Oscar Predictions: The Many Saints of Newark

During its acclaimed eight year run on HBO, The Sopranos picked up 21 Emmys, 5 Golden Globe honors, and was named by Rolling Stone in 2016 as the greatest TV series of all time (a designation I wouldn’t argue with).

It has been 14 years since the show abruptly faded to black, but The Many Saints of Newark (out October 1 in theaters and HBO Max) serves as a prequel to the action. Set three decades before the New Jersey crime family made their way to the airwaves, Newark casts the late James Gandolini’s son Michael as Tony Soprano. Alan Taylor (a series vet) directs with creator David Chase cowriting. Costars include Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga as Tony’s complicated mother Livia.

The film has screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and the review embargo is lifted. Based on its small number of write-ups, Newark stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are highlighting the performances of Nivola (as Tony’s mentor Dickie Moltisanti) and Gandolfini. However, I don’t believe what I’ve seen reaction wise indicates this will be an Oscar player in any category.

Bottom line: The Sopranos awards love will continue to rest with the TV branches of the Emmys and Globes. Don’t expect the Academy to make Newark a factor. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Best Sellers

Michael Caine, the legendary 88-year-old Brit, has had a unique Oscar history. He’s 2 for 2 with victories when nominated for Supporting Actor (1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters, 1999’s The Cider House Rules). Yet Caine is 0 for 4 when up for Best Actor (1966’s Alfie, 1972’s Sleuth, 1983’s Educating Rita, 2002’s The Quiet American).

This weekend, his dramedy Best Sellers is out via streaming services. It casts him as a cantankerous author adapting to the industry in the 21st century. Lina Roessler directs with a supporting cast including Aubrey Plaza, Scott Speedman, and Cary Elwes.

While Caine is receiving solid notices for his performance, the picture itself is garnering mixed takes. The Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at 61%. Due to this, it’s a safe bet that the star won’t be contending for a 7th nod with the Academy. I suppose the Golden Globes (if they happen this year) are a slight possibility in the Musical/Comedy race, but that could also be a crowded field due to a high number of genre selections in the former. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Last year’s Best Actress race was one of the most unpredictable and competitive in ages. Five different performers took the Oscar, Golden Globes (since they split between Drama and Musical/Comedy), SAG, and Critics Choice Award.

And, while it’s very early, 2021 appears that it could be a humdinger of a contest yet again. This is the final acting derby I am doing projections on in these initial forecasts. By far, Best Actress was the hardest one to whittle down and there were even potential contenders beyond the 15 listed that I believe could easily get into the mix.

Speaking of those earlier posts, you can peruse them here if you didn’t catch  them:

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

When I did my inaugural 2020 posts in Actress, I correctly identified 2 of the 5 eventual nominees: winner Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Carey Mulligan was named in Other Possibilities while I did not yet call out Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) or Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman).

Let’s get to the hopefuls for 2021!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTRESS

Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

Ana de Armas, Blonde

Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Other Possibilities:

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Emilia Jones, CODA

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up

Thomasin McKenzie, Last Night in Soho

Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

Margot Robbie, Canterbury Glass

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Alicia Vikander, Blue Bayou

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Best Director is next up!

Oscar Watch: Where Is Anne Frank

In 2008, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman received heaps of acclaim for his animated war docudrama Waltz with Bashir. It took home the Best Foreign Language prize from the Golden Globes in addition to winning the Annie Award. Bashir was in the Academy’s five nominees in their international feature competition. His 2013 follow-up The Congress did not match the bonafides of its predecessor as far as awards chatter.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Folman’s latest drawn feature Where Is Anne Frank has screened. As you can tell from the name, this is another title dealing with serious subject matter. Frank is told from the perspective of Kitty, the imaginary girl whom the title character addressed her letters.

While some early reviews are positive, the current 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating puts in the same realm as The Congress. That causes me to doubt whether this makes the cut in what is shaping up to be a competitive Animated Feature Oscar race in 2021. Disney already has a trifecta of hopefuls with the already released Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca and the forthcoming Encanto. Netflix has a strong contender with The Mitchells vs. the Machines and could have another in Wendell and Wild. And there’s already a checked box with animated fare showcasing more dramatic themes in Flee (which screened at Sundance earlier this year).

Bottom line: I wouldn’t completely count this out and we’ll see if it picks up any steam. Yet this could certainly be on the outside looking in come nomination morning.

Oscar Watch: Benedetta

From Robocop to Total Recall to Basic Instinct to Showgirls to Starship Troopers, director Paul Verhoeven isn’t known for subtlety when it comes to showing sex and violence onscreen. And at the Cannes Film Festival, his latest French feature is said to feature plenty of both and in a 17th century Italian convent to boot! Welcome to the polarized reaction that is sure to greet Benedetta. 

Based on a true story and adapted from a 1986 novel titled Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, Verhoeven’s pic has tongues wagging in the Riviera. Could its buzz translate to Oscar attention?

Five years ago, the filmmaker premiered his thriller Elle at Cannes and it garnered some of the strongest reviews of his career. With a 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Elle won the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film. However, it did not score a nomination with the Academy. The acclaim for its star Isabelle Huppert was more widespread with nods at the Oscars, Globes, and Critics Choice Awards (though not SAG).

This brings us back to Benedetta. It remains to be seen whether France will pick this as its hopeful in the International Feature Film competition. If so, I do question whether it’s too controversial for inclusion. Its Tomatoes meter is currently at 67%. Yet critics have been quick to focus on the performance of Virginie Efria as the title character. The Belgian actress, I suspect, will be talked about as a contender in the coming months. Competition could complicate her inclusion in the final five, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

2014 was an admittedly sturdy year in the Best Actor category with Eddie Redmayne winning the prize for The Theory of Everything. The other nominees were Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). However, one could argue that Carell could have fit into the Supporting Actor derby (and he probably would have been nominated over his costar Mark Ruffalo).

So while all five contenders above turned in fine performances, I still cannot fathom how Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was left out. As a demented Los Angeles photojournalist, the actor (whose only Academy nod is for supporting in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain) turned in a career best performance. In fact, Nightcrawler itself is my favorite movie of its year and should’ve certainly been a Best Picture nominee too.

This was the second year in a row where I feel an obviously worthy turn was ignored. In 2013, it was Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Gyllenhaal’s exclusion is just as baffling and that’s especially true because he was nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards.

Oscar Watch: Cruella

More often than not, the Disney live-action remakes related to their animated classics have managed to score Oscar nominations in various technical races. Two days ahead of its Memorial Day weekend domestic bow, the studio’s Cruella (a reboot of their 1961 animated tale and the Glenn Close live-action features) has seen its review embargo lifted. It is widely expected that the Academy will reward it in some of the races that their previous features have been mentioned in.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter currently stands at a decent 72% with many critics praising Emma Stone (Best Actress winner in 2016 for La La Land) in the title role of the dog despising villainess. She’s unlikely to get much attention in the lead race, but should certainly find herself in the mix in the Musical/Comedy competition at next year’s Golden Globes… if there is a Golden Globes next year.

As mentioned, the Academy has been kind to the remakes over the last decade plus. Alice in Wonderland won Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for Visual Effects. Nods for the costumes were also received by Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015). In 2017, Beauty and the Beast made the shortlist for Production and Costume Design. The Jungle Book (2016) was victorious in Visual Effects with Christopher Robin (2018) and The Lion King (2019) as nominees. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) nabbed a mention for its Makeup and Hairstyling. Last year’s Mulan got in for Costume Design and Visual Effects, winning neither.

All four categories mentioned are on the table for Cruella to varying degrees. Based on the buzz, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling are highly probable and could even be wins. Production Design is also feasible while Visual Effects could be more of a stretch due to expected competition.

Additionally, Florence and the Machine have contributed the original song “Call Me Cruella”. I wouldn’t bank on it making the final five in that race, but you never know (sometimes there’s surprises in that category).

Bottom line: Cruella is looking good for at least two Academy mentions and possibly more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: In the Heights

Jon M. Chu’s musical drama In the Heights was originally slated to hit theaters last June, but the COVID-19 pandemic altered the plan. Based on the stage musical created by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film now dances into multiplexes and HBO Max on June 11. The review embargo lifted today and it appears we have a legitimate Best Picture hopeful before us.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 97% with many critics imploring audiences to see it on the biggest screen possible. Many reviewers also note that it’s the perfect tonic after a rough year. Heights has a sprawling cast and that ensemble stands a terrific shot at SAG recognition next year. It could perform very well in the Musical/Comedy categories at the Golden Globes… if there is a ceremony next year (and that’s a big if right now).

As for the Oscars, many possibilities exist. Director Chu’s previous effort was the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, but it was completely ignored by the Academy. That’s unlikely to happen here. Best Original Song (with Miranda proving some new material) and Sound could certainly be in play.

When it comes to the big competitions, the feel good nature of Heights could absolutely lift it to a Best Picture nomination. It might be a bit more of a reach for Chu to make the final five in directing, but it’s at least feasible. Two cast members receiving immediate kudos are Anthony Ramos (in what could be quite a crowded Best Actor derby) and Olga Merediz in Supporting Actress.

Bottom line: expect this anticipated summer hit musical to be on the minds of voters in the forthcoming awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire

My Should Been Oscar Contenders series moves from a trio of supporting actors from 1993 to a deserving supporting actress hopeful the following year.

In 1993, Anna Paquin was a surprise victor in the category at age 11 for The Piano. In 1994, the Academy bypassed a 12-year-old thespian who gave an equally impressive performance. Alongside box office stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst stole the show in Neil Jordan’s blockbuster Interview with the Vampire.

As Claudia, Dunst’s character starts out as an innocent 10-year-old who is turned into a vampire. She is cursed by always appearing as an adolescent even as she lives several decades following that bite. Her role would be difficult for any actress to pull off and Dunst proved her chops early on.

The Golden Globes did honor her with a nod. The Academy should have followed suit.