Newsletter: Gold Standard: Let’s get started on Oscar predictions

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a heavy favorite to win the animated feature Oscar.
(Sony Pictures Animation)

Nearly everyone has “Roma,” “RBG” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” winning the Oscars for, respectively, foreign-language feature, documentary and animated feature.

But are we underestimating their competitors?

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.


Predicting Oscar winners for doc, animation and foreign-language feature

So I mentioned “Roma,” “Spider-Man” and “RBG” at the outset, and I think the first two are pretty much locks to win their categories. (Which raises the question: How many academy members will consider a vote for “Roma” here reward enough and look elsewhere when they choose best picture?)

But as I wrote, I think if there’s going to be an upset, it could happen in the documentary category, where National Geographic’s thrilling climbing documentary “Free Solo” is competing against “RBG.”

From a purely filmmaking perspective, “Free Solo,” a look at free climber Alex Honnold’s quest to scale Yosemite’s formidable El Capitan rock formation without ropes, has the obvious edge. Capturing Honnold’s unnerving ascents with high-angle camerawork, the movie is beautiful and breathtaking, but also intimate in its examination of Honnold’s motivations and relationships.


But “Free Solo” must contend with “RBG” or, more accurately, RBG herself. Because while directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen have made a winning crowd-pleaser that hits all the right beats in explaining why Ruth Bader Ginsburg matters, it’s the hardcore fandom surrounding the justice that gives the movie its edge with voters. (A fandom, by the way, that’s seen in “RBG” to great effect.)

At Monday’s Oscar luncheon, Times film writer Amy Kaufman reports that Cohen and West were asking nominees to sign a get-well card for Ginsburg, who’s recovering from January cancer surgery. I’m sure they had little trouble filling it with well-wishes.

Amy Adams earned her sixth Oscar nomination for her turn in "Vice."
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Amy Adams needs to record that Lynne Cheney Christmas album

Amy Adams could chase a bear out of her backyard using just a broomstick. That’s what filmmaker Adam McKay believes at least, and he’s worked with Adams at the beginning of her career (“Talladega Nights”) and most recently in “Vice,” so he should know something, right?

Adams has no idea what to make of this, but if she had to guess, she thinks McKay sees her as some sort of founding mother of America, a homesteading pioneer, probably because all her relatives were tough, sturdy Mormons settling in Utah and Colorado.

But Adams will readily agree with McKay, saying that if a bear did indeed wander into her backyard and threaten her family, she would grab a broomstick or a curtain rod or whatever was handy and chase it off.

“I’m someone who responds well in an emergency,” Adams says, sipping a matcha tea hopped up with a shot of espresso on a secluded West Hollywood cafe patio. “Post-emergency? That’s another thing. I’d be great in the moment and then not sleep for a year.”


These are among the things I discovered when talking with Adams for an Envelope cover interview.

Other findings: Adams serenaded the “Vice” set nonstop between takes, staying in Lynne Cheney’s voice. She had planned on recording an album before the holidays, “Lynne Cheney Sings Christmas Songs,” to give to McKay and may still follow through. She saw “Vice” for the first (and only) time with her mom, who loved it, telling Adams that Lynne was her favorite character of any she’s ever portrayed. And if Adams ever needs her 8-year-old daughter to behave, all she has to do is threaten to sing show tunes. That’ll restore order fast.

Alfonso Cuarón accepts the feature film award for "Roma" at the Directors Guild Awards.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images for DGA)

Cuarón adds another prize

In his march to winning the Oscar for directing “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón won the Directors Guild of America’s feature film honor this past weekend.

Longtime friend Guillermo del Toro, who won the award last year for “The Shape of Water,” presented Cuarón with the prize. The pairing was a happy coincidence that filled the winner with joy.

“I cannot do anything in this film life without Guillermo del Toro,” Cuarón said, thanking him in Spanish.

The Times’ Ashley Lee covered the event, and you can read her report here.



I’d love to hear from you. Email me at

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

Twitter: @glennwhipp

Get our daily Envelope newsletter