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/

 

My Love of Movies Part II: The Blog’s Second Anniversary

This week, Bill Murray spent an hour on Howard Stern’s radio show. Hearing these two true comedic icons shoot the breeze was an absolute pleasure. Filmmakers who try to recruit the indispensible Murray to even be in their movies have a tough time getting through to him. The actor is notorious for not having a manager or publicist or checking his cell phone (which he told Howard he has because his children only text and don’t answer calls).

At one point, the conversation turned to the late, brilliant film critic Roger Ebert and Murray told a fantastic anecdote about him. Earlier in his career, Murray was not known at all for dramatic work and Roger criticized him, stating that he should stick to comedy only. Years later, when Murray saw Ebert at an event, he quoted a famous critic for making that statement. Ebert didn’t know who would make such a claim since Murray was obviously a wonderful actor in any forum. Murray reminded Roger that it was him that said it years ago. As the actor recounted, Ebert gave him a look like, “Boy, was I wrong!” The Ebert conversation ended with Murray stating his love for the critic and Howard agreed. Bill Murray’s main point: Roger Ebert loved movies.

You see that deep affection for the world of cinema in the documentary Life Itself, which recounted Roger’s career and the last few months of his life. I’ve talked about it on the blog before when reviewing that documentary and in my post on the sad day that Roger died. My general feeling is this: you can tell when a person who writes about movies loves them and when they don’t. Let me make an important distinction – I’m not talking about loving a movie that you give four stars to and not liking a movie you award with two stars. I’m speaking of being able to determine whether or not a writer truly loves the craft they’re writing about. Roger Ebert did. Many more do. Other critics and bloggers seem to revel in trashing movies far too often, at least for my taste.

When I read a critic’s work or their blogs, I want to feel like they have a deep appreciation for the subject they spend so much time writing about. Frankly, it’s the main thing I strive to achieve on my blog – which will celebrate its 2nd anniversary officially on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve written my share of negative reviews. So does every other critic and blogger on planet Earth. Many pictures, simply, don’t measure up to expectations, are a rehash of previous material, are badly paced, etc…

Yet here’s my philosophy when it comes to writing about movies – every time those theater lights go down or (more often) I hit play on the Blu Ray or On Demand, I hope that I’m going to like what I see. I hope to have that satisfactory or even profound film watching experience that us lovers of cinema seek out again and again and again and again. I’ve had it recently with that Ebert documentary. I had it when Little Groot danced to the Jackson 5 in Guardians of the Galaxy. I had it watching the delicious twists and turns of David Fincher’s Gone Girl. I had it watching Leo DiCaprio on speaker phone suckering in a client in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. I had it watching Tom Hanks remind me that he’s one of the most astonishing actors in the world during the last five minutes of Captain Phillips.

And that was all in the last year! Now let’s go to just last night when I reviewed Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. I’m a fan of his work – both “Family Guy” and 2012’s Ted. I found his sophomore directorial effort to be pretty darn disappointing. Guess what? I loved writing my review of that just as much as writing a highly positive post – the kinds I recently wrote for Her or Fruitvale Station. 

Now here’s the irony: two years ago when I began this little venture, I stated that I wouldn’t write movie reviews on the blog. Boy, was I wrong! Just like I’ve been wrong about many of my box office predictions that remain the most read entries on this site. For every time I nail a prediction (or close to nail) on The Equalizer or Gone Girl, I grossly underestimate the potential of Annabelle or grossly overestimate the performance of the Sin City sequel.

I’ve now been writing movie reviews for about 23 years since I was a preteen. It took my snap decision to start the blog to rediscover my love for that exercise. Yet the movie reviews are just one part of that aforementioned love of movies. There’s plenty more posts – whether box office related or Oscar prediction related. Hell, I’ve even found myself posting about music and TV more often than I could have imagined.

In the two years since the blog began and much to the assistance of WordPress, I’ve been able to discover other movie bloggers. They may have different writing styles than myself, but they have one thing in common: they love movies too. Joe Giuliano, who predicts box office results with freakish accuracy. Thy Critic Man, Daniel Prinn and Justine B, whose reviews are a joy to read. Trevor and Jason from boxofficeace.com and their fine podcast… I just wish they did it every week! And there’s many more.

As I said on my year anniversary of the site, I sincerely cannot thank you enough for reading this site. I would love writing this blog regardless, but it means a heckuva lot more knowing that eyeballs actually see it. I appreciate each and every one of the thousands of blog views and readers in 142 countries (!) who’ve read some of my 777 (!) posts. For those who take their time to check my box office predictions or read my Oscar forecast or peruse my reviews and so forth, I can tell you what I strive for everyday on this wonderful hobby of mine. The goal is for the reader to come away with this general feeling – that guy loves movies and writing about them. And if I’ve been able to direct you in the path of something great that you haven’t seen, that’s a feeling I cherish.

Back to the beginning:

Bill Murray. Roger Ebert.

For movie lovers like me and you, think about the joy that someone like Bill Murray has brought into your lives. Caddyshack. Ghostbusters. Groundhog Day. Lost in Translation and so forth. I’ll have that feeling of excitement soon when St. Vincent premieres. Maybe it’ll be great. Or maybe not, but I love anticipating finding out and I’ll love writing about it.

For movie writers and bloggers like me and some of you, think about how Roger Ebert’s work may have influenced you. I know damn well he influenced me. He helped teach me how to put that indescribable affection for this world of movies into words. Don’t get me wrong – I am no Roger Ebert and never will be. I’m just trying my best to put my perspective on movies before the reader and hope you enjoy it.

The thing about movies is this – as I described in an earlier post, it’s a Never Ending Story. There’s always more to discover. There’s always something new to write about. There’s always the joy of revisiting older titles and or rediscovering something about a favorite that you hadn’t noticed before. There’s always box office predictions to make for this blogger. There’s always Oscar predictions as the race takes shape.

And there is always, always, always the love that I hold for the subject I choose to write about and the joy that those making and writing about movies give to us, the audience. Whether it’s Bill Murray in front of the camera or Roger Ebert at that typewriter.

Mr. Ebert might be gone, but his words are here for us to enjoy forever. In the last year, we’ve been saddened to learn that Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman are gone. Yet their work will live on for us to savor – from Truman Capote to a British nanny to a cult religious leader to a therapist telling his pupil that “It’s not his fault” to the Big Lebowski’s socially awkward assistant to that inspirational teacher telling his students to “Seize The Day!” For us movie lovers, the medium gives us these special moments and performances and memories to seize on those days when we might need it.

And I’ll close by saying that it’s a real pleasure to write about it.

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

After five posts predicting the other major categories for this year’s Academy Awards, we’ve arrived at the biggest race of all: Best Picture. Here are the nine nominees:

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

As I see it, there are three films that stand a realistic chance at taking home the gold. Those three do not include Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, or The Wolf of Wall Street.

That leaves us with American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.

While I have predicted that Alfonso Cuaron will win Best Director for Gravity (a pick I’m highly confident in), the chances of his picture winning are much more slim. While it was a hit with audiences and critics – the sci-fi epic has won no major precursors to speak of. Its recognition should come to Cuaron and in various technical categories.

American Hustle certainly has plenty of fans and director David O. Russell has been on a heckuva hot streak. The pic stands the second best chance of being the victor.

However, the fact is that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is undeniably the frontrunner and it has been for awhile. Slave has won a slew of precursors, including the Golden Globe for Best Drama. From an odds perspective, I’d put it this way:

12 Years a Slave: 75% chance of winning

American Hustle: 20% chance of winning

Gravity: 5% chance of winning

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

For a full breakdown of my picks, here ya go:

Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Director – Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Actor – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Next weekend – I’ll have my final predictions in all categories before the big show. If any of the six major ones change in the next week (unlikely), I’ll act accordingly. Until then!