Oscar Watch: I Saw the Light

As you may have noticed on the blog over the past couple of weeks, the array of recent film festivals that includes Toronto, Telluride and Venice has assisted in making the 2015 Oscar race a bit clearer. These fests have vaulted such titles as The Danish Girl, Carol, Steve Jobs, The Martian, Suffragette, Spotlight and Black Mass into the conversation for various nominations. On the flip side, these festivals can also pretty much crush the hopes of other pictures that are screened and receive a negative reaction.

That appears to be the case with I Saw the Light, the biopic of country singer Hank Williams that has been mentioned as an Oscar contender. Then it screened and critical reaction has not been kind. In fact, it currently sits at a troubling 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. While the pic itself has been met negatively by reviewers, the performances are receiving high marks. Tom Hiddleston (known to most as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) stars as Williams. His work has gotten high marks but the bad reaction to the film itself probably means he won’t make the cut in the Best Actor race. Playing his wife, Elizabeth Olsen has had even better notices from critics. In my initial round of predictions a couple of weeks back, I included her as a nominee for Supporting Actress. She could still make the cut, but I’m far less certain than I was before. Don’t be surprised to see her name left out when I do my second round of predictions.

Bottom line: while these festivals do a great job at showcasing future Academy contenders, they can bury others. I Saw the Light appears to be just such a casualty.

2015 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

Today we arrive at the final post in my very early Oscar predictions and that means the biggest category of them all: Best Picture. In 2014, when I did my initial round of predictions for 2014 pics, it correctly called 5 of the 8 eventual nominees. A total of 7 of the 8 were mentioned with two being listed in other possibilities.

Obviously the film festival season (Telluride, Venice, Toronto, New York, etc…) is just getting underway in which many of the contenders will be screened. It won’t be until late November and early December before the majority of the heavy hitters will have their word of mouth. Yet here’s how I see it currently at this early juncture:

Todd Haynes’s period piece same sex love story Carol premiered to raves at Cannes and appears to be a legit contender at press time.

Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl is another period piece about the first transgender individual and features last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne. Hooper won Best Director in 2010 for The King’s Speech, which was awarded Best Picture. His last effort, Les Miserables, was also nominated.

David O. Russell has seen his last 3 pics nominated for the big prize – The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle. This December’s Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper could join the mix.

Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu won Best Director last year for Birdman, which won Picture as well. His December release The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio is already receiving major buzz.

You can never count out Steven Spielberg and this fall’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies is an obvious choice for consideration.

Same goes for the Danny Boyle directed/Aaron Sorkin scripted biopic Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.

The period piece women’s voting rights tale Suffragette features Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, and Helena Bonham Carter and if solid reviews materialize, you have to put it in the mix.

Quentin Tarantino has seen his last two blockbusters – Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained – receive nominations so you cannot count out December’s The Hateful Eight.

There are other biopics to consider – Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead about iconic musician Miles Davis, I Saw the Light with Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams, Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, and Bryan Cranston as Trumbo. 

As for films already released, it’s totally possible that Pixar’s acclaimed Inside Out could give the studio its second Picture nod (after 2009’s Up). And if some of this autumn’s releases don’t meet expectations, don’t be shocked if the summer blockbuster and critical darling Mad Mad: Fury Road starts getting another look.

One feature that I’m a bit surprised to see hardly mentioned in the Oscar talk: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s only the most eagerly anticipated release of the year (in many years actually). If reviews are strong, it could certainly get attention. It remains to be seen though.

As Academy watchers know, anywhere from five to ten movies can be nominated. Ever since the Oscars have gone to that system, nine has been the magic number yet there were eight last year. I’ll go with 8 for now, but that may well fluctuate as future predictions come to the blog. Here we go:


Bridge of Spies


The Danish Girl

The Hateful Eight


The Revenant

Steve Jobs


Other Possibilities:

Black Mass


By the Sea



Inside Out

In the Heart of the Sea

I Saw the Light

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Miles Ahead



Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Walk


And there you have it, folks! My first batch of Oscar predictions for the year. Expect a second round in October…

2015 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

How about this for a 2015 Best Actor category? You could have Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, Dalton Trumbo, Whitey Bulger, Dan Rather, Hank Williams, Edward Snowden, and Lance Armstrong all competing against one another? Yep, it’s true as this year’s possibilities contain a number of high-profile performers playing real life characters.

Today is part four of my very early Oscar predictions. In 2014, I made my initial round at the same time. For the races of Best Actress and Supporting Actor and Actress, these early 2014 prognostications yielded just two of the eventual five nominees. Yet last year in the Best Actor race, they correctly predicted four of the five eventual nominees and the fifth was mentioned in the other possibilities section.

Back to the real life folks. Of the many I mentioned, I currently only have Don Cheadle’s work as Miles Davis in Miles Ahead and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Steve Jobs getting in. Fassbender, it should be noted, also remains a contender for this fall’s Macbeth. Any of the others mentioned could bubble up: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, Robert Redford as Dan Rather in Truth, Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in The Program, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden. Like Fassbender, Gordon-Levitt could be a contender for Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, too.

Last year’s winner Eddie Redmayne has a showy role in the period piece transgender drama The Danish Girl and he could easily see a second nod in as many years. Beloved veteran thespian Michael Caine has received raves for Youth. And Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s yet to win, is sure to receive attention for December’s The Revenant. 

As festivals begin to roll on and some of these aforementioned films will be reviewed, the picture should continue to become clearer. As for now:


Michael Caine, Youth

Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Other Possibilities:

Bradley Cooper, Burnt

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Johnny Depp, Black Mass

Michael Fassbender, Macbeth

Colin Firth, Genius

Ben Foster, The Program

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk

Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

Tom Hardy, Legend

Tom Hiddleston, I Saw the Light

Brad Pitt, By the Sea

Robert Redford, Truth

Best Director will be up tomorrow with Best Picture on Saturday! Stay tuned…

If you missed my previous posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, click here:




2015 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

It’s hard to believe but we are two thirds of the way through the calendar year and that means my first round of incredibly early Oscar predictions are making their way to the blog! Some caveats: it’s early. Real early. Truth be told, most of the main contenders in all the major categories will be rolling out in the fall. Many will be screening at the upcoming film fests like Toronto and New York, among others. As always, those festivals will help the picture become clearer over the next couple of months. Usually by Thanksgiving or early December, we’ve got a pretty good idea on how things are looking.

That said, I started my predictions for 2014 at the same time last year. In the Supporting Actress race, which I’m covering today, my impossibly early predictions yielded two of the five eventual nominees, Laura Dern for Wild and winner Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. It’s also worth noting that I predicted Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, who was nominated in the Lead Actress category. Let’s talk about how things look right now:


Already we seem to have one performer who appears to be a shoo in for a nod: Rooney Mara for Todd Haynes’s 1950s set lesbian romance Carol, which premiered to raves at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer. It would be very shocking not to see Mara included, unless she’s campaigned for in the Actress race. That seems unlikely because the studio should be putting her costar Cate Blanchett in that race.

After that – much uncertainty. The Irish immigration drama Brooklyn hit the festival circuit to a rapturous response and that could bode well for Julie Walters. Director Quentin Tarantino knows how to get his actors nominated which could mean a nom for The Hateful Eight’s Jennifer Jason Leigh. Director David O. Russell is exceptional at seeing his performers gets nods and his December release Joy could see kudos for either Virginia Madsen or Diane Ladd (I’m leaving both off, for now).

Elizabeth Olsen has had some critically applauded roles and her performance as Hank Williams’ wife in the biopic I Saw the Light could garner attention. So could Kate Winslet in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic.

The rest of the large field is filled with familiar names and some not. Remember the name Emayatzy Corinealdi for her work in the Don Cheadle/Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. And we have previous winners like Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Rachel Weisz in the mix.


Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Elizabeth Olsen, I Saw the Light

Julie Walters, Brooklyn

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


Other Possibilities:

Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy

Cate Blanchett, Truth

Helena Bonham Carter,  Suffragette

Jessica Chastain, The Martian

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Miles Ahead

Marion Cotillard, Macbeth

Ann Dowd, Our Brand is Crisis

Jane Fonda, Youth

Nicole Kidman, Genius

Diane Ladd, Joy

Melanie Laurent, By the Sea

Laura Linney, Genius

Virginia Madsen, Joy

Helen Mirren, Trumbo

Ellen Page, Freeheld

Julia Roberts, The Secret in their Eyes

Amy Ryan, Bridge of Spies

Meryl Streep, Suffragette

Rachel Weisz, Youth

And there’s part one of my early Oscar picks. Supporting Actor coming your way tomorrow…