Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys,
My friend Buzz Willard loves and knows movies. Each year instead of sending out my weekly missive about golf to my Kansas City Country Club friends, I send out his Oscar predictions.
The numbers speak for themselves. Over the last 13 years, Buzz is an extraordinary 69-9, which means he has been correct 88.5% of the time. Given the fact the Oscar voters are becoming more concerned about perception versus greatness, that is a truly impressive percentage. Now you know why Buzz Words always gets two thumbs up from our friends.
Without further ado, I give you Carnac the Magnificent, Buzz Willard.
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This was a pretty good year for movies and performances -- especially the last quarter of 2019. Also, some terrific documentaries to consider for renting/streaming in these winter months. Allan has again requested my thoughts about the Oscars, so once more I’ll give it my best shot. As in the past, I will predict who should and who will win in the key categories. Up front apologies to Bill Quirk, who consistently and appropriately is disappointed, if not totally disgusted, by my grammar, punctuation and sometimes my commentary.
Best Supporting Actress: Nominees are: Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell; Laura Dern in Marriage Story; Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit; Florence Pugh in Little Women, and Margot Robbie in Bombshell. I‘ve seen all of these performances and all were fine, but I didn’t consider any of them terrific. If I had a vote, I’d cast it for Kathy Bates. However, The Academy failed to send me a ballot, which once again clearly demonstrates its anti-fly-over country bias. I really disliked Marriage Story (more on this later), but Laura Dern has already won a Golden Globe and a SAG award for her performance in the movie. The Oscar voters will not vote any differently. Should win: Kathy Bates. Will win: Laura Dern.
Best Supporting Actor: Nominees are: Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Anthony Hopkins for The Two Popes; Al Pacino for The Irishman; Joe Pesci for The Irishman, and Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Once again, I’ve seen all the performances in this category. I love Tom Hanks (who doesn’t), but this wasn’t his best work and I found the movie a bit disappointing – not bad, just not what I had hoped for. I liked The Two Popes and Hopkins was good, but I always viewed him as Anthony Hopkins, not Pope Benedict XVI. I didn’t buy Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa at all and thought his performance was cartoonish. That leaves Joe Pesci and Brad Pitt. I thought they were both awesome and for me it’s a toss-up, but there are no ties at the Academy so … Should and Will win: Brad Pitt.
Best Actress: The nominees are: Cynthia Erivo in Harriet; Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story; Saoirse Ronan in Little Women; Charlize Theron in Bombshell, and Renee Zellweger in Judy. I’ve see all the performances and they we all terrific. Scarlett Johansson is nominated for both Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress this year. Her performance in Jojo Rabbit was superior to her performance in Marriage Story. In my opinion, she is the weakest candidate in this category. Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of Harriet Tubman was impressive and the movie should have received far more attention from the public and The Academy than it did. Tubman’s story is an important and tragic part of our country’s history. Her remarkably courageous role in the Underground Railroad was and remains inspirational. Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly was dead on and I marveled (for lots of reasons) as I watched her performance. Guys, I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but there are worse things in the world than spending 1 hour and 49 minutes watching Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margo Robbie -- just sayin’. Renee Zellweger WAS Judy Garland – it was an incredible performance in an otherwise totally depressing B movie (I’m being generous.). Saoirse Ronan is the best actress of this generation and is the new Meryl Streep. Her performance as Jo March in Little Women would win most years, but for 2020 it’s going to be Renee Zellweger. Should and Will win: Renee Zellweger.
Best Actor: Nominees are: Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio in One Upon a Time in Hollywood; Adam Driver in Marriage Story; Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, and Jonathan Pryce is The Two Popes. Admittedly I’m flying a little blind on this one since I only watched half of Pain and Glory and found the subtitles so challenging and the content so depressing that I gave up. From what I saw Banderas has no chance. Also, I did not and have no desire to see Joker. For what it’s worth, I thought Robert De Niro should have been nominated for his role in The Irishman, but again, I think there is a bias against movies that can be streamed and The Academy didn’t want to reward any of these movies with too many nominations. With that as the background, here are my thoughts. Leo’s performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was his best performance ever and one of the best performances by any actor in the past few years. Adam Driver is very popular right now and he was very good in Marriage Story, but the movie made me want to yak, so I just can’t see him winning anything. Jonathan Pryce looked just like Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and I totally bought in to his performance, but The Two Popes was a Netflix streamer, so he’s a no go. I can’t legitimately comment on Banderas or Phoenix, but I do know Joaquin is a total nut job, which is why the Hollywood types will vote for him -- plus he’s won all the other awards this season. Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio. Will win: Joaquin Phoenix.
Best Director: Nominees are: Martin Scorsese for The Irishman; Todd Phillips for Joker; Sam Mendes for 1917; Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Bon Joon-ho for Parasite. First, it’s a total travesty that Greta Gerwig was not nominated for Little Women! She took a classic Louisa May Alcott story that has been adapted for television 12 times and made into six feature films and made it fresh and alive. I loved the movie and thought the direction was outstanding. One of our buddies who will remain unnamed called it a “chick flick,” but Dollar Bill is just wrong on this one. I just can’t imagine why she was not nominated, unless it’s gender bias.
Okay, I got that off my chest. Now for my thoughts on the nominees. This is totally a race between Bon Joon-ho and Sam Mendes. Scorsese’s The Irishman was good, but it was just another long mob movie. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was great – one of my favorites of the year. It had a very clever ending and fortunately did not include much of the typical bloody, gory stuff Tarantino is known for, although there was some, but it was not gratuitous. Bon Joon-ho’s Parasite has had a ton of hype, but wow, that was one weird movie (more later) and I would be very disappointed if he won Best Director for this bizarre flick. As I mentioned before, I did not see Joker, so I’ll pass on any comments. That leaves Sam Mendes for 1917. I loved it and I’d be hard pressed to name any movie that has been so creatively thought out and directed as this one. It’s one non-stop scene -- I still can’t figure out how he did it. Should and will win: Sam Mendes, but don’t be surprised if The Academy goes with Bon Joon-ho.
Spoiler Alert: The Best Picture Oscar often goes to the winner of Best Director, I think that is likely to happen again this year.
Best Picture: The nominees are: Ford v. Ferrari; The Irishman; Jojo Rabbit; Joker; Little Women; Marriage Story; 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Parasite. These nominees provide a very diverse array of movies and I thoroughly enjoyed most of them – especially Ford v. Ferrari, Little Women, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I also enjoyed, but to a lesser degree Jojo Rabbit, which was funny, sad, quirky and bizarre and The Irishman, but mostly because I thought Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci were so terrific and fun to watch. Marriage Story was flat out awful. I needed a week of Prozac after watching this totally depressing movie. Why was it necessary to make a movie that shows a couple’s marriage totally, tragically and disgustingly disintegrate????? And that kid of theirs -- what a little brat! Anyway, I left the theater wondering what the heck was I supposed to get out of that? Really bad – don’t see it. Now for Parasite, a social satire about class differences in South Korea. I was very excited to see it and it started out being very interesting and clever, but it lost steam along the way and the ending … I’m not going to give anything away, but … really? That leaves 1917. It’s a must-see. Unique, exciting, gut wrenching, thoughtful, fun cameos, great story and great direction. Don’t miss it! Should win and Will win: 1917 with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a close second.
Note: Despite all the hype and expectation of a Best Actress nomination for J Lo for her performance in Hustlers, let me just say it was average at best and the movie was one, if not the worst movies I saw in 2019. Now her performance in the Super Bowl – well, that’s an entirely different discussion and was certainly worthy of some award.
Best Adaptive Screenplay will go to Greta Gerwig for Little Women (They gotta give Greta something.).
Best International Film: Parasite
Here are a handful of movies you should consider renting (in no particular order):
Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice: Absolutely my favorite movie of the year. A total must see for Boomers.
They Shall Not Grow Old: A documentary using actual WWI film footage – chilling.
Apollo 11: Another documentary showing new footage of that fateful flight.
Rocketman: I wasn’t crazy about this bio on Elton John, but everyone else seemed to like it, so I’m adding it.
Blinded By the Light: Quirky flick about a young man from India who is inspired by Bruce Springsteen.
Peanut Butter Falcon: A fun story about the adventures of a young man with Down Syndrome.
The Current War: Interesting flick about the competition between George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison with a little Nikola Tesla thrown in. I thought it could have been a lot better, but I still think it was entertaining enough to recommend.
Knives Out: An Agatha Chrisitielike who-done-it that’s loads of fun.
Harriett: Discussed above.
Jojo Rabbit: Discussed above.
Richard Jewell: Clint Eastwood took a lot of heat for what may be some inaccuracies in this movie (the Hebenstreit Syndrome), but I enjoyed it.
From the box office,
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Oscar night is always fun, but if you really want to make it interesting, call or e-mail a friend about placing a small wager on the results. Buzz’s picks have made me a few dollars over the years.
How About Those Kansas City Chiefs!