Roeper on the Oscar nominations: Brad Pitt the best of a starry category, and too much ‘Two Popes’

Renee Zellweger is a surefire winner for her Judy Garland impression because Academy Award voters love that kind of overwrought work.

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Brad Pitt is nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”

Columbia Pictures

And the nomination for arguably the most star-laden loaded category in recent Academy Awards history goes to:

Best supporting actor, with nominees Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”), Al Pacino and Joe Pesci (both for “The Irishman”) and “Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”).

Pitt is the only one of those modern-day icons who has yet to win at least one acting Oscar. He’s also the favorite in the category — and his fierce, funny, deadpan performance in “OUTIH” also happens to be the most deserving. Then again, one could easily make an argument for Hanks, Pacino or Pesci to score another trophy.

You know a category contains an embarrassment of riches when Sir Anthony Hopkins is the clear long shot.

In other news, Scarlett Johansson’s twin nods (lead actress for “Marriage Story,” supporting actress for “Jojo Rabbit”) marks the first double nomination since Cate Blanchett in 2007 and only the 12th such occurrence in Oscar history. (It’s also the first time Johansson has been nominated.)

Issa Rae and John Cho revealed the nominations for the 92nd annual Academy Awards at the traditionally underwhelming, low-key, early morning (7:18 a.m. Chicago time launch) non-ceremony of a ceremony. Rae and Cho engaged in the obligatory, awkward banter between readings, with a smattering of applause from unseen onlookers accompanying their staccato recitations.

(One of these decades, the Academy just might take my suggestion they produce a fun, one-hour, prime-time nominations special.)

Even though the Oscars have been moved up this year in an effort to stave off awards season fatigue, the favorites in the major categories have already been well-established, and there weren’t really any shocking, out-of-nowhere nominees — though I do have a quarrel with some of the safer choices.

In the supporting actor category, I would have gone with Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy” over Hopkins. Otherwise, no complaints.

As for the somewhat surprising omission of Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”) from the supporting actress list — as much as I enjoyed Lopez in her best piece of acting since “Out of Sight,” I applaud the Academy for tabbing five superior performances, from the aforementioned Johansson in “Jojo Rabbit” to Kathy Bates’ heartbreakingly effective work in “Richard Jewell” to Florence Pugh’s fine acting in “Little Women” to Margot Robbie in “Bombshell” to early favorite Laura Dern for “Marriage Story.”

As for lead actress, Renee Zellweger is the odds-on choice to win for “Judy.” The Academy loves showbiz biopics, and favors just the kind of overwrought, impersonation-over-true-performance work Zellweger delivers as Judy Garland in a mediocre vehicle. Her work wasn’t anywhere close to my list of the five best lead actress performances of 2019.

I was glad to see Cynthia Erivo honored for “Harriet,” but I wish the voters had the vision to recognize Awkwafina’s work in “The Farewell” — which also deserved to be nominated for best picture. Lupita Nyong’o and her breathtakingly great performance in “Us” also spring to mind.

The Academy’s love for “The Two Popes” (which I didn’t share) extended to the best actor category, with Jonathan Pryce snaring a nomination, along with Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) and Joaquin Phoenix, who is sure to win for his hauntingly great performance as “Joker.”

I love Jonathan Pryce, but Adam Sandler’s searing performance in the unfairly overlooked “Uncut Gems” is far more resonant.

A grand total of nine films were nominated for best picture, and though I would have loved to have seen “The Farewell” or super long shots such as “Booksmart” or “Fast Color” or “Waves” somehow sneaking in, I DID give positive reviews to all the honored entries.

We can immediately divide the nominees into three brackets.

“Ford v. Ferrari,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker” and “Little Women” fall under the “the nomination itself is the reward” umbrella.

“Parasite” — the odds-on choice to win for international feature film — could be the upset winner.

And one can make strong cases for “1917,” “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” or “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as the most serious contenders.

If I’m placing a bet, I’d go with …

Well. Let’s save that discussion for another day in the near future.

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