Oscar Watch: Irresistible

With his consistently Emmy winning work as host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart became synonymous with biting political satire for a generation of viewers. Toward the end of his run hosting the program, he took a hiatus to helm his directorial debut Rosewater, a political drama that failed to gain much of an audience. It was released in 2014 and despite mostly positive reviews, it came and went with zero awards buzz. As a side note, the break that Stewart took allowed John Oliver to gain exposure and nab his own currently running acclaimed HBO show.

Stewart is back in the director’s chair again with Irresistible, a political satire focused on a small town mayoral race. The pic stars Steve Carell, who first entered the mainstream on the show Stewart hosted with a supporting cast including Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Topher Grace, and Natasha Lyonne. It hits a small number of theaters and the VOD circuit today after its original May release was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some reviews are quite positive (including Rolling Stone), many critics are saying Irresistible is quite resistible. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 40%. So while Mr. Stewart picked up many awards for his television work, don’t look for his second feature behind the camera to follow suit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Movie Review

While not all the right notes are consistently played in Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, it’s the performance of one beloved actor playing one beloved children’s show host that makes it worthwhile. The film isn’t as much about Mister Rogers as it is the feelings he gives people through his demeanor and work. Portrayed by Tom Hanks, it’s an impeccable casting choice to witness.

Neighborhood is set in 1998, as Mister Rogers is introduced to Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), Esquire. Not an attorney, but he’s a prolific writer for Esquire magazine. Lloyd, who lives in New York City with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) and infant son, typically deals with weighty issues in his journalistic articles and in his family life. He’s got a strained relationship with his father (Chris Cooper), who left Lloyd’s now deceased mother when he was a boy. When Lloyd attends his sister’s third wedding, the toxic father/son dynamic is on full display. The last thing the writer wants is a puff piece assignment and he believes he’s got one with a profile of the iconic Rogers.

Lloyd flies to Pittsburgh where the public access program is taped and thus begins a dialogue with Rogers that will far exceed his 400 word assignment. Esquire wants a short piece dealing with heroes while Lloyd wants to dig deeper. When Mister Rogers sees his profiler suffering, he chooses to dig deeper as well.

Inspired by a true story, there’s still a feeling that Lloyd’s daddy issues are far from new territory. Rhys’s performance is adequate, but a bit diminished next to an icon playing an icon. Those looking for an examination of the life of Rogers may come away disappointed. Luckily the solid documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? covers that ground. We do see the puppets, the sweater change, and most importantly, the warmth that the host effortlessly exuded. The script deserves some credit for not falling too far down a sentimental rabbit hole. In this story, Mister Rogers isn’t perfect, but he’s darn close.

That goes for Hanks. Sometimes the obvious casting decision is the correct one and here’s an example. We attribute some of the same qualities with the two-time Oscar winner. This is why sarcastic Twitter posts about Hanks being a nightmare in real life are met with immediate eye rolls or chuckles. Mister Rogers was a comfort to millions and watching Hanks play him feels the same.

*** (out of four)

Oscars 2019: The Case of Little Women

My Case of posts discussing the pros and cons of Oscar nominees in the major categories continues with Best Picture hopeful Little Women from director Greta Gerwig. If you missed my first four write-ups in the biggest race of all, you can read them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

The Case for Little Women

Based on the beloved 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel, Gerwig’s version of Little Women drew raves from the critical community. The 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating stands among the highest of the nine pictures. Previous adaptations have garnered Academy attention as well. The 1994 rendering saw Winona Ryder nominated for Actress in addition to Costume Design and Score. Back in 1949, that version took home Art Direction and got a Cinematography nod. Yet this is the first adaptation since 1933’s classic to be named in Best Picture. The box office is strong at $80 million as it looks to top the century mark before the ceremony airs.

The Case Against Little Women

It has missed numerous nominations in key precursors. The pic was ignored by SAG and didn’t get named in Picture at the Golden Globes. Gerwig didn’t make the final cut in Best Director from the Academy. As discussed before, it’s rare for the Picture recipient to win without attention there. Many prognosticators even questioned whether it would make it in this race and the same can be said for Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in their acting categories (though they did get in). The six nominations are certainly under the total count of the heavy hitters.

The Verdict

It is a remote possibility that Gerwig could win Adapted Screenplay since she was snubbed for Director. As far as this taking Best Picture, I wouldn’t look for the fourth time to be the charm among Alcott adaptations. This appears to be heading the route of Gerwig’s previous acclaimed effort Lady Bird which had five nominations and zero victories.

Up next in my Case of posts… Marriage Story!

Little Women Box Office Prediction

It’s certainly not the first adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s period drama novel released over 150 years ago, but the latest version of Little Women is the first for this generation. Greta Gerwig (coming off her Oscar nominated Lady Bird) directs and reunites with her star Saoirse Ronan. Other costars include Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep.

The reported $40 million production is garnering Oscar buzz and the Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 97%. As mentioned, this is the first adaptation of the famed novel since 1994. Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon headlined that iteration, which took in $50 million at the time domestically.

Little Women should prove to be a strong option for the female audience over the long holiday weekend. It opens Christmas Day and if history is any guide, its Wednesday and Thursday earnings might be about equal to the traditional weekend Friday to Sunday haul.

I’ll say the March sisters begin in the low to mid teens range for the final 2019 weekend and that means mid to high 20s for the five-day rollout.

Little Women opening weekend prediction: $14.5 million (Friday to Sunday); $28.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Spies in Disguise prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/spies-in-disguise-box-office-prediction/

For my Uncut Gems prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/22/uncut-gems-box-office-prediction/

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Box Office Prediction

Tom Hanks dons the iconic red cardigan next weekend in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The feel good drama casts the double Oscar winner as childrens host Mister Rogers, just one year after Won’t You Be My Neighbor? became one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time. Marielle Heller (who directed Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant to Academy nods last year in Can You Ever Forgive Me?) is behind the camera. Matthew Rhys stars as a journalist doing a story on Rogers with Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper in the supporting cast.

Since Day debuted at the Toronto Film Festival a couple months back, solid buzz followed and its current Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 97%. It appears probable that Hanks will receive his first Oscar nomination (in Supporting Actor) since 2000’s Cast Away. The aforementioned 2018 doc likely helps its visibility, as does casting one of our biggest movie stars as one of America’s most beloved figures.

There is the matter of Frozen II, which could siphon some family audiences away. Beautiful also arrives on the pre Thanksgiving long frame and some filmgoers may simply choose to spend time in this neighborhood at that time.

While I do believe a premiere of over $20 million (maybe even $25 million) is feasible, I’ll say  high teens with weekends of strong holds ahead is the play.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million

For my Frozen II prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/12/frozen-ii-box-office-prediction/

For my 21 Bridges prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/15/21-bridges-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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

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

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

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

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

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

Live by Night Box Office Prediction

Live by Night marks Ben Affleck’s fourth time behind the camera in a directorial career that has been quite impressive thus far. The crime drama, in which he also stars, is his first effort since 2012’s Oscar winning Argo. Costars include Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Cooper. Based on his filmography, Night was once seen as a potential awards contender around the Hollywood town. Yet since its critical screenings, that notion appears to be gone, baby, gone. The pic has not garnered praise by reviewers and it currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35%.

Will that hurt its box office potency? My feeling is that it will. Like his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone (mentioned in the aforementioned bad pun), this is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and comes with a reported $65 million budget. The chances of Night coming in below expectations could be due to more factors than mediocre reviews. It opens on a packed weekend where Patriots Day will going for a similar audience (as will Sleepless with Jamie Foxx). On the other hand, Affleck’s latest starring vehicle The Accountant exceeded expectations three months ago with an opening weekend of nearly $25 million.

So where will this land? I believe it’ll debut over the four-day MLK weekend with far less than Patriots Day (which I’ve got pegged at $23M) and in the low double digits to mid teens neighborhood.

Live by Night opening weekend prediction: $13.2 million

For my Patriots Day prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/04/patriots-day-box-office-prediction/

For my Sleepless prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/04/sleepless-box-office-prediction/

For my Silence prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/05/silence-box-office-prediction/

For my Monster Trucks prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/05/monster-trucks-box-office-prediction/

For my The Bye Bye Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/05/the-bye-bye-man-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Live by Night

In the near decade that Ben Affleck has become a director, he’s had quite an impressive showing at both the box office and in the awards derby. His debut feature, 2007’s Gone Baby Gone (based on a Dennis Lehane novel), nabbed Amy Ryan a nod for Supporting Actress. His follow-up, 2010’s The Town, earned Jeremy Renner a Supporting Actor nomination. His third feature, 2012’s Argo, really hit the Oscar jackpot. It garnered seven nominations and won three – Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing. Argo also had the curious and rare distinction of winning the biggest prize without Mr. Affleck receiving a nomination for his direction (the first time that had happened since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy).

On Christmas Day, Affleck’s fourth feature Live by Night opens in limited release for Oscar consideration prior to its wide release in January. It also finds its source material from a book by Dennis Lehane. Based on Affleck’s track record, it stood to reason that the pic could be a potential Academy contender. Yet reviews out today strongly suggest otherwise. Night stands at only 33% at press time on Rotten Tomatoes and none of the precursors (SAG Awards, Golden Globes) have bestowed it with any recognition.

The Prohibition era gangster drama looks like a non-factor in any of the larger races, including Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, or any acting slots for Affleck and his costars which include Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Cooper. Night could be a factor in some down the line races including Production Design and Costume Design, though even those could be a long shot.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…