Oscars 2020: The Battle for Best Picture

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected nine titles to duke it out for its Best Picture prize. I once again saw all of them and have some ideas on which title(s) should take home Oscar gold.

Let’s just get to it, shall we? The nominees, in the order in which I saw them, are:


What’s the big deal? This haunting tale of Arthur Fleck’s downward spiral into madness is highlighted by that captivating performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Director Todd Phillips’ masterful camerawork helps define this character’s mindset, and the artistic look of “Joker” breaths life into his desolation.

Will it win? No. Superhero – and supervillain – movies have only recently gained recognition as legitimate contenders. But at this point AMPAS would sooner shit a solid gold statuette than award Best Picture to a “comic book movie.”


What’s the big deal? American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale, SNUB) work to build a machine for the Ford Motor Co. that’s capable of taking on Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event. “Ford v Ferrari” goes beyond the sport to explore the relationships of its characters and the science behind the designs.

Will it win? Probably not. But Bale should have been recognized for his endearing, playful, and entertaining performance.


What’s the big deal? A 1950s TV Western star (Leonardo DiCaprio, up for Best Actor) and his stunt double (Supporting Actor nominee Brad Pitt) struggle to find big screen success in the late-1960s Hollywood. This fable sprinkles touches of Tinseltown lore among its otherwise outrageous, amusing, and moderately violent narrative. But this is quintessential Quentin, so what do you expect?

Will it win? Maybe. Hollywood LOVES movies about itself, so the title alone gives “Once Upon a Time…” a leg up. Pitt is fantastic and almost surely will take home the Supporting Actor award.


What’s the big deal? Director Sam Mendes tells this stunning and engaging story the only way that makes sense – as one continuous take. Breathtaking and brilliant and told essentially in real time, this one-shot wonder literally follows two young British soldiers on a dangerous mission to deliver a message to the front lines during World War I. And, oh by the way, it’s fucking amazing.

Will it win? Yes. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, too. I don’t need to explain anything.


What’s the big deal? This intuitive, honest, and uncomfortable examination of a crumbling marriage will hit you in the feels. Can we just for a second pause and reflect on that visceral shouting match that takes place in Charlie’s living room? My god! Scarlett Johansson, who finally seems comfortable onscreen, and Adam Driver more than deserve their acting nominations.

Will it win? While “Marriage Story” has a strong emotional resonance, I don’t think that’s enough to secure this year’s title. I would, though, love to see Driver steal that Best Actor win from Phoenix.


What’s the big deal? Absurd humor and whimsical visuals balance weighty issues in this World War II tale that’s saturated with subtle and obvious satire. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis, who is outstanding and should have been nominated for Best Actor; I don’t care if he’s only 12) discovers a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home, causing Jojo to evaluate his loyalty to Hitler’s army. Take notice of the astute correlation between the film’s cheeky vibe and Jojo’s journey.

Will it win? Doubtful. But this is my second favorite film of the nine, so if a dark horse hopeful exists….


What’s the big deal? (Another) Martin Scorsese mobster flick, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. I know. Oh, and it’s five days long. I’m exaggerating, but barely.

Will it win? You know, I kind of hope not. I thought “The Irishman” was fine, but I wasn’t blown away (heh). I feel like this nomination stems mainly from the marquee names pinned to the film’s credits.


What’s the big deal? Written and thoughtfully directed by Greta Gerwig (SNUB), this stunning adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel chronicles the lives of four sisters, each very different and uniquely determined.

Will it win? I don’t think so, but wouldn’t that be a satisfying “up your ass” for Gerwig? And how about the inspired and powerful performances from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh? Ronan could give Renée Zellweger a run for her Best Actress money. Fingers crossed!


What’s the big deal? What a bizarre mix of genres. Bong Joon Ho intentionally and sensibly intertwines these classifications, and the result is altogether fascinating. I dare you to look away. Filled with layers of symbolism, this flick will occupy your mind long after the credits roll (read this again). Yeah, we’re talking next-level symbolism here.

Will it win? It might, but I think this could be the “Roma” saga revisited. “Parasite” is also nominated for International Feature Film and most likely will take home that prize, leaving the night’s overall Best Picture title up for grabs – and awarded to “1917.” Wink.

And there you have it. But let us not forget: The Academy doesn’t care what I think.

Watch the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9 to see if your top picks take home a top prize.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.



The new Sam Mendes epic war drama “1917” is a Best Picture contender for one simple reason: It’s fucking amazing.

Which, once I picked up my jaw from the floor, is exactly what I said to my husband after we saw the movie last week. He agreed.

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, “1917” follows two young British soldiers on a seemingly impossible mission during World War I. The pair must venture through no man’s land and deliver orders calling off an impending attack to prevent 1,600 troops, including one soldier’s brother, from walking into certain death.

And when I say “follows,” I mean it literally.

Best Director nominee Mendes presents this story in one long, fluid shot (he gave us a taste of this in the opening scene of 2015’s “Spectre”). From the moment we meet Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) in an open meadow, we’re buckled in for the journey – every uninterrupted step of the way.

This one-shot technique (one of my favorites, when its use is this purposeful) allows Mendes to tell us this story essentially in real time. And his vision is nothing less than brilliant; his camera placement puts us squarely in the middle of the action.

The audience sees, learns, and experiences everything alongside and in sync with these characters, which creates a level of anxiety that must be felt to be understood. We know nothing beyond the frame of the camera, and that uncertainty heightens both curiosity and concentration.

And all the while this continuous scene refuses to blink, keeping us on edge and hanging on every. Single. Movement.

The occasional pivot or rotation or close-up gives a slightly different perspective and some additional detail, but our attention by way of the lens never deviates from its focus. And that slow zoom – the camera barely inching closer – on General Erinmore (Colin Firth) as he doles out this mission at the film’s start gives every indication of its importance.

If your heart isn’t already pounding out of your chest, those background drum beats add to the film’s intensity and fully express the significance of this race against time.

The tension is real.

In addition to calling shots behind the camera, Sam Mendes also gets his first writing credit here. Those efforts earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

I don’t see many war movies, but “1917” is beyond impressive. I was completely mesmerized and have been raving about this flick since I left the theater. As if the story itself isn’t fascinating enough, the seemingly seamless visuals will blow your mind.

“Stories are nothing unless you’re emotionally engaged,” Mendes said in an IMDb On the Scene interview.

His statement is a hundred percent accurate, and presenting “1917” as one long take was the only way to effectively tell this story.

I held my breath. I jumped. I winced, and I gasped.

And I loved every minute of it.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.

Knives Out

Well, that was fun.

“Knives Out” is the (fairly) new dramatic crime thriller from writer-director Rian Johnson (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). The movie also incorporates bits of dark and twisted humor – which is exactly how I like my comedy – and an ongoing element of mystery that keeps its audience fully engaged.

On the night of his 85th birthday, esteemed crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dies. Enter Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, meow!), with his analytical mind, a judging gaze, and that “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl.”

Without question, Detective Blanc thinks something is fishy about Harlan’s death.

“I suspect foul play,” he says.

And, with the help of Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), Detective Blanc proceeds to question the estate’s staff and, one-by-one, the members of Harlan’s unstable, self-absorbed family.

Blanc’s hope? To see through the smoke screens and beyond the distractions to find out what really happened to Harlan Thrombey.

If you’re paying attention, you know something is up from the moment each family member – including daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis); son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson); son Walt (Michael Shannon); and grandchildren Ransom (Chris Evans), Meg (Katherine Langford), and Jacob (Jaeden Martell) – is seated for the inquisition.

Those close-up shots almost scream deception. And the slow zooms and pull backs as each character recalls the events of the evening in question hint that what we’re hearing and seeing may not entirely be the truth.

Director Johnson shuffles in helpful flashbacks that crisscross the storyline and help fill in the events we didn’t see that led up to the outcome serving as the film’s crux.  

Either nothing or everything is exactly what it seems. And as Detective Blanc attempts to uncover the mystery, the audience is right there with him.

“Knives Out” is an unpredictable yet delightful shell game.

The storyline is a magician’s pursuit that keeps its audience disoriented and speculating and hanging on every word, sound, movement, or glance. Everything could be a clue – or a diversion.

If you haven’t yet seen this flick, I highly recommend giving it a look. If you have seen it, I’d suggest watching this fun, shrewd puzzle again – to take notice of all the pieces that are hiding in plain sight.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.


The trailer for “Yesterday” first caught my ear – and then it caught my attention.

Incorporating tunes from the Beatles into pretty much anything deserves an automatic high five. But I was super intrigued, because the premise of this flick sounded like one of the freshest ideas to come along in decades.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one (and you won’t, because you haven’t): A talented but unknown musician struggles to make a name for himself when a freak incident symbolically aligns the stars and presents Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) with a career-making opportunity.

After waking up in a hospital bed, Jack learns from his manager friend Ellie (Lily James) that “the electricity flicked off for 12 seconds” worldwide the night before. This was just enough time for Jack to get hit by a bus – and to alter the course of music history.

Gifted with a new guitar by his saucy but loyal friends, Jack is encouraged by them to “play something.” And since “a great guitar requires a great song,” Jack proceeds to perform a snippet of “Yesterday.”

A delicate camera spin captures the awakened reactions from Jack’s friends while creating a soothing vibe that’s enhanced by Jack’s vocals and harmonious strumming.


He has just played them “one of the greatest songs ever written.” Only problem is, no one’s ever heard it before.

The Beatles? Shrug.

Mention of the band’s name elicits only confusion – and a valid question from Jack’s friend Rocky (Joel Fry): “Like, insect beetles or the car Beetles?”

Despite his research, Jack finds nothing to prove this English rock band from Liverpool ever existed. But he remembers the band, and he knows the songs. So, he’s got an idea…

“Yesterday” is so much fun. The absurdity of the plot line mixed with the camera’s funky angles and quick edits gives the movie an enjoyable and upbeat feel that will keep you smiling from start to finish.

And if for some reason that doesn’t do the trick, the whip-smart banter between Jack and his friends will keep you engaged with its snap and snark.

Patel is outstanding. OUTSTANDING! His dumbfounded responses to the aftermath of the blackout are surpassed only by his vocal talents. Don’t worry for a second that this guy doesn’t do justice to legendary songs such as “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “In My Life.” I was so impressed to the deepest depths by every aspect of what Patel delivered.

Also, a shout out and bonus points to whomever slipped The Fratellis shirt into the wardrobe selection.

Lily James is a delight, and her eleventh-hour statement to Jack will hit you right in the feels. Joel Fry plays Rocky with a charm so ridiculous that he’ll win you over with his first blank stare.

Big names have small parts in “Yesterday” as well. Ed Sheeran plays himself, and he’s actually really funny.

James Corden also makes an appearance, which made me wonder if this movie was in any way inspired by the Late Late Show host’s incredibly moving Carpool Karaoke with Sir Paul McCartney. I could find nothing online to confirm this, but it’s nevertheless worth a mention. That installment is still one of the single best pieces of entertainment that has ever been produced.

“Yesterday” is highly entertaining as well. The performances are amazing. The laughs are genuine. The songs are classic, profound, timeless.

And the idea certainly is new, but let’s be glad we don’t have to imagine a world without the Beatles.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.