Oscars 2020: The Case of Vanessa Kirby

Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman is my third Case Of post for the five women vying in the seemingly wide open Best Actress race. If you missed my previous posts covering Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), they’re here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Viola Davis

Oscars 2020: The Case of Andra Day

The Case for Vanessa Kirby

Other than legions of The Crown viewers, many filmgoers have known Ms. Kirby primarily for action fare like Hobbs & Shaw and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. That changed in 2020 with acclaimed roles in the period piece The World to Come and especially with Pieces of a Woman, the Netflix drama that drew across the board raves for the actress. No frontrunner has truly emerged in this Best Actress competition and it actually feels like any of the five could win. She’s one of only two Oscar nominees in the BAFTA derby this weekend (alongside Frances McDormand in Nomadland) and she could take it.

The Case Against Vanessa Kirby

This marks Piece‘s one and only nod (Ellen Burstyn was a contender in supporting and didn’t make the cut). Barring a BAFTA victory, Kirby would go into Oscar night with zero significant precursor awards. Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) took the Golden Globe. Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) got the SAG and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) achieved the Critics Choice prize. The film itself some mixed critical reaction.

The Verdict

Of the five hopefuls, Kirby probably ranks fifth in terms of getting it. Yet I can’t stress enough that it’s a crapshoot at the moment and anything could happen.

My Case Of posts will continue with Anthony Hopkins in The Father…

Oscars 2020: The Case of David Fincher

My Case Of posts for nominees at the 93rd Academy Awards reaches its third director with David Fincher for Mank. If you missed my previous two posts covering Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), they can be found here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Lee Isaac Chung

Oscars 2020: The Case of Emerald Fennell

The Case for David Fincher

For over a quarter century, Fincher has been one of the most acclaimed and commercially successful filmmakers on the scene. His pictures have received a collective 40 Oscar nods. However, he’s yet to win himself for his direction despite two previous nods for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. In other words, there’s an overdue factor at play.

The Case Against David Fincher

Despite Mank leading in terms of total nominations (10) at the upcoming ceremony, it missed out in key categories like Original Screenplay and Editing. Of the 8 Best Picture nominees, it actually has the lowest (83%) Rotten Tomatoes score. While Fincher has landed mentions in the significant precursors, he’s lost at each turn to Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and she stands as the heavy favorite to take the Academy’s gold.

The Verdict

He may be overdue, but expect that to continue for Fincher as Zhao may well have this race wrapped up.

My Case Of posts will continue with Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Daniel Kaluuya

The second contest in the Supporting Actor field is up next in my Case Of posts for the Oscars and that’s Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah. If you missed my first post covering Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, it can be read here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Sacha Baron Cohen

The Case for Daniel Kaluuya

Ever since the trailer came out months ago for Judas, it was clear that Kaluuya’s performance as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton could be something special. When it was confirmed that he would compete in Supporting Actor, it was pretty much assumed he was an automatic hopeful. That buzz has only grown louder as Kaluuya (a previous nominee in Best Actor for 2017’s Get Out) has swept this race in the major precursors: Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice.

The Case Against Daniel Kaluuya

Perhaps the biggest surprise on Oscar nomination morning was Kaluuya’s costar Lakeith Stanfield garnering a nod here (especially since Warner Bros campaigned for him in the lead competition). So there’s always the chance that the two could cancel some of each other’s votes.

The Verdict

The vote splitting dilemma certainly didn’t hurt Sam Rockwell three years ago alongside Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s highly unlikely to hurt Kaluuya either as he feels like the safest pick in the four acting derbies.

My Case Of posts will continue with David Fincher’s direction of Mank…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Glenn Close

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy is next up in my Case Of posts for Supporting Actress contenders. If you missed my first entry covering Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, it is right here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Maria Bakalova

The Case for Glenn Close

Three Supporting Actress nominations for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, and The Natural. Four Actress nods for Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs, and The Wife. And no victories thus far. With her 8th nomination for the Netflix drama, Glenn Close has tied Peter O’Toole for the most Academy mentions with zero podium trips. So there’s clearly an overdue factor for one of the most celebrated actresses. Her career includes three each of the following: Golden Globes, Tonys, and Emmys. There is no clear favorite to emerge here as previous precursor recipients have included Maria Bakalova at the Critics Choice Awards, Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) at SAG, and Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) at the Globes (she missed Academy inclusion). In other words, anything could happen.

The Case Against Glenn Close

On paper, Close was looked at as a frontrunner all year. However, poor reviews for the picture itself stunted that momentum. In fact, she received a Razzie nod (honoring the worst in 2020) here and is only the third performer ever with that dubious distinction. For trivia completists, the other two are James Coco for Supporting Actor in 1981’s Only When I Laugh and Amy Irving in Supporting Actress for 1983’s Yentl. And while I mentioned the open nature of this particular contest, Close has yet to attain a precursor.

The Verdict

The 8th time is probably not the charm for Close unless the Academy really leans into the overdue sentiment.

My Case Of posts will continue with Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah…

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong is lighter than its MonsterVerse predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters from 2019. I don’t just mean lighter in tone (which it is), but actually lighter where it counts. When the two title character titans clash, we can actually see it. That’s an improvement over what transpired two years ago when Godzilla’s battles were too dimly lit or obscured by pounding rain. That’s a major plus, but not every aspect of this franchise has leveled up. The human characters are still an uninteresting and bland group. We have fine actors whose primary responsibility is to talk about the massive CGI combatants and react to what they’re doing. Their character development is a secondary consideration. That said – we’re not here for that, are we? This is the culmination of three pictures leading to a movie being named Godzilla vs. Kong and it frequently manages to deliver.

We last left King Kong in the 1970s during Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla in the aforementioned Monsters when he successfully warded off King Ghidorah and others. The fourth franchise entry picks up five years after Monsters as Kong is being monitored by Monarch on his native island. His human contact is mostly with linguist Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who’s a native of the island. A magazine cover identifies the doctor as the “Kong Whisperer”, but it’s clearly Jia who’s found the most sincere connection with the massive ape. Also on Kong patrol is geologist Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard).

While Kong is living a pretty chill existence on Skull Island, Godzilla’s fiery temper unexpectedly flares up. The not so jolly green giant has resurfaced to do lots of property destruction. His inexplicable attitude adjustment causes the CEO of APEX (Demian Bichir) to recruit Kong to solve this dilemma. APEX is a big shadowy corporation that sells itself as trying to solve the Titans problem. That doesn’t gel with conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and he’s got sympathizers with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, returning from Monsters) and her nerdy buddy Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison’s dad, played by Kyle Chandler, also reprises his Monsters role.

Enough with the plot which also involves specialized vehicles zooming through gravity fields. All of this is a prelude to watching Godzilla and Kong fight. It happens early (no shades of the slow buildup of 2014’s Godzilla) and round 1 transpires on water and is gloriously lighted for our entertainment.

The main event is in Hong Kong and that’s when we learn why Godzilla is being so irritable (hint: corporate greed is a factor). The climactic matchup is preceded by some fairly dull scenes with humans. No performance is bad. They’re just inconsequential with the exception of Hottle’s Jia in a winning performance. As long as we’re able to ignore the poor people in the buildings that are demolished with Kong and Godzilla’s every twitch and stumble, these skirmishes are expertly staged and enjoyable. I’d put it a notch below 2014’s Godzilla stand-alone from Gareth Edwards, but a hair above Kong: Skull Island and certainly ahead of Monsters. This delivers on its title well enough and is lit properly.

*** (out of four)

2020 SAG Awards Reaction

The 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards took place this evening in an abridged pre-taped hourlong ceremony. So how did this prognosticator do and what does it mean for the Oscars coming up in three weeks?

Well, I went 3/5 on my picks and missed Outstanding Ensemble and Actress. The Trial of the Chicago 7 won the former while I picked Minari. The Trial victory is not a surprise, but I’m not so sure it provides a Best Picture boost over frontrunner Nomadland (which wasn’t nominated here).

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom had a strong evening after missing out on a Best Picture nod at the Oscars. Chadwick Boseman, as projected, continued his sweep in Actor. The surprise came with Viola Davis taking Actress over my selection of Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman).

The Best Actress derby at the Academy Awards is now a bit of a mystery. Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday, who wasn’t on SAG’s list) took the Golden Globe. Mulligan won the Critics Choice. And now Davis at SAG. And I still wouldn’t rule out Frances McDormand for Nomadland. 

I did correctly pick both supporting categories. Daniel Kaluuya was named Supporting Actor for Judas and the Black Messiah and he’s a heavy favorite three weeks from now.

The Supporting Actress race has been far more of a challenge to figure out. Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) took the SAG and it could be argued she’s now a soft frontrunner with the Academy (though the race could certainly still go in a different direction).

As for what’s next for my Oscar forecasting, look for final predictions around April 21st or April 22nd!

Voyagers Box Office Prediction

Opening next weekend in the shadow of the gargantuan debut of Godzilla vs. Kong is the outer space adventure Voyagers. It comes from Divergent director Neil Burger with a cast featuring Ready Player One‘s Tye Sheridan, Lily Rose-Depp, Fionn Whitehad, and Colin Farrell.

The Lionsgate release, as we’ve become accustomed to, was originally slated to premiere last November before its COVID-19 related delay. While the iconic monsters listed above have certainly proven that moviegoers are ready to return to multiplexes, this voyage seems to be falling way under the radar.

This pic could show whether or not audiences will pretty much go see anything available at their local theater, but I’m forecasting this is a mission that few will take.

Voyagers opening weekend prediction: $1.8 million

Oscars 2020: The Case of Chadwick Boseman

My Case Of posts have reached the second performer for Best Actor at the Oscars and that’s the late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. If you missed my first post focused on Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal, you can find it here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Riz Ahmed

The Case for Chadwick Boseman

Despite acclaimed work in 42, Get On Up, Marshall, and Black Panther, his role as Levee Green in the Netflix drama marks Boseman’s first Academy nod. Premiering three months after his passing, critics hailed this as a career best performance. Boseman has swept the key precursors thus far such as the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. If he wins the SAG Award this evening, that’s a clean sweep. One could even argue that his omission in Supporting Actor for Da 5 Bloods is a sign that voters will honor him here.

The Cast Against Chadwick Boseman

You have to go back 11 years since a Best Actor winner’s movie wasn’t nominated for Best Picture (Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart). All four of his fellow nominees are appearing in BP contenders. Of those four, Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) have their ardent supporters.

The Verdict

Best Actor is not a race in which upsets often happen. Anyone other than Boseman taking the gold would constitute one. He is likely to become the first posthumous winner in this category since Peter Finch in Network.

My Case Of posts will continue with Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Andra Day

My Case Of posts for Best Actress reaches its second nominee with Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. If you missed my first entry on Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, you can find it here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Viola Davis

The Case for Andra Day

Awards prognosticators (including this guy) were stunned when Day beat out favorites Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) and Frances McDormand (Nomadland) at the Golden Globes in the drama category. This upset immediately vaulted Day from will she be nominated? to can she win? While the film has garnered mixed reviews, critics have consistently praised Day’s work as the troubled singer. Just last year the Academy honored another performer (Renee Zellweger) in this race playing a legendary songstress in Judy.

The Case Against Andra Day

As mentioned, the picture itself only managed 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet the biggest case against lies with Day not receiving a SAG nod. Of the previous 26 winners there, not one winning actress missed SAG recognition. Despite the shocking Globes trophy, Mulligan and McDormand remain the frontrunners. Furthermore, Holiday‘s sole nomination came here as it missed other possibilities like Makeup and Hairstyling, Costume Design, and Original Song.

The Verdict

History is not on Day’s side and she ranks third (at best) in this competition.

My Case Of posts will continue with Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Emerald Fennell

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) is the second filmmaker up in my Case Of posts for Best Director at the Oscars. If you missed my first writeup for Lee Isaac Chung work in Minari, you can find it here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Lee Isaac Chung

The Case for Emerald Fennell

The actress turned multi-hyphenate (who served as a show runner for the acclaimed Killing Eve) drew widespread acclaim for her debut feature. She’s the first female Brit to garner a direction nod. Promising Young Woman is looked at as a potential spoiler to front-running Nomadland in Best Picture. The film could also emerge victorious in Actress (Carey Mulligan) and for Fennell herself in Original Screenplay.

The Case Against Emerald Fennell

Fennell’s inclusion here marks the first time in Academy history that two women are up in the category. Unfortunately for her, the other one is Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and she’s considered the strong favorite to take this award.

The Verdict

Fennell has a terrific opportunity to win an Oscar on April 25th, but it’s for her screenplay and not likely here.

My Case Of posts will continue with Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday…