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Does the Oscar belong to Will Smith?

A man in a suit on the red carpet
Will Smith arrives for the AFI Fest premiere of “King Richard.”
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

I’m wondering — and this is theoretical, because I would never, ever, even think about leaving the Los Angeles Times, but let’s just say a job offer came your way. What perk would entice you the most: a free online philosophy class, a work-from-anywhere option or a bonus that might let you buy a small house?

Me? I’d take a box of See’s candy, provided it’s brittles, of course. I’m not that easy.

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of the Envelope’s Friday newsletter. And I’m tearing myself away from trying all of Jenn Harris’ See’s Candies hacks to bring you this week’s edition.

All hail the ‘King’?

The crowd-pleasing “King Richard,” a drama charting the rise of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, arrives in theaters today. I saw it at the Telluride Film Festival and wrote about it then, and my colleague Sonaiya Kelley had a wonderful sit-down with the movie’s stars, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, who play the Williams sisters’ parents, Richard and Oracene Williams.

“I love the idea that they’re co-conspirators,” Ellis says. “I think at the time they were just equally crazy. And he presented that manifesto to her, or however it went down, and she was like, “OK cool. Bet.” I just think it’s magical that these two people found each other to construct this dream for their children.”

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Times film critic Justin Chang is on board too, writing that “the movie’s most furious volleys are rhetorical, psychological and, finally, emotional. Venus and Serena Williams’ story is as spoiler-proof as they come, which doesn’t mean it won’t break you open.”

A family of six walks through a tennis center
Aunjanue Ellis, Mikayla Bartholomew, Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton and Daniele Lawson in “King Richard.”
(Anne Marie Fox/Warner Bros. )

C'mon ... go see ‘C'mon C'mon’

Smith is getting most of the lead actor Oscar buzz right now for “King Richard,” but Joaquin Phoenix, who won the prize a couple of years ago for “Joker,” deserves to be in the conversation too for his beautiful work in “C'mon C'mon.” Phoenix plays a public radio journalist charged with being the caretaker of his bright, unruly nephew (Woody Norman) for an extended period of time.

Reviewing for The Times, Jessica Kiang writes of the Mike Mills film: “Although ‘C’mon C’mon’ is loose and wandering to the point it can seem like it’s not about anything, in the end we realize, in a sudden gobstopper-blub of emotion, that it’s that way because, just like a promise made as the movie fades, it wants to remind us of everything.”

If this doesn’t exactly sound like a hearty recommendation, I will add that the movie really sneaks up on you in a way that will leave you pondering it long after it’s over. And Phoenix, one of our great actors, delivers a remarkably tender turn as a rumpled adult trying to understand and appreciate the young boy that’s suddenly in his care. “C'mon C'mon” opens in a handful of theaters around town today.

A man in a crowd gives a young boy a piggyback ride
Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman in “C’mon C’mon.”
(A24)

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Don’t just read ... listen

The Envelope podcast returns right after Thanksgiving with brand-new episodes that will spotlight this awards season’s top contenders. Each week features A-list actors, directors or showrunners in intimate conversations about their lives and creative processes — and how it all fuels their art. For our season premiere, Kirsten Dunst recounts transformative moments from her long career and shares stories about starring with Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog.” New episodes — featuring Los Angeles Times entertainment reporters Yvonne Villarreal and Mark Olsen in conversation with the likes of Halle Berry, Jennifer Coolidge and Adam McKay — will drop every Tuesday.

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.


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