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…