This year’s Coen brothers entry: ‘Hail Caesar!’ — Hail Oscar!!

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“Hail Caesar,” from the Coen brothers Joel and Ethan, is a loving spoof and homage to the movies of yesteryear. Told with plenty of inside humor, it takes place in the very early ‘50s as we go behind the scenes for a day in the life of production studio head Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).

“Hail Caesar,” from the Coen brothers Joel and Ethan, is a loving spoof and homage to the movies of yesteryear. Told with plenty of inside humor, it takes place in the very early ‘50s as we go behind the scenes for a day in the life of production studio head Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).

The studio, Capitol Pictures, is just about to complete “A Tale of the Christ” starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) who suddenly disappears before completing his final, and very important speech in the film, requiring a close-up. Besides tracking down the star, Mannix also has to protect Whitlock’s rather dubious image from a pair of identical twin gossip columnists, Thora and Thesaly Thacker, both played with gusto by Tilda Swinton.

They literally hate each other and constantly seek to out-scoop one another. Like the gossip gals of the ’50s, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, each Thacker sister wears a different flamboyant hat whenever she appears on screen.

Along with the who-done-it aspect of Whitlock’s disappearance, the film deftly recreates a variety of film genres from the era. One of the most colorful is a sequence based on the aquatic choreography Busby Berkley designed for Esther Williams in “Million Dollar Mermaid.” This time the singing, diving mermaid is DeeAnna Moran (Scarlet Johannson). Unlike Williams, DeeAnna is a brassy, tough-talking gal who is finding it hard to fit into her fishtail because she’s pregnant.

She’s also currently unmarried, though she’s tied the knot twice before without success. Once again, Mannix has to work this out before the Thacker hackers find out and link scandal to their star and the studio.

One of the most charming performers in the film is Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the studio’s very popular singing cowboy, Hobart “Hobie” Doyle. Hobie has a slow drawl, a quick smile and is perfect as a rope-spinning, horse-riding hero. So of course the N.Y. studio head wants to star him in a drawing room drama being directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Alas poor Hobie doesn’t sound at all British, no matter how hard he tries. In fact he can’t even pronounce Laurentz’s name.

In the course of his frenetic day, Mannix also visit’s the set of a tap dancing musical starring Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), who would be played by Gene Kelly back in the ‘50s. Older audience members will appreciate all these references, but the movie is a fun romp for film buffs regardless of age.

Others in the all-star cast include Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill. The film is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking. And speaking of smoking, movies back then constantly featured cigarette usage. In the 1950s smoking wasn’t a no-no. Mannix (Brolin)  is ahead of his time and is desperately trying to kick the habit in this very clever Coen brothers tribute to the movies of the not so distant past

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Back in the ‘50s, so beautifully recalled in the Coen brothers’ spiffy, spoofy film “Hail Caesar,“ Oscars were awarded with these words….”and the Winner Is…“  Today that phrase is taboo, a politically incorrect insult to the four in each category who don’t get to take home the coveted little golden guy. Now, in an overly sensitive new era of cinema, the correct words are….”and the Oscar goes to….”

As I gaze into my somewhat cloudy crystal ball, here are my predictions which are further guided by checking out the winners (oops) from other ceremonies like the SAG and Director’s Guild Awards, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe honorees.

A shoe-in for Best Actor is Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant,” since he has garnered every award imaginable to date. I also have a strong hunch that Sylvester Stallone will walk away with the Oscar for his supporting role in “Creed” since he is the sentimental favorite and also won the Golden Globe.

Brie Larson has already earned a SAG and BAFTA award for her role in “The Room.” She also received a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice award,  so I now proclaim Brie the lucky leading lady in the Best Actress category. Since Alicia Vikander won the SAG and Critic’s Choice honors, my hunch is she will also take home the Gold for her supporting role in “The Danish Girl.”

“The Revenant” took top honors at the Golden Globes and BAFTA ceremonies this year and Mexican director, Alejandro G. Inarritu (who won last year for “Birdman”) also garnered the Director’s Guild Award. If he wins, and it looks promising, this would mark two consecutive Oscars for Inarritu. Only two other directors have achieved this honor. In 1949 and ‘50 Joseph L. Mankiewiez won for “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve.” Prior to that, in 1939 and 40, John Ford took home the Oscar for “The Grapes of Wrath” and “How Green Was My Valley.”

I am sure that “Inside Out” will bring added glory to the Disney studios. It was not only nominated in the Best Animated Film category, it earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay as well. I have a hunch the Original Screenplay Oscar will go to “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” will receive the Adapted Screenplay, but Best Animated Film honors will go to “Inside Out.”