2020 Oscars: Reactions and Final Thoughts

I’ve spent the past month trying to watch as many of this yea’rs Oscar nominees as possible, and to review them as I went. Here’s yesterday’s pre-awards-show wrap-up, complete with individual links to all 14 reviews:

I didn’t get to do as much overall analysis and predicting as I’d hoped because I ran out of time. Doh! But I’ve got time now, so here we go…

First off, I didn’t catch the beginning of the awards show. I came home from a run (which I desperately needed because yesterday also marked the final day of my 30 Day Daily Step Count Challenge, and I’d wasted most of the day on the couch writing my final reviews) to find my spouse already watching, and looking quite confused that I’d put all this time and effort into Oscar prep only to not actually watch the Oscars (it’s a fair point- I’d meant to record it and catch up by fast forwarding commercials, but that’s easier to do when you remember to actually set the recording- doh!).

He asked if I wanted to hear results, and I said sure. Brad Pitt had just won best supporting actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. NOOOoooo!!! As you may recall, I’d declared that if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or The Irishman won anything, I would punch a pillow (grr!). It’s not that I don’t like Brad Pitt. He’s an amazing actor! My 7th grade locker was plastered with magazine cutouts of him. He was in both my first in-theater rated R movie (I snuck in to see Interview with the Vampire), and my first legal in-theater rated R movie (I convinced my mom to take me to Legends of the Fall). He’s talented and generally deserving of acting accolades. But for THIS trash movie? Blargh. Ugh. Lame. But ok, whatever, it’s what the experts had all been predicting. Just a little while later, they presented the award for Best Production design. I honestly had no clue who should win this; all the nominees were pretty good. Who snatched the prize? Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. AGAIN! Two Oscars! Crap crap crap, is this what my evening was to become? Watching my least favorite movie get all the accolades? Every time they showed Quentin Tarantino’s sniveling face I cringed. BUT… turns out that was it. Just the two. Okay, not so bad. The production design was, admittedly, pretty great. Fair enough.  I can deal with that.

I was absolutely delighted, though, that The Irishman got diddly squat. I did not actively hate The Irishman like I did Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; I just thought it was absolutely not deserving of Oscar nominations. The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski did a post-mortem titled “How ‘The Irishman’ went from Oscars 2020 front-runner to biggest loser”, and these passages I think pretty much sum it up:

“Pundits oversold voters’ historical love for this genre, and, indeed, this creative team. Many were wrong about the success of mob flicks at Oscars gone by. Since 1950, just five movies that prominently feature the Mafia, directly or tangentially, have won the Best Picture Oscar: ‘On the Waterfront,’ ‘The Godfather,’ The Sting,’ ‘The Godfather Part II’ and ‘The Departed,’ which was also directed by Scorsese… And then there’s the length. At 3½ hours, ‘The Irishman’ is the longest studio movie of the decade. Show opener Chris Rock even made a crack about it, saying he loved ‘the first season of ‘The Irishman.” And while the run time was a boon to epic storytelling, hearkening back to classic films, it’s taxing to modern attention spans.”

Okay, so my 2 least favorite films received 2 wins and 0 wins, respectively. Huzzah! How do I feel about everything else? I feel great! Here’s a rundown, in no particular order:

Best Actress: I only made 3 public predictions this year, and I have never been more sure about a pick in my life than I was about this one. Mad props to Renee Zellweger for her incredible performance as Judy Garland in Judy. It’s a shame that this was the only nomination for this incredible films, but, you know, whatever, it is what it is.

Best Actor: This was also an incredibly easy, obvious pick. Joaquin Phoenix was of course brilliant in Joker, so no surprises or disappointments here. Well, except for his weird acceptance speech about veganism. WTF was that mess? Anyhoo, after a whopping eleven nominations, this was one of only two Oscars won by Joker. I loved the crap out of this movie, but I’m not disappointed with the result. The other nominees were simply better at various things. Except for maybe…

Best Original Score: I had zero predictions for this one and didn’t even listen to the music ahead of time. But as we sat and listened to all the nominees being played in a row, I turned to my spouse and said, “Man, there really wasn’t much happening with that Joker score, huh?” And then that very Joker score promptly won. So I guess I failed heartily on this one. Doh!

Best Original Song: I was pulling for Rise Up from Harriet, partially because it’s a great song, and partially because it’s the only song I’d bothered to listen to ahead of time. But hello, it’s Elton John! He’s musical royalty; let him win any dang award he wants! He also had the coolest shoes all night. (in case this was misleading since I highlighted the film Harriet, the actual winner was Rocketman, for which I do not have a review to link to.)

Best Sound Editing: This was Ford v Ferrari‘s one win*. As you may recall from my review, I didn’t think this film deserved a best picture nod, and I didn’t personally connect with the subject matter, or find that it had much to say. But I DID say it did a good job making the cars seems really cool, and a huge part of that is the sound editing. If I’d had time to do picks, this would have been my pick. And it would have been the only award I thought it deserved.
*HOLY SMOKES, I somehow missed the fact that this movie also won…
Best Film Editing. No, sorry, that is bullshit. Should have been 1917. Grr…

Best Costume Design: This was Little Women‘s one win. In my review for Judy I mentioned that I thought Judy and Bombshell should have been nominated in this category (among others) because in both cases the costumes were so pivotal in telling the story. But they weren’t nominated, and everything else in the category, though less deserving, was still fine. Of the nominees, Little Women makes sense. The costumes were pretty cool. So I’m fine with this.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Yup, this was is correct. I mean, I think Bombshell deserved way more nominations and recognition, but at least it won AN Oscar in SOMETHING. The big achievement here is, of course, that when looking at a screenshot, you can’t tell if you’re looking at a picture of real-life Megyn Kelly, or of actress Charlize Theron. That’s pretty damn incredible.

Best Animated Feature, Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, and Best Live-Action Short Film: I didn’t see a single one of these nominees because I’m an uncultured rube (look, I only had 3 weeks!). So I have no educated commentary on any of them. BUT… at one point I randomly threw “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)” onto the TV in my house, then promptly walked away, to look at a shiny object and the film wound up winning its category (best documentary short, I think?), so I’ll count that as a win for me!

Best Supporting Actress: I was pretty meh on this one. I love Laura Dern. She is pretty much never bad. So sure, she was good in Marriage Story. But was this really the BEST supporting actress all year for all movies? That being said, I sadly didn’t get to see Kathy Bates (who I love) in Richard Jewell, and I did NOT think that Florence Pugh deserved a nomination for Little Women (not that she was bad- just totally miscast for the role). That leaves Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit (she was very good), and Margot Robbie for Bombshell (she was also very good). I dunno, I just felt like Johansson and Robbie were both kinda better. On the other hand, I’m kinda digging this thing where every best picture nominee get to win SOMETHING (except for Irishman, bwa ha ha ha ha!), so if Marriage Story is going to get an Oscar, it might as well be this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay: speaking of everyone gets an Oscar… I’m not saying the Oscars are rigged. But it is nice to see such a lovely distribution of awards. Jojo Rabbit’s one win came for best adapted screenplay, and I’m a big fan of this win. Without such a clever and scathing script by the brilliant Taika Waititi, even if everything else was executed perfectly, this Nazi satire would have collapsed in on itself. I nitpicked at one thing in my original review (I thought it could have pushed the envelope even farther, and that these less comedic bits put it in danger of being unoriginal), but overall I thought it was great.

And now, we get to the tricky bit…

Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing: These was no contest, and a big pile of easy wins for 1917. I for some reason assumed it had also won Film Editing, but somehow it lost, which BOGGLES THE MIND. But we’ll move on… It takes some pretty amazing tech to blow me away, and this movie had some amazing tech that blew me away. It was my pick for Best Picture, because while it wasn’t exactly plot-heavy and didn’t really present anything new in terms of story, it was the most successful in transporting the viewer into its world and bringing us along for the ride. I loved the level of detail in every single shot, and a lot of talented people in a lot of different departments had to come together to achieve this goal. BUT..


Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, and Best Director: Along came the phenomenon that is Parasite. Parasite was very good. Though not as technically ambitious as a single-shot war adventure, its execution was nearly perfect in every regard (note in my review I claimed it felt uneven as we jumped in and out of various genres), and in my pre-Oscar post I said I’d be delighted if Parasite took home the big prize. My husband asked if I thought this was an upset. Professional commentators had all, just like me, expecting 1917 to be the big dog this year. But I don’t think it was an upset. This year saw many, many good films, though each had their own weaknesses. 1917 was technically the most impressive, but in the end, the main advantages I saw in Parasite were the originality, meaningfulness, and depth of the story, which was then supported perfectly by the excellent acting, set design, cinematography, costumes, etc. I was also happy to see the genre-bending film make the cut. Maybe we’re paving the way for less-Oscary, spookier films to be fully recognized (retroactive Oscar for The Babadook, anyone?).

One final thought, that I’d wanted to mention yesterday but couldn’t quite figure out how to articulate. Parasite wins my Official 2020 Helga without the H Feminist Movie Award, which is of course an honor that I just made up. The reason why, is that in every other film, female characters are either peripheral ladies defined by their relationship (mother, daughter, or love interest) to the man who is actually doing things, or they are a woman who is fighting against the bullshit that women have to deal with because they are women. Parasite is the ONLY nominee I saw where we have women who are just DOING SOMETHING that has nothing to do with a man. It is freaking crazy that this basic concept is in the minority.

Well, that concludes my 2020 Oscar odyssey. I think there’s maybe 4 people who have been reading all these posts and reviews, so thanks for coming along with me! I’m happy to hear your thoughts and reactions to any of the picks, and I’m SUPER happy to answer any questions you may have, because it makes me feel smart and important!

If you’d like to lodge a complain about the fact that I clearly didn’t bother proofreading any of these, send your formal complain my way and I will neatly organize it in my giant filing cabinet.

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