Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

2014 was an admittedly sturdy year in the Best Actor category with Eddie Redmayne winning the prize for The Theory of Everything. The other nominees were Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). However, one could argue that Carell could have fit into the Supporting Actor derby (and he probably would have been nominated over his costar Mark Ruffalo).

So while all five contenders above turned in fine performances, I still cannot fathom how Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was left out. As a demented Los Angeles photojournalist, the actor (whose only Academy nod is for supporting in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain) turned in a career best performance. In fact, Nightcrawler itself is my favorite movie of its year and should’ve certainly been a Best Picture nominee too.

This was the second year in a row where I feel an obviously worthy turn was ignored. In 2013, it was Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Gyllenhaal’s exclusion is just as baffling and that’s especially true because he was nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards.

News of the World Review

In the filmography of Tom Hanks that intersects with Paul Greengrass, he was the Captain then and he is the Captain now in their collaborations. The first was 2013’s Captain Phillips and I still harbor a grudge that the multiple Oscar winner and nominee didn’t pick up another nod for it. His final scene in Phillips as he’s in shock over the real life events in which he barely survived was reason enough for further awards consideration. That movie left me floored. News of the World left me satisfied as Hanks once again gives a commanding performance with a newcomer costar who is his equal.

This time around, Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. Set in 1870 amidst gorgeous Western scenery, Kidd is a former Confederate soldier traveling the American South. He earns his living schlepping from town to town and reading the latest newspaper stories to an attentive crowd. The happenings of Washington D.C. (led by President Ulysses S. Grant who Southerners aren’t exactly fond of) are hundreds of miles away. Yet 150 years now, they might as well be on Mars. The film doesn’t dwell on these struggling towns digging their way out of the Civil War, but that history is always present underneath the surface.

Kidd’s solo journey is interrupted when he happens upon a young girl Johanna (Helena Zengel). Her blonde hair and blue eyes indicates her German heritage, but her Native American garb tells a different background. She speaks the language of a tribe and it is revealed that her original family and those who raised her after their demise have perished as well. A double orphan, Kidd reluctantly accepts the responsibility of returning Johanna to her surviving family that she’s never met. Kidd’s own familial history is gradually revealed.

Thus begins an episodic quest where the language barrier between the two leads isn’t the only complication. There are also ex-soldiers who try to purchase Johanna and that leads to Kidd entering into battle a half decade after the war’s end. There are rough stops on the speaking tour that put the wild in the west. And, being that it’s Tom Hanks leading the horse drawn wagon, there’s a fundamental decency in his interactions with his copilot and a paternal instinct that kicks in.

News of the World is, quite simply, a rock solid picture. We know Hanks will turn in exemplary work and he does. The performance of Zengel is the surprise and is one of the best child performances in recent memory. She says more with an expression than plenty of actors do in a monologue. It has become cliche to call Hanks the Jimmy Stewart of his time, but it’s so true. There are times when I could imagine Stewart playing this part in something from the 1950s or 60s. That old fashioned vibe is a contrast to Greengrass’s earlier catalogue that includes the Bourne franchise, United 93, and Captain Phillips. Those pictures had a fierce urgency to them. World is more laid back, but with frequent reminders of the violent atmosphere permeating the post War era.

Hanks could read the phonebook and it would draw interest. Telephones didn’t come around until 1876 so his tales off the printed page do just fine. He also has a worthy partner in Zengel and top notch work from his director and crew.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: News of the World

When Paul Greengrass directed Tom Hanks seven years ago in Captain Phillips, the result was six Oscar nominations that included Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and a supporting nod for newcomer Barkhad Abdi. It was not nominated for Director or Hanks in Best Actor (something I still vehemently disagree with). With the release of their second collaboration on Christmas, the western drama News of the World, history could absolutely repeat itself.

The review embargo is up today and News is currently breaking at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. While that’s a great rating, much of the critical reaction is not of the rave variety. However, this looks to be a feature that should appeal to older members of the Academy and that very well could be enough to nab it a Best Picture nomination. I suspect that when I update my Oscar predictions tomorrow on the blog, I will still have it listed in my estimated nine.

It’s been 20 years since the beloved Hanks scored his last Best Actor nod for Cast Away, though he was featured in last year’s Supporting Actor derby for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Like in 2013 when he was snubbed for Phillips, this year’s contest is likely too crowded for him to be included. Like with Abdi, on the other hand, there is a newcomer here that could garner attention. 12-year-old Helena Zengel is his costar and the fifth slot in Supporting Actress seems to be open. This is assuming that Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Amanda Seyfried (Mank), Olivia Colman (The Father), and Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman) make the cut and I currently am. Zengel, who critics are certainly praising, is a strong hopeful for #5.

Greengrass may struggle to make it in for his direction just as he did with Phillips. Adapted Screenplay (by the director and Luke Davies) seems more of a possibility. There’s also tech races where it stands a solid chance and this includes Original Score, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, and Sound. My feeling is that it will show up in most or all. In fact, I’ll go out on an early limb and say that News of the World will get the most 2020 Oscar nominations without winning any. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

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: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is one of the highest profile titles to debut in Toronto prior to its November 22 stateside rollout. From Marielle Heller (who directed Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant to nods in last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?), it follows a journalist (Matthew Rhys) doing a story on legendary children’s show host Mister Rogers. And the film casts Tom Hanks, perhaps America’s most beloved actor, in the part.

Early reviews have keyed in one his work and he’s said to be terrific. Critical reaction has also cleared up any category placement confusion. Hanks is supporting here and would be nominated as such with Rhys likely going lead. A two-time winner for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump with three other nods under his belt, Hanks surprisingly hasn’t heard his name called since 2000 for Cast Away (I’m still sore he was snubbed for 2013’s Captain Phillips). He’s never been nominated outside of the lead actor race.

Neighborhood could certainly change that. As for Best Picture, I’m skeptical it gets in despite reviews saying it’s a tear jerking audience pleaser. The focus could rest solely on its very famous costar. One of the shocker snubs in 2018 was the exclusion of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (about Rogers) from Documentary Feature. Academy voters could rectify that a bit in 2019. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: July 22

In addition to the Bourne franchise, director Paul Greengrass is best known for making thrillers based on well-known events. This includes Bloody Sunday, United 93 (for which he received a Best Director nomination), and Captain Phillips (which nabbed a Best Picture nod). His latest is July 22 and it focuses on the 2011 Norwegian terrorist attacks.

The film has debuted at the Venice Film Festival and reviews out today are solid. However, I’m not sure the critical reaction is strong enough for Greengrass or his picture to receive Academy acknowledgment. I’m also not seeing any technical nominations at this juncture. It also may not help that the production is scheduled to debut on Netflix and the voters still may not be overly enthusiastic about recognizing the subscription service.

Bottom line: Barring a greater amount of festival love, don’t expect this to achieve the level of attention that previous Greengrass movies United 93 and Captain Phillips got.

July 22 is out on Netflix on October 10. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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!

Film Festival Season Approaches: The 2018 Hopefuls

We may be smack dab in the middle of the summer movie season, but Oscar season will be taking shape before we know it. This week, the organizers of the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have unveiled lineups for the pictures that will be premiering at their events in a few weeks. Many of them are awards hopefuls.

To give you an idea of the importance of festivals when it comes to Oscar nominees, six of last year’s nine nominees premiered at some combination of Toronto, Venice, Telluride, New York, Sundance, or Cannes. Every Best Picture winner from this decade and beyond played at one of them. The last one that didn’t was The Departed back in 2006.

The months of September-December are the fertile ground for most nominated features. Last year, seven of the nine Picture nominees came out in that time frame. In 2016 – it was 8 out of 9.

Beginning in late August/early September, I will begin my weekly Oscar prediction columns. It works like this:

Late August/Early September – first posting of predictions in the categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

Months of September and October – weekly Oscar predictions column post covering those 6 categories, as well as Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-25. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-15.

Months of November through announcement of nominations – weekly Oscar predictions column covering every category involving feature films. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-15. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-10.

While these posts are a month away, today I bring you 25 fall awards hopefuls that I suspect I’ll be mentioning frequently. Most of these are premiering at the high-profile quartet of upcoming fests (Venice, Toronto, New York, Telluride). Some aren’t, but could certainly be added to Telluride or New York especially (as they’re more known for surprise screenings).

Let’s get to it!

A Star is Born

The third remake of the musical drama marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and features a potential showcase role for his costar Lady Gaga. Early word of mouth is already strong.

At Eternity’s Gate

He received a nomination for his supporting work last year for The Florida Project and Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in what could be another awards bait role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Backseat

Expect Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short to receive plenty of attention. Christian Bale is Cheney with Amy Adams as wife Lynne and last year’s Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell plays the father of a meth addict played by Timothee Chalamet, who was nominated last year for Call Me by Your Name.

Ben is Back

Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts headline this family drama that premieres at Toronto.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Bohemian Rhapsody

Despite some behind the scenes drama in its filming, all eyes will be on Rami Malek’s work as Queen front man Freddie Mercury.

Boy Erased

Perhaps an even larger showcase role for Lucas Hedges is this drama where he plays a homosexual sent to conversion camp. Joel Edgerton directs and costars along with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy received an Academy Award nomination with her breakthrough role in Bridesmaids. This drama about writer Lee Israel could muster attention for her yet again.

First Man

Director Damien Chazelle has seen both of his efforts (Whiplash, La La Land) nominated for Best Picture and he’s the youngest filmmaker to ever win Best Director. His third pic is a Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling. It opens the Venice Film Festival.

If Beale Street Could Talk

The follow-up to his Oscar winning Moonlight, Barry Jenkins directs this drama set in 1970s Harlem.

July 22

United 93 and Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass brings his latest to Netflix and it focuses on the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Life Itself

Premiering at Toronto, this ensemble drama includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Munn, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.

Mary Poppins Returns

She’s already a contender for A Quiet Place and Emily Blunt could face competition from herself with Disney’s expected monster hit.

Mary Queen of Scots

They were both nominated for Best Actress last year and now Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie star in this historical drama about the title character and Queen Elizabeth I.

Old Man & The Gun

David Lowery directs Robert Redford in the true life tale of a prison escape artist. Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck costar.

On the Basis of Sex

The documentary RBG could get noticed by the Documentary branch, as could this biopic which casts Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Peterloo

Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh returns with this historical 19th century drama.

Roma

This Mexican family drama is Alfonso Cuaron’s first directorial effort since his acclaimed Gravity.

Suspiria

Call Me by Your Name maker Luca Guadagnino shifts gears for this remake of the 1970s horror classic. Don’t be surprised if this receives attention in some technical categories.

The Favourite

The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos is behind this historical drama featuring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

The Front Runner

Jason Reitman directs this biopic of failed Presidential candidate Gary Hart with Hugh Jackman cast in the role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

The Sisters Brothers

John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal are among the cast in this Western from acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard.

Welcome to Marwen

Steve Carell stars in this unique looking drama from Forrest Gump maker Robert Zemeckis.

Widows

It’s been five years between projects for Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. This heist thriller stars recent winner Viola Davis.

And there’s your very early preview of some titles to keep an eye on over the coming months. Those Oscar posts will start rolling out weekly in about a month! Stay tuned…

Deepwater Horizon Box Office Prediction

The last time that director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg hooked up, their war drama Lone Survivor grossed a terrific $125 million domestically in early 2014. Nearly three years later, the pair have collaborated on Deepwater Horizon. This is another true-life tale focused on the 2010 BP oil rig explosion and the people who had to battle it. Costars include Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien.

With a reported budget of $156 million, Summit Entertainment better hope moviegoers flock to see the disaster pic… or they may have their own financial disaster on their hands. Early reviews have been mostly strong. It stands at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics particularly praising its technical aspects.

Lone Survivor earned $37 million in its first weekend of wide release. That is probably the highest of bars for Horizon. One difference is that Survivor benefited from strong military interest that simply won’t come into play here. Still, the combination of Wahlberg with this well-known story could be enough to get this to mid 20s, in range with the opening of Captain Phillips from three years back or Fury from two years ago.

Deepwater Horizon opening weekend prediction: $24.7 million

For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-box-office-prediction/

For my Masterminds prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/masterminds-box-office-prediction/

For my Queen of Katwe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/23/queen-of-katwe-box-office-prediction/