Oscar Watch: Vivo

While we wait to see whether or not most of the Best Picture contenders truly are viable, the Animated Feature race is already packed with contenders. Vivo is available on Netflix today. The Sony Pictures effort comes from director Kirk DeMicco (best known for making The Croods) and features original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The voice cast includes Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldana, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicole Byer, and Gloria Estefan.

The film’s reviews are solid with an 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating. In a lighter year, that might automatically warrant inclusion in the final five. Not so fast in 2021. The list of other hopefuls already released includes Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, Belle and The Mitchells vs. the Machines (another Netflix title that they should campaign heavily for). Additionally, Miranda has Mouse Factory effort Encanto this autumn which is another likely player. Add to the list the critically acclaimed animated doc Flee and Henry Selick’s Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 (also both upcoming from Netflix). So, yeah, it’s crowded.

If Vivo doesn’t make the cut, it could still make a play in Original Song. Estefan has the track “Inside Your Heart”. That particular competition is also expected to have plenty of tracks competing against each other.

Bottom line: there’s a lot of pics and songs in the mix, but Vivo is at least on the radar for attention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Woman in the Window Review

The deeply troubled agoraphobic Anna Fox (Amy Adams) has a habit of avoiding reality in The Woman in the Window by chugging a bottle of wine and distracting herself with classic old movies. This is her way of not dealing with the story unfolding around her. There are times where I could relate as those vintage pictures would provide a better escape than what happens here for the most part.

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour), Window is based on a 2018 novel by A.J. Finn. It features quite a list of Oscar winners (Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore) and actors you may think have won them (Adams, Jennifer Jason Leigh). The screenwriter Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer winning playwright. With that  level of talent involved, one would think Window would rise above the histrionic Hitchcockian “homage” that it is. Mentioning Mr. Hitchcock might be too complimentary. This shares many similar plot points to 2016’s The Girl on the Train, which was also based on a book meant to be read on an airplane or the beach you rush to after the flight. You could easily call this The Girl on the Painkillers.

Dr. Fox is a child psychologist whose condition has kept her confined to her Manhattan apartment. In addition to her binge drinking/movie watching, she spends most of her day spying on neighbors. The new ones across the street are the Russell family – businessman Alistair (Oldman), wife Jane (Moore), and teen son Ethan (Fred Hechinger). Or maybe not. After the wife and boy visit her, Anna suspects some abuse is occurring in the household. The mystery deepens when Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up as Alistair’s spouse. Maybe the abundance of Anna’s medication is causing hallucinations. Our voyeur tries to enlist the NYPD, led by Brian Tyree’s Henry detective, and her basement tenant (Wyatt Russell) to assist with her amateur sleuthing. There’s also the matter of Anna’s only family. She’s separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie) and they have a young daughter. They turn up in flashback form and saying much more would enter spoiler territory.

The Woman in the Window contains plenty of twists that might have worked in paperback form. The treatment by Wright and Letts is a tonally frantic one. This is primarily a melodrama that begs to be taken seriously from time to time. Some of the performers seem in on it as Oldman, Moore, and Hechinger got the memo to overact wildly. Yet this never reaches its apparent goal of being a genuine guilty pleasure. That’s too bad because the behind the camera personnel and cast in front of it deserved better. Many of those examples are contained in Anna’s cinematic collection in her brownstone where less spellbinding developments are transpiring.

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Woman in the Window

On paper, at least, Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window has a whole lot of Oscar connections in it. The psychological thriller stars Amy Adams, recipient of six nominations who’s never won (she’s considered well overdue for a victory). Costars include Academy winners and nominees such as Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore in addition to Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, and Brian Tyree Henry. Screenwriter Tracy Letts has a Pulitzer Prize to his name. And Wright has seen two of his efforts (Atonement, Darkest Hour) nab Best Picture nods.

Window hits Netflix today after originally being planned for a fall 2019 premiere via 20th Century Fox. It was pushed back to May 2020 due to reshoots and the COVID-19 pandemic. The pic was finally snatched up by the streamer, foregoing a theatrical release. So there’s the question of whether this is even eligible for the Oscars since it’s not hitting the big screen. Not that it matters.

Word of mouth over the past several months has not been kind and the just lapsed review embargo confirms that. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a troubling 27% with many critics calling it a poor Hitchcock ripoff. Despite the many participants with a nexus to awards attention, Window appears more likely to garner Razzie mentions than anything at the big dance.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong is lighter than its MonsterVerse predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters from 2019. I don’t just mean lighter in tone (which it is), but actually lighter where it counts. When the two title character titans clash, we can actually see it. That’s an improvement over what transpired two years ago when Godzilla’s battles were too dimly lit or obscured by pounding rain. That’s a major plus, but not every aspect of this franchise has leveled up. The human characters are still an uninteresting and bland group. We have fine actors whose primary responsibility is to talk about the massive CGI combatants and react to what they’re doing. Their character development is a secondary consideration. That said – we’re not here for that, are we? This is the culmination of three pictures leading to a movie being named Godzilla vs. Kong and it frequently manages to deliver.

We last left King Kong in the 1970s during Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla in the aforementioned Monsters when he successfully warded off King Ghidorah and others. The fourth franchise entry picks up five years after Monsters as Kong is being monitored by Monarch on his native island. His human contact is mostly with linguist Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who’s a native of the island. A magazine cover identifies the doctor as the “Kong Whisperer”, but it’s clearly Jia who’s found the most sincere connection with the massive ape. Also on Kong patrol is geologist Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard).

While Kong is living a pretty chill existence on Skull Island, Godzilla’s fiery temper unexpectedly flares up. The not so jolly green giant has resurfaced to do lots of property destruction. His inexplicable attitude adjustment causes the CEO of APEX (Demian Bichir) to recruit Kong to solve this dilemma. APEX is a big shadowy corporation that sells itself as trying to solve the Titans problem. That doesn’t gel with conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and he’s got sympathizers with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, returning from Monsters) and her nerdy buddy Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison’s dad, played by Kyle Chandler, also reprises his Monsters role.

Enough with the plot which also involves specialized vehicles zooming through gravity fields. All of this is a prelude to watching Godzilla and Kong fight. It happens early (no shades of the slow buildup of 2014’s Godzilla) and round 1 transpires on water and is gloriously lighted for our entertainment.

The main event is in Hong Kong and that’s when we learn why Godzilla is being so irritable (hint: corporate greed is a factor). The climactic matchup is preceded by some fairly dull scenes with humans. No performance is bad. They’re just inconsequential with the exception of Hottle’s Jia in a winning performance. As long as we’re able to ignore the poor people in the buildings that are demolished with Kong and Godzilla’s every twitch and stumble, these skirmishes are expertly staged and enjoyable. I’d put it a notch below 2014’s Godzilla stand-alone from Gareth Edwards, but a hair above Kong: Skull Island and certainly ahead of Monsters. This delivers on its title well enough and is lit properly.

*** (out of four)

Godzilla vs. Kong Box Office Prediction

The fourth film in the MonsterVerse franchise stomps into theaters and HBO Max on Wednesday (March 31) with Godzilla vs. Kong. Adam Wingard takes the directorial reigns with a cast including Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, and Demian Bichir. Of course, the real stars are the giant green monster (from 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and massive gorilla (of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island) who will duke it out in the production with a budget reportedly in the $200 million range.

This awaited matchup was originally set for viewing last spring before going through the now familiar myriad of delays due to COVID-19. It’s the latest example of Warner Bros. unveiling their pics simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service. With theaters in New York and Los Angeles now operating (albeit in diminished capacity) and with vaccinations rising, Godzilla vs. Kong is being seen as a major test for the industry. The previous COVID era highest opening weekend belongs to Wonder Woman 1984 (another WB/HBO Max venture) at $16.7 million over this past Christmas. That number exceeded expectations and the thought is that Kong will outpace it.

I tend to agree. It is worth noting that the last MonsterVerse title, King of the Monsters, was a box office disappointment. Due partly to poor reviews, it premiered in late May 2019 to a subpar $47 million with an eventual domestic gross just north of $100 million. By comparison, 2014’s Godzilla took in $200 million while Kong: Skull Island made $168 million. A $47 million debut here would be beyond even the wildest expectations in these Coronavirus times.

Godzilla vs. Kong has the benefit of bringing these two iconic creatures together and that’s a significant selling point. It’s also the kind of epic production that many may wish to see on a giant screen as opposed to on their couch via HBO Max (though I’m sure plenty of moviegoers will go that route).

With a five-day rollout, I believe a Friday to Sunday haul in the $20 million range is possible with mid to high 20s overall for the entire frame.

Godzilla vs. Kong opening weekend prediction: $21.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $27.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my The Unholy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/26/the-unholy-box-office-prediction/

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 17th Edition

The Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have resulted in a number of Oscar Watch posts from last Thursday to now! And that means some changes are to be discussed.

The most notable film to debut was Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, which solidified itself as a major contender in Best Picture, Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, the pic remains firmly in 2nd place in Picture and Director and #1 with its screenplay based on its sterling critical reaction. McDormand, meanwhile, jumps to #1 in Actress. Time will tell if she remains atop the chart, but it seems a given that she’ll vie for her third win in the category.

News was more mixed for Francis Lee’s Ammonite. The mixed reaction to it has caused me to drop it from my nine predicted Picture nominees and from Original Screenplay. Yet Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan remain in my top five in the actress categories.

There were six other titles that I penned Oscar Watch posts about. None of them show up anywhere below. This includes the work of Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) and Naomi Watts (Penguin Bloom) and Mark Wahlberg in Good Joe Bell. It’s not impossible that they could surface later, but I’m not confident at the moment. As for Bell, perhaps the supporting work of Reid Miller could have a chance to enter my 15 names in Supporting Actor. When I expand my predictions to all categories covering feature pics in October, expect to see Wolfwalkers as it appears to be a shoo-in nominee in Best Animated Feature.

You can find all my posts from the past week here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/11/oscar-watch-nomadland/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-ammonite/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-the-devil-all-the-time/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-wolfwalkers/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-penguin-bloom/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-i-care-a-lot/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-concrete-cowboy/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/15/oscar-watch-good-joe-bell/

Let’s quickly walk through the latest changes and developments:

  • With Ammonite now falling from my nine predicted Picture nominees, that makes room for Florian Zeller’s The Father to make my final cut for the first time.
  • My 5 Director nominees remains unchanged, as does Best Actor. It is worth mentioning that there’s some talk that Kingsley Ben-Adir from One Night in Miami could be campaigned for in the lead race. This follows rumors of the same happening for Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. If that were to occur, it would absolutely upend my projections. For now, I’m keeping them both in supporting. Also – Clayton Davis of Variety confirmed today that Delroy Lindo will compete in the lead actor race for Da 5 Bloods. 
  • In addition to McDormand taking over the top spot in Actress over Viola Davis in Ma Rainey, I’m adding Vanessa Kirby’s work in Pieces of a Woman to my top 5. That means Jennifer Hudson in Respect drops out.
  • There’s a similar storyline in Supporting Actress with Ellen Burstyn in my five over Amanda Seyfried in Mank. Furthermore, Saoirse Ronan’s aforementioned work in Ammonite drops from #1 to #3 so we have Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) in first. At #2? Olivia Colman in The Father and that could make for a juicy race as Colman upset Close in lead actress two years ago.
  • While Nomadland definitely nabbed major Oscar buzz, the supporting performance from David Strathairn may not be big enough. He drops from #2 to outside the top five and that means Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) is back in.
  • I mentioned Ammonite had dropped from Original Screenplay and that is also to the benefit of Messiah.
  • The five Adapted Screenplay estimates stay the same.
  • Finally, while there’s no confirmation and this could change back, I’m shifting Meryl Streep from supporting to lead for The Prom. She has yet to make the five.

And with that, let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. News of the World (PR: 5)

5. One Night in Miami (PR: 6)

6. Dune (PR: 4)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 8)

8. West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. The Father (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 13)

12. Soul (PR: 12)

13. Ammonite (PR: 7)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 14)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 15)

16. Minari (PR: 16)

17. Stillwater (PR: 17)

18. Annette (PR: 18)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Respect (PR: 22)

21. Next Goal Wins (PR: 20)

22. Red, White and Water (PR: 21)

23. The Midnight Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

24. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

25. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

French Exit

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 4)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 11)

8. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods, (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 8)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: 15)

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 8)

5. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

11. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Supporting)

12. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

13. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: 11)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 14)

15. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Elisabeth Moss, Shirley

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 1)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 2)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 7)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 11)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 10)

12. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Courier (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

15. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

2. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 15)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 5)

7. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 6)

8. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 10)

9. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 7)

10. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 8)

11. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

12. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 11)

13. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Meryl Streep, The Prom (moved to lead)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

3. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 4)

4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

7. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

8. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 7)

9. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 11)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 10)

11. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 13)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 8)

14. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 5)

4. Soul (PR: 4)

5. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Ammonite (PR: 3)

8. Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Minari (PR: 7)

10. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: 15)

12. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Red, White and Water (PR: 12)

15. Palm Springs (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Annette

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. The Father (PR: 5)

3. News of the World (PR: 2)

4. One Night in Miami (PR: 3)

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 6)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. The Humans (PR: 13)

12. French Exit (PR: 10)

13. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. First Cow (PR: 15)

15. The Prom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Respect 

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 10th Edition

We have arrived at the third week for my Thursday Oscar predictions in the eight major categories and the biggest change so far can be summed up in four words: One Night in Miami.

The historical drama, which marks the debut feature film from actress Regina King, made waves when it screened this week at the Venice Film Festival. It has vaulted into the following categories for a nomination prediction: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay.

As for that supporting race, there are actually four contenders vying for attention. I’m currently giving the nod to Kingsley Ben-Adir for his portrayal of Malcolm X over his costars Leslie Odom, Jr. (Sam Cooke), Eli Goree (Cassius Clay), and Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown). Yet this could be a fluid situation and don’t be surprised if those other performers make their way to the list in future postings.

Speaking of the supporting actor race, there has been some speculation that the late Chadwick Boseman may actually be campaigned for in the lead Actor competition with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As for now, I’m keeping him ranked first in Supporting Actor. We’ll see what transpires in the weeks ahead. If Boseman does go lead, it could open the door for Glynn Turman to get a supporting nod for the picture.

As for the week that was, my Oscar Watch posts focused on Miami, as well as some other titles that debuted as Venice. Most noteworthy is Pieces of a Woman, which has caused some chatter for its lead Vanessa Kirby and her costar Ellen Burstyn. Kirby also costars in The World to Come, which garnered solid reviews but isn’t identified in my current rankings. Other write-ups this week included The Duke (which could catch the attention of the Golden Globes for Jim Broadbent) and the heist comedic drama Kajillionaire. You can read all those detailed posts here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-one-night-in-miami/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-pieces-of-a-woman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-the-world-to-come/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/05/oscar-watch-the-duke/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/09/oscar-watch-kajillionaire/

With Venice still rolling along and the Toronto Film Festival set to open, this Friday will see the initial screenings of two major contenders – Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland and Francis Lee’s Ammonite. Expect Oscar Watch posts on both hopefuls this weekend.

The loser of the week is Tenet. I’ve taken it out of consideration for Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. On the flip side, expect to see its name pop up again in October when I begin estimating all feature film races as it will surely nab some tech nods.

As for other developments since last Thursday:

  • My eight predicted Best Picture nominees from the past two weeks remains the same, but now it’s become nine with the addition of One Night in Miami.
  • Regina King’s inclusion in Best Director knocks out Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7.
  • My five Best Actress predictions remains the same, Both Vanessa Kirby and Jennifer Lawrence (Red, White and Water) join the overall mix with Julianne Moore (The Glorias) and Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) falling out.
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father) takes over the #1 spot over Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) in Best Actor. There are no changes in the top five. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) makes his first appearance at #14 with Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) dropping out of the top 15.
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank) enters the top 5 in Supporting Actress over Ariana DeBose for West Side Story. Ellen Burstyn enters the fold at #15 with Debra Winger’s work in Kajillionaire exiting the top 15.
  • As mentioned, Kingsley Ben-Adir vaults from 12th to 4th in Supporting Actor and he replaces Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah. The top 15 marks the first appearances for Brian Tyree Henry (Red, White and Water) and Glynn Turman for Ma Rainey. Dropping out are Lucas Hedges in French Exit and David Alvarez in West Side Story. 
  • In Original Screenplay, Never Sometimes Rarely Always gets its first mention since Tenet travels out of the race.
  • In Adapted Screenplay, One Night in Miami gets in over Dune in the top 5. First Cow makes its inaugural appearance in 14th with The Eyes of Tammy Faye dropping.

You can read the full slate of guesstimates here:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. News of the World (PR: 5)

6. One Night in Miami (PR: 13)

7. Ammonite (PR: 6)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 9)

11. The Father (PR: 16)

12. Soul (PR: 10)

13. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 14)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 11)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

16. Minari (PR: 15)

17. Stillwater (PR: 18)

18. Annette (PR: 17)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Next Goal Wins (PR: 23)

21. Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

22. Respect (PR: 20)

23. French Exit (PR: 24)

24. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: Not Ranked)

25. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

The Midnight Sky 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 5)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

7. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 6)

8. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 11)

11. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 14)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

8. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 9)

11. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 11)

13. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 15)

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Julianne Moore, The Glorias

Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 2)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 1)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 8)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 10)

12. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 13)

13. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 12)

14. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

7. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

8. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 7)

10. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 11)

11. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 8)

12. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 15)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 12)

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 5)

7. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 10)

8. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 7)

9. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 6)

11. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 8)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 11)

13. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 14)

14. Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

David Alvarez, West Side Story 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Soul (PR: 5)

5. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Minari (PR: 7)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Stillwater (PR: 9)

10. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

11. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 12)

12. Red, White and Water (PR: 14)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Annette (PR: 11)

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. News of the World (PR: 2)

3. One Night in Miami (PR: 9)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

5. The Father (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 3)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8)

9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 7)

10. French Exit (PR: 11)

11. Next Goal Wins (PR: 12)

12. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

13. The Humans (PR: 13)

14. First Cow (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Respect (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

And that does it for now, folks! I’ll be back at it next Thursday…

Joker Movie Review

When Batman ruled the summer three decades ago, Tim Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader was deemed too dark by some. That seems quaint now with the harder edged comic book adaptations that have come our way recently and it especially applies to Joker. This stand-alone origin pic from Todd Phillips wears its influences overtly with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver being the most obvious. It’s a grim tale focused on mental health in which Joaquin Phoenix dominates every frame of celluloid he’s in and that’s pretty much every moment. Much of the time, we are simply waiting for his character to snap. The tension is palpable as his involuntary cackles provide the soundtrack. Heath Ledger might still be the best Joker, but this film has the most Joker. And Phoenix runs a somewhat close second.

It’s 1981 in a gamy Gotham City and Arthur Fleck is a clown for hire with hopes of becoming a stand-up. He gets a load of meds from the government that don’t seem to stem the tide of a slow boiling rage (with a makeup infused smile, of course). He dreams of killing it (in the humorous sense) on a national talk show hosted by Robert De Niro’s Murray Franklin. Arthur watches the show with his ailing mother (Frances Conroy), whose screws may also not be fully tightened. And there’s a fledgling romance with a single mom (Zazie Beetz) whose apartment inhabits the same floor of a dingy high rise.

Joker is centered on classism almost as much as Arthur’s derangements. Among our central character’s first criminal acts involves a trio of WASPy Wayne Enterprise employees. This is just as billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is exploring a Mayoral run and the eventual Bat Dad might have some surprising connections to the eventual Bat nemesis. Some have accused Joker of romanticizing the man. I didn’t see it that way, but there’s certainly a sense of the have nots sticking it to the haves.

We have grown accustomed to high tech and CGI infused violence in this genre. Not here. The bloodshed is sudden, in your face, and occasionally shocking. Just like in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Phoenix undergoes a metamorphosis by losing a ton of weight. Arthur looks as sick as his mind is. Like Ledger in The Dark Knight, it’s hard to take your eyes off him as he dances, laughs in a disturbing elevated pitch, and heads toward the breakdown. This is Joaquin Phoenix’s demented sandbox to play in and I dug the opportunity to witness this darkness without a dawn in its sights.

***1/2 (out of four)

Joker Box Office Prediction

Opening wide in theaters amidst controversy regarding its violence and fresh off a surprise Golden Lion victory at the Venice Film Festival, Joker is unleashed next weekend. Donning the makeup once worn by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto, this stand-alone and hard R rated DC Universe pic casts Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as Batman’s most legendary villain. And like Ledger before him in The Dark Knight, our multiple Oscar nominee here is garnering Oscar buzz for his work. Todd Phillips (best known for the Hangover trilogy) handles directorial duties with a supporting cast including Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, and Bill Camp.

As mentioned, Joker made quite a splash overseas when it premiered in Venice. Critics have mostly been on board and it sits at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s awards chatter and an equal amount of ink about its potential adverse influence on audiences. This is certainly not a picture flying under the radar. No other movie studio chose to open anything against this Warner Bros potential juggernaut.

Forecasts range all the way up to $100 million or over with most below that mark. In order to set the all-time October opening record, this will need to set one achieved just last year with Venom ($80.2 million). It should have no issue representing a personal best for Phoenix, which is 2002’s Signs at $60 million. As for Phillips, his highest start is The Hangover Part II at $85.9 million.

I believe all the buzz surrounding this (both positive and negative) could propel Joker to a record setting weekend on all fronts mentioned.

Joker opening weekend prediction: $89.6 million

Oscar Watch: Joker

Comic book movies arrive in quick order these days, but not many draw comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Such is the case with Joker, the breathlessly anticipated stand-alone DC Universe title featuring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. It has premiered at Venice Film Festival ahead of its October 4 stateside release. Early critical reaction portrays this as a grim, sometimes terrifying, and often brilliant experience. And Phoenix’s work is being called masterful.

You’ll recall that it was just over a decade ago that Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar in The Dark Knight as the same iconic villain. Based on word from Venice, there seems to be a strong possibility that Phoenix will receive his fourth nod for his acting (Supporting for Gladiator, lead in Walk the Line and The Master). Even with a high profile costar like Robert De Niro, I suspect all the acting chatter will be directed to the head clown.

Joker could prove to be a massive box office success and that might increase its chances for a Picture nod, direction for Todd Phillips, and the Adapted Screenplay. Bottom line: don’t be surprised if Phoenix becomes the second actor to get Oscar love for this character. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…