Oscar Predictions: Air

Air is the fifth feature directed by Ben Affleck and it closed out the South by Southwest festival this weekend prior to its April 5th theatrical release. The 1984 set sports drama focuses on Nike’s decision to make a shoe deal with an NBA rookie by the name of Michael Jordan. In addition to being behind the camera, Affleck costars as the company’s co-founder Phil Knight. The director’s buddy Matt Damon headlines as marketing exec Sonny Vaccaro with a supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, and real life married couple Viola Davis and Julius Tennon as MJ’s parents and chief negotiators. #23 himself is not played by an actor and appears only in archival footage.

Early reactions from Austin indicate that Air might be the first legit awards hopeful to be released on the ’23 calendar. Several of the reviews are outright raves with comparisons to Jerry Maguire and Moneyball (both nominated for Best Picture). If this hits with audiences (and indications are it’s a crowdpleaser), that only increases its chances to make the big dance.

Affleck, of course, was famously snubbed by the Academy in 2012 even though his second directorial effort Argo won Best Picture. He’s yet to be nominated for his filmmaking. However, three of his previous four pics (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo) achieved one or more mentions from Oscar voters. The one that didn’t was his last – 2016’s flop Live by Night.

It’s early, but the chances of Air garnering nominations is high. I don’t know if Affleck will get his first directing nod, but this already looks like it’s shooting for one of the ten slots in BP. The original screenplay by Alex Convery, cinematography from three-time winner Robert Richardson, and editing from William Goldenberg are all possibilities.

As for the cast, I’m curious to see category placement. Damon could be put in lead and vie for his fourth overall acting nom behind Good Will Hunting, Invictus, and The Martian. Amazon could also choose to campaign everyone in supporting. The other male performer drawing lots of attention is Chris Messina as MJ’s agent David Falk. Fresh off her EGOT, Viola Davis might have the best chance and it would be her fifth nom after Doubt, The Help, Fences (where she won), and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It might help that many felt she was just snubbed for The Woman King.

Bottom line: Air is a real contender in the game of Oscar and my prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: A Thousand and One

A Thousand and One is slated for release on March 31st after its unveiling at Sundance in January. The 90s set NYC drama from filmmaker A.V. Rockwell casts Teyana Taylor as a mom who kidnaps her son from foster care. Costars include Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, and Aaron Kingsley Adetola.

Thousand won a grand jury prize at the Park City fest and the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% thus far. Taylor, a musical protege of Kanye West who recently appeared in Coming 2 America, is getting kudos for her work. While all critical reaction is positive – I’m not sure it is effusive enough to make this a major awards player.

If Focus Features really concentrates on it, you never know. My guess is this could get attention at the Indie Spirits Awards and not elsewhere. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Fall Review

I wouldn’t say I love Scott Mann’s low budget survival tall tale Fall, but it admirably generates suspense in spurts. This begins in Cliffhanger fashion with a loved one plummeting to their grisly demise. The late great Norm MacDonald had a joke about cliff divers and it applies with climbers. He said there’s two types of participants in such an activity: Grand Champion (because you survived) and “Stuff on a Rock”. Mason Gooding’s Dan is the latter. Wife (Grace Caroline Currey) and best friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner) witness the tragedy during their mountain ascension attempt.

Nearly a year later, mourning Becky has shutoff contact from friends and family (including concerned dad Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Hunter, meanwhile, is a minor Instagram star (60k followers) who goes by Danger D and treats her viewers to various daring exploits. Her solution to help Becky out of her (often drunken) funk is to recruit her on an adventure. The two will scale a decommissioned 2,000 foot TV tower in the desert and document it. At the top, Dan’s unopened ashes will be scattered.

That doesn’t all go as planned. Fall probably sets the record for number of loose bolt shots in a recent motion picture. While Becky and Danger D get to the top, the rickety and rusted ladder gives out and there’s no way down. The rest of this is devoted to figuring out a way to descend.

At least… most of it is. At 107 minutes, there’s some fat that could’ve been trimmed. There’s extraneous relationship dynamics that don’t add much. This might have been more effective at a leaner 85-90 minutes. For a film that incorporates the 80s hair metal hit “Cherry Pie”, it doesn’t always (ahem) warrant the running time.

When there’s vultures to avoid or operating the drone they brought to be their savior or getting their phones to charge, the survival mechanics of the screenplay can be absorbing. The decently convincing cinematography and commitment of the lead actresses are pluses. The occasional padding courtesy of the script prevents this being a big winner. It’s not stuff on a rock either.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Tetris

Tetris is not your typical blockbuster based on a video game, but instead a look behind the curtain at the iconic creation which burst onto the scene in the late 80s. Jon S. Baird (who previously made Stan & Ollie) directs Taron Egerton as the Dutch inventor who must face off with Soviets in the Cold War era to bring it to the masses. Costars include Toby Jones, Nikita Yefremov, Roger Allam, and Anthony Boyle.

Apple TV begins airing this on March 31st after it premiered at South by Southwest. It would seem that a corresponding theatrical output is not occurring. That would mean game over for its Oscar prospects from the get-go. This makes sense given the 81% Rotten Tomatoes is solid though most reviews aren’t outright raves. The streamer is far more likely to concentrate on the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon from Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (and potentially others) anyway.

Even without the ineligibility factor, Tetris doesn’t seem to have the pieces put together for a legit campaign. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

**Blogger’s Note – shortly after posting, I was informed that this will have a limited L.A. theatrical run and is likely therefore eligible for consideration. It doesn’t change my underlying thoughts on the viability.

Best Picture 2020: The Final Five

We have reached 2020 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut?

2020 is a tricky year to consider. As we all know, it was a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us were working from home and theaters were essentially shuttered for the majority of the year.

Beyond the challenging, tragic, and unprecedented news events of 2020, it was just a strange year for motion pictures. Eight pictures contended for the big prize. I have the leading nominee (with 10) missing the BP cut. The next most nominated film had 6 mentions… and there’s 6 of them. The other BP contender had 5.

My point? Whittling these 8 down to 5 is not easy. Considering it took BP, Director (Chloe Zhao, the second female ever to win), and Actress (Frances McDormand), we can safely reserve a spot for Nomadland. As for the rest? Let’s get into it!

The Father

Florian Zeller’s devastasting drama about Alzheimer’s missed a nod in Director, but Anthony Hopkins landed his second Actor statue over the late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, who was the frontrunner. Zeller did win Adapted Screenplay and this was also up for Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman), Film Editing, and Production Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Its two wins not only give me confidence of its inclusion in a quintet, but it could be argued this was runner-up to Nomadland.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Daniel Kaluuya won Supporting Actor for his performance as Fred Hampton in Shaka King’s historical drama. Costar Lakeith Stanfield was up in the same race and it was nominated for Original Screenplay and Cinematography. A second statue was given to H.E.R. for her original song “Fight for You”.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No but I certainly struggled with this one. The lack of directing and editing noms have it on the outside looking in.


This is where it gets complicated. David Fincher’s jaded Netflix aired look at Old Hollywood easily led the program with 10 mentions and it won Cinematography and Production Design. Fincher was also in contention for his behind the camera work. Other nods went to Gary Oldman for Actor, Amanda Seyfried in Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, and Sound.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Surprisingly enough… I’m saying no. Despite the haul, it is the only one of the 8 nominees not up for screenplay. Furthermore the Film Editing omission feels significant. It certainly isn’t normal to project the leader not making the final five. However, rules are meant to be broken.


Lee Isaac Chung also garnered a directing spot in that quintet while Youn yuh-Jung was the Supporting Actress recipient in this family drama. Other nods: Actor (Steven Yeun), Original Screenplay, and Original Score.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes though I went back and forth. This seemed to gather strength as the season wore on and not just with yuh-Jung. I think it squeaks in.

Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell was up for director and won Adapted Screenplay for this revenge dramedy. Carey Mulligan made the Actress cut (and may have been second to McDormand) and it was in for Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The victory in Adapted Screenplay over four other BP hopefuls helps solidify that decision.

Sound of Metal

The impressive haul for the indie drama is Riz Ahmed in Actor, Paul Raci in Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, and wins in Film Editing and Sound.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes though I again went back and forth. While director Darius Marder was left out, it’s the Editing and Sound combo that give it an edge over the three that got left out.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

7‘s six nods came (in addition to BP) in Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Original Song. The Aaron Sorkin political drama is the only BP vier not to take home a single trophy.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No though I struggled again. This Netflix pic undoubtedly didn’t match awards expectations after it was once seen as the on paper favorite. The 0 for 6 performance make it easier to elevate some of the others.

And there you have it. That means my 2020 vision of the Final Five is:

The Father



Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

2021 will be be up soon! If you missed my entries covering 2009-19, you can find them here:

Oscar Predictions: Moving On

From 9 to 5 over four decades ago to Netflix’s recent Grace and Frankie to the very recent midsize hit 80 for Brady, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin clearly enjoy collaborating. They’re back at it again this weekend with the limited release of Moving On. The comedy comes from filmmaker Paul Weitz, who directed Tomlin to a Golden Globe nom in 2015 for Grandma. Costars include Malcolm McDowell, Richard Roundtree, and Catherine Dent.

Moving first surfaced last fall at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reactions. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 65%. Even though Brady has a slightly lower RT rating at the moment (62%), it has a better chance at Oscar recognition due to the song “Gonna Be You” from frequent nominee Diane Warren. This follow-up from the legendary actresses is highly unlikely to generate any Academy (or Globes) attention.

My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

John Wick: Chapter 4 Box Office Prediction

Each Wick pic has burned brighter at the box office than the previous entry and the trend looks to continue as John Wick: Chapter 4 is unleashed on March 24th. Keanu Reeves is back in the title role with Chad Stahelski returning to direct. The supporting players are a mix of familiar franchise faces and newcomers including Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rino Sawayama, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishburne.

In the fall of 2014, the first Wick was a modest success when it debuted with $14 million and $43 million domestic overall. Those numbers seem meager now, but they were better than anticipated and more fans were gained when it hit the home viewing circuit. The 2017 sequel took in $30 million out of the gate with $92 million total. In 2019, Chapter 3 – Parabellum soared to a $56 million premiere with $171 million in the stateside bank.

At nearly three hours long, Chapter 4 is generating some of the strongest reviews of the series. With 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are particularly praising the choreography of its wild action sequences. That should get plenty of genre fans out to the multiplexes. Like Creed III, look for this to score a series high opening with room to spare. I’m thinking mid 60s to possibly $70 million is achievable.

John Wick: Chapter 4 opening weekend prediction: $69.1 million

Oscar Predictions: Shazam! Fury of the Gods

When the DCEU superhero flick Shazam! landed in 2019, it did so with a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score and an A Cinemascore rating. It did not generate any awards attention and that includes tech races like Visual Effects where this genre often nabs spots. However, it’s the MCU usually getting those noms and not their rival DC.

Director David F. Sandberg and star Zachary Levi reunite for Shazam! Fury of the Gods this Friday. Early reviews suggest it is a step down from its predecessor and the RT score is 70%. Prognosticators are projecting the box office will also fall short of the original from four years ago.

As far as awards prospects, the call is simple. Lightning won’t strike again with this franchise. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – John Wick: Chapter 4

The Best Picture lineup for the just aired Academy Awards was 20% sequel with Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water in contention. We also had Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery up in key contests. So is it crazy to think John Wick: Chapter 4 could find its way into the Oscar conversation a little less than a year from now? Yeah, it might be.

Or maybe not. The fourth heaping of ultra-violence starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Chad Stahelski stands at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes prior to its March 24th domestic bow. That exactly matches the scores of predecessors Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 – Parabellum and exceeds the original’s 86%.

Yet many of the reviews are calling #4 the best of the wild bunch. The nearly three hour opus is being specifically singled out for its production design and cinematography. I could certainly see Film Twitter mounting a campaign for this acclaimed franchise to finally get some love from the tech branches. It’s unlikely to occur, but not impossible. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

95th Academy Awards Reaction

It was indeed a slap free almost four hours of TV at the Oscars Sunday night. However, half of the Best Picture nominees were smacked down with zero victories: The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tár, and Triangle of Sadness.

There’s no doubt that Everything Everywhere All at Once was the massive winner of the proceedings, emerging victorious in seven of its 11 nods. It was also a loudly pleasing reception for All Quiet on the Western Front with a better than anticipated four trophies.

As for my numbers, I went 13 for 20. Over the past half decade, I’ve had far stronger showings in the odd numbered years than even numbered ones and my 2022 results were again on the lower end of the spectrum.

Everything took home the most above the line awards (6) of any picture in Academy history: Picture, Director (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), and Original Screenplay (also the Daniels). It also won Film Editing. I correctly called all of those except for Supporting Actress where I went with Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin). This is the first pic in (get this!) 46 years to nab three of the four acting races. That’s since Network in 1976.

When Elvis lost to The Whale for Makeup and Hairstyling (which I got wrong), prognosticators across the Twitterverse and beyond knew that it could be a sign Brendan Fraser may take the gold over Austin Butler. And indeed that’s what happened – meaning I missed two of the four acting derbies. Let it be noted, by the way, that the Academy exactly matched SAG in those four competitions.

All Quiet grabbed International Feature Film and Cinematography as predicted. It additionally took Production Design (over my Babylon call) and Original Score (over my pick of The Fabelmans). I projected Quiet for Sound, but instead it marked the only victory for Top Gun: Maverick.

Animated Feature and Documentary Feature went, as anticipated, to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and Navalny. Song was “Naatu Naatu” from RRR and Avatar: The Way of Water in Visual Effects (correct picks) with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Costume Design over my Elvis pick.

And it was Sarah Polley in Adapted Screenplay for Women Talking. As far as the 95th Academy Awards, we’ll be talking about a historic night for one film in particular. It didn’t win everything, but it did so everywhere it was expected to and beyond. And it was also an evening filled with some genuinely heartfelt speeches and touching wins capped off by Indiana Jones embracing Short Round nearly 40 years later!