Oscars 2019: The Case of Brad Pitt

My Case of posts for Oscar nominees hits our final nominee in Best Supporting Actor – Brad Pitt for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

The Case for Brad Pitt

One decade after Inglourious Basterds, his first collaboration with Tarantino, Pitt is in the Oscar mix for the fourth time. For his acting that is. His first nod came nearly a quarter century ago in this category for 12 Monkeys and that was followed up by two lead nominations for 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 2011’s Moneyball. While he is 0 for 3 in the performance department, he does possess an Oscar as a producer on 2013’s Best Picture recipient 12 Years a Slave. It would appear the fourth time is the charm. Pitt has picked up all the significant precursors, including SAG, the Globes, BAFTA, and the Critics Choice. All other nominees here are heavyweights, but Pitt has been the favorite for some time. To add to that, his acceptance speeches over the past few weeks have been wildly entertaining.

The Case Against Brad Pitt

Quite frankly… I’m struggling. He is simply the massive front runner. That said, there have been upsets in recent history in Supporting Actor, including Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) over Sylvester Stallone (Creed) in 2015.

The Verdict

Expect Pitt’s star quality and self deprecation to be on full display when his name is called on Sunday evening.

My Case of posts will continue with Margot Robbie in Bombshell!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Tom Hanks

The Case of posts for the pictures, directors, and performers nominated for this year’s Oscars brings us to our first Supporting Actor player – Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Let’s look at the pros and cons for the legendary actor:

The Case for Tom Hanks

Well, he’s Tom Hanks. His work as beloved TV host Mister Rogers in Neighborhood brings him his sixth Oscar nod. He famously won back to back for Best Adtor in the 1990s with Philadelphia and Forrest Gimp, in addition to being nominated for Big, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away. Hanks is one of the most recognizable and appreciated movie stars in the world. Voters just witnessed him giving a touching and funny lifetime achievement speech at the Golden Globes.

The Case Against Tom Hanks

You might be surprised to learn that his nomination from the Academy is his first in 19 years. He was bypassed for such performances as Road to Perdition, Charlie Wilson’s War, Captain Phillips (I’m still salty about that snub), Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, Sully, and The Post. In other words, Oscar voters may feel the two gold statues on his mantle are sufficient. As for the picture itself, Hanks’s inclusion in Supporting Actor is the sole nomination as Neighborhood couldn’t break out anywhere else with the Academy. While he snagged Globe and SAG mentions, he lost both to Brad Pitt from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

The Verdict

While it’s good to see Hanks back in the mix, all signs point to this award winding up in Pitt’s neighborhood this year.

Up Next in my Case of posts… Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell!

Oscar Watch: Creed II

Three years ago, the biggest surprise of Oscar night was Sylvester Stallone losing Best Supporting Actor to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. The legendary performer was nominated for his seventh portrayal of Rocky Balboa in Creed, nearly 40 years after Rocky won Best Picture.

Creed was an unexpected critical and box office smash with a knockout score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, Oscar attention was reserved for Stallone only. Creed II opens on Wednesday and reviews are out. The tale of the tape indicates a mostly satisfying if predictable experience that serves as a follow-up to Rocky IV. The Tomato meter currently sits at 72%.

While its predecessor was heralded for Stallone’s work, early critical reaction here is more focused on Michael B. Jordan’s return in the title role. Yet any awards attention he receives will be for his supporting role in Black Panther, I suspect.

Bottom line: Creed II may please fans of the franchise. Like the Rocky sequels, don’t expect awards voters to punch ballots for it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…

Todd’s FINAL 2015 Oscar Predictions

One week from tonight, the 88th Annual Academy Awards will air with Chris Rock hosting and unlike some other years, there is real and legitimate intrigue as to what will win the big prize in Best Picture. Meanwhile, other categories have strong front runners but upsets are always possible. So with seven days to go, here are my FINAL predictions for who will win in each categories, with the exception of the three short film races. Here we go!

BEST PICTURE

For Room, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies – it’s an honor to be nominated. This is truly a close race between the trio of The Big Short, The Revenant and Spotlight and any one of them could easily emerge victorious. All have won important precursors. Of the three, my gut is that Short is running third in this tight derby. All week my inclination has been to pick Spotlight, but The Revenant seems to have the hot hand in these late proceedings.

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Spotlight

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu looks poised to win his second directing prize in a row after 2014’s Birdman for his work in The Revenant. If so, he would be the first auteur to do that in 65 years. In my estimation, only George Miller could be an upset winner for Mad Max, but that’s doubtful. Inarritu has won the Golden Globe and the DGA and is a safe bet.

FINAL PICK: Inarritu

Runner-Up: Miller

BEST ACTOR

Speaking of safe bets involving The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio at last looks poised to win a gold statue. He is the heavy favorite over competitors Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne and Bryan Cranston.

FINAL PICK: DiCaprio

Runner-Up: Ummmm… Cranston? Seriously, Leo is a major favorite

BEST ACTRESS

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) could be spoilers, but the front runner is definitely Brie Larson’s turn in Room.

FINAL PICK: Larson

Runner-Up: Ronan

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

If the Academy doesn’t go for nostalgia here, you might see Mark Rylance win for Bridge of Spies. Yet I do believe Sylvester Stallone will knock out his foes for Creed.

FINAL PICK: Stallone

Runner-Up: Rylance

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) has won some precursors and Rooney Mara (Carol) stands an outside shot, but Alicia Vikander had a big 2015 and I’ll pick her for The Danish Girl.

FINAL PICK: Vikander

Runner-Up: Winslet

For the remainder of the categories, I’m simply listing my picks with the runner-up:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

FINAL PICK: Spotlight

Runner-Up: Inside Out

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

FINAL PICK: The Big Short

Runner-Up: Room

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

FINAL PICK: Inside Out

Runner-Up: Anomalisa

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

FINAL PICK: Son of Saul

Runner-Up: Mustang

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

FINAL PICK: Cartel Land

Runner-Up: Amy

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

FINAL PICK: The Hateful Eight

Runner-Up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

FINAL PICK: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

Runner-Up: “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

BEST SOUND EDITING

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SOUND MIXING

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

FINAL PICK: Carol

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FILM EDITING

FINAL PICK: The Big Short

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens