Newsletter: The best picture Oscar race is suddenly down to two movies. Here’s why

Brad Pitt in "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood."
(Andrew Cooper / Columbia Pictures)

Talk about a contracted awards season: The Oscar nominations have just arrived, and the best picture race may be all but over.

Congratulations to Sam Mendes and the “1917" team. Don’t forget to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. again when you accept the Oscar.

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.


Best picture race down to two movies?

OK. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Oscar nominations arrived Monday, with “Joker” leading all movies with 11 nominations. But with the Oscars’ best picture category decided on a preferential ballot with voters ranking the nine nominated movies, the top Oscar typically goes to a movie that most people at least like. Or don’t despise. And I’m not sure “Joker” fits that profile.

I wrote about the implications of Monday’s nominations on the best picture race, with signs pointing toward “1917" or “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” as the eventual winner.

Pacino and De Niro talk five decades of friendship

Well, Al Pacino does most of the talking. But in my interview with the acting legends, they both opened up about their longtime bond and what it has meant to them.

“Early in the ’70s, without consciously doing it, we bonded because we were both dealing with the fact that, all of a sudden, we were well-known,” Pacino said. “You go from being a young, out-of-work actor to having people recognize you everywhere you go. That’s a peculiar experience, and there was comfort in talking to someone else going through it. Because it was very strange what was going on.”

We also talked about the challenges of aging and de-aging, their different approaches to acting, and advice about how to approach watching a 3½-hour movie like “The Irishman” when you’re closing in on 80.

Stars of the Oscar-nominated "The Irishman": Al Pacino, left, and Robert De Niro.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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Antonio Banderas: Time for the Oscar?

Amid all the elation and anger, thanks and fury that come with the Academy Awards nominations, Antonio Banderas’ lead actor nod felt like something of a small miracle. His work in “Pain and Glory,” playing a filmmaker fighting physical pain and creative malaise, is subtle and shaded. And Oscar voters typically reward not the “best” but the “most.”

I made the case for why Banderas should go on to win the Oscar. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix is favored for “Joker.” But wouldn’t it be nice for a change to see the lead actor Oscar go to someone playing a recognizable human? I think so.

Antonio Banderas earned his first Oscar nomination for "Pain and Glory."
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Why no acting noms for ‘Parasite’?

The Screen Actors Guild Awards are on Sunday, and Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” is one of five films nominated for best movie ensemble.

Yet when Oscar nominations were revealed on Monday, not one member of the “Parasite” cast made the cut. Times film critic Justin Chang wrote about Asian actors and awards season representation, making a convincing case why more recognition should have come to this superb ensemble.

"Parasite" actor Song Kang Ho, part of the film's SAG-nominated ensemble.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


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