Oscars 2021: The Case of Jane Campion

The third entry in my Case Of posts for the Best Director nominees belongs to Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. If you missed the first two, you can find them here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Paul Thomas Anderson

Oscars 2021: The Case of Kenneth Branagh

The Case for Jane Campion:

After a 12 year absence from filmmaking, New Zealand’s Campion made an acclaimed return with the Netflix drama. It led all movies in terms of nods with an even better than anticipated 13. Already the winner of the Golden Globe, Campion has been the frontrunner ever since Dog‘s release. She would become just the third female to take this race after Kathryn Bigelow with 2009’s The Hurt Locker and Chloe Zhao for last year’s Nomadland. 

The Case Against Jane Campion:

If Dog is simply all nominations and very few wins (similar to The Irishman from two years ago), we could see plenty of upsets and that would include Campion losing here.

Previous Nominations: 1 (for directing only)

The Piano (1993)

The Verdict:

In 1993, Campion was probably runner-up in this category to Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List. Even though Spielberg is up against her again with West Side Story, Campion comes into this ceremony as the sturdy favorite. Even if Power doesn’t take Best Picture, I’d still likely be forecasting Campion in this competition and in Adapted Screenplay. That would add Oscars two and three to her mantle after an Original Screenplay victory for The Piano. 

My Case Of posts will continue with the third Best Actress hopeful – Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

2021 Oscar Nominations Reaction

And at last… they’re out! After months of speculating on the blog (starting all the way back with my initial predictions in August), the Oscar nominations for the 94th Academy Awards were unveiled early this morning.

As always, there’s shocking omissions and surprising additions. There’s races that went as planned. And (for me at least) there’s always that one tricky category where I end up going 2/5. This year it was Documentary Feature which is notoriously tough to figure out. On the flip side, I projected 4 out of the 20 feature film competitions with 5/5 accuracy. All in all – I went 82 for 105 on the picks.

Some initial thoughts before I break it down race by race. The Power of the Dog was easily the winner of the morning with 12 nods (even more than anticipated). It led all nominees with Dune second (10).

Other movies that either met or exceeded expectations: Drive My Car, King Richard, and Nightmare Alley (which was the only somewhat surprising BP addition). For others, it was more of a mixed bag. Belfast garnered 7 mentions but came up short in key tech indicators like Cinematography and Editing. The same can be said for Licorice Pizza. Seven was also the number for West Side Story, but it missed screenplay. Being the Ricardos got 3 acting nods but no Picture or screenplay. And even Dune, with the 10 nods, somehow missed a director nomination for Denis Villeneuve.

Then there’s House of Gucci, which showed up only in Makeup and Hairstyling. No Jared Leto (I predicted he’d be left off), but no Lady Gaga in Actress was perhaps the shocker of the day.

Let’s get into it and I’ll offer my initial take on what/who could win (my final predictions will come shortly before the March 27th show).

Best Picture

Nominees:

Belfast

CODA

Don’t Look Up

Drive My Car

Dune

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

How I Did: 9/10

Commentary: My one miss was Alley coming in over Being the Ricardos. Make no mistake. With its 12 mentions, The Power of the Dog is undoubtedly the frontrunner. Yes, the Twitterverse will offer alternate theories. Could Drive My Car‘s impressive haul give us our second foreign BP winner in three years? Could Belfast or West Side Story spoil? I doubt it.

Best Director

Nominees:

Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Hamaguchi getting in wasn’t unforeseen. If so, I figured he’d do so over Anderson, Branagh, or Spielberg and certainly not Villeneuve. That’s what happened. Campion made history today by becoming the first female nominee to get a second nomination. All signs point to her becoming the third (after Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao) to win.

Best Actress

Nominees:

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: We now arrive at the biggest head scratcher of the major categories. Gaga’s aforementioned omission is truly unexpected (Cruz takes her slot). The precursors (BAFTA, Globes, SAG) have been all over the map and there’s no obvious favorite. I would say Cruz doesn’t stand much of a chance, but the other four do (it’s a lot like last year’s Actress derby). This is also the first time since 2005 where no Actress hopeful has their film in contention for Best Picture. Kidman’s Globe win could help and we’ll see what SAG does, but this is wide open.

Best Actor

Nominees:

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: That’s more like it! Smith (especially after Richard‘s good morning) is out ahead though I could see Cumberbatch definitely threatening after Dog‘s very good morning. Fun tidbit: not since 1980 has the Best Actor race consisted entirely of previous nominees until today.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Judi Dench, Belfast

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: This was the first race announced today and the jaws of prognosticators dropped immediately. Buckley and (especially) Dench were not anticipated by most. I didn’t even have either as my runner-up or second alternate. They displace Ruth Negga (Passing) and Dench’s costar Caitriona Balfe. While the lineup is different than we thought, the frontrunner (DeBose) remains the same with Dunst (getting her first nod) as a possible upset pick.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Simmons in over Bradley Cooper in Licorice Pizza. Mr. Cooper has two movies contending for BP but no singling out to show for it. Smit-McPhee may be out in front but a Kotsur victory is feasible.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

The Worst Person in the World

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Worst Person is the surprise. I didn’t predict Richard though its  inclusion was expected. They’re in over Ricardos and Parallel Mothers (which was admittedly a bit of an upset pick from me). This should be between Belfast and Pizza and it may represent the best opportunity for either to grab a statue.

Tidbit: since 2001, there was at least one screenplay contender where it served as its only nomination. Until today.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

CODA

Drive My Car

Dune

The Lost Daughter

The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: Let’s not overcomplicate it when we don’t need to. Power is far and away the leader in this pack.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Encanto

Flee

Luca

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Raya and the Last Dragon

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: This went as planned. There are three Disney products in the group, but the other two (Flee, Mitchells) are potential roadblocks to Encanto winning. Yet betting against Disney usually isn’t wise in this one and Encanto will probably take it.

Best International Feature Film

Nominees:

Drive My Car

Flee

The Hand of God

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

The Worst Person in the World

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: I’m gonna go ahead and say Lunana is the first Oscar contender with Yak in its title without checking (correct me if wrong). It surprisingly gets in (along with far less surprising The Hand of God) over A Hero and Playground. This one’s simple: anything other than Car would be a massive upset.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Ascension

Attica

Flee

Summer of Soul

Writing with Fire

How I Did: 2/5

Commentary: There’s that blasted 2 for 5 race! Ascension, Attica, and Fire are up over my selections of Faye Dayi, Procession, and The Rescue (its omission is stunning considering it was a contender to win).

Flee made history by becoming the first film to be nominated for Animated Feature, International Feature Film, and here. This race probably marks its best chance to win, but I wouldn’t sleep on Summer of Soul. 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Alley over Belfast. Get used to hearing this with the tech categories – Dune might be out in front. Dog could threaten.

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

Cruella

Cyrano

Dune

Nightmare Alley

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Cyrano‘s sole nod comes here. I had House of Gucci instead. Dune can’t win all the techs and Cruella could take this.

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

Don’t Look Up

Dune

King Richard

The Power of the Dog

Tick, Tick… Boom!

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Richard and Boom! over Belfast and Licorice Pizza. The Belfast omission is particularly notable as BP victors nearly always are nominated here. This could be more Dune gold.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:

Coming 2 America

Cruella

Dune

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

House of Gucci

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Went with Suicide Squad over Coming 2 America. Despite its bad performance this morning, Gucci could win this. Or it might just go to Dune.

Best Original Score

Nominees:

Don’t Look Up

Dune

No Time to Die

Parallel Mothers

The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Went with The French Dispatch (which goose egged) over Mothers. As for the winner (get ready for it) – expect Dune or Dog.

Best Original Song

Nominees:

“Be Alive” from King Richard

“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

“Down to Joy” from Belfast

“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

“Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Maybe the surprise here shouldn’t be with “Somehow You Do” over “Just Look Up” from Don’t Look Up. After all, this marks Diane Warren’s 13th nomination and sixth in the last seven years. She’s never won and won’t this time.

“Be Alive” from Beyonce or “Oruguitas” could get it, but “No Time to Die” from Billie Eilish could be the third Bond theme in a row to be celebrated.

Best Production Design

Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Another category where I said French Dispatch and missed. Power gets in instead. While Dune is strong, I wouldn’t be startled to see this as the lone victory for Nightmare Alley.

Best Sound

Nominees:

Belfast

Dune

No Time to Die

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: You should hear Dune‘s name called.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

Dune

Free Guy

No Time to Die

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Spider-Man: No Way Home

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Free Guy and Spidey over The Matrix Resurrections and Godzilla vs. Kong. As for the winner: See Best Sound.

Here’s the overall nominations break down:

12 Nominations

The Power of the Dog

10 Nominations

Dune

7 Nominations

Belfast, West Side Story

6 Nominations

King Richard

4 Nominations

Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Nightmare Alley

3 Nominations

Being the Ricardos, CODA, Encanto, Flee, Licorice Pizza, The Lost Daughter, No Time to Die, The Tragedy of Macbeth

2 Nominations

Cruella, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Parallel Mothers, Tick, Tick… Boom!, The Worst Person in the World

1 Nomination

Ascension, Attica, Coming 2 America, Cyrano, Four Good Days, Free Guy, The Hand of God, House of Gucci, Luca, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spencer, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Summer of Soul, Writing with Fire

Starting very shortly, you can peruse my Case Of posts in which I write individualized posts for all the contenders in Picture, Director, and the four acting races!

Eternals Review

When the core group of Avengers assembled in their climactic battle for that classic shot from the 2012 film, it held power because we’d come to know them in previous MCU entries. By the time we got to 2019 as seemingly half of Hollywood was ready to take on Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, the same emotions were present. The mere fact that we were witnessing many members of Marvel’s extensive roster ready for action via high quality predecessors was impressive.

That’s a testament to what Kevin Feige and team had pulled off. For all the nitpicking about the franchise, it’s easy to forget the monumental achievement in bringing these heroes to life in 20 plus pictures and getting us back to care about them. That’s not an easy assignment and they pulled it off.

This brings us to Eternals, the 26th entry in the series. And it often feels like we are meant to feel the same sentiments that I’ve described above. There’s a problem with that. Chloe Zhao’s immersion into the MCU is tasked with introducing us to a brand new team of heroes in its 156 minutes. Most of them, quite frankly, aren’t very compelling. Comic book lovers may be familiar, but the masses aren’t. When Iron Man got the gang together nearly a decade ago, we knew the gang. Eternals, which loves it landscapes and sunsets silhouetting its protagonists, strains to properly introduce them. For a movie that feels long, it’s still short on character development and getting us to care about this team in ways we previously did. I admired plenty about this latest adventure, but it still stands as one of the MCU’s overall weakest experiences.

A prologue set in 5000 B.C. establishes the players. The Eternals are a group of immortals tasked with saving planets from Deviants, a lot of monstrous CGI creations. Their leader is Ajak (Salma Hayek), who takes her orders from the almighty Arishem. Each Eternal has their own set of powers. Sersi (Gemma Chan) can transform matter. Her love interest Ikaris (Richard Madden) can shoot freakin lasers from his eyeballs (think Cyclops). Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) is the science nerd capable of advancing technology centuries ahead of time. And… we’re gonna be here all day if I keep this up, but a couple more. Sprite (Lia McHugh) can create illusions, but can’t hide the fact that she’ll look like a 12-year-old girl for eternity. Thena (Angelina Jolie) is capable of creating weapons from thin air. Yet she’s a weapon herself because she has a condition that causes her to turn against her counterparts and try to kill them.

The Eternals spend centuries on Earth taking on the Deviants and appear to achieve their mission in 1521. The band breaks up and they’re free to roam free on our Earthly soil, which Nomadland director Zhao frames in loving travelogue mode. Importantly, Ajak orders them not to interfere with the many conflicts that will transpire over the coming centuries. That means the Eternals are not involved when Thanos wipes out half the population in Avengers: Infinity War. They’re not showing up for house calls with Doctor Strange or assisting Hulk smash anything.

In present day, the Deviants resurface and they must assemble (!) again. Some have taken on unexpected careers. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Bollywood leading man with a trusty assistant (Harish Patel). He’s been a superstar for decades with the public believing his dad, granddad, and so on were different people. The real function for Nanjiani is to provide some comic relief in a story that needs it.. The actor and the superb Patel are up to the assignment. They might be the two characters I’d be excited to see return in future MCU tales.

On the flip side, the failed romance between Sersi and Ikaris is a yawner. And familiar faces like Hayek and Jolie aren’t given enough screen time to register. Barry Keoghan, always a compelling actor to watch, is Druig. He can manipulate minds and his superpower runs counter to his orders. Druig has the potential for a fascinating character arc yet, once again, the packed nature of the screenplay prevents it.

The look of Eternals is undoubtedly different than the MCU sheen we’re accustomed to. It has more of a real location feel as opposed to video game extravaganza. Some of the action sequences are well constructed. Others fall into the confused CGI jumble that’s hampered even some of the finest franchise flicks.

Here’s the bottom line – Eternals is by no means bad (even the middling stories in this series are quite watchable). It feels unnecessary because it never fully succeeds at making us understand why we need to be invested. Ajak’s hideaway in the present day is in South Dakota. Nothing that happens here made me think any Eternal will be carved into the Mt. Rushmore of Marvel’s cinematic universe.

**1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 12-14

The eyes of box office prognosticators will be focused on the second frame for Marvel’s Eternals. It should have no trouble repeating in the top spot, but its drop could be significant following mixed audience and critical reactions. We do have some newcomers: Clifford the Big Red Dog and potential Oscar favorite Belfast from Kenneth Branagh (debuting on roughly 600 screens). You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Clifford the Big Red Dog Box Office Prediction

Belfast Box Office Prediction

Clifford is getting a jump on the weekend by opening Wednesday (with early previews Tuesday). That could be a shrewd move considering kiddos are off on Thursday for Veterans Day. It should firmly plant itself in the #2 spot after Eternals. 

As for Belfast, the awards chatter should help it achieve a decent per theater average. It will look to play steadily for weeks over the Oscar season. My $2.3 million estimate leaves it outside the top five.

Back to Eternals. The B Cinemascore grade is rather troubling for its sophomore outing (most MCU titles get an A). With audiences clearly not digging it in the way they typically greet the studio’s material, a drop in the low to even high 60s seems where this is headed.

Holdovers Dune, No Time to Die, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage should fill the rest of the top five and here’s how I see it going down:

1. Eternals

Predicted Gross: $23.2 million

2. Clifford the Big Red Dog

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $17.6 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. Dune

Predicted Gross: $4.9 million

4. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million

5. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $3.4 million

Box Office Results (November 5-7)

The shaky WOM for Eternals undoubtedly impacted its earnings as the Chloe Zhao effort took in $71.2 million, under my $77.8 million projection. That would be a fantastic debut for almost anything not MCU related. However, Eternals premiere is the smallest for Marvel since 2015’s Ant-Man. As mentioned, it could be headed for a precipitous drop in weekend #2.

Dune slipped to second after two weeks on top with $7.7 million (I said $7.2 million). The sci-fi epic has amassed $84 million in three weeks.

No Time to Die held up very well for third in its fifth go-round at $6 million – higher than my $4.8 million take. Total is $143 million.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage hit the four spot at $4.4 million compared to my $3.8 million projection. It’s nearing the double century mark with $197 million.

Ron’s Gone Wrong, which I was wrong about staying in the top five, was fifth at $3.5 million for a two-week total of $17 million.

The French Dispatch from Wes Anderson expanded its screen count and made $2.5 million for sixth place with $8 million overall.

Halloween Kills fell hard with its namesake holiday having passed. The $2.3 million gross for seventh (I was more generous at $3 million) brought the earnings to $84 million.

Finally, the Princess Diana biopic Spencer with Kristen Stewart couldn’t reach my prognosis. Starting out in nearly 1000 venues, the $2.1 million haul was just over half of my $4.1 million prediction. It will hope that Oscar buzz for its lead will contribute to small declines in coming days.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Picture Race

I’m closing out my deep dives of the major Oscar races with the granddaddy of them all – Best Picture. If you missed my posts covering Best Director and the four acting categories, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Unlike the previous several years where the Picture nominees could fluctuate between 5-10 (though 8 and 9 were the magic numbers), 2021 brings fluidity with a set 10 films being honored (I’d like to thank the Academy for that).

As I’ve done with the others, let’s take a look back at how I was performing in the early November time frame from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I had 8 of the eventual 9 movies pegged: winner Parasite, 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The other – Joker – was mentioned in Other Possibilities.

2020 was trickier at this stage, but I identified 5 of the 8 hopefuls: winner Nomadland along with The Father, Mank, Minari, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Judas and the Black Messiah was named as a possibility while I didn’t have Promising Young Woman or Sound of Metal yet in the 15 selections.

For 2021 – I feel confident that four already screened entries will make the dance. We begin with Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, the 1960s set coming-of-age drama that could be looked at as the soft frontrunner. It’s been listed at #1 in my estimates for several weeks.

Belfast displaced The Power of the Dog from Jane Campion in that spot, but I still see the Netflix title having no trouble securing its placement among the contenders.

King Richard should find its way as the inspirational sports flick that will have audiences on its side. Furthermore, Will Smith appears in position to possibly win Best Actor. You have to go back to Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) twelve years ago where the Oscar winning actor didn’t see his movie recognized in Picture.

Then there’s Dune. The sci-fi epic from Denis Villeneuve got the box office and critical kudos it needed to storm the competition. The filmmaker could make a victory play for his direction while the picture itself seems destined for a nod here and tech wins elsewhere.

In past years, the bulk of nominees in Picture were screened at festivals. In 2021, that dynamic could shift as there’s a slew of unscreened material that seems like Oscar bait. That list includes Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. 

The first four of the six are ones I’ve had in my ten for a bit and I’m not changing it today. That said, this could be altered quickly once their official reviews are up (and that will be soon). Some prognosticators are more confident with Don’t Look Up. I’ll believe it when I see it.

With the pics that have been seen, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer is sure looking like it will garner Kristen Stewart her first ever nod with a solid chance at a victory. I do believe the Princess Diana tale will manage to make the cut, but it could go either way.

This also holds true for Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, which should also manage some tech recognition and for its lead Denzel Washington and maybe Frances McDormand.

I will admit that it seems strange to leave off any titles that screened early at Sundance. After all, last year there were 3 pics from the fest (The Father, Minari, Promising Young Woman) that got in. There’s a trio that could do the same in 2021 and they’re all listed in Other Possibilities: CODA, Flee, and Mass. Of that group, Flee (which I do have predicted in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film) may have the strongest chance.

Foreign flicks could factor in and they include A Hero, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, and The Worst Person in the World. I wouldn’t completely discount Netflix hopefuls such as The Lost Daughter and Passing. 

Then there’s high profile fare where the luster has been lost either to mixed reviews or poor box office. That list includes Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, and certainly Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. 

The bottom line is this – in 2021, with two months left to go in the calendar, there’s a lot yet to be determined. Here’s my take for now:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. Licorice Pizza (PR: 6)

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 5)

7. West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. House of Gucci (PR: 8)

9. Spencer (PR: 9)

10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

11. Flee (PR: 13)

12. Don’t Look Up (PR: 11)

13. Mass (PR: 12)

14. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 15)

15. CODA (PR: 14)

And that wraps the detailed looks, folks! Next weekend I’ll be back with updated estimates…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

After four posts focusing on the acting races at the 2021 Oscars, it’s time to turn to Best Director. If you missed those entries on the lead and supporting performer derbies, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

With the directing category, I do believe there’s three filmmakers that have likely punched their ticket to a nomination. Before we get there, let’s take a look at how my projections panned out at the same early November time frame in 2019 and 2020.

Two years back, I correctly identified four of the five contenders: winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) as well as Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Todd Phillips (Joker) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. 2020 was more unpredictable with two months left to go and that resulted in only two directors being accurately named: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), who took the gold, and David Fincher (Mank). Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) was in Other Possibilities while neither Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) or surprise nominee Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) were yet listed in my top ten.

Back to 2021 and the three individuals who I believe stand probable shots at making the cut. They are Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Denis Villeneuve (Dune).

It was 28 years ago that Campion was nominated for The Piano. If it hadn’t been for Oscar juggernaut Schindler’s List, she likely would’ve been making a speech. Upon its premiere in Venice, Campion took the Silver Lion (equivalent to this competition) for Dog. I don’t see her being left off the ballot.

Belfast is the current frontrunner for Best Picture and it’s hard to envision  writer/director Branagh not making it in. If so, it would be his first nod in directing since Henry V some 32 years back.

Dune is being heralded for its technical wizardry and it should pick up numerous down the line wins and nominations. Five years after his behind the camera work was recognized for Arrival, Villeneuve should be a factor again.

Interestingly, I don’t feel there’s a clear favorite to win. There are plausible scenarios for any member of this trio to emerge victorious. Campion, Branagh, and Villeneuve constitute my top 3 (in that order), but it’s more of a 1a, 1b, and 1c at press time.

As for the other two slots, there’s a few contenders stemming from unseen product. There’s big names in that bunch: Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley, who won four years ago for The Shape of Water), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza, a two-time nominee for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread), Ridley Scott (for House of Gucci and not The Last Duel), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up, previously nominated for The Big Short), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick, Tick… Boom!), and Steven Spielberg (West Side Story,  a two-time winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).

Any of these gentlemen could bubble up to the surface once their pictures are screened. I’m sticking with the two I’ve had in my five recently: del Toro and Anderson.

King Richard has a chance to win Best Picture, but I’m skeptical its maker Reinaldo Marcus Green makes it here. The sports drama seems destined to be recognized more for its performances, but if the Academy really falls for it, Green could be theoretically be swept in. That holds true for Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Pablo Larrain (Spencer) as well.

Lastly, Thomas Vinterberg’s nod in 2020 for Another Round came out of nowhere. While it was pegged to take International Feature Film (which it did), Round was not nominated in Best Picture. There’s a slew of directors who could fill the “surprise” slot this time around (many from foreign features): Pedro Almodovar (Parallel Mothers), Julia Ducournau (Titane), Asghar Farhari (A Hero), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World). I wouldn’t completely count out Rebecca Hall for Passing. Yet none of these upset selections are in my top ten.

The one that is: Jonas Poher Rasmussen for festival darling Flee. While I don’t have it nabbing a Best Pic nom at the moment, I do foresee the Danish doc contending in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film. That kind of attention could cause the voters to include him.

Here’s how those rankings look at the start of November:

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: 9)

10. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Best Picture is next!

November 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (11/03): I’ve seen some unconfirmed data indicating Spencer will open on just under 1000 screens. If that holds true, I’m revising my estimate from $4.6M to $4.1M.

Blogger’s Update (11/02): Even though I don’t have a theater count at press time, I am factoring in the opening of Spencer to my estimates. My detailed prediction for it is here:

Spencer Box Office Prediction

My $4.6M projection puts it in the top five so it’s now a top 6 for the weekend ahead!

The third of four 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe titles hits this weekend (thanks to some COVID delays) with Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. It’s eagerly awaited, but it also faces some unusual challenges for the MCU. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

Eternals Box Office Prediction

The buzz for Eternals is mixed in a way that its studio isn’t accustomed to. Sitting at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, the pic has the lowest RT score of the 26 MCU entries dating back to 2008. That has caused me to revise my estimate down just a touch, but I still believe mid to high 70s is the probable haul.

Unsurprisingly, Eternals is the only wide release as November dawns. Dune, after two weeks on top, may lose around 50-55% of its audience for second place with No Time to Die, Halloween Kills, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage providing a sequel heavy presence in the rest of the top five.

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission, after being the top newcomer this past weekend, should drop precipitously around 70% (like its predecessor) and fall outside the high five flicks.

With that, here’s how I see it looking:

1. Eternals

Predicted Gross: $77.8 million

2. Dune

Predicted Gross: $7.2 million

3. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $4.8 million

4. Spencer

Predicted Gross: $4.1 million

5. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

6. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $3 million

Box Office Results (October 29-31)

I supersized my normal estimates with a top ten due to the prevalence of newbies over the Halloween frame. All but one, as I predicted, fell outside the top five.

As anticipated, Dune reigned supreme in its sophomore outing. However, it fell more than I figured. The $15.4 million take didn’t match my $18.5 million and the two-week tally is $69 million.

Other holdovers held a bit sturdier than I thought they would. Halloween Kills was second with $8.7 million compared to my $6.1 million projection and it’s up to $85 million with the century mark in view.

No Time to Die was third with $7.7 million (I said $6.3 million) and Mr. Bond has reached $133 million.

My Heroes Academia: World Heroes’ Mission was the best performing newbie at $6.4 million, on pace with my $6.1 million prediction.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage rounded out the top five with $5.7 million, on pace with my forecast of $5.6 million. Total is $190 million as it approaches double century territory.

Antlers debuted in sixth with a mediocre $4.2 million. It did surpass my take of $3.2 million.

Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho started out in seventh with just $4.1 million, not matching my $5.2 million estimate.

Ron’s Gone Wrong was eighth in weekend #2 at $3.7 million (I went with $4.1 million) as the animated feature has drawn in only $12 million.

The Addams Family 2 followed in ninth with $3 million and I was close at $3.3 million for $52 million overall.

Finally, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch expanded to nearly 800 screens and took tenth at $2.6 million. I was more hopeful with $3.8 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Eternals Box Office Prediction

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been unleashing product at a furious pace following COVID delays and that continues November 5th with Eternals. Arriving four months after Black Widow, two months following Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and a month a half before Spider-Man: No Way Home, this is the 26th MCU superhero tale in the massive series. Chloe Zhao, fresh off a Best Picture and Director win for Nomadland, directs with a cast featuring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.

Originally scheduled for November 2020 before the pandemic altered Disney’s plans, this is the long anticipated adaptation of Jack Kirby’s comics that debuted over half a century ago. Surprisingly, initial buzz is mixed in a way Marvel rarely sees. The Rotten Tomatoes meter currently sits at 63%. That’s the lowest score of any MCU offering to date (just below Thor: The Dark World‘s 66%).

If there’s any franchise that’s teflon, it would be this one. Reviews shouldn’t matter too much, but the word-of-mouth could keep Eternals from reaching COVID era records. Venom: Let There Be Carnage has the best three day start of the period with $90 million. In July, Black Widow took in $80 million out of the gate. Over Labor Day weekend, Shang-Chi surpassed projections with $75 million from Friday to Sunday and $94 million when adding the Monday haul.

Had Eternals achieved the glowing chatter of Shang-Chi, I might be discussing an opening weekend of over $100 million. Now I’m skeptical. I believe it’s more likely that Eternals could debut on pace with what its MCU predecessor did during the first three days. That’s just fine, but it’s an adjustment down from what I would’ve figured even a week or so ago.

Eternals opening weekend prediction: $77.8 million

For my Spencer prediction, click here:

Spencer Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Eternals

Chloe Zhao was the big winner at the previous Academy Awards when Nomadland took Best Picture and she became the second female filmmaker to take the trophy for her direction. Her follow-up is a high profile one in Marvel’s Eternals, which opens November 5th and had its review embargo lifted today.

With an eclectic cast including Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie, MCU entry #26 is undoubtedly one of 2021’s most anticipated blockbusters. However, critical reaction is certainly mixed. The 74% Rotten Tomatoes score is on the lower side for this series. Just this year, Black Widow stands at 79% while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings got to 92%.

Any thought of Zhao’s having two Best Picture winners or nominees in a row (or being mentioned again in Director) has fallen by the wayside. The one race where I did feel hope for Eternals sprung was in Visual Effects. That could still happen, but I’m not near as confident. Competition will be fairly strong. Dune is easily the frontrunner and will likely win. Other notable contenders include The Matrix Resurrections, Don’t Look Up, Godzilla vs. Kong, Nightmare Alley, Jungle Cruise, Finch, and Free Guy. And then there’s the other MCU rivals like Shang-Chi and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

There could still be room for Eternals in VE, but I’m thinking it may on the outside looking in. Even some of the reviews aren’t gushing about the visuals. Bottom line: Eternals took itself out of the running for the big races and could be iffy in the one tech competition where I thought it stood an excellent shot. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: July 29th Edition

I can’t help myself. I keep doing my Oscar predictions earlier and earlier each year. Today marks the first edition of my ranked forecasts in the 8 biggest races: Picture, Director, the four acting competitions, and the two screenplay contests.

It probably stands to reason that the sooner you do projections – the more inaccurate they might be. Oh but it’s so very fun to speculate! I do like to put my initial rankings up before the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride Film Festivals make the picture more clear and we are only about a month from that. Those events will bring us early buzz on The Power of the Dog, Dune, Spencer, The Last Duel, The Humans, Parallel Mothers, Belfast, Dear Evan Hansen, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Last Night in Soho, and more.

This post comes about three weeks ahead of when I did this in 2020. That year, to say the least, was hard to figure out. In fact, many of the pictures and performers I had in my 2020 inaugural rankings were moved back to 2021 due to COVID delays. Think Dune, The French Dispatch, West Side Story, Respect, C’Mon C’Mon, Annette, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

So how did my first ranked predictions from 2020 pan out? My Best Picture guesstimates yielded three of the eventual nominees: winner Nomadland, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Nomadland started out of the gate at #2 (behind Mank). Three other contenders were listed under Other Possibilities – The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, and Minari. Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal were not mentioned.

2 of the 5 director nominees were correctly identified: winner Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and David Fincher (Mank). None of the other hopefuls (Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, or Another Round‘s Thomas Vinterberg) were even in Other Possibilities.

In Best Actress, I initially identified 2 – winner Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were Other Possibilities while Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman didn’t score a listing.

As for Actor, winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Gary Oldman (Mank) made my first cut. I incorrectly had Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) projected here instead of Supporting Actor (which he won). **This is a good time to remind you all that some of the acting contenders thought to be in lead right now will switch to supporting and vice versa. As further evidence, I had Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey) predicted in supporting, but he contended here. I did not yet have Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) or Steven Yeun (Minari) on my radar.

Two Supporting Actress players were correctly called: Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) and Olivia Colman (The Father) with Amanda Seyfried (Mank) in Other Possibilities. No mention for the winner Youn Yun-jung in Minari or Maria Bakalova for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Per above, Daniel Kaluuya’s work in Judas was slotted in lead, but he emerged victorious here. My Supporting Actor picks did get 2 of 5: Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and Sacha Baron Cohen for Chicago 7. The two others (Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami and Paul Raci in Sound of Metal) went unnoticed at the early stage.

Just one nominee in Original Screenplay got the initial mention – Chicago 7. I did have 3 others (winner Promising Young Woman, Judas, Minari) down for Other Possibilities while Sound of Metal wasn’t mentioned. And in Adapted Screenplay, I only rightly projected Nomadland. Winner The Father, One Night in Miami, and The White Tiger were other possibilities with no mention for Borat.

Whew. OK. I’m not going through all for 2019. However, I will say my results were better two years ago with my first picks (evidence of the uncertainty of last year). The quick rundown: I got 6 of the 9 nominees in Best Picture and identified the remaining three in other possibilities. In Director, it was 4 out of 5. For Actress – 4 for 5 with the other nominee listed sixth. Actor – 3 for 5 with the two others as possibilities. The weak spot was Supporting Actress – just 1 out of 5 with 2 others as possibilities. 2 for 5 in Supporting Actor with 2 others as possibilities. 3 for 5 initially in both screenplay races.

And now we come to 2021. Will I look back next year and be happy with the accuracy or shake my head? Hopefully a mix (that’s probably the best case scenario). In about two months, I will start predictions for all categories covering feature films and whittle BP from 25 to 15 hopefuls with all others going from a projected 15 to 10.

There already was some news from when I penned my early and unranked predictions last week. David O. Russell’s Canterbury Glass, with an all star cast led by Christian Bale and Margot Robbie, has reportedly moved to 2022. It was mentioned in numerous categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor – John David Washington) and it now waits its turn until next year. Same story for Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins and Blonde from Andrew Dominik.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci

2. The Power of the Dog

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth

4. Nightmare Alley

5. Dune

6. Soggy Bottom

7. Mass

8. West Side Story

9. Belfast

10. Don’t Look Up

Other Possibilities:

11. A Hero

12. CODA

13. Flee

14. The French Dispatch

15. Spencer

16. Tick Tick… Boom!

17. Cyrano

18. The Humans

19. Blue Bayou

20. King Richard

21. The Last Duel

22. Dear Evan Hansen

23. In the Heights

24. Last Night in Soho

25. Annette

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci

2. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

3. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley

5. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom

7. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero

8. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

10. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up

11. Fran Kranz, Mass

12. Sian Heder, CODA

13. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

15. Pablo Larrain, Spencer

Best Actress

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

2. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth

3. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

4. Jennifer Hudson, Respect 

5. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

7. Kristen Stewart, Spencer

8. Emilia Jones, CODA

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

10. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley

11. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

12. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

13. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel

14. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up

15. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

3. Will Smith, King Richard

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci

5. Amir Jadidi, A Hero

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom!

7. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey

8. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

9. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

11. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

12. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom

13. Adam Driver, Annette

14. Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

15. Nicolas Cage, Pig

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

3. Martha Plimpton, Mass

4. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans

5. Marlee Matlin, CODA

Other Possibilities:

6. Ruth Negga, Passing

7. Olga Merediz, In the Heights

8. Regina King, The Harder They Fall

9. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog

10. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley

11. Judi Dench, Belfast

12. Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho

13. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up

14. Audra McDonald, Respect

15. Sally Hawkins, Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom

2. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans

5. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall

Other Possibilities:

6. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth

7. Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

8. Jared Leto, House of Gucci

9. Reed Birney, Mass

10. Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano

11. Jamie Dornan, Belfast

12. Adam Driver, The Last Duel

13. Al Pacino, House of Gucci

14. Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth

15. David Alvarez, West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mass

2. Soggy Bottom

3. Don’t Look Up

4. The French Dispatch

5. Blue Bayou

Other Possibilities:

6. Belfast

7. Spencer

8. C’Mon C’Mon

9. Last Night in Soho

10. Being the Ricardos

11. Annette

12. The Harder They Fall

13. After Yang

14. Nine Days

15. Red Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci

2. The Power of the Dog

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth

4. Nightmare Alley

5. Dune

Other Possibilities:

6. CODA

7. The Humans

8. West Side Story

9. Cyrano

10. Tick Tick… Boom!

11. Dear Evan Hansen

12. The Last Duel

13. The Lost Daughter

14. King Richard

15. A Journal for Jordan

Back at it next week, ladies and gents!