Oscar Watch: Red Rocket

Former MTV VJ’s turned actors is not a new phenomenon. For the kids in the crowd, that network MTV used to play videos of our favorite musical artists back in the day. Bill Bellamy headlined How to Be a Player in the late 90s. Karen Duffy was a henchwoman in Dumb and Dumber. And, of course, there’s the many contributions from Pauly Shore to the cinematic universe.

None of these performances garnered awards buzz, but Simon Rex appears poised to change that dynamic after his work on the network a quarter century ago. Rex is the star of Red Rocket, which has screened at Cannes. He’s no stranger to silver screen as he costarred in volumes 3-5 of the Scary Movie series.

This one is a whole new ball game courtesy of director Sean Baker. Four years ago, he made the acclaimed The Florida Project. It probably came close to Best Picture and Original Screenplay nods, but didn’t get there. Willem Dafoe was nominated for Supporting Actor. Baker (along his cowriter Chris Bergoch) are also responsible for 2015’s heralded Tangerine.

Red Rocket casts Rex as a former adult film performer who returns to his rural Texas uptown. A gander at the actor’s Wikipedia page will inform you there’s some meta activity happening here. Early reviews offer praise for the lead and picture itself.

So will this be the Academy breakthrough for Baker and company that The Florida Project couldn’t eventually reach? Some critics are saying it doesn’t quite match the filmmaker’s predecessor in terms of overall quality. Distributor A24 will surely mount a campaign and I believe that will include Suzanna Son in Supporting Actress as reviews are also singling her out.

We don’t know yet how crowded Best Actor will be, but I suspect Rex and his costar will at least be on the radar moving forward. Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay could be more of a challenge. One thing’s for certain: nomination or not, this will be the closest a former VJ gets to the big show. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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