The 2019 Oscar Season Cometh

As the summer season winds down, the movie industry and this blog’s attention will soon turn to the Oscar race. And if you think it’s too early to do that, consider that less than a month from now – an avalanche of Academy hopefuls will be unveiled at film festivals. Toronto, Venice, Telluride, and the New York festivals are on deck. The programmers behind those events have already released the names of many of the pictures premiering. Here are some of the pictures wishing for Oscar glory that are hitting the circuit:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks is iconic children’s host Mr. Rogers in director Marielle Heller’s follow-up to last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which nabbed nods for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Premiering at Toronto.

Ad Astra

James Gray has made multiple critical darlings, but has yet to pop up on the awards circuit radar screen. Could this sci fi drama with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones change that? Premiering at Venice.

An Officer and a Spy

It will need serious acclaim to overcome the baggage that comes from its maker Roman Polanski, but this historical thriller will attempt to do so in Venice.

Dolemite Is My Name

Prior to its anticipated Netflix launch, Craig Brewer’s biopic of comedian Rudy Ray Moore portrayed by legendary comic Eddie Murphy will bow at Toronto.

Ema

Pablo Larrain has had his pics No and Jackie attract awards nods and this Chilean drama hopes to follow suit. Premiering at Venice.

Ford v Ferrari

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in James Mangold’s 1960s set tale of the flashy automotive industry. Premiering at Toronto.

Harriet

Cynthia Erica was a breakout in last year’s Widows. This year she has an Academy baity role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this historical epic from Kasi Lemmons. Premiering at Toronto.

Jojo Rabbit

This concoction from Taika Waititi is set during WWII with a dark comedic premise finding a young child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Hitler. The filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are among the cast.

Joker

Heath Ledger won a posthumous gold statue as the comic book villain in The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix will attempt the same here. Premiering at Venice.

Judy

It’s been awhile since Renee Zellweger had a role receiving awards buzz. This biopic of Judy Garland could alter that. Premiering at Toronto.

Just Mercy

This drama about a falsely accused prisoner features Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Premiering at Toronto.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s murder mystery has a sprawling cast of hopefuls including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon. Premiering at Toronto.

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach is a favorite of the critical community. This drama is headlined by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and hits Venice and other fests before its Netflix premiere.

The Goldfinch

Brooklyn director John Crowley adapts this drama based on a well-known 2013 novel. The cast includes Nicole Kidman and Oakes Fegley. Premiering at Toronto.

The Irishman

Rightly kicking off the New York Festival, Martin Scorsese directs this gangster saga starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

The Laundromat

Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh directs this dramatic thriller with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas. Premiering at Venice.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Lion nominee Dev Patel is the Charles Dickens character with a supporting cast including Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie. Premiering at Toronto.

The Two Popes

Jonathan Pryce is Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins is Pope Benedict in this Netflix effort from director Fernando Meirelles. Premiering at Toronto.

Followers of this blog know that I’ll do Oscar Watch posts on each of these and many others as they screen in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

The Wife Movie Review

The Wife may not be as powerful or emotionally wrenching as the thoughts running through its central figure’s head, but the woman playing her makes this worth checking out. Glenn Close has given many fine performances in her long career and this is among the top ones. She plays Joan Archer and she’s known only by who she’s married to – acclaimed author Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). The film opens with an early morning phone call where he finds out he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What transpires afterwards is an examination of their complicated marriage that began as an affair when he was a professor and she was an aspiring writer coed. He still fools around and she manages to put up with it. The list of annoyances extends to her dealing with the fawning behavior of those around him. There are two exceptions. One is their son (Max Irons) who’s trying make his own mark in his Dad’s profession and is forever stuck in his large shadow. The other is Joseph’s would-be biographer (Christian Slater) who believes there’s more to his subject’s legacy and partnership with Joan.

The film is set in Stockholm. This is due to the prestigious award Joseph is about to receive. It also seems appropriate as Joan begins to feel captive in her unhappy existence. Director Björn Runge is a native of the nation as we witness its cold winter and frosty breakdown of our leads.

We see flashbacks of their story. While the two actors playing them as newlyweds (Annie Starke and Harry Lloyd) do a decent job mimicking Close and Pryce, The Wife shines when the camera is trained on their elders counterparts. Starke, by the way, is the real life daughter of Close. Based on a novel from Meg Wolitzer and adapted by Jane Anderson, the picture doesn’t dwell much on what made this rocky union produce literary masterworks. That might’ve provided some insight, but Close’s own wrenching masterwork (with a game Pryce alongside) will have you ready to continue to the next chapter.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Wife

Glenn Close is a six-time Academy Award nominated actress who has yet to bring home the gold. Last fall, her drama The Wife premiered to solid reviews at the Toronto Film Festival (it’s at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). The pic is from Swedish director Björn Runge and it stars Close as a the long cheated on spouse of a prominent writer who reaches a breaking point. Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater costar.

While critics had positive things to say about the film itself, reviews were over the moon as to Close’s performance. Her Oscar losses include three in Supporting Actress (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural) and the same number in Lead (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs).

The buzz last fall from up north bodes very well for her another nomination. The Wife is scheduled for U.S. distribution on August 3.

Bottom line: Glenn Close could well be on her way to a seventh trip down the red carpet, but whether she snags the prize this time remains to be seen.