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‘Power of the Dog’: Did you see that ending coming?

Benedict Cumberbatch shows Kodi Smit-McPhee how to braid rope in “The Power of the Dog.”
Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Power of the Dog.”
(Netflix)
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I’m drinking a Happy Happy Joy Joy and not just because it’s served in that adorable panda mug (although, c'mon!), but because nothing says joy to the world more than a marriage of gin, Ming River baijiu, passion fruit, basil-vanilla and citrus.

Unless it’s the Nation’s Christmas tree, which isn’t on the White House lawn but in our beloved Kings Canyon National Park. And, yes, it’s a redwood named after a man who’d probably enjoy consuming a few Happy Happy Joy Joys this (or any other) time of year.

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of the Envelope’s Friday newsletter, looking to make your season bright.

What is up with that ‘Power of the Dog’ ending?

Have you watched “The Power of the Dog” on Netflix yet? No? Then stop reading this.

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But if you have taken the time to view it ... did you see that ending coming? Probably not at first. I’ve spoken with Benedict Cumberbatch, who headlines Jane Campion’s tense western thriller, and he didn’t have a clue when he read the script.

And Kodi Smit-McPhee, the Australian actor who plays the frail-looking, paper flower maker at the center of things, was also caught by surprise. When he reached the end of his first pass through the script, Smit-McPhee flipped back a few pages to make sure he hadn’t missed anything.

“I didn’t miss anything,” he told me, smiling.

I sat down with Smit-McPhee not long ago for a deep dive into the film’s twists and turns and an examination of how his character’s choice of footwear — he wears lace-up white canvas tennis shoes in the Old West — should have tipped us off to the movie’s secrets.

Farewell Lina Wertmüller

Speaking of Campion, it doesn’t feel like that long ago that she was taking the stage with Greta Gerwig to present the great Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller — who in 1977 became the first woman to earn an Oscar nomination as a director for her film “Seven Beauties” — with an honorary Oscar.

At that 2019 Governors Awards, Wertmüller, then 91, playfully asked that the Oscar be given a more feminine name. She chose Anna.

“Women in the room, please scream, ‘We want Anna, a female Oscar!’ ” implored actress Isabella Rossellini, on hand to translate for Wertmüller.

Wertmüller died Thursday at her home in Rome. She was 93, leaving behind a body of work that speaks to her fearless nonconformity and a trenchant grasp of life’s absurdities.

Italian director Lina Wertmüller
Italian director Lina Wertmüller became the first woman ever nominated for a directing Oscar.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

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Give Jonny Greenwood an Oscar already

Actually, given the film academy’s spotty record of even nominating Greenwood — just one nomination? What is wrong with you, music branch voters? — I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. But the great Greenwood has two evocative, often unsettling scores eligible this year, as Times contributor Tim Greiving points out in this thoughtful look at the Radiohead musician’s work on “Spencer” and, yes, “Power of the Dog.” (Greenwood also wrote a bit of music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.”)

“In each film,” Greiving writes, “the musical clichés of genre are rejected or subverted. Greenwood’s unexpected scores go under the surface and into the psyches of some very complex and contradictory — i.e. human — characters.”

Don’t get me started on that “Power of the Dog” ending again, Tim ...

Composer Jonny Greenwood
Composer Jonny Greenwood has two strong Oscar contenders this year in “Spencer” and “The Power of the Dog.”
(Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

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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