Oscars 2019: The Case of Sam Mendes

My second Case of post discussing the directors up this year brings us to Sam Mendes for his World War I epic 1917:

The Case for Sam Mendes

The Englishman who became known for his theatre work became a Best Director winner with his first feature 20 years ago – American Beauty. Since then, he’s made a slew of pictures that never quite achieved full Academy attention: Road to Perdition, Jarhead, and Revolutionary Road among them. Over the past decade, he’s been in 007 land after making the last two Bond adventures Skyfall and Spectre. His latest effort has brought him back to serious contention and he’s got the hardware to prove it. Mendes has won the Golden Globe, Directors Guild of America, and BAFTA awards for his direction. Those three prizes alone puts him in the driver’s seat for a second Oscar 20 years apart. That, by the way, would be the longest stretch between a filmmaker taking the trophy.

The Case Against Sam Mendes

From a pure precursor standpoint, there really is no case against him. Yet there’s a lot of love for Bong Joon-Ho and his critically heralded Parasite. He serves as the chief competitor.

The Verdict

It is very hard to ignore the fact that Mendes has won everything that needs to be won in order to emerge victorious here.

My Case of posts will continue with Joe Pesci in The Irishman!

The Directors Go To 1917

When it comes to precursors correctly picking what the Academy voters will do on Oscar night, none is more reliable than the Directors Guild of America and their choice for Best Director. That’s why last night’s DGA ceremony was so anticipated among prognosticators like me. The narrative went like this: the 2019 nominees had become a showdown between Sam Mendes (1917) and Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite). It appeared unlikely that the three other nominees – Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) had much of a shot.

Sam Mendes took the award and this sets up the filmmaker for his second directorial Oscar two decades after he won for American Beauty. To give you some context as to how accurate DGA is – 17 of the 19 previous victors in the 21st century have gone on to win Oscar. The two that didn’t are Ang Lee for 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Ben Affleck for 2012’s Argo. 

When it comes to that victorious director’s movie winning Best Picture, that’s happened on 13 out of 19 occasions. That’s where it gets interesting. There is no doubt that the Mendes DGA prize (he also won the Golden Globe) puts him in definite front runner status for Best Director two weeks from today. Yet the possibility of a Picture/Director split is still quite possible with Parasite and Hollywood as the strongest competitors. That said, 1917 is certainly picking up the right awards at the right time and has to be considered the soft favorite for the biggest prize.

Oscars 2019: The Case of 1917

My next Case of post for this year’s Best Picture nominees brings us to 1917. If you missed my other posts thus far, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-little-women/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/19/oscars-2019-the-case-of-marriage-story/

Let’s break it down:

The Case for 1917

It’s become significant. 1917 might be the strongest example of the nine nominees for perfect timing. The World War I epic from director Sam Mendes came to the attention of awards voters just as it was opening to better than expected box office and sterling reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 89%. Mendes is a known quantity whose American Beauty won Best Picture (and Director) twenty years ago. The precursor love has been impressive with a Golden Globes victory for Best Drama and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) top prize. 13 out of the last 19 PGA winners went on to win Best Picture. The ten Academy nominations is tied for second along with The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

The Case Against 1917

If it wins Best Picture, it would be the first to do so without any acting nomination since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire (SAG ignored it as well). Additionally, it would be the extremely rare recipient to win without an Editing nod. A case could be made that the Parasite fans are more rabid.

The Verdict

Despite missing some recognition in key races, there is no doubt that 1917 could absolutely take the biggest race. It could even be called the soft front runner.

Up next in my Case of posts… Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!

1917 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (01/05): The film’s victory for Best Drama at the Golden Globes is pushing my estimate up… from $26.8 million to $31.8 million

1917 blasts onto screens next weekend and hopes to generate its awards buzz into a rousing first frame at multiplexes. The World War I epic comes from Sam Mendes, Oscar winning director of American Beauty who’s been busy with the Bond franchise lately with Skyfall and Spectre. Cast members include George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Critics have been on its side as 1917 currently sports a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score. The film is expected to nab several Oscar nods (including possibly Picture and Director and tech nods) on the Monday following its wide release. In the limited rollout over the holidays, it held a sturdy per theater average of over $50,000.

War movies have done well in January over the past few years. The high water mark is American Sniper, which made nearly $90 million out of the gate five years ago. This isn’t anticipated to be anywhere near that, but there are other decent comps to consider. In 2013, Zero Dark Thirty took in $24 million in its expansion.

This is right in the range where I see 1917 landing in the mid 20s (SEE BLOGGER’S NOTE ABOVE).

1917 opening weekend prediction: $31.8 million

For my Just Mercy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/01/just-mercy-box-office-prediction/

For my Like a Boss prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/01/like-a-boss-box-office-prediction/

For my Underwater prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/02/underwater-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: 1917

Twenty years ago, Sam Mendes made American Beauty and it dominated the 1999 Oscars, with the filmmaker taking Best Director and the movie being named Best Picture. Lately, Mendes has been known more as the Bond director behind past two installments Skyfall and Spectre. 

His World War I epic 1917 has held its initial screenings prior to its Christmas release. Early   word of mouth suggests the saga about The Great War is a great picture and that Oscar is likely to pay attention. Most of the buzz thus far has centered on its making as a one camera take experience. Before today’s reviews, this seemed like a probable contender for multiple tech awards already. That includes Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and both Sound races. All of that still holds true. The legendary Roger Deakins is responsible for the cinematography. After many nominations, he won his first gold statue just two years back for Blade Runner 2049. He could pick up a second here.

Similarly, composer Thomas Newman (a frequent Mendes collaborator) has heard his name called 14 times by Oscar, but has yet to be the victor. That, too, could change as the score is getting numerous mentions.

The cast includes George McKay, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I don’t expect any acting nods due to the packed nature of those categories. However, I do expect Picture and Director (and maybe Original Screenplay) attention. I’ve had the film itself and Mendes in my guesstimates for some time. When my weekly predictions come Monday, I anticipate both will be ranked higher than ever before. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/04/best-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…