Oscar Watch: Downton Abbey

Fans of the British period piece series Downton Abbey, which aired stateside on PBS, will get their fix nearly four years after its conclusion with a film version. Written by its creator Julian Fellowes, Abbey picks up shortly after the events of the series finale with many cast members (Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, and more) returning to their roles.

The show was no stranger to major awards attention, including Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, and dozens of Emmy nods. Could that TV love translate to Oscar voters noticing the cinematic rendering?

Probably not in major categories. Abbey has a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 80% and while reviews are solid, I don’t see this getting attention in Picture or the acting derbies. On the other hand, Production Design and especially Costume Design could be doable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Bad Education

Few actors had a better movie year as Hugh Jackman’s 2017 with two smash hits – Logan and The Greatest Showman. Yet despite the acclaim, Oscar didn’t honor him. In fact, his sole nod came five years prior in Les Miserables. Last year’s The Front Runner looked like awards bait, but it fizzled quickly.

Now we have Bad Education for possible consideration as it screened in Toronto. The comedic drama tells the true tale of a beloved New York school superintendent cheating the system. And Variety has called it Jackman’s best performance to date. Other reviews also praise his work in this effort from director Cory Finley. This is his sophomore film following 2017’s well regarded Thoroughbreds. Costars include Allison Janney (who did win in 2017 for I, Tonya), Geraldine Viswanathan, Ray Romano, and Alex Woolf.

I say possible consideration because Education has yet to land a distributor. However, that shouldn’t be a problem. The real question is whether this gets released in 2019. If so, I would expect a campaign to be mounted for its lead actor. And as I’ve said repeatedly in the past few festival days, that race is looking incredibly competitive. Unlike The Front Runner, I would anticipate some critics vying for his inclusion. It could be a long shot, but he’s in the large mix. A Golden Globe nod in Musical/Comedy might be more reachable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Marriage Story

One of the most eagerly awaited Oscar contenders premiered today at the Venice Film Festival and it seems to have only elevated its status. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is receiving rave reviews as it explores the dissolution of the union between Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s characters. It currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Baumbach’s sole Academy nod came for his Original Screenplay for The Squid and the Whale in 2005. A second recognition in that race seems assured. The auteur, who based the script on his own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, also stands an excellent shot at his first directing nomination and the picture itself is likely to make the cut among the 5-10 nominees in the biggest race of all.

As for the performers, Marriage is the rare film that could see nods in all four acting categories. Johansson has remarkably never the beneficiary of an Academy nomination, despite four Golden Globe calls for her work. Expect that to change in what’s being called a career best. Driver appears in line for his second Oscar nod in a row after last year’s supporting turn in BlacKkKlansman. In the supporting races, look for Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. As for Supporting Actor, both Ray Liotta and Alan Alda are possibilities and it will be interesting to see which one of them grabs momentum.

Bottom line: look for this Marriage to be a storyline throughout awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Perhaps this is more of a Golden Globes Watch when it comes to the new comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon. The pic features Jillian Bell as a hard partying single lady whose life is altered when she competes for the NYC Marathon. It screened at the Sundance Film Festival back in January to solid buzz. The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 93% ahead of its release this weekend.

Bell has been a scene stealer on TV’s “Workaholics” and features such as 22 Jump Street. This appears to be her breakout starring role and some reviews have suggested it could be a minor hit if Amazon handles marketing correctly. While this holds little chance at Oscar recognition, it will be interesting to see if the studio mounts a campaign for Bell for Best Actress in Musical/Comedy at the Globes. She could follow in the footsteps of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck for a similar part that got nominated. That said, Brittany is definitely lower profile. My Oscar (or GG) Watch posts will continue…

2018 FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

We’ve had months of predictions and endless speculation on this blog about the 2018 Oscars and now it’s come to this. On Sunday, the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will air with your host…

As you’ve likely read, there actually is no emcee for this year’s ceremony. I’m not here to write about that. I’m here to make my final picks for the winners! Let’s break down each race one by one, shall we? And, of course, I’ll have a piece up Sunday night with my thoughts on how it all went down.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Analysis: First things first. It’s extremely rare that the winner here doesn’t have its director nominated. Therefore, two films that might have served as the biggest competition to Roma could now be seen as longer shots: A Star Is Born and Green Book. You could correctly point out that Argo achieved a victory just six years ago without Ben Affleck getting an individual nod. However, it had been 23 years prior to that (Driving Miss Daisy) when it had occurred previously. BlacKkKlansman and The Favourite are upset possibilities, but the smart money is on Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix Mexican drama and it would mark the streaming service’s first win in the big race.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Director

Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Analysis: I feel even more confident that Cuaron will take the gold here, even if Roma somehow comes up short in Picture. He’s run the table on precursors, including the DGA prize. It would be his second win in five years, after winning for 2013’s Gravity.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Analysis: This is a tough one as Malek and Bale have split a number of precursors. With the SAG Awards, I deemed it a coin flip and picked Malek. I was right. At the Golden Globes, they both won due to category splits. I won’t be surprised to see either win, but my 50/50 feeling going with Malek worked before

Predicted Winner: Malek

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Aparicio and McCarthy should be honored to be nominated. Colman and Gaga are threats, but Close has fared best in previous ceremonies and there’s the fact that she’s a highly respected performer who’s yet to win despite multiple nods.

Predicted Winner: Close

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Analysis: This category features the last two Oscar winners as Ali won in 2016 for Moonlight and Rockwell took it last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have far different chances to become two-time victors. Ali is the front-runner. Supporting Actor has seen upsets, but Ali looks strong.

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Marina de Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: Even though King didn’t get a SAG nod, they bestowed their award to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and she’s not even nominated. An Adams name call is feasible since she’s never won, but King will probably be crowned Sunday evening.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Star could perhaps shine here, but this really feels like the race where voters will recognize BlacKkKlansman. 

Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Analysis: This one is legitimately difficult and I think you can make a case for all of them. Roma is a distinct possibility as the Picture favorite and Green Book could make a showing. Yet my slight favorite here is The Favourite.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

Analysis: This could be interesting. As revealed above, Roma is my Picture pick. So it’s automatic that it wins here right? Not so fast. Cold War could get the consolation prize and I feel that’s even more possible since it nabbed a surprise nod for director Pawel Pawlikowski. I’m tempted to pick it, but I’ll say Roma manages the double win. However, if you wish to get creative in your office pool, this could be the race to do it.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Analysis: Pixar has dominated this field for years. In most years, it would be risky to bet against them – therefore Incredibles 2. This might be the year to do it as SpiderMan arrived late in the year, swung the momentum, and swept the precursors.

Predicted Winner: SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG

Analysis: One of the biggest shockers when nominations came out was the omission of Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I likely would’ve picked it to win had it been nominated. Now I believe this is between Solo and RBG. Reverence for the latter could swing it that way, but I’ll give a small edge to Solo.

Predicted Winner: Free Solo

Best Film Editing

Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

Analysis: Bohemian Rhapsody won the significant precursor for its branch and The Favourite or BlacKkKlansman could factor in as well. My gut says Vice may get this one, however.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Major love for the foreign pics here and Cold War has a shot. This is probably Roma’s race to lose though.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Production Design

Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma

Analysis: This one comes down to Panther and Favourite in my view and I’ll give the latter an ever so slight edge,

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots

Analysis: Like Production Design, Panther and Favourite are the favorites. The best bet could be The Favourite, but Panther has to win something right?

Predicted Winner: Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice

Analysis: A Border win isn’t out of the question, but Vice is the likely recipient here.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma

Analysis: First Man and Panther could get this, but that Wembley Stadium sequence could cause Rhapsody to achieve gold status.

Predicted Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Even though Star didn’t get in the other Sound race, Mixing seems like where it could be picked. I wouldn’t count out First Man, but I’ll guess Star wins here.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Analysis: It was a bit surprising that Black Panther missed the cut here. Its MCU counterpart Infinity is possible, but I’ll say this is the sole victory for First Man.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Score

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns

Analysis: Another chance for Panther lies here, but I’m going with a coin flip between BlacKkKlansman and Beale Street.

Predicted Winner: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “I’ll Fight” from RBG, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Analysis: My last race is the easiest. “Shallow” is the massive favorite here.

Predicted Winner: “Shallowfrom A Star Is Born

And there you have it. Enjoy the show Sunday night!

2018 SAG Award Predictions

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award air tomorrow evening and they could shed some light on which performers are looking more solid for the Oscar in a few weeks. Let’s break down the top races with my winner predictions, shall we?

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born

Analysis: It’s important to note that the SAG ceremony honors casts and not the “Best Picture” like other shows. This is about the ensemble. A Star is Born is really concentrated on three performances (Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot) and they’re all up for their individual races, where they all have a shot of winning. I believe it’s entirely possible, however, that the trio also all lose and this could be a considerable consolation prize. The other four films have more sprawling casts. That’s especially true for Black Panther and I’ll say the voters ultimately reward in a different category to project.

Winner Prediction: Black Panther

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Analysis: As mentioned, Cooper is a possibility. Yet he’s come up empty in other precursors. This could come down to the two Golden Globe recipients for their categories – Bale and Malek. I think it’s a coin flip to be honest. I’ll give the latter a razor-thin edge.

Winner Prediction: Malek

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Gaga is the only actress whose picture is also nominated. Her tie with Glenn Close at the Critics Choice Awards made things even murkier. Colman is a possibility here, but I’ll say this branch of actors give it to Close after decades of memorable performances.

Winner Prediction: Close

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: I wouldn’t count out Elliot, but Ali appears to be the front-runner in all these shows. I think his streak continues.

Winner Prediction: Ali

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: A fascinating race as Oscar favorite Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk was surprisingly snubbed. Blunt is a double nominee, but stands little chance of emerging victorious in either spot. The Favourite ladies could split votes. Robbie didn’t land an Oscar nod and is a long shot. That leaves Adams, who could be a double winner tomorrow with her work in HBO’s Sharp Objects.

Winner Prediction: Adams

And there you have it! I’ll have a recap up after the program airs!

The PGA Goes Green

The eyes of Oscar prognosticators were on the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards and for good reason. In this decade, the Best Picture Award has matched the Academy’s 6 out of 8 times (there’s a little fudging here because in 2013 there was a tie between Oscar recipient 12 Years a Slave and Gravity). The non matches occurred in 2015 when the PGA selected The Big Short over Spotlight and the following year with La La Land winning and not Moonlight.

Two scenarios could have changed the Oscar landscape in a significant way. A victory for Roma (coming off its Critics Choice honor) could have solidified standing as a front-runner. If A Star Is Born took the top prize, it would have marked a much-needed win after some high-profile precursor snubs.

Neither scenario happened as Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was named. This is a surprise and it opens up an already uncertain race for Best Picture at the big dance. It certainly lessens Green Book winning the Oscar being seen as an upset. It’s a real contender along with Roma and Star.

Tonight’s ceremony also gave yet another animation award for SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse. Coupled with its Globes and Critics wins, it now appears Spidey is the Academy favorite over Incredibles 2.

Bottom line: the PGA made the Oscars a bit murkier. We got ourselves a race.