Sunday, April 25, 2021


Longtime readers know what pleasure I get from this annual Oscar thing, notwithstanding my poor track record. (Mind, I was one of the few who called Green Book in 2019.) So indulge me, please. I reviewed seven of the eight Best Picture nominees at Roy Edroso Breaks It Down; the seventh and the links to the previous six are here, and if you can't access them it's because you haven't subscribed so now's a good time to fix that.  

I just saw my last Best Picture nominee, Minari, and I will say that it's beautiful, warm, and everything people who love it say about it. It's also not my sort of thing. I recall sitting through Olmi's The Tree of Wooden Clogs at its premiere New York engagement at Cinema Studio 1 in 1979 -- by myself, because none of my friends would go -- and thinking: okay, no more three-and-a-half-hour movies about shoemakers for me. To be fair, I was very young and itchy then, and in the decades since have learned more patience with slow movies about families scratching out a living. And though not as long or deliberate as the Olmi (comparatively it zips along), Minari is great at getting the viewer to fall into the rhythms of farm life -- not the "ring the dinner bell, Betty Lou" farm life of old Hollywood, but the mobile-home-on-a-cheap-plot farm life that's Korean emigrant Jacob Yi's gamble for a better future for his family. Material success and failure reveal themselves slowly, seasonally; meanwhile Jacob must succeed not only as an "eldest son" striver but also as a family man, keeping everyone happy and whole -- and it's even less clear that he'll succeed at that. The burden of Jacob's dream wears on his wife Monica, and by bringing over her mother to make her feel more at home and watch the kids, Jacob doesn't solve it -- in fact the mother's presence, for all its charm (she's a fun blend of TV addict and back-country philosopher), actually exacerbates the problem, and finally tests Jacob's ability to succeed not only as a farmer but also as paterfamilias. My synopsis makes it sound like a sitcom, but if it were it would be one directed by Terrence Malick. Thanks in part to stunning photography and music by Lachlan Milneou and Emile Mosseri, you can feel time and nature having their effect. Steven Yeun is leading-man great, and Yuh-Jung Youn as the grandmother brings both humor and something like mystery into the story. I think the fact that people aren't equally celebrating Yeri Han's performance as Monica -- with all its shadings of disgust at this "hillbilly" life, love for her family, perseverence and duty and, finally, finding the end of them -- suggests what's maybe out of balance in the movie, and something besides its genre that bugged me. 

Okay, predictions! Here I stand: 

Best Picture: Nomadland. My folly and glory in the past has been not to follow conventional wisdom. (Last year, I bucked the critics who thought 1917 had it in the bag, but also assumed the Academy would never dare laurel Parasite.)  Well, my feet are flat and I'm tired of running.  Everyone says Nomadland and so say I. Part of me thinks that, as with Roma in 2019, it's a little too much like museum-grade performance art to truly enchant the Academy, but maybe the pandemic year makes this spooky neo-Beckettian slice of life in the bluffs and Badlands the picture of the year.  [My choice: The Father.]

Best Director: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland. I mean they pushed her hard enough, with a zillion publicity photos of her and America's Sweetheart Frances McDormand, and Nomadland is not a "written" movie so much as a directed one. She really painted this canvas, and made the silence sing, give her that. Also, aren't the "nomads" a bit like the "witnesses" in Warren Beatty's Reds? That won him an Oscar too. [My choice: Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round.]

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Father. Everyone says Chadwick Boseman, and man was he good -- every bit as young, dumb, and full of cum as he had to be to make that tragedy work. Also, he's dead! But Hopkins reminds me of something Thom Jones said about what one's writing needs to be if it is to succeed: "so good they can't reject it." No one who knows the first thing about acting can deny what Hopkins accomplishes here -- totally in the moment, undeniably believable, but also crafted to the sharpest detail. You can't say no to it. And maybe nearly-dead is good enough. [My choice: Hopkins.]

Best Actress: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holliday. Speaking of so good they can't reject it. I like Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues okay, but Day not only has Ross' star power, she's also a completely  believable Billie Holliday -- diva, junkie, street rat -- from jump. (When she asks Jenkins in jail, "what's your game, man," I thought: No one with a star on her dressing room door could possibly look or sound so real saying that. But she does.) Even better, the more you learn about Holliday (admittedly the movie makes it hard to keep track), the more sense her characterization makes. [My choice: Day.]

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah. Looking back at what I recall and wrote about this performance, I notice the contradictions: a committed radical with an awkward teenage gait, a great public speaker who's shy with the ladies, a Man of the People who's really of the people. That's a 3-D performance, and the character's end makes it especially poignant. [My choice: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal.]

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari. She's super cute, for one thing, but also when she talks semi-mystical shit like why minari is a good thing to plant and she and her grandson make up a song about it, I buy it, and there's no reason on earth why I should except world-class acting.  [My choice: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.]

Best Original Screenplay:  Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman. [My choice: Fennell.]

Best Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, The Father. [My choice: Hampton and Zeller.]

Best Cinematography: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland. [My choice: Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah.]

Best Original Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, Soul.  [My choice: Emile Mosseri, Minari.]

Best Film Editing: Mikkel Nielsen, Sound of Metal. [My choice: Yorgos Lamprinos, The Father.]

Best Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne, Emma. [My choice: Byrne.]

Best Production Design: Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale, Mank. [My choice: Peter Francis and Cathy Featherstone, The Father.]

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew Mungle and Patricia Dehaney, Hillbilly Elegy. [My choice: Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.]

Best Song: "Husavik," Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. [My choice: "Husavik."]

Best Sound: Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michellee Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh, Sound of Metal. [My choice: Sound of Metal.]

The rest, ha ha fuck, I'm just guessing:

Best International Film: Another Round.

Best Visual Effects: Tenet.

Best Animated Feature: Soul.

Best Documentary Feature: Collective.

Best Documentary Short: Hunger Ward.

Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You.

Best Live Action Short: The Letter Room.

Whew! Wanna put money on it? Kidding, I don't have any money. Watch this space and my Twitter Sunday night for my Oscar show regrets! 

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