Black Widow Review

The Marvel movies have become as American as apple pie. Or “American Pie” since that Don McLean ditty is featured prominently in Black Widow, a stand-alone feature designed to fill some backstory of Scarlett Johansson’s OG Avenger. Is it necessary? That’s debatable. However, the unexpected COVID layoff of nearly two years between MCU titles and some solid performances makes this a welcome addition to the franchise.

I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t taken in the rest of the cinematic universe so there’s your warning. Avengers: Endgame marked the demise of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as she went out in self sacrificial fashion. Her previous sacrifices for a darker cause are explored here. The film opens in 1995 Ohio with Natasha and her little sister Yelena being raised by parents Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz). It’s all a front, though, as mom and dad aren’t really their folks. They are Russian spies on a mission for General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and once the Midwest job is completed, the fake family unit is broken apart.

Natasha, of course, grows up to be the fighter we have seen in numerous other blockbusters beginning with Iron Man 2 and so on. Yelena grows up to take the form of Florence Pugh and she gets her training as well through Dreykov along with numerous other orphaned girls turned assassins. As far as timeline purposes go, Black Widow happens between the actions of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. That’s when The Avengers were experiencing their roughest patch with Tony Stark and Captain America at odds and the others being forced to choose sides.

Since Natasha is a wanted woman by the U.S. Government, she reunites with her long lost “sister” and “parents” in Budapest (remember to pronounce the SH sound in the word) in an effort to stop Dreykov’s mind control of his female army. Unlike other MCU pics, this truly is a stand-alone piece. None of the other Avengers are present and that gives time for new secondary characters to shine. Foremost among them is Yelena and the winning performance given by Pugh. She makes enough of an impression that I hope for her future involvement in other chapters. Harbour is good for a few comedic highlights as he reminisces about his time as Red Guardian (when he apparently had some battles with Captain America).

The MCU always comes down to bloodline dynamics and it is in abundant supply here. If Black Widow previously felt like a slightly underdeveloped character, there’s enough familiar familial dynamics to check off some boxes. Where Black Widow is weakest is not in the action sequences. They’re as first-rate as you’d expect. Cate Shortland makes her first contribution to the series in the director’s chair and she and the tech team certainly get a passing grade. The film’s liability is the villain Dreykov who doesn’t make much of an impression in the fairly short amount of screen time he’s given. This is not a unique flaw in the MCU. For every Loki or Thanos, there seems to be a handful of forgettable baddies.

We already said bye-bye to Johansson’s Black Widow once, but this callback to a time before her heroic departure proves the levee isn’t dry when it comes to her entertainment value. And it also shows she leaves behind previously unknown associates that could provide more highlights.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Tomorrow War

Chris Pratt is no stranger to his pictures getting nominated in the Visual Effects race at the Oscars. However, this is limited to his participation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Neither Jurassic World or its sequel made the VE cut.

Mr. Pratt headlines another sci-fi spectacle with The Tomorrow War, debuting on Amazon Prime today. Budgeted in the $200 million range, the pic comes from Chris McKay (making his live-action directorial debut after helming The Lego Batman Movie). Costars include Yvonne Strahovski, Betty Gilpin, and J.K. Simmons. Originally slated for a December 2020 theatrical release, Tomorrow was relegated to streaming due to its COVID delay. It’s now out on Independence Day weekend and some critics have compared it to the 1996 summer blockbuster that shares its name with the holiday.

When it comes to awards attention, Visual Effects is the only possibility here. Reviews are middling as it currently sits at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. The VE branch can be an unpredictable one (remember that Love and Monsters nod last year?). That said, my hunch is that Tomorrow will be ignored by voters months down the line. The competition should be steep (more so than last year) with Dune, Eternals, Top Gun: Maverick, and others.

Bottom line: expect the MCU to still be Pratt’s filmography represented when it comes to souped up special effects.

Oscar Watch: Black Widow

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unless the film is named Black Panther, your best hope is to contend in Visual Effects at the Oscars and probably lose. This brings us to Black Widow, the 24th entry in the MCU that opens July 9th in theaters and on Disney Plus streaming. The stand-alone pic focused on Scarlett Johansson’s title character had its review embargo lifted today and results are mostly positive thus far. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently stands at 86%.

Johansson’s costars (Florence Pugh particularly) are getting the bulk of critical kudos. That said, no actor in an MCU flick has made the cut in those categories and it won’t start here. 10 of the previous 23 franchise blockbusters (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) have landed slots in Visual Effects. As far as victories go – they are 0 for 10. In fact, only Panther (which nabbed a Best Picture nod) has won anything. It went 3 for 7 on Oscar night 2019 by taking Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design.

Just over half of Marvel’s creations have received zero recognition from the Academy. Black Widow should face an uphill battle in Visual Effects. Late year arrivals like Dune and Top Gun: Maverick are just two possibilities outside of this cinematic universe. Then there’s the matter of 3 more hopeful MCU titles: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and (perhaps especially) Eternals. Bottom line: there’s a better chance of Black Widow not showing up anywhere at next year’s ceremony. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Cherry

Cherry marks the fourth collaboration between directors Anthony and Joe Russo and actor Tom Holland and it’s the first time the lead star isn’t sporting a Spider-Man outfit in it. The crime drama casts him as a soldier who’s turned to a life of crime. Costars include Ciara Bravo and Jack Reynor.

The pic hits theaters in limited fashion on February 26th which grants it 2020 Oscar eligibility. It streams on Apple TV starting March 12th. The review embargo has yet to lift, but social media reaction from critics is out. Bottom line: Cherry is highly unlikely to be picked by awards voters in any races.

Much of the reaction indicates this is a misfire. As mentioned, the Russos have had tremendous success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with Holland’s participation in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers pics. Before the recent buzz, Holland was looked at as an outside possibility for Best Actor. Yet that chatter should dissipate quickly if it hasn’t already. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 10-6

We have reached the top ten in my personal favorite performances from the dozens of Saturday Night Live alumni. Today’s list covers numbers 10-6 and if you missed my previous editions, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/24/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-15-11/

Let’s get to it!

10. Randy Quaid, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Ahhh, Cousin Eddie. One of the funniest supporting characters in film history with Quaid’s performance as the black sheep of the Griswald family. He was great in Vacation as well, but his work in the Yuletide classic gets the nod. Quaid only appeared in one ill-fated season of the show from 1985-86.

9. Kristin Wiig, Bridesmaids (2011)

Wiig is one of the greatest SNL performers period and her first starring role was a blockbuster showcase for her immense talents. Her costar Maya Rudolph deserves a shout out for her performance as well.

8. Eddie Murphy, The Nutty Professor (1996)

Beyond his terrific work as Sherman Klump and Buddy Love, this update of the Jerry Lewis tale also finds the versatile star hilariously playing nearly every member of the Klump clan under Rick Baker’s amazing makeup work. This was deservedly a major comeback vehicle for Murphy.

7. Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man (2008)

People tend to forget that Downey was a cast member in the forgettable 1985-86 season that Quaid was a part of. There’s other performances that I could have included here (including other Avengers work), but I’ll give his first appearance in his signature role the attention it warrants.

6. John Belushi, National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

This is the first breakout role for a SNL cast member and it’s absolutely one of the best with Belushi’s iconic performance as John Blutarsky (or Bluto). You can still find his photo chugging Jack Daniels in many a college dorm across the country.

We will reach the top 5 in short order! Stat tuned…

Batman Forever Ago: A Quarter Century Box Office Report

Earlier this week (on Tuesday), Batman Forever celebrated its 25th anniversary of release. For those who may not recall, this was when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise from Tim Burton and Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. Tommy Lee Jones (coming off an Oscar for The Fugitive) and Jim Carrey (the hottest comedic star in America after the one-two-three punch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber) costarred as villains Two-Face and The Riddler, respectively. Nicole Kidman was in the mix as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s love interest and Chris O’Donnell was introduced as Robin. Sounds like a recipe for a box office bonanza right? Indeed it was.

In mid June 1995, Forever scored the best opening weekend of all time and was the first feature to make over $50 million in its first three days. The $52.7 million tally topped the previous record holder from two summers before (a little something called Jurassic Park). Forever would hold the title for two years before being toppled by… The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 

The all-time premiere record has since changed 11 times, including in 2008 with another Batflick The Dark Knight at $158 million. The current holder is Avengers: Endgame at $357 million. And that right there shows how much times have changed. In a quarter century, the first frame of Endgame made 7x that of Forever. Higher ticket prices are certainly a factor. Yet in 25 years, Val Kilmer’s grapples with Jim Carrey went from a highest ever start to now 225th. By the way, 224th place belongs to… The Lego Batman Movie! And now, Forever lags behind such forgettable material as The Nun, The Karate Kid remake, Valentine’s Day, and DC’s own hugely disappointing Green Lantern.

Speaking of disappointing, I’m certainly of the opinion that Forever was just that as far as quality. It’s not nearly as bad at what followed with Schumacher’s sequel Batman & Robin. However, it was a big letdown from what Burton accomplished before and what Christopher Nolan achieved a decade later with the start of The Dark Knight trilogy. What remains is an interesting snapshot in time when a $50 million debut was new territory and it took the Bat Signal (even a rather mediocre one) to get there.

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Actor

I was rewatching Avengers: Endgame over the weekend and it once again struck me how many famous actors are in that thing. I mean… seriously. It’s rather amazing. This got me thinking and yes, current world events may have given me an opportunity to do so:

Just how many performers that have been in Marvel Cinematic Universe entries have won Oscars or been nominated for Oscars? I knew the number would be high, but the answer still astonished me. In fact, you have to back to 1981 for a year where no actor that eventually appeared in the MCU didn’t receive a nomination.

If you count Marvel’s next two pictures (Black Widow, The Eternals) and then count the 23 movies prior that started in 2008 with Iron Man, it encapsulates 110 acting nominations and 20 wins! I am not yet putting Christian Bale in there though he’s rumored to be playing the villain in the fourth Thor flick. I’ll wait for confirmation on that. If you did count Bale, the numbers go to 114 nods and 21 Academy victories.

Due to this research, I’m writing 4 blog posts dedicated to each acting race and we begin with Best Actor:

The leading man category makes up 33 out of the 110 nominations with 6 wins. The victorious gentlemen are as follows:

Jeff Bridges, the main baddie in Iron Man, won in 2009 for Crazy Heart

William Hurt, who appeared in The Incredible Hulk and other MCU titles, took Best Actor in 1985 for Kiss of the Spider Woman

Anthony Hopkins, aka Thor’s Dad, was stage bound in 1991 for his iconic role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Ben Kingsley, who sparred with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, is a 1982 recipient in the title role of Gandhi

Michael Douglas, who appeared in both Ant-Man pics, was Best Actor in 1987 for Wall Street

Forest Whitaker, who costarred in Black Panther, took gold in 2006 for The Last King of Scotland

Aside from the winners, here are the other 27 Actor nods:

Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., for 1992’s Chaplin

Terrence Howard, who was in the first Iron Man, for 2005’s Hustle & Flow

Jeff Bridges scored two additional nominations for 1984’s Starman and 2010’s True Grit

Edward Norton, who was Hulk before Mark Ruffalo, for 1998’s American History X

William Hurt, like fellow winner Bridges, also landed two other nods for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God and 1987’s Broadcast News

Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2 and more, for 2004’s Hotel Rwanda

Mickey Rourke, the villain in Iron Man 2, for 2008’s The Wrestler

Anthony Hopkins, following his Lambs victory, was nominated twice more for 1993’s The Remains of the Day and 1995’s Nixon

Tommy Lee Jones, from Captain America: First Avenger, for 2007’s In the Valley of Elah

Jeremy Renner, aka Hawkeye, for his breakthrough role in 2009’s The Hurt Locker

Robert Redford, who was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, surprisingly only has one acting nod for 1973’s The Sting. He is, however, a twice nominated director and won in 1980 for Ordinary People 

Bradley Cooper, Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, has been nominated thrice with no wins: 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, 2014’s American Sniper, and 2018’s A Star Is Born

Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Doctor Strange, for 2014’s The Imitation Game

Chiwetel Ejiofor, also in Doctor Strange, for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Sylvester Stallone, who popped up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, for his signature role in 1976’s Rocky

Michael Keaton, the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming, for 2014’s Birdman

Matt Damon, who had a memorable cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, is twice nominated for 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2015’s The Martian

Daniel Kaluuya, Black Panther costar, for 2017’s Get Out

Laurence Fishburne, supporting player in Ant-Man and the Wasp, as Ike Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It

Jude Law, from Captain Marvel, for 2003’s Cold Mountain 

Whew. And there you have it. I’ll be back at it shortly with the Best Actress nominees who got their Marvel on!

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 Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

My Case of posts for this year’s major Oscar contenders continues with my second entry in Best Actress – Scarlett Johansson in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Let’s get to it!

The Case for Scarlett Johansson

Despite acclaimed roles in films including Lost in Translation and Match Point, Johansson had yet to be nominated for an Academy Award until now. That’s a bit surprising considering she’s the highest grossing actress in box office history (thanks mostly to The Avengers pics). She not only scored her first nod, but her second in Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit (that post will be up shortly). Considering she also appeared in 2019’s biggest blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, it was quite an amazing year for ScarJo and voters might be obliged to reward her for it.

The Case Against Scarlett Johansson

Despite a few critics groups awards here and there, she’s come up short with major precursors. There is a front runner for this race as Renee Zellweger (Judy) is continually picking up the hardware. Marriage Story itself has fallen behind over the past couple of months as to potential wins. Only Johansson’s costar Laura Dern is looking solid for a victory based on what’s already occurred.

The Verdict

Very few performers have earned a double nomination in the same year. In fact, she’s only the eighth in 70 years plus. Four of the previous seven garnered one win of the two nods. ScarJo, however, has a tough hill to climb.

My Case of posts will continue with our second player in Supporting Actor… Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes!

2019 Oscar Nominations Reaction

Well, folks, the Oscar nominations were out bright and early this morning. Per usual, there were some genuine surprises and omissions that will have Twitter buzzing right up until the ceremony February 9th.

Readers of the blog know that I spend months trying to put the puzzle together on who and what will be nominated. My results today? Out of the 109 predictions made, 88 of them came to fruition. In the eight biggest categories, there were four that I got all nominees correct… including Best Picture. Truth be told, I’m pretty pleased with my results!

Before we break it down race by race, some general comments. As for movies that had a disappointing wakeup call, there were numerous entries that had possibilities in the major categories and beyond. Those left on the cutting room floor include Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Us. Another movie barely left standing was Rocketman. I had it pegged for five nominations, but it managed just a single mention in Original Song.

For the films that did make it in, Joker scored the most nominations (somewhat of a surprise) with 11 followed by The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with 10 apiece.

With some of my analysis here, you’ll see strong indications on what my winner forecast might be. Expect that post to be up a couple of days before the ceremony.

And with that, let’s break it down!

Best Picture

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

How I Did: 9/9 (!)

Analysis: For Oscar prognosticators, just getting the correct number of films that are nominated is an accomplishment. It can fluctuate anywhere between 5 and 10. Nine felt correct for some time and I’ve had these ones predicted for several weeks. As for a winner, I feel six of them have at least decent to strong shots. I’m nowhere near ready to crown a victor.

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)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It was Phillips riding the Joker wave over Greta Gerwig for Little Women. Like Picture, this race feels wide open and it could come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes.

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)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: With so many contenders in the running, going 4 for 5 here feels like more of an accomplishment that naming the Best Pic nominees. It was Pryce getting a slot over Taron Egerton in Rocketman. Banderas and Pryce are first time nominees. It looks like Phoenix could sweep awards season and that gives him his first win.

Best Actress

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

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: 100% here and like Best Actor, there’s a strong front runner with Zellweger. If so, she’d pick up her second statue after being named Supporting Actress for 2003’s Cold Mountain. 

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)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: What a list of legends we have here! There’s some interesting tidbits to share. Every nominee here has won an Oscar. Yet it’s been some time since most were nominated – Pesci since 1990 for GoodFellas, Pacino since 1992 for his double nod with Scent of a Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross, Hopkins since 1997 (Amistad), and rather shockingly, Hanks… who has his first nomination since 2000 with Cast Away. Pitt, on the other hand, is the most recent nominee for his acting (2011’s Moneyball). However, he’s the only one of the five to never win the Oscar for his performances (he does have an Oscar for producing 2013’s 12 Years a Slave). Got all that? And here’s the last word on that… Pitt seems destined to join their company in February as a winner.

Best Supporting Actress

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now we get to the first genuine shocker and that’s Jennifer Lopez not being nominated for Hustlers. Bates takes her spot. Lopez was generally seen as close to a sure thing for recognition and I’ve had her listed at #2 behind Dern for weeks. This only helps Dern for her first podium walk.

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: This has looked like the final five for a while now and this could represent the best chance for a major win for The Irishman. That said, I wouldn’t count Jojo or Joker completely out.

Best Original Screenplay

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: No love for The Farewell here with 1917 getting in. Tarantino is a soft favorite over Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Best Internation Feature Film

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

How I Did: 3/5

Les Mis, Pain, and Parasite were automatics. The last two spots were tricky to forecast and I had Atlantics and Those Who Remained instead. Honeyland pulled off a notable achievement by being named here and in Documentary. Bottom line: this is the easiest race of them all to project. It’s going to be Parasite. 

Best Animated Feature

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Next big surprise as Disney’s Frozen II was frozen out with Klaus taking the spot. Toy Story 4 is the favorite, but I don’t discount the possibility of an upset here (with Dragon and Body as potential spoilers).

Best Documentary Feature

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

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: The documentary branch is always unpredictable and that proved accurate this morning. Apollo 11 and One Child Nation were the two I had in over The Cave and The Edge of Democracy. Netflix’s American Factory (the first doc from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company) appears to be the leader of the pack.

Best Cinematography

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I had Ford v Ferrari over Lighthouse. This looks to be a win for 1917. 

Best Costume Design

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

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Surprises here with Dolemite Is My Name and Rocketman being ignored in favor of The Irishman and Joker. I even thought the two I predicted had real shots at winning. This one could be between Women and Hollywood. 

Best Film Editing

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now this one is interesting! I had Hollywood in and not Jojo. Why is Editing important? Of any category at the Oscars, a nomination here means a lot to the eventual Best Picture winner. The last movie to win the big prize and not be nominated for Editing is 2014’s Birdman. And that’s really an asterisk since it was filmed in one long continuous shot (though the same basically holds true for 1917). Before that, the last Best Picture winner recipient to not score a nod here? You have to go all the way back to 1980’s Ordinary People. In other words, the snub for Hollywood here could mean something. Perhaps it will be an outlier. Yet I feel it’s key for ballot guessers to know that only two BP winners haven’t been recognized here in the past 40 years…

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

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

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Hollywood and Rocketman out and Maleficent and 1917 in. Expect this to be the sole win for Bombshell.

Best Original Score

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

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: Back to perfection! Joker has gotten the precursor love, but 1917 is a threat.

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

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: This category is a head scratcher. I had “Spirit” from The Lion King and “Glasgow” from Wild Rose in over the Toy Story and Breakthrough tracks. This should be a contest between Elton John’s Rocketman tune and the Frozen song. However, both films were significantly snubbed in other categories as mentioned above. The one thing I do know… this branch clearly loves tracks that begin with the letter I.

Best Production Design

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Little Women over Parasite. This could definitely be a W for Hollywood.

Best Sound Editing

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

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Avengers: Endgame over Joker. In both sound races, this should be between Ford and 1917.

Best Sound Mixing 

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

How I Did: 3/5

Had Rocketman and Skywalker over Astra and Hollywood. See Sound Editing above.

Best Visual Effects

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

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: I’m glad this category is last alphabetically so I can end on a high note! I lean Lion King, but that could change.

And that does it for my nominations recap! As stated, expect winner predictions shortly before February 9th!