Oscars Reaction: 94th Academy Awards

The pranksters of the Internet had a little fun with the justly criticized decision to have a “Fan Favorite” award. The top 3 consisted of Netflix’s Army of the Dead, the reviled Cinderella remake, and Johnny Depp’s barely seen Minamata. I’m guessing this viewer’s choice designation experiment will be unique to the 94th Academy Awards and this ceremony only. Gotta love footnotes, eh?

Let’s talk about what else happened at the Oscars. No… not that. Not yet.

I went 17 for 20, but I missed the biggie. CODA took Best Picture over The Power of the Dog. In fact, the Apple TV pic went 3 for 3 as it also won Adapted Screenplay (I picked Dog) and Troy Kotsur for Supporting Actor.

I admittedly had an upset selection with “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto over “No Time to Die” from that Bond pic. Billie Eilish did indeed take the musical prize and it’s now the third 007 theme in a row to win after “Skyfall” (2012) and “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre (2015).

The other 16 categories went according to my prognostications… Will Smith as Best Actor for King Richard… NOT YET…

Jessica Chastain (Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye) and Ariana DeBose (Supporting Actor for West Side Story). Belfast for Original Screenplay. Encanto in Animated Feature and Drive My Car for International Feature Film and Summer of Soul as Documentary Feature. You can read the rest. Dune won the most trophies with six.

The Power of the Dog took just one award with Jane Campion taking Director and becoming the third woman to do so and second in a row.  It marks the first time since 1967 that director’s win for the movie marks its sole victory. For you trivia buffs… it was Mike Nichols for The Graduate. 

OK… let’s get real. All of what I’m writing about is a footnote. That’s because  Will Smith’s open hand slap of Chris Rock for a joke directed at wife Jada Pinkett Smith is all the 94th edition of the Oscars will be remembered for. It was shocking (and riveting) TV made even more so with the knowledge that Smith would be giving a speech moments later. I still don’t know what to think and I’m still a little aghast at what I saw. That whole reading the wrong winner from five years ago seems a little small potatoes now.

I do know this… my Oscar predictions and speculations for the 95th Academy Awards will be here before you know it.

2021 Oscar Shortlists: Reaction

It’s a big day for us Oscar prognosticators as the shortlists were revealed this afternoon. For the uninitiated, there are seven feature film races where the Academy releases contenders ranging from 10-15 nominees. For Original Score, Song, International Feature Film, and Documentary Feature – we are given 15 hopefuls. In Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound, and Visual Effects – the list is dwindled to 10.

Let’s walk thru them one by one and I’ll talk about some surprises and omissions!

Best Original Score

The 15 Contenders:

Being the Ricardos

Candyman

Don’t Look Up

Dune

Encanto

The French Dispatch

The Green Knight

The Harder They Fall

King Richard

The Last Duel

No Time to Die

Parallel Mothers

The Power of the Dog

Spencer

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Commentary: 

Based on my latest Oscar forecast from December 15th, my five predicted nominees (Dune, The Power of the Dog, Spencer, Don’t Look Up, The Tragedy of Macbeth) all made the cut. So did my #7 (The French Dispatch), #9 (Being the Ricardos), and #10 (King Richard). The two omissions from my top 10: (6) Nightmare Alley and (8) Cyrano.

The biggest surprise might be the inclusion of Candyman. 

Best Original Song

The 15 Contenders:

“So May We Start” from Annette

“Down to Joy” from Belfast

“Right Where I Belong” from Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road

“Automatic Woman” from Bruised

“Dream Girl” from Cinderella

“Beyond the Shore” from CODA

“The Anonymous Ones” from Dear Evan Hansen

“Just Look Up” from Don’t Look Up

“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

“Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days

“Guns Go Bang” from The Harder They Fall

“Be Alive” from King Richard

“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

“Here I Am” from Respect

“Your Song Saved My Life” from Sing 2

Commentary:

My only top 10 ditty from 12/15 not on this list is “Believe” from The Rescue. I will note that “Every Letter” from Cyrano just dropped from my 10 last week and that turned out to be the correct call. This race still likely boils down to Beyonce (“Be Alive”) vs. Billie (“No Time to Die”).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

The 10 Contenders:

Coming 2 America

Cruella

Cyrano

Dune

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

House of Gucci

Nightmare Alley

No Time to Die

The Suicide Squad

West Side Story

Commentary:

A race where Cyrano isn’t left out! Last week I had Spencer in fifth position and it falls out. Same goes for Being the Ricardos (7) and The Last Duel (10). This is a competition that could go for Dune, Gucci, or Tammy as I see it.

Best Sound

The 10 Contenders:

Belfast

Dune

Last Night in Soho

The Matrix Resurrections

No Time to Die

The Power of the Dog

A Quiet Place Part II

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Tick Tick… Boom!

West Side Story

Commentary:

My predicted five from six days ago (Dune, West Side Story, Belfast, No Time to Die, Tick Tick… Boom!) are intact as are my #6 (Matrix) and #9 (A Quiet Place Part II). Not so for the films I had at 7, 8 and 10: Nightmare Alley, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Last Duel). Fresh off its gargantuan box office, the Spidey mention shows potential strength at making the shorter shortlist.

Best Visual Effects

The 10 Contenders:

Black Widow

Dune

Eternals

Free Guy

Ghostbusters: Afterlife 

Godzilla vs. Kong

The Matrix Resurrections

No Time to Die

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Commentary:

All 4 MCU movies from 2021 make it in as do three Warner Bros spectacles  (Dune, Matrix, Godzilla). I had Don’t Look Up placed fourth but it falls out. So does Finch which I rated seventh. This certainly increases the chances for Marvel to have at least two in the final five, but there’s Dune and then everything else in this race.

Best Documentary Feature

The 15 Contenders:

Ascension

Attica

Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry

Faya Dayi

The First Wave

Flee

In the Same Breath

Julia

President

Procession

The Rescue

Simple As Water

Summer of Soul

The Velvet Underground

Writing with Fire

Commentary:

It’s tough luck for my #9 (The Lost Leonardo) and #10 (Becoming Cousteau) as this fascinating race plays out between The Rescue, Flee, and Summer of Soul. 

Best International Feature Film

The 15 Contenders:

Compartment No. 6

Drive My Car

Flee

The Good Boss

Great Freedom 

The Hand of God

A Hero

Hive

I’m Your Man

Lamb

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Playground

Plaza Catedral

Prayers for the Stolen

The Worst Person in the World

Commentary:

Lamb and a Yak walk into the international competition, but the shocker of the day might be France’s Titane (which I had it 7th) not being mentioned. Same goes for #9 Memoria. This could be the category where Flee wins, but A Hero has been my #1. When I update my projections tomorrow, don’t be surprised if the rising Drive My Car from Japan takes over the top spot.

I’ll have fresh estimates in ALL feature categories posted tomorrow!

Oscar Predictions: Belfast

Kenneth Branagh’s varied filmography has included Shakespeare adaptations (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing), MCU pics (Thor), Disney live-action remakes (Cinderella), action franchise entries (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), and Agatha Christie retellings (Murder on the Orient Express). None of them have received a Best Picture nod though Branagh was nominated for his direction of Henry V in 1989.

The Telluride Film Festival unveiled his black and white coming of age tale Belfast. Calling it his most personal film, it’s also one of his most acclaimed thus far. And it appears poised to give the filmmaker his first contender in the Best Picture derby. He could also be called out for his behind the camera work and his original screenplay.

As for the cast, Focus Features will need to decide where to place its principals. The quartet of Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, and Judi Dench could all go supporting. However, the studio may choose to put Balfe and Dornan in lead with the distinguished veterans in supporting. My feeling is that Dench (going for her 8th nod) and Hinds (trying to get his first) stand the best chances.

I also anticipate Belfast will be recognized for its cinematography which critics are singling out. Bottom line: the buzz from Colorado suggests Belfast has good reason to be hopeful during awards season. My Oscar Prediction posts on the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Cinderella

Critics don’t seem overly charmed with the latest version of Cinderella, which hits Amazon Prime this weekend after slipping out of a theatrical release. The musical rom com casts singer Camila Cabello in the title role with a supporting cast including Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan. Kay Cannon writes and directs.

The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 45%. However, the would-be princess’s new iteration could at least make a case for some awards chatter. That would be in the category of Costume Design (where critical reaction doesn’t mean a whole lot). The better reviewed Disney live-action retelling from 2015 scored a nod there. However, I would say it’s chances are fairly slim. Cruella already has a reserved spot in all likelihood. And then there’s hopefuls such as The French Dispatch, House of Gucci, West Side Story, Dune, and The Last Duel (to name a handful).

Cinderella‘s shots don’t quite end there. Cabello recently debuted an original song “Million to One” for the soundtrack (which mostly consists of contemporary covers of tracks such as Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love”). This is another race where the level of forthcoming competition could determine its viability.

Bottom line: Cinderella could find its way into two categories, but I wouldn’t bet on it. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Watch: Cruella

More often than not, the Disney live-action remakes related to their animated classics have managed to score Oscar nominations in various technical races. Two days ahead of its Memorial Day weekend domestic bow, the studio’s Cruella (a reboot of their 1961 animated tale and the Glenn Close live-action features) has seen its review embargo lifted. It is widely expected that the Academy will reward it in some of the races that their previous features have been mentioned in.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter currently stands at a decent 72% with many critics praising Emma Stone (Best Actress winner in 2016 for La La Land) in the title role of the dog despising villainess. She’s unlikely to get much attention in the lead race, but should certainly find herself in the mix in the Musical/Comedy competition at next year’s Golden Globes… if there is a Golden Globes next year.

As mentioned, the Academy has been kind to the remakes over the last decade plus. Alice in Wonderland won Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for Visual Effects. Nods for the costumes were also received by Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015). In 2017, Beauty and the Beast made the shortlist for Production and Costume Design. The Jungle Book (2016) was victorious in Visual Effects with Christopher Robin (2018) and The Lion King (2019) as nominees. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) nabbed a mention for its Makeup and Hairstyling. Last year’s Mulan got in for Costume Design and Visual Effects, winning neither.

All four categories mentioned are on the table for Cruella to varying degrees. Based on the buzz, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling are highly probable and could even be wins. Production Design is also feasible while Visual Effects could be more of a stretch due to expected competition.

Additionally, Florence and the Machine have contributed the original song “Call Me Cruella”. I wouldn’t bank on it making the final five in that race, but you never know (sometimes there’s surprises in that category).

Bottom line: Cruella is looking good for at least two Academy mentions and possibly more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Mulan

After its theatrical release was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney’s live-action version of their 1998 animated tale Mulan is set to stream on Disney+ beginning tomorrow for a fee of $30. With a reported budget of around $200 million, this is certainly one of the highest profile features to ever (if ever) hit the PVOD circuit.

Over the past decade, the Mouse Factory has made billions of dollars with this sub genre of bringing their well-known drawn properties to a human scale. And there’s already a history of these pics garnering technical nominations at the Oscars.

The review embargo for Mulan lapsed on the eve of its release and reaction thus far is mostly on the positive side. Niki Caro’s remake is generating praise for its action sequences and overall visuals. Some of the reviews are a bit less kind. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is currently 73%. That’s a marked improvement over last year’s Aladdin (57%) and The Lion King (52%). Yet it falls short of the highs of The Jungle Book (94%) or Cinderella (84%). It’s actually right in range with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, which scored 71%.

Let’s take that trip down memory lane for Disney’s output in this genre, shall we? In 2010, Alice in Wonderland won both Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for its Visual Effects. 2014’s Maleficent also received a nod for its costuming and that happened a year later with Cinderella. In 2016, The Jungle Book was victorious for its Visual Effects. Beauty and the Beast received nominations the next year for Production Design and its costumes. Christopher Robin got a Visual Effects nod in 2019. And last year, The Lion King picked up a Visual Effects mention while Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.

You’ll notice that none of these pictures landed attention in the major categories and I don’t expect that Mulan will change that. When it comes to down the line nominations, I do expect this will contend in Production Design and Costume Design especially. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are also possibilities and maybe even Cinematography. And there’s also the matter of Best Original Song. Christina Aguilera, who sang the track “Reflection” over the end credits 22 years ago, has composed some original works here. She recently put out the single “Loyal Brave True” and it certainly could contend.

Bottom line: Mulan is unlikely to be the first live-action Disney remake to compete for the big prizes, but it should carry on the tradition of its technical achievements being noticed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Aladdin

Just a day before its theatrical release, Disney’s live-action update of Aladdin had its review embargo lifted. The big-budget fantasy, which casts Will Smith in the genie role made iconic by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated feature, could’ve certainly fared worse. Based upon fears from a poorly received first trailer, some wondered if the pic would be a disaster. Most critics, while certainly mixed with some negative, haven’t been too harsh. It stands at 60% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Particular praise has gone to the performances of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, who respectively play the title character and Princess Jasmine.

When it comes to these updates of studio classics, many in the past decade have scored technical nods. This includes Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. In 2019, Aladdin will find itself competing for space with three other Disney live-action renderings: the already released Dumbo, this summer’s The Lion King, and this winter’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Don’t be surprised if The Lion King gets the lions share of attention.

That said, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling could be the two best possibilities here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Dumbo

Disney’s live-action version of their 1941 classic Dumbo arrives in theaters on Friday and the review embargo was lifted today. Tim Burton’s take on the flying elephant is the first of four Mouse Factory updates on their animated tales hitting screens in 2019.

The advance word out is quite mixed with a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 51%. No one seriously expected this would contend for Best Picture, but previous Disney updates in recent years have fared well with Oscar voters with technical nods.

Burton’s own Alice in Wonderland in 2010 won Best Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and landed a nomination in Visual Effects. Costume Design nods were received by Maleficent in 2014 and by Cinderella the following year. In 2016, The Jungle Book emerged victorious in Visual Effects. Beauty and the Beast nabbed nods for Production and Costume Design.

That’s a solid track record. Where’s that leave Dumbo? Tough to say at this juncture. Even the negative skewing reviews have praised the visuals. Yet there will be a lot of competition and that includes the other three live-action updates arriving later: Aladdin, The Lion King, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Even more potentially serious competitors include Avengers: Endgame and the next Star Wars.

Costume Design and Production Design remain more realistic possibilities. Bottom line: Dumbo could continue the recent tradition of this sub genre getting down the line category attention, but competition will be key. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Dumbo Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (03/27): My Dumbo prediction has dropped from $65.6 million to $55.6 million.

With Tim Burton at the helm, Disney’s live-action rendering of Dumbo flies into theaters next weekend. The elephant tale (based on the Mouse Factory’s 1941 animated feature) is headlined by Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, and plenty of CG effects.

This is the first live-action remake from the studio in two years, following up on the monstrous success that was Beauty and the Beast. That lapse in their sub genre won’t apply to 2019 as there’s three more on the way – Aladdin in May, The Lion King in July, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil this October.

It’s also not Burton’s first foray remaking Disney classics. 2010’s Alice in Wonderland was a huge hit that grossed $116 million for its start. When it comes to Beauty, Aladdin, and Lion King, they have the advantage of being based on 90s efforts as opposed to a title released 50 years prior.

Expectations for Dumbo aren’t quite as lofty and they’re in the $60-$70 million premiere range. That sound about right and I’ll put it right in the middle of those numbers, similar to what Cinderella achieved in 2015.

Dumbo opening weekend prediction: $55.6 million

For my Hotel Mumbai prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/hotel-mumbai-box-office-prediction/

For my Unplanned prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/unplanned-box-office-prediction/

For my The Beach Bum prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/the-beach-bum-box-office-prediction/

A Wrinkle in Time Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (03/07): I am revising my estimate from $42.8 million to $37.8 million, meaning I have it debuting at #2

What film could knock Disney’s Black Panther off its perch atop the box office charts after its momentous performance? Well, it should be another Disney property as A Wrinkle in Time debuts next Friday. Based on the famed and acclaimed 1962 novel from Madeleine L’Engle, the sci-fi fantasy comes from Selma director Ana DuVernay and marks the biggest budgeted feature ever (a reported $103 million) from an African-American female director. The cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu-Mbatha Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena, and Storm Reid.

The Disney marketing machine is certainly a formidable one and familiarity with the source material and high-profile actors should serve as a benefit. One potential hindrance: while reviews are embargoed until March 7, initial word-of-mouth from screenings has been mixed.

On the low end, Wrinkle could see a debut in the mid 30s. However, I feel it will manage to climb higher with low 40s gross that could certainly reach as a high as $50 million. I don’t see it hitting the high 60s grosses that Disney’s live-action adaptations like Maleficent or Cinderella managed. That should be enough to allow the Mouse Factory to hold the 1-2 position next weekend with this and Panther.

A Wrinkle in Time opening weekend prediction: $37.8 million

For my The Strangers: Prey at Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/28/the-strangers-prey-at-night/

For my The Hurricane Heist prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/01/the-hurricane-heist-box-office-prediction/

For my Gringo prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/01/gringo-box-office-prediction/