Oscar Watch: The Lovebirds

In 2017, comedian Kumail Nanjiani had a breakout hit with The Big Sick, a dramedy based on his real life experiences with his wife. An unexpected box office success, the pic even managed buzz for a Best Picture nomination and for Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress. Neither nod materialized and the film’s sole nomination was for its Original Screenplay.

The rom com/murder mystery The Lovebirds teams Nanjiani with his Sick director Michael Showalter once again. It’s out on Netflix today after Paramount moved it to streaming service from an April theatrical date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the pic is generating fairly decent reviews (66% on Rotten Tomatoes) and praise for the chemistry between leads Nanjiani and Issa Rae, the critical reaction doesn’t approach that of Sick (with its 98% Tomato meter). Bottom line: don’t expect the Lovebirds to gather any passion to fly before the radar screen of awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Hope Gap

Alongside Glenn Close and Amy Adams, Annette Bening could be the most high profile and acclaimed actress that has yet to win Oscar gold despite multiple nominations. She is a four time nominee – once for Supporting Actress in 1990’s The Grifters and thrice nominated in the lead race with 1999’s American Beauty, 2004’s Being Julia, and 2010’s The Kids Are All Right. In both 1999 and 2004, Bening was likely the runner-up and lost both awards to Hilary Swank (for Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby, respectively).

There’s a feeling that her time may come, but this year’s Hope Gap is unlikely to get her there. The drama premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. Focusing on her strained marriage with Bill Nighy, Gap is directed by William Nicholson. He’s known most for his screenwriting with credits including the Oscar winning Gladiator as well as Shadowlands, Nell, and Les Miserables (2012 version).

So while the Oscar pedigree is certainly present, reviews are decidedly more mixed. The Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at a so-so 63% after Gap forewent a theatrical release and went straight to VOD. Perhaps Bening will have a bite at the Supporting Actress apple with October’s Death on the Nile, the follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express. As for Gap, there’s scant hope. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Unhinged Makes Its Move

There was movie news today and it was significant. It may cause a thriller centered on the “Driver from Hell” to become a trivia answer and a historical footnote. The upstart Solstice Studios has announced that Unhinged, which casts Russell Crowe as a psychopath with serious road rage issues, will park into theaters on July 1.

This would normally not be a post worthy item. However, by vaulting its release date from September to early July, Unhinged is primed to be the first major new theatrical item to open wide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obviously, significant questions abound. How many theaters will be operating at the time? Will some states not even have multiplexes even open? Most importantly, will audiences be ready to make their trip to see Mr. Crowe terrorize his fellow motorists?

The last couple of months has seen an unprecedented shift in release dates for pictures. Many summer blockbusters moved to fall or 2021. That has caused some ’21 releases to push back to 2022. It’s been a startling domino effect.

However, Unhinged breaks the streak by actually moving up and becoming a potential litmus test for the remainder of summer and calendar year as a whole. And July still has some heavy hitters that have yet to blink, most notably Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan treatment. How will it go? Only time will tell.

Oscar Watch: Capone

Originally scheduled for a theatrical release prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Trank’s Capone hits the VOD circuit tomorrow and reviews are out. The biopic casts Tom Hardy as notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone during the last illness ravaged years of his life. The supporting cast includes Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Kyle MacLachlan, and Matt Dillon.

While it currently sports a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the number does not quite tell the tale. Some critics are simply savaging it while others are far more kind. It’s probably safe to say that Capone will spur much chatter on both sides. The director became known to many moviegoers based on 2012’s well-received sci-fi tale Chronicle before his 2015 Fantastic Four reboot that was a commercial and critical flop.

Much of the review space has centered on Hardy’s work. Similar to his performance in Venom, some writers are calling it an inspired and somewhat bonkers portrayal. Others say it is just plain bonkers. A Supporting Actor nominee for 2015’s The Revenant, don’t expect a second nod here.

In fact, the level of vitriol from some makes you wonder if Capone could be a contender for some Razzie nods at the end of 2020. As for Oscar contention, the enthusiasm is steered in a different direction. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Oscars Go Streaming

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.

A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.

So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.

With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.

My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!

Daily Streaming Guide: March 15th Edition

Just as our collective world has changed around us in the past few days and will continue for the foreseeable future, so will this little movie blog of mine. Simply put – a lot of us (myself included) are going to be home for awhile. Therefore, the best use of this blog at the moment is shifting away from box office predictions and Oscar speculation.

Beginning right now, I’m going to post a Daily Streaming Guide recommending movies currently streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It’s likely that I’ll throw in Disney+ and HBO in from time to time. Hopefully this will assist my readers in identifying some worthy pictures to view at home. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Netflix

1984’s Purple Rain turned Prince into a global musical superstar. The soundtrack that accompanied it is a nine-track masterpiece in which every song demands repeat listens. Here’s a fair warning – the film itself is of its time. This is a kind way of saying that there’s some dialogue and attitudes that wouldn’t pass muster in 2020. That said, I would recommend it as a time capsule to witness a genius at a juncture of his creative peak. The performances alone with his band The Revolution that include the title tune, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Darling Nikki”, and more are worth the price of streaming.

Hulu

Keeping with the musical theme, Cameron Crowe’s 1989 teen romance Say Anything… is known mostly for a shot of John Cusack holding up a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. It’s an iconic scene, but the picture itself is among the most intelligent and insightful experiences dealing with young love. Just as 80s icon John Hughes wrote teens as human beings as opposed to walking hormones, Crowe’s screenplay accomplishes the same.

Amazon Prime

For something more recent, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor from 2018 belongs more in the guilty pleasure space. A charcoal black comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, this twisty thriller knows it’s ridiculous and is simply a whole lot of fun. This might be best enjoyed with a dry martini or two on standby.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow, folks! Until then – be well and stay safe!

A New Cinematic Universe

The world is different this week. We are all beginning to feel it and know it. The Coronavirus has impacted the economy, our day to day activity, and our way of life. That will continue for the foreseeable future. I have already written once before about COVID-19 and its impact on what this blog focuses on… the movies.

I know it may seem trivial. And, in many ways, it is. Yet this is a movie blog. It’s a blog mostly devoted to box office predictions and that’s certainly what gets the most views on here.

So some thoughts:

The box office, like numerous other sectors of our economic fabric, is going to suffer. When I last wrote about Coronavirus just days ago, the latest James Bond picture No Time to Die had been pushed from April to November. There were other release date changes, but that was the headline.

What we’ve seen in the past 24 hours has been an escalation and an extreme one. A Quiet Place Part II, Mulan, The New Mutants, and F9 have all moved to either indefinite status or to 2021. Other less tentpole titles have followed suit. Expect that to continue over the coming days.

Simply put – the American moviegoing experience is grinding to a halt. There are legitimate questions as to whether theaters will even stay open and with the announcements of the past week, it certainly would not be a massive shock at this juncture.

This blog may change until further notice. And we’re going through a period of time where we will need to get used to change. Again… maybe it sounds trivial and there are larger considerations to work through in our day to day operations…

Nevertheless, on this MOVIE blog… I’ll say this…

Let’s be kind to one another during this time. There will be stories of inspiration in the coming days through this darkness. We will see the humanity of our populace.

We are inspired by movies. Many of us may have some more time in the coming days and weeks to scour the vaults of streaming services and television. If your kids are home from school, maybe it’s time to inspire them with the Star Wars franchise or animated classics or The Goonies if they’ve never seen them. I know they inspired me.

If you’re a die-hard movie buff like I am, maybe it’s time to rewatch the pictures that inspired you. We could all use that lift right now.

Tom Hanks once said, “My job has always been to hold a mirror up to nature”. We’ve certainly seen him do that in many terrific performances. We wish him well. These are new challenges we face and we will prevail. Let’s be proud of the nature of our reflection in the mirror as we get through this.