Where the Crawdads Sing Review

Crossing a John Grisham style potboiler with the 1994 Jodie Foster woman in the wild pic Nell begets Where the Crawdads Sing. This is the adaptation of the hugely popular 2018 bestseller from Delia Owens (so well known that Taylor Swift offered to contribute an end credits tune called “Carolina”).

That’s North Carolina beginning in 1953 where Kya lives in the marshland with her alcoholic father, abused mother, and siblings. One by one they all flee until the seven-year-old is all by her lonesome. She sells mussels to the married local store purveyors (Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer Jr.) to make ends meet. Kya attempts an education, but the harassment of schoolmates makes that a one-day excursion.

As she grows into a young woman (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones), her interest in arts and nature hints at a promising career. The screenplay concentrates on Kya’s two romances. The first is with Tate (Taylor John Smith), who helps her learn to read and write before he’s slated to go away to college. The second is with star quarterback Chase (Harris Dickinson) whose union with The Marsh Girl (as the townsfolk call her) is his little secret.

For those uninitiated with the source material (this includes me), I’ll be careful not to wade into heavy spoiler territory. It’s not revealing too much to say that Kya’s publishing future is interrupted by a murder trial where she’s defended by David Strathairn’s dignified counselor.

Crawdads is all about Kya’s many experiences with abandonment. Part of the problem is that both of her beaus are blank slates. I never felt the chemistry between the Kya/Tate or Kya/Chase connections as much as they’re just presented to the audience. And that assisted in abandoning my own investment in the proceedings… both romantically and legally.

The screenplay never finds the right balance between the trial and the trials of our heroine away from the courtroom. From Edgar-Jones on down, the performances are serviceable but nothing beyond that. Crawdads has beautiful scenery to be sure. I wanted a more compelling story to occur there.

** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens had a massive bestseller released in 2018 with Where the Crawdads Sing and the North Carolina set mystery’s film adaptation is out on Friday. Directed by Olivia Newman, the cast of mostly relative unknowns includes Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, and Harris Dickinson.

The review embargo is lifted and critical reaction is mixed at best. With a 38% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it’s safe to assume awards voters will ignore it… with one possible exception.

A big fan of the source material, superstar Taylor Swift composed the track “Carolina” for the soundtrack. If the Academy nominates it in Best Original Song, that practically guarantees Oscar night performances from Swift and Lady Gaga (whose Top Gun: Maverick ballad “Hold My Hand” should be a no brainer for the final five). Gaga’s chances are considerably stronger, but it could be tempting to bring that double star power to the evening’s festivities. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Where the Crawdads Sing Box Office Prediction

The actual actors in Where the Crawdads Sing are not the most recognizable individuals involved in the production. Opening July 15th, the mystery drama is produced by Reese Witherspoon. It features an original song titled “Carolina” by Taylor Swift. Perhaps most important to the box office viability, it’s based on a huge bestseller by Delia Owens.

Directed by Olivia Newman, the cast includes Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, and David Strathairn. With a budget of just over $40 million, Sony is banking on a sizable female audience that led the source material to eventually sell 12 million copies. In 2019, it sold more copies than any other adult novel.

I will cop to be unfamiliar with the book’s existence. However, I’m not the target demo. With those kind of sales, there should be a built-in crowd tailor-made for the adaptation. Estimates on other sites are as low as $10 million and as high as $25 million. This should at least place in the middle of that range.

Where the Crawdads Sing opening weekend prediction: $18.7 million

For my Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank prediction, click here:

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Box Office Prediction

For my Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris prediction, click here:

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Box Office Prediction

Nightmare Alley Review

Guillermo del Toro has been making geek shows geared to movie geeks for years. In Nightmare Alley, based on a 1946 novel and the picture that followed it a year later, he gorgeously opens up his stylistic bag of tricks to give us a film noir where the scariest creatures are of the human sort. Geek shows take on a different meaning as the traveling carnivals where we spend the first act features one. That’s where spectators with jaws agape watch a drug addled performer (“geeks” in the show’s vocabulary) bite the heads off of chickens. All for the price of a quarter or two!

We meet Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) in 1939 as he happens upon the larger road show filled with psychics, strongmen, and beautiful ladies with electrical currents running through them. He’s destitute and jobless and picks up menial duties from Clem (Willem Dafoe), who runs the demented circus. Stan is an audacious fellow who’s not fearful of romancing good-natured performer Molly (Rooney Mara) or picking up mentalist tips from the alcoholic Pete (David Strathairn) or his clairvoyant (with help from cue cards) wife Zeena (Toni Collette). He occasionally takes pity on the resident geek (Paul Anderson) but it’s clear Stan is mostly looking out for himself. An opening flashback sequence shows a strained relationship with his deceased father who was also a fan of the drink. While dad, mentor Pete, and that poor chicken feeder suffer from substance abuse, Stan’s vices are hubris and power.

The opening scenes of Alley explore this fascinating world with the exquisite production design, cinematography, and impeccable lighting that we would anticipate from its maker. This is constantly a visually striking experience. When we flash forward two years later, Stan has used the teachings of his colleagues to move up to the big city (Buffalo) and deem himself a psychic. With Molly as his assistant and companion, his dinner theater act attracts the attention of the city’s elite. Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a psychologist, tries to unmask Stan’s schemes during such a performance. It only serves to fool more of the attendees. The two decide to team up and swindle movers and shakers like a judge (Peter MacNeill) mourning a son and his devastated wife (Mary Steenburgen). For a price, Stan will convince them that their loved one is with them in spirit. The doctor provides the backstory from such grieving former patients.

Stan and Ritter also engage in therapeutic sessions that occasionally crackle with intensity. The two actors are up to the task with Blanchett picture perfect as the femme fatale and Cooper’s aw shucks Southern drawl cloaking his wild ambitions. Mara’s Molly gets lost in the shuffle as Stan’s pining is not just for a quick buck, but for the bad doc as well.

The ladder climbing of his consultations leads to Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins) and, at last, Stan may have bitten off more of an assignment than he can chew. Not a typical crime boss type of figure, the calm but firm Grindle looks for otherworldly messages from a former love. If Stan doesn’t produce, he may lose more than the fee.

Nightmare Alley is worth seeing for its look alone. Mr. del Toro is known for his onscreen creatures (from Cronos to Pan’s Labyrinth to his Oscar-winning The Shape of Water). We don’t see those types in his latest, but there’s monsters around and Stan is among them. Their habits are often just as frightening. When Dafoe’s Clem explains how the geeks are hired, it’s a tad hair raising.

Not all is as pleasing as the aesthetics. del Toro is clearly having a blast playing in the noir sandbox. So much so that he doesn’t seem to realize that these genre excursions should be lean and mean in their running time. Alley plods along for 150 minutes. Plenty of the characters are mean though it’s not so lean in execution. There are sequences that land effectively after the carnivorous first act but plenty that don’t match their potency. On the plus side, it’s got a humdinger of an ending with its darkly appealing beginnings and that makes it worth the price of admission.

*** (out of four)

Nightmare Alley Box Office Prediction

The last time Guillermo del Toro was behind the camera, 13 Oscar nominations came his way with 2017’s The Shape of Water (including wins in Picture and Director). His follow-up is Nightmare Alley, a remake of a 1947 pic which was based on a 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel. The noirish thriller boasts an impressive cast led by Bradley Coper (in his first starring role since 2018’s A Star Is Born). Costars include Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.

Long looked at as an Oscar contender, the recent review embargo lapse made the situation a bit murkier. The 83% Rotten Tomatoes score is decent, but some critics are griping that it’s a disappointment. Its standing in the Best Picture race is questionable.

Stronger awards buzz could have pushed this to higher numbers, but that’s not the only challenge. Plenty of moviegoers will be distracted with the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which looks to blow away pandemic era records. Alley is only opening on about 2000 screens (about half of Spidey’s). It’s normal for projects in the December time frame to open relatively small and hope to play well in subsequent frames. That is likely to be the case here and low to mid single digits is my forecast.

Nightmare Alley opening weekend prediction: $3.3 million

For my Spider-Man: No Way Home prediction, click here:

Spider-Man: No Way Home Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Nightmare Alley

Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is likely to be the final film screened that could contend for Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars. That happened tonight and its social media embargo has lifted. This is the filmmaker’s follow-up to 2017’s The Shape of Water, which won four gold statues including Picture and Director. A remake of a 1947 noir thriller, Alley has a cast filled with familiar faces led by Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara (who are slated to contend in the lead races). The supporting cast includes Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.

Reaction out tonight offers plenty of praise. Unsurprisingly, this is being lauded for its technical aspects. Production Design and Cinematography sound like shoo-ins (and might challenge Dune for the victories). Other down the line derbies such as Sound, Costume Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Score (though that’s gotten awfully crowded) are feasible.

How about the big dances? Early word solidifies its opportunity to get a Best Picture nomination and for del Toro’s behind the camera work. I had it ranked 8th yesterday and my early hunch says that’s about right. There’s enough mixed buzz in reaction tweets to make me think it’s not a threat to win. Adapted Screenplay is probable.

As for the actors, Cooper and Blanchett are the recipients of the most acclaim. The former’s path will be fascinating to track. I had him ranked #1 in Supporting Actor for weeks before Licorice Pizza was unveiled. That race, as has been discussed on the blog, is wide open. His limited screen time in Pizza could cause him to miss there. The question is whether Best Actor is already too packed (Will Smith as King Richard, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, Andrew Garfield for Tick Tick… Boom!, Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Peter Dinklage in Cyrano, Leonardo DiCaprio for Don’t Look Up). Is there enough space for Cooper? Precursors will tell. Supporting Actress is also filled with hopefuls and Blanchett will also need some early love from either critics groups or SAG or the Globes. Best Actress is also overflowing and I don’t see enough Mara talk for her to be viable.

Bottom line: Alley helped itself. It might be the “last in” but I feel decent about a Picture nod and definitely tech competitions. Cooper and Blanchett are more of a mystery. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Starting on the blog today, I’m taking a deeper dive into the four acting derbies at the Oscars as well as Picture and Director. It begins with Supporting Actor.

If I could use a couple words to describe this particular race – “very open” immediately comes to mind. With just two months left in the calendar year, I would go as far to say that not I’m not 100% certain on any performer discussed below making the final five. That’s rare.

Before I delve into the many hopefuls, let’s take a look at where my projections were at in 2019 and 2020 during the same time frame. Two years ago, I had already correctly pegged four of the five eventual nominees: winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time Hollywood), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), and Al Pacino (The Irishman). The other contender was Joe Pesci (also for The Irishman) and I had him listed at #6 in Other Possibilities. In hindsight, Supporting Actor was well on its way to being established with two months remaining in 2019.

Not so much for 2020. Last year was more difficult than perhaps any before it in figuring out who’d make the cut (much of that uncertainty was due to COVID and the constantly shifting release schedule). On November 1, 2020 – my forecasted five contenders yielded just two of the eventual nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night in Miami. I still had the winner (Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah) listed for the lead Actor competition. Both Lakeith Stanfield (Judas) and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) were not yet mentioned in Other Possibilities.

With that context, we arrive in 2021. And I would say this year looks more like the previous one as opposed to 2019. There has been one constant since I began projecting the race back in the summer: Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza (known as Soggy Bottom just a couple of months ago). I’ve had him listed at #1 the whole way and it’s a prediction based mostly on gut since no one has seen the picture (that’ll change shortly). Cooper is a four-time acting nominee (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, A Star is Born). He’s yet to take the gold. Pizza looks like it should be a juicy role for him. On the other hand, we do not yet known just how big (or small) his role is. When reviews come out, he could solidify himself as the frontrunner or drop out altogether. There’s also the possibility that one of the other supporting players (Sean Penn or Benny Safdie) could rise. For now, I’m still hangin’ with Mr. Cooper until the word-of-mouth tells me otherwise.

Shifting gears – here’s a fun fact. In three out of the last four years, we’ve seen two actors from the same movie recognized here. In 2017, it was Sam Rockwell (who won) and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. For 2019 – you had Pacino and Pesci in The Irishman. Last year, it was the victorious Kaluuya and Stanfield for Judas.

Could that happen again? Absolutely and the best chance for that right now appears to be Belfast. A strong contender to win Best Picture, we could also see Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds punch their tickets here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it happen. Dornan seems likelier to make it in, but Hinds is getting plenty of laudatory chatter as well.

There are other scenarios to make it four out of five years and some lie with pictures still not screened. Don’t Look Up has Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, and Mark Rylance. Willem Dafoe and David Strathairn are viable for Nightmare Alley. And then there’s Jared Leto and Al Pacino in House of Gucci. The latest trailer features the latter more than the former. That disrupts the consensus that Leto has a better shot. I’m still going with Leto above Pacino, but when Gucci screens that dynamic may shift.

The double nominee situations don’t end there. Yet they both have actors that I believe have a significantly better chance than the other. For Mass, Jason Isaacs has been in my five while Reed Birney hasn’t made the top ten in some time. After The Power of the Dog was unveiled on the festival circuit, the narrative unexpectedly shifted to Kodi Smit-McPhee having a clearer path than Jesse Plemons. The Tragedy of Macbeth buzz solidified Corey Hawkins over Brendan Gleeson (though I’m skeptical either get in).

Now is a good time to point out that it’s been ten years since a Supporting Actor winner didn’t come from a Best Picture nominee (Christopher Plummer in Beginners). That’s why I find it a stretch that Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar), Idris Elba (The Harder They Fall), or Troy Kotsur (CODA) will be making trips to the podium. They could still get in, but their paths are tougher and they will all need heavy critics awards love to make the dance. There’s been some mentions for Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, but (somewhat surprisingly) no Wes Anderson directed performance has been Academy nominated and I don’t see this being the first.

One actor where an exception could occur is Richard Jenkins in The Humans. I doubt it will land a Pic nod, but Jenkins is drawing raves for his work. Twice nominated before for The Visitor and The Shape of Water, I could see the veteran becoming a threat to win if Cooper falls.

Others worthy of mention include Jon Bernthal in King Richard. The attention could be so focused on Will Smith (who appears to be in the driver’s seat to take Actor) that his supporting cast fails to get in (that logic also applies to Supporting Actress hopeful Aunjanue Ellis). It’s also totally feasible that Richard is so popular with the Academy that it sweeps them all in. Andrew Garfield picked up solid notices for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He might stand a better shot in lead for the upcoming and yet to be screened Tick, Tick… Boom! Timothy Spall for Spencer is doable, but Kristen Stewart is just as likely to be the sole nominee (and maybe the winner in Actress). The work of David Alvarez (West Side Story) and Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) has yet to be seen and is worth keeping an eye on.

So how does that all shake out? Truth be told, the five predicted performers listed below could look quite different a couple months from now. Here’s my best guesstimate for the moment:

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2)

4. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5)

5. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 4)

7. Jon Bernthal, King Richard (PR: 6)

8. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 7)

9. Al Pacino, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

I’ll have my analysis on the current state of Supporting Actress up next!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review

Looking back on my Godzilla review from 2014, I spoke of how it felt like a party where the main character (that would be the fire breathing title one) wasn’t invited until halfway through. You expected Godzilla to be there the whole time. That left a level of disappointment, but the Gareth Edwards reboot of the franchise was worth the wait in the end. The sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters RSVP’s the main attraction early on and he brings some familiar friends to the shindig. That doesn’t make the party better.

Michael Dougherty takes over directorial duties in a follow-up that feels bigger with its sprawling cast and action sequences. It also feels more cluttered and more like a prelude to what’s coming next in the MonsterVerse (Godzilla vs. Kong). That’s not an issue shared by 2014’s predecessor. Monsters picks up five years after the events of Godzilla when the creature managed to save the world and leave some collateral damage. That includes the young son of biologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and animal behavioralist Mark (Kyle Chandler). The parents have reacted differently and separately from the tragedy. Dr. Emma still believes in Godzilla’s global saving abilities, but in a dangerous way that teams her with an ecoterrorist (Charles Dance). Mark’s grief is directed toward Godzilla. Daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is caught in the middle.

The family drama pits the estranged couple on opposites ends of the battle. More monsters are awoken from their slumber in various Monarch stations to wreak havoc. It results in the destruction of monuments in quite familiar Independence Day/Transformers style fashion. Toho stalwarts Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are the aforementioned party dwellers joining the fray. The big fights are shot in destinations where the forecast is either a downpour or so dark that it’s often frustratingly hard to tell what is happening.

In addition to the Russell family, lots of recognizable actors are left to mostly stand and gawk at the monstrous activity. The film does have the distinction of adding another performer to the trifecta of prominent N.W.A. members (speaking of monster verses!) from Straight Outta Compton. In Kong: Skull Island, we had Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). Now we have O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who played his dad Ice Cube in Compton) as a soldier. David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and Ken Watanabe reprise their 2014 roles while Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, and Zhang Ziyi are fresh gawkers. There’s not really a human performance to highlight. Just as Bryan Cranston earned some rightful criticism for his wild overacting in Godzilla, here we have Kyle Chandler often speaking in an intense and earnest hoarse whisper that is perhaps more annoying.

There’s a brief middle section where Godzilla is given a unique wakeup call. It transpires underwater where we discover the iconic radioactive creature’s original habitat. I found this to be the most well-constructed and engaging sequence. It hints at ancient stories that would probably be cool to explore. This doesn’t last long and before we know it, we are back to the dimly lit and rain soaked above ground CG brawls. They’re occasionally fun, but they will fall straight outta mind in short order. Maybe King Kong getting in on this will brighten things up.

** (out of four)

For my Godzilla (2014) review, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/20/godzilla-2014-movie-review/

For my Kong: Skull Island review, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/11/kong-skull-island-movie-review/

2020 Oscar Nominations Reaction

To Oscar prognosticators like yours truly, today was like Christmas morning as nominations were unwrapped early for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, airing April 25th. Some things never change with the prediction game. There were categories where I was perfect (3 of them) and, as has become tradition, a dreaded race where I whiffed at 2/5.

As was the most likely scenario, Mank led all films with 10 nominations. Yet it did so by missing some key races that are usually needed to nab a Best Picture victory. This was followed by six pictures garnering six mentions: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Some of those over performed. Others – not so much.

Overall this blogger went 80/104 on estimates and in this topsy turvy year, I’ll take it. Let’s break it down race by race, shall we?

Best Picture

Nominees: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7

How I Did: 7/9

The magic number of nominees ended up being 8 and I projected 9. I’ll say again… I’m very happy that the Academy is going with a set 10 again beginning in 2022. This means it was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and One Night in Miami that missed and The Father (which had a solid showing) in. Judas, Minari and Sound of Metal proved their anticipated status as late bloomers making the cut.

Best Director

Nominees: Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), David Fincher (Mank), Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)

How I Did: 4/5

The Academy made history today when they nominated two women in Director for the first time. This was expected, but it is worth noting that Regina King (One Night in Miami) was a contender who missed the cut. That’s not where I went wrong as Vinterberg came out of nowhere to get a spot. While Another Round is expected to emerge victorious in International Feature Film, its director became the rare nominee to get in without a Best Picture slot. And despite being nominated for his writing, Aaron Sorkin (Trial) couldn’t get into this one.

Best Actress

Nominees: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

I can’t put myself on the back too much here. This was widely seen as the most probable quintet and it remained true to form. Potential surprise picks like Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead) and Golden Globe Musical/Comedy winner Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) didn’t materialize.

Best Actor

Nominees: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Again, no shockers here. Any late momentum by Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round) or Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian) was squashed and Boseman stands tall as the major frontrunner.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Amanda Seyfried (Mank), Yuh-jung Youn (Minari)

How I Did: 4/5

For the past couple of weeks, there have been six likely nominees and only five spots. I went with Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) over Seyfried. Fun fact: Foster is the first Globe winner from this category in 44 years to not land an Oscar mention. This is a wide open acting race (more so than the others by far).

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

How I Did: 4/5

The morning’s biggest surprise is the inclusion of Stanfield with his Judas costar Kaluuya. That has nothing to do with performance itself as Warner Bros. actually campaigned for Stanfield in Best Actor. The Academy simply ignored that and chose to put him here. In other words, this is the nomination that nobody saw coming. His inclusion prevented Boseman from being a double nominee for Da 5 Bloods (which had an almost nonexistent showing).

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7

How I Did: 4/5

No Mank is the headline here as Sound of Metal grabbed the spot. This omission is what makes a Mank BP victory highly doubtful.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Father, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, The White Tiger

How I Did: 3/5

Ma Rainey‘s bleaker than expected morning continued with no love here. Same goes for The Mauritanian (which goose egged today). In their place? Borat and The White Tiger.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: Onward, Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Soul, Wolfwalkers

How I Did: 4/5

It was Sheep over The Croods: A New Age in a competition where Disney/Pixar’s Soul should dominate.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Collective, Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, My Octopus Teacher, Time

How I Did: 3/5

This category (unpredictable usually) was a real head scratcher in 2020. I had Dick Johnson Is Dead and Welcome to Chechnya in over Crip Camp and The Mole Agent. This is a toughie to project, but I’ll say Time might have an edge.

Best International Feature Film

Nominees: Another Round, Better Days, Collective, The Man Who Sold His Skin, Quo Vadis, Aida?

How I Did: 2/5 (ugh)

The dreaded 2/5 came here with Better Days, double nominee Collective, and the charmingly titled The Man Who Sold His Skin in over my picks of Dear Comrades!, La Llorona, and Two of Us. This looks like Round‘s race to lose at press time.

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, News of the World, Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7

How I Did: 4/5

Judas over Minari was where I went wrong, but not shocking considering the former’s very good day. You may have noticed this is the first mention of News of the World, which picked up four tech nods but got zilch in the big derbies.

Best Costume Design

Nominees: Emma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Mulan, Pinocchio 

How I Did: 4/5

Not many were saying Pinocchio would play here, but it nosed out my Ammonite selection.

Best Film Editing

Nominees: The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7

How I Did: 4/5

This is another high profile miss for Mank as The Father was selected instead. Of its six nods, this and Original Screenplay is where Trial has the best shot at gold.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Pinocchio

How I Did: 4/5

And here’s a scenario where I was saying Mank would miss. It didn’t as it edged out Birds of Prey, which was called out zero times this morning.

Best Original Score

Nominees: Da 5 Bloods, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Soul

How I Did: 4/5

Here marks the sole mention for Bloods in a race where it wasn’t anticipated. It got in over my pick of The Midnight Sky. Like Animated Feature, expect Soul to reign supreme here.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah, “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7, “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, “lo Si” from The Life Ahead, “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami

How I Did: 4/5

The chances of Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams belting out their ballad from the Netflix comedy Eurovision became a reality! It makes the cut over “Turntables” from All In: The Fight for Democracy (which also missed Documentary Feature).

Best Production Design

Nominees: The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, News of the World, Tenet

How I Did: 3/5

This is where Mank stands its greatest chance at a victory among the ten nods. The Father and Tenet (both kind of unexpected here) get in over The Midnight Sky and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Best Sound

Nominees: Greyhound, Mank, News of the World, Soul, Sound of Metal

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

I’ll take it and the winner will probably be the one with the category name in its title.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Love and Monsters, The Midnight Sky, Mulan, The One and Only Ivan, Tenet

How I Did: 3/5

The One and Only Ivan was my runner-up. Love and Monsters, on the other hand, was not expected. They get in over Mank and Welcome to Chechnya. 

To recap, the following pictures nabbed these numbers in terms of nominations:

10 Nominations

Mank

6 Nominations

The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7

5 Nominations

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Promising Young Woman

4 Nominations

News of the World

3 Nominations

One Night in Miami, Soul

2 Nominations

Another Round, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Collective, Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, Mulan, Pinocchio, Tenet

1 Nomination

Better Days, Crip Camp, Da 5 Bloods, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Greyhound, The Life Ahead, Love and Monsters, The Man Who Sold His Skin, The Midnight Sky, The Mole Agent, My Octopus Teacher, The One and Only Ivan, Onward, Over the Moon, Pieces of a Woman, Quo Vadis, Aida?, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Time, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, The White Tiger, Wolfwalkers

Quick tidbits:

  • 12 of the 20 acting nominees are first-timers (Day, Kirby, Ahmed, Boseman, Yeun, Bakalova, Seyfried, Youn, Cohen, Odom, Raci, Stanfield)
  • 3 are previous nominees (Mulligan, Close, Kaluuya)
  • 5 are previous winners (Davis, McDormand, Hopkins, Oldman, Colman)
  • Of the five directors, only Fincher has been nominated before and none have won

So this begins the next phase of my Oscar predicting as I will do a “Case Of” post individually for all the Picture, Director, and acting nominees. Yes, that means 33 posts in the next several weeks where I outline the pros and cons of each nominee taking the gold or coming up cold. Stay tuned!

Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar Road

Despite a trio of performances playing well-known figures in 42, Get On Up, and Marshall and creating an iconic superhero in Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman had never been nominated for an Oscar when he passed last summer. That will change come Monday when nominations are announced. The only question is: will it change twice?

In the Best Actor field, Boseman is the frontrunner for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It is a given that his name will be called and it is very likely that the envelope in that race will contain his name. If and when that happens, he will be the first posthumous winner in the lead actor competition since Peter Finch in Network 44 years ago.

Up until very recently, I had consistently listed Boseman at #4 in the Supporting Actor derby for Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Yet when I released my Oscar predictions on Thursday (which you can find linked below), I decided to drop him to the runner-up slot. There are a couple of reasons.

First, Da 5 Bloods has simply not performed well in the precursors. My final predictions have the Netflix drama garnering precisely zero nods. Delroy Lindo was once seen as a competitor to Boseman in Best Actor, but he drew a blank at the Globes and SAG. If Bloods were still in the mix for Best Picture or for his costars, it might be easier to see Boseman getting in. The lack of buzz for the picture itself complicates things.

Second, an argument could be made that because Chadwick is such a favorite for Actor, voters will focus on that and not feel obligated to write his name for the supporting field. There are only 3 shoo-ins for nods in the category in my view: Boseman’s Black Panther costar Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), and Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami). The four and five slots could be filled by Boseman, Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), Bill Murray (On the Rocks), David Strathairn (Nomadland, who could ride its projected Best Picture winner momentum), or even a latecomer like young Alan Kim in Minari. I ultimately went with Raci and Strathairn.

Bottom line: Chadwick Boseman is well on his way to his first Oscar nod and probable win. A double nomination is trickier.

FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/11/2020-final-oscar-predictions/