Oscar Predictions: They/Them

At first glance, even writing an Oscar predictions post for They/Them might seem a little silly. The slasher pic set at a conversion camp premieres on Peacock tomorrow and reunites Kevin Bacon with the bloody genre 42 years after Friday the 13th. 

It doesn’t seem as silly considering it’s the directorial debut of John Logan. He also serves as sole writer for the project and he’s a three-time Academy nominee for his penned works: 2000’s Gladiator, 2004’s The Aviator, and 2011’s Hugo. 

Yet despite his scripting a trio of Best Picture nominees, reviews for this Blumhouse produced offering are mixed at best. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is currently at 50%. That makes this equation simple as They/Them will nab as many Academy mentions as Friday the 13th. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Best Picture 2011: The Final Five

My third write-up in my Best Picture: Final Five series brings us to 2011. As a reminder, the concept is fairly simple. After 2008, the Academy wanted to broaden the amount of nominees in the big race beyond a set five. For 2009 and 2010, that number was a firm 10.

However, in 2011, the rules changed so that there could be anywhere from 5-10 BP contenders. Until the Academy reverted back to 10 definite hopefuls last year, that number fluctuated between 8-9. For the inaugural year with the changeup, it was 9.

This post series engages in revisionist and speculative history. What if the rule of five BP nominees had never been altered? What would’ve made the cut? What would wind up on the cutting room floor? In 2011, we know it would’ve included the winner – Michel Havanavicius’s French black and white silent dramedy The Artist. 

What else? Let’s consider the other eight one by one…

The Descendants 

Alexander Payne’s works had received Academy attention before with 2002’s About Schmidt and 2004’s Sideways. This George Clooney led dramedy nabbed four additional mentions for its star, director, editing, and adapted screenplay – where it won.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The screenplay victory and inclusion in key races such as directing and editing seal the deal.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The rare BP nominee that received only one other nod – Max Von Sydow in Supporting Actor. This was, to be kind, a unique and unexpected nod as Stephen Daldry’s 9/11 themed drama with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock managed just a 45% Rotten Tomatoes rating as well as subpar box office.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. The fact that it made the final 9 is still pretty shocking and is widely considered an underserving inclusion.

The Help

Based on a huge bestseller, Tate Taylor’s The Help was beloved by audiences to the tune of $169 million at the box office. Beyond Picture, it received three other nods: Actress (Viola Davis), Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain), and another Supporting Actress nod and win for Octavia Spencer.

Does It Make the Final Five?

It’s awfully tempting to say yes given its popularity, but no. I’d feel more comfortable putting it in the final five had it nabbed a screenplay or editing or directing nod (even just one of them).

Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s family adventure garnered the most nominations on Oscar night (11), one more than The Artist. That includes Director, Adapted Screenplay, Score, Costume Design, Editing, and wins for its Sound Editing and Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes and quite easily with that impressive haul.

Midnight in Paris

This was a critical and commercial comeback for Woody Allen and it won Original Screenplay with additional nods for Allen’s direction and the art direction.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. While he’s basically blackballed from Hollywood in 2022, it was a different story 11 years ago for Allen and the Academy would’ve rewarded him for this return to form.

Moneyball

Bennett Miller followed up Capote with this acclaimed baseball drama that received five additional nominations – Actor (Brad Pitt), Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Adapted Screenplay, Sound Mixing, and Editing. It ended up going 0 for 6.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. As I’ve explained before, Picture and Director rarely matched 5/5 before 2009. This is my pick for the BP nominee where the filmmaker didn’t make the cut.

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s arty and ambitious saga served as a comeback for the legendary auteur. In addition to BP, Malick was in the quintet for his direction as was the cinematography.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. It’s not out of the question that it might’ve, but its minimal two other nods cause doubt.

War Horse

Steven Spielberg’s equine related battle flick is one of his least discussed BP contenders, but it did gallop into contention with five other mentions for Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, and Cinematography.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Even with the pedigree, missing Editing and Screenplay is a typically dependable telltale sign.

So that means my final five from 2011 consists of:

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball 

My take on 2012 will be available in short order!

My entries for 2009 and 2010 can be found here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

Oscars 2019: The Case of Martin Scorsese

My Case of posts for Oscar nominees now focuses on the fourth director profiled – Martin Scorsese for The Irishman:

The Case for Martin Scorsese

One of the most acclaimed filmmakers in cinematic history, Scorsese’s epic Netflix gangster drama marks his ninth nomination for Best Director. Previous nods were for Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, GoodFellas, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Hugo, and The Wolf of Wall Street. If you’re wondering why Taxi Driver isn’t among the pictures included, so am I. His only victory came for The Departed and there’s  a feeling that Oscar voters have snubbed him in the past. The Irishman pulled in 10 nominations, which is tied for second with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

The Case Against Martin Scorsese

The Irishman has gone from a Best Picture front runner to a serious long shot. This is thanks mostly to 1917 and Parasite. Therefore the Best Director derby is now seen as a battle between Sam Mendes and Bong Joon-Ho.

The Verdict

Scorsese’s win total will almost certainly be 1/9 after Sunday night as his movie’s hopes have faded in this and other categories.

My Case of posts will continue with Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!

Oscars 2019: The Case of The Irishman

Continuing with my Oscar series outlining the cases for and against nominees in the top six categories, we arrive at Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. This is my second of (gulp) 34 posts for films and individuals picked in the Picture, Director, and the acting races. If you missed yesterday’s writeup about Ford v Ferrari, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

Let’s get to it!

The Case for The Irishman

Scorsese’s latest is an epic unification of screen legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in the genre they’re known best for… the gangster tale. The three and a half hour opus certainly has awards gravitas. It was pegged as a likely nominee from the moment it was announced. Both Pacino and Pesci were named in Supporting Actor and the pic sports 10 nominations, which is tied for second along with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Scorsese is obviously a legendary figure and this is his ninth effort to get a Picture nod (the only winner being 2006’s The Departed).

The critics have been on its side and it has a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Several critics group named it as the year’s best.

The Case Against The Irishman

That attention has not translated to the big awards shows yet. The Golden Globes surprised most when they picked 1917 over this in Best Drama. The Critics Choice Awards chose Hollywood. Some have griped about its length. De Niro, unlike Pacino and Pesci, couldn’t manage a nod with the Globes, SAG, or the Academy. And then there’s the still unsettled notion that the Academy could have a Netflix problem, despite the streamer leading this year’s studios in total number of nominations. In 2018, Roma appeared to be the front runner until that Netflix property lost to Green Book. 

The Verdict

There was little doubt that The Irishman would garner plenty of attention in various categories, including here. Yet viability as a winner is much in question. Scorsese’s latest could still take the top prize, but it appears to be a bit of a long shot at the moment.

Up next in my Case of posts… Jojo Rabbit!

Oscar Watch: The Irishman

The biggest Oscar domino not yet fall screened has been Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the three and a half hour gangster drama headlined by genre legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. That changed today. The epic opened the New York Film Festival exactly two months ahead of its Netflix debut. And – no real surprise here – it appears to be a serious contender.

The Irishman is said to be both a humorous and contemplative piece with De Niro and Pacino providing their best performances in years. Same goes for Pesci as he’s been away from the silver screen for nearly a decade.

While nearly all reviews are positive, they’re not all raves. My early hunch is that this will earn Picture and Director nods. Winning is another story and that is one still left to play out. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 100%. This will likely mark Scorsese’s ninth nomination (he’s won once for 2006’s The Departed). That’s also his only effort to be named Best Picture. The Adapted Screenplay from Steve Zaillian should also make the final cut.

Down the line recognition presents many chances including Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, and Visual Effects. For the latter, the de-aging technology that allows its stars to look younger could attract the notice of that branch. The pic would actually be the second Scorsese title to get a Visual Effects nod after 2011’s Hugo (which won).

Now to the thespians. The thinking is that De Niro will be in lead actor with Pacino and Pesci in supporting. It sounds as if they will be the trio in contention. De Niro would gunning for his eighth appearance as a nominee. He won Supporting for 1974’s The Godfather Part II and lead in Scorsese’s 1980 masterwork Raging Bull. I’ve had him listed in spot #6 for some time in my weekly rankings. I could still see him missing the cut as his role is said to be less flashy than his costars, but I think his chances are better today. Numerous critics have stated that Pacino steals the show and he’s going for nomination #9 (his sole win is 1992’s Scent of a Woman). Like De Niro, I’ve had him slotted sixth and I expect him to enter the top five in a supporting actor race that is already jam packed. As for Pesci (who won for 1990’s Scorsese classic GoodFellas), other reviewers are singling him out. That opens the door for two men to be nominated in the supporting race for the second time since 1991 when Harvey Keitel (who’s also in this) and Ben Kingsley were recognized for Bugsy. This occurred again two years ago with Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Pesci is not the near sure thing Pacino is, but it could happen.

Bottom line: The Irishman did what it needed to do in the Big Apple to establish itself as a player in awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/04/best-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

Oscar Watch: Wonderstruck

The Cannes Film Festival started this week across the pond in France and that means some likely Oscar hopefuls are receiving their first screenings. One such picture is Wonderstruck, the latest from director Todd Haynes. It’s based on a 2011 novel by Brian Selznick, the same author who wrote the Hugo series in which Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Best Picture nominee is based upon.

Wonderstruck features Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in supporting roles and child actors Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds in lead parts. Reaction from the Cannes screening has been mostly positive and it currently stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Haynes’ three previous efforts have all garnered Oscar nods – 2002’s Far from Heaven, 2007’s I’m Not There, and 2015’s Carol. However, none of them got Best Picture nominations. Instead, the focus was on acting. That will likely apply here with some potential for attention on down ballot categories.

Based on early buzz, I’d keep an eye out for Simmonds, the teenage deaf actress said to be a standout. Wonderstruck could also make a play for Adapted Screenplay as well as Costume Design and Original Score. The film hits theaters stateside in October.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar History: 2011

For the Academy Awards, 2011 will forever be known as the year when a French black and white silent film came out of nowhere to win three major categories, including Best Picture. That would be The Artist and it picked up momentum over its rivals, becoming one of the more unlikely recipients of the prize in some time.

During that year, the number of Picture nominees was nine and it beat out The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. 

As for some others I may have considered, my favorite film of the year was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Another personal favorite: David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, the expanded list of nominees could have given the Academy a chance to nominate some of the better blockbusters that year: Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for example.

The Artist‘s auteur Michel Hazanavicius would win Director over stellar competitors: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). Again, Mr. Refn and Mr. Fincher would have made my cut.

The Artist love continued in Best Actor where Jean Dujardin took the prize over Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman in his first (??) nomination (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball).

I may have found room for Ryan Gosling’s silent but strong work in Drive or perhaps even Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love – in which he showed off real dramatic acting chops coupled with his comedic abilities for the first time.

Awards darling Meryl Streep took Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (no relation) in The Iron Lady. Othern nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

The Academy’s penchant for ignoring comedy was shown here as Kristin Wiig should have merited consideration for her megahit Bridesmaids.

Beloved veteran Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for Beginners over Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Two others I may have made room for: Albert Brooks in Drive and especially the brilliant motion capture work of Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Octavia Spencer was victorious in Supporting Actress for The Help over her costar Jessica Chastain, as well as Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy in the rare nod for comedy in Bridesmaids, and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).

Two other comedic performances worthy of consideration: Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids and Jennifer Aniston’s scene stealing work in Horrible Bosses. I also would have found room for Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

And that’s your Oscar history for 2011, folks! I’ll have 2012 up in the near future.