The Directors Go To 1917

When it comes to precursors correctly picking what the Academy voters will do on Oscar night, none is more reliable than the Directors Guild of America and their choice for Best Director. That’s why last night’s DGA ceremony was so anticipated among prognosticators like me. The narrative went like this: the 2019 nominees had become a showdown between Sam Mendes (1917) and Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite). It appeared unlikely that the three other nominees – Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) had much of a shot.

Sam Mendes took the award and this sets up the filmmaker for his second directorial Oscar two decades after he won for American Beauty. To give you some context as to how accurate DGA is – 17 of the 19 previous victors in the 21st century have gone on to win Oscar. The two that didn’t are Ang Lee for 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Ben Affleck for 2012’s Argo. 

When it comes to that victorious director’s movie winning Best Picture, that’s happened on 13 out of 19 occasions. That’s where it gets interesting. There is no doubt that the Mendes DGA prize (he also won the Golden Globe) puts him in definite front runner status for Best Director two weeks from today. Yet the possibility of a Picture/Director split is still quite possible with Parasite and Hollywood as the strongest competitors. That said, 1917 is certainly picking up the right awards at the right time and has to be considered the soft favorite for the biggest prize.

Oscars 2019: The Case of Parasite

We have reached the final film in my Case of posts for 2019’s nine Best Picture nominees and it’s time to consider Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean export Parasite. If you need to catch up on my previous eight entries, you can peruse them right here:

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

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-little-women/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/19/oscars-2019-the-case-of-marriage-story/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/20/oscars-2019-the-case-of-1917/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/20/oscars-2019-the-case-of-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood/

And now to Parasite!

The Case for Parasite

The pic, which defies easy genre descriptions, certainly has critics on its side. With a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score, this is the best reviewed film of the year and its admirers are passionate and vocal. This is a slam dunk winner for the newly coined Best International Feature Film. Over the weekend, Parasite won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and it was the only to ever do so. For a subtitled film, it’s been a box office success stateside at $27 million and counting. The buzz has been strong for months after it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Joon-Ho is an acclaimed filmmaker (with heralded efforts like Memories of Murder, The Host and Snowpiercer) who’s at last garnering the awards season love.

The Case Against Parasite

If this were to win Best Picture, it would constitute a first. A foreign language title has never won the top prize. Last year’s Roma was the front runner, but it lost to Green Book. It is also rare for a Picture recipient to have none of its actors nominated and that’s the case here.

The Verdict

Even with the fact that it would need to make history, Parasite currently stands alongside 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as the biggest threats to win it all. If the Directors Guild of America (DGA) honors Joon-Ho instead of Sam Mendes for 1917 this weekend, expect that chatter to get even louder.

My Case of posts will continue right up until Oscar day! While the movies themselves have all received their treatment, the nominated directors and actors will get their attention as well. Stay tuned…

Parasite Invades SAG

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards remained on script for about 99% of its running time last night. And then it went ahead and made this year’s Best Picture race at the Oscars all the more interesting.

Before we get to that, I went four for four in my acting category predictions and did so by sticking with the front runners. Those would be Joaquin Phoenix in Joker and Renee Zellweger in Judy in the leads and Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Laura Dern for Marriage Story with supporting. Let’s be clear: 2019 appears to be a year where there’s strong favorites in all four races. Anyone other than this quartet winning on Oscar night at this point would constitute an upset.

When it comes to the biggest race of all, it’s still open. One could argue that 1917 is a soft front runner after winning Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America (where 13 of 19 recipients this century took the Oscar) and Best Drama at the Golden Globes. The Sam Mendes World War I epic wasn’t nominated for SAG. And therefore the narrative going into yesterday evening is that the winner here could serve as the most viable Academy alternative.

I projected that movie would be Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Yet the SAG branch went with Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. Perhaps I should have suspected this when its cast (presenting clips) received raucous applause that eclipsed all others. However, I chose not to predict its win, in part, due to no actors getting individual nods for their work. The Parasite victory here is major as its the first foreign language feature to be named in this category. It certainly sets up an argument that the Best Picture derby at the Oscars has really come down to three: 1917, Hollywood, and Parasite.

So what’s next? The Directors Guild of America (DGA) announces their winner this Sunday. That feels important because 16 out of the past 19 directing winners there have taken the gold statue. It’s probably Joon-Ho vs. Mendes and the honoree could then see their film vault to the front of the Picture pack.

Bottom line: SAG solidified the four actors vying for their statues while further complicating the Picture derby.

The Producers Go To 1917

Last night, the Producers Guild of America bestowed their honoree for best of the year and it’s a significant harbinger of what could lie ahead at the Oscars. In the 21st century, 13 of the 19 PGA winners ended up winning Best Picture from the Academy. In fact, 2018’s “surprise” PGA recipient Green Book took the prize at the big show as well.

It was the Sam Mendes World War I epic 1917 that emerged victorious. That’s another major precursor pickup after the Golden Globes named it Best Drama a couple weeks back. 1917 earned the award over nine other nominees that includes the eight pictures it’s nominated with from the Academy and Knives Out.

Let’s be clear – a solid argument can now be made that 1917 is the front runner to win the Oscar. If the Directors Guild of America names Mendes as their choice next weekend, that will serve as another huge precursor. Yet the 1917 love won’t extend to tonight’s Screen Actors Guild Awards (my predictions for that event will be on the blog later this morning). 1917 is not nominated for Best Ensemble from SAG. If The Irishman or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Parasite win Ensemble, the narrative may turn to that picture as its strongest competitor.

Still, one week after 1917 rode its awards buzz to impressive box office earnings, it’s established itself as perhaps the film to beat.

Oscars 2019: The Case of Joker

Part 4 of my Case of posts laying out the pros and cons for nominees to win the big Oscar races continues with Joker in Best Picture. If you missed the first three covering Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, and Jojo Rabbit, you can peruse them here:

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

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

The Case for Joker

The grim comic book adaptation has the most nominations of any film with 11. Even heavy hitters The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood followed with 10. Of the nine pictures featured, it’s easily the box office king with $334 million domestically and over a billion dollars worldwide. Joaquin Phoenix appears to be the front runner in Best Actor. The film’s awards chatter exploded when it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Joker is further proof that the Academy has warmed to the genre after Black Panther was the first comic book flick to get a Picture nod in 2018.

The Case Against Joker

Many of the reasons listed above can actually be used against it. The picture with the most nominations fails to win Best Picture more often than not. Same goes for the movie that made the most money. Director Todd Phillips got the Oscar nod, but missed the Directors Guild final five. Furthermore, the 69% Rotten Tomatoes is awfully low for a potential Picture recipient. While Joker certainly has its fervent defenders, it was also subject to plenty of controversy about its subject matter.

The Verdict

The thought of Joker winning Best Picture seemed unlikely a short time ago. However, its chances due to the volume of nominations has certainly increased. Ultimately its best bet is for Phoenix to make it to the podium, but this a Picture victory that can’t be totally discounted.

Up next in my Case of posts… Little Women!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Jojo Rabbit

In my blog series laying out the cases for and against the Oscar nominees in major categories, we arrive at the third picture for consideration. That would be Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. If you missed the first two posts covering Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman, you can find them here:

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

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

Let’s hop on it!

The Case for Jojo Rabbit

Viewers who like Jojo REALLY like it. With confusion regarding which handful of contenders like 1917, Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Joker, or The Irishman might win, Jojo could nab enough first place votes to sneak in. The satire that blends wild comedy with pathos is certainly unique and it even has comedy legend Mel Brook singing its praises. Taika Waititi is one of the hottest directors of the moment as he followed up Thor: Ragnarok with this and is now attached to an Akira remake and future Star Wars projects.

The Case Against Jojo Rabbit

Despite Waititi’s popularity, he missed out on a Best Director nomination. He was nominated by the Directors Guild. It’s very rare for the Best Picture winner to not have its maker named in the directing final five. That said, it has happened twice this decade with Argo/Ben Affleck and Green Book/Peter Farrelly. There are box office heavy hitters aplenty in the final nine this year and Jojo isn’t one of them with $22 million currently stateside. The 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating is also on the low end of the scale.

The Verdict

There’s no doubt that Jojo winning would be a major upset, though I would say it’s got the best chance of the pictures where the director isn’t nominated. That still doesn’t change the fact that it would rank 6th of out 9. Still, it’s a wide open year…

Up next in my Case of posts… Joker!

The Directors Pull A Surprise Rabbit

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) released their list of five nominated filmmakers today and this is a very strong indicator of the people who will be nominated for the Oscar on Monday. Well, 80% of them that is.

Here are your DGA nominees:

Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Sam Mendes, 1917

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

The first four names on that list were widely expected as the pictures of Joon-Ho, Mendes, Scorsese, and Tarantino are the four entries that have the best shot at winning Best Picture. Any of their exclusions would have been a shocker.

So the real question was the fifth spot and Waititi’s inclusion is a pretty big surprise. The general consensus is that the slot would go to one of the following three directors: Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), or Todd Phillips (Joker). That said, no one in that trio should feel their Oscar hopes are dashed.

That’s because the DGA almost always matches the Academy’s director picks on a 4/5 scale. This was the case from 2013-2017. Last year, the number was 3. However, for reasons mentioned above, four seems to be the floor in 2019.

One could make the case that today’s nod for Waititi makes him an outsider pick for Oscar. 2009 was the last year the DGA and the Academy matched five for five. It also happened in 2005. Those are the only two years it occurred in the 21st century.

Waititi’s consolation is real as Jojo should get a Best Picture nod and he’s almost certain to pick up another nomination for his screenplay. Yet when it comes to Oscar’s final slot – I still believe Baumbach, Gerwig, or Phillips to be the strongest contenders.