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Newsletter: Oscars set to party like it’s ‘1917'?

Cinematographer Roger Deakins on the set of the World War I-set movie “1917.”
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, right, on the set of “1917,” set in World War I
(François Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

The last remaining Oscar contender has been unveiled.

Will “1917" fight its way into the awards season race?

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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‘1917': ‘A knowing hybrid of authenticity and artifice’

Sam Mendes’ (or should we say Roger Deakins’?) war film, “1917,” screened four times for critics and awards voters last Sunday. Times film critic Justin Chang woke up early to catch the first screening at the ArcLight Hollywood, and he filed a review that calls the movie “a powerfully incongruous hybrid: a soldier’s lament and a formalist’s delight.”

The latter designation refers to the film’s design. Mendes and cinematographer Deakins (and ace editor Lee Smith) have constructed “1917" to appear as if it’s one, unbroken take, following two British soldiers (superbly played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) on a mission to deliver a crucial warning message to comrades about to fall into a trap set by German forces. The action moves through trenches, cratered front lines and hellish landscapes, immersing viewers in the mission and the horrors of war.

“Genuinely uninterested in glorifying the spectacle of war, Mendes deploys technological trickery in pursuit of a new kind of cinematic truth,” Justin writes. “I think he half succeeds. There are times when the nonstop visual momentum lends ‘1917' the feel of a virtual-reality installation, and others when the simulation of raw immediacy slips to reveal the calculated construct underneath.”

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Awards bloggers love nothing more than a late-arriving contender to shake up the race, and “1917" was greeted with a great deal of breathless pronouncements. “WE HAVE A NEW FRONT-RUNNER” was the consensus opinion. (Seriously: Studios should start handing out paper bags after these screenings.)

If the race in question is cinematography, that front-runner assessment would be accurate. Deakins is definitely in line to win his second Oscar for his complicated, choreographed camerawork and the film’s often astounding visual scope.

In fact, Deakins’ work so dominates “1917" that it might impede Mendes’ chances of earning a nomination in a category populated by artists like Martin Scorsese, Bong Joon Ho, Quentin Tarantino, Greta Gerwig, Pedro Almodóvar and Noah Baumbach. A Mendes nomination will be crucial to the movie’s best picture chances, as it is unlikely that MacKay and Chapman, good as they are, will break into the stacked acting races at this late stage.

Al Pacino in “The Irishman.”
Al Pacino, right, in “The Irishman.”
(Netflix)

‘The Irishman’ is now on Netflix. You should still see it in a theater

Martin Scorsese’s mob masterpiece “The Irishman” began streaming on Netflix Wednesday, so, if you’re a subscriber, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to see it. But you should. And you can. “The Irishman” is playing in theaters all over Southern California, from Santa Monica to Glendale, Claremont to Camarillo. It is everywhere. Don’t believe me? Go on the website that lists showtimes for every theater playing “The Irishman.” The film has not been this widely available since opening earlier this month.

I know. I know. You’re still stuffed from Thanksgiving and you don’t want to put on pants. But if you watch Scorsese’s 3½-hour movie at home, you know what will happen. You will pause it. You will check your phone. Your neighbor will knock on your door bearing frankincense, myrrh and leftovers. You will be distracted. You may not finish the movie. You will quietly hate yourself for your abysmal lack of focus.

You need to see “The Irishman” free from interruptions. To whet your appetite, here’s my colleague Jeffrey Fleishman writing again about Scorsese from the bottomless well of his recent interview with the master.

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Cynthia Erivo, Awkwafina, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger at the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope actress roundtable.
Cynthia Erivo, left, Awkwafina, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger at the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope actress roundtable.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

‘Sometimes even celebrities need advice. Even on how to be a celebrity’

Three times a season, The Envelope, the Times’ awards publication, assembles a group of contenders — actors, actresses and directors — to talk about their work and their lives. Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger met recently for such a conversation with Times writers Amy Kaufman and Mark Olsen. All five could well be Oscar nominees when the nominations are announced in January. The discussion is interesting. Jay L. Clendenin’s photos are spectacular. And there’s video from the day too. Give it a look.

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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