As I understand the current formula or mindset, anyone spitballing the 2020 Best Picture nominations needs to favor progressive-minded contenders as liberally as possible, regardless of how good they might be on their own terms or what the Movie Godz might say. At least three or four out of ten, and preferably five. An Oscar handicapper ignores or under-values wokester favorites at his or her own peril. Just ask Tom O’Neill and the Gold Derby crowd.

Right now the rock-solid, no-special-consideration contenders are five — Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland, David Fincher‘s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, Florian Zeller‘s The Father and Lee Isaac Chung‘s Minari (although the latter is a little more of a Spirit Awards thing than a great-guns Oscar contender, even with Steven Yeun‘s performance warranting a potential Best Actor nomination).

In all candor and conviction I believe that Azazel JacobsFrench Exit and Rod Lurie‘s The Outpost also belong in this category because they occupy and inform their respective territories (sardonic-fatalistic dry humor and hyper-frenetic, true-life battle jitters) with great style and strong characters. They don’t need any favors. Both stand on their own two feet and look you right in the eye.

I also believe that Chris Nolan‘s Tenet, for all the difficulty understanding the dialogue or plot particulars (and I really can’t wait to watch it with subtitles when the Bluray hits on 12.15), is a major accomplishment — a daring, highly original, high-powered action film with eye-popping sequences that I’ve never before seen in my life.

So that’s five rock solids and three “totally owning their own turf” films that deserve Best Picture contender status. Eight altogether.

I’ve seen Ron Howard‘s Hillbilly Elegy. It’s a familiar-feeling people movie about a guy struggling to walk his own path despite a dysfunctional family upbringing and dispiriting cultural influences. A lot of difficult behavior from Amy Adams’ character, but the story is the story and the film accomplishes what it sets out to do. And Glenn Close is great as “Mamaw.”

Due respect for Regina King‘s One Night in Miami, but it’s a well-written, well-acted ensemble film that is more good than great.

Nobody’s seen News of the World, The Prom, Judas and the Black Messiah or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. And I haven’t gotten around to Ammonite or Promising Young Woman.

Good or even brilliant as it may be, Soul is animated and therefore ineligible for the Best Picture Oscar.

I’m not stupid. I understand what I should say (or would be wise to say) in order to curry favor with all the distributors and publicists. You have to blow with the prevailing winds to get along — I realize that. But who else is respectfully standing outside the kneejerk wokester hivemind cabal like Hollywood Elsewhere? Who else among Oscar prognosticators assesses the situation with at least a semblance of backbone? Like it or not, but there are many Academy and guild members who see things as I do, which is to say straight and true without any p.c. blather or tapdancing. And that is HE’s value.