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Oscar upon us

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng - The Philippine Star
Oscar upon us
Brad Pitt wins Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture at the 77th Golden Globes for the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Can 56 look better than this?

For us culture vultures who have a passion for cinema, this is the annual awards season when the films and performances we’ve enjoyed the past year get recognition, and some form of reward. The Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards are done and dusted, and while along with the British Academy Film Awards on Feb. 2, they’re signposts of trends and tastes, the perennial big one we really look forward to is the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, which come our way Feb. 9 (Monday morning, Feb. 10 in Manila).

The Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 13 and more so than in other years, it was a sobering mixed lesson of rightful recognition and painful snubs. Chalk that up to 2019 being a banner year for quality films, and the omissions in particular categories will have some cinephiles sobbing and crying “Snubbing most foul!” But in a year like 2019 turned out to be, it’s inevitable that some of our manoks would be overlooked.

For Best Picture, we have nine films in the race. I’m just super happy Parasite made it — a sure shot for Best Foreign Language Film. But I think the real race here will be among 1917, The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Given the composition of the Academy voting members, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tarantino film squeaks through. And I’d wager that it will be Tarantino and Sam Mendes going neck and neck for Best Director, with Scorsese the dark horse sentimental choice.

The minor disgruntled note I have with the Best Director nominations is how it turned out to be #HollywoodSoMale yet again, when we had such great films as Little Women, The Farewell and Hustlers all directed by women. By robbing Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story and Greta Gerwig for Little Women of noms, we also missed out on the unique opportunity of having a husband and wife vying for Best Director in the same year.

Big surprises in Best Animated Feature as Frozen 2 and The Lion King were snubbed; with I Lost My Body, Missing Link and Klaus joining the expected Toy Story 4 and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Loved Laika’s Missing Link, so I’ll be rooting for this film. For Best Cinematography, look to Roger Deakins, and his brilliant work on 1917, to snag his second Oscar.

In the Best Actress race, the Lady Gaga lesson to be learned is that it’s not enough to take on an iconic Judy Garland role like A Star is Born. To put the statuette on your mantelpiece, you have to be Judy Garland. This is what Renee Zellweger did and it looks like that she’ll come out on top come Feb. 9. Laura Dern looks like the shoo-in to take Best Supporting Actress; but it was nice to see Florence Pugh, all of 24 years of age, garner a nomination.

For Best Actor, while my personal favorite for revealing unexpected range is Adam Driver in Marriage Story, it’s likely that Joaquin Phoenix and his astounding, mercurial take on Joker will rule the roost. While all the nominations are worthy, I do feel bad for Taron Egerton and Rocketman. With Rami Malek winning last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, Egerton’s Elton John, where he both acted and actually sang, is the more impressive acting performance.

And for the female audience in particular, their eyes will be on the Best Supporting Actor race, where with Al Pacino and Joe Pesci of The Irishman cancelling each other out, it looks like 56-year-old Brad Pitt will finally get his first Oscar. Still in possession of the looks and physique most men would kill for, this surely will finally be Brad’s year to take home an Oscar, and make women swoon while he’s on the podium.

One last note to close on, is the observation that the studio with the most nominations is Netflix. If that’s not a sign of the changing face of Hollywood, I don’t know what is. For a number of years now, the old studios and festivals have made stubborn noise about the status of Netflix, and their right to be seen as a legitimate cinema production source. Last year’s Roma may have been the first chink in the armor, but it’s evident from this year’s list of nominations that Netflix is the new dominant “player.”

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