Oscar Predictions: Eternals

Chloe Zhao was the big winner at the previous Academy Awards when Nomadland took Best Picture and she became the second female filmmaker to take the trophy for her direction. Her follow-up is a high profile one in Marvel’s Eternals, which opens November 5th and had its review embargo lifted today.

With an eclectic cast including Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie, MCU entry #26 is undoubtedly one of 2021’s most anticipated blockbusters. However, critical reaction is certainly mixed. The 74% Rotten Tomatoes score is on the lower side for this series. Just this year, Black Widow stands at 79% while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings got to 92%.

Any thought of Zhao’s having two Best Picture winners or nominees in a row (or being mentioned again in Director) has fallen by the wayside. The one race where I did feel hope for Eternals sprung was in Visual Effects. That could still happen, but I’m not near as confident. Competition will be fairly strong. Dune is easily the frontrunner and will likely win. Other notable contenders include The Matrix Resurrections, Don’t Look Up, Godzilla vs. Kong, Nightmare Alley, Jungle Cruise, Finch, and Free Guy. And then there’s the other MCU rivals like Shang-Chi and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

There could still be room for Eternals in VE, but I’m thinking it may on the outside looking in. Even some of the reviews aren’t gushing about the visuals. Bottom line: Eternals took itself out of the running for the big races and could be iffy in the one tech competition where I thought it stood an excellent shot. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Watch: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Ahead of its Labor Day weekend bow in theaters only, Disney has lifted its review embargo for the 25th Marvel Cinematic Universe pic. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is garnering positive reaction to the tune of a current 91% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Many reviews point out that it closely follows the MCU formula, but there’s enough to make it highly recommendable. Despite the many kudos, I don’t see anything that indicates a play for Best Picture (where Black Panther still is the studio’s sole nominee in that race).

Instead Shang-Chi‘s possibilities at awards attention should come down to where most MCU titles are viable. That’s in Best Visual Effects. Early buzz suggests it may be strong enough in that space to qualify. However, it will face numerous competitors with three coming from its own multi-billion dollar franchise.

I do think it has a better shot at making the final five than the already out Black Widow. Yet Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home loom. It’s worth noting that neither Spider-Man entry from the MCU (Homecoming or Far From Home) made the cut. Eternals could be the biggest in-house competitor. Then we have plenty of other hopefuls. Some have premiered and they include Godzilla vs. Kong, Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, The Suicide Squad, and Free Guy. Some await like Dune and The Matrix 4.

Bottom line: there’s much to be determined, but Shang-Chi could certainly be the MCU’s nominee in VE. I doubt it will be the fourth picture with Rings in the name to win (as Peter Jackson’s trilogy did). After all, 10 of Marvel’s flicks have nabbed a nod for their visuals. None have won. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Labor Day Box Office

Quick! Tell me everything you remember about the 2009 rom com All About Steve? Search that memory! My guess is not much. It stars Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper and it’s certainly not what most moviegoers remember about the two actors from that particular year. To be fair, they both hit career milestones 12 years ago. Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side. Cooper became a household name that summer in The Hangover. 

All About Steve won some awards as well. Not the kind that gets bragged about. The pic took home two Golden Raspberry trophies for Worst On Screen Couple and for Bullock as Worst Actress. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 6%. And it’s largely a forgotten blip on the filmographies of two accomplished performers.

Yet it does currently stand at #10 when it comes to biggest Labor Day openings in box office history. That’s because Labor Day weekend has traditionally not been a time for studios to release hoped for blockbusters. In normal times, that frame is generally seen as one in which the summer season is winding down and the fall projects are gearing up. It’s kind of an in between time.

The distinction for highest premiere over the holiday belongs to 2007’s Halloween (the reboot by Rob Zombie). It made $30 million out of the gate.

When you get down to Steve in tenth, the take is a mere $14 million for the four-day gross. There’s other pics you might have conveniently forgot about on that list. How about the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury with George Lopez and Christopher Walken? It’s #8 (also with $14 million). There’s the musical doc One Direction: This Is Us which is perched in fourth with $18 million. Jeepers Creepers and its sequel both make appearances.

Why the Labor Day history lesson? Because Disney is about to go against the grain and release their newest Marvel Cinematic Universe product in what has usually been a quiet time.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens September 3rd and hopes to blow away Halloween‘s current record. It should have no problem doing just that. However, it also risks having the designation of being the MCU’s smallest opener. The current mark belongs to The Incredible Hulk at $55 million.

Current projections have Rings doing about $50 million for the Friday to Monday frame. It may certainly exceed that and early word-of-mouth is encouraging (my official prediction will be up on Tuesday or Wednesday). Unlike Black Widow, the house that Mickey built is not making Rings simultaneously available for a $30 fee on Disney Plus.

There’s a case to be made that the 25th MCU flick faces challenges no other has. Black Widow had the advantage of a well-known character at the center. That helped propel the stand-alone entry to an $80 million bow as COVID continues to be a hindrance to earning power. Shang-Chi introduces a whole new group of players to this multi-billion cinematic universe. That didn’t hurt Guardians of the Galaxy or Black Panther, but they both had sizzling buzz leading to their unveilings.

So what will be talked about more in two weeks? The nearly certain record Rings will accomplish with its record Labor Day haul? Or the possibility that it sets a low mark for its practically never miss franchise? One thing is clear: Machete will drop down to spot 10 in all-time Labor Day beginnings. And there will nothing to see in the top ten about All About Steve.

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…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Chadwick Boseman

My Case Of posts have reached the second performer for Best Actor at the Oscars and that’s the late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. If you missed my first post focused on Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/28/oscars-2020-the-case-of-riz-ahmed/

The Case for Chadwick Boseman

Despite acclaimed work in 42, Get On Up, Marshall, and Black Panther, his role as Levee Green in the Netflix drama marks Boseman’s first Academy nod. Premiering three months after his passing, critics hailed this as a career best performance. Boseman has swept the key precursors thus far such as the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. If he wins the SAG Award this evening, that’s a clean sweep. One could even argue that his omission in Supporting Actor for Da 5 Bloods is a sign that voters will honor him here.

The Cast Against Chadwick Boseman

You have to go back 11 years since a Best Actor winner’s movie wasn’t nominated for Best Picture (Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart). All four of his fellow nominees are appearing in BP contenders. Of those four, Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) have their ardent supporters.

The Verdict

Best Actor is not a race in which upsets often happen. Anyone other than Boseman taking the gold would constitute one. He is likely to become the first posthumous winner in this category since Peter Finch in Network.

My Case Of posts will continue with Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy…

2020 SAG Awards Winner Predictions

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards airs this Easter Sunday evening in an abridged hour long ceremony and, as usual, it could carry significant Oscar implications as to who the frontrunners truly are. That means it’s time for me to put my forecasting hat on and give it my best shot with predictions.

Let’s break it down category by category, shall we? I’ll provide my runner-up selection as well.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari, One Night in Miami, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Analysis: Interestingly, the last two films in the big race (Black Panther, Parasite) won without a single nomination in the individual acting races. That had only happened two times previously between 1995-2017 with 1997’s The Full Monty and 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That will not happen for 2020’s selections as all five have at least one performer contending in a separate category.

However, in a rare occurrence, only two of the five ensembles here landed a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. Those are Minari and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Only once in SAG’s history has a movie emerged victorious here without a BP Oscar nod (1996’s The Birdcage). This serves as my annual reminder that SAG picks the best cast and not the best movie.

Truth be told, Da 5 Bloods is the only pic that I believe has little chance at winning here. Yet Ma Rainey and Miami are likely at a disadvantage due to precedent. That leaves us with Minari and Trial. The latter has seen its Oscar momentum stalled in recent weeks, but its sprawling cast could finally get the major precursor victory that it’s been missing. I’m tempted to pick it and it might be the safe choice.

Minari, on the other hand, has gained steamed recently and emerged as a potential upset winner at the Oscars against Nomadland (as has Promising Young Woman, which missed here). I’m choosing to go with the picture with the hotter hand.

Predicted Winner: Minari

Runner-Up: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Analysis: The Golden Globe winner in this category (Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday) isn’t featured here. Therefore we can take a precursor sweep off the table for Best Actress. Adams is the sole nominee without an Oscar nomination so she’s out of contention. Mulligan has the Critics Choice Award and is looked at as the prohibitive favorite from the Academy. She’s the most likely SAG winner. Davis and McDormand could upset, but I’m relatively confident with this pick.

Predicted Winner: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Runner-Up: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari)

Analysis: There’s a five for five match here with the Academy, but I find this SAG lineup to be a bit more complicated due to other factors. While Boseman has taken the Globes and Critics Choice, his nod in Supporting Actor with the actors guild for Da 5 Bloods (if he wins there) opens the door for either Ahmed or Hopkins. That wouldn’t totally shock me, but it’s hard to predict against Boseman and I won’t.

Predicted Winner: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Runner-Up: Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Yuh-jung Youn (Minari), Helena Zengel (News of the World)

Analysis: Now this is a tough one. The Supporting Actress derby in the precursors has been a true head scratcher. Like in Best Actress, Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) is nowhere to be found (she missed at the Oscars too). Colman and Zengel are the two performers who are highly unlikely to take the prize. This is a genuine three person race between Bakalova, Close, and Youn. Bakalova seems to have momentum with a recent Critics Choice victory. SAG could certainly opt for Close’s baity role (the fact that they nominated her costar Amy Adams lends credence to that). Youn is without a major precursor, but Minari‘s upswing could sweep her in.

Simply put, I’ve very torn here. With Close, the Academy’s narrative for a win is that she’s without an Oscar and is looked at as overdue. SAG, on the other hand, has bestowed trophies for her twice including just two years ago for The Wife. Bakalova has the disadvantage of being in a comedy, but that hindrance may not matter much in this wide open field. I’m left with buying the Minari momentum for Youn. However, I can’t stress enough how feasible a win is for all three actresses.

Predicted Winner: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Runner-Up: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Jared Leto (The Little Things), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Analysis: This one is far simpler than Supporting Actress as Kaluuya has racked up the Globe and Critics Choice and is the heavy favorite. The only wrinkle, as mentioned above, is if SAG voters decide to honor Boseman here instead of in Best Actor. It probably won’t happen, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Predicted Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Runner-Up: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

And there you have it! I’ll have reaction up on Sunday evening. Until then…

 

Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar Road

Despite a trio of performances playing well-known figures in 42, Get On Up, and Marshall and creating an iconic superhero in Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman had never been nominated for an Oscar when he passed last summer. That will change come Monday when nominations are announced. The only question is: will it change twice?

In the Best Actor field, Boseman is the frontrunner for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It is a given that his name will be called and it is very likely that the envelope in that race will contain his name. If and when that happens, he will be the first posthumous winner in the lead actor competition since Peter Finch in Network 44 years ago.

Up until very recently, I had consistently listed Boseman at #4 in the Supporting Actor derby for Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Yet when I released my Oscar predictions on Thursday (which you can find linked below), I decided to drop him to the runner-up slot. There are a couple of reasons.

First, Da 5 Bloods has simply not performed well in the precursors. My final predictions have the Netflix drama garnering precisely zero nods. Delroy Lindo was once seen as a competitor to Boseman in Best Actor, but he drew a blank at the Globes and SAG. If Bloods were still in the mix for Best Picture or for his costars, it might be easier to see Boseman getting in. The lack of buzz for the picture itself complicates things.

Second, an argument could be made that because Chadwick is such a favorite for Actor, voters will focus on that and not feel obligated to write his name for the supporting field. There are only 3 shoo-ins for nods in the category in my view: Boseman’s Black Panther costar Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), and Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami). The four and five slots could be filled by Boseman, Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), Bill Murray (On the Rocks), David Strathairn (Nomadland, who could ride its projected Best Picture winner momentum), or even a latecomer like young Alan Kim in Minari. I ultimately went with Raci and Strathairn.

Bottom line: Chadwick Boseman is well on his way to his first Oscar nod and probable win. A double nomination is trickier.

FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/11/2020-final-oscar-predictions/

Oscar Watch: Coming 2 America

The long awaited sequel Coming 2 America begins streaming on Amazon Prime tomorrow as Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as their characters (plural) made famous in the 1988 classic. This was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic changed its theatrical rollout plan and its release date.

Its review embargo lifted today and the results are mixed with a current 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t get me wrong – no one was thinking America would vie for Best Picture or additional top line races in 2022. That’s unlike 2019’s collaboration between Murphy and Coming director Craig Brewer. That film received far better critical reaction and some chatter of a Best Actor nod for its star that never came to fruition.

There are, however, categories down the line where this could contend. The obvious one is Makeup and Hairstyling. Part 1 was nominated and lost to Beetlejuice. The original also picked up a nod for Costume Design where Dangerous Liaisons emerged with the gold. Both of those races are most certainly in play for part 2 as well as Production Design (which could be a stretch). If it manages recognition for its costumes, Ruth Carter (who won in 2018 for Black Panther) would be back in the mix.

Bottom line: audiences have waited over 30 years for the return of Eddie and Arsenio as royalty, barbers, preachers, and an atrocious R&B crooner. It could also return in the same races come Oscar time next year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2020: The Year of Chadwick Boseman

Prior to 2018, Chadwick Boseman was known primarily for his acclaimed turns as real life historical figures like Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. It was the title role as Black Panther in the MCU juggernaut where he created his own history in the only superhero flick to nab a Best Picture nomination.

2020 is shaping up to be the year where awards voters recognize Mr. Boseman. It is, of course, also the year in which the world mourned his passing on August 28 after a previously undisclosed battle with colon cancer at age 43. His turns in two Netflix pictures – Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – have him in the running for Oscar nods and he could very conceivably get two. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named him Best Actor for Rainey and the Academy may well follow suit. The New York Film Critics Circle bestowed their Supporting Actor prize for his work in Bloods and he could make his way to that Oscar shortlist.

In a year where the world of cinema lost legends such as Sean Connery, Kirk Douglas, Ennio Morricone, and Max Von Sydow, Boseman’s came as the most unexpected with an outpouring of grief and appreciation. His final year onscreen appears destined to come with the Academy’s recognition of the man who embodied real life heroes and created his own iconic one.

 

Oscar Watch: Wonder Woman 1984

After experiencing COVID-19 related delays, Warner Bros. is finally unveiling their superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas in theaters and HBO Max. Needless to say, this is certainly one of the most anticipated 2020 releases as the 2017 predecessor was a critical hit and massive blockbuster (making over $800 million worldwide). Patty Jenkins returns as director with Gal Gadot back in the title role and Chris Pine reprising his role. Costars include Kristin Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen.

Two and a half weeks ahead of its unveiling, the review embargo has lifted and signs are encouraging. The current Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at an impressive 89% (just slightly lower than the 93% achieved by part 1). There are some gripes about over length, but reviewers are mostly calling it a nostalgic blast. Could the second coming from the warrior goddess also known as Diana garner any awards attention?

It is worth noting that Wonder Woman 2017 received no Oscar nominations. That said, the amount of eye-popping blockbusters in 2020 is smaller than any other year in recent memory. This could mean that 1984 could pop up in technical races including Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects. The first two categories could be a bit more doubtful while Sound and Visual Effects seem like solid possibilities. Gadot’s hero will compete with another Warner Bros. superhero property in those races with Birds of Prey (released just before the pandemic outbreak).

I do not expect that this will play in the big awards derbies. There was some chatter three years ago that part 1 could get a Best Picture nod, but it never materialized. Black Panther still stands as the only superhero property to play in that race and Wonder Woman 1984 is highly unlikely to be the second. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…