Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Us

The South by Southwest festival is in full swing this weekend and the most eagerly awaited film premiere has occurred. That would be Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to 2017’s Get Out.  The horror thriller is out domestically on March 22.

Early reviews are quite encouraging as it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could this follow in the footsteps of Peele’s debut effort? As you may recall, Get Out premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 to red-hot buzz. It would end up grossing $176 million stateside and garnering four Oscar nods, including Best Picture. Peele won the gold statue for Original Screenplay.

Initial consensus for Us suggests it’s scarier than Get Out, though some reviews don’t quite put it at the level of Peele’s first pic. I’ll say that if Us can resonate with audiences in a manner similar to Out, it could find itself in the Oscar conversation (especially Original Screenplay). And it might be worth keeping an eye on Lupita Nyong’o in lead actress as an outside possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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: Captain Marvel

The MCU appears poised to have another blockbuster on their hands this weekend with the release of Captain Marvel. Reviews were embargoed for a little longer than usual for the multi billion dollar franchise, but they’re out and critical reaction has been fairly solid. The Brie Larson led pic stands at 84% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s just a percentage point behind last year’s Avengers: Infinity War – while nowhere near the 97% achieved by Black Panther.

It was, of course, Panther that became the first superhero flick to nab a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. That won’t happen here. The storyline as far as this MCU title’s awards chances is the same as most of them and that’s Visual Effects.

Nine MCU entries have nabbed nods in Visual Effects. Interestingly, none of them have won. Competition this year will be stiff. There’s another franchise effort (Avengers: Endgame) that likely has a better shot. That’s in addition to expected players such as the next Star Wars, The Lion King, and Alita: Battle Angel, to name just some.

Bottom line: Captain Marvel will bring audiences in. Awards chatter is more of a reach. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Apollo 11

Focused on the mission that put a man on the moon a half century ago, the documentary Apollo 11 launched in select cities this weekend to solid box office results. The feature is directed by Todd Douglas Miller and it first garnered buzz during its January screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. Critics landed firmly in its camp as it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Apollo took in approximately $1.6 million on 120 screens for a laudable $13,000 per theater average. There are likely to be numerous docs contending for the Academy’s attention. Neon and CNN Films will need to mount a campaign that keeps this in the voters minds for months, but that’s feasible. It’s worth keeping an eye on for a Best Documentary Feature nod.

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…

Oscars Spread The Love: A Recap

It was an evening in which the Academy was generous with their selections – so much so that all eight Best Picture nominees took at least one gold statue. It was also a night where many of the viewers (including me) may have pondered, “Maybe we don’t need a host after all…”

As far as the Oscars go, the ceremony moved rather briskly with a focus on the categories and minimal filler. The telecast saved the surprises for the end portion and they were fairly significant.

I went 14 for 21 in my picks. The big winner would have to be Green Book, which took Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Original Screenplay. Its win in the top race was a bit unexpected as Roma had front-runner status. Alfonso Cuaron did win for his direction and the Mexican drama emerged victorious as Foreign Language Film and for its Cinematography.

The acting races went as planned until the last one. Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Ali won. Actress was another story as Glenn Close (The Wife), after taking multiple precursors, lost to Olivia Colman’s work in The Favourite. Her speech was probably the funniest and most genuine of the evening.

It was a good night all around for Rhapsody, which also took Editing and both Sound races. Same for Black Panther, which was honored for Production Design, Costume Design, and Score.

Other winners:

Adapted Screenplay – BlacKkKlansman, marking Spike Lee’s first competitive Oscar victory

Animated Feature – SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Documentary Feature – Free Solo

Makeup and Hairstyling – Vice

Visual Effects – First Man

Song – “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Some other observations:

  • As mentioned, I didn’t miss having a host one bit, but Melissa McCarthy would be fine by me if she accepted next year.
  • In an awards show where musical performances can often be forgettable, the duet between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was fantastic. The Queen opening was a pleasure to witness as well.
  • 2018 definitely proved itself to be a year where voters had no clear favorite to sweep anything. The wealth was spread.

And that’s my take! Keep an eye on this here blog for many posts to come guesstimating on the next Oscars!