Cannes Do Spirit

The Cannes Film Festival, originally scheduled for May in the French Riviera, was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, an announcement today confirmed that the long running fest will exist in some form. And like everything in 2020… it’s a little confusing. A lineup announcement of 56 pictures was put out as being in the Cannes fold. However, these titles will premiere at various other events scheduled later in the year such as the Toronto and Telluride festivals, among others.

Awards watchers know that Cannes is a fertile breeding ground for Oscar hopefuls. Just last year, Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite won top Cannes prize the Palme d’or and eventually won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Some other titles (among many) that premiered at Cannes and got Oscar attention include Apocalypse Now, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, and The Pianist. 

So what are some significant 2020 Cannes contenders that could vie for Oscar gold? I’ll give you a quintet and we start with Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. The latest effort from the acclaimed filmmaker is his live-action follow-up to 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel which nabbed a leading nine nominations at that year’s Oscars. The cast is filled with familiar faces and many Anderson regulars including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, and Anjelica Huston. It is obviously high on the list for potential players throughout awards season.

Ronan also costars in Ammonite, a period drama from director Francis Lee. Her costar is Kate Winslet and between the two of them they have 11 Academy nominations. Expect plenty of chatter as to their viability in the performance races.

Steve McQueen is premiering not one, but two pictures with the Cannes label – Lovers Rock and Mangrove. The director saw his 2013 pic 12 Years a Slave awarded Best Picture. Both of his new titles focus on race relations in the United Kingdom.

Finally, Pixar is in the mix with Soul. Originally scheduled for summer, it was pushed back to November and is rightfully seen as a top tier contender in the Animated Feature derby. Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, Soul is directed by Pete Docter. He’s responsible for two of the studio’s most acclaimed entries and Oscar winners – 2009’s Up and 2015’s Inside Out.

I would suspect that the 51 other Cannes selections could wind up in the mix as well (especially in the International Feature Film race). Time will tell, but the Cannes label will carry on in 2020 (albeit under unforeseen and unique circumstances).

The Oscars Go Streaming

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.

A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.

So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.

With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.

My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Bong Joon-Ho

My Case of posts outlining the pros and cons of the major Oscar nominees from 2019 brings us to the first entry for Best Director and that’s Bong Joon-Ho for Parasite.

The Case for Bong Joon-Ho

After years of being a critical darling with Memories of Murder, The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, the South Korean filmmaker broke through in the awards space in a massive way with the genre defying Parasite. The film won the Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival unanimously and is the best reviewed picture of the year. Supporters of Parasite are beyond passionate. In a somewhat surprising victory, the movie’s cast won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Competing against a field of legends that includes Scorsese and Tarantino, Joon-Ho is the bright shiny object for voters.

The Case Against Bong Joon-Ho

Two words: Sam Mendes. In making the World War I epic 1917, Mendes has picked up the hardware in this category’s major indicators: the Golden Globes and, especially, the Directors Guild of America.

The Verdict

It appears Best Director has come down to Joon-Ho and Mendes. This race has split with Best Picture five out the past nine years. Parasite could win Best Picture with Mendes taking director and vice versa. The precursors favor Mendes, but the love for this is indeed a factor.

My Case of posts will continue with Joaquin Phoenix in Joker!

 

Oscars 2019: The Case of Antonio Banderas

In my Case of posts outlining the pros and cons of pictures, directors, and actors vying for Oscar glory in the major categories, we arrive at the thespians. Now that my write-ups for the nine film nominees are complete, we start with Best Actor. The plan is to mix it up with these posts among the four acting races. We start with Antonio Banderas and his role in Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory.

The Case for Antonio Banderas

Pain and Glory is one of the most acclaimed foreign language features of 2019 not named Parasite and it earned Banderas career best notices in a nearly 40 year cinematic span. The pic, which draws on Almodovar’s real life experiences, sports a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating and continues a partnership with his lead actor that began in 1982 and includes such features as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, and The Skin I Live In. Banderas nabbed a Golden Globe nod and won some key critical precursors: the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle. The buzz for his work started months ago when he also took Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. This nomination marks his first ever from the Academy despite a long and fruitful career.

The Case Against Antonio Banderas

Best Actor was absolutely packed this year and it was uncertain whether Banderas would even get in. He missed a SAG nod. It’s extremely rare for an actor to win from a foreign language feature. For Best Actor, the list stands at one non-English speaking role with Roberto Benigni for 1998’s Life is Beautiful. 

The Verdict

For Banderas’s first shot at an Academy victory, the prize is the nomination in a field where there were at least 10 viable contenders and he made the cut.

My Case of posts will continue with my first Best Actress contender… Cynthia Erivo!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Parasite

We have reached the final film in my Case of posts for 2019’s nine Best Picture nominees and it’s time to consider Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean export Parasite. If you need to catch up on my previous eight entries, you can peruse them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-little-women/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/19/oscars-2019-the-case-of-marriage-story/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/20/oscars-2019-the-case-of-1917/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/20/oscars-2019-the-case-of-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood/

And now to Parasite!

The Case for Parasite

The pic, which defies easy genre descriptions, certainly has critics on its side. With a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score, this is the best reviewed film of the year and its admirers are passionate and vocal. This is a slam dunk winner for the newly coined Best International Feature Film. Over the weekend, Parasite won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and it was the only to ever do so. For a subtitled film, it’s been a box office success stateside at $27 million and counting. The buzz has been strong for months after it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Joon-Ho is an acclaimed filmmaker (with heralded efforts like Memories of Murder, The Host and Snowpiercer) who’s at last garnering the awards season love.

The Case Against Parasite

If this were to win Best Picture, it would constitute a first. A foreign language title has never won the top prize. Last year’s Roma was the front runner, but it lost to Green Book. It is also rare for a Picture recipient to have none of its actors nominated and that’s the case here.

The Verdict

Even with the fact that it would need to make history, Parasite currently stands alongside 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as the biggest threats to win it all. If the Directors Guild of America (DGA) honors Joon-Ho instead of Sam Mendes for 1917 this weekend, expect that chatter to get even louder.

My Case of posts will continue right up until Oscar day! While the movies themselves have all received their treatment, the nominated directors and actors will get their attention as well. Stay tuned…

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.

Oscar Watch: Atlantics

Back in May, the Senegalese supernatural drama Atlantics received the Grand Prix prize at  Cannes. The picture marks the directorial debut of Mati Diop and she is the first African-American woman to have a feature compete in the annual French fest. The Grand Prix is essentially second place at Cannes and it came in behind Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, which has already established itself as the front runner for this year’s newly coined Best International Feature Film at the Oscars.

Atlantics is just Senegal’s second entry for Academy consideration. The first was 2017’s Felicite, which made the list of top ten submissions but didn’t end up getting into eventual nominated five. In this particular race in 2019, there are 93 movies eligible for inclusion. This December, that will be whittled down to ten with half of them eventually making the cut come announcement morning.

With a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score and the Cannes seal of approval, Atlantics stands a very real shot being recognized among the nominees. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Hidden Life

In his near half century as an acclaimed director, Terrence Malick has only made ten features and his latest is the World War II era drama A Hidden Life. The Fox Searchlight pic debuted early this summer at the Cannes Film Festival and has continued to Toronto before its December release.

Some critical reaction indicates it could be an awards player while other reviews haven’t been quite as effusive. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 74%. Malick has seen two of his works attract Academy attention in the last two decades with 1998’s The Thin Red Line and 2011’s The Tree of Life. Both received Picture nods and nabbed direction calls for Malick.

With Jojo Rabbit garnering a heavily mixed response in Toronto, perhaps Fox (now owned by Disney) could shift its marketing focus to Life. I wouldn’t count their campaign abilities out, but this will definitely need a strong push to contend. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

After premiering in its home country in May at the Cannes Film Festival, the historical love story Portrait of a Lady on Fire will make its North American debut at the Toronto Film Festival shortly. It marks the fourth directorial feature for Céline Sciamma and it made a splash with its European rollout. Set in 1770, Portrait centers on a forbidden romance between a would be bride and the woman commissioned to paint her portrait.

It won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes and currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was acquired by Neon and Hulu for stateside distribution later this year. It stands an excellent chance at being France’s official selection for the Best International Feature category at the Academy Awards. Based on its sizzling buzz, its inclusion in that race is a strong possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Box Office Prediction

Director Quentin Tarantino and star Leonardo DiCaprio both return to the silver screen for the first time in three and a half years with the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood next weekend. Set in the late 1960s, Mr. Tarantino’s latest casts DiCaprio as a washed up TV actor with Brad Pitt as his longtime stunt double. The sprawling supporting players include Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Damian Lewis, the late Luke Perry, Damon Herriman, Mike Moh, Zoe Bell, and Al Pacino.

When Hollywood premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, it did so to reviews expected of its director. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 92% and it could attract Oscar attention. The teaming of DiCaprio (in his first role since his Oscar winning turn in The Revenant) and Pitt and the many Tarantino followers certainly have given this a high profile.

In order to achieve its maker’s largest all-time three day start, Hollywood would need to top the $38 million made by Inglourious Basterds ten years ago. However, that’s a bit of a misnomer. 2012’s Django Unchained opened over Christmas and took in $30 million from Friday to Sunday. Yet it made $63 million over its expanded holiday rollout.

The range here is pretty wide. It’s feasible that Hollywood doesn’t quite reach that high 30s threshold. I think it gets there with a just a few hundred thousand to spare.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opening weekend prediction: $38.7 million