Optimists Hear L.A. Times Critic Kenneth Turan

Palisadian Offers His Academy Award Predictions

Annually, L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan speaks at the Palisades Optimist Club meeting shortly before the Oscars show, which will begin at 5 p.m. this Sunday, February 24.

Turan, a longtime Palisadian, made this year’s predictions on Tuesday morning at the Presbyterian Church. He once again reminded Optimists that voting decisions for most Oscars are often more complex than it might seem.

“It’s an odd year for the Oscars,” said Turan, who has been a film critic for the Times since 1991. “There are always favorites, but people are less sure that the favorites will win this year.”

Generally, the award shows that are held prior to the Oscars, such as the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild and the Directors Guild of America programs tend to favor a small cluster of films and individual performances in various categories. But this year, Turan said, “A lot of different films have received a lot of awards. This hasn’t happened in decades.”

Starting with Best Film honors, Turan noted that “everyone feels the favorite is ‘Roma,'”but it’s black and white and in a foreign language. Maybe even more problematic for Academy members was the fact that the film was produced by Netflix, whose officials “Don’t believe in movie theaters.”

“Roma” had short runs in select theaters in December in order to qualify for the Oscars, Turan said, and “Netflix has spent an enormous amount of money to promote the movie–about twice what it cost to make.”

He added, “‘Roma’ is a favorite, but I’m not sure it will win.” The film is about an indigenous woman who works as a housekeeper for an affluent family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

If not “Roma,” Turan said, “Green Book” is the likely winner, but he would enjoy seeing “Black Panther” pull an upset.

He feels that “Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron is the favorite to win his category because “he is well-liked” in Hollywood. He won for “Gravity” (2014) and directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004).

L.A. Times Film Critic Kenny Turan spoke to the Palisades Optimist Club.

Turan, who is also director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, said there’s a chance that the Academy might finally honor veteran director Spike Lee for his film “BlacKkKlansman.”

“Sometimes if a person has a body of work and the Academy has never honored them with an Oscar,” Turan said, “the Oscar comes as kind of career achievement award.” But he emphasized that “BlacKkKlansman” is an excellent film and Lee would be a deserving winner.

“The favorite for Best Actor seems to be Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” Turan said. “People really liked his performance.”

“My personal favorite was Willem Dafoe (a “remarkable” performance playing Vincent van Gogh in ‘At Eternity’s Gate’),” Turan said, and he acknowledged that many people liked Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in “Vice.”

For Best Actress, Turan predicts a win for Glenn Close in “The Wife,” who is also seeking her first Oscar.

“She won the Golden Globe and gave a spectacular speech,” Turan said. “Her speech was so good, it made her a favorite for the Oscars. It reminded people how good she is.

“Lady Gaga gave a really terrific performance [in ‘A Star Is Born,’], so if either wins, I’d be happy.”

For Best Supporting Actor, Turan gives the edge to Mahershala Ali in “Green Book.” “It was quite a strong performance and an Oscar would be well-deserved.”

His choice for Best Supporting Actress is Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which he praised as “a classic piece of filmmaking–very moving.”

For Best Adapted Screenplay, Turan said that “it’s likely” that Spike Lee will win for “BlacKkKlansman,” with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” the number-two favorite (written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty). “It’s a very funny film.”

For Best Original Screenplay, the two favorites among Academy members seem to be “Vice” and “The Favourite.”

“I’m not a fan of ‘The Favourite,’ a bleak, misanthropic film, but it has 10 nominations, so I guess it deserves one,” Turan said. “I prefer ‘Vice.'”

If “Roma” wins for Best Film, will it also win for “Best Foreign Film?” It is nominated in both categories.

“It could win both or it could win neither,” said Turan, who then recommended two other nominated foreign films: “Shoplifters” (Japan) about a family of petty thieves/shoplifters, who take in a neglected 5-year-old, which brings about unforeseen consequences; and “Cold War” (Poland) about the Iron Curtain era in Poland, set in the 1950s, and based on director Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents. “It is quite a good film,” Turan said. “It just won the American Society of Cinematographers Award,” presented to Lukasz Zal.

For Best Documentary, Turan lauded “RBG,” the hugely popular story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. “There’s a lot to chew on in this film. It makes you feel our system of government can work, by showing people of integrity who believe in serving the country and the system. And it’s not a partisan political film. I highly recommend it.”

“My co-favorite is ‘Free Solo,’” about a guy who climbs the sheer face of El Capitan using only his bare hands,” Turan said. “It’s an astonishing story–impossible to believe and terrifying to watch, even though you know he’s going to make it.”

Before the meeting ended, someone asked Turan if he had been to the Bay Theater in Palisades Village.

“I haven’t gone yet, but I will,” he said, though he noted, “My wife [a film buff in her own right] doesn’t like theaters where they serve food. She finds it’s too distracting.”

     Turan has authored nine books, including “Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film,” published in 2014.
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