Friday, February 7, 2020

Sad 'Song' won't cause much of a blip on Oscars weekend; maybe picks will

With Warner Bros. somehow deciding not to host a northeast Ohio critics' screening for DC's reportedly action-packed "Birds of Prey," only one new movie debut gets a little space here this weekend. Of course, if it's time for the Academy Awards -- and it is Sunday night on ABC-TV -- there's always room as well for our ever-intrepid prognostications below. 

Luke Doyle plays the young prodigy in "The Song of Names."
First, though, a few words about "The Song of Names," a somber drama that waits so long to deliver its heartfelt gut-punch perhaps a viewer's patience might be worn totally away by then. Based on a novel of the same name, it follows the almost 50-year relationship between musically inclined boys who literally become brothers for life during the horrors of WWII, get separated at age 21 and, naturally, are destined to meet again.

We know that because one, the son of a London concert enthusiast, grows up to be played by Tim Roth, as a guy simply obsessed with finding his infinitely more interesting pal. The latter is the Polish/Jewish violin virtuoso (eventually portrayed by equally top-billed Clive Owen). Always a bit of an arrogant and eccentric youth, the character actually had disappeared the same night he was scheduled to debut in a royal performance financed by his British host family.

Before its moving and title-related climax, the half-century tale is forever filled with back and forth jumps in time. More satisfying are an illuminating score from award-winning composer Howard Shore, and a fine turn from Catherine McCormack, as the woman between the men.  

Rated "PG-13": some strong language, brief sexual material, thematic elements and smoking; 1:53; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

And now, as promised, the envelopes please for our quick and easy Academy Awards predictions (with full list of nominees linked here):

Best Actress: From the moment after leaving "Judy," the first movie viewed at last year's 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival, I started telling everyone that Renee Zellweger would win the Oscar for her dead-on portrayal of the legendary Judy Garland. Well, so far so good, since the petite Ms. Z, just like the favorites in the rest of the acting categories, has gone on to capture every major award this season. Sunday night she'll win again. 

Phoenix will become the second "Joker" to win an acting Academy Award.
Best Actor: The performance of Joaquin Phoenix as "Joker" Arthur Fleck is simply one of the most brilliant of all time. None of the other nominees can touch him.

Best Supporting Actor: Golden boy Brad Pitt ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"), whose acting chops always have been vastly underrated, wins his first performance Oscar here. In fact, all four of the other prominently named nominees already own at least one gold statue in front of the camera. 

Best Supporting Actress: Hollywood's popular Laura Dern ("Marriage Story") does not give my favorite performance in this category. It belongs to Kathy Bates, whose nomination as the incredibly supportive mom of "Richard Jewell" likely knocked both Jennifer Lopez ("Hustlers") and Nicole Kidman ("Bombshell") out of this competition. If there's an upset in the quartet of acting awards, it will come here.

Best Director/Best Picture: Though I thoroughly enjoyed Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," this boils down to Brit Sam Mendes and his war epic, "1917," versus South Korean Bong Joon Ho and his genre-breaking "Parasite." Both movies are grand, each director is deserving, and their Best Picture wins would bust the longstanding tradition of not giving top honors to films without an acting nomination. That has happened only 11 times in Academy Awards history and not since "Slumdog Millionaire" (2009). Regardless, it says here that Mendes and "1917" will become a 12th exception.  

A few more surefire winners: Best Animated Feature, "Toy Story 4," emerging from a surprisingly strong field for a change; Best International Feature, "Parasite"; Cinematography, "1917"; Costume Design, "Little Women"; Documentary Feature, "Honeyland" upsetting "American Factory"; Makeup and Hairstyling, "Bombshell" will win, but "Joker" deserves to win; Production Design, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"; Best Song, "I'm Gonna Love Me Again" from "Rocketman"; Best Score, "Joker"; Film Editing, "Parasite"; Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, (both) "Ford v Ferrari"; and Visual Effects. "1917."

Finally, a couple of reaches at attempting to get it "write": Best Adapted Screenplay ("Little Women") and Best Original Screenplay ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"). You're on your own with anything not posted here. 

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