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Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

The story: Quentin Tarantino's re-imagining of the Manson murders.

In its favor: Sheer, exhilarating storytelling from the guy who loves movies and revisionist history. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are a match made in heaven, or at least late-1960s Los Angeles.

Then again: It's classic Tarantino: self-indulgent, talky, overlong and gratuitously violent.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆

Should win:


The story: Two young soldiers embark on a harrowing mission.

In its favor: The one-take, master-class camerawork by the great Roger Deakins could be a gimmick, but instead feels essential and intimate; you are down in the mud and blood with the bloated bodies and rats. The surprise Globes win put the film in the thick of the battle.

Then again: It has a lack of stars, and its late entry has it playing catch-up.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆

The rest:

Ford v Ferrari

The story: The American behemoth challenges the Italian legend at Le Mans in the 1960s.

In its favor: Square-jawed manliness abounds in this good old-fashioned barnburner that celebrates ingenuity, iconoclasm and sheer guts. Matt Damon and Christian Bale mesh like a finely tuned engine.

Then again: The testosterone hangs over the film like gasoline fumes, and 2½ hours feels like a long road trip.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆½

The Irishman

The story: A Mafia hit man recounts his involvement with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

In its favor: Both elegiac and epic, it's got the powerhouse trifecta of DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci — plus the don, Martin Scorsese, who offers a mea culpa of sorts that at long last deglamorizes the mob.

Then again: Some won't be able to get past the slightly creepy CGI de-aging — or the 180-minute runtime.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆½

Jojo Rabbit

The story: A young German boy with an imaginary friend — Hitler! — confronts his fears and prejudices when they literally hit home.

In its favor: A gorgeous period piece that is gleefully upfront in its intent to shock.

Then again: There's a lot of "Hogan's Heroes"-type Nazi bumbling that trivializes the gravity of the subject, and the third act's tonal shift is both tearjerking and off-putting.

The review: ⋆⋆½


The story: The origin story of Batman's nemesis.

In its favor: A textbook character study of a broken man, it's a provocative, full-throated tale of anarchy. If you never quite feel empathy for Arthur Fleck, you come to an understanding, however uneasy.

Then again: Nihilistic and bleak, it's hard to watch; it will confound those looking for a more conventional comic-book movie.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆

Little Women

The story: The latest incarnation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel.

In its favor: Greta Gerwig has created a fresh, vibrant — and relevant — tale, shaking up the familiar underpinnings without losing the heart. We daresay this is the best of the story's many adaptations.

Then again: There have been so many adaptations! And did enough voters (cough *men* cough) even see the film?

The review: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Marriage Story

The story: This "Kramer vs. Kramer" for our time pits an actor against a director.

In its favor: Artfully realistic about the messiness of divorce; with roughly equal time given to each party, we switch allegiances from scene to scene. An unflinching camera allows for emotions that are raw and honest.

Then again: Raw and honest to the point of unpleasantness. And a suffocating sense of privilege persists.

The review: ⋆⋆⋆½


The story: A poor Korean family stealthily inserts itself into the home of a wealthy one.

In its favor: A dark and biting class-system satire that plays like an upside-down "Downton Abbey." The intricate plot reveals itself layer upon layer, from droll to unnerving to terrifying — you might never go down to the basement again.

Then again: Can we really root for any of these people?

The review: ⋆⋆⋆⋆