Last night a friend considered yesterday’s “Progressive Poker Chips” piece, which passed along a feeling that Black Panther may be gathering the most Best Picture momentum because (a) it’s a major Hollywood history landmark, (b) it’s a leading virtue-signaling contender, and (c) that great final scene on the outdoor Oakland basketball court.

The friend said he hasn’t spoken to a single Academy member who’s given Black Panther the time of day or even MENTIONED it. He wonders if it can win without a level of noticeable enthusiasm. If Black Panther is going to take the Best Picture Oscar it has to build momentum with the Critics Choice and Golden Globes, and later the guilds. But he’s not seeing that either, he said. He allowed that he might be talking to the wrong folks.

HE REPLY: Okay, check. But are you talking to the New Academy Kidz along with the aging liberal virtue-signalling crowd (i.e., the bunch that actually wanted Get Out to win the Best Picture Oscar last year)? These people are genre-friendly and seemingly indifferent to the concept of “magical swoon cinema for its own sake”, and they’re a significant voting block.

What are you sensing serious love for?

I don’t think Vice has the horses. Christian Bale is brilliant, of course, but the film feels SNL-ish to some.

The Favourite is a good, sharply written, visually striking and well acted film for the first two-thirds but flattens out during final third — it doesn’t pivot or deepen or deliver richer cards. Or chords.

And please don’t insist upon A Star Is Born. Very winning during first half, but it loses the charm during the second half. (My affection ceased during the “URINE TROUBLE, MISTER!” Grammy awards scene.). Bradley back-pat for arguably delivering the best version of this old crusty Hollywood tale, but it’s still an old crusty Hollywood tale.

If Roma wins, fine. It’s a film to be completely proud of, and it’s a resonating Trump-pushback totem. All along I’ve been sensing admiration for Alfonso Cuaron and his exacting monochrome achievement, but something less than great cascading waves of passionate love. Smarthouse respect and some MEASURED love from people of education, taste and breeding, but not great waves of the stuff. Plus there’s the Netflix resentment from the old farts.

My personal top-tier favorite is Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, but it’s strictly regarded as a foreign film contender.

My emotional fave is still Green Book, but the New Academy Kidz and p.c. purists have condemned it for not being woke enough — for being a “white savior” film. Which is COMPLETE BULLSHIT. It’s basically a parent-child road dramedy — Mahershala is the strict if constricted parent, Viggo is the casually brutish adolescent. It’s a spiritual growth and friendship film. I’m sorry but it’s the only contender that makes you actually feel good at the end.

My third favorite after Cold War and Green Book is Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me? And Melissa McCarthy is FAR & AWAY the most deserving Best Actress contender who’s actually playing a lead role. The fact that right now I have Roma in fourth place on my personal fave list in no way indicates that I have any kind of beef with it. It’s a luscious and mesmerizing serving of elite smarthouse cinema, and a heartfelt tribute to a household saint.