The Academy Awards are still far away but there are clear front-runners. Here are my thoughts on the top two. The rest are not in order as to how I personally view the race but rather what the stats are as far as leaders.

We the critics and industry insiders have seen many of these films at screenings in L.A., and at the Toronto, Telluride, Venice or Cannes Film Festivals.

Here is what you will likely see come Oscar time as the two top nominations:

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: (Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Bona Film, Heyday Films, Visiona Romantica) - Quentin Tarantino's look back to 70's Hollywood starring the big ensemble cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margret Qualley, Timothy Olephant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, and Al Pacino. It is not exact to how history played out but a fun ride and look back along the way. It's a comedy-drama written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and is a co-production between the United States and the United Kingdom. Set in 1969 Los Angeles, the film follows an actor (Leo) and his stunt double (Brad) as they navigate the changing film industry. There are "multiple storylines in a fairy tale tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age", culminating in a alternate account of the Sharon Tate murders.

The Irishman: (Netflix) - Martin Scorsese's latest. Need I say more. A 2019 American epic crime story produced and directed by  Scorsese and written by Steven Zaillian. It's based on the 2004 memoir I Heard You Paint Houses  by Charles Brandt. It stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacinio and Joe Pesci as Frank "The Irishman". Recounts alleged jobs as a hitman for the  Bufalino crime family. This is the 9th collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro and their first since 1995's Casino. Its the fourth movie to star both De Niro and Pacino following The godfather Part 11, Heat, Righteous Kill and it's the fifth to star both De Niro and Pesci following Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, Goodfellas and Casino.  It is the first to star both Pacino and Pesci; and the first time Pacino has been directed by Scorsese.

Other favorites include:

Marriage Story: (opens limited on Nov. 6, starts streaming on Netflix on Dec. 6): It is about a bitter divorce between a New York-based playwright (Adam Driver) and a TV actress in L.A. (Scarlett Johansson) that includes a custody battle. It  is based on  director/writer Noah Baumbach‘s own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who — like the couple in the film — had a young son.

The Farewell: Bejing-born, Miami-raised director/writer Lulu Wang has been declared a star in the making ever since her 2014 feature debut “Posthumous”. Her second film came about after she shared a story on NPR’s “This American Life” in 2016 about how her grandmother wasn’t told about her terminal cancer diagnosis by her family and they stage a wedding as an excuse to have one last reunion. That story became the basis of Sundance hit, “The Farewell,” which opened in July and stars comic actress Awkwafina n a more serious role.

JoJo Rabbit: It's a 2019 black comedy written and directed by  Taika Waititi. The film stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson. The plot follows a Hitler youth who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. It is based on the book Caging Skies. The film had its world premiere at TIFF 2019 and won the People's Choice Award.  Its performances (especially those of Waititi, Davis, McKenzie, and Johansson) received great  praise. Its polarized reception has been compared to that of the 1997 film Life is Beautiful.


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