Oscar Watch: The Lighthouse

Four years ago, Robert Eggers made his directorial debut with The Witch and it was a darling on the indie circuit and with critics. His eagerly awaited follow-up is The Lighthouse and it’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Early buzz is solid on the black and white horror flick.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson (who’s been in the news a lot this week due to his apparent casting as Batman) are two lighthouse keepers in the late 19th century who slowly delve into madness. Reviews suggest it’s quite effective if audiences choose to go along with it. That part remains to be seen.

The likelihood is that The Lighthouse won’t be much of a factor come awards time. However, there could be an exception. Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography has drawn raves and there could be calls from critics for him to be recognized. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Rocketman

The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing over in France and the highest profile feature so far has screened (with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood following next week). That would be Rocketman, a flashy musical biopic featuring Taron Egerton as legendary performer Elton John. Costars include Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Ahead of its May 31st stateside bow, festival goers rewarded the pic with a lengthy standing ovation (with Elton and Egerton attending). This might prove to be an audience pleaser. Some early reviews are glowing while others are more mixed.

Box office could be strong, but will this blast off with awards voters? We have very recent history to consider. I’m referring, of course, to last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Despite its rocky critical reaction, that film was a hit with audiences and Oscar voters. The Freddie Mercury biopic ended up winning four gold statues, including Rami Malek’s portrayal of the Queen frontman in Best Actor.

Rhapsody made an astonishing $903 million worldwide. Rocketman may not reach that territory. If it does, it could be impossible to ignore. Yet even if it turns out to be a sizable crowd favorite, Academy voters could nominate this in a variety of categories. That includes Picture, Actor, and the sound races (for which Bohemian was victorious in both). The comparisons between Rhapsody and Rocketman don’t end there. Dexter Fletcher took over directorial duties from Bryan Singer on the former. He is behind the camera again for the latter.

Bottom line: there’s a chance that voters might not honor Mr. John like they did Mr. Mercury, but Cannes reaction at least indicates it’s a possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Biggest Little Farm

After playing the festival circuit last fall and early this year, The Biggest Little Farm cultivated a decent limited release debut this weekend. The documentary follows a married couple who move from Los Angeles to agricultural country in SoCal to pursue farming. John Chester, whose short docs on Oprah Winfrey’s network has earned him Emmys, directs.

The film has garnered praise from critics (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and environmentalists.  As mentioned, Farm first screened last fall in Toronto and has played at multiple fests since including Telluride and Sundance. Neon picked up distribution rights and a theater count expansion is planned for Friday.

If this manages to stay on the radar screen for Academy voters, it stands an outside shot at a Documentary Feature nod. That could be a tall order if competition heats up as the year rolls along, which is probable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Yesterday

Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend, the comedic fantasy Yesterday comes with plenty of behind the scenes players with awards credentials. The high concept story imagines a world where the songs of The Beatles have all been forgotten, except by a young aspiring songwriter (Himesh Patel). It’s his duty to re-educate the populace about the Fab Four. Costars include Lily James, Kate McKinnon, and Ed Sheeran (playing himself).

The aforementioned pedigree starts at the top. Director Danny Boyle has had one of the most eclectic filmographies in memory. His works include a Best Picture winner (2008’s Slumdog Millionaire) and a nominee two years later (127 Hours). They also include cult favorites such as Trainspotting, the acclaimed zombie tales 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, and sci-fi thriller Sunshine. There’s also Steve Jobs, which never materialized as the awards contender that prognosticators thought it could be.

Additionally, the screenplay comes from Richard Curtis. He received an Oscar nod 25 years ago for Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other written works of note include Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually.

As you can see, it’s pretty clear why Yesterday could be looked at as an Oscar player today due to the talent involved. Yet after its festival debut ahead of its June release, reviews are telling a different story. Some are positive, but others are decidedly not. Some critics are breaking out their best Beatles puns with one stating it never quite comes together.

Bottom line: we’ll see if Yesterday can manage to be a profitable crowd pleaser, but don’t expect this to be a factor come with nominations down the line. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – Avengers: Endgame

Last year, Marvel’s Black Panther became the first comic book pic to score a Best Picture nomination. While it didn’t win, it took home three gold trophies from its seven nods. This weekend, box office records are highly likely to break with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The 22nd MCU title had its review embargo lift hours ago… try to your best to avoid spoilers.

The verdict? A 98% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some critics are going as far as saying it’s the best overall entry in the massive franchise. Others write ups, while positive, don’t go that far. One thing seems certain as Endgame is classified as an epic experience.

Could lightning strike two years in a row for Marvel with Academy voters? Here’s the advantage: this fourth Avengers saga is seen as the culmination of not just its three predecessors, but also the many other pictures MCU blockbusters over the past 11 years. That lifts its chances for recognition as Oscar could see this as an “atta boy” for the whole series.

That said, I’m doubtful. The first three Avengers flicks garnered a grand total of two nominations. The 2012 original and last year’s Infinity War both received Visual Effects nods. Neither won. The middle child (2015’s Age of Ultron) got no love. Last year, Disney was undoubtedly more focused on getting Black Panther recognition and they succeeded. In 2019, they could put together a more robust campaign for Endgame.

A third calling in Visual Effects is probably inevitable, but anything else from the Academy is questionable and maybe even doubtful. Yet I wouldn’t totally count out some Disney marketing campaign magic. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Teen Spirit

Last fall, the musical drama Teen Spirit premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to some acclaim that especially focused on its lead Elle Fanning. The film casts her as a shy teen who dreams of pop stardom. The soundtrack finds her covering tunes by the likes of Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and Annie Lennox. It marks the directorial debut of Max Minghella, whose late father Anthony earned a gold trophy 23 years ago for making The English Patient. Zlatko Buric and Rebecca Hall are in the supporting cast.

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 70%, Spirit is in no contention for a Best Picture nod. Yet some critics have made a point to single out Fanning, who’s had well received supporting roles lately in The Beguiled and 20th Century Women.

A little box office attention could’ve helped but Spirit completely stalled in its limited release over the weekend. Some reviewers may call Fanning a dark horse candidate months from now, but I expect this to end up like last year’s Vox Lux with Natalie Portman. While different in tone, that picture also centered on a pop singer and had its supporters. They did not include Academy voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Missing Link

The stop-motion animated adventure Missing Link hits theaters next weekend and it’s the latest effort from the studio Laika. Reviews have been sturdy for the Bigfoot tale featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, and Zach Galifianakis. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 91%.

When it comes to Oscar nominations for their material, Laika has quite the batting average… as in 100%. For their four previous efforts, they’ve also all lost to Disney titles. In 2009, Coraline lost to Up. ParaNorman came up short to Brave in 2012. In 2014, it was Big Hero 6 over The Boxtrolls. Two years later, Kubo and the Two Strings couldn’t emerge over Zootopia.

Could history repeat itself? Absolutely. While critical reaction is solid, Link has little chance at winning the Best Animated Feature award. And, yes, Mouse Factory competition is legit with sequels Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2. There’s another sequel already released from DreamWorks – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – that also looks to nab a nod.

With five slots, there’s a chance Link could be the first Laika flick to miss a nomination. However, their track record is considerable and I wouldn’t count it out. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…