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…

Oscar Watch: Ad Astra

James Gray’s space opera Ad Astra premiered overseas at the Venice Film Festival today and the Brad Pitt led saga certainly has its ardent admirers already. Some reviews are proclaiming it a masterpiece while others are more mixed.

Director Gray has had his share of appreciated works such as The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z. He has yet to garner any attention from the Academy. This is his first major Hollywood production with a considerable budget and it’s a bit unclear at the moment whether Oscar voters will reward this effort. Pitt is being praised for his starring role and would stand the best shot at any recognition over costars including Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.

That said, Pitt (who’s never won a gold statue) is already a serious contender to win Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. That could detract from him being named as lead for Astra. The film’s best hope could be in some tech races, but I’ll wait and see further critical and audience reaction before rendering final judgment. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019 Oscar Predictions: August 29th Edition

Welcome to my first edition of my weekly Oscar predictions where I’ll be ranking my top 25 Best Picture possibilities and 15 contenders in the directing, acting, and screenplay categories!

The dawn of my rankings coincides with the start of film festival season as Venice is in full swing with Telluride and Toronto on deck. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story has already screened in Italy and solidified its status as a serious contender in numerous races. There’s a whole bunch of movies premiering in the coming days so expect the picture to become a wee bit clearer. That said, I’ve learned a lot of things from years of past predicting when it comes to this time of the year:

  • Movies thought to be contenders will fail to live up to their buzz
  • Movies will be pushed back to 2020 and render them ineligible
  • Leading actor and actress candidates will be moved to supporting and vice versa
  • Screenplays considered Adapted will become Original and vice versa
  • Sleepers not currently on the radar will rise up… think last year’s Best Picture winner Green Book

With all those caveats, let’s get to it! And expect updates every Thursday on the blog…


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman

2. Marriage Story

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

4. 1917

5. Little Women

6. The Farewell

7. Parasite

8. The Laundromat

9. The Report

Other Possibilities:

10. Jojo Rabbit

11. Ford v Ferrari

12. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

13. Bombshell

14. Harriet

15. Joker

16. Pain and Glory

17. Dark Waters

18. Booksmart

19. A Hidden Life

20. Just Mercy

21. The Lighthouse

22. Rocketman

23. Ad Astra

24. Avengers: Endgame

25. The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. Sam Mendes, 1917

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

5. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Other Possibilities:

6. Greta Gerwig, Little Women

7. Steven Soderbergh, The Laundromat

8. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory

9. Lulu Wang, The Farewell

10. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life

12. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari

13. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

14. Todd Haynes, Dark Waters

15. Kasi Lemmons, Harriet


Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

4. Robert DeNiro, The Irishman

5. Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Other Possibilities:

6. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

7. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

8. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

9. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

10. Adam Driver, The Report

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar

14. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems

15. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim


Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

2. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

4. Awkwafina, The Farewell

5. Renee Zellweger, Judy

Other Possibilities:

6. Charlize Theron, Bombshell

7. Alfre Woodard, Clemency

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim

11. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell

12. Natalie Portman, Lucy in the Sky

13. Felicity Jones, Aeronauts

14. Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart

15. Kristen Stewart, Seberg


Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

3. Gary Oldman, The Laundromat

4. Al Pacino, The Irishman

5. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Joe Pesci, The Irishman

8. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

9. John Lithgow, Bombshell

10. Jamie Bell, Rocketman

11. Ray Liotta, Marriage Story

12. Matthew Rhys, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

13. Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

14. Leslie Odom, Jr., Harriet

15. Timothee Chalamet, Little Women


Predicted Nominees:

1. Annette Bening, The Report

2. Laura Dern, Marriage Story

3. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell

4. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

5. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat

Other Possibilities:

6. Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women

8. Florence Pugh, Little Women

9. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

10. Janelle Monae, Harriet

11. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

12. Anna Paquin, The Irishman

13. Jennifer Hudson, Cats

14. Catherine Deneuve, The Truth

15. Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman

2. The Laundromat

3. Little Women

4. Jojo Rabbit

5. Dark Waters

Other Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Joker

8. Toy Story 4

9. Just Mercy

10. Ford v Ferrari

11. The Goldfinch

12. The Good Liar

13. Judy

14. Motherless Brooklyn

15. Avengers: Endgame


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. The Farewell

4. The Report

5. Parasite

Other Possibilities:

6. Booksmart

7. Pain and Glory

8. 1917

9. Bombshell

10. Dolemite Is My Name

11. Harriet

12.  The Lighthouse

13. Ad Astra

14. Us

15. Queen and Slim

And that does it for my inaugural ranked predictions! Keep an eye on the blog daily for ongoing developments…

Oscar Watch: Marriage Story

One of the most eagerly awaited Oscar contenders premiered today at the Venice Film Festival and it seems to have only elevated its status. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is receiving rave reviews as it explores the dissolution of the union between Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s characters. It currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Baumbach’s sole Academy nod came for his Original Screenplay for The Squid and the Whale in 2005. A second recognition in that race seems assured. The auteur, who based the script on his own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, also stands an excellent shot at his first directing nomination and the picture itself is likely to make the cut among the 5-10 nominees in the biggest race of all.

As for the performers, Marriage is the rare film that could see nods in all four acting categories. Johansson has remarkably never the beneficiary of an Academy nomination, despite four Golden Globe calls for her work. Expect that to change in what’s being called a career best. Driver appears in line for his second Oscar nod in a row after last year’s supporting turn in BlacKkKlansman. In the supporting races, look for Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. As for Supporting Actor, both Ray Liotta and Alan Alda are possibilities and it will be interesting to see which one of them grabs momentum.

Bottom line: look for this Marriage to be a storyline throughout awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…