Oscar voting has begun: Has ‘1917’ won the battle?

George MacKay in "1917," the Oscar front-runner for best picture.
(Universal Pictures)

Sam Mendes’ superbly crafted, emotionally involving war movie “1917" has won the top prizes from the directors and producers guilds.

Is the Oscar for best picture next?

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.

Is ‘1917' a best picture shoo-in?

Final Oscar voting began Thursday, and I’m pretty sure Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern have the acting races locked up.


Am I delusional for thinking that maybe, just maybe, the best picture race remains open to a surprising outcome? Probably. “1917" filmmaker Sam Mendes won the feature film directing honor Saturday at the Directors Guild Awards, a victory that certainly boosted his chances of winning the Oscar for director.

Sixty-four of the past 71 DGA winners have gone on to repeat at the Academy Awards, after all. It’s hard to argue against that precedent.

It was one of two honors “1917,” which also has become a breakout box office success, won Saturday. Across town, cinematographer Roger Deakins collected the American Society of Cinematographers award, as expected, further cementing his inevitable second Oscar. Constructed to appear as if it’s one unbroken shot, Deakins’ complicated, choreographed camerawork gives “1917" an astounding visual scope.

Choi Woo Shik, Song Kang Ho, Jang Hye Jin and Park So Dam as the Kim family in Bong Joon Ho's movie "Parasite."
(Neon/CJ Entertainment)

Then again, ‘Parasite’ still has a chance ...

I firmly believe that if there weren’t a separate category for foreign-language films, “Parasite” would win the best picture Oscar this year. For many academy members, voting for “Parasite” once will be reward enough. The chance to make history and bestow the best picture prize to a non-English-language movie for the first time isn’t even on the radar of a great many voters.

But it should be, as my colleague, Times film critic Justin Chang, points out in a persuasive essay about why the Oscars need “Parasite” more than “Parasite” needs the Oscars.

“‘Parasite’ deserves to win best picture, and I still believe it can,” Justin writes. “But it has nothing left to prove at this point. The academy very much does.”

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Brad Pitt’s name tag is my awards season totem

Debbie Peters reattaches Brad Pitt's name tag at Oscar nominees luncheon.
Debbie Peters reattaches Brad Pitt’s name tag at Oscar nominees luncheon.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Yes, the outcomes of the Oscar acting races seem like foregone conclusions. But in the case of Brad Pitt, who cares? As Times contributor Lisa Rosen notes, the “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” actor has been on a charm offensive at the podium this month, and we’d all love to see him perform another stand-up set at the Oscars.

“He’s pulled no notes out of his pocket, read down no numbing lists of names,” Rosen writes. “The speeches have been a charming mix of self-deprecation, sweetness, sincerity and humor. The man wore his name tag to the Oscar nominees luncheon, for goodness’ sake.”


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