Oscars 2019: The Case of Renee Zellweger

My Case of posts for thespians competing for Oscars comes to our final Best Actress nominee – Renee Zellweger in Judy:

The Case for Renee Zellweger

She’s one of the comeback stories of the year and in the strong front runner position for this award. This is Zellweger’s fourth nomination, but it’s been awhile. The actress failed to achieve gold for her first two mentions with Bridget Jones’s Diary and Chicago, but the third time was the charm in Supporting Actress with 2003’s Cold Mountain. Her role as Judy Garland has already earned her the Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics Choice honors.

The Case Against Renee Zellweger

The film itself drew a mixed reaction from critics. Challengers to Zellweger could point to last year when Glenn Close (The Wife) picked up the same precursors, but was upset on Oscar night by Olivia Colman for The Favourite. 

The Verdict

There are some who feel Zellweger could be vulnerable to an upset by either Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) or Charlize Theron (Bombshell). However, there’s no doubt that the smart money is on her to win 16 years after her initial podium trip.

My Case of posts will continue with the direction of Martin Scorsese in The Irishman!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Laura Dern

My Case of outlines for Oscar contenders brings us to the second post for Supporting Actress players – Laura Dern in Marriage Story. The breakdown:

The Case for Laura Dern

Dern is already an Emmy and SAG winner and five-time Golden Globe recipient, but she has yet to pick up an Oscar. She’s been nominated twice before in 1991 for Rambling Rose and for 2015’s Wild. A well-respected veteran from a Hollywood family, Dern has balanced blockbusters and indies for years. Her role a whip smart and ruthless divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s latest drew raves. Yet this is also seen as a career achievement prize given her zero previous wins. Dern has won all major precursors – Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, and a handful of critics groups awards.

The Case Against Laura Dern

There’s not much of one. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers was seen as her strongest competitor, but she was snubbed on nominations morning. Dern’s Marriage Story costar Scarlett Johansson is a double nominee, recognized in this race for Jojo Rabbit. The Academy could feel obliged to give ScarJo a victory here. Interestingly, Dern’s Little Women costar Florence Pugh is up as well.

The Verdict

Dern is a huge front runner and anyone else winning would be seen as a sizable upset.

My Case of posts will continue with another of Dern’s costars… Adam Driver in Marriage Story!

Oscars 2019: The Case of The Irishman

Continuing with my Oscar series outlining the cases for and against nominees in the top six categories, we arrive at Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. This is my second of (gulp) 34 posts for films and individuals picked in the Picture, Director, and the acting races. If you missed yesterday’s writeup about Ford v Ferrari, you can find it here:

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

Let’s get to it!

The Case for The Irishman

Scorsese’s latest is an epic unification of screen legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in the genre they’re known best for… the gangster tale. The three and a half hour opus certainly has awards gravitas. It was pegged as a likely nominee from the moment it was announced. Both Pacino and Pesci were named in Supporting Actor and the pic sports 10 nominations, which is tied for second along with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Scorsese is obviously a legendary figure and this is his ninth effort to get a Picture nod (the only winner being 2006’s The Departed).

The critics have been on its side and it has a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Several critics group named it as the year’s best.

The Case Against The Irishman

That attention has not translated to the big awards shows yet. The Golden Globes surprised most when they picked 1917 over this in Best Drama. The Critics Choice Awards chose Hollywood. Some have griped about its length. De Niro, unlike Pacino and Pesci, couldn’t manage a nod with the Globes, SAG, or the Academy. And then there’s the still unsettled notion that the Academy could have a Netflix problem, despite the streamer leading this year’s studios in total number of nominations. In 2018, Roma appeared to be the front runner until that Netflix property lost to Green Book. 

The Verdict

There was little doubt that The Irishman would garner plenty of attention in various categories, including here. Yet viability as a winner is much in question. Scorsese’s latest could still take the top prize, but it appears to be a bit of a long shot at the moment.

Up next in my Case of posts… Jojo Rabbit!

The Critics Make Their Choices

One day ahead of the more highly publicized Golden Globe nominations, this Sunday saw the unveiling of the nods for the Critics Choice Movie Awards. And in looking over their selections in recent history, they serve as quite a harbinger for the choices that Oscar voters might make.

After a strong showing in early precursors, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman led the way with 14 nominations. This is followed by 12 nods for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 9 for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, 8 for 1917 from Sam Mendes and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, and 7 for Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, Joker from Todd Phillips and Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. 

This particular branch of voters utilizes an unpredictable scale for numbers of nominees in each category. For Best Picture, it’s always ten. Yet it fluctuates when it comes to director, the acting and screenplay races, and so forth.

Today I’ll break down the major categories and discuss each one and what it could mean come Oscar time. The ceremony airs on the CW this January 12th.

Best Picture

Nominees: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, Uncut Gems

Reaction here is that the precursor love continues for Uncut Gems from Ben and Josh Safdie. This is probably the least expected feature to make the cut and the Adam Sandler led crime drama appears to be peaking at the right time. While this certainly doesn’t guarantee an Oscar nod, it’s now undoubtedly part of the conversation.

Some notable titles to miss the list: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Richard Jewell, and The Two Popes. It will be interesting tomorrow to see if the Globes finds room for Popes as part of its nominations, as it seems to be fading fast. It doesn’t help that Netflix could be primarily concerned with Irishman and Marriage Story. 

Over the last five years, there’s been four of them when eight of the Critics Choice list nabbed Best Picture attention at the Oscars. In 2017, it was nine of them. In other words, pay attention to this list.

Best Director

Nominees: Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Bong Joon-Ho  (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Ben and Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

And another notch in the Uncut Gems arsenal. Most recent years have seen six nominees, but there’s seven nominees in 2019. In 2016, five of the Choice directors made up the Oscar list. In 2014 and 2015, it was three and for the past two years it’s been four.

Looking over this list, it’s very feasible that there’s a five match. Who could sneak in that’s not on here? One name that comes to mind is James Mangold for Ford v Ferrari. 

Best Actor

Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)

In a category that typically has six nominees, it should be no shocker that there’s seven this time around as Best Actor is packed. From 2015-2018, we have seen 5 nominees for two of the years (2015, 2018) make the Academy derby and two with 4 (2016, 2017). 2014 was a bit of an outlier with three.

As has been discussed on this blog, I believe there are 11 legitimate performers vying for 5 slots at the Oscars. The four that didn’t make the cut here are Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). Here’s yet another example of Popes falling short.

Today’s announcements, in particular, could serve as a boost for Murphy and Sandler.

Best Actress

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

There’s a serious correlation between these nominees and Oscar. In four of the past five years, we’ve seen five of the women getting Academy love. In 2016, it was four. That seems destined to repeat itself here as the only potential outlier in my mind is Alfre Woodard in Clemency. I would bank on five of these seven nominees being the Oscar list.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

These nominees are further proof of an Irishman double nod for Pacino and Pesci coming our way. We’ve seen five for five matchups in two of the past five years with this race. This also makes me think Hopkins has a much better chance for Popes attention than his lead costar Pryce.

If there’s one name not here that could factor into the Oscar mix – Shia LaBeouf in Honey Boy. All in all, no big surprises here.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell), Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell)

This is indeed what I’d call the top 6 for Oscar viability. However, I wouldn’t sleep on Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell (a film these voters totally ignored). In the past half decade, we’ve never seen less than four of the nominees here getting Academy nods.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Farewell, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

The noticeable item here is the inclusion of Knives Out. All the rest were basically foregone conclusions. It gets in instead of Bombshell, 1917, Pain and Glory, or Ford v Ferrari. Could Oscar follow suit? Definitely possible as the last two years have seen 5 for 5 matches.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

We haven’t seen a total match with the Academy from 2014 to present. I suspect that will change this time around as I believe 5 of these 6 contenders will make the Oscar cut. What gets left out? Beautiful Day, Joker, and Popes are the likely contenders.

My precursor posts will roll along in rapid succession as my take on the Los Angeles critics is up next…

2018 SAG Award Predictions

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award air tomorrow evening and they could shed some light on which performers are looking more solid for the Oscar in a few weeks. Let’s break down the top races with my winner predictions, shall we?

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born

Analysis: It’s important to note that the SAG ceremony honors casts and not the “Best Picture” like other shows. This is about the ensemble. A Star is Born is really concentrated on three performances (Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot) and they’re all up for their individual races, where they all have a shot of winning. I believe it’s entirely possible, however, that the trio also all lose and this could be a considerable consolation prize. The other four films have more sprawling casts. That’s especially true for Black Panther and I’ll say the voters ultimately reward in a different category to project.

Winner Prediction: Black Panther

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Analysis: As mentioned, Cooper is a possibility. Yet he’s come up empty in other precursors. This could come down to the two Golden Globe recipients for their categories – Bale and Malek. I think it’s a coin flip to be honest. I’ll give the latter a razor-thin edge.

Winner Prediction: Malek

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Gaga is the only actress whose picture is also nominated. Her tie with Glenn Close at the Critics Choice Awards made things even murkier. Colman is a possibility here, but I’ll say this branch of actors give it to Close after decades of memorable performances.

Winner Prediction: Close

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: I wouldn’t count out Elliot, but Ali appears to be the front-runner in all these shows. I think his streak continues.

Winner Prediction: Ali

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: A fascinating race as Oscar favorite Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk was surprisingly snubbed. Blunt is a double nominee, but stands little chance of emerging victorious in either spot. The Favourite ladies could split votes. Robbie didn’t land an Oscar nod and is a long shot. That leaves Adams, who could be a double winner tomorrow with her work in HBO’s Sharp Objects.

Winner Prediction: Adams

And there you have it! I’ll have a recap up after the program airs!

The PGA Goes Green

The eyes of Oscar prognosticators were on the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards and for good reason. In this decade, the Best Picture Award has matched the Academy’s 6 out of 8 times (there’s a little fudging here because in 2013 there was a tie between Oscar recipient 12 Years a Slave and Gravity). The non matches occurred in 2015 when the PGA selected The Big Short over Spotlight and the following year with La La Land winning and not Moonlight.

Two scenarios could have changed the Oscar landscape in a significant way. A victory for Roma (coming off its Critics Choice honor) could have solidified standing as a front-runner. If A Star Is Born took the top prize, it would have marked a much-needed win after some high-profile precursor snubs.

Neither scenario happened as Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was named. This is a surprise and it opens up an already uncertain race for Best Picture at the big dance. It certainly lessens Green Book winning the Oscar being seen as an upset. It’s a real contender along with Roma and Star.

Tonight’s ceremony also gave yet another animation award for SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse. Coupled with its Globes and Critics wins, it now appears Spidey is the Academy favorite over Incredibles 2.

Bottom line: the PGA made the Oscars a bit murkier. We got ourselves a race.

The Critics Choice Is Roma

The Critics Choice Awards aired last night and the ceremony has been a harbinger at times for the Oscar race ahead. Notably the show in 2017 ended up matching the Academy’s winners in all major races. So what message did reviewers send yesterday? Well some of it was mixed and some of it solidified certain selections in their positions come gold statue time.

It was a very good evening for Roma. The Mexican drama won Best Picture and its filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron won for his direction and cinematography. In those latter two races, Cuaron is the strong favorite to take the Oscar. Picture is still not assured as it faces competition from A Star Is Born and maybe BlacKkKlansman (which did go home empty-handed yesterday). I’ve had Star placed at #1 consistently in my Oscar rankings. Don’t be surprised if Roma grabs that slot this week when I update my predictions.

Christian Bale was victorious in Actor for Vice. Coupled with his Golden Globe win the week prior, it could give him a slight edge over Bradley Cooper in Star and Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody. Yet it’s competitive.

So is Best Actress and last night proved it. There was the rare tie and it was between Lady Gaga in Star and Glenn Close as The Wife. I’d say it’s a coin flip between them at the Oscars and I wouldn’t totally count out Olivia Colman in The Favourite.

The supporting winners matched the Golden Globes with Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk). Even though King was surprisingly not nominated at the upcoming SAG Awards, both actors look like front-runners in their respective categories.

Beale Street also took Adapted Screenplay, giving it a boost in that race over the slightly more favored BlacKkKlansman. In Original Screenplay, Paul Schrader notched a big win for First Reformed. I’m feeling more confident it makes the final five for the Academy.

The Critics Choice voters also chose SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse over Pixar’s Incredibles 2 in Animated Film like the Globes did. That’s more fuel to the fire that Spidey could get that Oscar win and give Pixar a rare loss in that race.

Finally, Black Panther had a solid showing – winning Visual Effects, Production Design, and Costume  Design. First Man took Editing while Vice was honored for its Makeup.

I’ll have my updates Oscar predictions up later this week with final estimates up on Sunday prior to Tuesday’s announcement. Stay tuned!