Oscar Predictions: Flora and Son

John Carney is known for his features blending music, drama, and comedy. The latest is Flora and Son. It was unveiled at Sundance. Apple TV quickly snatched up distribution rights for a reported $20 million. Eve Hewson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Orén Kinlan, Sophie Vavasseur, and Jack Reynor lead the cast.

Reviews are calling it another charmer from the Once maker. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 93%. An Apple campaign may center on its melodic themes. Carney and Gary Clark are responsible for original songs and the streamer is likely to choose one as their awards pick. The filmmaker is no stranger to Oscar and Globes attention.

“Falling Slowly” from 2007’s Once won the Academy Award for Best Song. “Lost Stars” from Begin Again (2013) was a nominee in the same category. 2016’s Sing Street was up for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. Those races at both ceremonies are in the mix with Flora.

Hewson is receiving praise for her performance in the title role. The Academy five could be a reach. I wouldn’t count her out as a possibility for a Golden Globe nod in the Musical or Comedy Actress competition. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

I am in the process of finalizing my Oscar Predictions for the 95th Academy Awards which will be revealed Tuesday (my forecast is arriving on the blog either tomorrow or Sunday). Yet it’s already time to pontificate about the 96th since the Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City, Utah.

Sundance is a known launching pad for documentaries that eventually contend for Academy glory. For the Doc competition in 2021, 3 of the 5 nominees were unveiled at the fest: winner Summer of Soul, Flee, and Writing with Fire.

One of the higher profile debuts is Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, which recounts the actor’s skyrocketing career in the 80s and his Parkinson’s diagnosis. It comes from David Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth, his 2006 collaboration with Al Gore, was a Doc Feature recipient. 2010’s Waiting for “Superman” was a buzzy hit and 2015’s He Named Me Malala was shortlisted for Oscar but didn’t make the final quintet. Fun fact: the filmmaker is married to Elisabeth Shue, who costarred with his subject in the Back to the Future sequels. Fox, it should be noted, is scheduled to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year’s ceremony.

Apple TV has distribution rights to Still. Early reviews are quite positive and it’s likely the streamer will mount a campaign. That said, a lot of docs focused on celebs garner plenty of ink and don’t end up becoming major players on the awards circuit. It’s too early to predict the future with this one. Time will tell if it’s still viable months down the road. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Emancipation

Will Smith rather notoriously won his first Best Actor Oscar last year for King Richard. His victory was not a surprise. Smith’s onstage slap of Chris Rock approximately 30 minutes before he received the gold statue was.

The superstar actor’s career has taken a hit since with some canceled or delayed projects. It has not altered the release of Emancipation. The historical action drama casts Smith as slave Whipped Peter, whose Civil War era photograph has become an iconic image. Antoine Fuqua, best known for shoot-em-ups like Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer pics, directs. The supporting cast includes Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Steven Ogg, Mustafa Shakir, and Timothy Hutton.

Emancipation is out in limited fashion tomorrow prior to a December 9th streaming rollout on Apple TV (they paid a whopping $130 million for the rights). The Rotten Tomatoes score is a mixed 63%.

There is praise for the performances, including Smith. An early consensus is that the action works better than some of the dramatic elements. Bottom line: this doesn’t sound line much of an awards contender whether there had been The Slap or no slap. One exception could be Robert Richardson’s cinematography. He’s a three-time winner for JFK, The Aviator, and Hugo. Richardson won’t get a fourth podium trip, but making the cut isn’t out of the question. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Spirited

Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, and Octavia Spencer headline Spirited, a musical comedy take on A Christmas Carol. Slated for an Apple TV rollout on November 18th, it has a limited theatrical release this Friday. Sean Anders, who collaborated with Ferrell on both Daddy’s Home pics, directs.

The brief cinematic run leaves it Oscar eligible, but don’t expect this spin on the Dickens classic to garner much attention. It is worth discussing whether the Hollywood Foreign Press Association puts it on their radar for the Golden Globes. They have Musical/Comedy designations and seeing it nominated for Picture and Actor (Ferrell or Reynolds) is feasible.

However, the current 59% Rotten Tomatoes meter is not encouraging. There are certainly years where the Musical/Comedy acting lists allow for performances from films with mixed reviews. I wouldn’t totally discount Ferrell. He’s a two-time GG hopeful in Supporting Actor for 2005’s The Producers and lead actor for Musical/Comedy for 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction. I would say the competition would need to be pretty weak for his third nod. My Oscar (and Golden Globe) prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me

Selena Gomez My Mind & Me drops on Apple TV tomorrow after premiering at AFI Fest earlier this week. The film documents six years in the life of the pop singer and costar of Hulu’s hit comedy series Only Murders in the Building. Alek Keshishian is no stranger to the genre. Over 30 years ago, he was behind the camera for Madonna: Truth or Dare.

The streaming service premiering Mind is no stranger to the genre. Last year, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry made the shortlist of titles in contention for Documentary Feature. It didn’t end up making the final five. Blurry also had the benefit of a limited theatrical release. Unless I missed it, I’ve yet to find evidence that Mind is receiving an awards qualifying run.

While early reviews are uniformly positive (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), it may simply not be eligible for consideration. Even it is, if Billie couldn’t get in, I doubt Selena would. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Emancipation Enters the Oscar Race

In an alternative universe, Emancipation might be in my top 10 predicted Best Picture nominees. I could potentially be discussing Will Smith’s chances of being the first back to back acting winner since Tom Hanks in 1993 and 1994.

I didn’t think this alternative universe could be a potential reality in the 2022 awards season. In 2021, Apple TV beat Netflix and others to the punch as CODA was the inaugural streaming Best Picture winner. For a while, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon appeared to be Apple’s best shot at making it two years in a row. That’s until it got pushed to 2023. In recent weeks, there was speculation that Ridley Scott’s Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix could make a jump to 2022. It wasn’t to be.

This has left Apple without a legit across the board Oscar player… until maybe today. Why? The streamer announced that Antoine Fuqua’s historical drama Emancipation will hit theaters for an awards qualifying run on December 2nd and then be available for home viewing on December 9th. The trailer was unveiled this morning.

And in case you’re still wondering why I’m skeptical… two words: The Slap. Yes, the slap heard around the globe when Chris Rock presented Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards and cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. And, of course, slap provider Will Smith giving his acceptance speech a few minutes later when he was victorious in Best Actor for King Richard.

Since then, many of Smith’s planned projects have entered turnaround status. Emancipation, in which he plays a slave who joins the Union Army, was already filmed. And Apple made the surprising decision in early October to get it out two months later. This surely means Smith will be subject to interviews where he’ll address The Slap sooner than later.

So… the obvious question: can Smith get nominated? Can the film itself do so in other categories? Even though the star resigned from the Academy in the aftermath of the incident, he can still be nominated (and he can attend if invited by other members). So while the short answer is yes… the real answer is more complicated.

My gut is that Smith’s work in Emancipation would have to be undeniably awards worthy to make the final five. Even that could be a stretch. Time heals controversies and not much time has passed. As for the film itself, it could surely garner nods from Best Picture on down (I’m curious if Ben Foster gets any chatter for Supporting Actor). Yet it starts off at a unique disadvantage.

We won’t know until reviews start surfacing and that could be a few weeks. I can only assume Apple will give this a major push for consideration. It’s a campaign that is an uphill battle for reasons unfathomable just a few months ago.

Oscar Predictions: Sidney

After being unveiled at the Toronto Film Festival, Sidney debuts on Apple TV  tomorrow. The documentary focuses on the life and legacy of cinematic groundbreaker Sidney Poitier, who passed in January at age 94. Denzel Washington, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, Halle Berry, and Robert Redford are among the interviewees for the project. Oprah Winfrey is a coproducer.

While most critics are deeming it worthy of recommendation (82% on Rotten Tomatoes), several reviews claim it’s only mildly successful. That could hinder its chances for a Documentary Feature nod at the Oscars, where Mr. Poitier received two nominations. This, of course, includes a Best Actor victory for 1963’s Lilies of the Field where he became the first African-American to win that competition.

Perhaps voters will simply wish to honor the late actor one more time. However, I’m doubtful this ends up in the final five. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Raymond & Ray

Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke are half brothers who reunite at the funeral of their bad father in Raymond & Ray. The dramedy comes from Rodrigo Garcia, who directed Glenn Close to a Best Actress nod in 2011’s Albert Nobbs. Most recently, he helmed Close and Mila Kunis in the drug abuse drama Four Good Days. His latest premiered at the Toronto Film Festival ahead of its October 21st Apple TV streaming debut. Costars include Maribel Verdu and Sophie Okonedo.

Reviews here are perfectly split down the middle at 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. It came and went at the Canadian fest with little fanfare and scant awards buzz. Expect that to be the case moving forward. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Causeway

In a six-year stretch from 2010-2015, Jennifer Lawrence nabbed a remarkable four Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress victory for 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. She’s been off the radar of awards voters for a bit, but that could change with Causeway. The story of a soldier struggling to return to domestic life, it marks the directorial debut of Broadway director Lila Neugebauer (as well as J-Law’s first producer credit). Costars include Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Stephen Henderson, and Jayne Houdyshell.

Slated for theatrical release and Apple TV streaming on November 4th, it played Toronto to impressive reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 90% with praise being heaped on Lawrence and Henry. Apple will have its work cut out for either to be nominated. In Best Actress, I believe four spots may already be spoken for – Cate Blanchett (Tar), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Olivia Colman (Empire of Light), and the as yet unseen Margot Robbie for Babylon. I do believe Lawrence is in the mix even with the seemingly fierce competition. Same goes for Henry. Their inclusion could rise or fall with how other hopefuls pan out in the coming months. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Luck

Apple TV and a new production company are hoping luck comes their way this Friday with the release of the animated fantasy comedy Luck. From director Peggy Holmes, the inaugural offering from Skydance Animation comes with a reported eye popping budget of $140 million. Featuring the voices of Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Lil Rel Howery, and Pixar vet John Ratzenberger, this was originally slated for theaters last summer before going the streaming route.

Reviews might indicate the reasoning. Luck stands at a jeopardous 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. That kind of reaction indicates it could struggle to find eyeballs on Apple. And it certainly confirms that it will not find any luck finding its way into the Best Animated Feature conversation. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…