Newsletter: Best picture Oscar nominees make last-ditch pitches

"Parasite" actors Choi Woo Shik, Lee Sun Kyun, Park So Dam, Lee Jeong Eun, Song Kang Ho and filmmaker Bong Joon Ho backstage at the SAG Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a thrill to be nominated, sure. But everyone wants to go home with an Oscar. And with voting about to begin, awards consultants are busy fine-tuning their pitches to academy members, making final appeals to their exquisite taste, their sense of decency and, yes, throwing in a dash of shame for good measure.

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.

Oscar voting begins Thursday

So how might those final overtures sound for each of the movies nominated for best picture? I ran through the list, addressing the strengths and weaknesses of each film, and crafted what I imagined could be a last-ditch pitch.


Like this one for “Little Women”:

Guys. Guuuuuuuys. We know you hate it when we say this, but ... we need to talk. From the second it was announced that Greta Gerwig was going to write and direct a new “Little Women,” you have done nothing but whine and complain that we don’t need another “Little Women,” and that the movie isn’t meant for you and that, post-#MeToo, you don’t know what women want or how to act around women when you’re, like, in an elevator with them. Guess what? You could learn a few things by, you know, WATCHING “LITTLE WOMEN.” Also: You might — hold onto your game controllers! — actually enjoy yourselves. It’s a really fun movie!

"Parasite" wins best ensemble at SAG Awards.
Choi Woo Shik and the cast of “Parasite,” backstage at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Actors go for ‘Parasite’; producers fete ‘1917'

The SAG Awards were handed out Sunday night, and for those who stopped watching after Brad Pitt’s acceptance speech because they were too busy trying to find him on Tinder, a quick recap: Surprises were scant, Adam Sandler got a well-deserved shoutout and the “Parasite” cast earned two standing ovations — one for just showing up onstage and another for becoming the first foreign-language movie to win the prize for best film ensemble.

Renée Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern and Brad Pitt won the individual movie acting honors, repeating their victories at the Golden Globes. It would take a stunning upset — much bigger, say, than Olivia Colman winning the lead actress honor last year over Glenn Close — for any member of this quartet not to win an Oscar this year.

But there’s still intrigue for the final envelope to be opened on Oscar night. I took a look at the implications of “Parasite’s” SAG win on the Oscar best picture race, coming on the heels of “1917" prevailing the night before at the Producers Guild Awards. I thought Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” would take the SAG ensemble prize. That loss dings its best picture Oscar hopes, for sure. “1917" remains the percentage play. But against my better judgment — Oscars gonna Oscar — I’m starting to feel like “Parasite” maaaaaaybe could pull off an upset.

The "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" team: Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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‘California Dreamin’ with Tarantino, Pitt and DiCaprio

I spent last Friday at the Chateau Marmont with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino. I mean, where else would we meet to talk about Tarantino’s wistful elegy, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”?

The conversation and the subsequent story turned out to be a lot like the movie — not a whole lot of plot, but (hopefully) a good hang.

“We’re all just passing through, doing the best we can in these movies,” Pitt says. “But this one, I would say it’s one of the few times where the experience is as special and unique as the final film. Like our life is as important as the final product. For me, that’s, ‘We’re livin.’”


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