One of the favorite speakers at the Palisades Optimist Club is now retired L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan, who makes a yearly visit to offer his wisdom in selecting Oscar awardees.
The 94th Academy Awards will be held on March 27, hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. “No matter what happens in the world, it seems like the Oscars go on,” Turan said.
Prior to giving to giving his Oscar selects, the long-time Palisades resident made a plea for people to go back to theaters.
“’Spiderman’ made a pre-Covid amount of money,” he said, noting that the younger people seem to be going into the theater in droves, but “generally the older audiences who watch documentary and smaller films, are nervous. How long will it be before they go back into the theaters?
“We need to go back, or those theaters will close,” Turan said. “Covid has accelerated the trend for streaming platforms.” He said the smaller theaters are holding on the best they can, but to survive that population will have to go out, again.
“That’s my soapbox for the morning,” he said and then dived into possible picks for Oscars.
He said that consensus starts to build on different films or stars during the award season, and that can make a difference to who or which picture wins.
“For Best Supporting Actress, Ariana DeBose, of ‘West Side Story’ is a clear favorite,” Turan said. “She’s the best thing in the film.”
He thought that Troy Kotsur of “CODA” would take Best Supporting Actor. “This movie appeared more than a year ago at Sundance. It’s a wonderful film and I whole-heartedly recommend it.”
He felt the Best Actress category was one of the toughest to call. His personal favorite was Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), but that “people are pointing to Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”). They say it was a wonderful performance, but people are mixed on the film.”
For Best Actor “Everyone is picking Will Smith (“King Richard”). It’s an engaging film, and a terrific performance,” Turan said. “He’s a well-liked and a gifted actor.”
Turans said for Best Director “everything is pointing to Jane Champion “The Power of the Dog.”
Although he was questioned about the film, with several people not liking it, Turran said it was a film one needed to see on the big screen. Since it is a Netflix film, many people had viewed it home. He recommended that people see it at the Bay Theater, which Netflix had purchased, in order to show its films.
“It’s the filmmaking that holds you to the screen,” Turan said. “It’s a complicated story and a very strong film to watch.” The main character is not a nice guy and on a small screen, the filmmaking doesn’t come through.
It also makes predicting which film will win best picture more difficult because Turan said the Academy has a complicated voting system—it is ranked with all 10 films listed from top choice to last choice. “Power of the Dog” is the favorite.
Other more-liked films, the critic said, include “CODA” and “Belfast.”
In Best International Feature Film, Turran recommended several films for residents to see.
He suspects that “Drive My Car” (Japanese) will win. “Critics are enraptured with this film. It’s a long film, a slow film – but I found it very involving,” he said.
The film is up against “Flee,” a film from Denmark, which has also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature Film. “Flee” is story about an Afghanistan refugee, who fled to Denmark. Turan suspects it will win in Animated Film.
He also recommends the documentaries “Attica” and “Summer of Soul (. . .Or When the Revolution Could Not be Televised).” He thinks the latter could win.
“The little film that could, ‘Writing with Fire,” is about the Dalit women (oppressed-caste) running a newspaper Khabar Lahariya,” Turan said, and added if he could recommend two films it would be this one and CODA.
Currently, Turan is working on a book about the partnership of film icons Louis Mayer and Irving Thalberg, who created Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in 1924.
Thalberg died at age 37. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award has been given out periodically by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1937 and awarded to producers whose body of work reflected consistently high quality films.
It was said the two men made a brilliant team, until they disagreed over philosophical issues: Thalberg preferred literary works and Mayer crowd pleasers.
At Mayer’s funeral in 1957, Spencer Tracy said that Mayer’s love of American, made him an authority on America. Mayer was born in Russia.
Turan has written nine books, including “Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film” and “Now in Theaters Everywhere.” Readers will wait anxiously for this one to be published.