My Mom Has a Crush on Leonardo DiCaprio
Welcome back to my legion of faithfuls (waves to 6 people) who come to this blog every year for the hottest Oscars take in Hollywood: my Mom’s! I’m not even pretending to use this blog space as anything other than a place for me to put this post. It’s now the blog equivalent of a Parking Chair, but I only park here once per year. C’est la vie!
Scandal alert: this is the first year my mother and I did the majority of this post asynchronously. That is, instead of a face to face conversation or a phone interview, which I record and then later transcribe, my mother emailed me her picks and I emailed her mine. Then we responded, when we could, to each other’s picks. What can I say? I was pressed for time this year, still watching movies up until last night (Friday, the 22nd). But as I said, this is an important tradition* for me and my Mom so we decided to try this format.
Please note that, whenever possible, I have tried to use my mother’s writing verbatim, including punctuation and emojis. But she did not enjoy this format. She told me, “You have a PhD and you’re a writer. How am I supposed to compete with that? You need to cut back some of what you wrote so there is more focus on me. This is my blog.” Sorry, Mom. We’ll do better next year. Onward!
I had some trouble getting out to the movies before many of these titles disappeared from theaters, so I haven’t yet seen Vice or If Beale Street Could Talk. Out of the remaining nominations, my pick is Rachel Weisz in The Favourite, with Emma Stone (also in The Favourite) coming in a close second. I loved Weisz’s performance because it really could have become hyperbolic as tensions escalate between the women, but she balances the humor in the part, with the shrewdness of the character. Also, I was initially worried that these characters would feel anachronistic (like Girl Power for the 1700s!). But they didn’t. It really worked for me.
I did not see Vice😢 or If Beale Street Could Talk. My choice for BestActress in a Supporting role is Emma Stone in The Favourite. She was mean, cunning, gorgeous, and kind, all in one role. Fabulous!!!
Why did you pick Emma Stone over Rachel Weisz?
They were both phenomenal. It was very difficult but in the final analysis, the role that Emma Stone had to play was just amazing. And she had to do everything. Rachel Weisz just had to be The Bitch that Ran the Place. So I give it to Stone.
This was a tough choice for me. Mahershala Ali was the perfect snob and super refined but in the end, I’ll go with Richard E. Grant, the British Actor I never heard of. He stole the movie. I am glad the Academy saw how superb he was in the role of an old, gay (and, eventually, sick) has-been writer in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I liked Sam Elliott’s performance in A Star is Born but the role wasn’t very interesting to me; it felt like he received an Oscar nomination for being Sam Elliott more than anything else. Mahershala Ali had a pretty thankless role in Green Book so I don’t have much to say on that, except that he did the best he could with a poorly-written character. I generally love Adam Driver in anything he does, but I don’t think he did anything special in BlacKKKlansman. So, for me, the best performance was absolutely Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me? I appreciated his performance for a few reasons. First, he plays an outrageous person, but his performance is never outrageous. Second, every time he appears in a scene, I just want to look at him. His presence is such a force. Third, those blue eyes. My God.
For sure, without hesitation, I choose Rami Malek for best Actor in Bohemian Rhapsody. I did not know who Fred Murphy [sic] was or who the band Queen was (sorry), but he was the singer and made the band what it became. The music was fantastic and memorable. He and the film was loved by all age groups (I can attest to that).
How can you attest? Did you take a poll?
Well, as you know, I’m just a movie critic once a year. I don’t have to take a poll. I do everything by what I feel in my gut, and I also asked my friends what they thought. They are all very sophisticated women with college degrees. At Book Club last Thursday night all of them screamed when I said that Rami Malek was my pick.
Also, did you really not know the band Queen before seeing this movie?
Yes. I was never big into listening to music like that. I remembered the songs like “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We will Rock You,” but didn’t know who the band was. I only went to one concert in my whole life, The Rolling Stones in 1989 (Steel Wheels Tour). Why would I go to a concert? The only star I ever went berserk over in high school was Elvis Presley.
I am ill-equipped to weigh in on this category because I haven’t seen Vice or At Eternity’s Gate. As for the rest? Oh, Bradley Cooper! You are very handsome and your singing voice is much better than what I expected it to be (fuck those haters, Bradley). But this was a weird performance for me. Jack never felt like a real character, just a Generic Drunk Tortured Guy, which impacts the efficacy of love story for me.
Now, as for Viggo Mortensen in Green Book. If there was an Oscar category for Best Onscreen Food Consumption, my dude would win, hands down. But other than the great eating, I found his performance to be Too Much. It’s like he was an understudy at the Thatsa Spicy Meatball! School for Italian Accents. It distracted me.
Bohemian Rhapsody was a real shitshow, so it is hard to objectively discuss Rami Malek’s performance. In a lot of scenes I just couldn’t get past those teeth. It was like John Travolta in The People vs OJ Simpson-level distracting, but in a bad way instead of a good way.
My pick for Best Actor in a Leading Role, therefore, is Ethan Hawke in First Reformed. Yes, I know he wasn’t nominated. But he gave the performance of his career in that film. At a time when many of us tire of seeing another film about a Straight White Guy Struggling with His Demons, this version of that story was so compelling. I always respect performances in which the actor is onscreen a lot but doesn’t necessarily get to do much. A lot of this movie is staring at Ethan Hawke’s face and IT. IS. NEVER. BORING. 10/10, would gaze again.
I CRY FOUL BALL! YOU MAY NOT CHOOSE SOMEONE WHO IS NOT NOMINATED. The Academy will hear about this, Dr. Klein.
I said what I said.
Well I was a lady and I followed the rules. Even when I was mad that Won’t You Be My Neighbor didn’t get a Best Documentary nomination, I saved it for the end. [see below]
I’ve seen all of these performances! And truly, all five of these women were fantastic, with Lady gaga being a little less fantastic than her competitors. No shade on Gaga; she was great. But she can’t be the best at singing, song-writing, performing AND acting.
As for the rest, and I know this is a cop out, but my runner up is actually a three-way tie between Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, Glenn Close in The Wife, and Olivia Colman in The Favourite. This year’s Best Actress in a Leading Role category is a testament to how difficult it is to compare excellent acting performances. All three these movies were so different—in tone, subject, and character—that it’s hard for me to rank them.
Having said that, the performance that stands just a little above all of these other amazing performances is Melissa McCarthy’s in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Where to start? I love how McCarthy took this character whose clothing, hair, and posture all ask you to look right past her, and plays her in such a way that all you want to do is look directly at her. This performance perfectly complements the film’s plot, which focuses on a writer who has spent her career telling her readers about other people’s lives and words. I really only know McCarthy from her comedic roles, where she is superb (long live Sean Spicer!), but damn, I hope she gets #alltheroles going forward.
I saw all the films and believe all of these actresses deserve the Oscar (except Lady Gaga) but Olivia Colman rose above them. She is almost the new Meryl Streep (no nomination for Meryl this year. Must be the first time in many years). Colman played the role of the aging lesbian, with bandaged legs (must have diabetes [editor’s note: she had gout]), and no children of her own. She was superb!!!!!!
Still not sure what to think of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. We watched it drunk on Christmas Eve, which may explain that. My pick is Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? This movie had great performances, but they were only possible through a script that was both funny and sad, and then weirdly redemptive. They built these characters who are assholes who I still like and understand so much that I would definitely go drinking with them in real life. Also, the scene in which they discover piles of old cat poop under Lee’s bed felt realer than real, as we own a house-pooping cat. Bonus points for that scene.
My pick is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Love the Cohen brothers–watch this movie sober. It is hysterical and soooooooooooooooo clever! Only the Cohen boys can think this way!!!!
Roma. To me, the film was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The way they started that movie–with her washing the driveway…from that moment I was in that movie. I was so mesmerized by that film. Everything about it, I liked. I also like The Favourite. It was fascinating to watch three women conniving each other. The last quarter of the movie was so real to me. The sadness. And The Queen really loved those two women, and they’re destroying each other in front of her. And then the one she loved the most, she banished from England.
This one is also very hard for me in the same way that the Best Actress category was hard. The Favourite, Roma, and First Reformed were all perfect vehicles for the stories being told. The Favourite is filled with saucy tongue twisters and sick burns. Roma, like all good neorealist texts, spend a lot of time contemplating the mise en scene, rather than chatting. But for me, First Reformed is the winner. There are so many reasons for this but I will just mention one: when Pastor Toller lies on top of Mary (she asked him to!) and the entire movie shifts to a different plane of reality. It was completely unexpected and so different from everything else that had come before in the film and yet, it worked.
Saw all but Vice. Actually, saw Cold War. Don’t go! Depressing and stupid movie. The winner without question is Alfonso Cuarón for Roma!!!!!
At last we agree on something! I can’t say Roma was my favorite film of the year (that’s why I don’t give it Best Picture) but the direction on this is pretty phenomenal. That ocean scene at the end was absolutely perfect. I love Italian Neorealism (my favorite is Umberto D) and this movie does that kind of filmmaking so well. Gorgeous.
A close second for me is Spike Lee for The BlacKKKlansman. This is not my favorite of Spike Lee’s movies (that would be the Oscar-deprived Do the Right Thing) nor is it my second favorite (She’s Gotta Have It) or even my third (Bamboozled). But that’s not saying much, as I very much like Spike Lee. I also want to note that I love Yorgos Lanthimos’ work and I loved The Favourite, but as with Spike Lee, this is definitely my 4th favorite Lanthimos film (that order would be #1 The Lobster, #2 Killing of a Sacred Deer, and #3 Dogtooth).
This year I saw all of the Best Picture nominees, but Vice. Very upset that I did not see it but will do so as soon as it returns. I truly enjoyed all the films that I saw; some were beautiful to watch, some were funny, charming, violent and some educational. Of all of them were but A Star is Born (BORING) !!!! I did learn that Lady Gaga is no joke! She can really sing.
You didn’t know Lady gaga could sing?
You know how it is with the performers who wear crazy outfits and do crazy things? They usually don’t have great voices. I think she wore a meat dress one time.
This year I choose Roma as Best Picture. Actually, Roma was one of the best films I’ve ever seen (and you know I have seen a lot of films). It was an amazing film to watch. Black and white film captured the time and turmoil of Mexico, along with the inner heart ache of the family. Tragedy, love, and survival. What I found interesting is that so many people couldn’t get through Roma.
Because it was long and slow?
BUT IT WAS AWESOME.
I will have an easier time eliminating some of the so-called frontrunners that I don’t think deserve this award: First, Green Book had a hokey script and hokey acting (great soundtrack tho) and truly, Hollywood should be done making message movies about Racism of the Past just so that White People can feel better about the kind of racism we have today.
As for A Star is Born, I love the story (my favorite version is the 1954 Judy Garland version) and I love musicals and I also really like both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. And that Grammys scene was A+ But the movie was uneven and needed another round of editing.
The film which has inexplicably received a lot of awards is Bohemian Rhapsody. This movie failed on so many levels. It was only worthwhile because I saw it with my kids and then, for the next 6 weeks, we would randomly burst out into verses of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
So I’m giving Best Picture to The BlacKKKlansman for a few reasons. First, the actual story of Detective Ron Stallworth is truly bananas, and every actor in this film (yes, I am talking to you, Topher Grace) really brought their A game (ironically, Adam Driver was the least compelling to me among these performances). Also, the dialogue was sharp and funny. He made some interesting stylistic choices (like those extended dance scenes) that worked, and others that fell flat for me (the final scenes with Stallworth and Patrice felt too abrupt). But what put this one over the edge for me is that I saw it with my 12yo daughter and, when the footage from the Unite the Right rally plays in the final moments before the credits, her jaw dropped. She had seen that footage before, of course, and we had even discussed what happened in Charlottesville as a family. But seeing that footage of violent racism from 2017 nestled at the end of the story of violent racism from almost 40 years ago is a real gut punch. Where Green Book aims to make audiences feel good about race relations before the final credits, The BlacKKKlansman brings it directly in line with the present.
And frankly, the fact that Mr. Lee has previously received only two Oscar nominations in his long and rich career (School Daze, Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man) and never for One of the Big Ones (Best Picture, Best Director), I think this is his time now.
Any other thoughts about this year’s slate of contenders?
My pick for Best Song is “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” but “Shallow” from A Star is Born will win. Best Make up will be Vice. I’m glad A Quiet Place was nominated for sound editing. Also, I was very disappointed that Won’t You be My Neighbor? was not nominated for Best Documentary. Best Cinematography is The Favourite.
Are you disappointed that Leonardo Di Caprio didn’t receive any nominations this year?
Well he wasn’t in anything this year. And you can’t choose something that wasn’t nominated or else we’d have bedlam [Note: she is referring to me and my Best Actor pick]. But I don’t have any threats this year.
Now, I’m not writing any more because I’m tired of this [typing].
That’s it, Dr. Klein. Call me xoxoxo.
*For those who might be new to My Mom’s Oscar Picks (waves to 1 person who thought this was porn), this tradition began in 2011, a few months after my father died. His passing was not unexpected but it was a violent, visceral, and fully shared family experience that remains incredibly vivid, over 7 years later. So this annual blog post is like a gift of connection that my mother and I can give each other each year, during a time of year when it is cold and dark outside, and reminiscent of sadder times.
My parents believed that children who got straight As and attended Ivy league schools had only two possible future professions: doctor or lawyer. That’s what they owed society. So when my parents saw 10 graduate school applications neatly laid out on the diningroom table during the fall of my senior year of college, they can be forgiven for asking, in hopeful tones “When do you plan to take the LSAT?” It took my parents years to get over this. You can imagine how excited I was when my mother developed an interest in the cinema, the focus on my PhD.
Her cinephilia started not too long after an independent theater, The Midtown Cinema, opened up in her city (which also coincided with her retirement from politics). There she could go and see “art” films like Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch) in their initial release. She also got into the habit of calling me after going to see one of those art films — because if I wasn’t going to be a doctor (meaning, the “real” kind), then at least I could help her understand what the hell was going on in Adaptation (2002, Spike Jonze). That was a fun conversation.
I am always impressed that my mother wants to discuss the films that challenge her. For example, after going to see Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan), she left the following message on my voicemail: “Honey, your father and I just saw Inception. We have A LOT of questions.”
Perhaps the best thing about my mother’s cinephilia is her pithy, honest responses to them. Her critiques generally match up with what the professional critics have to say. And she sees enough of the new releases to have a solid understanding of the contemporary cinematic landscape. She can tell when a film is being manipulative (like War Horse [2011, Steven Speilberg]) and when it is being subtle. Her one blind spot is experimentation. My mother doesn’t like films that are “too weird” or that steer too far away from conventional cinematic language. For example, she really enjoyed The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius), which, with its lack of sound, can certainly be labeled as “experimental.” But she hated Tree of Life (2011, Terence Malick). We have discussed her hate for this film on several occasions. I think she is actually mad at Terence Malick for making this film and for luring her into the theater to see it.
For the last few years my mother has also made a point of trying to see all of the films nominated for awards. In fact, there are many Oscar seasons when she has a far more informed opinion of the year in film than I do. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to have my mother, amateur film buff, give you some of her 2012 Oscar picks. I sent her a list of questions via e-mail, and then I called her and we discussed them.
Before we get to the interview, allow me to tell you a little bit about my mother, in order to contextualize some parts of our conversation. She is 69-years-old, born and raised in Pennsylvania. She received her BA as well as her MA in education from Shippensburg University. When she first moved to Harrisburg as a young, single woman, she taught public school, but quit teaching when I was born. Then, when I was about 8 years-old she ran for Register of Wills in Dauphin County, a position she held for 4 years. After that she was a Dauphin County Comissioner for 12 years. My father, who she was married to for 43 years, passed away over the holidays, so she is also a recent widow. My mom wanted me to add that she has “two wonderful children” and “four beautiful grandchildren.” So there you go.
Below is a transcript of our conversation, with my questions appearing in bold-face. The portions of the text appearing in brackets are my later additions/corrections to the interview.
Which of the films nominated for Best Picture Oscars have you seen so far?
I’ve seen every nominee except for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011, Stephen Daldry), Hugo (2011, Martin Scorsese), and Moneyball (2011, Bennett Miller).
Out of the Best Picture nominees, which films were your favorite? And can you tell me why these films were your favorite?
The film that I thought was the best was The Artist. It was just incredibly watchable even though it was a silent film. It was very unique in the way it was done, with a little bit of sound but mostly silent. It was just fascinating to watch. I loved it.
Did you think going to see a silent film would not be enjoyable?
I don’t think I would have gone to see it at all if I hadn’t read the reviews. It didn’t sound appealing. Although I do prefer subtitles because of my hearing problem.
You mean intertitles? Yeah, it’s probably better for you if you can read the dialogue.
A lot of my friends weren’t interested in seeing [The Artist] at all. So I’m glad it was playing in Greenville when I was visiting you.
And why weren’t they interested? Because it was silent?
Yeah they just thought it was too weird to go in and watch a movie like that.
Now you also told me about how much you liked The Descendants (2011, Alexander Payne).
Yes. But as far as Best Picture, The Artist was special. It will definitely win the Best Picture award. [she pauses] But I’ve been wrong before.
Out of the Best Picture nominees, which films were your least favorite? Can you explain why?
My least favorite was Midnight in Paris (2011, Woody Allen).
I didn’t like it at all. Do you want to know my second least favorite is?
First I want to know why you didn’t like Midnight in Paris.
It was very disjointed. It went back and forth in time so much that it lost me. I thought the acting was terrible.
Who did you think was terrible?
The guy. Whatever his name was. I didn’t like him.
[she is referring to Owen Wilson]
It was almost a tie for me with Tree of Life. I just didn’t care for [Tree of Life] at all.
[we both start laughing]
Did you ever see it?
Yes, I saw it last weekend.
What did you think?
I liked it.
I didn’t like it. I think the film made me very uncomfortable.
It was such a depressing film because of the character played by Brad Pitt. I was constantly feeling sorry for the children and the wife. And that whole surreal scene on the beach? Where they were all going wherever they went? That was strange.
What about the first 15 minutes of the film? Where the director shows the evolution of life on Earth? What did you think of that?
Totally lost me. Went over my head. Wasn’t for me. That is never going to get Best Picture. Ever.
When I was watching the beginning of Tree of Life, I knew to expect that kind of opening because I had read about it. As somebody who went in to see that movie, and wasn’t expecting 15 minutes of almost abstract images and no plot or characters, what was that like for you?
I wasn’t expecting it. I just didn’t get it. It was just uncomfortable. I didn’t care for it. It was a film without any light moments. I really firmly believe that a director has to have a little bit of brightness in a movie. It can’t be all depressing and weird.
Even The Descendants — with that serious topic — there were several really funny, light moments that made the viewer relax a little bit. I don’t think a film should be all of one type…I don’t know how else to express it.
Which actors, in your opinion, gave the best performances?
Definitely George Clooney. I love the way — and I’m not a fan of his — but I loved the way it was such a real performance as far as a father dealing with two young daughters, and what they were feeling with their mother in a coma. And then his wife, who was in a tragic accident, dealing with that. And dealing with his business. It was extremely believable. And then his reaction when he found out his wife was having an affair.
And he did provide the sadness, and the very deep part of the whole film — making the decision to let this poor soul pass away [she is referring to the character who is on life support]. And at the same time he finds a relationship with his girls.
Did you find that you related to George Clooney’s character, given that you were faced with with an eerily similar situation back in December? Did you find any parallels?
No. Not really. I didn’t shed a tear like you did.
[correction: I cried for the duration of the film]
Watching this film and watching how another family dealt with the same situation… It was sort of comforting in a way, in the way the doctor told him [that his wife would never wake up]. They didn’t hesitate. They had to do it.
Did that make you feel better?
Yeah. In a way. Now what about best actress?
Who is your pick?
Absolutely Meryl Streep. If she doesn’t win, I give up. That’s ridiculous. I mean she was just…did you see it?
No. I haven’t seen it.
Well, she is the Iron Lady. You know, there was a lot of criticism about portraying this woman in her later years, when she had dementia, not when she was in top form.
But I thought it was very difficult to play the role as [Meryl Streep] did. Because the times she was in the public eye, she had to act normal and then she’d go home and be sitting on the couch talking to her husband, who wasn’t there.
Did you relate this character in any way? Since you were also a woman who held public office?
No, because I don’t have Alzheimer’s.
One of my favorite parts was a flashback where she was interviewed and wearing this hat. After it was over her consultants told her she had to get rid of the hat. And she was “Why should I?”
[note: here my mother attempts to imitate Merly Streep imitating Margaret Thatcher but she sounds more like Meryl Streep imitating Julia Child. Yes, it is awesome]
I can remember those kinds of meetings. Like remember when I went to one of your softball games while wearing a suit and heels?
I don’t remember that.
Afterwards there was this was a poll in the newspaper. And some woman said I was “uppity” because I wore a suit and heels to my daughter’s softball game.
But I was talking to Dr. Garcia [my friend’s father] at that game and he was wearing a tie and jacket.
Oh my Gawd!
Is there anyone who was not nominated for best actor/actress or best supporting actor/actress who you feel was snubbed? I know you said you were angry that Leonardo DiCaprio was snubbed for his performance in J. Edgar (2011, Clint Eastwood).
Well after all the years of watching him and being such a fan of his incredible acting…I think his problem is — and this is just my opinion — I think he’s just too good-looking.
Well then what about George Clooney and Brad Pitt?
Right. I don’t get it. There have been actors in [Leonardo DiCaprio’s] situation. For example, Paul Newman never won an Academy Award. Fabulous actor. Great stuff. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958, Richard Brooks).
[correction: Newman won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1987 for The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese)]
And the other one was, what’s his name? He does the Sundance stuff?
Robert Redford? Has he never won an Oscar?
He’s never won. Neither of them.
[Note: she is correct about Robert Redford, who has never won an Oscar for his acting]
I don’t know what’s going on with Leonardo. Frankly, when you look at Titanic (1997, James Cameron), what’s-her-name won Best Actress for that film. I think he was nominated and didn’t win, which is absolutely insane. I mean he was that film.
[correction: Kate Winslet was nominated and didn’t win. Leonrado DiCaprio was not nominated for Titanic. But I don’t think this invalidates my mother’s point. Kate was recognized, Leo wasn’t.]
Well, you also have a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio.
Yeah, I do.
And then in J. Edgar, I’m hoping you get to rent it, because he was magnificent in that film.
What made his performance great?
Because first of all, he became J. Edgar Hoover as you watched it. Number two, he showed this incredibly strange side that he had — this very manic thing he had with the law. But then, the film didn’t really come out and say that he was gay…
But it was implied…
There was this scene, where [J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson] are together and J. Edgar says “I think I have to get married.” And the other guy, I forget his name [Tolson], just goes beserk. They had this fight and start rolling on the floor, and then they kiss. And J. Edgar is absolutely furious about the whole thing. But that’s the way it was in those days. Whether he consummated an affair with that guy, nobody knows for sure.
The problem with the film, and I was very disappointed with Clint Eastwood because he is such a superb director, but I was disappointed with how [Leonardo DiCaprio] was young, then old, then young, then old…I didn’t like it.
Well, thanks for talking to me about movies, Mom.
I’ll get to read this?
So what do you think of my mom’s picks? Will The Artist win? Was Tree of Life simply “too weird”? Does anyone else’s mom have a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio?