My Case of posts for the acting contenders at this year’s Oscar brings us to the third performer in Best Actor… Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Here’s his story:
The Case for Adam Driver
2019 capped off an amazing decade for Driver. In addition to his high-profile role in the HBO series Girls, his filmography over the past few years has been remarkable. To give you an idea, here’s some of the directors he worked with in the 2010s: Clint Eastwood, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Terry Gilliam, and Spike Lee. The latter filmmaker helped Driver get his first Oscar nod last year in Supporting Actor for BlacKkKlansman. 2019 saw his best year yet with his final portrayal as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and critical praise for the political drama The Report. Yet it’s his role as the divorcing husband to Scarlett Johansson in frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story that garnered his greatest reviews thus far.
The Case Against Adam Driver
He’s still young enough that there’s little overdue for a win sentiment happening. Marriage Story has fallen behind in numerous categories with the exception of Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. Joaquin Phoenix has swept the key precursors.
Driver will likely place second in the voting behind the rising of Phoenix over the past few weeks.
My Case of posts will continue with the third competitor in Best Actress… Saoirse Ronan in Little Women!
My Case of outlines for Oscar contenders brings us to the second post for Supporting Actress players – Laura Dern in Marriage Story. The breakdown:
The Case for Laura Dern
Dern is already an Emmy and SAG winner and five-time Golden Globe recipient, but she has yet to pick up an Oscar. She’s been nominated twice before in 1991 for Rambling Rose and for 2015’s Wild. A well-respected veteran from a Hollywood family, Dern has balanced blockbusters and indies for years. Her role a whip smart and ruthless divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s latest drew raves. Yet this is also seen as a career achievement prize given her zero previous wins. Dern has won all major precursors – Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, and a handful of critics groups awards.
The Case Against Laura Dern
There’s not much of one. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers was seen as her strongest competitor, but she was snubbed on nominations morning. Dern’s Marriage Story costar Scarlett Johansson is a double nominee, recognized in this race for Jojo Rabbit. The Academy could feel obliged to give ScarJo a victory here. Interestingly, Dern’s Little Women costar Florence Pugh is up as well.
Dern is a huge front runner and anyone else winning would be seen as a sizable upset.
My Case of posts will continue with another of Dern’s costars… Adam Driver in Marriage Story!
Continuing with my Case of posts for the performers nominated in the four acting races, we arrive at choice #2 for Supporting Actor – Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes. Let’s break it down!
The Case for Anthony Hopkins
A five-time nominee, the legendary thespian’s only win came with his first nod as the iconic and terrifying Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. His performance here as Pope Benedict alongside the also nominated Jonathan Pryce’s Pope Francis was seen a potent one two showcase. It also might not hurt that his role as a man with dementia in The Father (currently screening at the Sundance Film Festival) is already garnering awards chatter.
The Case Against Anthony Hopkins
The strong likelihood is that he’ll lose to his Legends of the Fall and Meet Joe Black costar Brad Pitt from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While Pryce and Hopkins both got mentions, their film failed to make the Best Picture cut.
The fifth time is very unlikely to be the second charm for Sir Anthony.
My Case of posts will continue with Laura Dern in Marriage Story!
When Margot Robbie walks the Oscar red carpet next Sunday evening as a Supporting Actress nominee for Bombshell, she will do so as an underdog in that category. On the bright side, it’s a near certainty that she’ll be starring in the #1 film in the United States. Robbie returns as DC Comics villain Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, her stand-alone continuation of her character first seen in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Cathy Yan directs with a supporting cast including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor.
Graced with the lengthy subtitle and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, the eighth pic in the DC Extended Universe is not expected to hit Suicide Squad numbers ($133 million opening weekend) or last fall’s Joker ($96.2 million). As for the latter, projections are putting it at around half that figure.
Prey should be assisted by the fact that Robbie had an impressive 2019. In addition to her Academy approved work in Bombshell, she costarred in Quentin Tarantino’s hit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While the official Squad sequel won’t be ready until summer of 2021, Quinn was certainly regarded as one of the original’s bright spots.
As of now, the high end of estimates puts this in the mid 50s. I’m predicting it will achieve that and could even climber higher if positive buzz develops in the coming days.
Birds of Prey opening weekend prediction: $55.6 million
French playwright Florian Zeller saw his play Le Pere (translation: The Father) debut onstage in 2012 to massive critical acclaim. Now Zeller has directed a version of it for the silver screen and it’s debuted at Sundance. The Father casts Anthony Hopkins as a man suffering from dementia who moves in with his daughter (Olivia Colman).
Sony Pictures Classics has already nabbed distribution rights and buzz suggests the performance of Hopkins is magnificent. Next weekend, Sir Anthony is up for Supporting Actor for playing a Holy Father in The Two Popes and it marks his fifth nomination. Yes, it’s early in the year but critical reaction opens up the very real possibility that The Father could mark his sixth. Of his current quintet of Academy recognition, he’s won once and that was his first recognition for his iconic Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. He’s not expected to pick up the trophy on February 9th for Popes.
Colman could find herself in the mix as well and it would come two years after she scored a surprise Best Actress victory for The Favourite. It’s not clear at this juncture whether Sony would campaign for her in lead or supporting.
Many Sundance selections garner a bit of fire that is doused as the season rolls along. I have a hunch that may not be the case here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In 2017, the period drama Mudbound likely just missed the cut for Best Picture consideration at the Oscars. The critically hailed Netflix production from director Dee Rees arrived at a time where Academy voters were probably still leery of the streaming service garnering significant nods. Mary J. Blige did manage a nomination for Supporting Actress.
Mudbound started its awards buzz at the Sundance Film Festival three years ago. Rees’s follow-up is the political thriller The Last Thing He Wanted and it’s also scheduled for a Netflix bow in February. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Edi Gathegi, Mel Rodriguez, Toby Jones, and Willem Dafoe in this adaptation from a Joan Didion novel.
The acclaim that greeted Rees and her picture three years ago has not repeated itself in 2020. The Last Thing currently sits at 0% (oof) on Rotten Tomatoes with reviews declaring it a serious misfire from a gifted filmmaker. The festival circuit frequently pushes along movies for consideration. It can also have the opposite effect of shutting those prospects down completely. And that’s where this seems bound. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
My Case of posts for this year’s major Oscar contenders continues with my second entry in Best Actress – Scarlett Johansson in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Let’s get to it!
The Case for Scarlett Johansson
Despite acclaimed roles in films including Lost in Translation and Match Point, Johansson had yet to be nominated for an Academy Award until now. That’s a bit surprising considering she’s the highest grossing actress in box office history (thanks mostly to The Avengers pics). She not only scored her first nod, but her second in Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit (that post will be up shortly). Considering she also appeared in 2019’s biggest blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, it was quite an amazing year for ScarJo and voters might be obliged to reward her for it.
The Case Against Scarlett Johansson
Despite a few critics groups awards here and there, she’s come up short with major precursors. There is a front runner for this race as Renee Zellweger (Judy) is continually picking up the hardware. Marriage Story itself has fallen behind over the past couple of months as to potential wins. Only Johansson’s costar Laura Dern is looking solid for a victory based on what’s already occurred.
Very few performers have earned a double nomination in the same year. In fact, she’s only the eighth in 70 years plus. Four of the previous seven garnered one win of the two nods. ScarJo, however, has a tough hill to climb.
My Case of posts will continue with our second player in Supporting Actor… Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes!
Ahead of its April 17th stateside debut, the revenge thriller Promising Young Woman has screened at Sundance. The pic marks the directorial debut of Emerald Fennell and casts Carey Mulligan in the title role alongside a supporting cast including Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam Brody, Alfred Molina, Connie Britton, and Laverne Cox.
Early reviews are encouraging with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%. Some critical reaction is effusive enough to make one wonder if Mulligan could nab her second Oscar nod after 2009’s An Education.
In order for that, Focus Features will need to launch an aggressive campaign to keep voters focused on her work in the months that follow. The Sundance buzz, at least, is somewhat promising. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In 2012, one of the big (if not the biggest) Oscar shocker was the emergence of Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild as a contender. Shot for under $2 million, the fantasy drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a glowing audience response and critical accolades. The film would take the Grand Jury prize in Utah. It played through the festival season and maintained buzz throughout the year. The result? Four major nominations from the Academy: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Quvenzhane Wallis), and Adapted Screenplay.
Eight years later, Zeitlin finally has his follow-up with Wendy and it has debuted at Sundance too. A reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan tale, it is set for release by Searchlight Pictures on February 28th. With a cast of unknowns, Wendy is one of the more anticipated titles at Sundance due to Zeitlin’s previous credential.
The reaction has been mixed and definitely more so than the mostly fantastic Beasts reception. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 55%, despite some critics singing its praises. While it might have ardent admirers, I don’t see lightning twice for its director with Zeitlin’s sophomore effort. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
For my second writeup in my Case of posts in the Best Actor derby at the Oscars, we come to Leonardo DiCaprio (perhaps you’ve heard of him). Here’s the storyline for and against a second trip to the podium:
The Case for Leonardo DiCaprio
Well, he’s probably the biggest movie star in the world and that helps. A six-time nominee and winner in 2015 for The Revenant, his work in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood garnered the usual raves and one heckuva meltdown scene. In a 2019 field that saw over 10 feasible contender in this race, he’s one of just three (along with Joaquin Phoenix and Adam Driver) to be nominated in all the higher profile precursors.
The Case Against Leonardo DiCaprio
Of the precursors, he’s lost them all to Phoenix. DiCaprio’s costar Brad Pitt has been receiving the lions share of awards love here with multiple Supporting Actor victories.
Had DiCaprio not recently won for The Revenant (Hollywood is his first movie since), there might be more of a path. However, the Phoenix factor and Pitt attention should leave Leo 1/6 on Oscar night.
My Case of posts will continue with the second nominated Best Actress… Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story!