One of the best films of the century?

A man in 1940s clothing walks down a street flanked by small buildings.
Cillian Murphy in “Oppenheimer.”
(Melinda Sue Gordon / Universal Pictures)

How am I doing, Elmo? All things considered — atmospheric rivers, “rivers of odorous waste” and robot overlords coming for our jobs (probably paddling down rivers) — I’ve been better. Will fried food help? Well, it won’t hurt. (Thanks for the recipes, Ben Mims.)

I’m Glenn Whipp, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter and the guy thinking the only river I want in my life right now comes courtesy of Henry Mancini by way of Frank Ocean. Let’s look at the week’s news, my huckleberry friends.

How the best picture contenders might make their final pitches

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Yogi Berra said it. Lenny Kravitz sang it. And for the nine movies nominated alongside “Oppenheimer,” the overwhelming best picture front-runner, it’s a mantra.

Hey ... at this time in the awards season two years ago, no one thought “CODA” was going to win the Oscar. Minds can change. Hearts can be won. It’s not too late to bust out a few new moves.


With that in mind, as we head into the final stretch before voting begins, I took a look at the messages the nominated movies seem to be sending to persuade academy members to look their way.

For example, here’s the pitch from “Oppenheimer”:

“One of the best films of the century! Now, admittedly, the century is not even a quarter of the way done, but still ... we’ve taken the early lead! And we took an early lead this year, earning nearly $1 billion in box office before kids went back to school. Everyone has seen this movie. Everyone admires this movie. We’ve been the odds-on favorite to win for ages. But don’t penalize us for that. Don’t get bored. Don’t get distracted. A billion in box office + critical acclaim + epic scale + serious subject = Oscar. You don’t need to be a theoretical physicist to understand that equation.”

Writer, director, and producer Christopher Nolan on the set of "Oppenheimer."
Writer, director, and producer Christopher Nolan on the set of “Oppenheimer.”
(Melinda Sue Gordon / Universal Pictures)

Lily Gladstone: ‘Native women are unstoppable’

When all this is over, when Lily Gladstone no longer has to discuss and dissect and get all dressed up to celebrate “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the movie that first came into her life nearly five years ago and has now propelled her into history as the first Native American to earn an Oscar nomination for lead actress, she’s going to head back home to her family in suburban Seattle. Gladstone moved in with her parents a few years ago to help take care of her special-needs uncle and her grandmother, who died last summer after battling dementia. Her immediate plan: Pay off her parents’ mortgage this year. Next step: Carve out a space for herself nearby.

“I would love to build a treehouse in their backyard for me to go live in,” Gladstone says, smiling. “I’d be happy.”

I sat down with Gladstone not too long ago to talk with her about the remarkable year she has enjoyed, particularly when you consider that it wasn’t all that long ago when she was celebrating cracking the poverty line for the first time as a working actor.


“This is a moment for all of us,” Gladstone says of her historic nomination, news she shared with her parents in a tearful Facetime call. “It’s a lot to put on one person to represent an entire group of people who have been unrepresented for so long.”

“It’s overwhelming and overdue,” she continues. “The stories of our Indigenous people have shaped the very foundational fabric of our modern day. And so much of that is just not known, not felt, not acknowledged. I’m grateful, but it’s not going to be the last. Not by a long shot.”

Lily Gladstone stands for a portrait bathed in warm red lighting.
Lily Gladstone earned a lead actress Oscar nomination for “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
(Ramona Rosales / For The Times)

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Grammy predictions and the Taylor Swift of it all

Is Taylor Swift about to win her fourth album of the year Grammy, more than any artist in Grammy history, including Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, each of whom has three?

I think you probably know the answer to that question. I know that my pal, Times pop music critic Mikael Wood, knows the answer, as he has put together his final predictions for Sunday’s ceremony, as well as weighing in on who actually deserves to win.


Writes Mikael: “Even a hardcore Swiftie likely would admit that the pop superstar has made more impressive albums than ‘Midnights’ (though the offhand way she roasts “some dickhead guy” in “Question…?” still makes me laugh nearly a year and a half after the LP came out). But between her record-breaking Eras tour, her blockbuster rerecordings of her older work and her much-scrutinized romance with the NFL’s Travis Kelce, Swift was simply too commanding a presence in 2023 for Grammy voters not to feel like she earned the academy’s most prestigious prize.”

Eh. At this point in her career, four seems a bit much. But then, historically, the Grammys are even worse than the Oscars at recognizing lasting achievement. The Beatles, for instance, won album of the year just once. Their final recorded masterpiece, “Abbey Road,” lost the top prize to Blood, Sweat & Tears’ eponymous second album. It’s all fleeting. What goes up, must come down. (And, yeah, it could have used a little more cowbell.)

Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Sza
Taylor Swift, left, Billie Eilish and SZA are among the top acts nominated at Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP; Lewis Joly / AP; Amy Harris / Invision / AP)

So long, old friend, but not goodbye

Sharing a stage and so many bylines over the years with my dear friend Justin Chang has been an absolute joy. His wit, insight and generosity lifted me in every way. A superb critic ... and an even better human. He’s joining the New Yorker as a film critic starting Feb. 12. (I’ve already renewed my subscription.)


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

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