Oscar Watch: Waves

Crashing into the Oscar conversation this weekend via the Telluride Film Festival is Waves, the third feature from writer/director Trey Edward Shults. Focusing on an African American family in South Florida, the drama is being hailed by some critics as a masterpiece. A24 will be distributing this and releasing it stateside on November 1. The buzz suggests the studio might have another Moonlight on its hands and that won Best Picture.

The ensemble cast of includes Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Sterling K. Brown. Of those cast members, several could be in contention with Harrison and Russell getting early ink.

As for Shults, his 2015 debut Krisha won an Audience Award at the South by Southwest Festival. 2017’s horror pic It Comes at Night developed a solid critical following. This looks to put him on another level with potential nods for his directing and screenplay and the film itself. Bottom line: in a weekend full of awards bait stories, Waves is perhaps the biggest breakout yet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton is a thrice Oscar nominated actor (two supporting for Primal Fear and Birdman and lead in American History X) and he’s brought his latest feature to the Telluride Film Festival. In the 1950s set crime thriller Motherless Brooklyn, Norton not only stars but directs. It’s his second feature behind the camera (at least that he’s credited for). His first was the largely forgotten rom com Keeping the Faith with Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman. The supporting cast for Brooklyn is an impressive one with Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Leslie Mann, Willem Dafoe, and Alec Baldwin.

However, reviews out of Colorado hint that this will largely be forgotten as well. Despite praise for its ambition, the general consensus seems to be that Motherless is a bit of a misfire. While several other pictures from Telluride and Venice have solidified their standings, this would appear to an example of one that will not be a factor with awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Joker

Comic book movies arrive in quick order these days, but not many draw comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Such is the case with Joker, the breathlessly anticipated stand-alone DC Universe title featuring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. It has premiered at Venice Film Festival ahead of its October 4 stateside release. Early critical reaction portrays this as a grim, sometimes terrifying, and often brilliant experience. And Phoenix’s work is being called masterful.

You’ll recall that it was just over a decade ago that Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar in The Dark Knight as the same iconic villain. Based on word from Venice, there seems to be a strong possibility that Phoenix will receive his fourth nod for his acting (Supporting for Gladiator, lead in Walk the Line and The Master). Even with a high profile costar like Robert De Niro, I suspect all the acting chatter will be directed to the head clown.

Joker could prove to be a massive box office success and that might increase its chances for a Picture nod, direction for Todd Phillips, and the Adapted Screenplay. Bottom line: don’t be surprised if Phoenix becomes the second actor to get Oscar love for this character. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Citizen K

In addition to the multiple films vying for Best Picture attention during festival season, we also have documentaries attempting to make their awards chatter mark. Alex Gibney is a director who’s familiar to Oscar voters.

Citizen K is his latest and it focuses on Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his battles with the Putin regime. Early reviews suggest it’s engrossing and it could be a contender in the doc feature race. Gibney was a winner in the category 12 years ago for Taxi to the Dark Side. Two years later, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room nabbed a nod. As one of the nation’s premier documentarians, the Academy may feel the time is right to get him back in the mix (especially considering the movie’s timely subject matter). My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Judy

It’s been quite some time since Renee Zellweger has been in the minds of Oscar voters for consideration, but that looks to change in 2019 with Judy. The film finds the actress portraying screen legend Judy Garland in the final tumultuous year of her life. Rupert Goold directs with a supporting cast including Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon.

While reviews for the picture itself are of a mixed nature, critics are praising Zellweger’s work as the troubled star. At the beginning of this century, the performer was recognized three years in a row. In 2001 and 2002, she scored back to back nods in lead actress for Bridget Jones’s Diary and Chicago. 2003 brought Zellweger a Supporting Actress win for Cold Mountain.

Academy folks love a good comeback story and Zellweger looks primed for a fourth nomination here as Judy. I’d suspect that would be the extent of any recognition for Judy as a whole. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Ford v Ferrari

Premiering at the Telluride Film Festival, James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari sped into the Oscar conversation this evening. The film recounts the story of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race with a cast headlined by Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Costars include Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, and Josh Lucas.

Early reaction suggests Ford is fast moving and a serious crowd pleaser with significant box office potential. There still seems to be uncertainty as to where Damon and Bale will be placed when it comes to lead or supporting. Both could go lead. If so, reviews suggest Bale is a likely nominee over Damon. If Bale goes supporting, he could provide competition for front runner Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or whoever else rises up. The performance of Letts is also garnering raves. He could factor in if both stars are slated for Best Actor.

Apart from the performers, Ford stands a real shot at Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and multiple tech nods. This would be Mangold’s first recognition for his direction after a 2017 nod for his Logan script and helming Reese Witherspoon to a gold statue in Walk the Line. Bottom line: Ferrari has the make of a real contender in awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Seberg

Kristen Stewart seems to have found another acclaimed indie role with the premiere of Seberg today at the Venice Film Festival. From director Benedict Andrews (best known for Una), the pic casts Stewart as actress Jean Seberg (best known for 1960’s Breathless), whose career was put in jeopardy by her association with an African-American activist played by Anthony Mackie. Costars include Jack O’Connel, Margaret Qualley, and Vince Vaughn.

Reviews for the film itself are a bit shaky. Yet it’s Stewart once again being singled out for her strong work. The Twilight performer has had a run of applauded roles in titles such as Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. The Academy has yet to take notice and I’m skeptical they will here considering competitors in higher profile material. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…