2021: The Year of Jodie Comer

My fourth and final post regarding actors who had a memorable 2021 on the big screen brings us to the only performer that wasn’t in Spider-Man: No Way Home and that’s Jodie Comer.

Prior to this year, the English actress was primarily known for her small screen leading role on the BBC’s Killing Eve (for which she’s won an Emmy). While that work continues, she made waves with audiences and critics alike in the multiplexes.

While box office success did not greet Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Comer earned raves as Marguerite de Carrouges in the historical yet timely drama. In a cast that included Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, Comer garnered the lion’s share of awards buzz and deservedly so.

A couple of months before Duel, she was widely seen alongside Ryan Reynolds in the family friendly action comedy Free Guy (which took in over $300 million worldwide). A sequel is already being planned.

For Comer, 2021 succeeded in transitioning her success from TV to film. This concludes my Year Of write-ups and here’s to 2022!

2021: The Year of Andrew Garfield

My third post covering actors who had a memorable 2021 reaches yet another one who appeared in (SPOILER ALERT)…

Spider-Man: No Way Home, the MCU juggernaut that jumpstarted a box office suffering from nearly two years in the COVID era. It started with Benedict Cumberbatch and continued with Zendaya. Now we’re at Andrew Garfield.

His reprisal of his web slinging part is garnering retribution comments for his two stint as the superhero which drew mixed audience and critical reaction. Yet that’s not the primary reason for Garfield’s inclusion.

As playwright Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix musical drama Tick, Tick… Boom!, Garfield looks to nab his second Oscar nomination five years after Hacksaw Ridge. He will vie for the prize along with Mr. Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Will Smith for King Richard. 

As televangelist Jim Bakker alongside Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Garfield earned further kudos for his embodiment of a real life figure.

Another Spidey actor whose work in other projects accuentated the 2021 output. My Year Of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Zendaya

Going into 2021, Zendaya had already collected an Emmy for her leading role on HBO’s Euphoria and was known to moviegoers for her parts in the Spider-Man franchise and The Greatest Showman. She is the subject of my second write-up for performers who had a meaningful 2021 and it’s no coincidence that she’s the second that appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently breaking all pandemic era box office records). The first was Benedict Cumberbatch… and we might not be done yet with Home costars.

Her inclusion isn’t just due to her onscreen (and apparently offscreen) pairing with Spidey himself, Tom Holland. The actress/singer began the year garnering Oscar chatter for the Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington. While she didn’t ultimately nab an Academy mention, she was on the Critics Choice Awards radar for her acclaimed performance.

By summertime, she lent her voice to Space Jam: A New Legacy (voicing Lola Bunny). Her involvement with Warner Bros/HBO Max continued in the fall with the long awaited sci-fi epic Dune. It looks to be her first picture that will achieve plenty of award nominations and the sequel is already lined up for 2023.

And, of course, she capped it all off with her third appearance as MJ in the massive MCU series. Zendaya expanded her reach in 2021 as her films reached plenty of homes this year. My Year of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Benedict Cumberbatch

As has become a late December tradition on the blog, I will highlight some performers who had a fruitful year either at the box office or in terms of awards contention. Our first entry fits the description for both.

Benedict Cumberbatch is at the top of the Oscar conversation for Best Actor for his work in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. The Netflix drama has already earned him some critics prizes and it appears he will vie for the gold statue along with Will Smith in King Richard or Andrew Garfield in Tick Tick… Boom! It will most certainly mark his second Academy nomination seven years after The Imitation Game. 

The actor’s second streaming picture was The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. While the Amazon Prime pic drew mixed reactions, most write-ups praised Cumberbatch’s lead work as the kitten drawing artist.

And though his spy thriller The Courier (which opened last spring) flew under the radar, it generated solid reviews.

The box office potency, of course, comes from Spider-Man: No Way Home in which he reprises his role as Doctor Strange. The Marvel property scored the second largest domestic opening in history and has reignited a sleepy pandemic era marketplace. His appearance in Home should help with crowd anticipation for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the sequel to the 2016 original that hits multiplexes in March of next year.

Whether with Oscar voters or mass audiences, Cumberbatch had a visible presence in 2021. My Year Of posts will continue…

2020: The Year of Chadwick Boseman

Prior to 2018, Chadwick Boseman was known primarily for his acclaimed turns as real life historical figures like Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. It was the title role as Black Panther in the MCU juggernaut where he created his own history in the only superhero flick to nab a Best Picture nomination.

2020 is shaping up to be the year where awards voters recognize Mr. Boseman. It is, of course, also the year in which the world mourned his passing on August 28 after a previously undisclosed battle with colon cancer at age 43. His turns in two Netflix pictures – Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – have him in the running for Oscar nods and he could very conceivably get two. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named him Best Actor for Rainey and the Academy may well follow suit. The New York Film Critics Circle bestowed their Supporting Actor prize for his work in Bloods and he could make his way to that Oscar shortlist.

In a year where the world of cinema lost legends such as Sean Connery, Kirk Douglas, Ennio Morricone, and Max Von Sydow, Boseman’s came as the most unexpected with an outpouring of grief and appreciation. His final year onscreen appears destined to come with the Academy’s recognition of the man who embodied real life heroes and created his own iconic one.

 

2019: The Year of Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler

One of the welcome cinematic storylines of 2019 involves two beloved Saturday Night Live vets who accomplished some of their finest film work, have garnered Oscar attention, and both returned to the show that made them after many years away.

I’m referring to Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler and they both get spots in my Year of 2019 posts. Murphy had been absent from the silver screen since 2016’s drama Mr. Church. Over the past several years, he was known more for his family comedies then the raunchy comedian that sold out stadiums in the 1980s. 2019 saw a return to form with Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name, his critically hailed recounting of Rudy Ray Moore’s contributions to movies. The pic has given Murphy his best reviews since 2006’s Dreamgirls and gotten him back into the Oscar conversation. We also witnessed the legendary performer host SNL for the first time in 35 years. 2020 will showcase Murphy returning to stand-up (something he hasn’t done since the late 1980s) and reprising his Prince Akeem character and others in Coming 2 America, which again teams him with Netflix and Dolemite director Craig Brewer.

Mr. Sandler also hit the 30 Rock building to headline SNL. He hadn’t been back in that role since being fired from the show in the mid 90s and embarking on his own wildly successful film career. The SNL gig saw him perform a humorous and touching tribute to cast mate Chris Farley. His partnership with Netflix includes this year’s Murder Mystery with Jennifer Aniston. There’s already a sequel planned for it. And the critical kudos came with crime thriller Uncut Gems, which opens wide on Christmas. That pic, from directors Ben and Josh Safdie, has Sandler picking up awards precursors and, like Murphy, in the mix for Academy attention. He’ll return to his preferred streaming service next year with Hubie Halloween.

For SNL, 2019 will be remembered as a time when two of their most famous alumni returned. For Murphy and Sandler, it’s a time when they gave us some of the most memorable onscreen work.

2019: The Year of Jennifer Lopez

This year, Jennifer Lopez kept up her judging duties on the reality show World of Dance, hosted Saturday Night Live, and embarked on a nationwide tour performing her many hit songs. She also turned 50 and got engaged to baseball legend Alex Rodriguez. However, 2019 will likely be known as the year J-Lo made a commercially and critically successful return to the big screen.

Her role as seasoned stripper turned business savvy crime lord Ramona in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers has already earned her precursor awards love. And the film, which grossed over $100 million domestically against a meager $20 million budget, should earn her a first trip to Academy Awards as a nominee for Supporting Actress. She’s even got a real shot to win.

It’s been over two decades since Lopez’s most acclaimed roles in Selena and Out of Sight. Over the past few years, her cinematic work has consisted of forgettable thrillers like The Boy Next Door and middling rom coms such as Second Act. That dynamic changed with her fierce Hustlers work and earns her a welcome spot among the block of memorable performers this year.

2019: The Year of Joaquin Phoenix

My first Year of 2019 post for actors named Scarlett Johansson on account of her remarkable year in film. My second goes to her A.I. character’s human boyfriend from 2013’s Her, Joaquin Phoenix. The mysterious performer has been a fixture onscreen for 30 years dating back to Parenthood. He’s a thrice nominated Oscar contender for Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master who’s yet to win.

That could change this year due to his title role in Joker from Todd Phillips. The project was considered a significant risk for Warner Bros and this is evidenced by its $40 million budget (peanuts for a comic book adaptation). The result? Over a billion dollars worldwide.

Phoenix is not the first actor to make his interpretation of the Joker iconic. Yet this origin story was the most unexpected smash success. I currently have Joker slated to receive eight Academy nods, including Picture. Its biggest chance at victory goes to Phoenix. If he wins, he would follow Heath Ledger to the podium after his performance in 2008’s The Dark Knight. That would be Oscar history as only one other combination exists of two actors winning statues for playing the same character. This honor belongs to Marlon Brando and Phoenix’s costar Robert De Niro as Michael Corleone in the first two Godfather pics.

For three decades, Phoenix has appeared in numerous acclaimed works with kudos for his skills. Joker might finally earn him the Academy’s praise with his billion dollar gamble. My Year of posts will continue…

2019: The Year of Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson starred in the biggest hit of the year that had the heftiest opening weekend of all time and is second on the overall stateside moneymakers list behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And that’s not even her most significant storyline from the past 12 months. That, ladies and gentlemen, earns her a spot on performers who had a spectacular 2019.

The film I’m referring to is, of course, Avengers: Endgame. That Marvel Cinematic Universe epic left numerous records in its dust. Mostly due to her involvement in that franchise, she’s already the biggest grossing actress in history. The involvement in it will continue in May 2020 with Black Widow, her own spin-off.

Yet the real reason for ScarJo’s inclusion here is that she could be poised to not only receive her first Oscar nomination, but her second. Despite acclaimed work in Lost in Translation and Match Point to name a couple, Academy voters have yet to honor her. Expect this to change at least once. A Best Actress nod for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story seems virtually assured. Supporting Actress is also feasible for Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. The Screen Actors Guild branch already nominated her twice for these pics.

In 2017, Johansson had a tough go with disappointments from different genres – Ghost in the Shell and Rough Night. Her 2019 has been anything but rough. My Year Of posts covering the bright spots of the year will continue…

2019: The Year of Netflix

Today kicks off my posts on the performers who will be remembered for having a strong 2019 and making an impact on the silver screen. However, as I have in previous years, my first writeup goes to a studio. And while Disney could be named every year nowadays (and they certainly had a terrific year), we turn to Netflix in 2019.

It’s hard to believe now, but it was a few short years ago that their big budget TV series House of Cards was considered a risk. Could this streaming service provide truly quality original content? Times have changed, ladies and gents.

Netflix has become an undeniable hub for high profile directors and actors. 2019 saw the studio give us successful comedies such as Murder Mystery with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and the acclaimed rom com Always Be My Maybe. 

Action directors like Michael Bay turned to the service with 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds. We have filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh making Netflix a home with both High Flying Bird and The Laundromat. Millions of eyeballs were tuned to the Breaking Bad continuation El Camino. 

Most notably, 2019 seems destined to be the year when Oscar voters won’t be able to ignore it. The conversation about Netflix being able to garner multiple Academy nods is about to become a moot one. 2017 and 2018 saw voters nibble around the edges. Two years ago, Mudbound managed a Supporting Actress nod for Mary J. Blige and Adapted Screenplay. 2018’s Roma received a number of nominations and Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director. It was considered a frontrunner for Picture, but lost to Green Book. Some blamed it on bias against the biggest streamer.

This year, we have two films that could win the largest prize of all – Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Other contenders for a nomination include The Two Popes and Dolemite Is My Name, which returned to Eddie Murphy to form. Between those four pictures, you could see as many as a dozen acting nominations.

There’s little doubt that 2019 gave us a shifting in the tide of Netflix’s credibility. And that’s likely to stay. My Year Of posts will continue soon with some of the actors who had a lot to celebrate…