Black Widow Review

The Marvel movies have become as American as apple pie. Or “American Pie” since that Don McLean ditty is featured prominently in Black Widow, a stand-alone feature designed to fill some backstory of Scarlett Johansson’s OG Avenger. Is it necessary? That’s debatable. However, the unexpected COVID layoff of nearly two years between MCU titles and some solid performances makes this a welcome addition to the franchise.

I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t taken in the rest of the cinematic universe so there’s your warning. Avengers: Endgame marked the demise of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as she went out in self sacrificial fashion. Her previous sacrifices for a darker cause are explored here. The film opens in 1995 Ohio with Natasha and her little sister Yelena being raised by parents Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz). It’s all a front, though, as mom and dad aren’t really their folks. They are Russian spies on a mission for General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and once the Midwest job is completed, the fake family unit is broken apart.

Natasha, of course, grows up to be the fighter we have seen in numerous other blockbusters beginning with Iron Man 2 and so on. Yelena grows up to take the form of Florence Pugh and she gets her training as well through Dreykov along with numerous other orphaned girls turned assassins. As far as timeline purposes go, Black Widow happens between the actions of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. That’s when The Avengers were experiencing their roughest patch with Tony Stark and Captain America at odds and the others being forced to choose sides.

Since Natasha is a wanted woman by the U.S. Government, she reunites with her long lost “sister” and “parents” in Budapest (remember to pronounce the SH sound in the word) in an effort to stop Dreykov’s mind control of his female army. Unlike other MCU pics, this truly is a stand-alone piece. None of the other Avengers are present and that gives time for new secondary characters to shine. Foremost among them is Yelena and the winning performance given by Pugh. She makes enough of an impression that I hope for her future involvement in other chapters. Harbour is good for a few comedic highlights as he reminisces about his time as Red Guardian (when he apparently had some battles with Captain America).

The MCU always comes down to bloodline dynamics and it is in abundant supply here. If Black Widow previously felt like a slightly underdeveloped character, there’s enough familiar familial dynamics to check off some boxes. Where Black Widow is weakest is not in the action sequences. They’re as first-rate as you’d expect. Cate Shortland makes her first contribution to the series in the director’s chair and she and the tech team certainly get a passing grade. The film’s liability is the villain Dreykov who doesn’t make much of an impression in the fairly short amount of screen time he’s given. This is not a unique flaw in the MCU. For every Loki or Thanos, there seems to be a handful of forgettable baddies.

We already said bye-bye to Johansson’s Black Widow once, but this callback to a time before her heroic departure proves the levee isn’t dry when it comes to her entertainment value. And it also shows she leaves behind previously unknown associates that could provide more highlights.

*** (out of four)

Black Widow Box Office Prediction

Hitting theaters two weeks after F9 sprinted to the best opening weekend for films released post COVID, Black Widow looks to make that record short-lived. Originally slated for May 2020 before its pandemic delays, the 24th saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a stand-alone showcase for Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character. Cate Shortland directs with a supporting cast including Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenie, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz.

Widow, sporting a budget of at least $200 million, marks the longest delay between MCU pics that we have seen in over a decade. This is the creme de la creme of franchises where 11 of the past 18 titles have made over $100 million (or much more) in their debuts.

As has been the case with all pictures in this uncertain era, there are challenges Widow faces that could prevent that. For starters, its studio made the choice to simultaneously make this available for Disney Plus streaming. $30 will allow you to view it from the comfort of your couch (a cheaper proposition if buying for the whole family). Widow also doesn’t have the benefit of falling between two gargantuan Avengers features. That certainly helped 2019’s Captain Marvel which soared to $153 million for its start.

While the MCU is generally review proof, the positive reaction from critics won’t hurt. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is at 85%. And Johansson’s character (while not in the stratosphere of Iron Man or Captain America) is a familiar presence from The Avengers, its sequels, and more.

I can’t help but wonder if the Mouse Factory regrets making the Disney Plus decision. This will be a test to see how many fans will choose the home option. That said, I do believe Widow will top the $70 million that F9 reached. While $100 million may be out of range, a gross of $75-$85 million seems doable and that’s where I’m landing. My projection puts this just under what Doctor Strange (2016) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) achieved.

Black Widow opening weekend prediction: $83.3 million

Oscar Watch: Black Widow

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unless the film is named Black Panther, your best hope is to contend in Visual Effects at the Oscars and probably lose. This brings us to Black Widow, the 24th entry in the MCU that opens July 9th in theaters and on Disney Plus streaming. The stand-alone pic focused on Scarlett Johansson’s title character had its review embargo lifted today and results are mostly positive thus far. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently stands at 86%.

Johansson’s costars (Florence Pugh particularly) are getting the bulk of critical kudos. That said, no actor in an MCU flick has made the cut in those categories and it won’t start here. 10 of the previous 23 franchise blockbusters (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) have landed slots in Visual Effects. As far as victories go – they are 0 for 10. In fact, only Panther (which nabbed a Best Picture nod) has won anything. It went 3 for 7 on Oscar night 2019 by taking Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design.

Just over half of Marvel’s creations have received zero recognition from the Academy. Black Widow should face an uphill battle in Visual Effects. Late year arrivals like Dune and Top Gun: Maverick are just two possibilities outside of this cinematic universe. Then there’s the matter of 3 more hopeful MCU titles: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and (perhaps especially) Eternals. Bottom line: there’s a better chance of Black Widow not showing up anywhere at next year’s ceremony. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Today brings us my second post in my very early and quite speculative predictions on Oscar contenders for this thing we call 2020. I have already generated my initial picks for Supporting Actor and you can peruse it here:

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

So we arrive at Supporting Actress. In my previous writeup for the gentlemen vying for recognition this year, I went into great detail regarding the challenges of Academy forecasting in 2020. I will not rehash them in detail here, but they obviously involve the COVID-19 pandemic that has created tremendous uncertainty when it comes to release dates. There’s the typical every year questions as well such as whether certain performers will end up in lead or supporting (Olivia Colman in The Father is just one example). Netflix’s The Prom, with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, is another one to watch as far as campaigns (I’ve got them both here for the moment). And I’m currently guessing that Saoirse Ronan will be in this race for Ammonite with her costar Kate Winslet going for Best Actress.

We already have some storylines that could prove fascinating if they pan out. In 2018, Olivia Colman scored a surprise win for The Favourite in lead actress over the more favored Glenn Close in The Wife. In 2020, we could certainly see them go head to head once again in supporting.

When I made my inaugural predictions post in this race in 2019, I correctly identified two of the eventual nominees in my top 5. This included winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh for Little Women. In my 10 other possibilities, I named Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit. I did not, however, list the other two contenders: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) and Margot Robbie (Bombshell).

Let’s get at it!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Olivia Colman, The Father

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

Mary J. Blige, Respect

Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Felicity Jones, The Midnight Sky

Nicole Kidman, The Prom

Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Meryl Streep, The Prom 

Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca 

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Helena Zengel, News of the World 

Best Actor is next! Stay tuned…

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Supporting Actress

Wrapping up my look back at the 110 Oscar nominees and 20 winners that have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man in 2008 and continuing through its next two releases (Black Widow and The Eternals), we arrive at Best Supporting Actress. If you missed my posts for the lead races and Supporting Actor, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/12/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/14/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/16/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-supporting-actor/

Supporting Actress has the least number of nominees (19), but equals the most victories with six (tying Best Actor). We start with those six gold recipients:

Tilda Swinton, who appeared in Doctor Strange, won in 2007 for Michael Clayton

Marisa Tomei, Aunt May in the Spider-Man pics, was a surprise victor in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny

Cate Blanchett, the villainess in Thor: Ragnarok, in 2004 for The Aviator

Lupita Nyong’o, of Black Panther, for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Rachel Weisz, who’s in the forthcoming Black Widow, for 2005’s The Constant Gardner

Angelina Jolie, who will appear in The Eternals, in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted

As for the 13 other nominees:

Scarlett Johansson, aka Black Widow, for last year’s Jojo Rabbit

Natalie Portman, Thor’s flame, for 2004’s Closer

Glenn Close, who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, is a three-time nominee in this category for 1982’s The World According to Garp, 1983’s The Big Chill, and 1984’s The Natural

Rachel McAdams, also of Doctor Strange, for 2015’s Spotlight

Marisa Tomei was nominated twice more after her Vinny win for 2001’s In the Bedroom and 2008’s The Wrestler

Cate Blanchett received two additional nods for 2006’s Notes on a Scandal and 2007’s I’m Not There

Annette Bening, from Captain Marvel, for 1990’s The Grifters

Florence Pugh, costar of the upcoming Black Widow, for last year’s Little Women

Rachel Weisz received another nod for 2018’s The Favourite 

And that concludes my look back on the MCU and its Oscar pedigree. Hope you enjoyed!

FINAL 2019 Oscar Winner Predictions

And here we are! After one year plus of speculating about the Academy Awards ceremony that will air this Sunday evening, we arrive at my final prediction posts on the winners!

For all 21 races encompassing feature-length films, I am giving you my analysis with my pick and the runner-up in case I’m wrong (which is bound to occur). A broad overview includes these thoughts:

  • There are undeniable strong front-runners in all four acting categories – so much so that even picking a runner-up is a challenge. If anyone other than my quartet wins, it’ll constitute an upset.
  • This is not the case in the other major races and that includes Picture and Director and both screenplay categories.
  • Other matchups are practical coin tosses and that includes Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Production Design, and Visual Effects.

I’m going to begin with the tech races and build up from there. So let’s get to it!

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: We start with a relatively easy one as the work of Roger Deakins in 1917 appears to have this in the bag. Anything else would be a surprise, but Hollywood could potentially challenge.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: Here’s another one where Hollywood could get it, but I will predict voters go back a bit further to the stylings of Little Women (for what could definitely be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: LITTLE WOMEN

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

Analysis: Both The Irishman and Parasite are possibilities here, but I believe Ferrari has the upper hand (for what could be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: FORD V FERRARI

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

Analysis: Bombshell appears to be the sturdy favorite here. And like a broken record, this likely stands as its only win. Joker or Judy would be the upset contenders.

PREDICTED WINNER: BOMBSHELL

Runner-Up: Joker

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: Thomas Newman (1917) has been nominated numerous times without a victory and the consensus for a while is that he would finally get his due. However, Joker has pretty much swept the precursors.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOKER

Runner-Up: 1917

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: It was a bit of a shocker that this stands as the only nod for Rocketman, which was expected to garner attention in Makeup and Hairstyling and the sound races. Yet the Academy is probably poised to get Sir Elton John up to the stage.

PREDICTED WINNER: “I’M GONNA LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Runner-Up: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Along with Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay, this race marks the best shot for Hollywood to nab an Oscar. Frankly, this is a fairly wide open category where there is a narrative for any of the nominees to take it. I’m going to pick Hollywood by a hair.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: In both Sound races, I feel it comes down to Ford 1917. In each case, I’ll give it to 1917.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: See Sound Editing

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: This is a tough one. Other than Skywalker, I feel any of the competitors could squeeze out a win. With 1917 picking up other tech races, I’ll give it the slight advantage. This wasn’t the case a month or two ago, but this might actually be the likeliest category for an Irishman Oscar.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: The Irishman 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: This one has been all over the map. Klaus picked up some key precursors. Missing Link surprised everyone by taking the Golden Globe. The Academy could choose to honor the Dragon franchise as a whole. I Lost My Body has its ardent admirers. Ultimately I’m playing it safe and betting Pixar manages to top all of them, though I’m less confident than usual about that.

PREDICTED WINNER: TOY STORY 4

Runner-Up: Klaus

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

Analysis: For Sama is a legit contender and Honeyland being nominated here and in International Feature Film (which it will not win) could mean something. American Factory, however, has held slight front runner status for some time. This is a coin flop, but we’ve seen surprises here before and I’ll lean towards that.

PREDICTED WINNER: FOR SAMA

Runner-Up: American Factory

Best International Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

Analysis: Let’s not complicate this. It’s going to be Parasite. 

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: I guess… Pain and Glory?

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

Analysis: There is definitely a chance that Greta Gerwig for Little Women could take this, especially after her Oscar snub for directing. The precursor attention, on the other hand, has mainly gone to Jojo for what might be its solo award.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOJO RABBIT

Runner-Up: Little Women

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Quentin could pick up his third statue here after Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, but the Parasite love seems stronger.

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: With the Irishmen splitting votes and Pitt taking every significant precursor, this is an easy one.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell). Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: Johansson being a double nominee is tough to ignore and I believe she’s got a slightly better shot here than in Actress. Her costar Dern, though, has swept the season.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Analysis: Here’s a race where there were about a dozen performances vying for five spots. At the end of the day, the competition was fun to witness but Phoenix has picked up all the hardware thus far and I don’t see that stopping on Sunday.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER

Runner-Up: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Zellweger could the most vulnerable of the favored quartet with Theron or Johansson in the wings. It would be foolish to bet against her based on what’s already happened.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER, JUDY

Runner-Up: Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: Even with heavyweights like Scorsese and Tarantino in the mix, this has come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes. And the latter has won the Golden Globe and the DGA (which has a steady track record of naming the winner here).

PREDICTED WINNER: SAM MENDES, 1917

Runner-Up: Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Ugh… OK. Let’s begin with this: the smart money is on 1917. It won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and the Critics Choice Award. Mendes took the DGA and I have him picked to win Director.

On the contrary – in the 2010s, we have seen a Picture/Director split 5 out of 9 times. No foreign language film has ever won the biggest prize of all. Last year, I (along with many others) predicted Roma would be the first to do so and it lost to Green Book. 

That said, the affection for Parasite feels deeper than for Roma. I’ll make this pronouncement now… if Parasite loses Original Screenplay on Sunday night, you’ll pretty much know my prediction is wrong. Yet I’m rolling the dice here for a minor surprise and that’s why…

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: 1917

My predictions pan out to the following films winning these many Oscars:

5 Wins

1917

3 Wins

Parasite

2 Wins

Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1 Win

American Factory, Bombshell, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Judy, Little Women, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

These calls also mean every nominated Best Picture player will win an Oscar with the exception of The Irishman, which I’m estimating will go 0 for 10.

And that does it, folks! The speculation has ended and the ceremony is two days away. I’ll have a recap post on how I did Sunday night…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh’s Supporting Actress nod in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is next up in my Case of posts!

The Case for Florence Pugh

The actress broke out in a major way in 2019 with well-reviewed roles in the wrestling dramedy Fighting with My Family, Ari Aster’s horror pic Midsommar, and in this latest iteration of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. Even though Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Best Actress, it was Pugh who got a lions share of critical attention. Pugh’s ascendance into the mainstream will blossom even more in 2020 with a prominent role alongside fellow Supporting Actress nominee Scarlett Johansson in the MCU’s Black Widow. If the Academy wants to pick a young upstart, this is the way to go.

The Case Against Florence Pugh

She missed out on both Golden Globe and SAG nods and that’s never a solid sign. Laura Dern, her Little Women costar, is the massive front runner for Marriage Story. 

The Verdict

A solid 2019 for Pugh culminated in this nomination. It won’t end in a win.

My Case of posts will continue with the direction of Todd Phillips for Joker!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Laura Dern

My Case of outlines for Oscar contenders brings us to the second post for Supporting Actress players – Laura Dern in Marriage Story. The breakdown:

The Case for Laura Dern

Dern is already an Emmy and SAG winner and five-time Golden Globe recipient, but she has yet to pick up an Oscar. She’s been nominated twice before in 1991 for Rambling Rose and for 2015’s Wild. A well-respected veteran from a Hollywood family, Dern has balanced blockbusters and indies for years. Her role a whip smart and ruthless divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s latest drew raves. Yet this is also seen as a career achievement prize given her zero previous wins. Dern has won all major precursors – Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, and a handful of critics groups awards.

The Case Against Laura Dern

There’s not much of one. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers was seen as her strongest competitor, but she was snubbed on nominations morning. Dern’s Marriage Story costar Scarlett Johansson is a double nominee, recognized in this race for Jojo Rabbit. The Academy could feel obliged to give ScarJo a victory here. Interestingly, Dern’s Little Women costar Florence Pugh is up as well.

The Verdict

Dern is a huge front runner and anyone else winning would be seen as a sizable upset.

My Case of posts will continue with another of Dern’s costars… Adam Driver in Marriage Story!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Little Women

My Case of posts discussing the pros and cons of Oscar nominees in the major categories continues with Best Picture hopeful Little Women from director Greta Gerwig. If you missed my first four write-ups in the biggest race of all, you can read 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/

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

The Case for Little Women

Based on the beloved 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel, Gerwig’s version of Little Women drew raves from the critical community. The 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating stands among the highest of the nine pictures. Previous adaptations have garnered Academy attention as well. The 1994 rendering saw Winona Ryder nominated for Actress in addition to Costume Design and Score. Back in 1949, that version took home Art Direction and got a Cinematography nod. Yet this is the first adaptation since 1933’s classic to be named in Best Picture. The box office is strong at $80 million as it looks to top the century mark before the ceremony airs.

The Case Against Little Women

It has missed numerous nominations in key precursors. The pic was ignored by SAG and didn’t get named in Picture at the Golden Globes. Gerwig didn’t make the final cut in Best Director from the Academy. As discussed before, it’s rare for the Picture recipient to win without attention there. Many prognosticators even questioned whether it would make it in this race and the same can be said for Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in their acting categories (though they did get in). The six nominations are certainly under the total count of the heavy hitters.

The Verdict

It is a remote possibility that Gerwig could win Adapted Screenplay since she was snubbed for Director. As far as this taking Best Picture, I wouldn’t look for the fourth time to be the charm among Alcott adaptations. This appears to be heading the route of Gerwig’s previous acclaimed effort Lady Bird which had five nominations and zero victories.

Up next in my Case of posts… Marriage Story!

2019 Oscar Nominations Reaction

Well, folks, the Oscar nominations were out bright and early this morning. Per usual, there were some genuine surprises and omissions that will have Twitter buzzing right up until the ceremony February 9th.

Readers of the blog know that I spend months trying to put the puzzle together on who and what will be nominated. My results today? Out of the 109 predictions made, 88 of them came to fruition. In the eight biggest categories, there were four that I got all nominees correct… including Best Picture. Truth be told, I’m pretty pleased with my results!

Before we break it down race by race, some general comments. As for movies that had a disappointing wakeup call, there were numerous entries that had possibilities in the major categories and beyond. Those left on the cutting room floor include Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Us. Another movie barely left standing was Rocketman. I had it pegged for five nominations, but it managed just a single mention in Original Song.

For the films that did make it in, Joker scored the most nominations (somewhat of a surprise) with 11 followed by The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with 10 apiece.

With some of my analysis here, you’ll see strong indications on what my winner forecast might be. Expect that post to be up a couple of days before the ceremony.

And with that, let’s break it down!

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 9/9 (!)

Analysis: For Oscar prognosticators, just getting the correct number of films that are nominated is an accomplishment. It can fluctuate anywhere between 5 and 10. Nine felt correct for some time and I’ve had these ones predicted for several weeks. As for a winner, I feel six of them have at least decent to strong shots. I’m nowhere near ready to crown a victor.

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It was Phillips riding the Joker wave over Greta Gerwig for Little Women. Like Picture, this race feels wide open and it could come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes.

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: With so many contenders in the running, going 4 for 5 here feels like more of an accomplishment that naming the Best Pic nominees. It was Pryce getting a slot over Taron Egerton in Rocketman. Banderas and Pryce are first time nominees. It looks like Phoenix could sweep awards season and that gives him his first win.

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: 100% here and like Best Actor, there’s a strong front runner with Zellweger. If so, she’d pick up her second statue after being named Supporting Actress for 2003’s Cold Mountain. 

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: What a list of legends we have here! There’s some interesting tidbits to share. Every nominee here has won an Oscar. Yet it’s been some time since most were nominated – Pesci since 1990 for GoodFellas, Pacino since 1992 for his double nod with Scent of a Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross, Hopkins since 1997 (Amistad), and rather shockingly, Hanks… who has his first nomination since 2000 with Cast Away. Pitt, on the other hand, is the most recent nominee for his acting (2011’s Moneyball). However, he’s the only one of the five to never win the Oscar for his performances (he does have an Oscar for producing 2013’s 12 Years a Slave). Got all that? And here’s the last word on that… Pitt seems destined to join their company in February as a winner.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now we get to the first genuine shocker and that’s Jennifer Lopez not being nominated for Hustlers. Bates takes her spot. Lopez was generally seen as close to a sure thing for recognition and I’ve had her listed at #2 behind Dern for weeks. This only helps Dern for her first podium walk.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: This has looked like the final five for a while now and this could represent the best chance for a major win for The Irishman. That said, I wouldn’t count Jojo or Joker completely out.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: No love for The Farewell here with 1917 getting in. Tarantino is a soft favorite over Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Best Internation Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

How I Did: 3/5

Les Mis, Pain, and Parasite were automatics. The last two spots were tricky to forecast and I had Atlantics and Those Who Remained instead. Honeyland pulled off a notable achievement by being named here and in Documentary. Bottom line: this is the easiest race of them all to project. It’s going to be Parasite. 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Next big surprise as Disney’s Frozen II was frozen out with Klaus taking the spot. Toy Story 4 is the favorite, but I don’t discount the possibility of an upset here (with Dragon and Body as potential spoilers).

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: The documentary branch is always unpredictable and that proved accurate this morning. Apollo 11 and One Child Nation were the two I had in over The Cave and The Edge of Democracy. Netflix’s American Factory (the first doc from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company) appears to be the leader of the pack.

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I had Ford v Ferrari over Lighthouse. This looks to be a win for 1917. 

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Surprises here with Dolemite Is My Name and Rocketman being ignored in favor of The Irishman and Joker. I even thought the two I predicted had real shots at winning. This one could be between Women and Hollywood. 

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now this one is interesting! I had Hollywood in and not Jojo. Why is Editing important? Of any category at the Oscars, a nomination here means a lot to the eventual Best Picture winner. The last movie to win the big prize and not be nominated for Editing is 2014’s Birdman. And that’s really an asterisk since it was filmed in one long continuous shot (though the same basically holds true for 1917). Before that, the last Best Picture winner recipient to not score a nod here? You have to go all the way back to 1980’s Ordinary People. In other words, the snub for Hollywood here could mean something. Perhaps it will be an outlier. Yet I feel it’s key for ballot guessers to know that only two BP winners haven’t been recognized here in the past 40 years…

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Hollywood and Rocketman out and Maleficent and 1917 in. Expect this to be the sole win for Bombshell.

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: Back to perfection! Joker has gotten the precursor love, but 1917 is a threat.

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: This category is a head scratcher. I had “Spirit” from The Lion King and “Glasgow” from Wild Rose in over the Toy Story and Breakthrough tracks. This should be a contest between Elton John’s Rocketman tune and the Frozen song. However, both films were significantly snubbed in other categories as mentioned above. The one thing I do know… this branch clearly loves tracks that begin with the letter I.

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Little Women over Parasite. This could definitely be a W for Hollywood.

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Avengers: Endgame over Joker. In both sound races, this should be between Ford and 1917.

Best Sound Mixing 

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Had Rocketman and Skywalker over Astra and Hollywood. See Sound Editing above.

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: I’m glad this category is last alphabetically so I can end on a high note! I lean Lion King, but that could change.

And that does it for my nominations recap! As stated, expect winner predictions shortly before February 9th!