Director Roger Ross Williams is no stranger to the Academy. His short film Music by Prudence was 2009’s recipient for Documentary Short Subject (making him the first African-American director to win an Oscar). The 2016 feature length doc Life, Animated was a contender in that race.
At Sundance, Williams is branching outside of the doc genre for Cassandro, which explores a real life subject. Gael Garcia Bernal is the title character – an openly gay Mexican wrestler who attained huge stardom. With a smattering of reviews in, the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100%.
With earlier acclaimed roles in The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education, and Babel, Bernal has yet to find his awards showcase role. He might get it here if distributor Amazon launches a serious campaign. The same can be said for Jonathan Majors and Magazine Dreams, which was my previous predictions write-up coming from Utah’s festival. Needless to say it’s early, but we already have potential hopefuls for next year’s Actor derby.
Cassandro could also contend for the memorable costumes that Bernal dons in the ring. Bottom line: this is worth keeping tabs on as the 2023 awards season is in its infancy. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is Old and it plays like a long Twilight Zone episode which rapidly puts its subjects in that time frame of their lives. If you’ve seen the trailer or TV spots, what you see is essentially what you get. The writer/director is responsible for putting this uninteresting group on a gorgeous beach. That’s in the figurative sense since he created them. It’s also in the literal way because Shyamalan casts himself as the driver who takes them there.
Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) are on the verge of splitting up and they take their 6-year-old boy and 11-year-old daughter on a tropical excursion before they break the news. They know this is meant to be a short-lived paradise, but they get more than they bargained for. You know how parents say their youngsters act like teenagers before they should? It happens here.
The Cappas are taken to a secluded area of the island for R & R. Joining them are a surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his snotty wife (Abbey Lee) and their 6-year-old going on 11…13…15 (eventually played by Eliza Scanlen). There’s a nurse (Ken Leung) and his wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird) that’s prone to seizures. In the latest example of eye rolling character choices, we also have a hemophiliac rapper (Aaron Pierre) who goes by the name of Mid-Sized Sedan. This might an even more cringe worthy use of a hip hop reference than James McAvoy’s MC skills in Split.
Once placed in the breathtaking locale, all the vacationers discover they’re aging approximately one year every half hour. This is, of course, first noticed with the children. The Cappa kids morph into Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff. Their elders fall prey to the typical signs of advanced age – disease, Alzheimers, low calcium content. Poor Mid-Sized Sedan never gets the chance to trade in for a cooler sounding vehicle name.
In Shyamalan’s best features (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), the auteur created pretty interesting characters to place in his twisty tales. That is just not the case with this group. Even a coasting Shyamalan is reliable for a few thrills, but they don’t roll in too often.
Too much of Old is filled with his clunky dialogue. The kids talk like adults before they actually are a few hours later. The surprise developments toward the end (which aren’t all that shocking) hint at a larger picture. They may have been engrossing had we not been subjected to an hour and a half of watching this dull lot waste away. This could have made a nifty Twilight Zone episode because that program ran 30 minutes. In Shyamalan’s labored production, it feels closer to a year.
In 1999, M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout smash The Sixth Sense received six Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director, the supporting work of Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette, and the screenplay that infamously shocked the moviegoing masses. It ended up winning none of them and since then, Shyamalan’s filmography has resulted in just one other nomination for his next 10 features (Original Score for The Village).
Conversely, we have seen 23 nods and some victories for the auteur’s work at the Razzies (which annually celebrates the worst in film). This includes four nominations each for Lady in the Water and The Happening, 8 for The Last Airbender, six with After Earth, and one for Glass.
This brings us to Old, his latest pic opening tomorrow. The review embargo lifted today and it currently sports a somewhat decent 61% Rotten Tomatoes score. That said, many critics say it encompasses the best of Shyamalan and the worst (get ready for some clunky dialogue).
No, Old will not contend for Best Picture at the Oscars (but it may not get Razzie love either). However, just a look at the trailers and TV spots indicates it could play in one race. The plot involves its cast of characters rapidly aging on a scenic beach and that involves makeup.
The Makeup and Hairstyling category is one where critical kudos doesn’t mean much. I give you previous pics such as Click, Norbit, The Lone Ranger, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil as evidence.
There will be more likely nominees in the mix such as Cruella and House of Gucci and Jessica Chastain’s forthcoming transformation as the title character in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Yet perhaps Old could have a shot here and my sixth sense says that’s at least feasible. On the flip side, perhaps when nominations come out – we will discover Old‘s viability had been dead the entire time. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (07/21): I am revising my Old prediction down from $22.8 million to $19.8 million
What will be the ending to the next M. Night Shyamalan opening weekend story? That’s a tough one with Old, the filmmaker’s latest thriller debuting July 23rd. Based on a graphic novel, the pic places its cast in a beach setting where they inexplicably begin rapidly aging. That’s about the biggest nightmare Hollywood can imagine and Universal Pictures is banking that the horror will translate onscreen. The cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Eliza Scanlen, Alex Woolf, Abbey Lee, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, and Embeth Davidtz.
Over the past six years, Shyamalan has experienced a career resurgence with his budgets getting lower and his grosses far exceeding the price tag. 2015’s The Visit took in a surprising $25 million out of the gate ($65 million overall domestic gross). 2017’s Split started off with a cool $40 million ($138 million haul) and its 2019 follow-up Glass earned $46 million over the long MLK frame with a $111 million eventual take.
In a summer filled with sequels and reboots, Old could have the advantage (despite being based on a property) of looking like something fresh. You could even say – what’s Old is new. The trailers and TV spots are pretty effective. It is competing for some of the same audience with the G.I. Joe franchise overhaul Snake Eyes. However, my gut says this could manage to overshadow it.
The aforementioned predecessors from the director kicked off in a less competitive timeframe. I still believe Old gets pretty close to the $25 million achieved by The Visit and gives it a solid chance at topping charts over Snake Eyes.
French director Olivier Assayas has flirted with Oscar attention before in titles such as CloudsofSilsMaria and PersonalShopper. Some of that awards chatter for both of them focused on the work of Kristen Stewart, but it never came to fruition.
His latest is the Stewart free WaspNetwork which follows a group of Cuban spies in 1990s Miami. The cast includes Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Ana de Armas. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend to mixed results with IndieWire deeming it a misfire.
Assayas is certainly a filmmaker with a critical following, but it appears Wasp will not fly onto the radar screen of Academy voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Chilean director Pablo Larrain has history with Oscar voters and at the Venice Film Festival, he’s returned to his home country and unveiled his latest feature Ema. A marital drama starring Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael Garcia Bernal set in the reggaeton dance community, this is bound to be Chile’s selection in the newly coined Best International Feature race.
in 2012, Larrain saw his acclaimed No land a nod for what was then called Best Foreign Language Film. Five years later, AFantasticWoman won the gold statue. The director made his stateside debut with Jackie in 2016, in which Natalie Portman received an Actress nomination for her portrayal of the former First Lady.
Early reviews for Ema suggest it’s a vibrant winner. I suspect the Academy is highly likely to include it in their final five selections of honored pictures from across the globe. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
The Kindergarten Teacher premiered way back in January at the Sundance Film Festival and Maggie Gyllenhaal received raves for her role. Netflix snatched it up and it premiered on the streaming service October 12th. Sara Colangelo directs with a supporting cast including Parker Sevak, Anna Baryshnikov, and Gael Garcia Bernal. Any awards focus, however, will solely be on its star.
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 89%, the film is garnering greater exposure now with its release. Could Gyllenhaal be a nominee in the Best Actress race? Despite heralded performances in Secretary and Sherrybaby, she has yet to be nominated in the lead category. Gyllenhaal did receive a Supporting Actress nod in 2009 for Crazy Heart. Coupled with her acclaimed work in HBO’s “The Deuce”, it’s been a good year for the actress. Yet I still suspect she’ll be on the outside looking in considering competition.
That said, Gyllenhaal is likely to appear in the bottom portions of my top 15 projections in my weekly Oscar predictions on Thursday. It would mark her first appearance thus far.
Bottom line: despite high marks, it would be a surprise to see Gyllenhaal score her first nomination in Best Actress. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (11/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my estimate up a bit from $50.5 million in the three-day to $54.1 million and $74.6 million for the five-day.
Disney/Pixar looks to brings hordes of family audiences in over the Thanksgiving holiday once again when Coco debuts next Wednesday. The musical fantasy centers around the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead and features the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Edward James Olmos. It’s directed by Lee Unkrich, who last made Toy Story 3 for the studio.
The animated flick is already setting box office records in Mexico, which should be no major surprise given its setting. Reviews (as they typically are for Pixar) are solid with a current 96% Rotten Tomatoes score.
So how well will Coco perform stateside? Looking over the history of Disney’s Thanksgiving releases, there are several models to choose from. On the high-end, 2013’s Frozen took in $67.3 million for the three-day traditional Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and $93.9 million for the five-day Wednesday to Sunday gross. On the low-end, 2015’s The Good Dinosaur only managed $39.1 million from Friday to Sunday and $55.4 million for the five-day. I don’t believe Coco will achieve the Frozen peak or the Dinosaur low.
Going back to just last year, Moana earned $56.6 million for the three-day and $82 million from Wednesday-Sunday. That would be on the higher end of expectations here, but it’s certainly feasible. Like Moana, our 2017 Disney offering has good buzz and looks to be the front-runner for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.
Yet I believe it may fall a bit below that and the best model I see goes back seven years to Tangled, which took in $48.7 million for the three-day and $68.7 million for the five-day. I’ll estimate Coco gets just above that.
Coco opening weekend prediction: $54.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $74.6 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
For my RomanJ. Israel, Esq. prediction, click here:
Ahead of its Thanksgiving weekend stateside debut, Pixar’s Coco has screened for critics and as is par for the course for the studio, reviews are exceedingly positive. The concept of the latest creation is centered around Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday. Early critical reaction suggests it brings Pixar’s typical blend of heart and humor. Lee Unkrich, who co-directed MonstersInc. and FindingNemo and branched out solo with ToyStory3 is behind the camera. Voices included Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Edward James Olmos.
Since 2001 when the Academy created the Best Animated Feature category, Pixar has won eight times. The most recent was two years ago for InsideOut. So let’s get this out of the way right now – Coco is unquestionably the major front runner not just for a nomination in that race, but to win.
The real question is whether or not it stands a chance at sneaking into the Best Picture race. Only two of the studio’s works have – Up in 2009 and ToyStory3 the following year. The answer is probably not. While notices out this weekend are strong, it will likely follow the normal path of contending only in the animated portion of the evening’s festivities.