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

The Top 10 Movies of the 2010s Part II – “The Runners Up” #20 through #11

It was hard to pare down to 10 films. The Top 4 were relatively easy, but positions 5 through 10 were tough. So many films I would like to recognize and in my own way, drawn attention to.

This this list is “The Next 10” the films I loved and strongly recommend but sit just off the top 10 for the decade.

#20 “Get Out”

Release Date: 24 Feb 2017

Director: Jordan Peele

Oscars : 4 nominations, 1 win (Original Screenplay)

#1 Critically acclaimed movie of 2017

One Minute Review

Equally creepy and funny, satirical and poignant, Peele announced himself loudly as a serious and skilled film maker. Highly entertaining and somewhat disturbing genre-bending horror film.

Favourite line: “You know I can’t give you the keys, right babe?”

#19 “Hell or High Water”

Release Date: 26 Aug 2016

Director: David MacKenzie

Oscars : 4 nominations, No wins

#4 Critically acclaimed movie of 2016

One Minute Review

Modern western about bank robbers, but more about family, loyalty, friendship and hard economic times. Not a wasted frame in this film. Stellar performance from Jeff Bridges.

Favourite line: “ I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys, not anymore.”

#18 “Argo”

Release Date: 12 Oct 2012

Director: Ben Affleck

Oscars : 7 nominations 3 wins (Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Editing)

#4 Critically acclaimed movie of 2012

One Minute Review

Based on the true story of 6 American hostages in 1979 hiding in the Canadian Embassy in Iran. Old school film making, entertaining and a very compelling story. One of the few films ever to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination.

Favourite line: “  Which means the movie’s kaput, so the MGM deal ain’t gonna happen, and your script ain’t worth the buffalo shit on a nickel.”

#17 “The Big Short ”

Release Date: 23 Dec 2015

Director: Adam MacKay

Oscars : 5 nominations 1 wins (Best Adapted Screenplay)

#14 Critically acclaimed movie of 2017

One Minute Review

This film maps out the how’s and why’s of the 2008 financial collapse, where millions lost savings and homes and no-one was really held to account. I loved it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it showed that the cause was just not greed and corruption but rank stupidity as well. Steve Carrell’s best movie.

Favourite line: “  So mortgage bonds are dog shit. CDOs are dog shit wrapped in cat shit. “

#16 “Toy Story 3 ”

Release Date: 18 June 1020

Director: Lee Unkrich

Oscars : 5 nominations 2 wins (Animated Feature, Original Song)

#4 Critically acclaimed movie of 2010

One Minute Review

A near perfect ending to the beloved Trilogy about Woody, Buzz and Andy. So good in fact, that most ardent fans did not want the sequel. Touching and hysterical. Like all good Pixar, kids and adults can both enjoy, but for entirely different reasons.

Favourite line: “Sunnyside is a place of ruin and despair, ruled by an evil bear who smells of strawberries.  “

#15 “The Social Network ”

Release Date: 01 Oct 2010

Director: David Fincher

Oscars : 8 nominations 3 wins (Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Score)

#1 Critically acclaimed movie of 2010 and #1 of the decade so far

One Minute Review

Combination of truth and fiction, it’s the story of the development and rise of Facebook, Mark Zucherburg from nerdy outsider to one of the most influential people on the planet. Told in flashbacks from a deposition of the people suing Zucherburg. Exceedingly entertaining film.

Favourite line: “Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”

#14 “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse ”

Release Date: 14 Dec 2018

Directors: Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey, Bob Perischetti

Oscars : 1 nominations 1 win (Animated Feature)

#11 Critically acclaimed movie of 2010

One Minute Review

Genre changing animated film, a comic but on the big screen. Fun and wildly entertaining, don’t let the saturation of Spider-Man movies in the last 15 years shy you away. This is probably the best of the bunch.

Favourite line: “Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?”

#13 “Parasite ”

Release Date: 08 Nov 2019 (Korean with English sub-titles)

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Oscars : Eligible next year, expect it to get 5 or 6 including Best Pic

#1 Critically acclaimed movie of 2019 so far

One Minute Review

The less said the better, other than this; if you can handle subtitles see this movie. It starts off and a dark comedy crime caper type film and takes such a 90 degree turn it can’t be described. 2019s critical darling.

Favourite line: “You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned.”

#12 “Whiplash”

Release Date: 15 oct 2014

Director: Damien  Chazielle

Oscars : 6 nominations, 3 wins (Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound Mixing)

#4 Critically acclaimed movie of 2014

One Minute Review

A music student who wants to achieve greatness and a teacher who wants to push him towards it. This movie was made for $3.3 million which is probably the catering budget for an Avengers movie. Miles Teller actually plays drums and JK Simmons is one of my favourite actors.

Favourite line: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.

#11 “The Irishman”

Release Date: 28 Nov 2019

Director: Martin Scorcese

Oscars : Eligible next year, expect 9 to 12 nominations

#2 Critically acclaimed movie of 2019 so far

One Minute Review

Clocking in at 3.5 hours, you don’t really watch this movie, you have a relationship with it. An elegiac mob story, told from the point of view of an aging Irish Hitman who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. A working knowledge of Hoffa and his disappearance is helpful. I could argue that this is Al Pacino’s best work, certainly since Glengarry Glen Ross.

Favourite line: “Well, glad to meet you, too, even if it’s over the phone. I heard you paint houses.”

2012: The Year in Film and My Top 10

For my money, this was a very good year in film. Five four-star films by my rating system. A couple of excellent comedies. Picking a #1 this year was quite difficult! (Bad year for animation, otherwise, quite good!!)

Total Films Viewed from 2012: 42

Scroll down for the Top 10

Top 10 Critically Acclaimed Films

(Source : criticstop10.com – a site that take a weighted average of about 800 lists, 350 of which are considered “Top Critics”)

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Moonrise Kingdom
  3. The Master
  4. Argo
  5. Lincoln
  6. Django Unchained
  7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  8. Holy Motors
  9. Amour
  10. Silver Linings Playbook

Winners of The Major Oscar Categories

Best Picture                             Argo

Best Actor                               Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln

Best Actress                            Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor             Christoph Walz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress          Anne Hathaway, Les Miserable

Best Director                           Ange Lee, Life of Pi

Original Screenplay                Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay                Chris Terrio, Argo

Best Animated Feature             Brave

Top Grossing Movie:                 The Avengers (Domestic and Worldwide)

(Argo became the first movie since 1990 – Driving Miss Daisy – to win Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director. Affleck has producer credit so still won an Oscar).

Really Good Films from 2012 You May Have Missed:

Amour

Looper (Noted Critic James Beradinelli has this as #1 of 2012)

Moonrise Kingdom

Act of Valor

Movie from 2012 to avoid at all costs:

Battleship

Ghost Rider II (The things we watch on planes)

Dan’s Top 10 Films of 2012

Honourable Mention: The Dark Knight Rises, Actor of Valor, Les Miserable, Searching for Sugarman, Moonrise Kingdom, Life of Pi

10.  Ted

A great film? Not a chance. But very few comedies have ever made me laugh this hard. I am huge fan of Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad) so I am predisposed to the raunchy, crude often low brow humour that this film thrives on. A terrible ending prevented it from being even higher on the list.

9. The Avengers

Superheroes have demons, egos, problems, troubled pasts. This wonderfully fun and surprisingly touching action film hit on all cylinders and did not make the mistake of many similar films to follow and stayed a reasonable length.

8. Flight

Since I fly over 100,000 miles a year, perhaps a movie about a pilot with addiction issues is not something I should watch. But I would watch Denzel read a phone book. Gripping, shocking film with an excellent supporting role from John Goodman and for me, a deeply satisfying ending.

7. Skyfall

I have seen every Bond, all more than once. This is the best, full stop. No questions. Javier Bardem should have been Oscar nominated for his role as Silver, one of the great Bond villains. This is an extraordinary cloak and dagger action film with an exceptional emotional core.

6. Silver Linings Playbook

Back to my favourite theme of dysfunctional families, no offense to my siblings. The moment this movie ended I said out loud, I loved every second of that. One of DeNiro’s great performances. And it gives a very different kind of Hollywood ending, one that is satisfying only because the movie and really let you get to know its characters.

5. Prometheus

A thought-provoking, intelligent sci-fi movie meant to be a pre-cursor to the Alien series. Ridley Scott excels at this stuff. It leaves a lot for the audience to interpret and some may find the ending deeply unsatisfying. I loved every minute of it.

4. Lincoln

The best acting performance of the decade. One of the great of all time. This is not a love letter to Honest Abe. It is a hard edged, unblinking look at the compromises, politically and personally, that had to be made to pass the 13th Amendment.

3. Zero Dark Thirty

ZD30 was first intended to be a movie about the unsuccessful hunt for UBL, but when he was killed in Pakistan by Seal Team 6, this movie took a different turn. Methodical, not preachy. It’s a movie about war but much more than a war film. The most critically acclaimed movie of 2012.

2. Django Unchained

Not Tarantino’s best, but vintage QT. A fun, clever, blood-soaked extravaganza about a bounty hunter (Christoph Walz) travelling with a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) to see a Planation owner (Leo

DiCaprio) to rescue the freed slave’s wife. Leo plays a truly vile character, so much so, he had to take a break from filming. Django is a gorefest, a love story and also a bit of a history lesson that only QT can bring to the screen.

1. Argo

My top 10 list for 2012 has morphed over the years. Originally, I would have had this 3rd, behind Django and Zero Dark Thirty. But in this past 8 years, my admiration for this old school, classic Hollywood film has only grown. An unlikely Best Picture but it has held its own over the years. A story of how a bizarre CIA cover story was used to extract 6 Americans trapped in the Canadian Embassy in Iran. Again, another excellent supporting role from John Goodman. And an Oscar nomination for Alan Arkin.  Roger Ebert’s pick for best movie of the year, the last one before his death in 2013. 

Oscar’s Weirdest Year

I have been following the Oscars for a long time. There has never been a weirder year.

I will post my annual picks on the weekend but this year … it requires a little more commentary.

The juggernaut of political correctness took hold of the show early on, when Kevin Hart (who would have been a great host) stepped down when he was criticized for a tweet he sent close to 10 years ago. Even Ellen Degeneres defended him and was vilified for doing so.

(All of this led to my favourite tweet of the year. Ricky Gervais “I should host the Oscars because I don’t give a fuck what I said on Twitter 10 years ago”).

I will also quote here one of my heroes Bill Maher, “When did we become the fun police?? Remember when it was the Republicans that had the rod up their asses?”

If you ask me, the opening act of the Oscars should be Kevin Hart an RuPaul doing “Baby Its Cold Outside”.

The Academy can’t find a host. No-one will touch that job with a 39 ½ foot pole. So, for the first time in since 1987 we have no host. And not by choice.

This process of weirdness started last year when The Shape of Water, an artistic but flawed film, won best picture. Jimmy Kimmel was subdued and boring and the telecast had lower ratings that the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

In response, earlier this awards season came the quickly reversed decision to add a new category “Best Achievement in Popular Film”. They could have called it “Award for a Movie People have Heard Of” or even more accurately “We Better Get Black Panther Nominated for Something”. It was misguided and silly and thankfully, its not happening.

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A wide-ranging truly interesting group of best picture nominees. Black Panther with $700mm at the Box Office to Roma, whose official gross is $0.

Two of the legitimate front-runners, Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, puzzle me. Neither are among the Top 50 critically acclaimed movies of the year. Green Book was a flop financially. I can’t think of another movie that failed with critics and audiences getting this much awards attention.

There’s more to it with Green Book. The Family of Don Shirley (the character portrayed by Mahershala Ali) slammed the film as inaccurate and for leaving them out of the writing process.  Ali openly apologized to the Shirley family for his lack of research on the character and in spite of this, he is the front runner for Best Supporting Actor.  It also is a serious contender for Best Picture. (Note, the movie is written by the son of Tony Lip, the other main character in the story).

Bohemian Rhapsody is a contender for picture as well and Rami Malek is the likely winner for Best Actor. The movie was good, but by no means great and so full of historical inaccuracy that I found it hard to watch. If there is one person’s life that did not need embellishing, its Freddie. I found Malek’s performance to be a worthwhile impersonation and the stage scenes were very good, but overall, the movie is average at best. Oscar loves to award Actors who play real people (12 times since 2002) so I guess Malek’s success should come as no surprise. This year four of the five nominees are playing “real life” characters.

There was a point not a few weeks ago when A Star is Born seemed unbeatable. Bradley Cooper now has a staggering seven Oscar nominations and is likely to go home empty handed. Lady Gaga was all the talk for lead actress (thought she was excellent) but now that seems unlikely. That movie will take home one award for Best Original Song.

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My vote for the year’s best picture, Spike Lee’s audacious, entertaining, funny and very disturbing BlackKklansman finally got Lee the Oscar recognition he has long deserved. He will likely win for writing. When you look at his films, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour, Jungle Fever … this is his first Best Director nomination. I can’t wait for his acceptance speech.

That brings us to the two odds on favourites for Best Picture.

Roma is a great film, make no mistake. You will be hard pressed to find a film that has its level of artistic perfection. Cauron wrote, directed, produced, filmed and edited the project. It’s a NetFlix release so it has almost no Box Office numbers. And let’s be honest, the first hour is a tough slog, if not downright boring. Watching it, I ate an excessive amount of Pop Corners waiting for something to happen. The movie picks up and packs a wonderful emotional wallop at the end but I can’t call it a best picture. I enjoyed it, I appreciate its craft but I wouldn’t watch it again.

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It takes a long time to get to this final payoff scene in Roma. The 8 or 10 minutes leading up to this is film making skill of the highest order.

The Favourite is a period piece and the Academy loves this. But it failed to find an audience and would join movies like Spotlight, The Artist, Moonlight and The Hurt Locker in low grossing best pics.

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (My #2 film of the year) should be on the list for Best Picture. It’s a genre-changing, ground breaking animated film that is also popular and extremely entertaining. But … not by Pixar.

You can make a case for any of the 8 Best Picture nominations to come out on top. Roma is the prohibitive front-runner, but The Academy does not like NetFlix and may pass it by. Green Book, Black Panther and The Favourite all stand a good chance of winning. (Black Panther could easily win two or three tech awards and Best Picture).

Stay tuned, full list of prediction is on its way.