Oscar Watch: An American Pickle

In another case of a comedic release going the streaming route due to the COVID-19 pandemic, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen hits HBO Max tomorrow. The pic finds its lead as immigrant Herschel Greenbaum in 1920, who falls into a vat of pickle juice that perfectly preserves him until he snaps out of his slumber in 2020. Rogen also plays the dual role of Greenbaum’s great grandson in the fish out of water flick.

Some of these Oscar Watch posts over the summer could better be termed as Golden Globe Watch. Pickle currently sports a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s not bad, but a number of the reviews are lukewarm with others downright non-complimentary. In other words, any Oscar consideration for this is wishful thinking. Yet the 2020 experience could open up the door for unexpected comedies to contend at the Globes in their separate Musical/Comedy categorization.

The odds are long for that as well. Based on the critical reaction, I would list the film and Rogen’s performance as behind that of two other streaming comedies released this year: The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson and Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg.

Bottom line: it would be quite a jarring development to see An American Pickle in any sort of awards contention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Palm Springs

Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/10/palm-springs-movie-review/

The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.

So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.

I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Hamilton

Blogger’s Update (07/06): There seem to be a lot of folks wondering if indeed Hamilton is eligible for Oscar consideration. Three days after my post, this article from Variety appears to indicate that it won’t be. Yet in the topsy-turvy and unpredictable 2020, let’s see if that holds true as the weeks and months roll along…

Why ‘Hamilton’ Can’t Win Any Oscars

In 2015, Hamilton became a Broadway sensation and a cultural phenomenon. In addition to turning its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda into a household name, it went onto pretty much win all the Tonys the following year with its hip hop infused telling of founding father Alexander Hamilton.

A filmed version of the play has made its way to Disney+ today after the originally planned October theatrical release was scrapped to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, critical reaction has matched the raves it experienced a half decade ago and the Rotten Tomatoes score is a clean 100%.

This begs the question: could this unconventional movie garner the attention of Oscar voters? In my view, if there’s a year where it could happen, it’s this one. This heralded take on American history could resonate with the Academy in this 2020 that’s been anything but conventional.

On the other hand, there isn’t much precedent for a picture like this to get awards love. You have to go back to 1975 where a filmed stage production landed a major nomination – James Whitmore for Best Actor in Give ’em Hell Harry!. If the Academy were to honor one of the Hamilton performers, the smart money would be Leslie Odom, Jr. (who won the lead Tony for his work as Aaron Burr). Whether or not he would be campaigned for in lead or supporting is unknown. Also worth noting is the Golden Globes where Hamilton could stand a better chance at nominations in the Musical/Comedy races.

Technical nods are a different story and certainly Costume Design or the Sound races are viable possibilities. This will all boil down to whether the Oscar deciders consider Hamilton to be a legitimately eligible contender. If they do, the Disney property could make some noise in the room where the ceremony happens. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The King of Staten Island

The latest dramedy from director Judd Apatow is receiving a lot of similar praise and a bit of the same criticism as other titles in his filmography. The King of Staten Island hits the VOD circuit this Friday after foregoing a theatrical release due to COVID-19. The pic is a showcase for Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson, who’s received as much press for his personal life as his SNL antics. This is a semi-autobiographical vehicle for him and reviews out today give high marks to his work.

Overall Island currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics are calling it Apatow’s most mature work. There are kudos for the supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, and Bel Pawley. On the flip side, there are some complaints about its 136 minute runtime. This is a common gripe for the director’s efforts.

While Oscar attention is unlikely, the pic could garner the attention of Golden Globes voters since it splits acting races between Drama and Musical/Comedy. In the latter, Davidson could be a contender for Actor. Yet the Apatow track record at the Globes is shaky. Neither Steve Carell (The 40 Yr. Old Virgin) or Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) made the final five. I would especially say that Carell was robbed in 2005. On the other hand, 2015’s Trainwreck nabbed Amy Schumer an Actress mention.

Bottom line: some awards chatter for Apatow’s latest stand-up star could happen, but I don’t think it would be at the biggest show of all. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Emma

Emma is the latest adaptation of the 1815 Jane Austen novel and it’s out this weekend in limited release and posting solid numbers. This version stars Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role. She’s best known for her work in the horror genre with The Witch, Split, and Glass. Reviews are praising with a current 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film marks the debut of director Autumn de Wilde and arrives at an awfully early frame for awards voters to remember it. One of the last renderings of the book was in 1996 with Gwyneth Paltrow starring. It opened in the summer of that year and nabbed Oscar nods for Costume Design and Score. The former category is certainly a possibility. However, like what came before nearly a quarter century ago, I am skeptical this Emma contends for top of the line races.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a surprise for this to be placed in the Musical/Comedy lane at the Golden Globes. We have seen years where the Actress derby there is rather weak (including in 2019 when none of the five nominees managed Academy recognition). That could allow Taylor-Joy to be noticed at the Globes. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2019 Recap: The Parasite Show

There was certainly an international flavor to last night’s Oscar ceremony and it was in a history making way. The Academy Awards honoring the pictures and performers of 2019 will forever be known as The Parasite Show as voters fell hard for Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean export.

So how did I do on predictions? 18/21 and I’m pretty darn pleased with that. There were few surprises that didn’t involve Eminem popping up for an out of nowhere performance of his 2002 Best Song winner “Lose Yourself” (of which he missed that acceptance speech 17 years back).

Best Director was certainly the biggest race I missed. That’s because Sam Mendes (1917) was undeniably the front runner after taking home the Golden Globe and especially the Directors Guild of America, which almost always previews the eventual Academy winner. Yet the Parasite love extended to Joon-Ho, whose interpreter seemed to get more airtime than anyone. The film also was victorious for Best Picture, International Feature Film, and Original Screenplay, which I correctly projected. In doing so, Parasite is the first foreign language entry to take Best Picture in its 92 year history. The four victories ended up leading the night over 1917, which took three in tech categories (Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Visual Effects).

In the acting races, everything was according to script as the quartet of Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Renee Zellweger (Judy), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Laura Dern (Marriage Story) went to the podium. Anything else happening would have constituted serious upset territory.

Other correct calls are as follows:

Adapted Screenplay – Jojo Rabbit

Animated Feature – Toy Story 4

Costume Design – Little Women

Film Editing – Ford v Ferrari

Makeup and Hairstyling – Bombshell

Original Score – Joker

Original Song – “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Production Design – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Besides Director, I whiffed on Documentary with my slight upset pick of For Sama. It went to the front runner American Factory. Same goes for Sound Editing, which Ford v Ferrari took as opposed to 1917.

I was correct in my thinking that The Irishman would be the only Best Picture nominee to come up completely empty-handed, despite 10 nominations. Lucky for Martin Scorsese, he received plenty of shout-outs including from the maker of Parasite. Joon-Ho (and his interpreter) certainly came away as the story of the evening. And I’m ready to get the 2020 Oscar speculation rolling!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Renee Zellweger

My Case of posts for thespians competing for Oscars comes to our final Best Actress nominee – Renee Zellweger in Judy:

The Case for Renee Zellweger

She’s one of the comeback stories of the year and in the strong front runner position for this award. This is Zellweger’s fourth nomination, but it’s been awhile. The actress failed to achieve gold for her first two mentions with Bridget Jones’s Diary and Chicago, but the third time was the charm in Supporting Actress with 2003’s Cold Mountain. Her role as Judy Garland has already earned her the Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics Choice honors.

The Case Against Renee Zellweger

The film itself drew a mixed reaction from critics. Challengers to Zellweger could point to last year when Glenn Close (The Wife) picked up the same precursors, but was upset on Oscar night by Olivia Colman for The Favourite. 

The Verdict

There are some who feel Zellweger could be vulnerable to an upset by either Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) or Charlize Theron (Bombshell). However, there’s no doubt that the smart money is on her to win 16 years after her initial podium trip.

My Case of posts will continue with the direction of Martin Scorsese in The Irishman!

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!

The British Fall for 1917

The BAFTAs took place today and they’re the British equivalent of the Oscars. And it was 1917 continuing its epic run in precursors by winning 7 trophies, including Best Picture and Director. That said, the victory comes with a caveat and not a minor one. The last five BAFTA Picture recipients did not go on to nab the top prize with the Academy. So if you’re still considering going with Parasite or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or something else to take the biggest Oscar, there’s reason to do so.

In the acting races, nothing changed the narrative of having major front runners in all four. The winners (and it’ll look familiar): Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) for Actor, Renee Zellweger (Judy) in Actress, and Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Laura Dern (Marriage Story) for the supporting derbies. Simply put, anyone other than this quartet taking Oscar gold would constitute an upset.

One day after the Writers Guild named Jojo Rabbit as Adapted Screenplay as its winner and Parasite in Original Screenplay, BAFTA followed suit. It puts them in the driver’s seat for the Academy and that’s not welcome news for Little Women in Adapted or Hollywood in Original.

Another race to watch is Animated Feature because it seems wide open at the moment. Toy Story 4 is seen as the favorite due to Oscar’s penchant for Pixar. However, that sure seems iffy because other titles keep picking up precursors. Today it was Netflix’s Klaus taking the award.

Here’s the list of other winners for the BAFTAs:

Outstanding British Film – 1917

Film Not in the English Language – Parasite

Documentary – For Sama

Score – Joker

Casting – Joker

Cinematography – 1917

Editing – Ford v Ferrari

Production Design – 1917

Costume Design – Little Women

Makeup & Hair – Bombshell

Sound – 1917

Visual Effects – 1917 

Look for plenty more Oscar speculation as we are now one week away from the show!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Sam Mendes

My second Case of post discussing the directors up this year brings us to Sam Mendes for his World War I epic 1917:

The Case for Sam Mendes

The Englishman who became known for his theatre work became a Best Director winner with his first feature 20 years ago – American Beauty. Since then, he’s made a slew of pictures that never quite achieved full Academy attention: Road to Perdition, Jarhead, and Revolutionary Road among them. Over the past decade, he’s been in 007 land after making the last two Bond adventures Skyfall and Spectre. His latest effort has brought him back to serious contention and he’s got the hardware to prove it. Mendes has won the Golden Globe, Directors Guild of America, and BAFTA awards for his direction. Those three prizes alone puts him in the driver’s seat for a second Oscar 20 years apart. That, by the way, would be the longest stretch between a filmmaker taking the trophy.

The Case Against Sam Mendes

From a pure precursor standpoint, there really is no case against him. Yet there’s a lot of love for Bong Joon-Ho and his critically heralded Parasite. He serves as the chief competitor.

The Verdict

It is very hard to ignore the fact that Mendes has won everything that needs to be won in order to emerge victorious here.

My Case of posts will continue with Joe Pesci in The Irishman!