The Woman in the Window Review

The deeply troubled agoraphobic Anna Fox (Amy Adams) has a habit of avoiding reality in The Woman in the Window by chugging a bottle of wine and distracting herself with classic old movies. This is her way of not dealing with the story unfolding around her. There are times where I could relate as those vintage pictures would provide a better escape than what happens here for the most part.

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour), Window is based on a 2018 novel by A.J. Finn. It features quite a list of Oscar winners (Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore) and actors you may think have won them (Adams, Jennifer Jason Leigh). The screenwriter Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer winning playwright. With that  level of talent involved, one would think Window would rise above the histrionic Hitchcockian “homage” that it is. Mentioning Mr. Hitchcock might be too complimentary. This shares many similar plot points to 2016’s The Girl on the Train, which was also based on a book meant to be read on an airplane or the beach you rush to after the flight. You could easily call this The Girl on the Painkillers.

Dr. Fox is a child psychologist whose condition has kept her confined to her Manhattan apartment. In addition to her binge drinking/movie watching, she spends most of her day spying on neighbors. The new ones across the street are the Russell family – businessman Alistair (Oldman), wife Jane (Moore), and teen son Ethan (Fred Hechinger). Or maybe not. After the wife and boy visit her, Anna suspects some abuse is occurring in the household. The mystery deepens when Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up as Alistair’s spouse. Maybe the abundance of Anna’s medication is causing hallucinations. Our voyeur tries to enlist the NYPD, led by Brian Tyree’s Henry detective, and her basement tenant (Wyatt Russell) to assist with her amateur sleuthing. There’s also the matter of Anna’s only family. She’s separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie) and they have a young daughter. They turn up in flashback form and saying much more would enter spoiler territory.

The Woman in the Window contains plenty of twists that might have worked in paperback form. The treatment by Wright and Letts is a tonally frantic one. This is primarily a melodrama that begs to be taken seriously from time to time. Some of the performers seem in on it as Oldman, Moore, and Hechinger got the memo to overact wildly. Yet this never reaches its apparent goal of being a genuine guilty pleasure. That’s too bad because the behind the camera personnel and cast in front of it deserved better. Many of those examples are contained in Anna’s cinematic collection in her brownstone where less spellbinding developments are transpiring.

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Woman in the Window

On paper, at least, Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window has a whole lot of Oscar connections in it. The psychological thriller stars Amy Adams, recipient of six nominations who’s never won (she’s considered well overdue for a victory). Costars include Academy winners and nominees such as Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore in addition to Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, and Brian Tyree Henry. Screenwriter Tracy Letts has a Pulitzer Prize to his name. And Wright has seen two of his efforts (Atonement, Darkest Hour) nab Best Picture nods.

Window hits Netflix today after originally being planned for a fall 2019 premiere via 20th Century Fox. It was pushed back to May 2020 due to reshoots and the COVID-19 pandemic. The pic was finally snatched up by the streamer, foregoing a theatrical release. So there’s the question of whether this is even eligible for the Oscars since it’s not hitting the big screen. Not that it matters.

Word of mouth over the past several months has not been kind and the just lapsed review embargo confirms that. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a troubling 27% with many critics calling it a poor Hitchcock ripoff. Despite the many participants with a nexus to awards attention, Window appears more likely to garner Razzie mentions than anything at the big dance.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman (Mank) is the fourth thespian in my Case Of posts for the Best Actor Oscar contenders. If you missed the ones covering Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Anthony Hopkins (The Father), they’re here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Riz Ahmed

Oscars 2020: The Case of Chadwick Boseman

Oscars 2020: The Case of Anthony Hopkins

The Case for Gary Oldman

He’s considered one of the finest actors working today and he found a plum role as Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in David Fincher’s Netflix pic. Oldman has found success in all the significant precursors garnering nods for this third Academy mention. His first came in 2011 for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and he won the gold three years ago for Darkest Hour.

The Case Against Gary Oldman

In 2017, Oldman was a strong favorite for months and it paid off in victory. This is not the case for 2020. While Mank received the most nominations, it missed in key races like Original Screenplay and Editing. None of the precursors nods have resulted in wins.

The Verdict

Oldman is firmly behind Boseman, Hopkins, and Ahmed as far as chances for winning and might even be fifth when you take Steven Yeun (Minari) into account.

My Case Of posts will continue with Oldman’s Mank costar Amanda Seyfried…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Mank

David Fincher’s Mank marks my third Case Of post weighing the pros and cons of the Best Picture contenders. If you missed my takes on The Father and Judas and the Black Messiah, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/16/oscars-2020-the-case-of-the-father/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/17/oscars-2020-the-case-of-judas-and-the-black-messiah/

The Case For Mank

With 10 nominations, the Netflix pic easily leads the field in terms of nominations. In fact, it has four more nods than anything else as there are six movies with six mentions. Hollywood loves stories about itself and Fincher is rightfully seen as overdue for Oscar recognition (his previous nominated features are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network).

The Case Against Mank

Leading the pack isn’t much of a designation when it comes to the ceremony itself. Only three times in the previous decade did the film with the most nominations (or tied for most nods) win Best Picture (2010’s The King’s Speech, 2014’s Birdman, 2017’s The Shape of Water). While the pic managed nominations for Director, Gary Oldman for Actor (winner three years ago for Darkest Hour), and first time contender Amanda Seyfried in Supporting Actress, it missed major races that usually bode well for a Picture win. The most notable omissions are Original Screenplay (for the director’s late father Jack Fincher) and Film Editing. Of the 8 nominees, its 83% Rotten Tomatoes rating is the lowest of the bunch.

The Verdict

You may have noticed the case against Mank is a higher word count than the case for. That’s because Mank, despite its numbers, is an unlikely hopeful for any category besides Production Design.

My Case Of posts will continue with Minari…

Oscar Watch: Mank

For two months now, I have had David Fincher’s Mank ranked at the top of the Best Picture contenders and that was with zero buzz about its quality. Why? The biographical drama, which tells the saga of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and his battles with the bottle and the making of the film, sounded like Oscar bait from its announcement. Fincher is, of course, a heralded filmmaker who’s seen two of his pictures (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network) nab Best Picture nods. Neither won, but many (including this blogger) feel that Network should have done so over The King’s Speech a decade ago.

Ahead of its November 13th limited theatrical bow and December 4th Netflix streaming debut, Mank screened for critics yesterday. While the official embargo has yet to lapse, reaction is out. And it confirms that Fincher’s first pic in six years (since Gone Girl) should score plenty of nominations. As I’ve estimated for several weeks, you would be smart to bet that this will receive the most mentions on nomination morning.

Let’s break them down. Picture and Director appear to be foregone conclusions at this juncture. Gary Oldman is highly likely to get his third Best Actor nomination. That said, after winning just three years ago for Darkest Hour, I don’t foresee a victory. On a side note, the Best Actress winner from 2017 (Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) also looks like a locked in nominee in 2020 for Nomadland. Amanda Seyfried appears poised for her first nomination in Supporting Actress in her role as Marion Davies. Supporting Actor is more murky. While Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst could sneak in, the race is quite crowded. I wouldn’t count on Dance or costars Tom Pelphrey or Arliss Howard getting in over the considerable competition. Many come from the same streaming service like the cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 (most notably Mark Rylance and Sacha Baron Cohen) and the late Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods. 

The screenplay is solely credited to the director’s deceased father Jack. An Original Screenplay nod is inevitable with the biggest competition so far being Aaron Sorkin for Trial. The tech race possibilities are plentiful: Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Original Score (from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), Sound, Makeup and Hairstyling. All in all, Mank could conceivably hit about a dozen nominations.

Now let’s get serious. Could it win Best Picture? Some early buzz suggests it might be too geared toward cinephiles and not a mass audience to achieve that. I’m not so sure. I would say the same could be said for recent winners like The Artist and Birdman. Hollywood loves features about its own industry and this might be the granddaddy of them all considering the subject matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mank is still listed in first place when I update my guesstimates next Thursday. I am confident it will never fall below the upper echelon. As for Fincher, he may well be in line for a Director victory and that’s even if Mank doesn’t win the biggest prize. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

My impossibly early first looks at the major Oscar races for 2020 arrives at Best Actor. If you happened to miss my posts concerning the supporting performers, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Unlike nearly all of the potential contenders in Supporting Actor and Actress, there are already two viable possibilities from pictures that have already screened or seen release. The Sundance Film Festival shed light on Anthony Hopkins in the forthcoming The Father while Netflix’s Spike Lee joint Da 5 Bloods showcased career best work from Delroy Lindo. If it not yet known whether Lindo will compete in lead or supporting, but I’m guessing he lands here.

As for other hopefuls, there are many intriguing storylines. On the Rocks finds comedic legend Bill Murray reuniting with director Sofia Coppola. Their 2003 collaboration Lost in Translation marked Mr. Murray’s only nomination thus far. Three years after his win for Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman will headline Netflix’s Mank from David Fincher, which on paper seems like a very awards friendly venture. And the trailer out last week for Judas and the Black Messiah appears to be a bait worthy role for Daniel Kaluuya (though its release date is still up in the air).

There’s plenty more recognizable faces to consider. I nearly put Ben Affleck among the top 15. His spring sports drama The Way Back gave him some of the best critical reaction of his career. Yet he’s likely a long shot.

In 2019, my inaugural August estimates yielded an impressive three of the five eventual nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). In my 10 other possibilities, the other two contenders were also named: Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes and the winner, Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. 

Here’s my first take!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Gary Oldman, Mank

Other Possibilities:

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

George Clooney, The Midnight Sky

Matt Damon, Stillwater

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Tom Hanks, News of the World

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

John David Washington, Tenet

Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress is up next! Stay tuned…

The Producers Take Their Stab

In a day that saw numerous Oscar precursors unveil their nominees (get ready for DGA and BAFTA posts later this evening), the Producers Guild of America named their ten nominated pictures of 2019. The winner will be named January 18.

Before we get to the analysis, let’s take a gander at the nominees:

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Knives Out

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

In short, there are no true surprises here. What does this mean for these film’s chances at a Best Picture nod? It means a lot based on odds. Over the past five years, there’s never been less than seven PGA pics that didn’t score a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. There’s an asterisk in 2017 when 11 movies got PGA attention.

This means you can count on 70% of the movies above to hear their names called on Monday. And I’ll give you those seven right now: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite. I suspect there will be at least eight or nine for 2019.

In my latest round of Oscar estimates Monday (before final predictions this weekend), I also have Ford v Ferrari and Little Women landing spots. It’s worth noting that the PGA nod for Women might have been needed as it has missed some key earlier precursors. As for Knives Out, it’s certainly got a shot but I’m a bit skeptical it makes the final cut (pun intended).

The PGA picks in 2016 and 2018 encapsulated all of the eventual Oscar nominees. For 2014, 2015, and 2017, here is the full list of Best Picture nominees from the Academy that weren’t named by PGA: Selma, Room, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread. In other words… small list. So it could be said that today is bad news from an oddsmakers perspective for the following hopefuls: Bombshell, The Farewell, Pain and Glory, Rocketman, The Two Popes, and Uncut Gems.

Three out of the previous five PGA winners went on to win Best Picture, including 2017’s The Shape of Water and last year’s Green Book. That victor will not be announced for 11 days, but the PGA has granted us plenty to speculate about in the meantime.

Oscar Watch: The Two Popes

It seems as if The Two Popes has emerged as a bright spot at the Telluride Film Festival over the weekend. The Netflix production casts Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as the future Pope Francis. Reviews suggest it’s an engaging and often funny experience that audiences should approve of. Fernando Meirelles directs and he’s a previous nominee for 2002’s City of God. He also made The Constant Gardner in 2005 for which Rachel Weisz won a Supporting Actress gold statue.

Popes may not see white smoke for a Picture nod, but other races are definitely in play. An important question is category placement. It sounds as if the two actors are co-leads. Will the studio be creative to maximize the chances for both to get in? If only one can make it, I’d bet on the never nominated Pryce over four-time nominee Hopkins (who won nearly three decades ago for The Silence of the Lambs).

There’s also Andrew McCarten, who could get noticed for his praised Original Screenplay. He’s a bit of a Best Actor whisperer as a matter of fact. Three of the last five winners in that race starred in scripts written by him: Eddie Redmayne in 2014 for The Theory of Everything, Gary Oldman two years ago in Darkest Hour, and Rami Malek last year for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bottom line: The Two Popes did well for itself in Colorado when it comes to awards viability. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Laundromat

Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winning director of Traffic, has apparently given us a fun and breezy true life story about tax evasion. It comes in the form of The Laundromat which has premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The pic is star studded as well with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, James Cromwell, and Sharon Stone.

Reviews are out and they’re mostly solid. Yet from what I’ve seen thus far, I’m not sure if this will be an Oscar contender. Hitting Netflix in October, there’s been some comparisons to Adam McKay’s The Big Short, which did score several nods four years ago. There’s also mentions of Soderbergh’s 2009 pic The Informant! and that’s no accident since they share the same screenwriter – Scott Z. Burns.

Mr. Burns could get attention for his upcoming political drama The Report with Adam Driver and Annette Bening. Streep’s category placement is still uncertain but she seems to be a lead. It’s foolish to ever count her out, but she might also factor into Supporting Actress with the upcoming Little Women. Banderas looks to be a contender in lead for Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory. Oldman won two years ago for Darkest Hour. And Netflix itself might focus more on Marriage Story and The Irishman.

In other words, that’s some significant players involved here who are getting mentions for other projects. While The Laundromat is getting mostly positive feedback, it may not translate to Academy attention (with the potential exception of Adapted Screenplay). My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

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

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…