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Newsletter: ‘Irishman’ or ‘Hollywood’ — how do you choose?

Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci on the set of “The Irishman.”
Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci on the set of “The Irishman.”
(Niko Tavernise / Netflix)

For the moment, at least, this year’s Oscar race for best picture appears to be a showdown between two movies made by motormouth masters: Quentin Tarantino’s meditation on the last gasp of Old Hollywood and Martin Scorsese’s summation and possible farewell to the crime drama genre he helped define.

How do you choose?

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times’ awards columnist and your newsletter host.

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‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ and ‘The Irishman’ slug it out

Of course, if you’re a moviegoer, you don’t have to choose. You count your blessings and pray that a theater chain within a 50-mile radius of your house is showing “The Irishman” so you can see it properly before it lands on Netflix on Nov. 27. (If you’re not in Los Angeles or New York, you’re going to have to wait at least another week.)

But if you’re an academy voter who loves both films, you’re eventually going to be forced to choose. Over and over again. Because the two movies will be competing head to head in several categories at the upcoming Oscars.

Which movie has the advantage? I had fun writing a column looking at the intangibles in the race, including the impact of “Kraft Mac & Cheese a la Cliff Booth,” the etiquette of wearing a Hawaiian shirt to a business meeting and the dreamy vibes of driving a Cadillac Coupe de Ville down a traffic-free Hollywood Freeway.

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Renée  Zellweger plays Judy Garland in “Judy.”
Renée Zellweger plays Judy Garland in “Judy.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Renée Zellweger talks about her journey to ‘Judy’

I’m not much of a morning person, and that poses something of a challenge at film festivals when I need to catch a movie at 9 a.m. I can do it, but I need a coffee IV drip handy in the theater.

I mention this because I caught a crack(ish)-of-dawn screening of “Judy” at the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of months ago. Thankfully, Renée Zellweger gives such a crackling, affecting performance in this Judy Garland story that I was immediately revived. She’s absolutely transfixing in this portrait of Garland in the last months of her life.

I had the chance to talk with Zellweger recently and I loved every minute of our conversation. She’s engaging, smart and very funny. One thing that didn’t make it into the story was her spirited defense of Ringo Starr. We had wandered off on a Beatles tangent and the impossible choice of naming your favorite Fab Four member. I ventured, “Well, it probably wouldn’t be Ringo.” (Don’t email. I love Ringo, but c’mon, he’s the lesser light in the band.)

“You do know among musicians, he’s highly revered,” she scolded. “Highly revered.” She drew out the hard “i” in “highly” in her distinctive West Texas drawl.

I do know. Peace and love, man. (But I’m still going with John.)

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in “Marriage Story.”
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in “Marriage Story.”
(Wilson Webb / Netflix)
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‘Marriage Story’ arrives in (two) theaters

And that’s two theaters — the Vista and the Landmark — if you live in L.A. But Netflix isn’t in the theatrical business, and the streamer would be perfectly fine if you decide to wait a month and watch the movie on its platform.

However, as my colleague Justin Chang persuasively writes in his review, “Marriage Story” is “an emotionally lacerating experience, a nearly flawless elegy for a beautifully flawed couple, a broken-family classic to set beside ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ and ‘Fanny and Alexander,’ to name two films that Baumbach references visually here.”

Kind of makes you want to see it right now, doesn’t it?

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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