Oscar Watch: The Way Back

Ben Affleck has certainly had a fascinating history with Oscar voters. He’s a double winner who has never been nominated for the profession he’s known best for. In 1997, Affleck (along with Matt Damon) took home the Best Original Screenplay trophy for Good Will Hunting. Fifteen years later, his directorial effort Argo was named Best Picture and as a producer, he picked up his second Academy Award. However, he’s one of the few filmmakers whose project was victorious in the biggest race while he was snubbed in the directing category.

This Friday, Affleck stars in Gavin O’Connor’s basketball drama The Way Back. Playing a coach battling addiction problems, some early reviews are calling it his finest performance to date. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 85%. O’Connor’s previous sports related picture, 2011’s Warrior, nabbed Nick Nolte a Best Supporting Actor nod.

In addition to being ignored for Director with Argo, Affleck also failed to garner a Best Actor nod. As mentioned, he’s yet to pick up recognition in that space. There was some buzz he could get a nomination alongside his Gone Girl costar Rosamund Pike in 2014, but it never materialized.

Could The Way Back change that? Doubtful. The release date is awfully early and box office prospects don’t look too encouraging. Affleck could get a second bite at the apple in December with Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. That historical drama features the actor in a supporting role alongside Damon and Adam Driver. Affleck cowrote the screenplay and we could see another example of his writing skills being noticed as opposed to his own performance. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Way Back Box Office Prediction

Director Gavin O’Connor is known for his sports dramas like 2004’s Olympic hockey recounting Miracle with Kurt Russell and the MMA pic Warrior starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. The filmmaker is back in the genre next weekend with The Way Back, which centers on Ben Affleck as a basketball coach struggling with addiction. Costars include Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar, and Glynn Turman.

O’Connor’s biggest box office opening came outside the genre in 2016 with his thriller The Accountant, which also starred Affleck. That pic surprised prognosticators with a debut of nearly $25 million. Miracle had the Disney marketing machine behind it (and a well-known story about a game that just celebrated its 40th anniversary). It made nearly $20 million. On the other hand, Warrior struggled with just over $5 million.

The Way Back, despite Affleck promoting it all over sports media, is not expected to be a breakout success. Solid reviews (not out yet) could help it achieve more than the expected  range of high single to low double digits. As of now, that general forecast appears likely.

The Way Back opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my Onward prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/27/onward-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Last Thing He Wanted

In 2017, the period drama Mudbound likely just missed the cut for Best Picture consideration at the Oscars. The critically hailed Netflix production from director Dee Rees arrived at a time where Academy voters were probably still leery of the streaming service garnering significant nods. Mary J. Blige did manage a nomination for Supporting Actress.

Mudbound started its awards buzz at the Sundance Film Festival three years ago. Rees’s follow-up is the political thriller The Last Thing He Wanted and it’s also scheduled for a Netflix bow in February. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Edi Gathegi, Mel Rodriguez, Toby Jones, and Willem Dafoe in this adaptation from a Joan Didion novel.

The acclaim that greeted Rees and her picture three years ago has not repeated itself in 2020. The Last Thing currently sits at 0% (oof) on Rotten Tomatoes with reviews declaring it a serious misfire from a gifted filmmaker. The festival circuit frequently pushes along movies for consideration. It can also have the opposite effect of shutting those prospects down completely. And that’s where this seems bound. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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 Jojo Rabbit

In my blog series laying out the cases for and against the Oscar nominees in major categories, we arrive at the third picture for consideration. That would be Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. If you missed the first two posts covering Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman, you can find 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/

Let’s hop on it!

The Case for Jojo Rabbit

Viewers who like Jojo REALLY like it. With confusion regarding which handful of contenders like 1917, Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Joker, or The Irishman might win, Jojo could nab enough first place votes to sneak in. The satire that blends wild comedy with pathos is certainly unique and it even has comedy legend Mel Brook singing its praises. Taika Waititi is one of the hottest directors of the moment as he followed up Thor: Ragnarok with this and is now attached to an Akira remake and future Star Wars projects.

The Case Against Jojo Rabbit

Despite Waititi’s popularity, he missed out on a Best Director nomination. He was nominated by the Directors Guild. It’s very rare for the Best Picture winner to not have its maker named in the directing final five. That said, it has happened twice this decade with Argo/Ben Affleck and Green Book/Peter Farrelly. There are box office heavy hitters aplenty in the final nine this year and Jojo isn’t one of them with $22 million currently stateside. The 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating is also on the low end of the scale.

The Verdict

There’s no doubt that Jojo winning would be a major upset, though I would say it’s got the best chance of the pictures where the director isn’t nominated. That still doesn’t change the fact that it would rank 6th of out 9. Still, it’s a wide open year…

Up next in my Case of posts… Joker!

2018 FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

We’ve had months of predictions and endless speculation on this blog about the 2018 Oscars and now it’s come to this. On Sunday, the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will air with your host…

As you’ve likely read, there actually is no emcee for this year’s ceremony. I’m not here to write about that. I’m here to make my final picks for the winners! Let’s break down each race one by one, shall we? And, of course, I’ll have a piece up Sunday night with my thoughts on how it all went down.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Analysis: First things first. It’s extremely rare that the winner here doesn’t have its director nominated. Therefore, two films that might have served as the biggest competition to Roma could now be seen as longer shots: A Star Is Born and Green Book. You could correctly point out that Argo achieved a victory just six years ago without Ben Affleck getting an individual nod. However, it had been 23 years prior to that (Driving Miss Daisy) when it had occurred previously. BlacKkKlansman and The Favourite are upset possibilities, but the smart money is on Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix Mexican drama and it would mark the streaming service’s first win in the big race.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Director

Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Analysis: I feel even more confident that Cuaron will take the gold here, even if Roma somehow comes up short in Picture. He’s run the table on precursors, including the DGA prize. It would be his second win in five years, after winning for 2013’s Gravity.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Analysis: This is a tough one as Malek and Bale have split a number of precursors. With the SAG Awards, I deemed it a coin flip and picked Malek. I was right. At the Golden Globes, they both won due to category splits. I won’t be surprised to see either win, but my 50/50 feeling going with Malek worked before

Predicted Winner: Malek

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Aparicio and McCarthy should be honored to be nominated. Colman and Gaga are threats, but Close has fared best in previous ceremonies and there’s the fact that she’s a highly respected performer who’s yet to win despite multiple nods.

Predicted Winner: Close

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Analysis: This category features the last two Oscar winners as Ali won in 2016 for Moonlight and Rockwell took it last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have far different chances to become two-time victors. Ali is the front-runner. Supporting Actor has seen upsets, but Ali looks strong.

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Marina de Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: Even though King didn’t get a SAG nod, they bestowed their award to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and she’s not even nominated. An Adams name call is feasible since she’s never won, but King will probably be crowned Sunday evening.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Star could perhaps shine here, but this really feels like the race where voters will recognize BlacKkKlansman. 

Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Analysis: This one is legitimately difficult and I think you can make a case for all of them. Roma is a distinct possibility as the Picture favorite and Green Book could make a showing. Yet my slight favorite here is The Favourite.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

Analysis: This could be interesting. As revealed above, Roma is my Picture pick. So it’s automatic that it wins here right? Not so fast. Cold War could get the consolation prize and I feel that’s even more possible since it nabbed a surprise nod for director Pawel Pawlikowski. I’m tempted to pick it, but I’ll say Roma manages the double win. However, if you wish to get creative in your office pool, this could be the race to do it.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Analysis: Pixar has dominated this field for years. In most years, it would be risky to bet against them – therefore Incredibles 2. This might be the year to do it as SpiderMan arrived late in the year, swung the momentum, and swept the precursors.

Predicted Winner: SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG

Analysis: One of the biggest shockers when nominations came out was the omission of Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I likely would’ve picked it to win had it been nominated. Now I believe this is between Solo and RBG. Reverence for the latter could swing it that way, but I’ll give a small edge to Solo.

Predicted Winner: Free Solo

Best Film Editing

Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

Analysis: Bohemian Rhapsody won the significant precursor for its branch and The Favourite or BlacKkKlansman could factor in as well. My gut says Vice may get this one, however.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Major love for the foreign pics here and Cold War has a shot. This is probably Roma’s race to lose though.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Production Design

Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma

Analysis: This one comes down to Panther and Favourite in my view and I’ll give the latter an ever so slight edge,

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots

Analysis: Like Production Design, Panther and Favourite are the favorites. The best bet could be The Favourite, but Panther has to win something right?

Predicted Winner: Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice

Analysis: A Border win isn’t out of the question, but Vice is the likely recipient here.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma

Analysis: First Man and Panther could get this, but that Wembley Stadium sequence could cause Rhapsody to achieve gold status.

Predicted Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Even though Star didn’t get in the other Sound race, Mixing seems like where it could be picked. I wouldn’t count out First Man, but I’ll guess Star wins here.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Analysis: It was a bit surprising that Black Panther missed the cut here. Its MCU counterpart Infinity is possible, but I’ll say this is the sole victory for First Man.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Score

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns

Analysis: Another chance for Panther lies here, but I’m going with a coin flip between BlacKkKlansman and Beale Street.

Predicted Winner: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “I’ll Fight” from RBG, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Analysis: My last race is the easiest. “Shallow” is the massive favorite here.

Predicted Winner: “Shallowfrom A Star Is Born

And there you have it. Enjoy the show Sunday night!

The DGA Goes Roma

The Directors Guild of America bestowed their honors yesterday and it was yet again a big night for the Mexican drama Roma. The acclaimed Netflix effort won Outstanding Directing for a Feature Film for its maker Alfonso Cuaron. It’s his second DGA prize after winning for Gravity in 2013.

This particular award has rightly been seen as a harbinger for what will occur at the Oscars. In this decade, the DGA victor has gone onto win the Academy directing race seven out of eight times. The lone exception was in 2012 when Ben Affleck took the Guild trophy for Argo and surprisingly wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar.

Simply put, the DGA solidifies Cuaron’s position as the strong front-runner for Best Director and increases the chances for Roma emerging as the winner for Best Picture. Any other name called last night could’ve boosted their standing as a threat to Cuaron, but it didn’t happen. His Oscar night is looking good in three weeks.