Oscar Watch: Annihilation

Alex Garland’s Annihilation hits theaters tomorrow and the science fiction thriller has been subject to some glowing reviews. It stands at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is the follow-up to director Garland’s 2015 debut Ex Machina, which nabbed two Oscar nominations. Machina won for Visual Effects (which was a bit of a surprise) and got a nod for Original Screenplay.

Annihilation is based on a novel and would compete in Adapted Screenplay. It’s unlikely this would compete for the big prizes like Picture, Director, or any of the acting races. Visual Effects could be a different story as critics have taken notice of that aspect of its production. Like Machina, it could find itself a contender in that category.

That said, distributor Paramount doesn’t seem very confident with Annihilation. That’s despite the positive critical reaction. The picture appears unlikely to make much noise at the box office and one wonders if the studio will push it for awards consideration at all. With the February release date, it’s possible Oscar voters will have simply forgotten Garland’s sophomore effort come voting time. Time will tell.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

 

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Oscar Watch: Isle of Dogs

It’s been four years since Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered a host of Oscar nominations. His follow-up is the stop-motion animated comedic adventure Isle of Dogs, which hits theaters stateside in March and has made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival. The pic (say its name out loud and pick up on its apparent affection for canines) features a whole bunch of familiar faces providing voice work including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schrieber, and F. Murray Abraham.

Reaction overseas to Anderson’s latest is that he’s delivered another winner. That likely means Dogs will follow in the steps of the director’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Academy. It ultimately lost to Pixar’s Up and that powerhouse studio has The Incredibles 2 on deck this year. Additionally, it could be a factor for Mr. Anderson in Original Screenplay.

Yes, it’s early but it could already be a safe assumption that the Dogs will be on display come nomination time next year.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The 15:17 to Paris

For much of 2017, there was speculation that Clint Eastwood’s true life terrorism pic The 15:17 to Paris could become a late entry into the Oscar race. It didn’t materialize and it was slated for an opening this Friday. I found it a bit curious that the review embargo didn’t lift until two days prior to its debut.

We may now know why. Early critical reaction to Paris has been rather negative. The film casts the three real life heroes (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos) who thwarted a 2015 French train attack alongside more familiar faces including Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, and Tony Hale.

Eastwood has, of course, been no stranger to Oscar glory with 1992’s Unforgiven and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby both winning Best Picture and Director. In the 21st century,  Mystic River, Letters from Iwo Jima, and American Sniper were nominated. His projects often merit Academy chatter and this one did until now.

The 15:17 to Paris seems destined for zero awards attention. That also means Jaleel White (TV’s Urkel who from “Family Matters” appears) will not receive his first Oscar nomination.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Black Panther

The drumbeat began sounding loudly within recent weeks and today’s critical reaction to Marvel’s Black Panther is deafening. The Ryan Coogler directed superhero pic (out next Friday) with Chadwick Boseman in the title role sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews thus far.

As you may have noticed, it’s only February. Prognosticating the movies that may get honored for next year’s Oscars is a tricky proposition at best. Yet Black Panther is worth the speculation for a variety of reasons. When it comes to drumbeats, there’s been a ramp up that a comic book adaptation (which have dominated the box office charts all century) has to get Best Picture notice soon. Ten years ago, The Dark Knight came close. In 2016, Deadpool emerged as a late contender. Last year, the same applied for Wonder Woman. And 2017’s Logan is the first superhero flick to get a Screenplay nod. None were nominated for the big prize.

It’s unknown what will transpire over the next year before the next Oscar nominations come out, but I feel confident with this prediction: Panther will be in the mix and not on the back burner for discussion. Already it appears that it will be one of the most critically acclaimed titles in its genre and it will almost certainly become a box office juggernaut.

If Panther manages a Picture nod, the love could extend to director Coogler and its Adapted Screenplay. The film seems to be a decent bet for a variety of tech nods, including Visual Effects, the Sound categories, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: the acclaim for Panther is here and may not go away come Academy voting time.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Directors Guild Takes Shape

Last night, the Directors Guild of America bestowed their honors in film and television categories. It’s a night where Oscar prognosticators like myself take notice.

Why? In the 21st century, the DGA recipient for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film has matched the Oscar winner for Best Director 14 out of 17 times. That’s a pretty remarkable predictor. And there was no upset yesterday with Guillermo del Toro getting the prize for The Shape of Water. Mr. del Toro can add this trophy to his Golden Globe and various others.

The DGA solidifies del Toro’s status as the person to beat at the big show. At this point, it’s tough to imagine anyone else taking it. Additionally, the movie associated with the DGA winner has won Best Picture twelve of seventeen times since 2000. This also allows Shape a front runner status in that race.

Will it change? We’ll know one month from today when the Academy Awards airs.

Oscar Watch: Tully

A surprise addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate was a screening of Tully, the latest comedic drama from director Jason Reitman. The pic focuses on motherhood with the title character being played by Charlize Theron. It also marks Reitman’s third collaboration with writer Diablo Cody. The first – 2007’s Juno – received a host of Oscar nods. The second – 2011’s Young Adult – received no significant awards attention despite some solid reviews.

Early notices are positive and particularly praising of Theron’s work and the supporting performance of Mackenzie Davis as a nanny helping the frazzled Theron. Tully comes out stateside in April and that could be a hindrance to its Oscar potential. Voters will have to recall the work of the aforementioned actresses from months ago. If it hits at the box office, that could certainly help.

Bottom line: Tully could be a factor in both Actress and Supporting Actress, but time will tell.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2017 Oscar Winner Predictions

The 2017 Oscar nominations came out yesterday with yours truly battling a so so 71%. Naturally we now move to predicted winners in the categories. This will not be my last time predicting as I’ll make final winner estimates on the eve of the ceremony.

For now, here’s who and what I have taking home the prized golden statue:

Best Picture

The Shape of Water

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Actor

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Actress

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me by Your Name

Best Original Screenplay

Lady Bird

Best Animated Feature

Coco

Best Foreign Language Film

The Insult

Best Documentary Feature

Faces Places

Best Editing

Dunkirk

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Best Production Design

The Shape of Water

Best Costume Design

Phantom Thread

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Darkest Hour

Best Visual Effects

War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Sound Editing

Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing

Dunkirk

Best Original Score

The Shape of Water

Best Original Song

“This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

That’s all for now but expect final predictions shortly before the ceremony!

2017 Oscar Nominations Reaction

And they’re out!

The nominations for this February’s Academy Awards were revealed this morning by Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish. As always, there were some surprises and my months long quest for prediction perfection fell short. Of the 109 nominations, I correctly guessed 78 of them and that works out to 71% (a bit lower than previous years, but oh well).

Here I’ll break down every category and tell you how I did with a bit of analysis:

Best Picture

Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 7/9

Analysis: OK, lesson learned. When in doubt, predict NINE. The Best Picture category can fluctuate between 5 and 10 nominees, but that seems to be the magic number. I had The Florida Project in, but it was 8th out of my 8 predictions in likelihood so no big surprise there. Also not surprising is Darkest Hour getting in. A bit more so is the inclusion of Phantom Thread, which did far better this morning than I or almost anyone else figured.

Best Director

Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: As mentioned above, the surprise here is Anderson’s nod for Phantom. Hard to believe but this is Nolan’s first nomination for direction. I had Martin McDonagh’s work in Three Billboards included. Worth noting: it’s happened, but it’s rare for a movie to win Best Picture without their maker being recognized. This could fuel even more talk that The Shape of Water is the front-runner in the big race.

Best Actor

Nominees: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: One of the major questions going into this morning is whether recent allegations could prevent James Franco’s nod for The Disaster Artist. We may never know the answer to that fully, but it was expected he’d be a safe inclusion until then and he missed out. In his place – Mr. Washington, nominated for the second year in a row. In short: this is Oldman’s race to lose and it’s highly doubtful he will.

Best Actress

Nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: For quite some time, this has seemed like the five for Actress and it panned out that way.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Plummer got in for his highly publicized role after taking over for Kevin Spacey at very short notice over my prediction of Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: The Phantom love continued with Manville’s inclusion over my prediction for Hong Chau in Downsizing.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game, Mudbound

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: In a bit of a surprise to me, Logan became the first superhero flick to get a writing nomination. I had Wonder in instead.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I went with I, Tonya over The Big Sick, but this certainly was no shocker. Unlike several prognosticators, I did correctly leave Sick out of the Best Picture race and this marks its sole nod.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: People love that Boss Baby apparently. It got in over my projected The Girl Without Hands. This is an easy winner to predict – Pixar’s Coco. 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: A Fantastic Woman, The Insult, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Golden Globe winner In the Fade and Foxtrot (which some saw as a potential winner) missed the cut. In their place: Soul and Square.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island

How I Did: 2/5

Analysis: Welp… there always seem to be that category where I whiff and get 2 out of 5 (last year it was Production Design). This year it’s the docs, where Jane (which many saw as a front-runner), City of Ghosts, and Long Strange Trip missed out in favor of Abacus, Aleppo, and Island. 

Best Film Editing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Dunkirk, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: Besides Actress, this is my only other perfect category.

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound, The Shape of Water

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Rachel Morrison made some Oscar history by becoming the first female nominated in this category for Mudbound. I predicted The Post over Darkest Hour.

Best Production Design

Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Wouldn’t you know it? Here’s one race where I had Phantom Thread in and it didn’t make it. Beauty got in instead.

Best Costume Design

Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Victoria and Abdul

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I went with Murder on the Orient Express, but Darkest Hour prevailed. This should be a rather easy victory for Phantom (and perhaps its only).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul, Wonder

How I Did: 2/3

Analysis: Victoria over I, Tonya. Look for Gary Oldman’s transformation to Churchill in Darkest Hour to be the victor.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Dunkirk and The Shape of Water were my misses with Guardians and Kong filling in.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Turns out I should have predicted The Shape of Water in both sound categories. I had War for the Planet of the Apes instead here.

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: The sound races matched this year with Star Wars in over my predicted The Greatest Showman.

Best Original Score

Nominees: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: I expected John Williams to be recognized, but for The Post instead of Star Wars. Also had Darkest Hour here and not Three Billboards.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Mighty River” from Mudbound, “The Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, “Remember Me” from Coco, “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: “The Mystery of Love” got in over “It Ain’t Fair” from Detroit. 

And that leaves the final official breakdown of films and number of nominations to this:

13 Nominations

The Shape of Water

8 Nominations

Dunkirk

7 Nominations

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

6 Nominations

Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread

5 Nominations

Blade Runner 2049, Lady Bird

4 Nominations

Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, Mudbound, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

3 Nominations

Baby Driver, I, Tonya

2 Nominations

Beauty and the Beast, Coco, The Post, Victoria and Abdul

1 Nomination

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, All the Money in the World, The Big Sick, The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, The Disaster Artist, Faces Places, A Fantastic Woman, Ferdinand, The Florida Project, The Greatest Showman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Icarus, The Insult, Kong: Skull Island, Last Men in Aleppo, Logan, Loveless, Loving Vincent, Marshall, Molly’s Game, On Body and Soul, Roman J. Israel, Esq., The Square, Strong Island, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder

I’ll have a post up either later tonight or tomorrow with my initial round of predicted winners! Until then…

Oscar Watch: Colette

The first major distribution deal at the Sundance Film Festival transpired this weekend when Bleecker Street and 30WEST acquired the rights to Colette. The biopic focuses on acclaimed French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Knightley in a performance that has critics raving. Costars include Dominic West and Fiona Shaw. The pic is directed by Wash Westmoreland, who last helped guide Julianne Moore to a Best Actress Oscar in Still Alice.

It’s safe to assume the studios who payed for Colette will be making a push for Knightley to nab her second nomination after Pride and Prejudice in 2005. Her inclusion will depend on the competition over the next year and how well the film is marketed to audiences.

Bottom line: there’s enough buzz out of Utah to justify Knightley as one to watch in 2018.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing in Utah and that means a batch of 2018 Oscar Watch columns are coming your way. In 2017, the fest gave us four pictures that find themselves in the awards mix: Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, Mudbound, and The Big Sick.

We begin with Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, a biopic of Oregon cartoonist and quadriplegic John Callahan. He’s played by Joaquin Phoenix with a supporting cast that includes Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. Some of the early reviews out of Park City are quite positive, though not all of them are across the board. It’s scheduled for stateside release this May.

The project was originally intended as a starring vehicle for the late Robin Williams and it would’ve marked a reunion with his Good Will Hunting director. Van Sant has seen that film and 2008’s Milk garner multiple Oscar nods.

Could Foot follow suit? It’s certainly possible, especially for Phoenix and Hill. If so, it would mark the former’s fourth nod and the latter’s third. Neither have yet to win. Interestingly, Phoenix could face competition in the form of himself as his You Were Never Really Here played the festival circuit last year and won him acclaim.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…