Best Picture 2016: The Final Five


We have reached 2016 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut? If you missed my write-ups centered on 2009-15, you can peruse them here:

We know one thing for sure – Moonlight from Barry Jenkins is in. As you may recall, it had to wait a tad longer to win Best Picture when an envelope mishap caused Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to wrongly proclaim La La Land as the voters choice.

As for the 8 other hopefuls (including La La), here’s my take on which half of them would have made the dance.

Arrival

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi drama tied Moonlight for the second most nods at 8. In addition to BP, the director and adapted screenplay were nominated along with tech mentions in Sound Editing (where it won), Sound Mixing, Production Design, Cinematography, and Editing. On the flip side, star Amy Adams was omitted in Best Actress. It stands as one of the most surprising acting snubs of the past decade.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I’ll admit I went back and forth here. There’s certainly an argument to be made that it gets in due to the high number of nominations. However, the Actress snub and it not making the Golden Globe five for Drama make me more comfortable leaving it out. **As a side note – I didn’t let my personal take on it interfere as it’s probably my favorite picture of 2016.

Fences

Denzel Washington starred and directed this adaptation of the August Wilson play. Washington landed an Actor nom while costar Viola Davis won Supporting Actress. The Adapted Screenplay was also up.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Had it materialized in Director, I might think twice but this was probably 7th at best of the nine contenders.

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson made a filmmaking comeback in the World War II drama. He was up for his direction and Andrew Garfield earned a Best Actor spot. It won Sound Mixing and Film Editing and was up for Sound Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Despite its screenplay not being mentioned, the Editing victory puts it in for me. In the 21st century, the winner of the race has missed BP exactly once (2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Hell or High Water

Taylor Sheridan is best known these days for co-creating TV’s hit Yellowstone. He earned an Original Screenplay nod for this neo-Western that was also up for Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges) and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Director David Mackenzie wasn’t up and the 0 for 4 showing is a sign the final five wasn’t reachable.

Hidden Figures

Theodore Melfi’s true life look at African-American female mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s was a gigantic hit – blasting off to $170 million domestically. Besides BP, Octavia Spencer was up for Supporting Actress as was the Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No in spite of its box office. Of the nine nominees, it got the smallest number of noms and took home zero. It was also missed the Golden Globe and Critics Choice lists.

La La Land

Damien Chazelle won Best Director for his musical and Emma Stone was crowned Best Actress. The total number of nominations was 14 – which tied All About Eve and Titanic for the most ever. Other victories were Score, Song, Cinematography, and Production Design. The other mentions were Actor (Ryan Gosling), Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Costume Design, and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

A big and obvious yes. When Dunaway accidentally proclaimed it BP, no one was surprised since it was the frontrunner. It was very likely the runner-up in votes.

Lion

Garth Davis’s drama finds Dev Patel searching for his birth parents and it found its way to five other nods for Patel in Supporting Actor, Nicole Kidman for Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Score, and Cinematography. It did not win any of them.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. I will admit that this could be a stretch and Arrival might be the pick of others. I just think that there would have been enough sentiment for this one to make the final cut even without directing and editing mentions.

Manchster by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan got a directing nod for this grief filled drama and Casey Affleck won Best Actor. Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams were up for the supporting derbies while Lonergan won Original Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The screenplay and Actor wins solidify this and it was probably third of the five behind Moonlight and La La Land.

Therefore my projected 2016 five is:

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

2017 is next!

Oscar Predictions: The Woman King

Viola Davis is the most nominated actress in history with four to her credit and one victory for 2016’s Fences. In The Woman King, the EOT recipient (missing that Grammy!) is in action heroine mode in this historical epic set in 19th century West Africa. Gina Prince-Bythewood directs with a supporting cast including Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega.

Prior to its September 16th premiere, King has debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and there’s not a negative review to be found. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is a clean 100%. Per usual, plenty of praise is going to Davis and it’s certainly possible she could join the five-timers club. I don’t believe that’s automatic as competition could be as fierce as the warrior she portrays.

A lot of King‘s feasibility for Oscar noms could come down to whether this hits at the box office. That remains to be seen. If so, we could see Davis in lead and either Mbedu or Lynch in supporting (both are being talked up for their contributions). I’m not so sure the critical reaction is strong enough for Best Picture to be a realistic nod. Tech nods are doable regardless like Costume Design and Production Design. It’s also just as possible that this is a solid genre flick that won’t catch the Academy’s attention. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscars 2021: The Case of Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington title performance in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth is the fifth and final Case Of post for the Best Actor nominees. If you missed the other ones, they’re right here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Javier Bardem

Oscars 2021: The Case of Benedict Cumberbatch

Oscars 2021: The Case of Andrew Garfield

Oscars 2021: The Case of Will Smith

The Case for Denzel Washington:

He’s certainly achieved the most nominations of the quintet and this marks his third in lead actor in the past six years. Washington’s Shakespearian turn landed him mentions at the Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice.

The Case Against Denzel Washington:

Macbeth underwhelmed on Oscar nomination morning with just two additional nods (Cinematography and Production Design). He’s lost the Globe and SAG to Will Smith (King Richard), who stands as the favorite.

Previous Nominations: 8

Cry Freedom (Supporting Actor – 1987); Glory (Supporting Actor – 1989, WON)Malcolm X (Actor – 1992); The Hurricane (Actor – 1999); Training Day (Actor – 2001, WON)Flight (Actor – 2012); Fences (Actor – 2016); Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Actor – 2017)

The Verdict: 

20 years ago, Washington’s Best Actor victory for Training Day prevented a Will Smith win for Ali. Two decades later, it’s likely the Fresh Prince keeping Mr. Washington from Oscar statue #3. I’d also say he’s behind Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!).

My Case Of posts will continue with the final Supporting Actress hopeful – Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard

Oscar Predictions: A Journal for Jordan

The last time Denzel Washington was behind the camera, 2016’s Fences scored four Oscar nominations for Picture, Actor (Washington), Supporting Actress (Viola Davis), and Adapted Screenplay. Ms. Davis won the gold for her work. And while Denzel looks to be in line for ninth acting nod for The Tragedy of Macbeth, his latest directorial effort A Journal for Jordan is generating little awards ink.

Based on a memoir by Dana Canedy, the romantic drama is out in wide release today. Jordan stars Michael B. Jordan and Chante Adams and reviews aren’t glowing. The Rotten Tomatoes rating sits at just 43%.

Bottom line: unlike Fences, don’t look for Denzel’s Journal to swing any mentions from Academy voters. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

A Journal for Jordan Box Office Prediction

A Journal for Jordan is not about Michael Jordan reading his diary (though I bet that would make some $$$). Instead it’s a military themed romantic drama from director Denzel Washington starring Michael B. Jordan. Coming out Christmas Day (meaning only the Saturday and Sunday will count for opening weekend), Jordan is based on a memoir from Dane Canedy and costars Chante Adams.

This is Denzel’s behind the camera follow-up to 2016’s Fences, which earned four Oscar nominations. Journal is missing that kind of buzz – currently sitting at just 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. Awards chatter might’ve helped and I look for this to be another adult themed drama that will struggle at multiplexes.

While it could over perform with African-American audiences, I’ll say $4-5 million would be generous for its two-day rollout and I’ll go lower.

A Journal for Jordan opening weekend prediction: $2.9 million

For my The Matrix Resurrections prediction, click here:

The Matrix Resurrections Box Office Prediction

For my Sing 2 prediction, click here:

Sing 2 Box Office Prediction

For my The King’s Man prediction, click here:

The King’s Man Box Office Prediction

For my American Underdog prediction, click here:

American Underdog Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Swan Song

Playing at AFI Fest ahead of its December 17th streaming premiere on Apple TV, early word is out for the futuristic drama Swan Song. Marking the feature length directorial debut for Benjamin Cleary (who won the Oscar for Live Action Short Film in 2015 for Stutterer), Mahershala Ali stars as a terminally ill man faced with decision of cloning himself. Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, and Awkwafina costar.

Based on a rather small sampling of critical reaction, the buzz seems mixed. Some reviewers are hailing it as an effective weepie while others are more soft in their praise. The bulk of write-ups are quick to point out the fine work from Ali and Harris. This isn’t their first collaboration. Five years ago, Ali knocked out all competitors to win Supporting Actor for Moonlight. Two years later, he would again be victorious in the same race for Green Book. Harris made the cut in Supporting Actress for Moonlight, but ultimately lost to Viola Davis for Fences. 

With two gold statues to his name, it’s hard to fathom this is Ali’s inaugural sole lead cinematic part. Apple will probably mount an awards push for him and Harris. However, I suspect it could be too late in the game for either to have a legit chance and the varied reaction to the quality of the pic itself won’t help. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Viola Davis

**Blogger’s Update (04/04): Viola Davis has won the SAG Award for Best Actress. Her victory there makes an Oscar win certainly more feasible than when I wrote the post below.

Viola Davis’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is first up in my Case Of posts for the five hopefuls for Best Actress:

The Case for Viola Davis:

She could make history and already has. By nabbing her fourth nod for the Netflix drama, Davis has become the most nominated African-American woman ever. She is 1 for 3 having won four years ago in Supporting Actress for Fences (her other two mentions were in supporting in 2008 with Doubt and in lead in 2011 for The Help). If she were to emerge victorious here, Davis would be the first African-American female with two victories.

The Case Against Viola Davis:

Ma Rainey underperformed significantly with voters with misses in Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. It could win tech races like Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. The best chance at a major victory, however, lies with costar Chadwick Boseman in Best Actor (who’s performing a sweep thus far with precursors). Davis’s chances have taken a backseat to Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and perhaps even Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), who picked up a surprise Golden Globe trophy. There has also been some chatter that her work here should have been for Supporting Actress due to fairly limited screen time.

The Verdict

Ms. Davis was near the top of possibilities to take this award a while back. That has undoubtedly changed and a second Oscar here would be nothing short of a major upset.

My Case Of posts will continue with Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal…

Oscar Watch: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

For Oscar prognosticators, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has looked to be a major hopeful for some time. Based on the August Wilson play and directed by George C. Wolfe, the 1920s set musical drama hits Netflix in December. The social media reaction embargo lapsed this weekend and confirmed hunches that it will be such a thing in various races.

When I began my weekly prediction posts in late August, it was assumed that Chadwick Boseman would compete for Supporting Actor here. At first, I had him ranked #2. Just days after my first estimates, the actor passed away. He rose up to #1 in Supporting Actor and stayed there until Netflix confirmed that he would vie for Best Actor. Early buzz suggests that he is unquestionably a lead and this sets up a real battle which I’ll get to momentarily. Critics are also calling it his finest performance and his inclusion in the category is a given now.

As for his costar Viola Davis, word of mouth suggests her part is a little smaller than expected. Yet the general consensus is that she’ll still stay in Best Actress. If Netflix chose to make a switch to Supporting, she would probably be the front runner (she won the race four years ago for Fences). However, by staying in the crowded Actress field, I question whether she remains in first place when I update my picks on Friday. The competition could be steep with the likes of Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman).

Back to Boseman. Not withstanding any unseen performances, Best Actor is shaping up to be a real showdown between Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Boseman. This appears bound to play out over the next several months. That said, a development could occur to shift the narrative. In Supporting Actor, Boseman is also expected to contend for Da 5 Bloods. If he gains favorite status in that field, it could help Hopkins remain the anticipated victor. As for Rainey‘s own supporting actors (Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo), the pair are long shots due to that category’s packed nature.

Could Rainey get a Best Picture nomination? Yes, but I think it’s far from guaranteed and I don’t expect Wolfe to make it in the final five for his direction. Adapted Screenplay is also a question mark while tech races like Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Production Design are surely on the table.

Bottom line: Boseman has absolutely established himself as a threat to posthumously take Best Actor with Hopkins as the significant competitor. Davis looks mostly safe in Actress, but a win is much more questionable. And my Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

My big announcement today is the selection of my first candidates for Best Actress in the 2020 Oscar field! If you happened to miss my predictions for the supporting categories and Best Actor, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

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 Best Actor, none of my initial top 5 picks here have seen their pictures screened. As discussed in previous posts, 2020 is a mighty speculative year for these early August estimates. The potential contenders are certainly some heavy hitters and it was, frankly, hard to whittle the list to this quintet. 4 of my 5 choices here are past winners. Both Viola Davis and Jennifer Hudson are Supporting Actress victors for 2016’s Fences and 2006’s Dreamgirls respectively. Frances McDormand is a two-time lead Actress winner for 1996’s Fargo and 2017’s Three Billboards Outside, Missouri. Kate Winslet took this prize in 2008 for The Reader. The only non-winner is Michelle Pfeiffer and she’s been nominated three times. If she makes it here, it would mark her first nod in 28 years since 1992’s Love Field. 

This is in addition to acclaimed actresses such as Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, and Julianne Moore as possibilities and up and comers like Jessie Buckley, Liu Yifei, and Rachel Zegler. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the silver screen return of cinematic legend Sophia Loren. She last won an Oscar for Two Women some 60 years ago. Elisabeth Moss has two already released pics for which she’s received solid reviews. Of the two, Shirley seems more viable than the horror hit The Invisible Man.

In 2019, my original late summer projections yielded a whopping 4 of the 5 eventual nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). In my ten other possibilities, I also identified eventual trophy recipient Renee Zellweger as Judy. 

Lots of intrigue in this race and here’s the first take:

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTRESS

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

Kate Winslet, Ammonite 

Other Possibilities: 

Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Rashida Jones, On the Rocks 

Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

Julianne Moore, The Glorias

Elisabeth Moss, Shirley

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Liu Yifei, Mulan 

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

That completes the acting portions of the early predictions and Best Director is up next! Until then…

2019 SAG Awards WINNER Predictions

Another major Oscar precursor holds their ceremony this evening with the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. This particular show has definitely served as a massive indicator where the Academy might go with the acting winners. As for Best Picture, not so much.

So let’s get into it as I make my projections for what will happen tonight!

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

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

Analysis: Nyong’o is the odd one out here as she didn’t nab an Oscar nomination. A win here by Johansson and Theron (both are possible) could set up a narrative as being Zellweger’s legit competition. Over the past decade, the SAG and Oscar winner have matched seven out of nine times. The outliers include last year when Glenn Close took the SAG for The Wife and Olivia Colman won the Academy Award for The Favourite. Tonight could also solidify Zellweger’s work as Judy Garland in the biopic. My suspicion is that it happens.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Analysis: A Best Actor derby where ten performers were vying for five spots means 2 men here didn’t make the Oscar cut: Bale and Egerton. Therefore, I see this as a three person showdown between DiCaprio, Driver, and Phoenix. The Oscar/SAG linkage here is significant as eight of the last nine victors went on to take the Academy Award. 2016 was the only exception when Denzel Washington got the SAG for Fences and Casey Affleck was the Oscar recipient for Manchester by the Sea.

Driver could be the larger threat, but this season is shaping up to be a sweep for Phoenix. That’s where the smart money is tonight.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: There is a 7 for 9 SAG/Oscar match in this category this decade. Foxx didn’t get the Academy attention. Hanks is beloved, but his movie has underwhelmed elsewhere. Pacino and Pesci should split votes. And the narrative continues for Pitt to have a terrific awards season.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role 

The Nominees: Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: During the 2010s, there was an 8 for 8 SAG/Oscar match here from 2010-2017. Yet 2018 was the exception and a rather enormous one. Emily Blunt’s victory last year for A Quiet Place was a stunner since she had no Oscar nod. And the Academy’s winner (Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk) didn’t get a SAG nod.

Could this set up a situation where Lopez, snubbed by the Academy, could walk to the podium tonight? I’m tempted to make that upset pick. However, Dern is unquestionably the favorite and I just can’t bet against her.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Bombshell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Now here is where it gets interesting! Unlike the individual acting races, there isn’t as much of a history with this category matching up with Oscar’s Best Picture. This decade it’s happened four out of nine times. For the 21st century, it’s nine out of nineteen times.

You don’t see 1917 listed here and with its Golden Globe Best Drama and PGA victories, it’s the soft front runner for Oscar. An omission here doesn’t mean much as the last two Academy BP recipients (The Shape of Water, Green Book) missed here. Other than Bombshell, the nominees here are all nominated for Best Picture. Any of them winning tonight could position that film as the main competitor to 1917. That said, I don’t discount Bombshell taking the prize this evening as it received the greatest number of SAG nods.

Parasite is the only nominee where none of its individual performers were nominated. You could argue that the voters simply saved for their votes for this race. Jojo has its hardcore fans. The Irishman boasts a trio of acting legends.

Ultimately, I’m leaning toward the sprawling cast of Hollywood. Yet I’ll freely admit that this category seems wide open.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

And there you have it! I’ll have a post up recounting how I did and what it means for the Oscar race soon enough…