Later tonight in Los Angeles the latest set of Academy Award winners will be announced. It will be the early hours of Monday morning here in the UK, and I will be asleep. The films that win over the next few hours were all released in 2019.
As I wrote in this piece two years ago I always associate Oscar winners with their year of release rather than the year when the ceremony takes place. Increasingly, on quiz shows, the latter is used. I gave examples in that earlier piece from “Only Connect”, “Tenable” and “The Chase”. “Mastermind” was at it last year as well. In a special subject round about the Oscars one of the first questions (it might even have been the first question) mentioned an American film, the Best Picture award, and 1970. The contestant (and I, in my living-room) confidently said “Patton”, the winner for that year. But, according to John Humphrys and the question-setter, we were wrong. It was “Midnight Cowboy”, the winner for 1969. I am more wary these days about any Oscar-related questions involving years.
Irrespective of when they were released and when the ceremonies took place, I am currently up to date with all major Oscar winners, going back to the late 1940s. I have seen every film that has won any of the following awards, which I regard as “the Big Six”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. I see very few new films these days but caught up on most of last year’s winners in January (“Green Book”, “Roma”, “The Favourite”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”) thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime (“included with your subscription”) and a 99p DVD from our local Oxfam Bookshop. I had already seen “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 2019.
Last week BBC4 repeated a documentary presented by Mark Kermode, made just before last year’s awards ceremony. It did a good job of connecting Oscar winners thematically. It noted, for example, how many of the acting awards have gone to people portraying historical figures, including Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”, Helen Mirren in “The Queen”, Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in “The Favourite” (only a nominee at the time, but she did win) and Gary Oldman as Churchill in “Darkest Hour” (released in 2018, and another film that I only caught up with last month). The main thing that I noticed from watching the most recent award winners was the repeated use of what I will refer to here as “the c-word” (you know the one, it rhymes with “hunt”). It definitely features in three of the last four films for which women received acting awards: “The Favourite” (Olivia Colman, Best Actress 2018), “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Regina King, Best Supporting Actress 2018) and “I, Tonya” (Alison Janney, Best Supporting Actress 2017). It might also be in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” (Frances McDormand, Best Actress 2017) but I saw that one some time ago and can’t recall if anyone said it.
Unlike many of my friends, I have not yet seen any of this year’s Academy Award nominees. “1917” has featured often in recent conversations and is favourite to win tonight. I see that there are films with multiple nominations that I could watch right now, legally and without leaving the house, through Netflix: “The Irishman” (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor), “Marriage Story” (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress). “The Two Popes” (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor). If any of them win tonight I’ll be able to watch them whenever I want, but probably not tomorrow night. Monday night is quiz night.