those are the same people that will complain about the show being too predictable.

I truly loved James Corden and Rebel Wilson coming on stage in full “Cats” make-up. It reminded me of when I saw the band Styx play their song “Mr. Roboto” live a few months ago. If you are involved with something that bad, own it!

If there was a “tell” early in the evening that “1917” was not going to take top prize, it was “Ford v Ferrari” winning Sound Effects and Editing. The AMPAS did not seem to have same love for “1917” that BAFTA and the Globes did.

The show clocked in about three hours, which , by Oscar standards, is shockingly lean.

The Netflix Resistence

I can’t remember where I read this, but one Oscar columnist called NetFlix the biggest distruption to the movie industry since television and that may be correct. There were a lot of nominations but only a couple of scattered awards. The Academy is yet for fully embrace the (essentially) non-theatrical productions. And many industry heavy-weights, including Stephen Speilberg are pushing to keep non-theatrical releases like “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” away for the The Oscars.

Disappointments

“The Irishman” has the dubious distinction of 10 nominations and no wins. I would give it Editing and perhaps Adapted Screenplay. Only “The Turning Point” and “The Color Purple” have had bigger shut outs. All other 8 best picture nominees won at least one award.

“Jojo Rabbit” winning for Best Screenpay Adaptation over “Little Women”. I was not a fan.Didn’t hate it but didn’t love it and it would not make my Top 10 of last year. I understand the premise, the playfulness and I love off-beat humour but the whole picture for me was clunky. There were other categories where it could have won.

Suprises

I was more surprised about “Parasite” winning Best Original Screenplay that Director or Picture. That was a tough category.

“!917” is an excellent film and was on an impressive winning streak working up to last night. I am happy with the win for “Parasite”, especially after last years dismal choice, “Green Book”.

Other Random Thoughts and Things Before I Get Started with My Week

Cynthia Erivo. Wow. Starred, wrote the song and killed it on stage live. Need to find out more about you. That was the true shock of the night for me.

Why didn’t anyone introduce Chrissy Metz?

Thank you Elton for letting Bernie Taupin have his moment first!

The unsung star of the night: Bong Joon-ho’s translator!

For the record, I went 18 for 24. I missed Picture, Director and both screenplays.

I need to see “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You’re a Girl)”

Dan's Picks for the 2020 Oscars

Another hostless year. A year where there has been no clear front-runner from start to finish. In Oscars, momentum in everything and right now that belongs to “1917“.

The Eight Major Categories

Best Picture

Its been a year of shifting momentum. From “The Irishman” to” Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and now to “1917”. If “1917” wins, it’s a good choice but not the year’s best movie.

Since the Academy went to as many as 10 nominees, they have switched to a rather convoluted ranked ballot system which can give us unexpected results in this category (Spotlight, Moonlight, Green Book). So even though “1917” is the odds-on fave, don’t at all be surprised if the acclaimed and much-loved (and probably better film) “Parasite” takes top prize and makes Oscar history. “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” and “The Irishman” seem to be out of the race. For the other five movies, the nomination is the award.

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

Best Director

Four of the five could win. Todd Phillips seems to be out. In recent years, its been fashionable to split Picture and Director, with Director going to technical achievement films. “1917” is a great film and a towering technical achievement, so this year, as much as I want Tarantino to win his first and as much as Scorcese deserves a second, Sam Mendes will win for “1917”. A very possible upset here would be Bong-Joon-ho for “Parasite”.  Mendes is not a foregone conclusion. And the direction in “Parasite” is nothing short of brilliant.

Dan’s Pick: Sam Mendes, “1917” (If QT wins, I will be elated!)

All four acting categories seem like foregone conclusions at this point and there are at least three nominees in each category that won’t even prepare a speech. HOWEVER!!! There are often upsets and surprises in these categories just when you think there is no race at all.

Best Actor

Its “Joker’”s to lose. Joaquin Phoenix has won everything up to this point and this really bizarre speech at the Globes has taken a back seat to his really great speech at the SAG awards. (“I stand on the shoulders of my favourite actor, Heath Ledger”). He is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood and if there is one thing they love, it’s a major physical transformation. He’s overdue.

Dan’s Pick: Jouquim Phoenix, “Joker

Best Actress

If there is a second thing the Academy loves, it is playing a real person. I have not seen “Judy” but by all accounts, Renee Zellweger nails it. She has been the front-runner since day one and won everything in the otherwise mediocre movie’s only nomination. That said, last year, Glenn Close was the front-runner from day one for “The Wife” and won everything in the otherwise mediocre movie’s only nomination and on Oscar night, Olivia Coleman pulled off the upset for “The Favourite”. If not Renee, then ScarJo in “Marriage Story”.

Dan’s Pick: Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt has swept awards season, basically for playing himself. His character, stuntman Cliff Booth is the anchor of this film (as supporting roles often are for QT) and he plays it well. Its an insanely strong category, all five nominees are previous winners and 30 combined nominations, although Pitt has not won for acting. Possible upset, Joe Pesci for coming out of retirement for a wonderful, understated role as mob boss Russell Buffalino.

Dan’s Pick: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Best Supporting Actress

A weak category this year with more people taking about J-Lo not being nominated rather than who was. Laura Dern’s career is on an upswing, she has prior nominations and is well-liked. I see this as once of three or four mortal locks. Laura is easily the best thing in this movie.

Dan’s pick: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Original Screenplay

Two-way race for two truly original scripts. QT for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”. Two of the best movies of the year. This one’s a coin toss, but I see Quentin Picking up his third screenplay Oscar.

Dan’s pick: Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Adapted Screenplay

There some controversy of Greta Gerwig being left out of Best Director (and Todd Phillips being included). I am amongst “JoJo Rabbit”’s detractors. I get it, I just don’t think it was well executed. This seems to be a two-way, deadlocked race. Coin toss. I am going with Greta. Possible upset for very popular Taika Waititi for Jojo.

Dan’s pick: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”

The Consolation Prizes

Best Animated Feature

Sequels have done shockingly poor since this category was announced and “Toy Story 3” already won. That said, with “The Lion King” remake left out, I can’t see how “Toy Story 4” does not win here. Its such a wonderful movie. “I Lost My Body” is also well loved and “Klaus” won the Golden Globes. “Toy Story 4” is the safe choice but by no means a lock.

Dan’s pick: “Toy Story 4”

Best Film Editing

1917” is a favourite to sweep top awards and technical awards but it not nominated here. That’s really odd, if you find these things odd like I do. “Ford v. Ferrari” has car race scene where, without skilled editing, it becomes a mess. “Parasite” and “The Irishman” have really amazing stories, skillfully edited. Watch the closing act of “Parasite” to see an example of incredible editing as they bring the plot lines to a conclusion. Coin toss here but …

Dan’s Pick: Jinmo Yang, “Parasite

Best Cinematography

Robert Richardson has filmed 9 Best Picture nominees. But I don’t think this is the year for this 4th win. Not a bad choice in the lot, all deserving. However, my favourite living Cinematographer elevated the single shot illusion past in “1917” from being a neat trick to an all-encompassing and visceral experience.

Dan’s Pick: Roger Deakins, “1917”

Best Costume Design

Tough call this year. Period Piece (“Little Women”) or War Movie (“1917” or “Jojo Rabbit”). As much as I love “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Brad Pitt’s Champion spark plug-shirt does not deserve an Oscar.

Dan’s Pick: “Little Women”

Best Art Direction

Three strong potential winners here. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” for re-creating the city and set of 1969 Hollywood. “Parasite” where every set piece was built for the film. “1917” which strikingly re-creates trench warfare. Tough call.

Dan’s Pick: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Best Hair and Make-Up

This category expanded to five nominees this year. The crowning achievement seems to be turning Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly and John Lithgow into Roger Ailes.

Dan’s Pick: “Bombshell”

Best Original Score

The music from “Joker” did not stand out all that much to me. I will have to give it another listen next time I see it. But it seems to be a mortal lock. I am not sure, may be the first woman to win in this category. Certainly, the first Icelandic composer.

Dan’s Pick: Hildur Guanadottir, “Joker”

Best Original Song

Rocketman” deserved a couple of more nominations, especially for Lead Taron Egerton. (I won’t go into how much better he was than Mr. Robot as Freddie). Elton has an Oscar for The Lion King and is well loved.  This would make his long-time writing partner an Oscar winner too.

Dan’s Pick: Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “I am Gonna Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”

Foreign Language Film

Mortal Lock

Dan’s Pick: “Parasite” (South Korea)

The Technical Categories

Visual Effects

De-Aging? CGI Lions? Space Battles? Superheroes? Battle Scenes? Every one of these movies is completely dependent on Visual effects in every last shot and they are all great. But “1917” seems poised for a sweep in these categories.

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

Sound Effects Editing

See above!

Dan’s pick: “1917”

Best Sound

See above and above

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

The Educated Guesses, literally. I have seen none. Going by Oscar pick sites.

Documentary Feature: American Factory

Documentary Short : Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)

Live Action Short: Brotherhood

Animated Short: Hair Love

Oscars 2020: If I Picked The Winners…

Siskel & Ebert used to do a show called “If We Picked The Winners” – who they felt SHOULD win the Oscar, rather than who they think will win.

So this is the first of two entries, on the weekend I will post my prediction.

Today I will only talk about the categories where I can make an informed decision (meaning I have seen at least 4 or the 5 nominated movies).

The following are my choices for who I believe SHOULD to win. My picks for who I think WILL win comes later.

BEST PICTURE

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Seen it three times now, love it. Exceedingly well acted, entertaining fun film. 2019 gave us four serious Best Pic contenders, this one, The Irishman, 1917 and Parasite, but OUATIH is the best in class. Not Tarantino’s best movie but worthy of this Oscar.

BEST DIRECTOR

Sam Mendes – 1917

A exceptional war film, singular story telling and technically just brilliant. Strong category this year with the exception of Todd Phillips.

BEST ACTRESS

Like most people I have not seen “Judy” so I can’t make a call here. I also did not see “Harriet” yet. And my vote for Best Actress, Lupita Nyong’o in “Us” was not nominated.

BEST ACTOR

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Narrowly getting my vote over Jaoquim Phoenix in “Joker“. Leo creates a character, 3 dimensional, both sympathetic and dislikeable. A great role. He doesn’t stand a chance.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Laura Dern – Marriage Story

I go with the concencus here, narrowly over ScarJo in “Jojo Rabbit” – a movie I didn’t really like but she made a lot better. Laura Dern is excellent in “Marriage Story“., easily the best thing about an otherwise overrated picture.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Who chews scenery better than Pacino and he does some career best work here as Jimmy Hoffa. Again, like Leo, has zero chance but he is the standout in this year’s strongest category (5 nominess have 30 Oscar nominations between them).

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

QT may write dialogue better than anyone else in the movies right now and this year’s script is no exception. If he pulls off the win, he will be one of only four screen writers with three screenplay Oscars. This is a super tough category. Any nominee could win and I wouldn’t be upset. The story line of “Parasite” is Oscar worthy as well.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Steve Zallian – The Irishman

This movie is getting criticized for its 3.5 hour running time but the writing is some of the best of the year. Its best moments are its quietest ones, with veteran actors chatting over wine or Corn Flakes.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Roger Deakins – 1917

If I did have a ballot, this would be the category I ponder over the most. Robert Richardson is a 3-time winner, genius and does amazing work for Tarantino. Lawrence Sher paints “The Joker” in a bleak, nihilistic way that is still stunning. But Deakin’s leading edge work to make “1917” appear to be a single unbroken shot deserves to win, and probably will.

SOUND / SOUND EFFECTS EDITING

1917.

Full stop, hands down, this film is an immersive visceral experience.

EDITING

Jinmo Yang- Parasite

Interesting category. The odds-on fave for Best Picture (1917) is not nominated, which is really unusual. “Parasite” is brilliantly assembled. A movie like “Ford v. Ferrari” tends to win. The great Thelma Schoonmaker just turned 80, she has 3 wins and 8 nominations, all for Scorcese. (She has been around long enough that she was not eligible to be nominated for her first movie because women were not allowed in the Editor’s Guild!).

ORIGINAL SONG

I’m Gonna Love Me Again – Rocketman

I mean, how can I not vote for Elton and Bernie.

ORIGINAL SCORE

John Williams – The Rise of Skywalker

I will admit, on my make-believe ballot, I would conciously vote for this lifetime achievement award for this living legend.

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Lion King

Narrowly over Endgame. Lion King is nothing but visual effects and the attention to detail is jaw-dropping.

HAIR AND MAKE-UP

1917

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

COSTUME DESIGN

Jojo Rabbit

NEXT UP – Who I think will win!