AFI Sharpens The Oscar Focus

The AFI Film Awards came out with their 2019 honors today and they do things a little differently. This particular group names their favorite 10 pictures of the year without naming a winner. And their top films are the only category they bother with.

Today those ten movies were as follows: 1917, The Farewell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Knives Out, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. 

So what’s to learn when it comes to Oscar pontificating? Let’s start with comparing this list to yesterday’s announcement of the National Board of Review’s 10 honored titles… eleven actually because their winner was The Irishman. The NBR’s different titles were Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Uncut Gems, and Waves. Not on NBR’s list from AFI:  The Farewell and Little Women. 

Shared AFI/NBR pics: The Irishman, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. If you think getting Picture mentions in both guarantees Oscar love, 2018 proved otherwise. Five films did just that last year and didn’t land Best Pictures nods: Eighth Grade, First Reformed, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, and A Quiet Place.

Confused? Welcome to the world of awards speculation. As I see it currently, there are only two shared 2019 AFI/NBR features that could miss out on the big race: Knives Out and Richard Jewell. I’ll also take this opportunity to note that Parasite (which is looking decent for Best Pic attention) is ineligible for AFI since it’s a foreign film.

As for Best Pic hopefuls that landed no love from these groups, we have A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (I believe its chances are fading quickly) and Bombshell (not as convinced that it cannot rebound). It could get the 2018 Vice slot, which was ignored by AFI/NBR. There’s also Rocketman, which can hang on to the thought that it could be this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

When you look at the AFI list’s history over the past half decade, it is a fairly reliable barometer on certain directions the Academy will take. Last year, five out of the eventual eight nominees were on their list and that’s the lowest percentage. In 2016 and 2017, it was 7 for 9. In 2014 and 2015, it was 6 for 8. So you can pretty much bank on at least half of AFI’s list and probably a bit more landing Oscar nominations.

I’ll leave you with this: while Knives Out is certainly one of the most obvious candidates for something that could miss a Picture nod, I like its chances better than I ever have before. This could be a case of perfect timing as it just opened, had a much bigger debut than expected, and audiences and critics are singing its praises. I wouldn’t count it out. In fact, I suspect when I update my estimates on Monday – it will rank higher than ever before and enter my top 15 possibilities. That will knock a candidate out and Mister Rogers could be the unfortunate victim.

The Irishman Takes New York

The awards precursors keep coming as the New York Film Critics Circle named their best of 2019 today. Yesterday’s discussion focused on the National Board of Review winners. I explained how a victory with them often doesn’t equate to Oscar glory. And the same holds true for the film reviewers in the Big Apple.

That said, it’s the second day in a row where The Irishman has been named Best Film. Yet the last NYFCC recipient to take Best Picture was back in 2011 with The Artist. It’s the only one of this decade and in the 2000s, there were only three matches: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker. 

One might think that these critics in particular might name Martin Scorsese as Best Director. You would be wrong. It is Ben and Josh Safdie for Uncut Gems. This Adam Sandler crime pic is picking up steam at the right moment, but it could be a reach for them to be included in Director with the Academy.

While Mr. Sandler picked up Best Actor with the NBR trophy yesterday, the New York bunch went with Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory. He’s an on the bubble candidate in an ultra crowded Oscar derby. If Banderas continues to rack up critical kudos, it could certainly help him make the final five.

For the second year in a row, the NYFCC had a surprise victor in Actress. Last year, they went quite outside the box with Regina Hall in Support the Girls. Today it’s Lupita Nyong’o in Us. While this isn’t as much of a shocker, she’s generally been seen as an unlikely candidate for Oscar attention. However, this category isn’t as packed as Actor and she could factor into the mix.

More Irishman love came in Supporting Actor and not for Al Pacino. No, it was Joe Pesci taking the prize and I’m becoming more and more convinced he gets the Academy nod along with his co-star Pacino. Interestingly, this leads me to think voice splitting could occur and that may help Brad Pitt’s chances even more for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Supporting Actress is perhaps the only category where New York seems to match the Oscar front-runner with Laura Dern. NYFCC threw in a caveat, though, by naming her for both Marriage Story and Little Women. Oscar voters are nearly certain to only notice her in the former.

This critics do not divide original and adapted written works and it was Quentin Tarantino taking Screenplay for Hollywood. When it comes to the big show in Original Screenplay, he appears to have an edge over competitors like Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Bottom line: New York spread the love around with their news today, but it’s another solid showing for The Irishman. 

The Irishman Takes The NBR

The National Board of Review announced its victors this afternoon for their best of 2019. For the pictures and performers who were named as winners, you could say that it’s a double edged sword.

Allow me to explain. In this 2010’s, only one of their Best Film recipients took home Best Picture at the Oscars. That was last year with Green Book. This year, the award goes to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. So from an odds perspective, that could mean it faces an uphill battle for the big gold statue. On the other hand, all of the NBR Film winners from this decade, with the exception of 2014’s A Most Violent Year, have scored an Academy nod. This isn’t really in doubt for The Irishman so expect that trend to continue.

The Board always goes on to name their additional favorite 10 motion pictures and this year they are: 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. In 2018, only three of the ten additional NBR selections got Picture noms: Black Panther, Roma and A Star Is Born. Some notable titles that didn’t make the NBR cut for 2019: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Joker, Little Women, Parasite, and The Two Popes. 

When it comes to Best Director, the news is even worse for the NBR recipient. No movie this decade has seen that winner match with Oscar. In fact, the last direct match was in 2006 for… Irishman maker Scorsese for The Departed. The NBR named Quentin Tarantino today for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s got history against his side for a walk up the Academy steps.

In Best Actor, it’s the same story as only Casey Affleck for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea won NBR and Oscar in the 2010s. Adam Sandler is the winner for Uncut Gems. He’s part of a packed Best Actor race where there’s about a dozen viable candidates looking for five spots. This victory could at least help him get in as only Oscar Isaac (Violent Year in 2014) and Tom Hanks (2017’s The Post) didn’t land nods.

The numbers improve only slightly for Best Actress with two matches: Julianne Moore for 2014’s Still Alice and Brie Larson for 2015’s Room. The NBR bestowed the award this year to Renee Zellweger for Judy, who could be considered a soft front-runner for Oscar.

This brings us to Brad Pitt, winner today for Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He also holds the status of apparent favorite to win the Academy’s love. Yet there’s just two matches this decade between them and NBR: Christian Bale in 2010’s The Fighter and Christopher Plummer from 2011’s Beginners. 

Last year was the only match of the decade for Supporting Actress: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Kathy Bates took the NBR for Richard Jewell. I don’t see her winning the Oscar, but it could help her nomination odds.

In Original Screenplay, it’s interesting to note that 7 of the past nine NBR winners didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Could that be a sign of trouble for honoree Uncut Gems? Time will tell…

And for Adapted Screenplay, the NBR went with The Irishman. Par for the course, just two matches here: 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Descendants. 

Bottom line: the NBR announcements might help with fleshing out who certain nominees will be. As far as winners, that’s a whole different story…

Marriage Is The Gotham Story

The first significant awards show of 2019 happened this evening with the Gotham Independent Film Awards. And while it’s not as much of a reliable precursor as SAG or the Globes, there’s always something to extrapolate… eh?

I say unreliable because last year’s Best Feature Winner – The Rider – didn’t measure a blip on the radar screen of Oscar voters. On the other hand, the category’s winners from 2014-2016 (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) won the big prize with the Academy.

Tonight was a very good night for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, which premieres on Netflix this Friday. The divorce drama took the top prize in addition to Baumbach’s screenplay, the audience award, and Driver’s work for Best Actor. He appears to be a near lock for a nomination in an extremely competitive and crowded Best Actor race.

Curiously, Driver’s costar Scarlett Johansson did not get an Actress nod here for her work. And it was Awkwafina who took that award for The Farewell. This could assist in getting her Oscar attention. I’ve got her as an on the bubble contender. Her victory here over Alfre Woodard in Clemency and Elisabeth Moss for Her Smell could be a sign that she has an edge.

Unlike The Rider last year, no one will be surprised if Marriage Story gets a Best Picture nomination and it could even contend to win along with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, Parasite, 1917, and Jojo Rabbit. One thing is for sure – this first ceremony in early December is a solid notch in its belt.

2019 Oscar Predictions: November 25th Edition

Two key screenings took place over the week with significant Oscar implications and there’s some movement in major categories to discuss:

  • 1917, the World War I epic from Sam Mendes, finally availed itself to critics and the feedback is extremely positive. While I’d had it projected for Picture and Director for some time, its numbers (3 and 2 respectively) are the highest yet.
  • Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell screened at AFI Fest. Some reviews indicate it’s a contender in Picture, but I’m not quite there. It does vault back in the 15 possibilities at 13 and both Paul Walter Hauser in Actor and Kathy Bates in Supporting Actress are now in the mix, but not projected in the top five.
  • Bombshell is back in my ten projected Picture nominees over Ford v Ferrari. 
  • Zhao Shuzhen finally makes the cut in Supporting Actress, displacing Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit.
  • Tom Hanks slides to fifth in Supporting Actor after the so-so box office performance of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I suspect he could fall out with Joe Pesci (The Irishman) and Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy) hot on his heels.
  • While my five Best Actor contenders remain the same, this is the most packed field in ages. I could legitimately see any of my ten listed thespians getting in, as well as Christian Bale (who falls to 11th).

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. 1917 (PR: 6)

4. Marriage Story (PR: 4)

5. Parasite (PR: 3)

6. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 5)

7. Little Women (PR: 7)

8. Joker (PR: 8)

9. The Two Popes (PR: 9)

10. Bombshell (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 10)

12. The Farewell (PR: 12)

13. Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

14. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 13)

15. Rocketman (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Waves

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

3. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 3)

4. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

5. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 6)

7. Todd Phillips, Joker (PR: 9)

8. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

9. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 7)

10. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 10)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

5. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 6)

7. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 8)

8. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 7)

9. Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 1)

2. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

3. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 3)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 4)

5. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

7. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 8)

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 7)

9. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 9)

10. Mary Kay Place, Diane (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 3)

3. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: 2)

4. Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell (PR: 6)

5. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 5)

7. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 7)

8. Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

10. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 2)

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 5)

4. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 3)

5. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 7)

7. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 6)

8. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 9)

9. Song Kang-Ho, Parasite (PR: 8)

10. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

2. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Pain and Glory (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bombshell (PR: 6)

7. 1917 (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Knives Out (PR: 7)

9. Honey Boy (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Booksmart

Waves

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: 4)

4. Little Women (PR: 3)

5. Joker (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 6)

7. Hustlers (PR: 9)

8. Richard Jewell (PR: 8)

9. Just Mercy (PR: 7)

10. Dark Waters (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Downton Abbey 

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. Parasite (PR: 1)

2. Pain and Glory (PR: 2)

3. Les Miserables (PR: 3)

4. Monos (PR: 8)

5. And Then We Danced (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Invisible Life (PR: 6)

7. Atlantics (PR: 7)

8. Beanpole (PR: 5)

9. Those Who Remained (PR: 9)

10. A White, White Day (PR: 10)

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Toy Story 4 (PR: 1)

2. Frozen II (PR: 2)

3. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PR: 3)

4. I Lost My Body (PR: 4)

5. Weathering with You (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Klaus (PR: 8)

7. Abominable (PR: 6)

8. Missing Link (PR: 7)

9. Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (PR: 9)

10. Funan (PR: 10)

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. American Factory (PR: 1)

2. One Child Nation (PR: 2)

3. Maiden (PR: 6)

4. Apollo 11 (PR: 5)

5. For Sama (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Cave (PR: 3)

7. The Biggest Little Farm (PR: 7)

8. Honeyland (PR: 4)

9. Sea of Shadows (PR: 8)

10. The Kingmaker (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Edge of Democracy

Knock Down the House 

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

5. Joker (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Parasite (PR: 9)

7. A Hidden Life (PR: 7)

8. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 8)

9. Little Women (PR: 10)

10. Ad Astra (PR: 6)

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Little Women (PR: 2)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

3. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 4)

4. Rocketman (PR: 5)

5. Downton Abbey (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Judy (PR: 10)

8. The Aeronauts (PR: 7)

9. Cats (PR: 9)

10. Aladdin (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jojo Rabbit

Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

3. 1917 (PR: 4)

4. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 2)

5. Parasite (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Marriage Story (PR: 6)

7. Joker (PR: 9)

8. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

9. Bombshell (PR: 8)

10. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rocketman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bombshell (PR: 1)

2. The Irishman (PR: 2)

3. Judy (PR: 3)

4. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 5)

5. Us (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

7. Joker (PR: 6)

8. Rocketman (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 9)

10. Cats (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

The Aeronauts

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 2)

3. 1917 (PR: 5)

4. The Irishman (PR: 3)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Parasite (PR: 6)

7. Joker (PR: 7)

8. The Two Popes (PR: 10)

9. Cats (PR: 8)

10. Downton Abbey (PR: 9)

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 2)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Marriage Story (PR: 5)

5. Joker (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 8)

7. A Hidden Life (PR: 7)

8. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

9. Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Ad Astra (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

The Aeronauts

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II (PR: 1)

2. “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman (PR: 2)

3. “Stand Up” from Harriet (PR: 4)

4. “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats (PR: 3)

5. “Speechless” from Aladdin (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. “Spirit” from The Lion King (PR: 5)

7. “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4 (PR: 10)

8. “Daily Battles” from Motherless Brooklyn (PR: 6)

9. “Glasgow” from Wild Rose (PR: Not Ranked)

10. “Together From Afar” from How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

“Show Yourself” from Frozen II

Best Sound Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 2)

2. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 1)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 5)

5. Ad Astra (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Rocketman (PR: 6)

7. The Irishman (PR: 7)

8. Joker (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 8)

10. Cats (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

The Aeronauts

Best Sound Mixing

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 2)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 6)

5. Rocketman (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ad Astra (PR: 5)

7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 7)

8. Cats (PR: 8)

9. The Irishman (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Joker (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Judy

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 2)

3. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 3)

4. The Lion King (PR: 4)

5. The Aeronauts (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ad Astra (PR: 6)

7. 1917 (PR: 10)

8. Alita: Battle Angel (PR: 8)

9. Gemini Man (PR: 7)

10. Aladdin (PR: 9)

And this all equates to these pictures nabbing the following numbers of nods:

10 Nominations

The Irishman

9 Nominations

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

8 Nominations

1917

7 Nominations

Little Women, Marriage Story

5 Nominations

Joker, Parasite

4 Nominations

Bombshell, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Two Popes

3 Nominations

Avengers: Endgame, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Rocketman

2 Nominations

Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Frozen II, Harriet, Judy, The Lighthouse, Pain and Glory

1 Nomination

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Ad Astra, The Aeronauts, Aladdin, American Factory, And Then We Danced, Apollo 11, Cats, Downton Abbey, For Sama, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hustlers, I Lost My Body, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Maiden, Monos, One Child Nation, Toy Story 4, Us, Weathering with You

Oscar Watch: 1917

Twenty years ago, Sam Mendes made American Beauty and it dominated the 1999 Oscars, with the filmmaker taking Best Director and the movie being named Best Picture. Lately, Mendes has been known more as the Bond director behind past two installments Skyfall and Spectre. 

His World War I epic 1917 has held its initial screenings prior to its Christmas release. Early   word of mouth suggests the saga about The Great War is a great picture and that Oscar is likely to pay attention. Most of the buzz thus far has centered on its making as a one camera take experience. Before today’s reviews, this seemed like a probable contender for multiple tech awards already. That includes Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and both Sound races. All of that still holds true. The legendary Roger Deakins is responsible for the cinematography. After many nominations, he won his first gold statue just two years back for Blade Runner 2049. He could pick up a second here.

Similarly, composer Thomas Newman (a frequent Mendes collaborator) has heard his name called 14 times by Oscar, but has yet to be the victor. That, too, could change as the score is getting numerous mentions.

The cast includes George McKay, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I don’t expect any acting nods due to the packed nature of those categories. However, I do expect Picture and Director (and maybe Original Screenplay) attention. I’ve had the film itself and Mendes in my guesstimates for some time. When my weekly predictions come Monday, I anticipate both will be ranked higher than ever before. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Richard Jewell

Few directors have made two Best Picture Oscar winners, but Clint Eastwood did that with 1992’s Unforgiven and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. The latter came along late in the year and shifted the conversation 15 years ago. So anytime Mr. Eastwood screens a potential contender in time for Academy consideration, it’s time to take notice. The AFI Film Festival premiered Richard Jewell last night and the biographical drama centers on the title character who was falsely accused of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

So what’s the verdict? Jewell is sporting an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far, but critical reaction brings a question mark as to its viability. While some reviews indicate it could very well contend, others are a little more mixed.

Eastwood filmed his last nominee five years back with the massive hit American Sniper. Since then, his filmography of Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, and The Mule has garnered scant awards attention (save for a Sound Editing nod for Sully).

Chatter has focused on three performances. Paul Walter Hauser, memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman, is garnering raves. Yet Best Actor is fiercely competitive in 2019. In my weekly predictions, he hasn’t been in the top ten as I’ve waited for reaction to come. I honestly feel all ten of my current possibilities could get in. Hauser will really need to gather momentum for any shot. It’s doable, but I feel it would be more doable in a different year.

The same can be said for Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s lawyer. Two years ago, the actor won Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Last year, he was nominated again as George W. Bush in Vice. It would be a quite a story for him to get nods three years in a row. Like Hauser’s category, Supporting Actor is also chock full of contenders. I’m a bit skeptical he makes it as he might also split his own votes for his work in Jojo Rabbit. 

It could be Kathy Bates that manages to get in playing Jewell’s mother. That’s because Supporting Actress is not quite as packed as the races of her costars. Nearly three decades have passed since she won Best Actress for Misery. Bates has received two Supporting Actress recognitions since in 1998’s Primary Colors and 2002’s About Schmidt. 

So… how about the film itself and Eastwood? It’s certainly feasible that it nabs a Picture nomination, but it’s definitely an on the bubble candidate. Due to that, I’m not sure Eastwood can make the final five. He’ll just have to rest on his already considerable mantelpiece.

Bottom line: Richard Jewell put itself in the mix at AFI, but there’s also a chance it comes up empty handed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…