2021 Oscar Predictions: August 5th Edition

As we await film festivals that will shed light on many of the pictures mentioned below, today brings us my second weekly outlook on the major Oscar categories.

So what’s happened since last Thursday? That House of Gucci trailer came out and it didn’t do anything to dissuade my feeling that it’s a contender. In fact, while I shouldn’t use trailers to judge, it was enough for me to put Jared Leto in my final five (taking out Idris Elba for The Harder They Fall).

In other developments:

    • A Hero is in my top 10 for Best Picture over Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. The film also is in my projections for Original Screenplay to the detriment of Blue Bayou.
    • CODA (which I was very tempted this week to put in BP) makes the Adapted Screenplay cut over Dune. 
    • The Director, Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actress fields remain the same – with some movement in the rankings.

By this time next week, we should have a good idea of where Jennifer Hudson’s performance in Respect stands since it releases next week. It remains in my five at spot four.

Finally, I didn’t have Matt Damon in Stillwater listed in my top 15 possibilities last week. Based on the film’s subpar box office performance and some comments that landed Damon in hot water, I don’t anticipate him surfacing at any point.

Check out all the activity below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Dune (PR: 5)

6. Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

8. Mass (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. A Hero (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. CODA (PR: 12)

12. Belfast (PR: 9)

13. The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

14. Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Cyrano (PR: 17)

16. King Richard (PR: 20)

17. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 16)

18. Flee (PR: 13)

19. The Humans (PR: 18)

20. Blue Bayou (PR: 19)

21. The Last Duel (PR: 21)

22. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Being the Ricardos (PR: Not Ranked)

24. In the Heights (PR: 23)

25. Annette (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Dear Evan Hansen

Last Night in Soho

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 2)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 7)

8. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. Fran Kranz, Mass (PR: 11)

11. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

12. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 8)

13. Sian Heder, CODA (PR: 12)

14. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Joe Wright, Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

4. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 4)

5. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 7)

7. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 8)

8. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

9. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 12)

11. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 11)

12. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 13)

13. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

14. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 15)

15. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 14)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

7. Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

8. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 8)

9. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 7)

12. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 13)

13. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 15)

14. Michael B. Jordan, A Journal for Jordan (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 2)

3. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4)

4. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 5)

5. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

7. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

8. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Olga Merediz, In the Heights (PR: 7)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9)

11. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 13)

12. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11)

13. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Regina King, The Harder They Fall

Sally Hawkins, Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 4)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

7. Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: 7)

8. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall (PR: 5)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: 9)

11. Bradley Whitford, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano (PR: 10)

13. Adam Driver, The Last Duel (PR: 12)

14. Simon Helberg, Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Dornan, Belfast

Al Pacino, House of Gucci

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soggy Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Mass (PR: 1)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 4)

5. A Hero (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

7. Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

8. Spencer (PR: 7)

9. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Last Night in Soho (PR: 9)

11. Blue Bayou (PR: 5)

12. Belfast (PR: 6)

13. Parallel Mothers (PR: Not Ranked)

14. King Richard (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Adapted Screenplay)

15. Annette (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

The Harder They Fall

After Yang

Nine Days

Red Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 1)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. CODA (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Humans (PR: 7)

7. Dune (PR: 5)

8. Cyrano (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. The Last Duel (PR: 12)

11. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

12. Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

13. The Lost Daughter (PR: 13)

14. A Journal for Jordan (PR: 15)

15. Dear Evan Hansen (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

King Richard (moved to Original Screenplay)

Back at it next week!

2021 Oscar Predictions: July 29th Edition

I can’t help myself. I keep doing my Oscar predictions earlier and earlier each year. Today marks the first edition of my ranked forecasts in the 8 biggest races: Picture, Director, the four acting competitions, and the two screenplay contests.

It probably stands to reason that the sooner you do projections – the more inaccurate they might be. Oh but it’s so very fun to speculate! I do like to put my initial rankings up before the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride Film Festivals make the picture more clear and we are only about a month from that. Those events will bring us early buzz on The Power of the Dog, Dune, Spencer, The Last Duel, The Humans, Parallel Mothers, Belfast, Dear Evan Hansen, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Last Night in Soho, and more.

This post comes about three weeks ahead of when I did this in 2020. That year, to say the least, was hard to figure out. In fact, many of the pictures and performers I had in my 2020 inaugural rankings were moved back to 2021 due to COVID delays. Think Dune, The French Dispatch, West Side Story, Respect, C’Mon C’Mon, Annette, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

So how did my first ranked predictions from 2020 pan out? My Best Picture guesstimates yielded three of the eventual nominees: winner Nomadland, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Nomadland started out of the gate at #2 (behind Mank). Three other contenders were listed under Other Possibilities – The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, and Minari. Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal were not mentioned.

2 of the 5 director nominees were correctly identified: winner Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and David Fincher (Mank). None of the other hopefuls (Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, or Another Round‘s Thomas Vinterberg) were even in Other Possibilities.

In Best Actress, I initially identified 2 – winner Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were Other Possibilities while Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman didn’t score a listing.

As for Actor, winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Gary Oldman (Mank) made my first cut. I incorrectly had Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) projected here instead of Supporting Actor (which he won). **This is a good time to remind you all that some of the acting contenders thought to be in lead right now will switch to supporting and vice versa. As further evidence, I had Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey) predicted in supporting, but he contended here. I did not yet have Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) or Steven Yeun (Minari) on my radar.

Two Supporting Actress players were correctly called: Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) and Olivia Colman (The Father) with Amanda Seyfried (Mank) in Other Possibilities. No mention for the winner Youn Yun-jung in Minari or Maria Bakalova for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Per above, Daniel Kaluuya’s work in Judas was slotted in lead, but he emerged victorious here. My Supporting Actor picks did get 2 of 5: Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and Sacha Baron Cohen for Chicago 7. The two others (Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami and Paul Raci in Sound of Metal) went unnoticed at the early stage.

Just one nominee in Original Screenplay got the initial mention – Chicago 7. I did have 3 others (winner Promising Young Woman, Judas, Minari) down for Other Possibilities while Sound of Metal wasn’t mentioned. And in Adapted Screenplay, I only rightly projected Nomadland. Winner The Father, One Night in Miami, and The White Tiger were other possibilities with no mention for Borat.

Whew. OK. I’m not going through all for 2019. However, I will say my results were better two years ago with my first picks (evidence of the uncertainty of last year). The quick rundown: I got 6 of the 9 nominees in Best Picture and identified the remaining three in other possibilities. In Director, it was 4 out of 5. For Actress – 4 for 5 with the other nominee listed sixth. Actor – 3 for 5 with the two others as possibilities. The weak spot was Supporting Actress – just 1 out of 5 with 2 others as possibilities. 2 for 5 in Supporting Actor with 2 others as possibilities. 3 for 5 initially in both screenplay races.

And now we come to 2021. Will I look back next year and be happy with the accuracy or shake my head? Hopefully a mix (that’s probably the best case scenario). In about two months, I will start predictions for all categories covering feature films and whittle BP from 25 to 15 hopefuls with all others going from a projected 15 to 10.

There already was some news from when I penned my early and unranked predictions last week. David O. Russell’s Canterbury Glass, with an all star cast led by Christian Bale and Margot Robbie, has reportedly moved to 2022. It was mentioned in numerous categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor – John David Washington) and it now waits its turn until next year. Same story for Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins and Blonde from Andrew Dominik.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci

2. The Power of the Dog

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth

4. Nightmare Alley

5. Dune

6. Soggy Bottom

7. Mass

8. West Side Story

9. Belfast

10. Don’t Look Up

Other Possibilities:

11. A Hero

12. CODA

13. Flee

14. The French Dispatch

15. Spencer

16. Tick Tick… Boom!

17. Cyrano

18. The Humans

19. Blue Bayou

20. King Richard

21. The Last Duel

22. Dear Evan Hansen

23. In the Heights

24. Last Night in Soho

25. Annette

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci

2. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

3. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley

5. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom

7. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero

8. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

10. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up

11. Fran Kranz, Mass

12. Sian Heder, CODA

13. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

15. Pablo Larrain, Spencer

Best Actress

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

2. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth

3. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

4. Jennifer Hudson, Respect 

5. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

7. Kristen Stewart, Spencer

8. Emilia Jones, CODA

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

10. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley

11. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

12. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

13. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel

14. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up

15. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

3. Will Smith, King Richard

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci

5. Amir Jadidi, A Hero

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom!

7. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey

8. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

9. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

11. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

12. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom

13. Adam Driver, Annette

14. Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

15. Nicolas Cage, Pig

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

3. Martha Plimpton, Mass

4. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans

5. Marlee Matlin, CODA

Other Possibilities:

6. Ruth Negga, Passing

7. Olga Merediz, In the Heights

8. Regina King, The Harder They Fall

9. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog

10. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley

11. Judi Dench, Belfast

12. Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho

13. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up

14. Audra McDonald, Respect

15. Sally Hawkins, Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom

2. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans

5. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall

Other Possibilities:

6. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth

7. Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

8. Jared Leto, House of Gucci

9. Reed Birney, Mass

10. Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano

11. Jamie Dornan, Belfast

12. Adam Driver, The Last Duel

13. Al Pacino, House of Gucci

14. Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth

15. David Alvarez, West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mass

2. Soggy Bottom

3. Don’t Look Up

4. The French Dispatch

5. Blue Bayou

Other Possibilities:

6. Belfast

7. Spencer

8. C’Mon C’Mon

9. Last Night in Soho

10. Being the Ricardos

11. Annette

12. The Harder They Fall

13. After Yang

14. Nine Days

15. Red Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci

2. The Power of the Dog

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth

4. Nightmare Alley

5. Dune

Other Possibilities:

6. CODA

7. The Humans

8. West Side Story

9. Cyrano

10. Tick Tick… Boom!

11. Dear Evan Hansen

12. The Last Duel

13. The Lost Daughter

14. King Richard

15. A Journal for Jordan

Back at it next week, ladies and gents!

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross

James Foley’s 1992 adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross is an abundance of riches featuring some of the finest actors around. From Alec Baldwin’s now legendary speech to the assorted desperate salesmen to Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, and Jonathan Pryce showcasing their chops (and many creative uses for profanity), it is truly an actors showcase. Looking back, it’s surprising that it only received one Oscar nomination. I would argue they picked the wrong screen legend to honor in Supporting Actor. This brings us to our latest Shoulda Been Contender.

1992 was a huge year for Al Pacino. He had been nominated for six Oscars and had zero victories to show for it. That included amazing work in the first two Godfather epics and Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino was a double nominee in ’92 for lead in Scent of a Woman and in supporting here. The former would finally bring him his long awaited win. However, I would argue that Jack Lemmon should have filled the slot for the latter.

As the once thriving and now down on his luck Shelley “The Machine” Levene, it is Lemmon’s character that is the heart of the picture. By its year of release, Mr. Lemmon had already garnered 8 nods for his long body of work. This includes two wins – 1955’s Mister Roberts in supporting and 1973’s Save the Tiger in lead. His last nomination came in 1982 for Missing. No disrespect to Pacino, but this should have marked #9 and would have rightfully given Lemmon deserved mentions in five different decades.

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Sean Penn in Carlito’s Way

Continuing with my new series covering performances that could have warranted some Oscar attention, I move to my second post in the Supporting Actor race of 1993. The first one centered on Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in Tombstone. As a reminder, the actual five nominees were a strong grouping with Tommy Lee Jones emerging victorious for The Fugitive. The other nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ralph Fiennes for Schindler’s List, John Malkovich for In the Line of Fire, and Pete Postlethwaite for In the Name of the Father. 

Another notable performance for that derby: Sean Penn in Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way. Almost unrecognizable as a sleazy coked up lawyer with an unforgettable hairdo, Penn managed to steal scenes from Al Pacino’s title character. Had his work been included here, it would have marked his first nod. Two years later, he achieved that with Dead Man Walking. Four more nominations (all in Best Actor) would follow with two victories in 2003’s Mystic River and 2008’s Milk as well as 1999’s Sweet and Lowdown and 2001’s I Am Sam. 

Yet his rare supporting turn alongside Pacino would have been fine with me for a sixth mention – even with the solid competition nearly three decades ago.

My Should Been Contenders posts will continue with another sturdy supporting turn from 1993…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

And a new day has dawned on this blog of mine as the 2020 Oscar Predictions begin!

To put it mildly, this is a challenge in 2020. The obvious hindrance is the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut theaters down for the past nearly five months and prevented scores of titles from their release.

It doesn’t stop there. I always do my early prediction posts in the later part of August when significant film festivals are about to get underway. The coronavirus has altered that dynamic as well. The Toronto and Venice festivals will operate in a much different fashion with some releases getting remote screenings and you should expect quite a few Oscar Watch posts in the coming weeks. However, it’s not nearly the volume of previous years. I have chosen to push up these early prediction posts because… well, I don’t have much else to write about!

To add to the mayhem – we have understandably seen a year in which release dates are constantly changing. Some of the pictures mentioned here may not see the light of day by February 2021. That, by the way, is the month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have extended eligibility to for the upcoming ceremony. A good example: Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (which has seen its date pushed back more than once) is now a TBD release. We’ve grown accustomed to that lately. For this reason, I am not including it in my inaugural round of predictions.

One potential beneficiary to all of this is Netflix. The streaming giant has loaded up on awards contenders for the season. Three of them in particular – David Fincher’s Mank, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 – boasts multiple performers who could see their work recognized in this particular category. In fact, four of the five early predicted nominees here are for Netflix properties.

As with any other year, these first projections are done with another degree of uncertainty and that’s category placement. It is inevitable that some performances in the supporting field could move to lead and vice versa. These decisions will become clearer as time goes along and will certainly shift my predictions in the future. For instance, Delroy Lindo seems bound for a nod in Da 5 Bloods. The smart money is that he’ll be campaigned for in Best Actor, but it’s in the realm of possibility that he could be a Supporting Actor contender.

Looking back at my early 2019 predictions in this category nearly a year ago, only one of my five projected nominees got through the process. It was, however, the winner with Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For context, I predict my top 5 and then list ten other possibilities. All four other eventual nominees (Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for The Irishman), were all listed as possibilities.

So… let’s get to it with my very speculative first look at which gentlemen could contend in the supporting field!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Tom Burke, Mank

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

David Strathairn, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Charles Dance, Mank

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

I’ll have Supporting Actress up next! Until then…

Summer 1990: The Top 10 Hits and More

In what has become tradition on this here blog, I use the summertime months to reflect on the cinematic seasons that came 30, 20, and 10 years prior. So while we wait for features to hit theaters in the summer of 2020 (something that is looking less and less certain), let’s take a gander at the hits, misses, and other significant product from the past.

The format is as follows: a rundown of the top ten hits as well as other noteworthy titles and some of the flops. We begin with 1990… a summer where we all got ghosted.

10. Flatliners

Domestic Gross: $61 million

Fresh off her star making role that spring in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts teamed with then boyfriend Kiefer Sutherland in this psychological thriller from the late director Joel Schumacher. A far less successful 2017 remake would follow.

9. Bird on a Wire

Domestic Gross: $70 million

Despite mostly poor reviews, the drawing power of Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn compelled this action comedy to a #1 debut and solid returns. Mr. Gibson wouldn’t fare as well later that summer when Air America with Robert Downey Jr. grossed less than half of Bird‘s earnings.

8. Another 48 Hrs.

Domestic Gross: $80 million

The re-teaming of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte from their 1982 hit might have earned more than the predecessor, but $80 million was considered a bit of a letdown compared to expectations. The quality left a bit to be desired as well.

7. Days of Thunder

Domestic Gross: $82 million

Another high profile reunification is this racing pic with Tom Cruise and his Top Gun maker Tony Scott back together. While it wasn’t as successful as that blockbuster, it did just fine and it cast a mostly unknown actress named Nicole Kidman alongside her future (and eventually former) husband.

6. Presumed Innocent

Domestic Gross: $86 million

Harrison Ford has had plenty of summer hits, but this adaptation of Scott Turow’s novel was a considerably more adult project that earned mostly rave reviews. The courtroom drama was a sizable earner considering its meager $20 million budget.

5. Back to the Future Part III

Domestic Gross: $87 million

The Western themed threequel arrived just six months after Part II. While it received better critical reaction, its gross of $87 million couldn’t match the $118 million of what preceded it.

4. Dick Tracy

Domestic Gross: $103 million

Warren Beatty’s long in development version of the 1930s comic strip was a visual sight to behold. However, critical reaction was mixed. It managed to just outdo its reported $100 million budget stateside. Tracy provided a showcase for Beatty’s then flame Madonna and earned Al Pacino a Best Supporting Actor nod.

3. Die Hard 2

Domestic Gross: $117 million

The goodwill brought forth by the 1988 original allowed this decent sequel to outgross its predecessor and permit Bruce Willis to return in his signature role three more times. This would be the last Die Hard pic with the Christmas Eve theme as it scorched the summer charts.

2. Total Recall

Domestic Gross: $119 million

One year before he would rule the summer of 1991, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a massive hit with this sci-fi rendering of the Philip K. Dick short story. Recall also provided the first juicy role for Sharon Stone, who would become a sensation two years later in Basic Instinct. 

1. Ghost

Domestic Gross: $217 million

At the start of the new decade, no one would have pegged Ghost to rule the summer frame. Made for $22 million, the supernatural romance ended up making over half a billion worldwide. A pottery themed love scene between stars Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore would become iconic, Whoopi Goldberg would win Best Supporting Actress for her psychic role, and it was nominated for Best Picture.

And now for some noteworthy titles from the season:

Problem Child

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Just outside the top 10 at 11, John Ritter headlined this tale of a rambunctious kid who just needs a family. Budgeted at a measly $10 million, it was a surprise performer that spawned two sequels.

Arachnophobia

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Doubling its budget, this black comedy about deadly black spiders received mostly praise from critics and had a nice showcase role for John Goodman as an exterminator.

Darkman

Domestic Gross: $33 million

Sam Raimi would eventually direct Spider-Man over a decade later and break box office records. Yet this original story (made for only $16 million) was a cult hit that introduced a lot of filmgoers to Liam Neeson. Two direct to video sequels would follow (minus Raimi behind the camera and Neeson in front of it).

Mo’ Better Blues

Domestic Gross: $16 million

This jazz infused dramedy was Spike Lee’s follow-up to his groundbreaking Do the Right Thing one year prior. Blues received solid reviews, but is best remembered as the director’s first collaboration with Denzel Washington.

And now for some pictures that didn’t match expectations either financially or critically or both (including a host of underwhelming sequels):

Robocop 2

Domestic Gross: $45 million

Irvin Kerschner made one of the greatest part two’s ever with The Empire Strikes Back. He wasn’t so lucky here. It made slightly less than its 1987 predecessor and reviews weren’t nearly as positive.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Domestic Gross: $41 million

It’s become a cult favorite since its release, but The New Batch grossed over $100 million less than the 1984 smash success.

The Exorcist III

Domestic Gross: $26 million

Following 17 years after the phenomenon that was the original, part 3 simply didn’t land with audiences or critics. This is another example of a sequel that would pick up more fans in subsequent years.

Ghost Dad

Domestic Gross: $24 million

Sidney Poitier directed this supernatural comedy starring Bill Cosby. At the time, he had a smash TV comedy named after him. Yet audiences didn’t follow him to the multiplex for this critically drubbed effort.

The Freshman

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Marlon Brando seemed to have a fun time parodying his iconic Godfather role here alongside Matthew Broderick. It wasn’t a hit, but its reputation has grown since.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Andrew Dice Clay was one of the most popular and controversial stand up comics of this era, but his anticipated breakout to the silver screen landed with a thud.

Wild at Heart

Domestic Gross: $14 million

David Lynch’s follow-up to his heralded Blue Velvet starred Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. It garnered decidedly more mixed reaction from critics.

The Two Jakes

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Jack Nicholson went behind the camera and reprised his acclaimed role as Jake Gittes from 1974’s Chinatown. This was a year following the star’s turn as The Joker in Batman, which dominated that summer. Audiences (and many critics) simply turned a blind eye to this long gestating sequel.

And that’ll do it for now folks! I’ll have the summer of 2000 up shortly.

Uncut Gems Movie Review

When the brothers Safdie (Ben and Josh) made Good Time in 2017, the thriller centering on low-life crime figures contained segments that showed the duo was capable of creating something special. Clearly influenced by similar grimy pics in the 1970s, that film gave Robert Pattinson a role that drew him far away from a sullen romantic vampire and is primarily responsible for his current career trajectory. However, I found Good Time better in spots than as a cohesive whole. Their follow-up is Uncut Gems and it’s the “something special” that was hinted at in their predecessor.

In many ways, it stays in the Good Time lane. The setting is again the Big Apple. The characters are again a level of bottom dwelling criminals who aren’t exactly top level at their professions. And like Pattinson, Gems allows a very famous actor to try something different. Here it’s Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, who owns a diamond store and is a degenerate gambler. In Howard’s universe, there’s not a problem that he can’t seem to make worse.

His family life is in a constant state of chaos as his wife (Idina Menzel) is ready to freeze him out and his brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian) is a loan shark that Howard owes money to. Then there’s his girlfriend Julie (Julia Fox, in her feature debut) who works for him and is a consistent source of stress. Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) is his business associate charged with bringing in celebrities and high rollers to the store. He finds one in Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett, who plays himself and does so memorably.

When Howard gets his hands on a rare Ethiopian opal, it sets off a series of frenzied events. Garnett is obsessed with purchasing the rarity while Howard looks to cash in with it at auction. The hoped for financial windfall means he can pay his off his considerable debts. Yet Howard just cannot help himself as one scheme simply leads to the next one, including betting on his NBA client for large sums of money.

Like Good Time, the pacing here is relentless. For over two hours, the screenplay and direction immerse us in Howard’s out of control daily existence. It’s exhilarating and Sandler deserves a lot of the credit. These days, it’s rare to see the performer in anything other than middling to less than middling Netflix comedies. Seeing him rise to the challenge in more dramatic material shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as we saw it in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love nearly two decades ago. It’s just been a while. Howard is onscreen nearly the entire running time and for good reason. You can’t take your eyes off him.

The lead’s remarkable work is accentuated by his supporting cast. This especially applies to the women in his life as both Menzel and Fox are given notable scenes reacting to Howard’s never-ending foibles. By the time the credits roll, one could argue Uncut Gems has the happiest ending it could have if you really ponder it. This is a tale of addiction in a highly stylized setting where Howard just can’t become the winner he pines to be. His turmoil is interrupted by brief glimpses of happiness and we witness a couple of great ones. In the era that the Safdies are paying homage, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro might have played Howard. Sandler gets the job here and knocks it out the park. It’s something special.

**** (out of four)

FINAL 2019 Oscar Winner Predictions

And here we are! After one year plus of speculating about the Academy Awards ceremony that will air this Sunday evening, we arrive at my final prediction posts on the winners!

For all 21 races encompassing feature-length films, I am giving you my analysis with my pick and the runner-up in case I’m wrong (which is bound to occur). A broad overview includes these thoughts:

  • There are undeniable strong front-runners in all four acting categories – so much so that even picking a runner-up is a challenge. If anyone other than my quartet wins, it’ll constitute an upset.
  • This is not the case in the other major races and that includes Picture and Director and both screenplay categories.
  • Other matchups are practical coin tosses and that includes Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Production Design, and Visual Effects.

I’m going to begin with the tech races and build up from there. So let’s get to it!

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: We start with a relatively easy one as the work of Roger Deakins in 1917 appears to have this in the bag. Anything else would be a surprise, but Hollywood could potentially challenge.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: Here’s another one where Hollywood could get it, but I will predict voters go back a bit further to the stylings of Little Women (for what could definitely be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: LITTLE WOMEN

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

Analysis: Both The Irishman and Parasite are possibilities here, but I believe Ferrari has the upper hand (for what could be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: FORD V FERRARI

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

Analysis: Bombshell appears to be the sturdy favorite here. And like a broken record, this likely stands as its only win. Joker or Judy would be the upset contenders.

PREDICTED WINNER: BOMBSHELL

Runner-Up: Joker

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: Thomas Newman (1917) has been nominated numerous times without a victory and the consensus for a while is that he would finally get his due. However, Joker has pretty much swept the precursors.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOKER

Runner-Up: 1917

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: It was a bit of a shocker that this stands as the only nod for Rocketman, which was expected to garner attention in Makeup and Hairstyling and the sound races. Yet the Academy is probably poised to get Sir Elton John up to the stage.

PREDICTED WINNER: “I’M GONNA LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Runner-Up: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Along with Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay, this race marks the best shot for Hollywood to nab an Oscar. Frankly, this is a fairly wide open category where there is a narrative for any of the nominees to take it. I’m going to pick Hollywood by a hair.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: In both Sound races, I feel it comes down to Ford 1917. In each case, I’ll give it to 1917.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: See Sound Editing

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: This is a tough one. Other than Skywalker, I feel any of the competitors could squeeze out a win. With 1917 picking up other tech races, I’ll give it the slight advantage. This wasn’t the case a month or two ago, but this might actually be the likeliest category for an Irishman Oscar.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: The Irishman 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: This one has been all over the map. Klaus picked up some key precursors. Missing Link surprised everyone by taking the Golden Globe. The Academy could choose to honor the Dragon franchise as a whole. I Lost My Body has its ardent admirers. Ultimately I’m playing it safe and betting Pixar manages to top all of them, though I’m less confident than usual about that.

PREDICTED WINNER: TOY STORY 4

Runner-Up: Klaus

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

Analysis: For Sama is a legit contender and Honeyland being nominated here and in International Feature Film (which it will not win) could mean something. American Factory, however, has held slight front runner status for some time. This is a coin flop, but we’ve seen surprises here before and I’ll lean towards that.

PREDICTED WINNER: FOR SAMA

Runner-Up: American Factory

Best International Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

Analysis: Let’s not complicate this. It’s going to be Parasite. 

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: I guess… Pain and Glory?

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

Analysis: There is definitely a chance that Greta Gerwig for Little Women could take this, especially after her Oscar snub for directing. The precursor attention, on the other hand, has mainly gone to Jojo for what might be its solo award.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOJO RABBIT

Runner-Up: Little Women

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Quentin could pick up his third statue here after Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, but the Parasite love seems stronger.

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: With the Irishmen splitting votes and Pitt taking every significant precursor, this is an easy one.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell). Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: Johansson being a double nominee is tough to ignore and I believe she’s got a slightly better shot here than in Actress. Her costar Dern, though, has swept the season.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Analysis: Here’s a race where there were about a dozen performances vying for five spots. At the end of the day, the competition was fun to witness but Phoenix has picked up all the hardware thus far and I don’t see that stopping on Sunday.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER

Runner-Up: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Zellweger could the most vulnerable of the favored quartet with Theron or Johansson in the wings. It would be foolish to bet against her based on what’s already happened.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER, JUDY

Runner-Up: Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: Even with heavyweights like Scorsese and Tarantino in the mix, this has come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes. And the latter has won the Golden Globe and the DGA (which has a steady track record of naming the winner here).

PREDICTED WINNER: SAM MENDES, 1917

Runner-Up: Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Ugh… OK. Let’s begin with this: the smart money is on 1917. It won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and the Critics Choice Award. Mendes took the DGA and I have him picked to win Director.

On the contrary – in the 2010s, we have seen a Picture/Director split 5 out of 9 times. No foreign language film has ever won the biggest prize of all. Last year, I (along with many others) predicted Roma would be the first to do so and it lost to Green Book. 

That said, the affection for Parasite feels deeper than for Roma. I’ll make this pronouncement now… if Parasite loses Original Screenplay on Sunday night, you’ll pretty much know my prediction is wrong. Yet I’m rolling the dice here for a minor surprise and that’s why…

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: 1917

My predictions pan out to the following films winning these many Oscars:

5 Wins

1917

3 Wins

Parasite

2 Wins

Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1 Win

American Factory, Bombshell, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Judy, Little Women, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

These calls also mean every nominated Best Picture player will win an Oscar with the exception of The Irishman, which I’m estimating will go 0 for 10.

And that does it, folks! The speculation has ended and the ceremony is two days away. I’ll have a recap post on how I did Sunday night…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Joe Pesci

My Case of posts for the performers up for Oscars this Sunday arrives at Joe Pesci and his Supporting Actor work for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman:

The Case for Joe Pesci

Well, it’s certainly a comeback role that garnered lots of attention. In 1990, Pesci won this category for GoodFellas, his second collaboration with Scorsese after Raging Bull. This kicked off a fruitful decade for the actor that included JFK, My Cousin Vinny, Casino, and, of course, the Home Alone franchise. Then he essentially disappeared. Pesci’s performance in The Irishman was not only a welcome sight since he’d be offscreen for so long, but it was surprising for the subtlety in which he played it.

The Case Against Joe Pesci

He will split votes with his costar Al Pacino, also nominated here. The film itself has seen its viability to win categories fall backwards in recent weeks based on precursors. And Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the significant front runner.

The Verdict

It’s good to see Pesci back in the mix, but a second statue seems out of reach.

My Case of posts will continue with Florence Pugh in Little Women!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Al Pacino

Al Pacino’s work in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman headlines my third Case of post for Oscar contenders in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The Case for Al Pacino 

His legendary cinematic career has spanned half a century and Pacino’s performance as Jimmy Hoffa has earned him his ninth Academy mention. It took his nod in 1992 for Scent of a Woman (he got double recognition that year for Glengarry Glen Ross) to finally reach the podium, despite previous nominations for the first two Godfather pics, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, …And Justice for All, and Dick Tracy. 27 year later, voters could feel obliged to give him his second podium walk.

The Case Against Al Pacino

Vote splitting with his Irishman costar Joe Pesci will likely occur. The film’s lead Robert De Niro couldn’t even make the cut in Best Actor and The Irishman has fallen back from potential Best Picture winner to long shot contender. Pacino also appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and his costar Brad Pitt is running away with the precursor attention.

The Verdict

Pacino’s chances are on par with his film’s in Best Picture – slim.

My Case of posts will continue with Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit!