If a handful of local movie heads are right, the big prize at Sunday’s Academy Awards will go to Sam Mendes’ war drama, famously filmed to appear as if it is shot in one long take.

While “1917” has that Best Picture feel — not to mention the betting odds — it’s not necessarily the fan-favorite among those surveyed.

Jody Kujawa, who saw 260 movies in 2019 according to his account on Letterboxd, said it’s one of those movies that wows people, and that’s why he doesn’t like it.

“I thought it was too showy,” he said. “All it does is say, ‘Look at what we did.’ I could never get past that. It looks good. The time and precision it took to put it together is probably staggering. It looks like somebody showing off.”

The News Tribune asked local film fanatics — from the frequent ticket buyers to the published authors to professors — to talk about this year’s crop of picks and non-picks, what will win versus what they want to win, and why they can’t stop talking about Best Supporting Actress nominee Florence Pugh. The 92nd Academy Awards air at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

Florence Pugh got a lot of chatter among local film fans. She is up for Best Supporting Actress for her work in "Little Women." (Photo by Sony Pictures)
Florence Pugh got a lot of chatter among local film fans. She is up for Best Supporting Actress for her work in "Little Women." (Photo by Sony Pictures)

If not ‘1917,’ then what?

It’s beautifully shot, amazingly cast and the long takes are unprecedented, but: “I feel like it seems too obvious,” said Kelly Florence, who is the co-host of the “Horror Rewind” podcast and has co-written with Meg Hafdahl “The Science of Monsters” and “The Science of Women in Horror,” the latter of which comes out later this month.

She said she sees about a movie a week in the theater, and it doesn’t have to be from her favorite genre. Still, her wish list pick for Best Picture is “Parasite.” The South Korean dark comedy-horror movie by Bong Joon-ho is the unpredictable tale of members of a poor family who work their way into a rich family’s life and home.

“It’s got a lot of momentum — I have a good feeling about it,” she said. “It’s unexpected. The director has done a lot of iconic horror movies in the past.”

Movie aficionado Mike Scholtz, who had already seen 22 movies in 2020 as of Wednesday evening, judged his favorite picks by the ones he saw twice in the theater. Two are up for Best Picture: “Little Women” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

The latter is a close second for his personal best picture of 2019, he said.

“I enjoyed hanging out in a car with Brad Pitt in 1960s Los Angeles,” he said. “I didn’t need that to have a plot. Just driving by a vintage Taco Bell and seeing a light go on — that was my favorite moment in a film this year.”

It was Kujawa’s overall favorite film of the year. He saw it three times.

“I loved it even more each time I saw it,” he said. “There was a feel that sucked you in. You were in that time. You’re kind of involved with those characters.”

Of the top flick picks, “Ford v Ferrari” didn’t resonate. Many didn’t even see it. Scholtz called it a "dad movie" and Val Coit, of the Free Range Film Festival, said she didn’t go to anything that would appeal largely to a male audience this year.

“I’m not trying to stir anything up,” she said. “I just don’t care.”

Renee Zellweger transformed into Judy Garland in "Judy," according to movie pro Kelly Florence. (Photo by Roadside Attractions)
Renee Zellweger transformed into Judy Garland in "Judy," according to movie pro Kelly Florence. (Photo by Roadside Attractions)

But what about the other categories?

For the top actors, Nathan Carroll’s picks are performers who are both better than the movie they made: Joaquin Phoenix from “Joker” and Renee Zellwegger as Judy Garland in the biopic “Judy.”

“She did an amazing job and really stepped into that role,” Carroll said. “The movie itself was middle of the road.”

Ditto, for Florence, on the top two actors.

“I think (Phoenix’s) performance was pretty incredible,” she said, and: “She transformed into Judy.”

Scholtz, the documentary filmmaker behind “Wild Bill’s Run” and “Riplist,” was especially interested in this year’s picks for top docs — which tend to be more readily available for streaming.

His choice: “The Cave,” the story of Amani Ballour, who runs a hospital out of a cave during the Syrian Civil War.

“That movie is amazing,” he said. “It doesn’t feel real. That’s my favorite discovery in a documentary. ‘The Cave,’ just for amazement value alone, is my favorite of the five.”

While Kujawa didn’t love “1917,” he does think Mendes will win for Best Director.

“He put together this insanely choreographed thing,” he said. “They’re not going to not let that technical award go to him.”

"Parasite" is in the running for Best Picture at hte 92nd Academy Awards. (Photo by NEON)
"Parasite" is in the running for Best Picture at hte 92nd Academy Awards. (Photo by NEON)

Hey, what about … (fill in the blank)?

There is a scene in “Little Women,” featuring Florence Pugh, that had Scholtz laughing for 10 straight minutes in the theater. It was, he said, embarrassing. She is his pick for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

“She’s British, so she’s not a national treasure, she’s an international treasure,” he said. “She’s a galactic treasure.”

Kujawa said he thinks Pugh should get more than that single trophy.

“As far as I’m concerned, she deserves all the awards,” he said.

When it comes to the Academy Awards, Carroll’s two favorite features from 2019 are barely blips: “Midsommer” and “The Lighthouse.” His favorite documentary didn’t land, either. He credited it without maintaining suspense even with a known ending.

“‘Apollo 11’ was immersive,” he said. “It looks like it was made yesterday. Keeping the suspense in a story where you already know the ending — that’s a difficult trick.”

Neither of Kujawa’s favorite actors are in the running for Best Actor. Not Robert De Niro from “The Irishman,” and not Adam Sandler, “which I thought was the best performance of the year,” he said.

And, actually, what’s it all for anyway?

Scholtz said he would like, in the future, to see fewer superheroes and more romantic comedies. He saw “Last Christmas” twice in 2019.

“It brought me so much joy,” he said. “I don’t understand why Hollywood isn’t making more romantic comedies. That should be the quintessential American artform. The romantic comedy.”

Carroll, a film studies professor at the College of St. Scholastica, has taught a course on Oscar winners His take: It’s a big popularity contest.

“It always reminds me of a Homecoming king and queen contest,” he said.

His pick for best awards: The Independent Spirit Awards.

If you go

What: Oscars viewing party, with Jody Kujawa, Todd Eckart

Where: West Theater, 319 N. Central Ave.

Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door