Oscars 2019: The Case of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

We have reached the eighth post in my Case of series outlining the pros and cons of films up for Best Picture at the Oscars. Up now: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. If you missed previous write-ups, you can find them here:








Let’s get at it!

The Case for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Tarantino is a legendary filmmaker and his efforts have yet to win Best Picture despite nominations for Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. With critical acclaim and healthy box office ($141 million), this star studded entry might simply feel like QT’s time has come. The precursor love has extended to Brad Pitt (the major front runner for Supporting Actor) and a Golden Globe victory for Best Musical/Comedy. It’s tied for the second most nominations with 10 along with The Irishman and 1917.

The Case Against Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This might not seem like a big deal. but its omission for Best Editing kind of seems like a thing. The Best Picture recipient almost never misses that final five. Furthermore, its loss in the PGA race to 1917 and SAG ensemble to Parasite are significant exclusions.

The Verdict

A narrative is being established that the race could be between 1917 and Parasite. Yet Hollywood still feels like the third viable contender even with the lack of SAG and PGA attention.

Up next in my Case of posts… Parasite!

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Movie Review

***There are light spoilers contained in this review. Nothing here should adversely affect your viewing experience, but if you wish to go in totally clean, you may wish wait until watching it.

fairy tale


  • something resembling a fairy tale in being magical, idealized, or extremely happy

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is this writer/director’s version on that definition. It’s certainly hinted at in the title. There’s little doubt that this is his idealized view of a Hollywood that was indeed magical in his eyes. The picture takes place over a period of six months in 1969 as the movie business is undergoing a seismic shift in attitude befitting the era. Films like Easy Rider with their independent and counter culture spirit have overtaken big budget musicals and other weary genre exercises. Young hotshot directors like Roman Polanski are hot off acclaimed stateside debuts like Rosemary’s Baby.

Mid level TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) finds himself at a crossroads. He had a hit western in the 1950s called “Bounty Law”. Years later, he’s primarily cast as the heavy in weekly episodic serials. He doesn’t find it particularly rewarding and he hates the idea of hippies populating his industry. His schmaltzy agent (Al Pacino) wants him to go Italy to shoot low budget spaghetti westerns. Rick sees it as a career death knell.

There is one constant in Rick’s life besides an endless supply of booze. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is his trusty stunt double who’s been with him for years. In this fairy tale, Cliff represents the extremely happy. While Rick often hilariously and sometimes touchingly fusses and frets over his standing in the business, Cliff is happy go lucky. This seems, in part, to stem from the fact that he may have gotten away with offing his nagging wife. Guilty or not so, he’s just as happy performing menial household tasks for Rick as he is falling off horses or doing dangerous car stunts.

Another example of the extremely happy is Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Her and her aforementioned virtuoso hubby Roman Polanski have just moved next door to Rick. She seems to walk on air in her new world of Tinsel Town bliss and is a stunning breeze of fresh air to any room she enters. While Rick is floundering, Sharon is perpetually adorned with a glass slipper.

Of course, we the audience know the real life happenings that ended Sharon’s life in the Hollywood hills. While Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) is giving little screen time himself, notable members of his cult are. They make the acquaintance of Cliff, who ends up at the Spahn ranch in a deliciously climactic and anticlimactic sequence. The primary cult member is Pussycat, played by Margaret Qualley in a standout performance that is both unnerving and charming.

The events of the Manson murders are handled in a manner in which perhaps only this filmmaker could get away with. Inglourious Basterds lovers take note. The Manson aspect is not the main focus at all. Yet when it’s time for that fateful night, it’s handled in an audacious manner that is right in Tarantino’s violent wheelhouse.

That said, as it pertains to screen time, this is probably the director’s least bloody offering to date. Hollywood is more about spending leisurely time with these characters. You get the feeling that Tarantino would have killed to hang out with them fifty years ago, particularly Rick and Cliff. The actors playing them are terrific. DiCaprio has the more complex role as he battles his demons and his battered ego. Pitt’s Cliff is a simpler man, but his work here is every bit equal to DiCaprio’s. Robbie is a ray of sunshine. Her scene where she visits a movie theater playing one of her pics is joyful to witness (and kudos to Tarantino for using the real footage of Tate). Supporting players are too numerous to mention, but it’s always great to see frequent collaborator Kurt Russell in anything. And Mike Moh warrants mention for an uncanny impression of Bruce Lee.

An argument could be made that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin’s “slowest” picture. Due to his intense interest in the late 1960s era where he came of age in Southern California, it could also be said that it’s his most personal. Sometimes personal is code for self indulgent. My take? Getting to indulge in his words and creations is a luxury. Taking the time to savor his characters and the situations he puts them in is endlessly entertaining. This could be called a dark fairy tale when considering its maker. I’d say it’s more melancholy upon completion as this visionary artist contemplates what could have been in his most treasured model of Hollywood.

**** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

25 years ago today, Quentin Tarantino’s second feature Pulp Fiction held its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Today saw the Riviera unveiling of his ninth – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The black comedy casts Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as a movie star and his stunt double, respectively. Set in 1969, Hollywood also focuses on the Manson murders with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. The sprawling supporting cast includes Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, the late Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, Damian Lewis, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch, and Al Pacino.

Slated to hit screens stateside on July 26, it’s fair to say this is the most eagerly anticipated Cannes debut of 2019. Some reviews from the festival are glowing and that’s not unexpected when it comes to Mr. Tarantino. Others, while positive, indicate it’s not quite the masterpiece that Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds are. Both of those pics (and 2012’s Django Unchained) nabbed Best Picture nods.

Based on early buzz, I expect Hollywood to do the same with a strong possibility that its director gets a nomination as well. He will almost certainly be honored for his Original Screenplay. As for performances, both DiCaprio and Pitt are being lauded. I’m not certain at this point whether both will be campaigned for in lead Actor. A split (meaning Pitt in Supporting Actor) could increase the chances of both getting in. Margot Robbie is also getting raves and could certainly factor into Supporting Actress.

Bottom line: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been looked at as a contender since it was announced. Today’s happenings in France confirm it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Ocean’s 8 Box Office Prediction

A franchise is reborn with a twist when Ocean’s 8 lands in theaters next weekend. It’s been over a decade since the Ocean’s 11-13 heist sagas with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and a bunch of other famous faces being directed by Steven Soderbergh. Each entry made a little less at the box office as they went along, but they all opened between $35-$40 million. Soderbergh just produces here with Gary Ross taking over the directorial duties. He’s had hits such as Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games, but his most recent was the Matthew McConaughey flop Free State of Jones. 

The aforementioned twist is that it’s the ladies getting in on the thievery this time around. Sandra Bullock plays the sister of Clooney’s character from the first trilogy and she’s the mastermind of a crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. Anne Hathaway is the target of the score with James Corden, Dakota Fanning, and host of celebrity cameos included among the cast.

Ocean’s 8 looks to bring in a sizable female audience and their male counterparts may not mind coming along for the ride. The high-profile cast, especially Bullock, certainly doesn’t hurt and this stands a real shot at having the highest Ocean’s debut of all. That’s not guaranteed as I could see the low bar being in the low 30s. That would fall under the previous low of $36 million by Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007.

However, I’m leaning more towards a high 30s to possibly mid 40s roll out for Sandra and company. I’ll estimate it somewhere in between.

Ocean’s 8 opening weekend prediction: $42.6 million

For my Hereditary prediction, click here:


For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: American Pastoral

The Toronto Film Festival, arriving just days after Venice and Telluride, will continue to shape this year’s Oscar race. Entries of past years have gone onto see numerous nominations. Just last year, half of the eventual Best Picture nominees played up north including the winner Spotlight. And there were a number of films that featured acting nominees.

My Oscar Watch coverage of Toronto begins with American Pastoral, Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut based on Philip Roth’s crime drama novel. It’s been on the radar screen of awards prognosticators for some time. McGregor also stars alongside previous winner Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.

In my first edition of weekly Academy predictions on Thursday, I listed Pastoral at #9 in the Picture race. The buzz coming from Toronto based on its screenings has changed that dynamic and not for the better. The pic received a number of mediocre reviews and it looks now as if Pastoral will be on the outside looking in for Oscar recognition. Its actors, too, are unlikely to find themselves in contention.

I’ll have the Oscar Watch posts continuing throughout the day… And throughout the festival.

Todd’s 2016 Weekly Oscar Predictions: September 8th Edition

As readers of my blog may have seen last week, I made my first initial round of Oscar predictions last week. Now… we move onto the next phase. Every Thursday, I will be giving my weekly updated Oscar predictions in the following categories: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay.

When we get into the later part of the year, the list will expand to include other categories. Each Thursday, I will list 25 possibilities for Best Picture and 15 possibilities for the other races and you’ll be able to track whether the picks go up or down on a weekly basis.

Please note that if I rank something #1 in a certain race, it doesn’t mean I think it’ll win. It means I think its nomination is currently the most probable. The film festival season (especially Toronto) can and probably will alter some of these picks even next week.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1) La Land Land

2) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

3) Silence

4) Fences

5) Moonlight

6) Loving

7) Manchester by the Sea

8) Nocturnal Animals

9) American Pastoral

Other Possibilities:

10) The Birth of a Nation

11) Lion

12) Jackie

13) Arrival

14) 20th Century Women

15) Hidden Figures

16) Sully

17) Passengers

18) Hell or High Water

19) Allied

20) Moana

21) The Founder

22) The Jungle Bok

23) Collateral Beauty

24) Gold

25) Live by Night

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1) Damien Chazelle, La La Land

2) Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

3) Martin Scorsese, Silence

4) Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

5) Denzel Washington, Fences

Other Possibilities:

6) Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

7) Jeff Nichols, Loving

8) Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals

9) Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation

10) Denis Villenueve, Arrival

11) Garth Davis, Lion

12) Ewan McGregor, American Pastoral

13) Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures

14) Pablo Larrain, Jackie

15) Mike Mills, 20th Century Women

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1) Denzel Washington, Fences

2) Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

3) Joel Edgerton, Loving

4) Michael Keaton, The Founder

5) Joe Alwyn, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Other Possibilities:

6) Tom Hanks, Sully

7) Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals

8) Ryan Gosling, La La Land

9) Dev Patel, Lion

10) Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight

11) Bryan Cranston, Wakefield

12) Ewan McGregor, American Pastoral

13) Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation

14) Andrew Garfield, Silence

15) Miles Teller, Bleed for This

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1) Emma Stone, La La Land

2) Viola Davis, Fences

3) Natalie Portman, Jackie

4) Ruth Negga, Loving

5) Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

Other Possibilities:

6) Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals

7) Isabelle Huppert, Elle

8) Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

9) Amy Adams, Arrival

10) Rooney Mara, Una

11) Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures

12) Jennifer Lawrence, Passengers

13) Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

14) Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane

15) Marion Cotillard, Allied

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1) Steve Martin, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

2) Liam Neeson, Silence

3) Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

4) Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

5) Stephen Henderson, Fences

Other Possibilities:

6) Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

7) Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

8) Aaron Eckhart, Bleed for This

9) Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply

10) Timothy Spall, Denial

11) Billy Crudup, 20th Century Women

12) Vin Diesel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

13) John Legend, La La Land

14) Aaron Eckhart, Sully

15) Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1) Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

2) Naomie Harris, Moonlight

3) Laura Linney, Nocturnal Animals

4) Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

5) Bryce Dallas Howard, Gold

Other Possibilities:

6) Dakota Fanning, American Pastoral

7) Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

8) Aja Naomi King, The Birth of a Nation

9) Nicole Kidman, Lion

10) Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

11) Julianne Moore, Maggie’s Plan

12) Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women

13) Helen Mirren, Collateral Beauty

14) Margo Martindale, The Hollars

15) Laura Dern, The Founder

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) Moonlight

3) La La Land

4) Loving

5) Jackie

Other Possibilities:

6) 20th Century Women

7) Hell or High Water

8) The Lobster

9) The Birth of a Nation

10) The Founder

11) Zootopia

12) Gold

13) Passengers

14) Rules Don’t Apply

15) Allied

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1) Fences

2) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

3) Nocturnal Animals

4) Silence

5) American Pastoral

Other Possibilities:

6) Lion

7) Hidden Figures

8) Arrival

9) Love & Friendship

10) The Girl on the Train

11) Elle

12) Sully

13) Live by Night

14) Denial

15) The Jungle Book

And that’ll do it for now, folks! My weekly updates will be back next Thursday…

2016 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

The summer movie season has wound to a close and we can feel the autumn season just around the corner. That means football, leaves changing, and back to school. It also means the 2016 fall movie season is about to begin and that means – early Oscar speculation!!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it may seem a bit too early for that, but it isn’t. The film festival season will be starting before we know it with Venice, Toronto, Telluride and New York on deck. A host of Oscar hopefuls will receive their first screenings and generate their first buzz. So this week – as I have in years past – I roll out my first round of Oscar predictions. This will be done in six installments beginning with Supporting Actress today and continuing daily with Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, Director, and the big dog – Picture. Each post will predict the five nominees (or in the case of Picture – five to ten). As the week wear on, I’ll be increasing my predictions to a weekly feature on the blog.

For Supporting Actress, let’s take a little trip down memory lane with my predictions in 2014 and 2015. Two years back, my earliest predictions yielded two out of the eventual five nominated performers (including winner Patricia Arquette for Boyhood). Last year, these initial predictions gave us three of the five and, in a way, four. At the time, there was uncertainty as to whether Alicia Vikander would be campaigned for in lead or supporting for The Danish Girl and I predicted her at the time for Actress. The campaign went with supporting and she was the winner. Let’s get to it!


At this juncture, I’d say there’s no shoo-in nominees but Michelle Williams in this fall’s Manchester by the Sea is about as close as it gets. The pic has already screened at festivals to raves with many critics singling out her work.

Ang Lee’s November war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk looks to be a player in many categories and that could certainly trickle down to Kristen Stewart. The trailer for Moonlight seems to indicate a very meaty and Oscar-baity type role for Naomie Harris. There are questions surrounding how many nominations the acclaimed slavery pic The Birth of a Nation will receive (more on that in future posts), but Aja Naomi King has gotten acclaim for her role already.

As for a fifth, I’m just going to go with a total and complete wild card: Bryce Dallas Howard in December’s Gold, which not much is known about at the moment (no trailer even). Why? Well, this category is quite unformed at the moment, so why not? If it pans out, I’ll look really smart!

There’s a slew of others as possibilities, including multiple possibilities for 20th Century Women, American Pastoral and The Girl on the Train (with both Fanning sisters no less) and we shall see how it plays out in the coming weeks and months. For now…


Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Bryce Dallas Howard, Gold

Aja Naomi King, The Birth of a Nation

Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Other Possibilities:

Haley Bennett, The Girl on the Train

Jennifer Connelly, American Pastoral

Laura Dern, The Founder

Rosemarie DeWitt, La La Land

Dakota Fanning, American Pastoral

Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women

Rebecca Ferguson, The Girl on the Train

Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Jennifer Jason Leigh, LBJ

Julianne Moore, Maggie’s Plan

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Miss Sloane

Zoe Saldana, Live by Night

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Rachel Weisz, The Light Between Oceans

Kate Winslet, Collateral Beauty

We’ll get to Supporting Actor tomorrow!