Oscar Watch: First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in August of 2019 to very solid reviews before moving to the Berlin Film Festival. The 19th century set drama taking place in the Oregon Territory stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and represents another critical darling from the indie director.

After a limited and abbreviated theatrical run in March that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cow is now available for streaming today. Being that it’s one of the most acclaimed releases so far in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if distributor A24 makes an awards play for it.

That could be a tall order. Reichardt’s previous effort Certain Women with Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart also nabbed kudos from the critical community, but was ignored by Oscar voters. Her latest could easily see the same result, but with the uncertainty of the year’s calendar – a play for for Picture or Adapted Screenplay is at least feasible. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Midyear 2020 Report

It might be hard to fathom, but we are at the midpoint of this experience we call 2020. As COVID-19 and social issues dominate the landscape, the cinematic world has necessarily taken a backseat to the times. The Academy recently announced that the Oscars will be delayed until April 2021 and that movies premiering in January and February of that year will be eligible for consideration. This is in addition to previous notice that streaming pictures that forgo a theatrical release will also be able to nab nominations at that ceremony.

Since theaters have essentially been shuttered since March and with several festivals (the normal breeding grounds for awards hopefuls) either canceled or significantly modified, a midyear report on Oscar contenders is, to put it mildly, challenging.

Yet… here goes! As awards followers already know, the bulk of serious contenders aren’t  typically released until fall anyway. In fact, the earliest release of the nine Best Picture nominees last year was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came out in late July. The remaining 8 had autumn and winter dates.

The Sundance Film Festival from January did give us some potential contenders. Florian Zeller’s The Father was acclaimed and it could score nods for previous winners Anthony Hopkins in lead actor and Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress. The biographical tale of feminist icon Gloria Steinem finds several actresses playing her at different ages. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander (they also both have gold statues) are among them and could be potential nominees. Previous nominee Carey Mulligan garnered solid reviews for Promising Young Woman. 

And there’s Minari. The South Korean family drama starring Steven Yeun won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. I wouldn’t sleep on its chances with the right marketing push from its studio A24. That same studio has the 19th century set indie First Cow, which also has its ardent admirers. They would need to make a major push in order for Oscar to notice it.

For movies that have actually come out, the Jane Austen inspired Emma saw positive notices for lead Anya-Taylor Joy. Ben Affleck got some of the best reviews of his career with the basketball drama The Way Back. Pete Davidson’s starring debut in The King of Staten Island drew mostly praise. And Elisabeth Moss starred in the hit The Invisible Man and it’s a possibility she could be recognized even though acting nominations in horror flicks are rare. Neither Toni Collette (Hereditary) in 2018 or Lupita Nyong’o (Us) last year could pull it off. Moss could also be recognized for Shirley, a drama that debuted at Sundance and is already available via streaming.

Then there’s Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee. The director saw his last picture, BlacKkKlansman, receive numerous nominations and win Adapted Screenplay. I would posit that Bloods stands the best chance at multiple nods including possibly Picture and Director. Delroy Lindo (though it’s not clear whether he’d be campaigned for in lead or supporting) seems highly likely to be recognized. And if he’s campaigned for in Best Actor (which he probably should be), it could open the door for Clarke Peters or Jonathan Majors to make the cut in supporting.

In other races – Pixar’s Onward could compete in Animated Feature, though Disney could save their muscle for the upcoming Soul. Look for Emma to nab a Costume Design nod.

And we shall leave it there for now, folks! As readers of the blog know, expect more Oscar Watch posts to come your way as titles screen. Typically it’s late August when I start my weekly predictions and hopefully that’s a tradition that can be kept in this crazy thing we call 2020…

Oscar Watch: Gloria Bell

After premiering last autumn at the Toronto Film Festival, Gloria Bell hits theaters in limited fashion on Friday. The film is a remake of Sebastian Lelio’s 2013 Chilean comedic drama that was met with acclaim. Those strong reviews have greeted the American version (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), which again features Lelio behind the camera. It’s the filmmaker’s follow-up to 2017’s A Fantastic Woman, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Feature.

Julianne Moore plays the title role and critics have lavished praise for her work. Costars include John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor, Sean Astin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Rita Wilson.

A24 acquired Gloria after its screening up north. Even with the March release, it’s likely that the studio will make a significant push for Moore to receive her sixth Oscar nod. Her fifth nomination was the lucky one in 2014 when took the statue in Best Actress for Still Alice. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the sole focus is on Moore being recognized, similar to Glenn Close in 2018 for The Wife.

Bottom line: it’s early, but Moore could be in the mix yet again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Farewell

In January, the Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. The drama casts comedian Awkwafina as a Chinese American who travels across the ocean to care for her ailing grandmother. Drawing praise upon its screening, the film currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Farewell sparked a bidding war won by A24. They purchased it for $7 million and it’s scheduled for domestic release on July 12. There’s already a feeling that it could be a significant summer sleeper. Last summer, Awkwafina broke out on the silver screen in a major way with supporting roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Her work here has garnered raves and she could find herself in the mix for a Best Actress nod a little less than a year from now.

Furthermore, Ms. Wang could be considered for her direction and especially for her Original Screenplay. The pic has a large ensemble cast and Tzi Ma is a name to keep an eye on for Supporting Actor.

Bottom line: The Farewell, if it lands with audiences, could be greeted with affection from awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hereditary Box Office Prediction

The horror thriller Hereditary generated a lot of buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and A24 unleashes it to audiences next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Ari Aster, early reviews suggest a highly effective and scary experience. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 100% (never a bad selling point for TV spots). Toni Collette stars alongside Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

This particular genre is often the hardest to predict as horror movies can vastly over or under perform. It’s also perhaps the genre where reviews truly don’t mean a lot. For instance, 2016’s The Witch and last year’s It Comes at Night both had critics on their side in a major way. Their respective debuts were only $8.8 million and $5.9 million (with It Comes at Night being released on the same June weekend as this is). On the other hand, something like A Quiet Place took in $50 million for its start just a few weeks ago.

So what’s a prognosticator like me to do? I’ll admit that this is a tough one and I foresee a wide range for the opening of Hereditary. It won’t come anywhere near the earnings of A Quiet Place, but debuting around $20 million wouldn’t shock me. The problem is that if it fell to high single digits or low double digits, that wouldn’t really shock me either.

Fair warning: this is an estimate that may fluctuate during the next nine days. For the time being, I’ll say Hereditary posts an opening in the low double digits to possibly low teens as it will hope to leg out decently based on buzz in subsequent frames.

Hereditary opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

For my Ocean’s 8 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: First Reformed

Paul Schrader’s First Reformed premiered at the Venice Film Festival last fall and it opens domestically in limited fashion tomorrow. The drama casts Ethan Hawke as a pastor grieving the death of his son in Iraq who becomes politically active in various matters. Costars include Amanda Seyfried and Cedric the Entertainer (who goes by Cedric Kyles in this particular case). Reviews out of Italy were encouraging and as more critical notices have come out in recent days, the picture now stands at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Schrader has had a decades long career that includes serving as screenwriter for classics like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and directing features including American Gigolo, Light Sleeper, and Affliction. Based on the buzz prior to its release tomorrow, Reformed stands as one of the filmmaker’s most acclaimed works.

Could Academy voters take notice? Distributor A24 certainly has it work cut out to keep it fresh in the minds of voters later this year. That said, praise has been effusive for Mr. Hawke and the studio could mount a strong campaign for him. If so, it would mark the actor’s second nomination after receiving a Supporting Actor nod in 2001 for Training Day.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Lady Bird

The Telluride Film Festival over the weekend has showcased yet another Best Actress hopeful. This time it’s Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan and the buzz is loud enough that she looks like a real contender for her third nomination.

The coming-of-age drama marks the directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig. Reviews from Telluride suggest it’s a winner. If Ronan can emerge from an increasingly crowded field in Best Actress, it would come a decade after her first nod for Supporting Actress in Atonement and two years following her lead nomination in Brooklyn. Critics were also quick to praise the supporting work of veteran performer Laurie Metcalf, who could find herself in the Supporting Actress derby. Gerwig also wrote the screenplay and may have a better shot at Original Screenplay recognition over her direction.

If Lady Bird‘s distributor A24 mounts a major campaign, it could even be a long shot player for a Picture nom. One thing seems certain, though. Ronan is once again in the mix for three nominations at just the age of 23.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Good Time Box Office Prediction

A long way from Twilight, Robert Pattinson is receiving critical acclaim for his latest pic and it is heist drama Good Time, which expands nationwide this weekend. The A24 release comes from directors Ben and Josh Sadfie with a supporting cast featuring Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May to solid notices and it stands at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a performance from Mr. Pattinson that’s drawn raves. Over the previous weekend, it drew a commendable $165,000 on just 20 screens.

Doing an opening weekend estimate for Good Time is a little tricky since I don’t have a theater count at press time (in other words, this prediction could change). I’m going to assume it’s on maybe 600-700 screens. For now, I’ll say it manages to reach a bit between $1-$2M out of the gate.

Good Time opening weekend prediction: $1.5 million

For my Leap! prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/leap-box-office-prediction/

For my All Saints prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/all-saints-box-office-prediction/

For my Birth of the Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/17/birth-of-the-dragon-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Florida Project

The first trailer was released today for The Florida Project, a coming of age drama that debuted at Cannes earlier this summer. It is director Sean Baker’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2015 feature Tangerine and early word for this Project is quite glowing as well. The pic was snatched up by A24 for distribution rights and it opens in limited release on October 6th.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has Florida at 100% and it stands a good chance at some 2017 Oscar recognition. A24 has proven itself to be a player over the last couple of cycles in the awards derby by distributing such titles as Ex Machina, Room, The Lobster, 20th Century Women, and most notably – last year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight. 

Early buzz here suggests a nomination may well be in store for Willem Dafoe. If so, it would mark his third nomination after 1986’s Platoon and 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire. Reviews suggest this is one of his finest performances. It’s not totally clear if he’ll be campaigned for in Lead Actor or Supporting, but the smart money is on the latter. I would also say it’s worth keeping an eye on the Original Screenplay category where Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch could find themselves in the mix.

As for Best Picture, A24 would need one heck of a push to make that happen, but they’ve proven themselves before. For that reason, this Project is one to keep an eye on when it comes to nominations.