Best Picture 2017: The Final Five

We have reached 2017 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut? If you missed my write-ups centered on 2009-16, they are linked at the bottom of the post.

There were nine nominees for 2017’s competition. If there were 5, we know Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water would have made the quintet. It won BP along with Director, Original Score, and Production Design and received 13 nods total (easily the most of all).

Of the 8 remaining movies, here’s my thoughts on which half is in and which half and is out.

Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romance was a critical darling that won Adapted Screenplay. It was also up for Actor (Timothee Chalamet) and Original Song. The Academy likely almost nominated Armie Hammer for Supporting Actor and are probably glad they snubbed him.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I struggled with this call. An argument could be made with the Adapted Screenplay victory. However, none of the other four nominees in this category were BP nominees (extraordinarily rare). Call could’ve heard its name up, but I have it sixth or seventh.

Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill was a recipe for a Best Actor win and it was up for Production Design, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling (another victory), and Costume Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Despite its admirable turn in the tech derbies, this was all about Oldman. The lack of directing, screenplay, and editing noms leave this out. This is the rare occurrence where I’m saying the Best Actor winner’s movie doesn’t get in the BP race.

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s epic WWII tale earned 8 mentions (2nd behind Shape) and won 3 – both Sound races and Film Editing. Nolan also scored his first and only directing nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. I don’t think it’s 100% considering other contenders, but this probably had enough support and was generally considered Nolan’s strongest awards pic in his filmography.

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s heralded horror flick was a box office smash. Its other three nominations were Director, Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), and Original Screenplay where it beat out Shape of Water.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Like Dunkirk, not a guarantee but that screenplay statue (over the BP recipient and two other contenders) make me think so.

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age dramedy nabbed 5 inclusions with Director, Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Original Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Broken record… not a slam dunk considering it went 0 for 5. Yet it took the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy (over Get Out) and was highly acclaimed.

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial drama was an overachiever on nomination morning with six including Director, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actress (Lesley Manville), Score, and Costume Design (the sole win).

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I was tempted. It really did perform better than anticipated. I could also see it just missing considering the competition. It might have been sixth.

The Post

Steven Spielberg’s Watergate era drama received only one other nom for Meryl Streep in Actress.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No and this is by far the easiest projection. Spielberg’s magic probably got it in the mix, but I suspect it was ninth.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A player in 7 categories, Martin McDonagh’s pic took home Actress (Frances McDormand) and Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell). Woody Harrelson was also up for Supporting Actor in addition to Original Screenplay, Score, and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, even with McDonagh missing Director. If for no other reason, I can’t imagine the four acting winners having none of their movies up. That would be the case if you left this off considering Oldman’s Darkest Hour and I, Tonya (where Allison Janney took Supporting Actress) not being in the nine.

If you weren’t keeping score, here’s my projected 2017 five:

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll have my thoughts on 2018 up soon!

Previous Posts:

Oscar Predictions: Bones and All

Love and cannibalism collide in Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, which has premiered at Venice before its November 23rd stateside theatrical release. The mix of gore and romance reunites the filmmaker with his Call Me by Your Name star Timothee Chalamet (I will refrain from making any Armie Hammer references from now on). Taylor Russell, who drew raves for the little seen Waves, is co-lead with a supporting cast including Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, Andre Holland, Chloe Sevigny, and Jessica Harper.

The road movie, based on a 2015 YA novel from Camille DeAngelis, is drawing mostly positive early reaction in Italy. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is a strong 92%. Praise is plentiful for Chalamet (he scored an Oscar nod for Name), but Russell is being called the highlight.

Despite the encouraging buzz, I’m not sure voters will bite for this late 80s set horror tale. Five years ago, Guadagnino’s Name called up four Academy nods including Picture and winning Adapted Screenplay. His 2018 follow-up Suspiria didn’t make a dent with the awards crowd.

MGM/UA would need to mount a major campaign for Russell or Chalamet for them to be viable in my view. I would say Bones‘s best shot could be Adapted Screenplay or perhaps the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Death on the Nile

Tomorrow morning, Kenneth Branagh appears poised to land nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay for his passion project Belfast. Before he made that Oscar contender, he shot Death on the Nile. A follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, the pic has faced a turbulent journey to the big screen (it opens Friday).

Originally slated for October 2020, Nile experienced numerous COVID related delays. Then there was the matter of its costar Armie Hammer having a massive public relations fallout due to revelations about his personal life.

Four Oscars ago, I actually predicted Orient would receive a Costume Design nomination and it was certainly in the running for Production Design. It came up empty handed. The review embargo for Nile lapsed today and it currently stands at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s better than the 60% that its predecessor garnered and many critics are claiming that this is an improvement.

That said, I don’t envision any nods (even the aforementioned tech races) materializing for this. It will probably be long forgotten in voters minds a year from now. Branagh, on the glass full side, should be pleased with the forthcoming Belfast love. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Death on the Nile Box Office Prediction

Hercule Poirot is back in mystery solving form (quite a while after he was supposed to be) when Death on the Nile sets sail in theaters on February 11th. The follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express finds Kenneth Branagh back as the famed Agatha Christie sleuth. As he did with Express, the star directs himself. Tom Bateman reprises his role from the predecessor. The supporting cast includes Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer (the pic was shot was shot prior to troubling details about his personal life surfaced), Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright.

Budgeted at a reported $90 million, Nile was originally slated for multiplexes in December 2020 before numerous COVID delays. In that time, Branagh made Belfast and it’s become one of the favorites to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Back in 2017, Orient debuted to a better than anticipated $28 million. It stalled a bit in subsequent weekends, but eventually hit just over $100 million domestically. At that time, audiences gave it a B Cinemascore grade – not bad though certainly not impressive.

That calls into question whether moviegoers will be excited for another dose of Poirot and his suspects. Furthermore, Nile will attempt to skew towards a female crowd. Some could be distracted with the release of the Jennifer Lopez rom com Marry Me. There’s also a football game on Sunday that could eat into the grosses.

I deduce that this might make about half of what Express accomplished for its start.

Death on the Nile opening weekend prediction: $14.3 million

For my Marry Me prediction, click here:

Marry Me Box Office Prediction

For my Blacklight prediction, click here:

Blacklight Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Rebecca

Remaking Hitchcock is always a tricky proposition, but Ben Wheatley is venturing into that territory with the October 21st Netflix release of Rebecca. The 1940 version from the Master of Suspense is the only film in the legend’s filmography to win Best Picture at the Oscars (though it did not land Hitchcock a directing victory). Armie Hammer, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd headline this iteration.

The original source material is actually the 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel and some reviews are saying this 2020 take is actually more faithful than Hitch’s adaptation. Yet it’s getting nowhere close to the raves of what preceded it 80 years ago. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a mixed 54%.

In 1940, the trio of Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson were all nominated by the Academy. These would be the roles played now by Hammer, James, and Scott Thomas. While some critics have focused on the work of the latter, I find it doubtful that Scott Thomas could nab her second nomination (her first was 1996’s The English Patient).

Even with the so-so reviews, Rebecca could still get some nods. The Production Design and Costume Design have both been singled out. In my weekly Oscar prediction updates, I had this just on the outside looking in at 6th in the costuming race and I have this making the cut in fifth in Production Design. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 29th Edition

The Streaming Guide today starts with a bold picture that defies genre explanation from 2018 and it’s currently available on Hulu:

Sorry to Bother You is one of the most audacious directorial debuts in recent memory from  Boots Riley, most known for his contributions to the world of hip hop. It is a daring race relations comedy and drama with an unmistakable point of view on capitalism. Sorry is also a romance, a tale of unions, and it manages to somehow incorporate science fiction elements with human and horse hybrids. That’s right… if you’re looking for something wholly original to view, this fits the bill. The cast includes Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, and Danny Glover.

For my second pic (also via Hulu), I turn to 2017’s I, Tonya. From Craig Gillespie, it recounts the sordid saga of the 1994 Winter Olympics attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie earned an Oscar nod for her portrayal of rival Tonya Harding and Allison Janney took Supporting Actress gold as her wildly eccentric mother. Seek out ESPN’s 30 for 30 doc about the subject and watch I, Tonya as an added bonus.

And that does it for today, folks! Until next time…

Hotel Mumbai Box Office Prediction

The true life action thriller Hotel Mumbai expands nationwide this weekend after its limited engagement over this past one. Recounting the 2008 Taj Mahal Palace Hotel terror attacks in India, the film marks the directorial debut of Anthony Maras. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer headline with costars including Anupam Kher and Jason Isaacs.

Mumbai was originally screened at the Toronto Film Festival last fall to mostly positive reviews. It stands at 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. Over the weekend, it managed a per theater average of over $20,000 on four screens.

That’s pretty decent, but that average should dip significantly as it’s scheduled to hit about 800 this weekend. The number is lower than other new wide releases like Unplanned and The Beach Bum. However, Mumbai could top the grosses of those titles – making it the biggest earning newcomer that isn’t named Dumbo.

Hotel Mumbai opening weekend prediction: $3.4 million

For my Dumbo prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/20/dumbo-box-office-prediction/

For my Unplanned prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/unplanned-box-office-prediction/

For my The Beach Bum prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/the-beach-bum-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: On the Basis of Sex

The AFI Film Festival is underway and last night’s opening feature is the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex with Felicity Jones in the starring role. It’s been quite a cinematic year for the Supreme Court Justice, as the documentary RBG appears well positioned to land a nod in that race at the Oscars.

So will this big screen rendering of her life follow suit? On the basis of its critical reaction, the verdict is probably in the negative. While some reviews have been positive, others are more mixed and it currently stands at 60% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Best Actress is looking crowded this year and that likely leaves Jones out. The same holds true for supporting races with Armie Hammer and Kathy Bates. The latter has received some raves, but her role is said to be not much more than a cameo.

Bottom line: RBG’s chances for awards love lies most with the documentary and not this. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2018 Weekly Oscar Predictions: November 1st Edition

My first Oscar predictions in the month of November come with reductions and expansions. I am slimming the list of 25 Best Picture possibilities to 15 and the other major categories from 15 to 10. As you can see, I am also including all of the other feature-length races for the first time from Documentary to Animated Feature to Foreign Language Feature and the techs.

So what are the developments worth discussing? Well…

  • In these initial projections for all races, A Star Is Born and First Man tie for most nominations with 12 apiece. Truth be told, I’m skeptical that First Man will get there. Its poor box office performance could hinder its possibilities in some races. While I’m relatively confident it will score multiples nods in the technical categories, both director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling are questionable, even though I currently have them both getting honored.
  • In Best Picture, BlacKkKlansman rises from 6th to 4th in the list of predicted nominees. It’s a good week in general for the Spike Lee pic as I’m including Adam Driver for the first time in the list of predicted Supporting Actor nominees, replacing Sam Rockwell in Vice.
  • We got a surprise announcement this week as Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True will open in late December for a qualifying run. The director stars as William Shakespeare in the late stages of his life with a supporting cast including Judi Dench and Ian McKellen. I will likely wait for some buzz before possibly listing it as a predicted nominee. In addition to Picture, Director, acting slots, and screenplay – it has the potential in down the line races such as Costume Design and Production Design. It will certainly be one to keep an eye on.
  • For Foreign Language Feature, Roma is tops in my first predictions while it maintains its #2 spot in Best Picture. Pixar finds itself in familiar territory with Incredibles 2 leading Animated Feature. In what should be a competitive Documentary Feature race, Free Solo starts out at #1 with Three Identical Strangers close behind.

And with that, here’s what November brings as far as Oscar predictions!

Best Picture

1. A Star Is Born (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Roma (PR: 2)

3. The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)

5. Green Book (PR: 4)

6. First Man (PR: 5)

7. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 7)

8. Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Vice (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 11)

11. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 13)

12. Widows (PR: 10)

13. The Mule (PR: 12)

14. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 15)

15. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

A Quiet Place

Eighth Grade

Boy Erased

Leave No Trace

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Mary Poppins Returns

The Hate U Give

Cold War

Ben Is Back

Hereditary

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (PR: 1)

2. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 4)

4. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (PR: 3)

5. Damien Chazelle, First Man (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 6)

7. Peter Farrelly, Green Book (PR: 7)

8. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (PR: 9)

9. Adam McKay, Vice (PR: 8)

10. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Steve McQueen, Widows

Clint Eastwood, The Mule

Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots

John Krasinski, A Quiet Place

Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians

Best Actor

1. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

2. Christian Bale, Vice (PR: 2)

3. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (PR: 3)

4. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 5)

5. Ryan Gosling, First Man (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 8)

7. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 6)

8. Clint Eastwood, The Mule (PR: 7)

9. Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner (PR: 9)

10. Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Lucas Hedges, Ben Is Back

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

John C. Reilly, Stan and Ollie

Best Actress

1. Glenn Close, The Wife (PR: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Viola Davis, Widows (PR: 6)

7. Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 8)

8. Nicole Kidman, Destroyer (PR: 10)

9. Julia Roberts, Ben Is Back (PR: 7)

10. Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns 

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Kindergarten Teacher

Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Supporting Actor

1. Mahershala Ali, Green Book (PR: 1)

2. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

3. Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (PR: 3)

4. Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

5. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sam Rockwell, Vice (PR: 5)

7. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (PR: 8)

8. Daniel Kaluuya, Widows (PR: 6)

9. Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give (PR: 14)

10. Robert Forster, What They Had (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Steve Carell, Vice

Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex

Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite 

Russell Crowe, Boy Erased

Tim Blake Nelson, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Best Supporting Actress

1. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 1)

2. Emma Stone, The Favourite (PR: 2)

3. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (PR: 4)

4. Claire Foy, First Man (PR: 3)

5. Amy Adams, Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Marina de Tavira, Roma (PR: 7)

7. Natalie Portman, Vox Lux (PR: 6)

8. Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased (PR: 8)

9. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 9)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots 

Rachel McAdams, Disobedience

Sissy Spacek, The Old Man & The Gun

Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex

Dianne Wiest, The Mule

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 1)

2. A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 3)

4. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. First Man (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Widows (PR: 7)

7. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 6)

8. The Hate U Give (PR: 11)

9. Leave No Trace (PR: 8)

10. Black Panther (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Mary Queen of Scots

Boy Erased

Disobedience

The Sisters Brothers

The Wife

Best Original Screenplay

1. Roma (PR: 1)

2. The Favourite (PR: 2)

3. Green Book (PR: 3)

4. Eighth Grade (PR: 4)

5. Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 10)

7. First Reformed (PR: 6)

8. A Quiet Place (PR: 9)

9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 7)

10. The Mule (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Ben Is Back

Private Life

Hereditary

Stan and Ollie

Sorry to Bother You

Best Foreign Language Film

1. Roma

2. Cold War

3. Shoplifters

4. Girl

5. Capernaum

Other Possibilities:

6. Burning

7. Birds of Passage

8. The Guilty

9. Never Look Away

10. Border

Best Animated Feature

1. Incredibles 2

2. Isle of Dogs

3. Ralph Breaks the Internet

4. Mirai

5. Ruben Brandt, Collector

Other Possibilities:

6. Lu Over the Wall

7. Early Man

8. Night is Short, Walk on Girl

9. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

10. Smallfoot

Best Documentary Feature

1. Free Solo

2. Three Identical Strangers

3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

4. RBG

5. Science Fair

Other Possibilities:

6. Minding the Gap

7. Dark Money

8. Crime + Punishment

9. The Price of Everything

10. Quincy

Best Film Editing

1. A Star Is Born

2. Roma

3. First Man

4. The Favourite

5. Vice

Other Possibilities:

6. Widows

7. If Beale Street Could Talk

8. Black Panther

9. BlacKkKlansman

10. July 22

Best Cinematography

1. Roma

2. First Man

3. A Star Is Born

4. If Beale Street Could Talk

5. Cold War

Other Possibilities:

6. The Favourite

7. Black Panther

8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

9. Widows

10. Mary Queen of Scots

Best Production Design

1. The Favourite

2. Black Panther

3. First Man

4. Mary Poppins Returns

5. Mary Queen of Scots

Other Possibilities:

6. A Star Is Born

7. Roma

8. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

9. Colette

10. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Best Costume Design

1. The Favourite

2. Black Panther

3. Mary Queen of Scots

4. Colette

5. Mary Poppins Returns

Other Possibilities:

6. Crazy Rich Asians

7. A Star Is Born

8. If Beale Street Could Talk

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

10. A Wrinkle in Time

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

1. Black Panther

2. Mary Queen of Scots

3. The Favourite

Other Possibilities:

4. Stan and Ollie

5. Vice

6. Mary Poppins Returns

7. A Star Is Born

8. Suspiria

9. Colette

10. A Wrinkle in Time

Best Sound Editing

1. First Man

2. Black Panther

3. A Quiet Place

4. A Star Is Born

5. Incredibles 2

Other Possibilities:

6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

7. Avengers: Infinity War

8. Roma

9. Mary Poppins Returns

10. Annihilation

Best Sound Mixing

1. First Man

2. A Star Is Born

3. A Quiet Place

4. Black Panther

5. Mary Poppins Returns

Other Possibilities:

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

7. Roma

8. Incredibles 2

9. Avengers: Infinity War

10. Ready Player One

Best Visual Effects

1. First Man

2. Avengers: Infinity War

3. Black Panther

4. Ready Player One

5. Annihilation

Other Possibilities

6. Mary Poppins Returns

7. A Quiet Place

8. A Wrinkle in Time

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

10. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Best Original Score

1. First Man

2. If Beale Street Could Talk

3. BlacKkKlansman

4. Roma

5. Green Book

Other Possibilities:

6. Mary Queen of Scots

7. Incredibles 2

8. Colette

9. Suspiria

10. The Sisters Brothers

Best Original Song

1. “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

2. “All the Stars” from Black Panther

3. “I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star Is Born

4. “The Place Where Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns

5. “We Won’t Move” from The Hate U Give

Other Possibilities:

6. “Time for Change” from On the Basis of Sex

7. “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born

8. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” from Mary Poppins Returns

9. “I’ll Fight” from RBG

10. “Hearts Beat Loud” from Hearts Beat Loud

And that breaks down to the following number of nominations for each feature:

12 Nominations

A Star Is Born, First Man

10 Nominations

The Favourite

8 Nominations

Black Panther, Roma

5 Nominations

BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice

3 Nominations

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Poppins Returns

2 Nominations

A Quiet Place, Cold War, Incredibles 2

1 Nomination

Annihilation, At Eternity’s Gate, Avengers: Infinity War, Beautiful Boy, Colette, Eighth Grade, Ready Player One, The Hate U Give, The Wife, Capernaum, Free Solo, Girl, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, RBG, Ruben Brandt, Collector, Science Fair. Shoplifters, Three Identical Strangers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Sorry to Bother You Movie Review

In one sense, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is conventional with its pro-labor and anti-corporate message. How it gets there is wildly unconventional, often original, occasionally hilarious, and clearly from a new filmmaker making his voice and views heard. Riley comes from the world of hip hop and his political perspectives are unmistakable in short tracks. With nearly two hours to work with here, his words can’t possibly be as tight and controlled. This film is messy, but rarely a mess. Like the best music in the genre, it’s not easily forgotten. Similar to a bass line or lyric that won’t escape you, moments here have the same effect.

LaKeith Stanfield is Oakland native Cassius Green, who’s struggling to find a job that pays the bills. He lives in a garage with his artsy girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He owes lots of back rent to his uncle (Terry Crews) that owns the property. While the Golden State area looks current, the picture is set in an alternate reality. There’s a massive conglomerate that goes by WorryFree. We see ads on TV that promote a life of not paying bills and free housing. The catch? A lifetime contract of servitude. It’s absolutely an allegory for the director’s view of today’s workforce. While WorryFree seemingly appeals to many, this is not so for Cassius, Detroit, and lots of protesters.

Instead, Cassius finds work as a telemarketer and he initially finds it mundane and challenging. That is until a coworker (Danny Glover) imparts his secret of success. That recipe is using his “white voice”. Those voices are provided by recognizable faces for main characters including David Cross, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt. Cassius suddenly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder once the modulation happens. It leads him to gain the designation of “Power Caller”. That means moving to a swanky floor where only the Caucasian voice is allowed to be used. This also means he becomes a scab to his fellow workers and to Detroit. His financial rise soon puts him in touch with the leaders of WorryFree and its CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).

Once that partnership is forged, Sorry to Bother You veers into genuinely unexpected directions (trust me on this one). Riley, however, never strays too far from the overall message. He’s got a fine cast to deliver it. Stanfield (best known for his supporting role in Get Out) is terrific and we’ve certainly never seen Hammer like this before. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments. One involves a passive aggressive argument Cassius has with friend and coworker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). Another pertains to Steve’s unexpected reaction to Cassius’s reaction when a key plot point is revealed.

When we get to the third act, its unconventional tone gallops into an entirely new gear. It’s not totally successful, but I found myself admiring Riley’s kitchen sink approach to it. For viewers looking for something that’s often remarkably different, Bother hits those notes with enough frequency for a solid recommendation.

***1/2 (out of four)