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Oscar nominations 2020: Could the best picture race be over this weekend?

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- 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.

Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Maybe in my haste to wash away the sins from an awards season that roundly ignored movies made by women about women in favor of, oh, two more popes than should have been nominated, I'm anxious to roll up the red carpet, watch "Parasite" win its one measly Oscar and finally get around to binge-watching "Dickinson."

But if Monday's nominations didn't settle the Oscar best picture race, Saturday's Producers Guild Awards could squash the suspense entirely. And after winning the Golden Globe for best picture drama last weekend and over-performing at the box office this weekend ($36.5 million, thanks in part to that Globes bounce), "1917" probably will be celebrating again when the PGA Awards reveal its final winner.

Mendes' war movie has accrued unstoppable momentum in a brief window of time.

The biggest Oscar nomination this morning wasn't Todd Phillips' nod for directing "Joker" or Kathy Bates slipping in ahead of Jennifer Lopez in the supporting actress category. (Did you not cry along with Bates in "Richard Jewell" when the FBI returned her Tupperware and it was ruined?)

 

No, the most significant nomination was "1917" earning a spot in the original screenplay category, making Mendes a triple nominee (he produced, directed and co-wrote, with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, the script) and keeping the film safe from some daunting Oscar history.

A movie can win the best picture Oscar without earning any acting nominations. (The list includes "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and another war film, "Braveheart.") A movie can win without a screenplay nod. (Remember when "Titanic" was king of the world?) But if it's shut out in both areas, you can forget about writing that acceptance speech. You won't need it.

So "1917" bagged that screenplay nomination. And it doesn't really need the acting noms because everyone loves George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman playing the two British soldiers on a mission to deliver a crucial warning message to comrades about to fall into a trap set by the Germans. Not enough to nominate them, no, but they arrived late to stacked acting categories that didn't even have room for Robert De Niro ("The Irishman"), Christian Bale ("Ford v Ferrari"), Taron Egerton ("Rocketman"), Eddie Murphy ("Dolemite Is My Name") and (hold on, I'm wiping away a tear) Adam Sandler's live-wire turn in "Uncut Gems."

So the acting omission isn't a problem for "1917." The film editors branch shunned the movie as well because its voters apparently respond mostly to manically cut movies ("Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meeeeeeee!"), and "1917" was constructed to appear as if it takes place in a single shot.

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