Oscars 2020: A Belated Opinion

oscars-universityobserver-ieThis is now old news (well, a week old), but I deliberately held off commenting on this year’s Oscar winners, until I’d seen the final of the nominees in the Best Picture category, Parasite. Having now seen this remarkable film (check out my rave review here), I am now in a position where I can comment properly.

Here then are my thoughts on the main winners:

I had previously hoped Little Women might clinch Best Picture, instead of the widely predicted favourite 1917. However, having now seen Parasite, I must concede that much as I adored Little Women, Parasite fully deserves the top prize, and also Best Director, Best Foreign Film, and Best Original Screenplay. With the latter, I had previously hoped Marriage Story would win, but again, seeing Parasite has caused me to rethink that opinion.

With the acting winners, I was a lot less satisfied. Adam Driver in Marriage Story would have been my preferred choice over Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. Phoenix was certainly good, but his performance was the kind of very showy, obvious Oscar bait (complete with “committed” physical transformation, losing weight, and so on). For me, Driver’s work was more subtle and effective, although he got to chew a bit of scenery too in some of his more emotionally charged scenes with co-star Scarlett Johansson (also rightly nominated). Phoenix ought to have won for his more subtle performance in The Master a few years ago.

In the Best Actress category, Renee Zellweger won for Judy, but I can’t offer an objective opinion as I’m yet to see the film. Of the other nominees, Scarlett Johansson was superb in Marriage Story, but I’d have opted for Saoirse Ronan in Little Women. Yes, I’m a bit biased here as I love the character she plays, but for me Ronan’s take on the role was definitive. Indeed, Greta Gerwig’s film is the best version as far as I’m concerned. (Gerwig ought to have been nominated in the Best Director category. I’d have happily lost Quentin Tarantino or Todd Phillips to make room for her.)

Supporting Actor and Actress categories were won by Brad Pitt for Once upon a Time in Hollywood, and Laura Dern for Marriage Story. I disagree with the former choice, and would have opted for Joe Pesci playing against type in The Irishman. However, Laura Dern definitely deserved to win.

Elsewhere, Best Adapted Screenplay ought to have gone to Little Women, much as I enjoyed Jojo Rabbit. For Best Animated Feature I’d have chosen How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World over Toy Story 4. 1917 ought to have snatched Production Design from under the nose of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, to go alongside its thoroughly deserved win for Cinematography (Roger Deakins, so often criminally overlooked, now recipient of two wins in as many years, pretty much).

The much underrated Ford vs Ferrari (aka Le Mans 66 here in the UK) made welcome wins for Best Editing and Best Sound Editing, and 1917 rightly won for Best Sound. Music score I’d have given to Little Women (Alexandre Desplat) or 1917 (Thomas Newman) over Joker (Hildur Guðnadóttir), but the Joker score was still very effective. Visual effects I’d have probably given to Avengers: Endgame over 1917, but I don’t mind too much.

That’s it for another year. I’m still savouring the sensation of actually agreeing with a Best Picture choice for once, but I daresay I’ll be back to my usual bitter Oscar rants next year.

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