Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Ray Liotta in GoodFellas

Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas is one of the greatest motion pictures of all time (it’s in my top ten) and the Academy recognized that with six Oscar nominations in 1990. It won Best Supporting Actor for Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco received a Supporting Actress mention for Supporting Actress as the wife of Henry Hill. That’s in addition to the superb acting from Robert De Niro and Paul Sorvino and others. The Best Picture and Director nods should’ve been victories over Dances with Wolves. 

Furthermore, we ought’ve seen at least a seventh nomination for Best Actor with Ray Liotta as the main character. Henry Hill’s onscreen journey from a naive kid learning the ropes of Mob life to that riveting, unforgettable and coke addled last half hour of paranoia complete with black helicopters is cinema at its most addictive. And it’s Liotta’s performance that fuels it. Through the course of Scorsese’s mastery, we witness its lead shift from tender to menacing with total believability. It’s a star making role for a man who turned out to be an ace character actor.

I should’ve written this post a while ago. It’s unfathomable that the film’s central performance went unrecognized. Liotta had just achieved his biggest exposure a year earlier as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the beloved Field of Dreams. GoodFellas announced him as a leading man and he would continue on with more memorable roles with above the title credits and supporting parts. For those seeking out worthy titles, check out Something Wild and Unlawful Entry. Watch his descent into madness in Cop Land or his acclaimed role in Narc. There’s his recent turn in the Oscar nominated Marriage Story as a divorce lawyer (his costar Laura Dern won a gold statue).

Sadly – I write this post today as we learn of Ray Liotta’s passing at the age of 67. He was on location shooting his latest effort with at least 2 pictures in the can. For GoodFellas alone, he will forever be a part of the history of this medium we love. Yes, he should’ve been a contender for it. Ray Liotta, through decades of impressive performances, won us over time and again.

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Starting on the blog today, I’m taking a deeper dive into the four acting derbies at the Oscars as well as Picture and Director. It begins with Supporting Actor.

If I could use a couple words to describe this particular race – “very open” immediately comes to mind. With just two months left in the calendar year, I would go as far to say that not I’m not 100% certain on any performer discussed below making the final five. That’s rare.

Before I delve into the many hopefuls, let’s take a look at where my projections were at in 2019 and 2020 during the same time frame. Two years ago, I had already correctly pegged four of the five eventual nominees: winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time Hollywood), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), and Al Pacino (The Irishman). The other contender was Joe Pesci (also for The Irishman) and I had him listed at #6 in Other Possibilities. In hindsight, Supporting Actor was well on its way to being established with two months remaining in 2019.

Not so much for 2020. Last year was more difficult than perhaps any before it in figuring out who’d make the cut (much of that uncertainty was due to COVID and the constantly shifting release schedule). On November 1, 2020 – my forecasted five contenders yielded just two of the eventual nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night in Miami. I still had the winner (Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah) listed for the lead Actor competition. Both Lakeith Stanfield (Judas) and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) were not yet mentioned in Other Possibilities.

With that context, we arrive in 2021. And I would say this year looks more like the previous one as opposed to 2019. There has been one constant since I began projecting the race back in the summer: Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza (known as Soggy Bottom just a couple of months ago). I’ve had him listed at #1 the whole way and it’s a prediction based mostly on gut since no one has seen the picture (that’ll change shortly). Cooper is a four-time acting nominee (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, A Star is Born). He’s yet to take the gold. Pizza looks like it should be a juicy role for him. On the other hand, we do not yet known just how big (or small) his role is. When reviews come out, he could solidify himself as the frontrunner or drop out altogether. There’s also the possibility that one of the other supporting players (Sean Penn or Benny Safdie) could rise. For now, I’m still hangin’ with Mr. Cooper until the word-of-mouth tells me otherwise.

Shifting gears – here’s a fun fact. In three out of the last four years, we’ve seen two actors from the same movie recognized here. In 2017, it was Sam Rockwell (who won) and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. For 2019 – you had Pacino and Pesci in The Irishman. Last year, it was the victorious Kaluuya and Stanfield for Judas.

Could that happen again? Absolutely and the best chance for that right now appears to be Belfast. A strong contender to win Best Picture, we could also see Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds punch their tickets here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it happen. Dornan seems likelier to make it in, but Hinds is getting plenty of laudatory chatter as well.

There are other scenarios to make it four out of five years and some lie with pictures still not screened. Don’t Look Up has Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, and Mark Rylance. Willem Dafoe and David Strathairn are viable for Nightmare Alley. And then there’s Jared Leto and Al Pacino in House of Gucci. The latest trailer features the latter more than the former. That disrupts the consensus that Leto has a better shot. I’m still going with Leto above Pacino, but when Gucci screens that dynamic may shift.

The double nominee situations don’t end there. Yet they both have actors that I believe have a significantly better chance than the other. For Mass, Jason Isaacs has been in my five while Reed Birney hasn’t made the top ten in some time. After The Power of the Dog was unveiled on the festival circuit, the narrative unexpectedly shifted to Kodi Smit-McPhee having a clearer path than Jesse Plemons. The Tragedy of Macbeth buzz solidified Corey Hawkins over Brendan Gleeson (though I’m skeptical either get in).

Now is a good time to point out that it’s been ten years since a Supporting Actor winner didn’t come from a Best Picture nominee (Christopher Plummer in Beginners). That’s why I find it a stretch that Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar), Idris Elba (The Harder They Fall), or Troy Kotsur (CODA) will be making trips to the podium. They could still get in, but their paths are tougher and they will all need heavy critics awards love to make the dance. There’s been some mentions for Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, but (somewhat surprisingly) no Wes Anderson directed performance has been Academy nominated and I don’t see this being the first.

One actor where an exception could occur is Richard Jenkins in The Humans. I doubt it will land a Pic nod, but Jenkins is drawing raves for his work. Twice nominated before for The Visitor and The Shape of Water, I could see the veteran becoming a threat to win if Cooper falls.

Others worthy of mention include Jon Bernthal in King Richard. The attention could be so focused on Will Smith (who appears to be in the driver’s seat to take Actor) that his supporting cast fails to get in (that logic also applies to Supporting Actress hopeful Aunjanue Ellis). It’s also totally feasible that Richard is so popular with the Academy that it sweeps them all in. Andrew Garfield picked up solid notices for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He might stand a better shot in lead for the upcoming and yet to be screened Tick, Tick… Boom! Timothy Spall for Spencer is doable, but Kristen Stewart is just as likely to be the sole nominee (and maybe the winner in Actress). The work of David Alvarez (West Side Story) and Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) has yet to be seen and is worth keeping an eye on.

So how does that all shake out? Truth be told, the five predicted performers listed below could look quite different a couple months from now. Here’s my best guesstimate for the moment:

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2)

4. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5)

5. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 4)

7. Jon Bernthal, King Richard (PR: 6)

8. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 7)

9. Al Pacino, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

I’ll have my analysis on the current state of Supporting Actress up next!

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

And a new day has dawned on this blog of mine as the 2020 Oscar Predictions begin!

To put it mildly, this is a challenge in 2020. The obvious hindrance is the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut theaters down for the past nearly five months and prevented scores of titles from their release.

It doesn’t stop there. I always do my early prediction posts in the later part of August when significant film festivals are about to get underway. The coronavirus has altered that dynamic as well. The Toronto and Venice festivals will operate in a much different fashion with some releases getting remote screenings and you should expect quite a few Oscar Watch posts in the coming weeks. However, it’s not nearly the volume of previous years. I have chosen to push up these early prediction posts because… well, I don’t have much else to write about!

To add to the mayhem – we have understandably seen a year in which release dates are constantly changing. Some of the pictures mentioned here may not see the light of day by February 2021. That, by the way, is the month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have extended eligibility to for the upcoming ceremony. A good example: Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (which has seen its date pushed back more than once) is now a TBD release. We’ve grown accustomed to that lately. For this reason, I am not including it in my inaugural round of predictions.

One potential beneficiary to all of this is Netflix. The streaming giant has loaded up on awards contenders for the season. Three of them in particular – David Fincher’s Mank, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 – boasts multiple performers who could see their work recognized in this particular category. In fact, four of the five early predicted nominees here are for Netflix properties.

As with any other year, these first projections are done with another degree of uncertainty and that’s category placement. It is inevitable that some performances in the supporting field could move to lead and vice versa. These decisions will become clearer as time goes along and will certainly shift my predictions in the future. For instance, Delroy Lindo seems bound for a nod in Da 5 Bloods. The smart money is that he’ll be campaigned for in Best Actor, but it’s in the realm of possibility that he could be a Supporting Actor contender.

Looking back at my early 2019 predictions in this category nearly a year ago, only one of my five projected nominees got through the process. It was, however, the winner with Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For context, I predict my top 5 and then list ten other possibilities. All four other eventual nominees (Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for The Irishman), were all listed as possibilities.

So… let’s get to it with my very speculative first look at which gentlemen could contend in the supporting field!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Tom Burke, Mank

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

David Strathairn, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Charles Dance, Mank

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

I’ll have Supporting Actress up next! Until then…

FINAL 2019 Oscar Winner Predictions

And here we are! After one year plus of speculating about the Academy Awards ceremony that will air this Sunday evening, we arrive at my final prediction posts on the winners!

For all 21 races encompassing feature-length films, I am giving you my analysis with my pick and the runner-up in case I’m wrong (which is bound to occur). A broad overview includes these thoughts:

  • There are undeniable strong front-runners in all four acting categories – so much so that even picking a runner-up is a challenge. If anyone other than my quartet wins, it’ll constitute an upset.
  • This is not the case in the other major races and that includes Picture and Director and both screenplay categories.
  • Other matchups are practical coin tosses and that includes Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Production Design, and Visual Effects.

I’m going to begin with the tech races and build up from there. So let’s get to it!

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: We start with a relatively easy one as the work of Roger Deakins in 1917 appears to have this in the bag. Anything else would be a surprise, but Hollywood could potentially challenge.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: Here’s another one where Hollywood could get it, but I will predict voters go back a bit further to the stylings of Little Women (for what could definitely be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: LITTLE WOMEN

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

Analysis: Both The Irishman and Parasite are possibilities here, but I believe Ferrari has the upper hand (for what could be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: FORD V FERRARI

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

Analysis: Bombshell appears to be the sturdy favorite here. And like a broken record, this likely stands as its only win. Joker or Judy would be the upset contenders.

PREDICTED WINNER: BOMBSHELL

Runner-Up: Joker

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: Thomas Newman (1917) has been nominated numerous times without a victory and the consensus for a while is that he would finally get his due. However, Joker has pretty much swept the precursors.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOKER

Runner-Up: 1917

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: It was a bit of a shocker that this stands as the only nod for Rocketman, which was expected to garner attention in Makeup and Hairstyling and the sound races. Yet the Academy is probably poised to get Sir Elton John up to the stage.

PREDICTED WINNER: “I’M GONNA LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Runner-Up: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Along with Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay, this race marks the best shot for Hollywood to nab an Oscar. Frankly, this is a fairly wide open category where there is a narrative for any of the nominees to take it. I’m going to pick Hollywood by a hair.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: In both Sound races, I feel it comes down to Ford 1917. In each case, I’ll give it to 1917.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: See Sound Editing

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: This is a tough one. Other than Skywalker, I feel any of the competitors could squeeze out a win. With 1917 picking up other tech races, I’ll give it the slight advantage. This wasn’t the case a month or two ago, but this might actually be the likeliest category for an Irishman Oscar.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: The Irishman 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: This one has been all over the map. Klaus picked up some key precursors. Missing Link surprised everyone by taking the Golden Globe. The Academy could choose to honor the Dragon franchise as a whole. I Lost My Body has its ardent admirers. Ultimately I’m playing it safe and betting Pixar manages to top all of them, though I’m less confident than usual about that.

PREDICTED WINNER: TOY STORY 4

Runner-Up: Klaus

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

Analysis: For Sama is a legit contender and Honeyland being nominated here and in International Feature Film (which it will not win) could mean something. American Factory, however, has held slight front runner status for some time. This is a coin flop, but we’ve seen surprises here before and I’ll lean towards that.

PREDICTED WINNER: FOR SAMA

Runner-Up: American Factory

Best International Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

Analysis: Let’s not complicate this. It’s going to be Parasite. 

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: I guess… Pain and Glory?

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

Analysis: There is definitely a chance that Greta Gerwig for Little Women could take this, especially after her Oscar snub for directing. The precursor attention, on the other hand, has mainly gone to Jojo for what might be its solo award.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOJO RABBIT

Runner-Up: Little Women

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Quentin could pick up his third statue here after Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, but the Parasite love seems stronger.

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: With the Irishmen splitting votes and Pitt taking every significant precursor, this is an easy one.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell). Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: Johansson being a double nominee is tough to ignore and I believe she’s got a slightly better shot here than in Actress. Her costar Dern, though, has swept the season.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Analysis: Here’s a race where there were about a dozen performances vying for five spots. At the end of the day, the competition was fun to witness but Phoenix has picked up all the hardware thus far and I don’t see that stopping on Sunday.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER

Runner-Up: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Zellweger could the most vulnerable of the favored quartet with Theron or Johansson in the wings. It would be foolish to bet against her based on what’s already happened.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER, JUDY

Runner-Up: Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: Even with heavyweights like Scorsese and Tarantino in the mix, this has come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes. And the latter has won the Golden Globe and the DGA (which has a steady track record of naming the winner here).

PREDICTED WINNER: SAM MENDES, 1917

Runner-Up: Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Ugh… OK. Let’s begin with this: the smart money is on 1917. It won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and the Critics Choice Award. Mendes took the DGA and I have him picked to win Director.

On the contrary – in the 2010s, we have seen a Picture/Director split 5 out of 9 times. No foreign language film has ever won the biggest prize of all. Last year, I (along with many others) predicted Roma would be the first to do so and it lost to Green Book. 

That said, the affection for Parasite feels deeper than for Roma. I’ll make this pronouncement now… if Parasite loses Original Screenplay on Sunday night, you’ll pretty much know my prediction is wrong. Yet I’m rolling the dice here for a minor surprise and that’s why…

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: 1917

My predictions pan out to the following films winning these many Oscars:

5 Wins

1917

3 Wins

Parasite

2 Wins

Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1 Win

American Factory, Bombshell, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Judy, Little Women, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

These calls also mean every nominated Best Picture player will win an Oscar with the exception of The Irishman, which I’m estimating will go 0 for 10.

And that does it, folks! The speculation has ended and the ceremony is two days away. I’ll have a recap post on how I did Sunday night…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Joe Pesci

My Case of posts for the performers up for Oscars this Sunday arrives at Joe Pesci and his Supporting Actor work for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman:

The Case for Joe Pesci

Well, it’s certainly a comeback role that garnered lots of attention. In 1990, Pesci won this category for GoodFellas, his second collaboration with Scorsese after Raging Bull. This kicked off a fruitful decade for the actor that included JFK, My Cousin Vinny, Casino, and, of course, the Home Alone franchise. Then he essentially disappeared. Pesci’s performance in The Irishman was not only a welcome sight since he’d be offscreen for so long, but it was surprising for the subtlety in which he played it.

The Case Against Joe Pesci

He will split votes with his costar Al Pacino, also nominated here. The film itself has seen its viability to win categories fall backwards in recent weeks based on precursors. And Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the significant front runner.

The Verdict

It’s good to see Pesci back in the mix, but a second statue seems out of reach.

My Case of posts will continue with Florence Pugh in Little Women!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Al Pacino

Al Pacino’s work in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman headlines my third Case of post for Oscar contenders in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The Case for Al Pacino 

His legendary cinematic career has spanned half a century and Pacino’s performance as Jimmy Hoffa has earned him his ninth Academy mention. It took his nod in 1992 for Scent of a Woman (he got double recognition that year for Glengarry Glen Ross) to finally reach the podium, despite previous nominations for the first two Godfather pics, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, …And Justice for All, and Dick Tracy. 27 year later, voters could feel obliged to give him his second podium walk.

The Case Against Al Pacino

Vote splitting with his Irishman costar Joe Pesci will likely occur. The film’s lead Robert De Niro couldn’t even make the cut in Best Actor and The Irishman has fallen back from potential Best Picture winner to long shot contender. Pacino also appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and his costar Brad Pitt is running away with the precursor attention.

The Verdict

Pacino’s chances are on par with his film’s in Best Picture – slim.

My Case of posts will continue with Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit!

2019 SAG Awards WINNER Predictions

Another major Oscar precursor holds their ceremony this evening with the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. This particular show has definitely served as a massive indicator where the Academy might go with the acting winners. As for Best Picture, not so much.

So let’s get into it as I make my projections for what will happen tonight!

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Nyong’o is the odd one out here as she didn’t nab an Oscar nomination. A win here by Johansson and Theron (both are possible) could set up a narrative as being Zellweger’s legit competition. Over the past decade, the SAG and Oscar winner have matched seven out of nine times. The outliers include last year when Glenn Close took the SAG for The Wife and Olivia Colman won the Academy Award for The Favourite. Tonight could also solidify Zellweger’s work as Judy Garland in the biopic. My suspicion is that it happens.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Analysis: A Best Actor derby where ten performers were vying for five spots means 2 men here didn’t make the Oscar cut: Bale and Egerton. Therefore, I see this as a three person showdown between DiCaprio, Driver, and Phoenix. The Oscar/SAG linkage here is significant as eight of the last nine victors went on to take the Academy Award. 2016 was the only exception when Denzel Washington got the SAG for Fences and Casey Affleck was the Oscar recipient for Manchester by the Sea.

Driver could be the larger threat, but this season is shaping up to be a sweep for Phoenix. That’s where the smart money is tonight.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: There is a 7 for 9 SAG/Oscar match in this category this decade. Foxx didn’t get the Academy attention. Hanks is beloved, but his movie has underwhelmed elsewhere. Pacino and Pesci should split votes. And the narrative continues for Pitt to have a terrific awards season.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role 

The Nominees: Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: During the 2010s, there was an 8 for 8 SAG/Oscar match here from 2010-2017. Yet 2018 was the exception and a rather enormous one. Emily Blunt’s victory last year for A Quiet Place was a stunner since she had no Oscar nod. And the Academy’s winner (Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk) didn’t get a SAG nod.

Could this set up a situation where Lopez, snubbed by the Academy, could walk to the podium tonight? I’m tempted to make that upset pick. However, Dern is unquestionably the favorite and I just can’t bet against her.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Bombshell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Now here is where it gets interesting! Unlike the individual acting races, there isn’t as much of a history with this category matching up with Oscar’s Best Picture. This decade it’s happened four out of nine times. For the 21st century, it’s nine out of nineteen times.

You don’t see 1917 listed here and with its Golden Globe Best Drama and PGA victories, it’s the soft front runner for Oscar. An omission here doesn’t mean much as the last two Academy BP recipients (The Shape of Water, Green Book) missed here. Other than Bombshell, the nominees here are all nominated for Best Picture. Any of them winning tonight could position that film as the main competitor to 1917. That said, I don’t discount Bombshell taking the prize this evening as it received the greatest number of SAG nods.

Parasite is the only nominee where none of its individual performers were nominated. You could argue that the voters simply saved for their votes for this race. Jojo has its hardcore fans. The Irishman boasts a trio of acting legends.

Ultimately, I’m leaning toward the sprawling cast of Hollywood. Yet I’ll freely admit that this category seems wide open.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

And there you have it! I’ll have a post up recounting how I did and what it means for the Oscar race soon enough…

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!

2019 Oscar Nominations Reaction

Well, folks, the Oscar nominations were out bright and early this morning. Per usual, there were some genuine surprises and omissions that will have Twitter buzzing right up until the ceremony February 9th.

Readers of the blog know that I spend months trying to put the puzzle together on who and what will be nominated. My results today? Out of the 109 predictions made, 88 of them came to fruition. In the eight biggest categories, there were four that I got all nominees correct… including Best Picture. Truth be told, I’m pretty pleased with my results!

Before we break it down race by race, some general comments. As for movies that had a disappointing wakeup call, there were numerous entries that had possibilities in the major categories and beyond. Those left on the cutting room floor include Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Us. Another movie barely left standing was Rocketman. I had it pegged for five nominations, but it managed just a single mention in Original Song.

For the films that did make it in, Joker scored the most nominations (somewhat of a surprise) with 11 followed by The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with 10 apiece.

With some of my analysis here, you’ll see strong indications on what my winner forecast might be. Expect that post to be up a couple of days before the ceremony.

And with that, let’s break it down!

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 9/9 (!)

Analysis: For Oscar prognosticators, just getting the correct number of films that are nominated is an accomplishment. It can fluctuate anywhere between 5 and 10. Nine felt correct for some time and I’ve had these ones predicted for several weeks. As for a winner, I feel six of them have at least decent to strong shots. I’m nowhere near ready to crown a victor.

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It was Phillips riding the Joker wave over Greta Gerwig for Little Women. Like Picture, this race feels wide open and it could come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes.

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: With so many contenders in the running, going 4 for 5 here feels like more of an accomplishment that naming the Best Pic nominees. It was Pryce getting a slot over Taron Egerton in Rocketman. Banderas and Pryce are first time nominees. It looks like Phoenix could sweep awards season and that gives him his first win.

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: 100% here and like Best Actor, there’s a strong front runner with Zellweger. If so, she’d pick up her second statue after being named Supporting Actress for 2003’s Cold Mountain. 

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: What a list of legends we have here! There’s some interesting tidbits to share. Every nominee here has won an Oscar. Yet it’s been some time since most were nominated – Pesci since 1990 for GoodFellas, Pacino since 1992 for his double nod with Scent of a Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross, Hopkins since 1997 (Amistad), and rather shockingly, Hanks… who has his first nomination since 2000 with Cast Away. Pitt, on the other hand, is the most recent nominee for his acting (2011’s Moneyball). However, he’s the only one of the five to never win the Oscar for his performances (he does have an Oscar for producing 2013’s 12 Years a Slave). Got all that? And here’s the last word on that… Pitt seems destined to join their company in February as a winner.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now we get to the first genuine shocker and that’s Jennifer Lopez not being nominated for Hustlers. Bates takes her spot. Lopez was generally seen as close to a sure thing for recognition and I’ve had her listed at #2 behind Dern for weeks. This only helps Dern for her first podium walk.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: This has looked like the final five for a while now and this could represent the best chance for a major win for The Irishman. That said, I wouldn’t count Jojo or Joker completely out.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: No love for The Farewell here with 1917 getting in. Tarantino is a soft favorite over Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Best Internation Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

How I Did: 3/5

Les Mis, Pain, and Parasite were automatics. The last two spots were tricky to forecast and I had Atlantics and Those Who Remained instead. Honeyland pulled off a notable achievement by being named here and in Documentary. Bottom line: this is the easiest race of them all to project. It’s going to be Parasite. 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Next big surprise as Disney’s Frozen II was frozen out with Klaus taking the spot. Toy Story 4 is the favorite, but I don’t discount the possibility of an upset here (with Dragon and Body as potential spoilers).

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: The documentary branch is always unpredictable and that proved accurate this morning. Apollo 11 and One Child Nation were the two I had in over The Cave and The Edge of Democracy. Netflix’s American Factory (the first doc from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company) appears to be the leader of the pack.

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I had Ford v Ferrari over Lighthouse. This looks to be a win for 1917. 

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Surprises here with Dolemite Is My Name and Rocketman being ignored in favor of The Irishman and Joker. I even thought the two I predicted had real shots at winning. This one could be between Women and Hollywood. 

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now this one is interesting! I had Hollywood in and not Jojo. Why is Editing important? Of any category at the Oscars, a nomination here means a lot to the eventual Best Picture winner. The last movie to win the big prize and not be nominated for Editing is 2014’s Birdman. And that’s really an asterisk since it was filmed in one long continuous shot (though the same basically holds true for 1917). Before that, the last Best Picture winner recipient to not score a nod here? You have to go all the way back to 1980’s Ordinary People. In other words, the snub for Hollywood here could mean something. Perhaps it will be an outlier. Yet I feel it’s key for ballot guessers to know that only two BP winners haven’t been recognized here in the past 40 years…

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Hollywood and Rocketman out and Maleficent and 1917 in. Expect this to be the sole win for Bombshell.

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: Back to perfection! Joker has gotten the precursor love, but 1917 is a threat.

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: This category is a head scratcher. I had “Spirit” from The Lion King and “Glasgow” from Wild Rose in over the Toy Story and Breakthrough tracks. This should be a contest between Elton John’s Rocketman tune and the Frozen song. However, both films were significantly snubbed in other categories as mentioned above. The one thing I do know… this branch clearly loves tracks that begin with the letter I.

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Little Women over Parasite. This could definitely be a W for Hollywood.

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Avengers: Endgame over Joker. In both sound races, this should be between Ford and 1917.

Best Sound Mixing 

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Had Rocketman and Skywalker over Astra and Hollywood. See Sound Editing above.

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: I’m glad this category is last alphabetically so I can end on a high note! I lean Lion King, but that could change.

And that does it for my nominations recap! As stated, expect winner predictions shortly before February 9th!

 

2019 FINAL Oscar Nomination Predictions

And it comes down to this…

After months and months of speculation, dozens of blog posts, and constant shifting around, these are my final predictions for the 2019 Oscars. There’s been thousands of words written about the races so I’ll keep it simple here.

The nominations are out Monday. I’m picking nine pictures to get recognition (there can be anywhere from 5 to 10 and 8-9 is usually the sweet spot). For each category, I’m also naming an alternate and second alternate.

Lastly, you can be sure come Monday that I’ll have a recap up with reaction and my results. Here we go folks!

Best Picture

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite 

ALTERNATE – The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Knives Out

Best Director

Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Sam Mendes, 1917

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – Todd Phillips, Joker

ALTERNATE 2 – Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story 

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

ALTERNATE – Awkwafina, The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Lupita Nyong’o, Us

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

ALTERNATE – Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

ALTERNATE 2 – Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

ALTERNATE – Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – Song Kang-Ho, Parasite

ALTERNATE 2 – Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

The Two Popes

ALTERNATE – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

ALTERNATE 2 – Hustlers

Best Original Screenplay

The Farewell

Knives Out

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

ALTERNATE – 1917

ALTERNATE 2 – Uncut Gems

Best International Feature Film

Atlantics

Les Miserables

Pain and Glory

Parasite

Those Who Remained

ALTERNATE – Beanpole

ALTERNATE 2 – Honeyland

Best Animated Feature

Frozen II

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body

Missing Link

Toy Story 4

ALTERNATE – Klaus

ALTERNATE 2 – Abominable

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory 

Apollo 11

For Sama

Honeyland

One Child Nation

ALTERNATE – Midnight Family

ALTERNATE 2 – Maiden

Best Cinematography

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Joker

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – The Lighthouse

ALTERNATE 2 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Best Costume Design

Dolemite Is My Name

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rocketman

ALTERNATE – Downton Abbey

ALTERNATE 2 – The Irishman

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Joker

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

ALTERNATE – 1917

ALTERNATE 2 – Marriage Story 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell

Joker

Judy

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rocketman

ALTERNATE – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

ALTERNATE 2 – Dolemite Is My Name

Best Production Design

1917

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 

ALTERNATE – Parasite

ALTERNATE 2 – Joker

Best Original Score

1917

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Ford v Ferrari

ALTERNATE 2 – Jojo Rabbit

Best Original Song

“Glasgow” from Wild Rose

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman

“Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

“Spirit” from The Lion King

“Stand Up” from Harriet

ALTERNATE – “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough

ALTERNATE 2 – “A Glass of Soju” from Parasite

Best Sound Editing

1917

Avengers: Endgame

Ford v Ferrari

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Joker

ALTERNATE 2 – Rocketman

Best Sound Mixing

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Joker

Rocketman

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Avengers: Endgame

ALTERNATE 2 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Visual Effects

1917

Avengers: Endgame

The Irishman

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Alita: Battle Angel

ALTERNATE 2 – Gemini Man 

And that means my final tally for pictures getting the following number of nominations goes like this:

11 Nominations

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

9 Nominations

The Irishman

8 Nominations

1917, Joker, Little Women

6 Nominations

Marriage Story

5 Nominations

Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Rocketman

4 Nominations

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

3 Nominations

Bombshell

2 Nominations

Avengers: Endgame, Frozen II, Harriet, Judy, The Lion King, Pain and Glory, The Two Popes

1 Nomination

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, American Factory  Apollo 11, Atlantics, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, For Sama, Honeyland, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hustlers, I Lost My Body, Knives Out, Les Miserables, Missing Link, One Child Nation, Those Who Remained, Toy Story 4, Wild Rose