Pavarotti

Pavarotti (Luciano Pavarotti) – Documentaries seem to be all the rage these days.  Free Solo and RBG were box office smashes (by documentary standards) last year.  Echo in the Canyon and The Biggest Little Farm look like hits already this year.  But this year’s big doc may be Ron Howard’s Pavarotti, a love letter about the great tenor.  More than any opera singer since Enrico Caruso a century before, Pavarotti made opera cool in the latter part of the 20th century.  With his larger-than-life personality and crystal-clear voice, he became a worldwide sensation, performing everywhere from rural outposts to massive stadiums to outdoor parks.

Howard manages to piece together decades of film — often grainy and amateurish – with deeply personal interviews with the Maestro’s ex-wives, former mistress, daughters, peers (Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and several sopranos), and admirers.  He weaves biography with taped performances from the time Pavarotti was a promising young singer through his waning years.

In fact, Howard presents Pavarotti’s life as opera.  A man of great passion – for opera, for women, for food, for children – Pavarotti lived large.  And he died painfully.  Howard manages to make the audience feel the highs and the lows of Pavarotti’s personal and professional lives.

But I warn you: the film is long.  It proves that even great directors can fall in love with their own films.  Howard could have spent less time in the run-up to stardom to get us to the fantastic success of his middle years and the explosive teaming with Domingo and Carreras as The Three Tenors.  His death is handled beautifully as is Pavarotti’s heartfelt charitable endeavors in concert with Princess Diana, Bono and many others.

Even if you don’t love opera, you will enjoy this stunning documentary.

Echo in the Canyon

Echo in the Canyon (Jakob Dylan, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Michelle Phillips, Tom Petty, John Sebastian + many more) – Folk-rock music defined much of pop music after the “British Invasion” of the mid-60s.  In many ways, folk-rock is uniquely American.  The center of the folk-rock world was in Laurel Canyon, a section in the hills of Los Angeles not far from Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip.

Music pioneers like the Byrds (David Crosby, Roger McGuinn most notably), The Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay), and The Mamas and the Papas (John and Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliott, and Denny Doherty) settled in there along with singer-songwriters like John Sebastian, Carole King (newly arrived from New York), Jackson Browne, Graham Nash (The Hollies), Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell.  Brian Wilson and the rest of the Beach Boys lived close by.  Even the Beatles and Elton John visited.  Laurel Canyon was like a commune for aspiring musical artists.  Life was free; drugs were everywhere; and money soon became plentiful.  Lou Adler became the producer and hits guru. There has never been anything like it since.

Echo in the Canyon is a combination documentary and concert video.  Vintage clips of these artists are punctuated with interviews of many of these aging rock stars and even a now-deceased Tom Petty.  At the center of the film is Jakob Dylan, son of Bob and lead singer and songwriter for The Wallflowers.  He is the interviewer and clearly gained the trust of these sometimes-temperamental musicians.

Dylan gathered some of today’s stars, too, including Beck, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Jade Castrinos, and Cat Power, to examine the music of the mid-‘60s and perform covers of some of the hits of the day.

For those of us who recall the ‘60s as the decade that defined the music of our lives, Echo in the Canyon gives us a first-person account of the glory that was Laurel Canyon through interesting and candid interviews (David Crosby admits he was an a**hole).  For our kids, it allows them to see some of their generation’s artists singing the songs that played in the parents’ homes.

Unusual for a documentary, Echo in the Canyon is getting a fairly wide release, having started in LA and New York but expanding to other cities this week. Its early per-screen box office results are exceptional. Look for it at your art-houses and perhaps at a few multiplexes, too.  For baby boomers, it will revive memories of innocence, protest, the sexual revolution, and music that made you think and feel.

Rocketman

Rocketman (Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard) – Elton John has been sober for 28 years.  But for the great bulk of his career, he was an alcoholic, pill addicted jerk.  Or at least that is what he tells us in Rocketman, a mostly accurate biopic starring his incredible body of music.

Rocketman tells all about Reginald Dwight’s childhood as recounted by the elder Elton Hercules John from his rehab facility in the early 1990s.  Reg was a prodigy growing up in a largely loveless home. He loved music of all types from Dizzy Gillespie to country & western.  His talent got him into the London music academy.  But his incredible facility for turning Bernie Taupin’s lyrics into song made him an international superstar.

The shy Dwight became John when he hit the stage, first in clubs in London but more importantly when he landed in LA to play the Troubador in 1970.  Although his first hit was the beautiful ballad, Your Song, he was all the buzz in the emerging music capital of the U.S. (in the ‘60s, the music world was centered in New York and London). His calling card soon became his gaudy, totally outlandish costumes even as his music screamed mainstream pop.

Rocketman is a jukebox musical with an honest retelling of his brilliance, his devolution into addiction, his sexual awakening, and his complicated relationships.  Despite taking some license with how he chose his stage name (it was not from looking at a picture of John Lennon) and the timing and sequencing of his songs (Crocodile Rock wasn’t written yet, let alone performed, at the Troubadour) (https://news.behealthyfornow.in/2019/06/e f01/rocketman-fact-checking-the-elton-john-biopic-rolling-stone/), the movie is exceptional.

Its star, Taron Egerton, who made a splash in the Kingsmen films, was an inspired choice to play John.  He has the look, the singing chops, and the acting range to portray the enigmatic John.

Elton John’s fans, about a billion of us, won’t find much new here (I saw him for the first time in 1974).  But we may be surprised by the depths to which he tumbled during the many years we admired him and attended his raucous concerts.  The fact that he describes himself as a jerk (not exactly the word he used) starting in 1975 until his stint in rehab in the early ‘90s doesn’t diminish his musical legacy but it sharply contrasts with the humanitarian, devoted husband, and doting father he has become in his later years.  As the John/Taupin song, Someone Changed My Life Tonight, aptly expresses: “Thank God my (his) music’s still alive.”

If you love Elton’s music, head to the theater right away.

The White Crow

The White Crow (Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Adele Exarchopoulos) – Rudolf Nureyev was the finest male ballet dancer of his time.  Dancing in his native Soviet Union, he was ticketed to international stardom, a symbol of USSR superiority in the world of ballet during the Cold War.  Nureyev was apolitical but he found himself at the epicenter of political intrigue when he defected to France at the airport in Paris in 1961.

His early life is beautifully depicted in The White Crow, director/actor Ralph Fiennes’ most stunning work behind the camera.  On camera, he is very impressive, too, as Nureyev’s nurturing teacher, Pushkin.  Fiennes spoke fluent Russian in the film.

The film starts with Nureyev’s birth in 1938 on the Trans-Siberian Express and progresses through his early childhood and eventual training as a dancer.  Told in flashbacks (often in black-and-white) and flash-forwards, some of which are a bit hard to follow, The White Crow depicts Nureyev as driven, fascinated, determined, bold, fun-loving, immature, supremely talented, and cocky.  Even as a child, he was quiet, different, and reflective – a “white crow” as his family called him.

On the first tour of Paris and London since the end of World War II, the Kirov ballet company thrills audiences.  When he gets the chance to perform, Nureyev is spellbinding.  Paris is a playground of freedom and history for young Rudi, and he makes the most of his time there.

He befriends a young socialite, Clara Saint, who recently lost her fiance in a car accident.  She is attracted to Rudy’s talent and sense of wonder.  He is attracted to her social circle, her support, and her sense of freedom.  The relationship, clearly platonic, needs greater development than Fiennes provides because it serves at the heart of the film.  That relationship greatly concerns the KGB officers traveling with the company.  They fear that Nureyev is falling under Clara’s spell, tasting too much of freedom and potentially infecting him with a love of the West.

When the company is about to embark on its trip to London, the movie reaches its height of tension.  Rudy has pushed his handlers too far and he is told he is to be returned to Moscow.

The Nureyev story is virtually unknown to anyone under 65 or outside the world of ballet.  Many of us knew he defected but nothing about the reasons, consequences, or his early life.  He became a symbol of Russian oppression and set the stage of other high-profile defections, including Mikhail Baryshnikov 13 years later.

The White Crow is presented with subtitles.  Its star, Oleg Ivenko, dances with the Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Company in Kazan, Russia (not exactly the Bolshoi), and this is his first film.  Fiennes originally targeted Hayden Christenson (Stars Wars I & II, Shattered Glass) to play Nureyev but a chronic ankle injury forced the director to change course.  Christenson’s modest star power may have helped The White Crow at the box office but Ivenko’s authenticity and ballet talent carries the film.

The White Crow is really quite an achievement for Fiennes (Liam Neeson is top credited as executive producer) but you will have to look very hard to find it in theaters.  If it shows in your town, see it quickly before it leaves.

Free Solo

Free Solo (Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin) – This guy is crazy!  Alex Honnold is now the king of climbing, traversing impossible peaks with no ropes.  His quest to climb the daunting El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is captured in Free Solo, this year’s Academy Award-winning documentary.

When this film beat out RBG for Oscar, a lot of us were disappointed.  But there is no doubt that the making of this film was a monumental achievement.  Honnold is an odd duck, an obsessed, fearless athlete with nerves of steel and focus beyond humanly possible.  As crazy as this all seems, Honnold’s commitment is grudgingly compelling.  His girlfriend’s fear is palpable.  His film crew’s skill level is off the charts while their fear of seeing their friend die is undeniable.

All this plays out as drama.  Just as we think we’re about to experience the climb to summit or death, Honnold “bails” part way up the mountain.  As an audience, we’re both relieved and saddened.  Then, a few months later – after winter intervenes – we watch as he tries again.

Free Solo is a photographic masterpiece.  It is a human drama and an agonizing journey.  For athletes, it is a challenge of immense proportion. For the rest of us, it is craziness documented.

The Biggest Little Farm

The Biggest Little Farm (John & Molly Chester) – In limited release*, The Biggest Little Farm is an impressive documentary about sustainable farming and the price a couple pays to resurrect dead land and make it a paradise.  As boring as that sounds, Farm is actually a tense drama about dreams, fears, commitment and the power of nature.

John and Molly Chester got tired of city life and decided to follow Molly’s dream of owning a farm to raise her family.  But they go way more than they bargained for.  The land they bought in Ventura County, California, was dead, the victim of drought, neglect and a poor economy.  With the help of an agricultural guru who truly believed that sustainable farming and a return to basics was the formula for resurrection, the couple poured everything into their big, little farm.

Through physical and mental challenges, they imported animals, planted various crops, and fought fire and rain to make the dream come true.  In the process, they encounter nature’s wrath and unanticipated barriers, eventually prevailing (please excuse the spoiler) and present to the audience a formula for global hope.

As a film, this is almost as good as a documentary gets.  On the surface, it looks like a relentless quest with a satisfying, if difficult, journey.  It has been very popular on the film festival route, premiering at Telluride and making a splash at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.

But I was left with several questions.  The film starts with animation telling us how the couple decided to seek their dream.  It mentions that they finally attracted the money to fund their quest.  But it doesn’t say how, from whom, or from what source.  Why not? Where did their funding come from – not only for the project but also for the film?  Were those dollars tied to the production of the documentary?  Is there an agenda?  Maybe the answers aren’t sinister but why the secrecy?

For production value and certainly as an interesting documentary, this movie is worth the time and effort.  There are ways that this could have been turned into a feature film rather than a documentary.  But it likely would not have attracted much commercial success.  If you get a chance to see this movie … or when it eventually makes its way to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime … you should see it.

 

*(Opened May 10 in Los Angeles and New York; May 17 in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Additional markets throughout May and June)

Long Shot

Long Shot (Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen) – Range.  Some actors spend their whole professional careers playing characters for which they were seemingly born.  Jimmy Stewart is the best example I can think of. Stewart was a wonderfully likeable actor whose dozens of roles never strayed too far from his personal image. Contrast that to Tom Hanks who played everything from silly to sorrowful.  Hanks defines range in an actor.

So does Charlize Theron, whose roles have ranged from her Oscar nominated performance in Monster to mysterious in Sweet November to sweet in The Legend of Bagger Vance and, now, to her funny, sexy turn in Long Shot.

While pairing Theron with Seth Rogen seems unusual, she was Rogen’s first choice to play Secretary of State Charlotte Field in this hysterical comedy.  Field is the workaholic globetrotter managing the nation’s foreign relations while Rogen is a crusading journalist with no emotional governor and no sense of fashion or respect for authority.  After quitting his job following a buy-out by one of those heartless media conglomerates, he serendipitously finds himself at the same party as Field, who had been his babysitter when he was a kid.

He always had a thing for his babysitter (so would you if your babysitter had been Charlize Theron) and she always liked the nerdy kid.  Now, she is looking for a speechwriter and he re-ignites her passion for climate change without compromise.

The rest is just good fun with a touch of danger, raunchiness, and a merry mix-up or two.  The leads make the film irresistible.  There is surprising chemistry between Theron and Rogen, mostly because of Theron’s performance.  After all, you always get the same character with Rogen (no range, just fun).  Theron really seems to have fun with the Charlotte character and so do we.

I only saw this film because it was raining in Seattle and this was the only movie worth paying money to see.  I’m glad I did.  It was the most fun I have had at the theater in a while thanks to the range of Theron and the vision of Rogen.

The Aftermath

The Aftermath (Keira Knightly, Alexander Skarsgard, Jason Clarke) – Set six months after the end of World War II in Hamburg, The Aftermath follows a British colonel, Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), who is leading the post-War occupation.  His wife, Rachael (Keira Knightly), is arriving by train to join him after not having seen him for a long time.  As the commanding officer of the occupying forces, Morgan expropriates the stately home of a local architect to live in.  The architect, Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard), is very polite and non-political but is now working in a non-professional job while caring for his rebellious, teenage daughter, Freda.

 

As the movie meanders along … very slowly … we learn that Rachael and Lewis’ son died in an air raid in England.  Likewise, Stephen’s wife, died in an Allied bombing.  All of these characters are scarred.  Rachael is bitter about her husband’s lack of attention on her and their grief.  Stephen is trying to cope with his own grief, his daughter’s frequent disappearance, and the loss of his house to the Allies.  Lewis is job-obsessed even though he has empathy for the people who have been displaced and whose city has been reduced to ruins.

 

When Colonel Morgan allows Stephen and Freda to remain on the top floor of the house, an incendiary dynamic is created.  Rachael wants no part of these Germans in her new home.  Stephen is livid when friends of the Morgans disrespect his ex-wife’s Steinway piano by pounding on the keys and singing raucous songs.  Freda is hanging with Hitler youth, most specifically an older teen who is living in the shadows, helping to lead protests, and trying to undermine the occupying forces.

 

As the story unfolds, Rachael and Stephen grow close.  Freda and Rachael bond since both play the piano.  As Lewis deals with the protests from the German people, he recedes further from his wife.  And then he realizes something is going on between his wife and his boarder.

 

Director James Kent, most of whose credits are TV related, builds an interesting but brooding story about a time period that, frankly, no one cares about: the aftermath of the War in Germany.  But the movie (and the book by Rhidian Brook on which it is based) is not only about the aftermath of the war.  It is about the aftermath of the death of the Morgans’ son and Lubert’s wife.  In the end, we wonder about the aftermath of the affair, too.

 

This art-house film has exceptional acting.  Keira Knightly has progressed from the gorgeous angel in Love Actually to one of the world’s best period actresses in Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina and The Imitation Game.  Jason Clarke is one of the best actors no one knows, having star turns in Oscar-nominated films like Zero Dark Thirty and Mudbound as well as playing Ted Kennedy in the unseen film, Chappaquiddick.  Alexander Skarsgard comes by his acting chops naturally as the son of the always phenomenal Stellan Skarsgard.  Best known perhaps for his role in Big Little Lies or perhaps The Legend of Tarzan, TV’s True Blood or Straw Dogs, the younger Skarsgard is likeable with a hint of danger.

 

The Aftermath is not a feel-good film.  It is a character study about death, despair, and hope in the wake of the worst conflict in world history.

Oscar Winners: A Split Decision

The race was really tight – a split decision mostly among four films:
 
Green Book won the biggest award: Best Picture. Mahershala Ali won for Supporting Actor.  And the film also won for Best Original Screenplay.
Bohemian Rhapsody won the most Oscars with four: Rami Malek for Best Actor plus Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing.
Black Panther won three: Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design.
Roma couldn’t become the first foreign film to win Best Picture,  Instead, it won Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film.
No other major film won more than one.  The Favourite won Best Actress.  BlacKkKlansman took Best Adapted Screenplay, winning Spike Lee his first Oscar.  A Star is Born won for Best Original Song for Lady Gaga and company.  Vice won Makeup and Hairstyling.  If Beale Street Could Talk won for Supporting Actress (Regina King).  RBG lost to Free Solo in the documentary category but that wasn’t a total surprise.
The biggest surprise was the upset in the Best Actress category as Glenn Close was passed over for the seventh time.  Amy Adams lost again.  She has six nominations without a win.  But don’t feel too sorry for them.  Their many nominations put them in rare company.
Here is a link to the winners:

Oscar commentary and picks

Oscar time!  In the most lackluster year for quality movies in quite some time, Hollywood reached box office records thanks to a mother lode of comic book films, animated movies and a bunch of dreck aimed at teenagers and young children.  By and large, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not reward such films, which by and large is good news.
However, 2018 was slightly different.  Black Panther, which broke box office records and featured an all-African American cast, was nominated for Best Picture and would have run way with the award for Best Popular Film if that new category hadn’t been delayed until next year.
Also, “made (mostly) for TV films” — those that only get a token theatrical release — have now been mainstreamed.  Most notably, this applied to Roma, the excellent black-and-white, artsy-fartsy film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, which Netflix took (almost) directly to a computer or TV near you.
Who’s going to win?
OK, let’s cut to the chase.  Rami Malek (actor), Alfonso Cuaron (director), Regina King (supporting actress), RBG (documentary), Mahershala Ali (supporting actor) and Roma (best foreign language film) are locks.
The Best Actor category is stacked with amazing performances. All of the nominees deserve to win.  Malek has won all of the contests so far, and he deserves to win the Oscar.  His portrayal of Freddie Mercury of Queen is uncannily good.  And he wasn’t even the first choice to play the part: Sasha Baron Cohen was.
For Best Director, Cuaron has won every pre-Oscar competition.  The Academy loves him.  Roma is a triumph of direction.  Filmed in b&w, it follows a year in the life of a maid/nanny in Mexico as she serves a well-to-do, dysfunctional family.  Pretty bland story, for sure.  But Cuaron’s photographic technique is so stunning that it blasts conventional norms. It will absolutely win Best Foreign Language Film and might even take the Best Picture prize.
Regina King was really good in If Beale Street Could Talk.  Since she played Cuba Gooding’s wife in Jerry McGuire, she has been a favorite of mine.  I don’t think that she deserves the Oscar over Rachel Weisz but she has won all the pre-Oscar stuff so she probably will win this category.  Besides, Weisz and Emma Stone will split the votes for their performances in The Favourite.
Mahershala Ali was transcendent in Green Book as the black pianist who performs in the south in the early ’60s with his racist bodyguard at his side.  This was my favorite movie of the year.  Playing off Viggo Mortensen, his co-star and nominee for Best Actor, Ali burst on the scene with his performance in Moonlight and more subtle turn in Hidden Figures.  He is quickly proving that he is in rare air as one of the best actors in the world.
 
How can RBG not win Best Documentary?  The real Notorious RBG is everyone’s favorite grandmother and perhaps the savior of our democracy.  She just conquered her third cancer.  And she is tantalizingly self-deprecating in this film.  Please, stay strong Ruth.
Almost locks
Glenn Close was brilliant in The Wife.  She is the most nominated actress not to have won an Oscar so this is the year.  She is almost the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards.  But if she loses, it will be to Olivia Colman of The Favourite.  Colman is so pathetic, sickly, horny, and savvy as Queen Anne that she deserves the award.  Close was so full of closeted angst in The Wife that you expected her to scream at any minute.  When she finally explodes, you want to stand up and cheer.
“Shallow,” Lady Gaga’s song from A Star Is Born, has to win Best Original Song.  Why?  Because it’s Lady Gaga!  Plus, Bradley Cooper is a revelation as a singer.  Cooper should have been nominated for Best Director for the movie, too, because he had the guts to try this film for the fourth time and make it the best of the lot.  Their song will be sung live … and it should win.  The only reason I didn’t put it into the “lock to win” category is because all Academy members vote for this category, and I’m not sure if the old guard know who Lady Gaga is … except that she sings with Tony Bennett.
The Tight Race – Best Picture
This is the most open Best Picture race in recent memory.  As I wrote earlier, it is not unusual to have a couple of films in the discussion for Best Picture.  But there are as many as five of the eight films with a legitimate shot in this category.  Part of the dilemma is that this was a sub-standard year for quality films.
If you want to find negatives about each film, it’s easy. Green Book is just too neat, too canned, too predictable.  Black Panther, at its heart, is just another formula super-hero flick. The Favourite is too prurient, too unlikely, too dismissive of the men who dominated the times. BlacKkKlansmen is too political.  Vice is just a hatchet job that feels like The Big Short but just isn’t nearly as good. Roma is really pretty boring with the stupidest mating ritual ever. Bohemian Rhapsody is a jukebox musical that sanitizes and glorifies Freddie Mercury as more of a tribute than an honest biopic. A Star is Born is the fourth iteration of a film that is just a vehicle for Lady Gaga reminiscent of The Bodyguard.
On the other hand:
Roma — a common woman doing a common job is the “real” Mexico, this film is perfectly photographed.  It’s the story of an ordinary person and the troubled family she serves.  No frills; just great storytelling.
Black Panther — a history-making film proving that mass audiences will swarm to see a super-hero of color.  Great graphics, a charismatic star, and lots of action.
BlacKkKlansman — a funny, sickening story of a rookie black cop infiltrating the Klan that is more entertaining than preachy.
The Favourite — a fun, sexy period piece with three superb actresses who clearly enjoy their roles and tell an unvarnished story of Queen Anne and her proclivities.
Vice — a scathing, scary look at how Dick Cheney overwhelmed the Bush Administration with his view of the world.  Christian Bale is transformed into Cheney while Sam Rockwell imitates George Bush better than Bush does himself.
A Star is Born — The best of the four iterations of this story with the twist of revealing Bradley Cooper as a singer, director, and actor of substance.  And who knew that Lady Gaga could act and would take the make-up off.
Green Book — The best buddy film since Thelma and Louise and Driving Miss Daisy, this film shows us how far we have come … and not … in 50 years.  The two stars (Viggo and Mahershala) shine.
Bohemian Rhapsody — This deep dive into the rock group Queen and especially its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, is the finest musical biopic of its time.  Rami Malek inhabits the persona of Mercury, making all of us wish we had paid more attention to this rock super-group.
So who wins?  I am hoping for Green Book.  It is so much harder to make a great movie whose scope and budget are limited than it is to spend $250 million on a computer-driven film like Black Panther.  The actors carry the film yet the story is amazingly relevant and riveting.
If not, I am rooting for BlacKkKlansman because it is the most entertaining film of the year.  It tells a real story with humor, and exposes David Duke as a demagogue and an idiot.  I just wish Spike Lee had avoided taking the political shot at the end.
Roma is the likely winner because it is the most unique film of the year.  It passes several tests.  It is relevant — about Mexicans, who have been demonized by Donald Trump.  It is artsy — great photography shot in black-and-white, interesting characters, unknown actors.  It is revolutionary — distributed almost exclusively through NetFlix, one of the new media that has provided lots of jobs for Hollywood and saved the film industry.
If it wins, it will be the most successful foreign film since Life is Beautiful.
 
As to the other categories, who cares!?  The Academy was right to exclude them from the agonizingly long telecast, then bowed to the pressure from the big names.  So we’ll have to watch the opening with no host, see who wins one of the best supporting actor awards, have a quiet dinner, then turn the TV back on to watch the flood of awards we really care about at the end.
I vote for The Favourite for costumes, Vice for make-up, Green Book for original screenplay, BlacKkKlansman for adapted screenplay, and Roma for cinematography.  These are not predictions so much as they are my preferences.
Good luck with your Oscar ballots.  And enjoy your dinner while the winners in the technical categories drone on.  Where is Billy Crystal when we need him?
Here is a link to the Oscar nominations: