Tag Archives: Oscars

Live blogging the Oscars 2019


11:16 p.m. You know what’s embarrassing? Renee Zellweger wins her second Oscar, and, worse, the second Oscar puts her in the rare category of Supporting and Best Actress winners, but no one will remember either win.

11:06 p.m. So Olivia Colman appears to remind us how amusing she was winning Best Actress last year. I expect Joaquin Phoenix to win. Phoenix wins. He mentions queer rights, indigenous, and immigrant rights — “we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world,” he says. And he mentions his long dead brother River Phoenix.

10:54 p.m. HOLY SHIT. Bong Joon-ho wins Best Director, deservedly beating Sam Mendes overlooking 1917.

10:48 .m. Elton John and Bernie Taupin win Best Song, and Elton John is clearly, powerfully moved.

10:40 p.m. Sigourney Weaver takes the lead for Best Original Score. My friends and I debate how marvelous and unusual an actress Weaver remains: a Yale-educated actress who can handle comedy and drama but denied the chance to demonstrate the measure of her range.

10:26 p.m. Penelope Cruz hands Best International Feature Film to Bong Jong-hoo, who’s ready to drink, accepting the suspicion that he won’t win any more awards.

10:21 p.m. I took a break. What happened?

9:53 p.m. Roger Deakins wins for 1917, the real director, for nothing exists: no judgments, no drama, no Benedict Cumberbatch.

9:37 p.m. Oscar Isaac and Salma Hayek wonder why no one will have sex with Isaac. Ford v. Ferrari wins Best Sound Editing.

9:30 p.m. Why is uh Eminem relieving his imperial phase? Oh, yes, right. The audience looks as if Roy Orbison’s playing an Ozzy song.

9:17 p.m. It’s Best Supporting Actress time. Sorry — I have a Jennifer Lopez jones, sorry. Mahershala Ali hands the trophy to Laura Dern for Marriage Story. Parents Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, nominated twice, respectively, have never won.

9:09 p.m. Mark Ruffalo, my Secret Boyfriend after Jake Gyllenhaal (shh), presents Best Documentary Feature. American Factory wins! No Obamas in sight! https://wp.me/pzXeC-aRP

9:01 p.m. Jacqueline Durran wins Best Costume Design for Little Women, likely the only award it will win now that Greta Gerwig lost Best Original Screenplay.

8:56 p.m. Giggling and smirking through dresses, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph finish their inscrutable performances to present Best Production Design to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

8:47 p.m. Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen present Live Action Short Film. The Neighbor’s Window wins.

8:43 p.m. Natalie Portman and my boyfriend Timothée Chalamet present Best Adapted Screenplay. Taika Waititi will be remembered for writing JoJo Rabbit, Hollywood’s idea of uproarious Hitler comedy porn.

8:39 p.m. Parasite wins Best Original Screenplay!

8:38 p.m. Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves! They remind me of one of the worst decisions in pop cinema of the last 30 years: she hooked up with pompous, pot-bellied viejo Jack Nicholson and ignored him. They present Best Original Screenplay.

8:31 p.m. “Into the Unknown” is sung by an Epcot Worldcase menagerie of singers. This is what Disney wants for product like Frozen II

8:27 p.m. Hair Love wins. Why do you think the subject matters to me, hm.

8:23 p.m. “Your teeth are fucked up, but I love you,” said a friend about Mindy Kaling, blowing kisses at the screen. The presenter hands the Oscar to Toy Story 4 for Best Animated Feature Film; it wins despite the backlash.

8:17 p.m. So Al Pacino’s last Oscar will be for Scent of a Woman.

8:11 p.m. Regina King walks up to present Best Supporting Actor. Al Pacino’s shouting wakes up the theater. To no one’s surprise, it’s Brad Pitt’s bare pecs sparkling happily on the roof of a house in Once Upon a Time in America, wearing a mullet, beating Al Pacino in The Mullet.

8:08 p.m. Jeff Bezos sits next to Timothée Chalamet’s stunt double.

8:06 p.m. Conscious that this ship has no captain, Chris Rock and Steve Martin try to compensate with Iowa caucus jokes.

8:03 p.m. Keanu Reeves looks confused as Monae waddles the Midsommar drag.

8:01 p.m. Janelle Monae, wearing what looks like angora, sings the Mr. Rogers theme in the same LOOK AT ME HERE I AM attitude she brought to Harriet.

7:59 p.m. We have red and wine here. Join us. We’ll need’em.

7:53 p.m. Hi! We’re doing this. Testing the equipment and the murder of acolytes.

Soto’s piping hot 2019 Oscar predictions!

Rare indeed is the Oscar ceremony in which two nominees for Best Picture look likely to survive in the files of the collective memory. Joker continues to impress men and women of all ages who, understandably, confuse histrionics, spectacle, and doleful cello noise with Serious Art, while the more people watch Parasite the louder its claque.

So which film will Academy members coronate on Sunday night? Why, a reproduction of trench warfare politics by the director of Skyfall and American Beauty.

See below for more predictions.

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Ranking the major Oscar nominations, Pt 2

Yesterday I gave you rankings of the major Oscar nominations. Here I’ll finish with the major categories. Some films are better written than directed (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood). Others show few shrewd directorial choices (1917). Another doesn’t look as if it were directed at all (guess). As always, click here for reviews on your favorites.

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Ranking the major Oscar nominations

Three days after the Oscar nominations announcement signaled the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ intention to award 1917 and Joker as many prizes as it could, I thought I’d come down to cases. I’ve watched every film nominated, with Harriet and Joker the only ones without reviews; I hope to redress this shortly. Suffice to say that the actor whose work in We Own the Night, Two Lovers, The Master, The Immigrant, and Inherent Vice, to name a few, has made him one of America’s most inventive actors competes with his own filmography.

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Good luck, America: Oscar nominations 2020

Even I gasped in my otherwise empty apartment when five white actresses, including Scarlet Johanssen and her mystifying accent in Jojo Rabbit, beat Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Park So-dam in Parasite, or Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell to slots. In the category of Supporting Actor, as predicted, the Academy surrendered to the Slumming Stars. Worse, though, was shutting Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Pedro Almodovar (Pain and Glory) from Best Director in favor of Sam Mendes (1917) and apparently somebody directed Joker. Because even I’m unable to resist dollar book Freud, I wonder if Kathy Bates replaced Lopez because the latter gives no fucks about white men except fleecing them out of money; to male Academy voters of a certain age, who’ve gone to a strip club or four in their lifetimes, she’s the most gruesome anti-hero.

The other news: Joker leads with eleven nomination; enough old Academy members thought The Two Popes a masterpiece of bipartisanship enough to grant Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce nominations; and Honeyland got Best Documentary and, uh, Best International Film nominations.

Finally, as much as my pedantic ear prefers the active voice construction “The branch nominates,” it sounds as if the Academy was engaging in politics, i.e. “Blame these people!”

Here the nominations through Best Documentary Feature:

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The best Al Pacino performances

In the beginning a Method-ized actor as serious as a bishop but with a sensual glower. Yet already he had Paul Muni tendencies: looking “dark” opened him to casting as every ethnic role on a Hollywood casting director’s list, and when he felt himself lost he overacted. For fans of his penchant for chewing excitedly on ham bone, I offer The Devil’s Advocate, in which as Satan he makes goo-goo eyes at a fetching Keanu Reeves, and as Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, where his stresses would confound every poet since Sappho. His devious comic work in the forgotten Warren Beatty vanity project Dick Tracy through a rubber mask deserves a look too; then the mask became the face in disgraces like Scent of a Woman, one of the more humiliating Oscar wins of my lifetime.

But Al Pacino could be so subtle that he was almost lyrical: his desperate queer bankrobber in Dog Day Afternoon; the erotically galvanized palooka in Sea of Love, still the only time I accept him with another woman; his Shakespeare performances; and the schmuck in Donnie Brasco. Above all, his work in Francis Ford Coppola’s first two Godfather pictures is the grandest example of soul rot in American movies.

Then after The Merchant of Venice the list grows longer. And longer. I offer these fourteen: Continue reading

Ranking Jack Nicholson movies

In a filmography studded with performances consisting of arched eyebrows, oil-covered sneers, and raucous laughter, Jack Nicholson also gave performances of touching quietness. He also was good in hellion roles and boring in quiet roles. This made Nicholson the American actor-star well into the nineties – and beyond. It’s impossible to think he’s retired, not when he’s one of the few “old” actors my students recognize.

Whether you think Nicholson “works” in The Departed depend on your weakness for this kind of look-at-me-Ma performance that can’t stop doing bits of business unrelated to his character, intended to wrench the spotlight from whomever he’s acting with: slamming a hand down on a sketch, smacking his lips, imitating a rat, that sort of thing. On the other hand The Departed is so purple anyway, so far from its origin as a taut Hong Kong police thriller, that the picture needs him like Marty finally needed that Best Director Oscar.

Below is how I’d rank the films I’ve seen; it’s a vast corpus, extending back into the sixties when he tolled as a writer for the likes of Roger Corman and Monte Hellman. I’ve included lead and supporting performances.

The Hague

As Good as It Gets
The Shining
Goin’ South


A Few Good Men
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Departed
The King of Marvin Gardens
About Schmidt
Something’s Gotta Give
Blood and Wine

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Easy Rider
Mars Attacks!
The Witches of Eastwick
Drive, He Said
Terms of Endearment
The Missouri Breaks
Broadcast News
Carnal Knowledge
The Crossing Guard

Good to Great

The Last Detail
Five Easy Pieces
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Border
Prizzi’s Honor
The Passenger
The Pledge

Ranking Best Director, 1970s edition

As I’ve pointed out thrice, the seventies were strong enough that readers will wonder what William Friedkin is doing in Sound, Solid and not in Good to Great and chastise me for sticking him in Meh for bringing nothing to The Exorcist except momentum. Who knows? Maybe George Roy Hill would’ve given it bounce. Ingmar Bergman would have turned it into The Virgin Spring. Imagine John Cassavetes in charge — long chats between Megan in devil mode and the priest. Continue reading

Ranking Best Director nominees, 1980s

During the Respectable Eighties, the Academy nominated David Lynch twice, Louis Malle and Akira Kurosawa once apiece, and sneaked Martin Scorsese into the final lineup for The Last Temptation of Christ. Not bad, almost compensating for rewarding Alan Parker, writer-director of a film in which an FBI investigating the murders of black men in the South of the sixties emerges as heroic. Continue reading

Ranking Best Director nominees, 1990s

Prepared to hold my nose at the memory of Mel Gibson wiggling a bare ass in the same film where a king throws his homosexual son’s lover out a turret for laughs, I anticipated further horrors in the director nominees of the 1990s. Instead, I remembered Krzysztof Kieślowski, Mike Leigh, two Robert Altman nods, and Atom Egoyan. Still, I hold Robert Zemeckis in special contempt for introducing Forrest Gump to not a kiloliter of his blithe spirit.

The Hague

Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump
Mel Gibson – Braveheart
Sam Mendes – American Beauty
Martin Brest – Scent of a Woman
Lasse Hallström – The Cider House Rules


Miloš Forman – The People vs. Larry Flynt
John Madden – Shakespeare in Love
Barry Levinson – Bugsy
James Cameron – Titanic
Peter Cattaneo – The Full Monty
Anthony Minghella – The English Patient
Kevin Costner – Dances with Wolves
Michael Radford – Il Postino: The Postman
Scott Hicks – Shine
Francis Ford Coppola – The Godfather Part III
Mike Figgis – Leaving Las Vegas
Gus Van Sant – Good Will Hunting

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Woody Allen – Bullets Over Broadway
Robert Altman – Short Cuts
Joel Coen – Fargo
Barbet Schroeder – Reversal of Fortune
Robert Redford – Quiz Show
Curtis Hanson – L.A. Confidential
James Ivory – Howards End
Clint Eastwood – Unforgiven
Steven Spielberg – Saving Private Ryan
Ridley Scott – Thelma & Louise
Peter Weir – The Truman Show
John Singleton – Boyz n the Hood
M. Night Shyamalan – The Sixth Sense
Neil Jordan – The Crying Game
Chris Noonan – Babe
James Ivory – The Remains of the Day

Good to Great

Krzysztof Kieślowski – Three Colours: Red
Martin Scorsese – Goodfellas
Quentin Tarantino – Pulp Fiction
Jonathan Demme – The Silence of the Lambs
Atom Egoyan – The Sweet Hereafter
Oliver Stone – JFK
Robert Altman – The Player
Stephen Frears – The Grifters
Spike Jonze – Being John Malkovich
Jane Campion – The Piano
Jim Sheridan – In the Name of the Father
Tim Robbins – Dead Man Walking
Mike Leigh – Secrets & Lies
Terrence Malick – The Thin Red Line
Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List
Michael Mann – The Insider

Ranking Best Director nominees, 2000s edition

If I asked my readers, “What has Stephen Daldry directed?” most would stare at me. If said, “Well, he’s been nominated three times for an Academy Award, for every film he’s directed,” I’d get open mouths. Other than a serviceable job helming Billy Elliott, which is to say, someone had to direct it, Daldry’s career has been worthless or worse. Blame him for Kate Winslet’s pre-Iron Lady moment, for example. Not much better are Ron Howard’s nods for No Mind at All and Ham/Hammier. Continue reading