Oscar Watch: The World to Come

Vanessa Kirby, who’s had a varied career thus far on Netflix’s The Crown and action tentpoles like Mission Impossible – Fallout and Hobbs & Shaw, is having quite a solid Venice Film Festival. Currently underway overseas, the actress received plenty of raves for her work in Pieces of a Woman and that’s led to some awards buzz.

She also stars in The World to Come, a 19th century set drama in which she engages in a forbidden romance with Katherine Waterston. Their spouses are played by Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck. Norwegian filmmaker Mona Fastvold is behind the camera. While some critics have pointed out some flaws, World is currently spinning with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score and drawing comparisons to the acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire from last year.

That said, I’m a bit skittish on this getting any major Oscar attention. It’s not clear what the category placement would be for the four leads. Both Waterston and Kirby could cancel each other out in lead actress (or supporting) and I suspect the latter’s better chances are with the aforementioned Pieces.

Bottom line: despite the early acclaim, it could be a tall order for World to come to the attention of the Oscar deciders. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019 SAG Awards WINNER Predictions

Another major Oscar precursor holds their ceremony this evening with the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. This particular show has definitely served as a massive indicator where the Academy might go with the acting winners. As for Best Picture, not so much.

So let’s get into it as I make my projections for what will happen tonight!

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Nyong’o is the odd one out here as she didn’t nab an Oscar nomination. A win here by Johansson and Theron (both are possible) could set up a narrative as being Zellweger’s legit competition. Over the past decade, the SAG and Oscar winner have matched seven out of nine times. The outliers include last year when Glenn Close took the SAG for The Wife and Olivia Colman won the Academy Award for The Favourite. Tonight could also solidify Zellweger’s work as Judy Garland in the biopic. My suspicion is that it happens.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Analysis: A Best Actor derby where ten performers were vying for five spots means 2 men here didn’t make the Oscar cut: Bale and Egerton. Therefore, I see this as a three person showdown between DiCaprio, Driver, and Phoenix. The Oscar/SAG linkage here is significant as eight of the last nine victors went on to take the Academy Award. 2016 was the only exception when Denzel Washington got the SAG for Fences and Casey Affleck was the Oscar recipient for Manchester by the Sea.

Driver could be the larger threat, but this season is shaping up to be a sweep for Phoenix. That’s where the smart money is tonight.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: There is a 7 for 9 SAG/Oscar match in this category this decade. Foxx didn’t get the Academy attention. Hanks is beloved, but his movie has underwhelmed elsewhere. Pacino and Pesci should split votes. And the narrative continues for Pitt to have a terrific awards season.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role 

The Nominees: Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: During the 2010s, there was an 8 for 8 SAG/Oscar match here from 2010-2017. Yet 2018 was the exception and a rather enormous one. Emily Blunt’s victory last year for A Quiet Place was a stunner since she had no Oscar nod. And the Academy’s winner (Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk) didn’t get a SAG nod.

Could this set up a situation where Lopez, snubbed by the Academy, could walk to the podium tonight? I’m tempted to make that upset pick. However, Dern is unquestionably the favorite and I just can’t bet against her.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Bombshell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Now here is where it gets interesting! Unlike the individual acting races, there isn’t as much of a history with this category matching up with Oscar’s Best Picture. This decade it’s happened four out of nine times. For the 21st century, it’s nine out of nineteen times.

You don’t see 1917 listed here and with its Golden Globe Best Drama and PGA victories, it’s the soft front runner for Oscar. An omission here doesn’t mean much as the last two Academy BP recipients (The Shape of Water, Green Book) missed here. Other than Bombshell, the nominees here are all nominated for Best Picture. Any of them winning tonight could position that film as the main competitor to 1917. That said, I don’t discount Bombshell taking the prize this evening as it received the greatest number of SAG nods.

Parasite is the only nominee where none of its individual performers were nominated. You could argue that the voters simply saved for their votes for this race. Jojo has its hardcore fans. The Irishman boasts a trio of acting legends.

Ultimately, I’m leaning toward the sprawling cast of Hollywood. Yet I’ll freely admit that this category seems wide open.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

And there you have it! I’ll have a post up recounting how I did and what it means for the Oscar race soon enough…

Will The Indie Spirits Nominees Showcase Oscar Gems?

This afternoon, the nominations for the 35th Independent Spirit Awards were released as we prepare for the onslaught of Oscar precursors to follow. And make no mistake – the Indie Spirits are indeed a precursor. In this decade from 2010-2018, five of the nine Best Feature winners emerged victorious with the Academy for Best Picture: 2011’s The Artist, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, 2014’s Birdman, 2015’s Spotlight, and 2016’s Moonlight. Some of these years have three or four of the five nominees get Oscar nods in the big race.

However, 2018 marked the first year of this decade when none of the five nominated pictures at the Indies garnered any Academy love. I don’t expect that to occur for a second year in a row.

In this post, I’ll break down Feature, Director, and the four acting races and what it might mean for Oscar:

Best Feature

Nominees: A Hidden Life, Clemency, The Farewell, Marriage Story, Uncut Gems

First things first: Marriage Story is going to get a Best Picture nomination and probably wins here. And it might be the only one here that does. The Farewell has a decent shot and Uncut Gems is a potential sleeper (though I wouldn’t bet on it).

That said, Gems did tie The Lighthouse for most Indie mentions (5). And that brings us back to Marriage Story. The voters here chose to give it a special Robert Altman award honoring the team behind it. That includes cast members Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, and Alan Alda. They all probably would’ve heard their names here had that not occurred and same goes for director Noah Baumbach. If that seems like a bit of a cheat (taking out probable winners like Driver and Baumbach), I wouldn’t argue. The silver lining is that it does make some of these categories more interesting.

Best Director

Nominees: Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse), Alma Hor’el (Honey Boy), Julius Onah (Luce), Ben and Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers)

Like Best Feature, 2018 saw no directors recognized get Academy attention. With Baumbach getting his Altman award and out of the running, that could certainly happen again as I don’t even have any of these directors in my top ten Oscar possibilities. Perhaps this could help spur chatter for the Safdies or Scafaria. Again… I wouldn’t bet on it.

Best Female Lead

Nominees: Karen Allen (Colewell), Hong Chau (Driveways), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Mary Kay Place (Diane), Alfre Woodard (Clemency), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Six out of nine winners here from 2010-2018 went onto win the Best Actress statue: Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Brie Larson (Room), and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

Even with Johansson not included, it could be 7/10 as Zellweger is my current Oscar front runner. Woodard and Moss stand shots at nods. The other three need not shop for red carpet dresses.

One noticeable omission is Awkwafina in The Farewell, who many are predicting for Oscar attention. I currently had her on the outside looking in at sixth. That could slide when I update my estimates on Monday.

Best Male Lead

Nominees: Chris Galust (Give Me Liberty), Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Luce), Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Matthias Schoenarts (The Mustang)

Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) are the three Indie/Oscar recipients. Only in 2015 and (yes) 2018 did no nominees get Oscar nods…

I expect that to occur again. I believe only Sandler stands a chance, but it’s a reach based on severe competition.

Best Supporting Female

Nominees: Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Taylor Russell (Waves), Lauren Spencer (Give Me Liberty), Octavia Spencer (Luce), Shuzhen Zhou (The Farewell)

Four winners here have picked up Academy trophies – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), and the past two winners Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk).

With soft front runner Laura Dern in the Marriage Story special category thing, we could still see a third year in a row match with Lopez. Zhou and Spencer (to a lesser degree) may also find themselves in the Oscar mix.

And with Taylor Russell’s nod here, it’s a good time to mention that Waves really came up short with the Indies today. That doesn’t help its Oscar viability.

Best Supporting Male

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Wendell Pierce (Burning Cane)

This category is another ultra crowded one for Oscar attention, but Dafoe and LaBeouf are legit contenders for nods. Not so with the other three. The omission of Sterling K. Brown in Waves is a surprise.

There have been four Indie/Oscar victors this decade: Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Al Pacino (The Irishman) as likely favorites for the Academy, I wouldn’t expect a fifth match.

And there you have it, folks! My take on the Indies and which Oscar gems they could produce…

The Old Man & The Gun Movie Review

Forrest Tucker’s life of easygoing deception includes telling the woman he’s courting that he’s a salesman. In a way he is. Forrest (Robert Redford) is selling the most pleasant experience imaginable for the bank tellers he’s robbing. He does so with a calm and reassuring demeanor and the occasional megawatt movie star smile. Tucker was a real man who spent his decades doing what he excelled at. He was noted for being a charmer and Redford (in what might be his final role) certainly knows how to play that.

The Old Man & The Gun is a testament to Redford’s decades of doing what he’s excellent at. Tucker is an outlaw and that moniker holds true for the legend playing him. He’s played other outlaws and the actor that’s championed independent film fits that description.

Forrest’s biggest claim to fame was his ability to break out of prisons (close to 20 times). David Lowery’s feature concentrates more on what put him in the slammer in the first place across Texas and other states. We meet him on a work day as he ambles into a local branch in the early 1980s. He calmly and appealingly tells the teller that he’ll be making an unauthorized withdrawal. The police who interview his marks seem to all say the same things… seemed like a nice guy.

That doesn’t matter much to detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck, a frequent Lowery contributor). He’s bound and determined to catch Forrest and his aging two colleagues (Tom Waits and Danny Glover). Hunt could be at a disadvantage. He seems worn down by his job. Forrest, even at his advancing age, still seems to relish it.

The heart of Gun involves Forrest meeting Texas farmer and widow Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Their potential romance gives him a bit of pause. He’s never ridden a horse. She’s got three of them on her property. It’s apparently on his to-do list. It would seem a life enjoying his lifted money on the farmland might be too. Or perhaps not as his job genuinely brings him the greatest joy.

Watching Redford and Spacek together gives us joy. They’re dynamite together. The stylish flair employed by its director is joyous to witness. The same adjective describes listening to Tom Waits giving a monologue about Christmas in his childhood. On the other hand, Affleck’s role isn’t really fleshed out. The screenplay attempts to give him some back story with his wife (Tika Sumpter) and kids, but it never really takes form. There’s also the matter of the audience not really wanting Hunt to catch his likable prey.

This is ultimately Redford’s show. If this is his curtain call, it’s a relaxed and awfully entertaining one. We’re reminded of the star’s former works in old clips toward the end and I found it emotionally gratifying. I finished The Old Man & The Gun sporting the same smile that its subject greets those tellers.

***1/2 (out of four)

Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

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

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…

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: The Old Man & The Gun

In case you didn’t know, there are two major film festivals currently happening. In addition to Venice (which has produced a handful of Oscar Watch posts already), the Telluride Film Festival kicks off today. The opening selection is The Old Man & The Gun, David Lowery’s latest which reportedly features the retirement role of Mr. Robert Redford. It tells the true life story of Forrest Tucker, a genteel bank robber and prison escape artist.

Early screenings have occurred and reviews are quite positive. However, nothing I’ve seen suggests this will be a factor in Best Picture. Lowery is a critical favorite. Yet even better reviewed features such as Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story didn’t register with the Academy.

The big question is whether Redford gets in for Best Actor. Shockingly, the legendary performer has been nominated only once. That was 45 years ago for The Sting. He has won Best Director for 1980’s Ordinary People. The lead actor looks like it has the potential to be crowded, but this could be voters final chance to recognize him as he says Gun will be his last acting role.

As for supporting players, I wouldn’t look for Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, or Tom Waits to get any traction for their work. Sissy Spacek, on the other hand, could also benefit from her stature as writers are citing her strong work. It’s also worth noting that Fox Searchlight is one of the better studios at awards campaigns.

Bottom line: competition is a key factor, but Redford and Spacek are possibilities.

The Old Man & The Gun is scheduled for release September 28. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Todd’s Early 2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

It’s an exciting time on the blog as Oscar prediction season is here. Readers of this here know that every Thursday starting very soon, I will be posting weekly Oscar predictions in the six major categories… wait, make that seven as I will now be including the new and controversial Most Popular Film race.

We turn our attention to Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my early predictions for Supporting Actress, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/23/todds-early-2018-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

A word of warning: these are very early predictions and they will unquestionably change. I like to do my first estimates before the film festival season approaches (beginning next week). Toronto and Venice and other fests will surely shape my predictions in a massive away. Expect lots of Oscar Watch posts in the next month concentrating on dozens of screened movies at the festivals.

Beginning next Thursday (August 30), I will begin my weekly posts listing 25 possibilities for Picture and 15 in the other major races. At that time, numerical rankings will come into play. In November, that will switch to 15 listings for Picture and 10 in ALL other categories honoring feature films.

Let’s get to it!

TODD’S EARLY PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Joel Edgerton, Boy, Erased

Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born

Sam Rockwell, Backseat

Other Possibilities:

Casey Affleck, Old Man & The Gun

Kyle Chandler, First Man

Russell Crowe, Boy, Erased

Topher Grace, BlacKkKlansman

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex

Oscar Isaac, At Eternity’s Gate

Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther

Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick 

David Tennant, Mary Queen of Scots

Best Actress and Actor will be up in short order!

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…

Oscar Watch: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The reaction to the film itself was mixed, but Denzel Washington has increased his chances for an eighth Oscar nomination for Roman J. Israel, Esq. The legal drama is director Dan Gilroy’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2014 pic Nightcrawler (which is one of my favorite movies of the last few years). Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo costar.

As mentioned, reviews from its Toronto Film Festival screening have not all been positive (it’s at 71% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). Yet critics have singled out Denzel’s work here. His inclusion in Best Actor might be its only chance at Academy recognition. Gilroy could land an Original Screenplay nod (as he did for Nightcrawler), but that race is already looking busy.

Mr. Washington has won twice – for Supporting Actor in 1989’s Glory and lead in 2001’s Training Day. Just last year, he probably came very close to getting his third for Fences (he lost to Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea).

In my intital round of predictions last Thursday, I had the performer playing the title character here ranked 15th. He’ll be ranked higher in the second round on Thursday.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…