Which actors are popping with Oscar voters?

A portrait of Penélope Cruz in a bright pink sweater.
Penélope Cruz was among the participants in The Envelope’s actress roundtable.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

It’s the day before Christmas, and I’m looking at my L.A. Times advent calendar, wishing it came with those little chocolates ... which makes me think it’s not too late for cookies. But I’m afraid mine are going to have to be some kind of MacGyvered Toll House creation because I still have presents to wrap ... and, yes, a newsletter to give to you.

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter, and the guy who’s taking his out-of-town guests to Trader Joe’s to help me navigate the parking lot. It’s crazy out there!

How much pain goes into a movie?

That’s the headline on our annual actress roundtable, hosted by Times senior writer Amy Kaufman and featuring ... wait for it ... Penélope Cruz, Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Stewart and Tessa Thompson. With a lineup like that, you know there’s going to be some good conversation, though 15 minutes in, Gaga was expressing regret for not talking more.

“I really apologize that I’m so quiet,” Gaga said, joining the actresses virtually from Las Vegas, where she was slated to go onstage for her residency later that evening. “But I’m so fascinated listening to you. I feel like I’m learning so much about all of you and the way that you approach your craft and the way your personal lives are interwoven into everything you do. I feel like being vulnerable for a second and sharing that.”


What was captivating Gaga? Click on the hyperlink above to find out!

Lady Gaga, an awards contender for "House of Gucci."
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Which star-laden movies will the academy love?

While we’re talking about actors, I looked at the 10 movies with A-list ensembles, breaking down which casts might power their films to awards season glory. Looking good: “Belfast,” “King Richard” and “The Power of the Dog.” Looking iffy: “Don’t Look Up” (even with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep), “Nightmare Alley” and “House of Gucci.” Somewhere in between: “Licorice Pizza,” which I hope will earn so many plaudits for its cast that Tom Waits will come out of hiding and I can once again gaze upon that beautiful mug of his.

A bearded man and a red-haired woman lean together to talk on a sofa.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in “Don’t Look Up.”
(Niko Tavernise / Netflix)

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The year is ending ...

... which means it’s time for look-backs, look-aheads and the makings of lists, which will, of course, be checked twice. My pal Justin Chang has put together a compendium of his favorite films from 2021, broken into three sections, adding up to 46 movies close to his heart. The best part: There’s info to help you find out how to watch these movies — at least the ones in the upper tier — so, hopefully, you can find something to help you ring in the new year.

A man with a pile of books on a desk, illuminated by a desk lamp.
Hidetoshi Nishijima in “Drive My Car,” the No. 1 movie on Times film critic Justin Chang’s year-end list.
(Sideshow/Janus Films)


I’d love to hear from you. Email me at

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