Elvis Review

Bad Luhrmann’s Elvis succeeds much in the same way that Bohemian Rhapsody did. Which is to say that it doesn’t always succeed, but it frequently captures the musical spirit of its subject impressively. Or maybe the magnetism of Elvis Presley or Freddie Mercury and lively performances from the actors portraying them is simply overpowering.

From Moulin Rouge! to The Great Gatsby and more, Luhrmann’s stylized productions have always flashed a bigger than life vibe. Mr. Presley is a sensible icon for him to cover. Austin Butler plays The King. Before he inhabits the role (and he does), we see the poor Mississippi youth who catches musical inspiration in two ways. One is the sacred in the gospel church. The other is more profane in the sweat drenched blues sessions nearby.

The melding of each eventually makes him the best selling solo artist of all time. Narrating that four decade long journey is Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), his corrupt and crafty manager. Their union is the rocky constant in a triumphant and turbulent career that includes the popularization of rock and roll to the masses. The two and a half hour plus biopic is told in a sometimes Forrest Gump style journey through history that somewhat clumsily brings the MLK and RFK Jr. assassinations into the fold. Of course, it also includes the known greatest hits and misses. Iconic wiggles. The close knit and cut short relationship with his mother (Helen Thomson). A hoped for James Dean style film career stalled. The marriage to younger Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). Pills and guns.

Much of this is familiar territory for this genre. In fact, one could say Elvis’s trajectory is perfectly suited for it. A star is born. And the star’s light goes out too soon. Unlike the aforementioned Gump, Hanks is not among the strongest aspects. Buried in makeup that doesn’t make you forget it’s Hanks buried in makeup, his acting borders on cartoonish parody. If their relationship is meant to be the emotional core, the screenplay falters in that regard.

Where Elvis builds its momentum is in Butler’s dynamism. To offer that he’s  utterly convincing even in the live hip shaking portions says it all. Those sequences are rhapsodic and a wise use of Luhrmann’s overwhelming brand of storytelling.

*** (out of four)

June 24-26 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.

In what should be an intriguing and potentially unpredictable weekend to close out the June box office, Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic Elvis and critically lauded horror pic The Black Phone debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both of them here:

Elvis Box Office Prediction

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

There’s plenty of possibilities for how the top 5 will look. While there’s no doubt about which quintet will populate the list, the order is up for grabs. I believe Elvis will open closer to the $51 million of Bohemian Rhapsody than the $25 million of Rocketman. That should be enough to earn it the title of Box Office King.

However, if it does premiere in the mid to late 20s range, the chances of a #1 start are considerably lower. We could legitimately see Top Gun: Maverick rise from 3rd to 1st. With a projected dip in the low to mid 20s, it should at least rise to 2nd place. That’s assuming current two-week champ Jurassic World: Dominion loses more than half its audience in its third go-round and Lightyear also sees a sophomore fall of around 55%. I’m assuming both.

And there’s the wild card that is The Black Phone. Horror titles often outdo expectations and with its aforementioned solid reviews, that could apply here. I’m sticking with a debut of just under $20 million and that would likely mean a fifth place reception.

Here’s how I envision perhaps the most fascinating box office weekend so far in the pandemic era looking:

1. Elvis

Predicted Gross: $35.6 million

2. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $34.8 million

3. Jurassic World: Dominion

Predicted Gross: $28.3 million

4. Lightyear

Predicted Gross: $23.2 million

5. The Black Phone

Predicted Gross: $18.6 million

Box Office Results (June 17-19)

In a major upset, Jurassic World: Dominion remained #1 for the second frame with $59.1 million. That’s stronger than my $54.8 million estimate as the threequel is up to $250 million in its first ten days. That’s $15 million under where predecessor was at four summers ago.

Jurassic‘s reign was unexpected because Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story spinoff Lightyear was widely anticipated to rule the charts. Instead it grossed $50.5 million for second place. That’s, ahem, $35 million under my projection of $85.5 million and less than half of what Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 made out of the gate. There’s plenty of think pieces out there for why Lightyear was a disappointment. It includes theories about politics, Disney Plus being the same day distributor for recent Pixar material, and the absence of Tim Allen as the voice of the title character. Any way you slice it, it’s a shocker.

Top Gun: Maverick continued its amazing run in third with $44.6 million – dropping a scant 14%. I was lower at $36 million. The biggest hit of the year (and of Tom Cruise’s career by far) is flying at $466 million as its domestic haul will reach $500 million shortly. As mentioned, if Elvis doesn’t reach my projection, it could see a return to the top spot. I wrote more about Maverick‘s unreal performance yesterday on the blog and it’s here:

Top Gun: Maverick – Lightyears Ahead of Expectations

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was fourth with $4.4 million compared to my $3.4 million take. The tally is $405 million.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie rounded out the top five with $1.1 million. I incorrectly had it outside the high five. It’s made $29 million.

I figured The Bad Guys would be fifth, but it was sixth with $1 million (I said $1.5 million)/ The overall take is $94 million.

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

Elvis Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.

Warner Bros is betting that Elvis will get moviegoers all shook up when it hits theaters on June 24th. The extravagant musical comes from Baz Luhrmann, maker of Moulin Rouge! and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Austin Butler, in a performance garnering some awards chatter, plays The King with Tom Hanks as The Colonel. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge, Luke Bracey, Natasha Bassett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

While Butler’s work has been lauded across the board, reviews for the film are a bit more mixed. It received a warm welcome at the Cannes Film Festival and it could certainly be an audience pleaser. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 77%.

The studio would love for Elvis to approach the earnings of Bohemian Rhapsody from 2018 (and maybe win some of the same Oscars). The Freddie Mercury biopic took in $51 million for its start with an overall domestic haul of $216 million. Coincidentally that’s the same figure that Gatsby made for Luhrmann’s personal best. WB is  hoping for a better beginning than 2019’s Rocketman, the Elton John tale which debuted with $25 million (with a $96 million eventual tally).

Obviously Elvis Presley is one of music’s biggest sensations ever and that could propel this to a premiere on pace with Rhapsody. Older moviegoers have recently proven they’re willing to venture out thanks to Top Gun: Maverick. 

I’m tempted to project this hits $45-50 million, but I’ll hedge a bit and say it fall a little shy of that.

Elvis opening weekend prediction: $35.6 million

For my The Black Phone prediction, click here:

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Elvis

Will Elvis be in the building when the Oscars air next year? The eagerly anticipated Baz Luhrmann biopic has debuted at Cannes prior to its June 24th stateside bow. The splashy musical casts Austin Butler as The King with Tom Hanks (in some apparently memorable makeup) as Colonel Parker. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia DeJonge, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

Luhrmann’s movies can attract wildly divergent opinions. Elvis is currently at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet it’s worth noting that the negative reviews are quite negative and the positive ones point out plenty of flaws. It’s not often you’ll read this, but Hanks’s work is drawing mixed buzz. He’ll need some coattail action to be a factor in Supporting Actor.

On the flip side, Luhrmann’s pictures also generate Academy mentions. His last four have done so. 1996’s Romeo + Juliet was nominated for Art Direction. 2001’s Moulin Rouge! was his most acclaimed title with 8 nods including Picture (though not Director). It was victorious in Art Direction and Costume Design. His less regarded 2008 follow-up Australia received a Costume Design nod while 2013’s The Great Gatsby landed wins for Costume Design and Production Design.

We are talking about Elvis so you have to assume Costume Design is easily in play. So are Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Sound. And, yes, Best Picture is a possibility. Whether or not it hits at the box office could move the needle one way or the other on the big race. If he couldn’t do so for Rouge!, I doubt Luhrmann gets his first behind the camera recognition.

One consistent thread in most of the reaction thus far compliments the performance of Butler. He is absolutely in the mix for Best Actor. Butler’s best hope is to follow in the footsteps of Rami Malek, who took home the gold stature for 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody as rock legend Freddie Mercury. Or he could end up like Taron Egerton, who surprisingly was left off the final five in 2019 as Elton John in Rocketman. 

Bottom line: despite some grumbling, Elvis has at least established itself as a mover and shaker for the awards season. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

James Bond: An Oscar History

Of the six actors to have played the most famous spy in cinematic history, only one of them has ever been nominated for an Oscar. That would be, of course, Sean Connery and he was victorious in 1987 for his supporting work in The Untouchables. It is worth noting that the last two Bonds (Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) have Golden Globes nods in the Musical/Comedy category for The Matador and Knives Out, respectively.

With the recent death of Sir Connery, this got me thinking… how many actors from the nearly 60 year old franchise have been recognized by the Academy? And how much Oscar attention has the series itself received? For the first question, it was rather limited until Craig took over the role. For the second question, 9 out of the 24 official 007 entries have managed to get on awards voters radar screens. So let’s break it down, shall we?

Goldfinger (1964) was the third feature in the franchise and it marked the first nomination and win for the Bond catalogue. The pic took the Best Sound Effects trophy. One year later, Thunderball won for its Visual Effects. Connery’s final official appearance in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever resulted in a nod for its sound.

When Roger Moore took over the part, his debut saw the first theme song nominated courtesy of Paul McCartney’s title track to 1973’s Live and Let Die. There would also be song nods for both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and For Your Eyes Only in 1981. Spy would mark the first Bond flick to score multiple mentions with its score and art direction. And Moore’s 1979 space opus Moonraker was nominated for its visual effects.

George Lazenby’s one-off appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Timothy Dalton’s two 1980s pictures, and the 1990s-early 2000s four film Pierce Brosnan run yielded zero Oscar mentions. Same goes for Craig’s first two outings Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. 

So it had been over 30 years since a Bond adventure had been recognized on Oscar night when 2012’s Skyfall landed a franchise record 5 nominations. It won two with Adele’s theme song and its sound editing. The other nods were Score, Sound Mixing, and Cinematography. The song love would continue with 2015’s Spectre when Sam Smith won for his tune.

Add that up and we have 15 total nominations for the series and 5 wins.

We move to the thespians and their fortune at the big show. As mentioned, before the recent run of Craig titles, it was a bit limited. In fact, the number of actors who are Oscar nominees from the Craig run nearly equals everything that came before it. Giancarlo Giannini appeared in Casino and Quantum and he was a Best Actor nominee in 1975 for Seven Beauties. Ralph Fiennes (otherwise known as M) is a double nominee for Schindler’s List and The English Patient. Naomie Harris (or Moneypenny) achieved a Supporting Actress mention for 2016’s Moonlight. Albert Finney showed up in Skyfall and he was nominated five times in his long career. Craig’s original “M” was Judi Dench and she dates back to the Brosnan era. She’s a one-time winner with 6 other nominations.

That’s just the good guys. In the Craig era, the villains come with serious awards cred. Javier Bardem from Skyfall had taken Supporting Actor five years earlier in No Country for Old Men and is a two-time Best Actor nominee for Before Nights Falls and Biutiful. Christoph Waltz (Spectre) is a double Supporting Actor winner with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. And the next pic – the oft delayed No Time to Die – has Rami Malek as its main baddie. In 2018, he gave his acceptance speech for Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Going back to the beginning, From Russia with Love featured Lotte Lenye (a 1961 nominee for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) and Robert Shaw (nominated three years after Russia for A Man for All Seasons). And that’s actually the extent of performers from the Connery era nominated for Oscars… sort of. The legend did return to the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, though it is not considered part of the “official” catalogue. It does boast three Academy players with Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa), Max Von Sydow (Pelle the Conquerer and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and Kim Basinger (Supporting Actress recipient for 1997’s L.A. Confidential).

Telly Savalas costarred with Lazenby in Secret Service and he was nominated seven years earlier for his work in Birdman of Alcatraz. In the Moore era, there’s just Topol. He’s best known his nominated work in Fiddler on the Roof and he costarred in For Your Eyes Only. In the Dalton double feature, we have Benicio del Toro as he was a henchman in Licence to Kill. Over a decade later, he would win Supporting Actor for Traffic and get another nod for 21 Grams. Things picked up a bit with Brosnan. In addition to Dench, a trio of actresses were on their way or had already achieved nominations. Halle Berry co-headlined Die Another Day one year after winning Actress for Monster’s Ball. Minnie Driver had a small role in Goldeneye and would have her breakout part (along with Supporting Actress inclusion) two years later with Good Will Hunting. And Rosamund Pike was also in Die Another Day a decade plus before her Actress nod for Gone Girl. 

A final word. Not one of the 24 released 007 features has achieved any acting, directing, writing, or picture nominations of its own. Skyfall probably came the closest as some prognosticators wondered whether it could be the first to nab a Picture nod. It didn’t materialize, but its five nominations indicate it might have come the closest. Indeed, Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has seen him costar with the most Academy friendly costars. Let’s see if the next performer to play the iconic spy gets to act alongside that same kind of pedigree.

2020 Oscar Predictions: August 27th Edition

As is tradition on the blog, my weekly Oscar prediction posts (coming to you each Thursday) kick off in the final weekend of August!

So while I’m following up with my normal Academy Awards speculating schedule, I am doing so in a year that is anything but traditional. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered release schedules for many pictures. This has left many release dates still uncertain.

Additionally, I have chosen this late August date because it’s usually right before some high-profile film festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are set to kick off. Some of these fests are continuing to operate in a much different fashion. We will see some of the titles identified below (including Nomadland, Ammonite and One Night in Miami) screen at these virtual competitions in the coming days.

This week, one significant contender had its unveiling for critics and that’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That reaction leads me to believe that it will certainly contend in a half dozen or so technical races, but that a Picture or Directing nod is a bit of a long shot.

Even in a year without the pandemic related challenges, Oscar speculation this early always comes with numerous caveats. They include the following:

  • Release dates will change and some movies listed here will get pushed back. This sure applies to 2020 and that’s even with the Academy extending eligibility to any features released in January and February of 2021.
  • There will be pics and performances that come out of nowhere and make their way to the release calendar that aren’t identified here.
  • Some performances listed in lead will shift to supporting and vice versa. For titles like David Fincher’s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – category placement for their large casts is still a question mark. As an example, there’s lot of potential contenders in The French Dispatch, but it’s impossible to determine who gets the critical shine. For the time being, I’m not listing any of the actors in that particular film.
  • There will be Original Screenplay hopefuls that turn out to be Adapted and vice versa.

Even with all those caveats, I was able to identify the winners in each of the top 8 categories in both 2018 and 2019. Their numeric placement varied widely. In 2018, I had Best Picture victor Green Book all the way down at 21 of my first initial 25 possibilities. Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, on the other hand, was placed at #2. Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek was at #12 in Best Actor with Olivia Colman in The Favourite at 9th in Actress. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) was 9th and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) was 2nd in the supporting fields. Adapted Screenplay winner BlacKkKlansman was in fifth with Original Screenplay recipient Green Book at #11.

As for 2019, Best Picture winner Parasite was originally placed in slot #7 while its director Bong Joon-Ho was fifth. In the lead acting companions, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) was 6th and Renee Zellweger (Judy) was fifth. In Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was perched at #1 and that never changed. Supporting Actress Laura Dern (Marriage Story) was #2. Adapted Screenplay Jojo Rabbit was fourth and Original Screenplay Parasite was 5th.

So based on history, you’re likely seeing the eventual 2020 Oscar winners somewhere here on these listings. In 2020, though, who really knows?

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Nomadland

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. Ammonite 

6. Dune

7. News of the World

8. West Side Story

Other Possibilities

9. The French Dispatch

10. Hillbilly Elegy

11. On the Rocks

12. Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Annette

14. Soul

15. Tenet

16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

17. The Father

18. Minari

19. C’Mon C’Mon

20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

21. Stillwater

22. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

24. Next Goal Wins

25. French Exit

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

3. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

5. Francis Lee, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Paul Greengrass, News of the World

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

10. Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

11. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

12. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Christopher Nolan, Tenet

14. Leos Carax. Annette

15. Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

7. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

8. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

9. Julianne Moore, The Glorias

10. Marion Cotillard, Annette

11. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

12. Rashida Jones, On the Rocks

13. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

14. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

2. Gary Oldman, Mank

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, News of the World

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

8. Adam Driver, Annette

9. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

11. Timothee Chalamet, Dune

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

13. Matt Damon, Stillwater

14. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

15. Ben Affleck, The Way Back

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

3. Olivia Colman, The Father

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

5. Helena Zengel, News of the World

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

8. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

10. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

11. Mary J. Blige, Respect

12. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune 

13. Meryl Streep, The Prom

14. Nicole Kidman, The Prom

15. Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Strathairn, Nomadland

2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

4. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Burke, Mank

7. Tom Pelphrey, Mank

8. David Alvarez, West Side Story

9. Lucas Hedges, French Exit

10. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

11. Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah 

12. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

13. Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

14. Oscar Isaac, Dune

15. Forest Whitaker, Respect

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. Ammonite

5. The French Dispatch

Other Possibilities:

6. Soul

7. On the Rocks

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. C’Mon C’Mon

10. Minari

11. Stillwater

12. French Exit

13. Annette

14. Tenet

15. Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland

2. Dune

3. News of the World

4. West Side Story

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Other Possibilities:

6. The Father

7. Hillbilly Elegy

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

9. Next Goal Wins

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

11. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

12. The White Tiger

13. One Night in Miami 

14. Respect

15. The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it next Thursday, folks! Until then…

2019 Golden Globe Final Predictions – WINNERS

With the exception of two or three categories, the only thing that seems certain for Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards is that host Ricky Gervais will say something to upset people. With questions about who and what will emerge victorious this awards season, there is plenty of drama to go with the music and comedy this weekend.

While I spend a lot of time prognosticating the Oscars on this blog, I only did one post estimating what the Hollywood Foreign Press gave us for consideration. And now it’s time to predict the winners.

First, a quick Globes 101. This ceremony splits the lead acting races and pictures into Drama and Musical or Comedy. They do not split screenplay into Adapted or Original like the Academy does. Furthermore, unlike the Oscars, foreign pictures are nominated only in that race and are not eligible for the two top Picture categories.

This creates a fascinating dynamic Sunday evening as Oscar’s likely top three potential Best Picture winners (The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite) are all in different races. Bottom line: the Globes could be more helpful in pointing out what direction Academy voters may go in the acting derbies. We shall see…

Here goes as I break down each competition with analysis and a winner pick:

Best Motion Picture – Drama

The Nominees: 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, The Two Popes

Analysis: Of the three motion picture races, this is the one I feel least confident about. In 2018, the HFPA went with a giant blockbuster and a surprise with Bohemian Rhapsody. If they go this route again, you can expect Joker to be the victor. After all, 1917 hasn’t even opened wide yet (it could sneak a win too) and the other three are Netflix releases. This ultimately serves as the first major test for The Irishman as it moves through awards season. I’ll give it the edge, but not my much.

PREDICTED WINNER – THE IRISHMAN

Alternate – Joker

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Dolemite Is My Name, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Rocketman

Analysis: Some simple math here as Hollywood is the only nominee that also scored a nod for its director. That bodes well and this is the clear frontrunner.

PREDICTED WINNER – ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Alternate – Rocketman

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: This could certainly come down to Scorsese vs. Tarantino. Yet Sunday could be the beginning of a huge run for Joon-Ho picking up directing honors. I think that’s what happens.

PREDICTED WINNER – BONG JOON-HO

Alternate – Quentin Tarantino

Best Actor – Drama

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Analysis: The Driver vs. Phoenix battle begins with the Globes. Joker did extremely well with Globes voters and this race probably represents its best chance for a victory. Driver is quite viable, but I’m going Phoenix.

PREDICTED WINNER – JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Alternate – Adam Driver

Best Actress – Drama

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

Analysis: In what could absolutely be the Oscar final five, Zellweger’s work as the iconic Judy Garland seems like the type of performance HFPA will eat up. Johansson and Theron are threats, but this could be the first of a couple more Zellweger podium walks.

PREDICTED WINNER – RENEE ZELLWEGER

Alternate – Scarlett Johansson

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Daniel Craig (Knives Out), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Leonardo Dicaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)

Analysis: For Craig and Davis, it’s an honor to be nominated as this is a three person race. Both Egerton and DiCaprio should pick up significant votes and I’m awfully tempted to go Leo. However, Murphy’s acclaimed performance and his legendary status (especially coming so soon after his SNL return) could be irresistible to the HFPA.

PREDICTED WINNER – EDDIE MURPHY

Alternate – Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Ana de Armas (Knives Out), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Cate Blanchett (Where’d You Go Bernadette), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Emma Thompson (Late Night)

Analysis: Awkwafina is really the only player here with an Oscar shot so she’s a strong frontrunner. It’s pretty much that simple. I’d say de Armas is the only upset possibility and it’s rather slim.

PREDICTED WINNER – AWKWAFINA

Alternate – Ana de Armas

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: What a list of legends we have here as Pacino and Pesci may split votes and that paves the way for Pitt. Expect this to be a familiar refrain.

PREDICTED WINNER – BRAD PITT

Alternate – Joe Pesci

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Annette Bening (The Report), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: The smart money is on Lopez, who’s had a remarkable comeback in 2019. I may regret this, but I’m going with a gut feeling that Dern takes it and that may represent the only win for Marriage Story of its six nods.

PREDICTED WINNER – LAURA DERN

Alternate – Jennifer Lopez

Best Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, The Two Popes

Analysis: The only entry here I don’t see with a fair shot of winning is Popes. This is a coin flip situation. Despite what I just said about Dern, Marriage could absolutely win. The Parasite love could extend here and same with Irishman. Tough one, but I’ll give Tarantino the edge (especially since I’m betting against him in Director).

PREDICTED WINNER – ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Alternate – Marriage Story

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: The Farewell, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Analysis: All five pics have their ardent admirers, but here’s the deal. If Parasite doesn’t win, it would constitute the biggest upset of the evening. Not happening.

PREDICTED WINNER – PARASITE

Alternate – umm… let’s say Pain and Glory

Best Animated Feature Film

The Nominees: Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Lion King, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: Disney has 60% of the nominees here, including that rather shocking Lion King inclusion. I wouldn’t totally count out Dragon, but Pixar should get the glory.

PREDICTED WINNER – TOY STORY 4

Alternate – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Best Orignal Score

The Nominees: 1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Motherless Brooklyn

Analysis: This one isn’t easy as just Brooklyn seems unlikely to get it. I’ll give Thomas Newman (1917) a small advantage over cousin Randy (Marriage Story), Alexandre Desplat (Women), and Hildur Guonadottir (Joker).

PREDICTED WINNER – 1917

Alternate – Little Women

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Spirit” from The Lion King, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: Never count out Disney with the ballad from Frozen II, but the general consensus is it’s no “Let It Go”. There’s some serious heavy hitters here with Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Elton John in the mix. HFPA might want to see Elton onstage.

PREDICTED WINNER – “(I’M GONNA) LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Alternate – “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

So this means I’m predicting the Globes spread it around with the following winner counts:

3 Wins

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2 Wins

Parasite

1 Win

1917, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, The Irishman, Joker, Judy, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

I’ll have a recap of the show up Sunday night with my results!

AFI Sharpens The Oscar Focus

The AFI Film Awards came out with their 2019 honors today and they do things a little differently. This particular group names their favorite 10 pictures of the year without naming a winner. And their top films are the only category they bother with.

Today those ten movies were as follows: 1917, The Farewell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Knives Out, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. 

So what’s to learn when it comes to Oscar pontificating? Let’s start with comparing this list to yesterday’s announcement of the National Board of Review’s 10 honored titles… eleven actually because their winner was The Irishman. The NBR’s different titles were Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Uncut Gems, and Waves. Not on NBR’s list from AFI:  The Farewell and Little Women. 

Shared AFI/NBR pics: The Irishman, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. If you think getting Picture mentions in both guarantees Oscar love, 2018 proved otherwise. Five films did just that last year and didn’t land Best Pictures nods: Eighth Grade, First Reformed, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, and A Quiet Place.

Confused? Welcome to the world of awards speculation. As I see it currently, there are only two shared 2019 AFI/NBR features that could miss out on the big race: Knives Out and Richard Jewell. I’ll also take this opportunity to note that Parasite (which is looking decent for Best Pic attention) is ineligible for AFI since it’s a foreign film.

As for Best Pic hopefuls that landed no love from these groups, we have A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (I believe its chances are fading quickly) and Bombshell (not as convinced that it cannot rebound). It could get the 2018 Vice slot, which was ignored by AFI/NBR. There’s also Rocketman, which can hang on to the thought that it could be this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

When you look at the AFI list’s history over the past half decade, it is a fairly reliable barometer on certain directions the Academy will take. Last year, five out of the eventual eight nominees were on their list and that’s the lowest percentage. In 2016 and 2017, it was 7 for 9. In 2014 and 2015, it was 6 for 8. So you can pretty much bank on at least half of AFI’s list and probably a bit more landing Oscar nominations.

I’ll leave you with this: while Knives Out is certainly one of the most obvious candidates for something that could miss a Picture nod, I like its chances better than I ever have before. This could be a case of perfect timing as it just opened, had a much bigger debut than expected, and audiences and critics are singing its praises. I wouldn’t count it out. In fact, I suspect when I update my estimates on Monday – it will rank higher than ever before and enter my top 15 possibilities. That will knock a candidate out and Mister Rogers could be the unfortunate victim.

Can Rocketman Contend?

Something struck me as I was preparing my weekly Oscar predictions that will be up on the blog later today. At this late October date in 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody was about to open. Reviews had trickled out and advance word of mouth was quite mixed. The Freddie Mercury biopic ended up at just 61% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet it turned out to be a box office phenomenon with a $51 million debut and $216 eventual domestic gross.

Looking over my weekly projections from a year ago, Rhapsody wasn’t even in my top 25 possibilities for Best Picture. And Rami Malek was listed at #6 in Best Actor, just on the outside looking in. He ended up winning. It also emerged victorious in Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. The only race in which it was nominated for and didn’t win was Picture. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite its middling critical reaction, was bestowed with four gold statues and that’s more than any other movie last year.

This brings us to Rocketman. The Elton John biopic premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival just prior to its summer rollout. Reviews were stronger (89% on RT). However, while it was a solid performer financially at $96 million, those aren’t rhapsodic numbers. Maybe it came out too early in the year because Oscar prognosticators (including me) are not seeing it as much of a factor in the awards derby.

Still I can’t help but wonder if we’re shortchanging it considering the Academy love for Bohemian. I currently only have Rocketman slated for nods in both Sound races and Original Song (the Elton and Taron Egerton duet “(Im Gonna) Love Me Again”).

I don’t think it has much of a chance at the moment to break into the Best Picture race (it’s not in my top 15). Taron Egerton is at #7 (even behind Malek at this point a year ago) on my chart. I do ponder, though, whether there’s an outside shot that Rocketman could still be standing as the dust settles.