General Thoughts

2020 Best Picture Oscar Notes From My Head

The Oscars are dumb. Now that that’s out of the way they are also one of the awards systems I used to make sure I’m not always watching mindless action films or the other typical genres I gravitate towards. With more time I’d add the Independent Spirit awards and a bunch of other award shows but for the time I do have the Oscars have both the coverage and the breadth I’m looking for. These are basically notes about my thoughts to each movie.

So let’s get started.

As of this writing the only film I haven’t watched on this list is Little Women. That highlights the reason I care about the Oscars. Little Women isn’t the kind of film that draws me. It’s the kind of novel that might draw me in but in film without it getting nominated I wouldn’t watch it. So it’s on the list but I can’t comment about much.

Ford vs Ferrari

This was a wonderful film that was number 9 on my list of 2019 films I built around Xmas. I’ve watched Marriage Story and 1917 since so I’d have to rethink that list. Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Jon Bernthal were all great as expected in a film that I think brings alive a sport for people that don’t need to be fans. In the end sports are about drive, competition and heart that need to be layered on top of skill and Ford v Ferrari captures that well.

The Irishman

I loved this film but this is exactly the kind of film I love. There are a couple on here that I think the director is the reason it sits here. Scorsese is a great director, as is Quentin Tarantino. I notice when something that isn’t their best work ends up on these best picture lists. Are they so above everyone that even their so so stuff (I mean so so relative to their other work) can get on these lists? Or is the academy so used to nominating them that there is  an unwritten rule that requires these people to get nominations?

Nonetheless the film was great. It was too long but it also felt this was the movie Scorsese wanted to make, with Netflix being completely okay with the length. I hate to say it but I watched this in chunks, I didn’t give it the cinematic experience it might have deserved watching it straight through. But hey three hours? I may not have liked as much if I did it that way.

JoJo Rabbit

Not only was this my favorite film of the year but it’s probably on my all time best of list. Even though it barely covers it, there’s so much to say about racism and hate and the way it builds innocently. The best way to show this is through a likable kid. So many children similar to this protagonist grow up to be disgusting people filled with hate but this movie shows where it starts and how it could be curtailed. The best way to do this, is with whimsy and irony. Irony is overdone today, but Jojo Rabbit still gets that right too.

Joker

I’m a comic book guy. I’m a movie guy. And I loved Joker. I loved Joaquin Phoenix in this film and the cinematography and direction from Todd Phillips was beautiful. There was a real teaming up between Phoenix’s acting and the visuals directed by Phillips.

This still didn’t end up on my top ten.

The movie was a vehicle for Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips to do their best work in the areas mentioned above but there was no plot and it was another “descent into madness” story. I’ve seen that and it’s far better when that’s a character’s arc inside of a deeper well though out plot.

Now can a film focus on that descent and still be great?  Yes. And The Joker is exactly that. But it isn’t something that would be a best picture in my eyes.

Little Women

The only best picture film I haven’t watched. I will remedy this soon.

Marriage Story

This will go somewhere on my top ten. There are those grandiose performances that we all remember. Then there are the performances in Marriage Story. So subtle, when you watch films like these they often get forgotten or unrecognized. Marriage Story is getting recognition and without that buzz it might have a film I never got around to.

Adam Driver gives an incredible performance in this film. The acting is so good in the kind of role that doesn’t get a lot of accolades. In my book it’s superior to what I saw with Joaquin Phoenix. I’d love to see Phoenix play a character like this, he’s fast becoming the next Daniel Day Lewis where it’s his acting that everyone focuses on.

Could these actors play someone like Adam Driver does here? Hit all the beats, be convincing and not steal away the focus from the plot and the other characters? Not sure they can.

The quality of the film and the performances double when I start thinking about Scarlett Johannson and the work she did on this film. Johannson deserves actress of the year if it were voted like fighter of the year in boxing/mma. This film, the mother in Jojo Rabbit and Black Widow in Avengers shows her range is nearly untouchable.

1917

1917 was a film I watched a little late. It was a beautiful war movie filmed in a creative way that made it feel fresh all the way through. Elements of it felt unreal but the cinematography rivals the Joker’s even though “great cinematography” means something different for both pictures.

This will probably end up on a revised top ten list but wouldn’t be in the running for best picture through my eyes.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This is Quentin Tarantino and that means it’s a great movie. At the same time I can’t help but feel the same about this film as I do about the Irishman above. I don’t think this is in the mix for me as a favorite film of the year, On my end of year list I had it above Irishman and Ford v Ferrari but in my head those films are interchangeable. They are incredible movies that should be seen but don’t give me the best picture willies.

I wouldn’t have mind seeing either these dropped and The Farewell getting a nomination. That’s not saying I think it’s better than any of the above movies, I just think they are all in the same pepper shaker and seeing The Farewell would have not given me the Hollywood insider nepotism I feel when Scorese and Tarantino make it by default.

Parasite

Parasite was probably my second favorite film of the year and I watched it post hype so I felt the initial “people were in love with this?” feeling. I was able to look beyond that and see how well directed and acted and how the plot and tone could change throughout. It’s just a good movie in all respects, so I suppose that means it had the best director?

This will be enjoyed the most if it’s watched outside of the hype and it should eventually be watched twice.