Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we take a closer look at the most anticipated film of the holiday weekend (the season? the year?), “House of Gucci.”
Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m thankful for not just my family and health and our weekly chats, but also the father, the son and the “House of Gucci.” Ridley Scott’s second big adult drama that would have felt right at home in the fall of 1998 to come out this year is a lavish, overstuffed affair — a perfect feast for Thanksgiving, as it were. Reviews for the film were posted this week, and they’ve been a bit on the mixed side (66 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as we’re typing), but the awards expectations for “House of Gucci” remain strong, at least on this side of the Slack. I’ve got both Lady Gaga and Jared Leto locked in as nominees in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, and I think Leto could win it all. It’s a wild, go-for-broke performance that has seemingly left even the Leto doubters of Film Twitter relatively impressed. Even Leto seems to know he *went for it* — and he credits Sir Ridley with giving him the room to explore what became Paolo. I spoke to Leto this week (#humblebrag) and he told me, “This certainly could’ve been the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. Absolutely. I said that it may be the worst thing. Could be the best, but it could be the worst.” It’s not, and I remain bullish on his bona fides. But what about the rest of the movie? Do you think this could be a dark horse Best Picture contender — and what about Lady Gaga in Best Actress?
joyceeng: Wow, look at you flexing with that Jared interview. It’s the, uh, little things. I have Leto in because that category is chaos personified. I added Gaga and “Gucci” to Best Actress and Best Picture, respectively, a few weeks ago, and you know what? I’m gonna keep them in there at least through the holiday weekend. The critical reception to the film is pretty much what I expected. Best Picture is the shakiest of these three categories, but I also needed to fill 10 slots, so why not? Plus, maybe “House of Gucci” will save cinema this weekend as an adult drama after many before it in these COVID times failed to do so, including Ridley’s own “The Last Duel.” But regardless of which side you fall on the “it’s camp” and “it’s not campy enough” reactions, everyone seems to agree that Gaga is aces (I agree), judging by my very quick and very accurate perusal of tweets on Monday after the embargo lifted, which was also after we looked down at our phones following “Don’t Look Up.” I would not call her a lock at all, but notices about her being the best in show can obviously only help her, and you know she’s gonna work it. You’re such a “Gucci” stan at this point that Gucci ought to be your name as well, but can you, like Patrizia, be fair? What’s your read on Gaga? And can you see any other actor breaking through?
Christopher Rosen: The concept of “understanding the assignment” has pretty much been run into the ground at this point, but allow me to pull out my old man card and use it here: Lady Gaga absolutely understood the assignment in “House of Gucci.” I was taken with her! She’s just a magnetic screen presence and I think she really dominates the movie — so much so that when her character, by virtue of the story being told, gets sidelined in the back half of act two and into act three, the movie suffers as a result. I think she’s as stable as anyone can be in November and if I was feeling frisky I could probably convince myself she has a shot to win. (Allow the genius Stephanie Zacharek to explain why Lady Gaga is so incredible in this rave about her performance.) But to your other question, can anyone else come along with Lady Gaga and Jared? As we discussed, I do think Al Pacino is remarkable in this one — but I’m just not sure the movie can support three nominations. But this is a really great Pacino performance, more comical than his Hoffa turn in “The Irishman” but with a layer of pathos that really makes the work feel whole. What else do you like here? How many nominations are we talking about?
joyceeng: Let’s say it doesn’t get into Best Picture. I could see “House of Gucci” pulling an “I, Tonya”: two acting nominations and one below the line (costumes in this case). If we continue with this comparison, does that mean Jared will win? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Directing and adapted screenplay will be tough, as will some of the crafts. I also enjoyed Pacino’s performance — very much Lovable Crazy Uncle energy (perfect for Thanksgiving), and yes, a lot of pathos by the end as well, especially his final couple of scenes with onscreen son Jared. The one actor who’s seemingly been overlooked in all the “Gucci” discourse is Adam Driver, who I thought was very good too. I think it’s reductive to call his performance “boring” because that was, by all accounts, just who Maurizio was: the straight man who’s kinda bland (and it filtered through the brand too until Tom Ford saved the day). As depicted in the film, he was in law school, and maybe he would’ve become a hugely successful lawyer if it weren’t for Patrizia encouraging him to fight his uncle for all things Gucci. Driver nailed the transformation of this reserved man being seduced by greed and power (and Patrizia) and getting in way over his head. However, I do not have him getting into Best Actor, which is also upsetting because he had multiple great turns in very different films this year, but it looks like he might come up short on all of them. Can Signore e Signora Gucci get his-and-hers nominations?
Christopher Rosen: You would love to see it. I too found Driver incredibly compelling and thought he performance really held the movie together. You can’t have all these massive performances without someone playing it straight. Driver lends the movie if not credibility then a modicum of reality. But he’s just in the wrong year for this race: the seven or eight legit Best Actor contenders are arguably stronger than Driver and he’s too much of a lead to run supporting. Similarly, his performance in “The Last Duel” is too small for lead and not showy enough for supporting when he’s up against Ben Affleck going full Leto in that other Ridley joint. But hope springs eternal. Before we sign off to carve some turkey, is it possible we’re discounting Ridley? He directed two of the best movies of the year (both would make my top-20 list) and everyone loves him, no? Maybe he just gets in because not only is the work good but he’s an 83-year-old crushing movies like they used to make during a pandemic? Have I gone full Paolo here?
joyceeng: Is this a side effect of that Jared interview? I do not have Ridley getting in for either. I guess you can look at his snub for “The Martian” both ways: They’ll want make it up to him (with a nom — I don’t think he’s winning if he were to get in) or they don’t actually love him that much? The membership that snubbed him six years ago is a lot different than it is now, so who knows? Maybe his straight-fire “get off my lawn” hot takes have endeared him to more people, although I do want to say that he means Gen Z when he claims millennials are to blame for “The Last Duel” flopping — millennial here 🙋♀️ who grew up without cell phones and can still tell you her childhood home’s and BFF’s landline numbers. Anyway, if “Gucci” doesn’t work out for him, this man makes movies faster than we can eat Thanksgiving dinner, so perhaps we’ll be talking about him again next year for “Kitbag.” Same time, same place.
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