March 25, 2020

THE ‘THIS IS US’ FINALE: PEARSON DRAMA AT ITS BEST, RANDALL PEARSON AT HIS WORST

Spoiler alert: Read on only after you’ve seen the season four finale of THIS IS US, or if you don’t care about spoilers


“I’m sick of chasing ghosts,” said Kevin, as he went back into the house to tell Madison that he was ‘all in’ to be a dad to his unborn children that she was pregnant with. And I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved to hear someone say that, or something to that effect, on this show, where everyone seems to live a little too much in their past. Yes, it’s a show set across numerous timelines, and how those timelines inform each other, but sometimes the narrative should just leave the timelines of the past to tell us, the audience, what happened back when…and not be a means for the characters in the present to constantly mull over. It’s unhealthy and unreal, and it just takes away from the moment sometimes. It should be for the audience to reflect on the past, having known these characters for a while, knowing how events of the present might make them feel. Instead the show constantly forces the audience to confront the past every time a little detail in the present has even a slight connection with what’s happened before in their lives.

However, yes, it’s true that many of us carry our past as baggage, as it weighs down on everything in our present. If that starts to be a problem, there’s obviously a need to deal with what’s gone, and move on from it. Clearly, Randall Pearson has had that problem for a while now. He’s been unable to shrug off the feeling that he failed to save his father, as well as the grudge he apparently still holds against his mother for keeping his biological father—William—a secret from him. He confronted both these things with therapy, yet dealt with it all in probably the worst way he could have. On the one hand, he said that he wasn’t going to ‘re-litigate’ the whole issue of William with Rebecca, claiming that he didn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with her. And then he goes and emotionally blackmails her with exactly the same thing, to use as leverage against her to make her participate in the clinical trial that she’d already told him she didn’t want to do. If he had simply asked her to know all about the trial before turning it down, or if it had been a terminal illness that she was refusing treatment for, it would have been understandable. But he completely disregarded her wishes and is making her sacrifice probably the best nine months she has left in her life, which she’s doing out of a misguided feeling of guilt or remorse. And as we saw in the finale, even Beth doesn’t approve of this, proving to us again that Randall doesn’t deserve her. Still, when Randall tells Kevin in the finale that in the future they’d regret not doing what he was doing now, in order to have more than just those nine good months with her, I did for a second think from Randall’s perspective. But then I remembered, Rebecca is clearly in her 70s (she was most probably in her mid-30s when her almost-40-year-old kids were born), so every minute of lucid happiness with her family means the world to her, and Randall is not even willing to see that from her perspective.

And then to make things worse, Randall spews such venom on Kevin, it left me despising Randall more than I ever have (and I’ve never been a fan of Randall at any age, except for maybe sometimes liking kid-Randall). Kevin may not have assumed a sense responsibility towards the family like Randall did over the years, but that doesn’t mean he’s been absent or unavailable for his family. We’ve seen Kevin come through for his brother during Randall’s anxiety attacks more than once. He’s been Kate’s person. He’s helped Rebecca in his own ways. And he’s even been an awesome uncle to Randall’s kids. What has Randall ever done for Kevin aside from looking down on his career choices and personal life! And now he has the nerve to tell Kevin that their dad died being ashamed of Kevin… Firstly, Jack could never have been ashamed of any of his kids. Secondly, this is just Randall at his worst—trying to prove a sense of superiority by hurting his brother and dishonoring the memory of the father he wishes he had saved. And what Kevin said about the worst day of his life being the day Randall became a part of their family was clearly him lashing out at Randall trying to hurt him back. And one could see that it pained Kevin to have brought their quarrel down to that, while Randall had looked on with contempt from his high horse all along.


From a finale point of view though, their showdown was executed extremely well. It was intense without becoming hysterical, and the restraint really amped up its impact, as it highlighted the depth of the animosity. One thing was seriously lacking though—the absence of Kate in all of this. Of course she’d have something to say about all of it, and she was a part of the conversation before she took off with Toby and little Jack to the hospital. Yes that subplot was important, and eventually Kate’s reaction to the brothers’ conflict is surely going to be explored next season. But to not have her there, to mediate, take sides, or just be caught in the middle, was a missed opportunity for Pearson drama, especially considering that her relationship with Rebecca has been so good lately, and that she didn’t even get a chance to weigh in in New York.

Aside from that, it was quite a finale, despite Jack and Rebecca’s unnecessary and unrealistic seeking of emotional support from their OB/GYN. It was severely indulgent but still sweet. What was a total waste of time though was showing us Madison’s OB/GYN trying to train his horse and have a moment with his daughter (do we really care?!). I mean, there has to be a limit on how much they can delve into the individual stories and conditions of characters who are at best peripheral in the main cast’s lives (especially since the show is limited to six seasons, and just 18 episodes per season). It’s what made the season opener so frustrating, but thankfully in the finale it was far more limited than in the premiere. If they had used the time instead to involve Kate in the brothers’ altercation or at least make her a witness to it, I think the finale would have been perfection. Without it, I suppose there’s even more to look forward to in season five than there anyway would have been. There are so many unanswered questions, about Rebecca’s condition, the future, Kevin’s wedding ring in the future, Nicky in the future, Kevin and Randall’s tense-yet-optimistic body language towards each other in the future, and so much more. And let’s not forget, Kevin and Kate still don’t know exactly how Randall made Rebecca agree to the clinical trial. I do hope we see their reactions to how low Randall stooped to get what he’s sadly mistaken to believe is the best for the family.

March 7, 2020

WHY ALEX KAREV’S EXIT STORY WAS THE PERFECT FAREWELL, DESPITE ITS FLAWS

A lot of people hated it, and felt it was ‘out of character’, and—worse—that it was lazy writing that ruined his growth and so on. Here’s why I strongly believe it was none of those things, and why it was a beautifully-written episode that did the best that it could, all things considered

Spoiler alert: Read on only if you've seen this week's GREY'S ANATOMY, or if you don't care about spoilers

“There’s really no good way to say goodbye,” said Meredith Grey, closing the Alex farewell episode of GREY’S ANATOMY, in which we finally found out how the show was closing the Alex Karev chapter. It was only after I finished watching it and started reading the numerous comments online did I realize how differently most people felt about it than I did. I honestly felt that it was the perfect way to write out his character from the show, especially considering that the actor was not available—for more than a voice-over—for them to be able to do more with the storyline. Were there ways to make it seem more believable? Could it be more justified if we’d seen how it played out rather than just hearing about events that supposedly took place off-screen? Could the end of his marriage to Jo have been better handled? Of course I’ll say yes in answer to all these questions. But was it uncharacteristic of Alex for things to have turned out this way? Certainly not.


Now I have always been a huge fan of the Alex-and-Izzie romance. They go back to a time when ‘ship names’ weren’t even a thing. They had the makings of a classic romance from being antagonistic, to flirtatious, to realizing their deep connection, to facing tragedy, then illness, a dream wedding, and then the unfortunate end of their marriage. It was an exciting ride with highs and lows, light moments and intense phases. The dynamic was definitely far more interesting than any other romance we’ve seen on this show, ever—and definitely far more interesting than the tiresome and highly overrated Mer-Der. So when Alex and Izzie did split, it was heartbreaking to say the least. Moreover, there was no closure for a satisfying end, even when she returned that once after ghosting him for so long. So it’s not just because I’m a fan of the couple that I was extremely glad to know that they did end up together. It was because it did feel completely natural for him to reconnect with her, even after all this time. Yes, she was horrible to him, but that also means that there was a lot unresolved between the two and it was completely understandable for them to have found it in their hearts—after years of distance and perspective—to finally address what went wrong, and find their way back to each other. In an ideal world, it would have been great to see that happen first-hand, to see them dissect all the horrible things she did, and why he didn’t find it in himself to forgive her before. It would have been great to actually see them move past those problems and realize that underneath it all, they were still two people who were very much in love with each other. That would have been great—but only possible in an ideal world where both the actors were available and willing to have the show tell us the story in entirety. So considering that this story was to be told without the actors in the picture, this was the best possible way to tell this story.

Yet, I’ll admit, telling this story meant that Alex would have to turn out to be a jerk to Jo, and leave her without so much as saying goodbye in person. It was the one thing that most people had an issue with, and understandably so. Most feel that after his growth over the last 16 seasons, he would never betray Jo the way he did. I disagree with the absoluteness of that assumption—that he would never do this. His feelings for Izzie were always extremely intense, and before we saw the last of him, there was no way to know what he might have done should he have actually had the opportunity, in some other scenario, to resolve his relationship with her and be with her. Besides, there are some things that make a person who they are, and even with their growth (and character development) there are things that can bring back sides of them that were seemingly entirely behind them.

Still, the writers tried hard to convince us that it was all about the kids of his that Izzie had with the frozen embryos. They did this through Alex trying to convince Jo that being an available parent to the kids meant that he absolutely had to get back with Izzie as well. He could continue to be married to Jo and still be a father to them in every possible way. The logistics of long-distance, or convincing Jo to move to Kansas would have been a huge hurdle, but definitely not the sole reason why he had to become romantically involved with Izzie in addition to being a father to their kids. So yes, he did effectively cheat on Jo, by getting involved with his ex-wife while he was still married to Jo, whether or not there were any kids in the picture. But was it absolutely impossible for the Alex of today to have cheated on Jo? With anyone else, it would have been close to impossible, but with Izzie, it wasn’t unlikely at all.


If the writers had written it in such a way that Alex admitted the extent of his betrayal to Jo, rather than try to spin it as it being all about the kids, it would have perhaps rang truer. However one could always assume that he was in denial about (or was simply trying hard to rationalize) the betrayal, convinced that being with Izzie was the only way to be a parent to the twins. This need for assuming Alex’s denial or rationalization was literally the only real flaw in the Alex sendoff, in my opinion. In all other ways, it was near perfect (factoring in the non-availability of actors).



Using ‘Dear Jo(hn)…’ letters was convenient and obvious, but it was the effort taken to do justice to everything the character would want to convey to the people who were most important to him in Seattle that made it moving and as real as the goodbye could get. And let’s face it, knowing Alex, he would have never been as articulate in person about his feelings towards all of them. His letter to Meredith was the best, obviously. Just like Cristina told Meredith, before leaving, that Derek wasn’t the sun, she was, even Alex told her that she didn’t really need a person, she was her own person. “A freakin’ force of nature!” he called her. It was gut-wrenching to know that we wouldn’t see their friendship anymore, but it was so beautiful to hear things about their bond expressed so well. His letter to Miranda was also spot-on, in that he thanked her for pushing him to be better, as a person and as a surgeon. She did raise him to become worthy of being the chief in her absence from the office, and that relationship was paid tribute to perfectly. The Richard side of it was conveyed without Alex’s voice-over, but it was a wise choice, as it offered us a different perspective of the teacher-student relationship than Bailey and Karev’s. Of course, it was brilliant and essential for an acknowledgement of Alex’s peds mentor Arizona’s role in his growth as a person and a professional. In fact, if she’d still been around, she would’ve definitely received a letter as well.


It was also essential to see all those moments of Alex Karev from the internship days, right up until his last appearance on the show. It showed us the evolution of Alex, and the depth of the bonds he’d forged that impacted the show and us viewers, even those who may not have liked him (though I doubt there’s anyone who didn’t like Alex). Moreover, the effort taken to find all the right visuals, montages, dialogues and exchanges, to interweave with the present-day narrative at just the right moments, was indeed admirable. The sheer wealth of the characters’ backstory that this show has was utilized to the fullest—with moments such as Alex opening up to Meredith about the embryos and Izzie’s illness, and Alex telling Jo what he imagined Izzie’s life to be like. It was rich with character moments and nuggets from the past that tremendously informed why and how Alex ended up where he did. And it couldn’t have been easy to put together and make it so heartfelt. It was far from being ‘lazy writing’, which a lot of the viewers felt it was. It was a perfect farewell to the best character that the show has given us, all things considered.


Farewell notes:
  • For the cynics… If Justin Chambers’ exit was in fact the result of some messy conflict that made him leave so abruptly (as many of us have speculated), having him get back with Izzie could also probably have been the show’s way of just shipping off the bad sheep together (since Katherine Heigl’s exit was controversial as well).
  • A lot of people really believe that Jo is now going to be paired with Link, speculating that Amelia’s break-up with Link over her baby-daddy drama has been designed to free him up for Jo. Firstly, Link and Amelia are too good for them not to be endgame. So I sincerely hope that we haven’t seen the last of them as a couple. Secondly, why can’t best friends just stay that way! These friendships that go a long way back are such beautiful relationships to explore. Just look at how amazing Meredith and Alex were (*sniff*)! I found it completely unnecessary for Owen and Teddy to become anything other than platonic. So I would very much appreciate it if Jo can just continue to have Link as her person, rather than him being a romantic interest.
  • I look forward to seeing Jo grow as a character without Alex. Her reaction to his revelations was heartbreaking, but she was so strong about it. In a way, it was because she’d already accepted that he’d left her, in the previous episode, even without closure. Now that she’s heard from him, I look forward to see how she moves on. She’s never been among my absolute favorite characters, but I’ve always liked her. And I’d like to see her as just her. So I hope they don’t pair her up with anyone too quickly, and certainly never with Link. Eventually, eventually, maybe she and DeLuca might be good together. They did have some chemistry before Alex beat him up.
  • Alex’s farewell was a nice way for Miranda and Ben to address their differences about adopting Joey. It was simple, but effective.
  • I think we all need to be concerned about Richard. He’s not been doing well with the collapse of his marriage (I do hope he and Catherine work out their problems and get back together though). Moreover, his interaction with the patient who posed as a resident last week, and how he encouraged her to do the procedure, raises questions about his ability to perform surgery (because it was more than just a ‘teaching moment’). And this week, after his share about Alex during his AA meeting, his hand seemed to tremble a bit. I think he’s going to spiral, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

February 10, 2020

‘PARASITE’ MAKES ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY, AND OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2020 OSCARS

The 2020 Oscars were a cut above recent editions of the event, in terms of presentations, performances, general pace of the show, and the satisfying set of results, including Parasite’s historic win. Here’s why

Photos, courtesy: AMPAS

That the Oscars will be a grand affair—where the biggest names from the year of films gone by show up in their finest to celebrate each other, with positivity, encouragement and hope—is a given. If we don’t at least get that, then something would be very wrong. What makes all the difference are the little things—how the nominees are showcased, how the presenters liven up the giving away of the awards, what the winners say in acceptance, and the details that make the show a spectacle. There are always things to complain about, and this year had a few. For instance, the opening number felt a little forced, a few presentations were a little dull, and the absence of introductions for a few performers, such as Chrissy Metz and Randy Newman, felt a little disrespectful. (This felt especially odd considering that, in some cases, presenters were brought in to introduce other presenters. George Mackay even made fun of this when he presented another presenter from the balcony.)

Still, this year, there were a lot more positives than negatives, so I’m going to be more positive, encouraging and hopeful. This is why I feel inclined to do so…


A TRULY INTERNATIONAL EVENT
In a world that’s become so small, where we get access to content from all over the world, in all languages—all on our smartphones or smart TVs, and almost simultaneously worldwide—film and television really have become an international phenomenon. And it couldn’t have been more serendipitous that the year the Academy decides to rename ‘foreign language film’ to ‘international feature film’ is the year when a film not in English is named best picture for the first time ever. The historic win is really a reflection of how cinema really is a global phenomenon, and while language is crucial, what transcends literal ‘foreign’ languages is the language of humanness, which is something that speaks to all of us. 


This is something that was so beautifully conveyed with the performance of ‘Into the unknown’ from Frozen II, by Idina Menzel and all the other women who sang in their own languages, really speaking to the global impact of Hollywood and cinema in general. The Oscars have to evolve to stay relevant, at times when people really question whom the Oscars are for and why they matter, and this certainly is a step in the right direction.


PRESENTERS WHO REALLY HELD THE SHOW
Speaking of evolution, this is the second year that the Oscars have gone without a host. Yes, it seems like they might have missed a host last year, which is why they brought in Steve Martin and Chris Rock to deliver an opening dialogue, if you will, despite having had a big opening number. Yet, it felt right, because honestly, for the most part, a host’s job is just to open the show and close it. The SAG Awards even brought in ‘non-hosts’ Eugene Levy and Dan Levy to do just that—open the event and sign off. So it was good to have Martin and Rock open the show for us. Of course, their material wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own without that opening number, but they did elicit some solid laughs. What I particularly found funny was when Rock said that he’d enjoyed ‘the first season of The Irishman on Netflix’, making a dig at the almost tedious duration of the movie.

Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig’s presentations for production design and costume design, acting out their presentation to ‘impress the directors in the room’ was absolutely hilarious, especially the singing of fashion-related songs to introduce costume design. And I say this despite not being a fan of any other awards presentation of theirs that I’ve seen. The singing of a halftime recap of the show, by Utkarsh Ambudkar, who apparently even wrote the ‘song’ (between the beginning of the show and that moment, one would assume), was quite impressive.

What was also impressive was seeing Sigourney Weaver, Gal Gadot and Brie Larson—superheroines extraordinaire—presenting the Oscar for original score, with excerpts from the nominated soundtracks performed by the orchestra conducted by a woman. And then for the award to go to a woman composer—Hildur Guðnadóttir, for Joker—was just the icing on the cake.


However, the best presentation of the evening was Olivia Colman’s, who was just as delightfully uninhibited as she’s been at all the awards shows we’ve seen her at—be it for The Favourite or The Crown. “Winning an Oscar ages you,” she said, just as I was wondering why she’d bleach-dyed her hair! And then she spoke of how when she won last year, it was the best night of her husband’s life! She was just hilarious and endearing, and it was everything to have her back on the Oscars stage. I hope we see a lot more from her and of her.


ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES OF THE NIGHT
Olivia Colman presented the Oscar to Joaquin Phoenix, who delivered probably the best speech of the night. He spoke first of how entitled the human race is to assume superiority, as a species, over the rest of the planet. And then he said something that came from a place of maturity and humility, thanking all of those who’d given him a second chance, even though he’d been ‘cruel’ and ‘a scoundrel’, and when he’d become hard to work with. “I think that’s when we’re at our best: when we support each other—not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes—but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other; when we guide each other to redemption,” he said. And then he concluded by quoting a lyric by his late brother, River Phoenix, “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” It was extremely poignant.


Bong Joon Ho quoted someone in the room while accepting one of the four Oscars he went up for. Accepting his Oscar for directing, he said, “When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is, ‘The most personal is the most creative.’ That quote is from our great Martin Scorsese.” Now it’s not uncommon for winners to thank their fellow nominees these days, but this seemed completely sincere, as did his mention of Quentin Tarantino, whom he thanked for helping getting American audiences to notice his work. It was these two speeches that I found really moving.

THE FINER TOUCHES
And ultimately, I come back to the details that made the show a spectacle. I like the return of the behind-the-scenes visuals of sketches and drawings, for production design and costume design, and script excerpts, for writing, presented when the nominations were being announced. This is something that’s been lacking in recent years, and I was happy to again catch these little glimpses of what goes into all this Oscar-nominated work. Additionally, the show-reels for the acting nominees, packaged as consolidated presentations, were outstanding. It just spoke to the depth and the impact of those performances, and it surely must’ve added value even for those who hadn’t seen all the nominated performances. So it really was the little things like this and the set of the stage, and finer touches that made me enjoy the show. It definitely had what makes the Oscars an event worth looking forward to. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good.


ALL THE WINNERS
I got 19 out or 24 predictions correct, which isn’t bad at all. Even though I really wanted to see 1917 win the big ones, I can’t grudge Parasite for winning and making history—it really was a great film.

These are the Oscar winners for 2020:

Best Motion Picture
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood
Parasite

Achievement In Directing
The Irishman | Martin Scorsese
Joker | Todd Phillips
1917 | Sam Mendes
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Bong Joon Ho

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo in Harriet
Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan in Little Women
Charlize Theron in Bombshell
Renée Zellweger in Judy

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood
Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes


Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell
Laura Dern in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh in Little Women
Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes
Al Pacino in The Irishman
Joe Pesci in The Irishman
Brad Pitt in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood

Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman | Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit | Screenplay by Taika Waititi
Joker | Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Little Women | Written for the screen by Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes | Written by Anthony McCarten

Original Screenplay
Knives Out | Written by Rian Johnson
Marriage Story | Written by Noah Baumbach
1917 | Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Written by Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won; Story by Bong Joon Ho

Achievement In Cinematography
The Irishman | Rodrigo Prieto
Joker | Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse | Jarin Blaschke
1917 | Roger Deakins
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Robert Richardson

Achievement In Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
The Irishman | Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit | Tom Eagles
Joker | Jeff Groth
Parasite | Yang Jinmo

Achievement In Costume Design
The Irishman | Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit | Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker | Mark Bridges
Little Women | Jacqueline Durran
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Arianne Phillips

Achievement In Makeup And Hairstyling
Bombshell | Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
Joker | Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy | Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil | Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White
1917 | Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Joker | Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women | Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story | Randy Newman
1917 | Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | John Williams

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Song)
‘I can't let you throw yourself away’ from Toy Story 4 | Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
‘(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again’ from Rocketman | Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin
‘I'm standing with you’ from Breakthrough | Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
‘Into the unknown’ from Frozen II | Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
‘Stand up’ from Harriet | Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

Achievement In Production Design
The Irishman | Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit | Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopková
1917 | Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Parasite | Production Design: Lee Ha Jun; Set Decoration: Cho Won Woo

Achievement In Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Donald Sylvester
Joker | Alan Robert Murray
1917 | Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Matthew Wood and David Acord

Achievement In Sound Mixing
Ad Astra | Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari | Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow
Joker | Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
1917 | Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano

Achievement In Visual Effects
Avengers: Endgame | Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick
The Irishman | Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli
The Lion King | Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman
1917 | Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy


Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi | Poland
Honeyland | North Macedonia
Les Misérables | France
Pain and Glory | Spain
Parasite | South Korea

Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Best Documentary Feature
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Best Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

Best Animated Short Film
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Best Live Action Short Film
Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors' Window
Saria
A Sister

February 5, 2020

THE 2020 OSCARS: WHO SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN, AND OTHER PREDICTIONS

With a more deserving set of best picture nominees than we’ve seen in recent years, this year’s awards season has also been more exciting, even though the four acting wins are extremely predictable this year. Here’s look at who should win and will win in the eight main categories, and other predictions for this Sunday’s 92nd Academy Awards

SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN


Best Motion Picture
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood
Parasite

Should win: After last year’s nominees for best picture—wherein just three films really evoked strong emotions, excitement or awe—this year’s best picture nominees offer a lot more. From the absolutely endearing Jojo Rabbit, to the heartbreaking Marriage Story; from the exciting Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood to the awesome Joker—most of these films are as admirable as best picture nominees ought to be. Parasite was baffling and thrilling with its seamless marrying of genres, giving us an excellent amalgamation of engaging comedy and thriller. And it comes close to deserving best picture. However, I have to say that it’s still not as impactful as 1917, if one had to draw a comparison, which is what awards are about. The World War I film was technically superior, visually spectacular, an edge-of-the-seat experience from beginning to end, all the while striking a strong emotional chord with its portrayal of humanness in times of war. It’s certainly a cut above the rest, and it should be this year’s big winner.

Will win: It’s quite possible that Parasite will make history, becoming the first ‘foreign language film’ to win the Oscar for best picture. However, that seemed more likely a few weeks ago, and as the awards season has unfolded, it’s become apparent that 1917 has more steam to get all the way to the finish line at the grand finale of this compressed awards season. With its Golden Globes for best picture and director, and big wins at the directors’ and producers’ guild awards, as well as a sweep at last week’s BAFTAs, it seems more likely now than ever that 1917 will be named best picture on Sunday. And I can’t think of any other picture more deserving.

Achievement In Directing
The Irishman | Martin Scorsese
Joker | Todd Phillips
1917 | Sam Mendes
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Bong Joon Ho

Should win: Sam Mendes, for sure… I think 1917 was a masterpiece, with scale and pace and a coming together of numerous technical aspects, without which the impact would not have been the same. To effectively steer that ship and achieve those results, the captain deserves it.

Will win: Sam Mendes will win, even though Bong Joon Ho might pose an upset. I’d be very surprised if anyone other than these two take it away—even Tarantino.


Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo in Harriet
Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan in Little Women
Charlize Theron in Bombshell
Renée Zellweger in Judy

Should win: Renée Zellweger, who was excellent as she portrayed the desperate, fading stardom of Judy Garland. She brought out insecurity, irrationality and entitlement with every twitch, every pout, and every outrageous move. Her performance was heartbreaking and delightful—all at once.

Will win: At the Golden Globes, Zellweger made note of the number of years it’s been since she was present last at the awards scene. This nomination comes after her supporting actress Oscar win in 2004, for Cold Mountain. Sixteen years later, she will win her second Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. Quite a comeback indeed!

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood
Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Should win: Although I think Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam Driver were exquisite in their roles, this one belongs to Joaquin Phoenix. He’s kind of made a comeback to the awards scene this year, quite like Ms. Zellweger, and what a comeback it has been. He portrayed the devious, devastating and diabolical Joker with such compelling conviction, that it’s hard to pick any other performance as the best.

Will win: This is Phoenix’s year. And his win will be absolutely deserving.


Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell
Laura Dern in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh in Little Women
Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Should win: Margot Robbie, who delivered with devastating restraint, as she portrayed inner conflict and the gut-wrenching feeling of being violated, in Bombshell. Even Scarlett Johansson was terrifically delightful in Jojo Rabbit, but Robbie’s performance demanded more nuance, and she delivered.

Will win: Laura Dern seems to be this season’s frontrunner here, and I do believe she was good, even though I don’t think she was the best among the above performances. And I know that the Oscars aren’t about quantity. Yet, her win will be for just that one monologue about Mary and god. I’d be surprised if they play any other clip of hers when these nominees are being announced.

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes
Al Pacino in The Irishman
Joe Pesci in The Irishman
Brad Pitt in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood

Should win: I think it should be Al Pacino for The Irishman. I do believe The Irishman was a let-down, but Pacino’s performance was not.

Will win: He was cool, laidback, and effortless, like Brad Pitt. I think Pitt was basically playing himself in Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood. That’s why I believe there is such honesty in his performance. It might not be his career’s best performance, but it sure as hell will be cool to see him win for a role where he did, I’ll admit, kick ass, even literally!

Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman | Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit | Screenplay by Taika Waititi
Joker | Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Little Women | Written for the screen by Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes | Written by Anthony McCarten

Should win: Little Women comes close here. I think the non-linear narrative in retelling this classic, and unfolding details from the past and present when they're emotionally in-sync worked really well, along with the modern-inspired character tweaks. However, Jojo Rabbit was near perfection. I believe Jojo Rabbit delivered in heaps with its heartwarming and heartbreaking story and characters, and its sincerity and hilarity, especially given the complicated setting, and historical relevance. It was an exceptional piece of writing—a complete departure from the anything else we’ve seen in a long time.

Will win: I think Jojo Rabbit will win here, even if it’s the only Oscar it wins. Though I still won't be surprised if Little Women takes it away.

Original Screenplay
Knives Out | Written by Rian Johnson
Marriage Story | Written by Noah Baumbach
1917 | Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Written by Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won; Story by Bong Joon Ho

Should win: Marriage Story’s biggest strength is its writing, and if that had been lacking in any way, even terrific performances from the cast wouldn’t be able to do such wonders for the film. Yet, Parasite was a phenomenal piece of art, as it married genres with finesse, and presented such disturbing, and hilarious facets of the human condition. Hence, I believe it should win.

Will win: Parasite might not win best picture, but it will win an Oscar for its screenplay. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood could come close.

OTHER PREDICTIONS

Achievement In Cinematography
The Irishman | Rodrigo Prieto
Joker | Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse | Jarin Blaschke
1917 | Roger Deakins
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Robert Richardson

If anyone other than Roger Deakins wins this, it’ll be quite surprising.

Achievement In Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
The Irishman | Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit | Tom Eagles
Joker | Jeff Groth
Parasite | Yang Jinmo

Don’t be surprised if Parasite wins this, especially because of the thrilling last 30 minutes of the film. However, I think this is the one category where Ford v Ferrari is a strong contender, and it will turn out to be its solo Oscar win.  


Achievement In Costume Design
The Irishman | Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit | Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker | Mark Bridges
Little Women | Jacqueline Durran
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Arianne Phillips

The Irishman is a strong contender here, but I think the Academy’s love for older period pieces will make Little Women win this one.

Achievement In Makeup And Hairstyling
Bombshell | Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
Joker | Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy | Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil | Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White
1917 | Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole

I believe Joker stands a good chance at this. However, in recent years, the Academy has leaned in the favor of makeup and hairstyling that has had a significant impact on the re-creation of true-life personalities, and this year, we have two films here that do just that. So I believe it’ll be between Bombshell and Judy. And I believe the former will win, given the conversation that it has generated surrounding the portrayal of Megyn Kelly, even beyond Charlize Theron’s fantastic performance.

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Joker | Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women | Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story | Randy Newman
1917 | Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | John Williams

Again, one of the more predictable categories this year, this one is going to Joker. Though I would give it to 1917’s exceptional soundtrack that maintained the thrilling tone of the film throughout, and especially with the minimal dialogue it had.


Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Song)
‘I can't let you throw yourself away’ from Toy Story 4 | Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
‘(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again’ from Rocketman | Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin
‘I'm standing with you’ from Breakthrough | Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
‘Into the unknown’ from Frozen II | Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
‘Stand up’ from Harriet | Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Stand up’ wins this. It could be the surprise winner of the evening. Yet, I do believe that this category belongs to Sir Elton John and his biopic this year.

Achievement In Production Design
The Irishman | Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit | Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopková
1917 | Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Parasite | Production Design: Lee Ha Jun; Set Decoration: Cho Won Woo

This is a tough one. In my opinion, 1917 is the clear winner. However, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood and The Irishman stand a good chance. Between these two, the former is a stronger contender though. Yet, I think the Acacemy will go the 1917 way—not only because of the exemplary achievement in itself, but in a big way because of how important the environ is in the seemingly impossible journey that the soldiers embark upon.

Achievement In Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Donald Sylvester
Joker | Alan Robert Murray
1917 | Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Matthew Wood and David Acord

Ford v Ferrari could win this, but I think 1917 will win for its outstanding audio experience, which was essential to the film’s impact in the long stretches of runtime without any dialogue.

Achievement In Sound Mixing
Ad Astra | Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari | Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow
Joker | Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
1917 | Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano

An absolute triumph in music and effects, 1917 will win this one for certain.

Achievement In Visual Effects
Avengers: Endgame | Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick
The Irishman | Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli
The Lion King | Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman
1917 | Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy

The Academy tends to favor the re-creation of something real using visual effects, rather than the creation of something in the purely imaginative realm of science fiction or fantastical. This one is between The Lion King and 1917. I think the more ‘realistic’ of the two will take this home.


Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi | Poland
Honeyland | North Macedonia
Les Misérables | France
Pain and Glory | Spain
Parasite | South Korea

If Parasite doesn’t win this, it’ll be the biggest shocker ever, considering that it has emerged as a strong contender for best picture even. This is among the most predictable categories this year.

Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4


Best Documentary Feature
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Best Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

Best Animated Short Film
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Best Live Action Short Film
Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors' Window
Saria
A Sister