Oscar Predictions: Eileen

Eileen is director William Oldroyd’s sophomore feature after his well-reviewed 2016 rendering of Lady Macbeth with Florence Pugh. This psychological thriller/romance set in the 1960s is based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2015 novel and has premiered at Sundance. Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway headline with a supporting cast including Shea Whigham, Owen Teague, and Marin Ireland.

It is already clear this project will generate lots of attention. A number of early takes are raves with some claiming career best work from McKenzie and Hathaway. Ireland is also being singled out as a scene stealer. There’s said to be a twist in the proceedings that has divided critics and may do the same with audiences.

At Sundance, plenty of pics are looking for distribution and Eileen (with comparisons to Carol and Hitchcock) should easily be snatched up. If an awards campaign is in the cards, we’ll see if the trio of actresses can materialize in the convo or if Adapted Screenplay is feasible. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: TÁR

Four actresses have won three or more acting Oscars. Katherine Hepburn leads the pack with four while Ingrid Bergman, Frances McDormand, and Meryl Streep are the trio boasting three. Could Cate Blanchett join that elite club with Tár, which has premiered at the Venice Film Festival ahead of its October 7th bow? Based on early reviews, it’s very possible.

The psychological drama, which clocks in at over two and a half hours, is the third feature from Todd Field and his first in 16 years. His previous psychological dramas In the Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006) scored a combined 8 Academy nods (five of them for their respective casts). Playing a conductor whose drive borders on insanity, critics are heaping praise on Blanchett and the film itself. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at a clean 100%.

In 2004, Blanchett won her first statue in Supporting Actress for The Aviator in which she played the aforementioned Hepburn. Nine years later, she took Best Actress for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. With Tár, a third Oscar could follow nine years after that. Initial reaction is saying this is one of her greatest performances. This would be her 8th nomination overall and first since 2015’s Carol. I would go as far to say that her inclusion in the Actress final five is already close to assured.

What of its other prospects? It’s worth noting that Bedroom and Children both received adapted screenplays nods. This is Field’s first original screenplay in a category that could be jam packed. He helped his cause today with the Venice buzz (and that could include a directing mention as well). That said, even some of the gushing write-ups warn that Tár may not be accessible to mainstream audiences. This could potentially complicate its viability in Best Picture, but it certainly announced itself as a possibility.

I can’t help but think of 2010’s Black Swan from Darren Aronofsky as a comp. The two pics seem to share similar plot themes. It premiered in Italy 12 years ago and eventually received 5 Oscar nods including a win for its star Natalie Portman. Tár would love to follow that trajectory considering Picture and Director were among the quintet of Swan nominations.

Besides Blanchett, supporting actresses Nina Hoss and Noemie Merchant are picking up laudatory ink. I’m guessing Focus Features will mount a campaign for the former yet that remains to be seen. Cinematography and Score are among the chances for tech nods.

Bottom line: it’s hard to imagine Blanchett not being a major force in the Actress field for 2022. How far Tár goes beyond that is more in question. I do think its chances of being in my ten BP picks is better today than it was yesterday. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Call Jane

Based on a dozen reviews thus far out of Sundance, Phyllis Nagy’s Call Jane stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Focused on the real life Jane Collective from the 1960s (a group of women who fought for reproductive rights prior to Roe v Wade), Elizabeth Banks stars alongside Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Chris Messina.

While its rating is high, most reviews so far are in the three star range. Nagy makes her feature film debut after drawing acclaim for her Carol screenplay in 2015. Banks’s lead performance is drawing solid notices but it’s the supporting work from Weaver garnering a bit of buzz. Despite appearing in a whole lot of high profile pics over the decades, she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 1988. She was actually up twice that year – in lead for Gorillas in the Mist and supporting for Working Girl. Her first nod came two years prior for Aliens. She’s never won.

A campaign for Weaver could be Jane‘s only real shot at awards recognition a year from now. Time will tell and my Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Velvet Underground

The 2021 crop of documentary hopefuls has the potential to be quite a sonically pleasing affair. Just recently, I discussed Questlove’s heralded Summer of Soul which seems like a surefire contender. We also have acclaimed directors known most for non-docs staking a claim in the subgenre.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Todd Haynes has just debuted The Velvet Underground. Focused on the influential NYC band featuring Lou Reed, this is yet another acclaimed example of an auteur dipping back into the musical vaults. Edgar Wright did so earlier this year with The Sparks Brothers. Peter Jackson has his three-part The Beatles: Get Back hitting Disney Plus in November.

Haynes is most known for numerous indie darlings. His screenplay for 2002’s Far from Heaven was nominated, but he was surprisingly not mentioned for directing or writing with 2015’s Carol. Could the Academy recognize him here?

It’s now standard practice on the blog to point out that the Academy’s documentary branch is a fickle bunch. There could simply be too many rock docs competing against each other (and I’d certainly give Soul an edge over this). However, depending on the forthcoming competition, there could potentially be room for this Underground offering. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Big Apple Has A Cow

The New York Film Critics Circle bestowed their best of 2020 honors today and the group provided a significant boost to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. The 19th century set drama took Best Film. Cow‘s chances at Oscar attention has seemed iffy so far this year. In fact, I have yet to have it listed in my predicted nominees for the Academy’s highest prize.

That might not change, but it does have recent history on its side. Only one of the Best Film honorees from the previous decade (2015’s Carol) failed to nab a Picture nod at the Oscars. On the other hand, only one of the New York Circle winners from the past ten years went on to win (2011’s The Artist).

It was also a good day for Never Rarely Sometimes Always as Eliza Hittman’s feature won Best Screenplay and Sidney Flanagan took Best Actress. Flanagan’s inclusion in Best Actress with the Academy looks questionable in that crowded field, but this first critics win certainly gives her exposure.

Best Director went to Chloe Zhao for Nomadland. She seems to be a shoo-in at the Oscars and will likely compete for the victory with David Fincher (Mank).

In other acting derbies, it was Delroy Lindo taking Best Actor for Da 5 Bloods and Chadwick Boseman in Supporting Actor for his role in Spike Lee’s picture. As for the what the Academy will do, it’s more feasible that Boseman could win against Lindo for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 

Supporting Actress went the funny route with Maria Bakalova’s breakout role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The NYFCC has shown a willingness to honor comedic performers in this race as recent as three years ago with Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip. It’s worthy of mention that Haddish did not end up on Oscar’s radar and Bakalova’s inclusion is up in the air as well.

The group’s Documentary award went to Time (a strong contender for the Academy) while Brazil’s Bacarau took the Foreign Language Prize. The latter is not its country’s submitted movie for Oscar consideration.

Bottom line: it’s a good day for First Cow, though it remains to be seen whether it can milk its buzz through nomination morning next year.

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Actress

Today brings part two of my exploration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rather astonishing number of actors in the MCU that have received Oscar nominations or won. The total is 110 nominations and 20 wins. I started with the lead performers who received Best Actor nods and victories. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/12/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actor/

We move to Best Actress and the numbers there are bit lower. For Actor, it’s 33 nominations and 6 wins, encompassing 23 total men. For Actress, it’s 11 women who’ve received a tally of 22 nominations and 4 trips to the stage. The reasoning behind this could be simple. It wasn’t until the 22nd MCU pic (last year’s Captain Marvel) where a female received overall top billing. And Captain Marvel herself is among the 4 victorious thespians. I’ll remind you that I am including Marvel’s next two features (Black Widow and The Eternals) in the count.

Let’s break them down by winners first:

Gwyneth Paltrow, Iron Man’s main squeeze Pepper Potts, won in 1998 for Shakespeare in Love

Natalie Portman, girlfriend to Thor in those first two pics, won in 2010 for Black Swan

Cate Blanchett, nemesis to the Asgard God in Thor: Ragnarok, took the prize in 2013 for Blue Jasmine

Captain Marvel Brie Larson was a gold recipient in 2015 for Room

Here are the 18 nominees:

Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow, scored her first leading actress nod last year for Marriage Story

Natalie Portman was additionally nominated in 2016 for Jackie

Glenn Close, who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, is a four-time nominee in the lead category for 1987’s Fatal Attraction, 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, 2011’s Albert Nobbs, and 2018’s The Wife

Cate Blanchett received three more nods for 1998’s Elizabeth, 2007 sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and 2015’s Carol

Angela Bassett, mother to Black Panther, was nominated for her portrayal of Tina Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Michelle Pfeiffer, costar of Ant-Man and the Wasp, is a three-time contender for 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons (alongside Close), 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys, and 1992’s Love Field

Annette Bening, from Captain Marvel, is also a three-time hopeful for 1999’s American Beauty, 2004’s Being Julia, and 2010’s The Kids Are All Right

Salma Hayek, from the upcoming The Eternals, scored a nomination for 2002’s Frida

Angelina Jolie, also from The Eternals, got a nod for 2008’s Changeling

I’ll have Supporting Actor up in short order!

Oscar Watch: Dark Waters

Director Todd Haynes has guided Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett to previous acting nominations in Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, and Carol. His latest effort is the corporate legal thriller Dark Waters, based on a true story. Mark Ruffalo stars and produces, playing a lawyer taking on the DuPont conglomerate.

Somewhat surprisingly, Waters skipped the late summer and autumn festival circuit ahead of its November 22nd release and reviews are just trickling out. They’re decent and the Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 75%.

Critics have praised Ruffalo’s work. He is thrice nominated in the Supporting Actor race for 2010’s The Kids Are All Right, 2014’s Foxcatcher, and 2015’s Spotlight. He would stand the best chance at recognition for the first time in lead – over the film itself and costars including Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and Bill Pullman. Yet, as has been discussed before on the blog, Best Actor is packed. I believe there’s eight thespians at the moment with legit shots at nods. Ruffalo isn’t in that mix.

Bottom line: chances for Dark Waters in the awards conversation are murky at best.

Gotham Awards Reaction 2018

It’s only mid-October, but the first significant precursor of awards season rolled out nominations today in the form of the Gotham Awards. If you’re not familiar, the Gothams honor independent film in a limited number of categories.

While not as prolific as the Golden Globes or SAG nominations, there has been a correlation with movies and performers nominated here getting Oscar attention. Let’s take a look at the past five Gotham awards nominees and how they matched up with the Academy:

In 2013, 12 Years a Slave was nominated for Best Feature and went on to win the Oscar. In the Best Actor race, eventual Academy winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) was victorious here and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Slave) also was nominated for both. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) was nominated here and went on to win the gold statue. It’s worth noting that the Gothams do not have supporting acting categories (we’ll get to that in a minute).

In 2014, three movies that got Best Picture nods were honored here: Birdman (Oscar winner), Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In the acting races, Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Oscar/Gotham winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) were included.

For 2015, no Best Actor nominees for the Gothams correlated to Oscars. However, there were actress match-ups with Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) and Cate Blanchett (Carol). Also – the Gotham and Oscar Best Picture winners were the same – Spotlight.

That happened once again in 2016 as Moonlight won the Oscar and the Gotham. Manchester by the Sea was also nominated for both. Casey Affleck’s work in that film won Best Actor at both ceremonies. For Actress, Natalie Portman as Jackie got double nods.

Last year, two Gotham Film nominees got Best Picture recognition: Call Me by Your Name and Get Out. In Actor, it was Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out as a double recipient. In Actress, same goes for Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). And coming back to the fact that there’s no supporting races, Willem Dafoe received an Actor nomination at the Gothams for The Florida Project while being recognized for Supporting Actor at the Oscars.

So, as you can see, there’s usually some overlap for the two ceremonies. And that brings us to today’s nominees and how I think that overlap will occur this year:

In the Gotham Best Feature race, the nominees are:

The Favourite

First Reformed

If Beale Street Could Talk

Madeline’s Madeline

The River

The average number of Gotham/Oscar film nominees lately has been two and that likely holds true here with The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. The other three are highly unlikely to get Academy recognition.

In the Best Actor race, the nominees are:

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You

Grant is probably this year’s Willem Dafoe and will be recognized by the Academy in Supporting Actor. Adam Driver falls in the same category, but is more of a long shot. Stanfield is out of the running for Actor at the Oscars, while Foster and Hawke remain possibilities. That said – like 2015 – this could well be a year where there’s no matches.

That is not the case with Actress and the nominees are:

Glenn Close, The Wife

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Kathryn Hahn, Private Life

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Michelle Pfeiffer, Where is Kyra?

Collette is a possible nominee, but it’s Close that seems a near lock for Oscar attention and a possible win. The others? Not so much.

Finally, a Special Jury prize was initiated that honors the three actresses from The Favourite. That would be Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz and all three could find themselves in the mix at Oscar time. The Gothams did the same jury designation for 2014’s Foxcatcher and 2015’s Spotlight. 

So there you have it! My take on how the Gotham Awards will relate to the biggest awards show of all…

 

Oscar Watch: Wonderstruck

The Cannes Film Festival started this week across the pond in France and that means some likely Oscar hopefuls are receiving their first screenings. One such picture is Wonderstruck, the latest from director Todd Haynes. It’s based on a 2011 novel by Brian Selznick, the same author who wrote the Hugo series in which Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Best Picture nominee is based upon.

Wonderstruck features Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in supporting roles and child actors Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds in lead parts. Reaction from the Cannes screening has been mostly positive and it currently stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Haynes’ three previous efforts have all garnered Oscar nods – 2002’s Far from Heaven, 2007’s I’m Not There, and 2015’s Carol. However, none of them got Best Picture nominations. Instead, the focus was on acting. That will likely apply here with some potential for attention on down ballot categories.

Based on early buzz, I’d keep an eye out for Simmonds, the teenage deaf actress said to be a standout. Wonderstruck could also make a play for Adapted Screenplay as well as Costume Design and Original Score. The film hits theaters stateside in October.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Carol Movie Review

Todd Haynes’s Carol takes its source material from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, written at a time when its subject matter was considered taboo and where its hopeful conclusion was unfathomable to many of the readers. There’s a Hitchcock connection here as Highsmith is primarily known for writing the book in which Strangers on a Train is based, but The Price of Salt (in which Carol is based) tells a lesbian romance in which she used an alias to release it. Sixty plus years later, the film serves as an often engaging and very well acted tale of a different time in which this particular love story was considered toxic.

Set in New York City in the 1950s (with beautiful production design and first rate cinematography), Cate Blanchett plays the title character. She’s a well to do housewife with a young daughter going through a rough divorce. Her estrangement from her husband (an always solid Kyle Chandler) is not explored in great depths, but we soon learn part of the issue was her affair with a long time friend (Sarah Paulson, who’s currently giving Emmy worthy work on FX’s O.J. limited series). Carol meets Therese (Rooney Mara) in a department store as she’s Christmas shopping and the two are quickly taken with one another. Therese, an aspiring photographer, is stuck in a listless relationship with Richard (Jake Lacy) and she quickly begins to accept Carol’s overtures for lunch dates and eventually, a road trip. As their relationship grows, so does the drama surrounding Carol’s divorce proceedings in which her sexuality can be used as an excuse for her to lose custody of her child.

This picture moves along at a pace that some critics would describe as deliberate, which can fairly be called slow in this case. The screenplay by Phyllis Nagy focuses on the couple with the supporting characters relegated to the sidelines. It’s quite helpful that Blanchett and Mara both give strong performances. Ms. Blanchett has the flashier role, but Mara is equally as impressive with a quieter role in which she believably conveys this young woman figuring herself out with a woman who’s grown more comfortable with who she is.

I’m sure this source material was considerably more shocking in its era and Carol now stands as a technically pleasing love affair with two actresses shining in their parts.

*** (out of four)