2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Oscar Watch: Midsommar

Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut Hereditary from last year. The filmmaker stays in the horror genre for this tale of two couples visiting a mysterious Swedish festival that only occurs every 90 years. Cult like scares follow.

The pic has screened ahead of its July 5 stateside bow and critics are once again singing Aster’s praises. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while some reviews point out audience reaction could be quite mixed (like his first effort).

This particular genre is usually ignored by Oscar voters. A groundswell of support began to gather in 2018 for Toni Collette’s lead role in Hereditary. The female lead here, Florence Pugh, has also gotten raves for her work. Yet if Collette couldn’t get in, it probably doesn’t bode well for this lead actress. Furthermore, Lupita Nyong’o could garner attention for her work earlier in 2019 for Jordan Peele’s sophomore flick Us.

Bottom line: if Hereditary couldn’t get on the Academy’s radar, don’t expect Midsommar to do so. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Toy Story 4

The fourth edition of Toy Story is unveiled in theaters next weekend and reviews are out today. It is the 21st film for Pixar that began in 1995 with… Toy Story. And when it comes to Oscar voters honoring the studio’s works, there’s a rich history.

Critics so far have given a 100% stamp of approval to the sequel. The Academy established the Best Animated Feature in 2001. There’s been 18 winners and half of them are Pixar pics. The studio has also nabbed two nods in Best Picture with 2009’s Up and 2010’s… Toy Story 3.

First things first: there is approximately zero doubt that part four will get Animated Feature recognition. And unless something special comes along in the second half of the year (perhaps Frozen 2?), it has an excellent shot at winning. It’s also feasible that it could land Pixar’s third Picture nod, but that is far less certain at this juncture.

Another category where Toy Story 4 could contend is Best Original Song. There’s two possibilities: Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let Yourself Throw Away” and “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy”, which was written by Newman and is performed by country superstar Chris Stapleton.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Toy Story 4 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/19)… and it’s a significant one. Revising my estimate down from to $191.5 million to $167.5 million.

With the release of Toy Story 4 next weekend, Pixar should have no problem having the top three animated openings of all time. The big question is whether or not it manages to have the largest so far. The sequel arrives nearly a quarter century after Toy Story kicked off the Disney owned Pixar phenomenon and nearly a decade since Toy Story 3. The iconic characters of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) return along with the vocal works of Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, and the late Don Rickles. New actors joining the party include Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves. Josh Cooley makes his directorial debut.

Each chapter in this cinematic universe has seen its overall domestic gross increase with each entry. Part 3 took in $110 million in its first frame and legged out to $415 million. That predecessor currently has the fifth highest animated start ever. Toy Story 4 is in line to easily top that and more.

Last summer’s Incredibles 2 nabbed the record for the genre by a wide margin when it took in $182 million. Pixar also holds the #2 spot with 2016’s Finding Dory with $135 million. I don’t see Woody and Buzz’s fourth go round having any issue topping that and it could definitely hit the #1 designation.

I’ll say it falls just a manages a few million over the Incredibles sequel for a historic start.

Toy Story 4 opening weekend prediction: $167.5 million

For my Child’s Play prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/childs-play-box-office-prediction/

For my Anna prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/anna-box-office-prediction/

Us Movie Review

Any fears of a sophomore slide are quickly dispelled by we the audience in Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his blockbuster cultural milestone Get Out from 2017. That Oscar nominated debut defied genre. Yes, it was sort of a horror flick but it brought in a racial subtext that got crowds talking. I believe Get Out gets better with every viewing and I suspect this will too.

Us, in some respects, is more of a traditional fright fest in comparison to the auteur’s first feature. There’s more jump scares, and more overall freak out moments. Yet there’s a whole lot of allegorical treatment on (yes) race, but also class and the concept of nature vs. nurture. Peele’s second pic furthers the notion that he’s an immensely talented filmmaker with lots to say. Us also leaves more up for interpretation than Get Out. It’s messier and that’s not really a criticism.

Lupita Nyong’o is Adelaide, the matriarch of the Wilson family. She’s married to the slightly goofy Gabe (Winston Duke) with two young children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). We first meet Adelaide in flashback circa 1986 as a little girl accompanying her parents to the beach in Santa Cruz. She wanders into a funhouse where she encounters a hall of mirrors. Instead of only seeing her reflection, she encounters her scary doppelgänger. The event literally leaves her speechless for an extended period of time.

We flash forward to over three decades later with her brood and they’re vacationing at their lake house in the same area. She’s talking now and has tried her best to repress that childhood event. The family meets up with their wealthy, boozy, and snobby friends (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) at the same beach. Soon enough, Adelaide is unable to bury what happened in 1986.

It turns out that doppelgänger (named Red) is back and she brings along sadistic doubles of the whole family to terrorize them. Red (naturally also played by Nyong’o) speaks in a genuinely hair raising whisper. Referred to as The Tethered, the versions of Gabe and the two children are also creepy and with murder on their minds. This is the section of the film where the gory action kicks into overdrive.

Without spoiling the rest, Us goes about answering the questions of why characters have these bloodthirsty counterparts. It’s horror, it’s government conspiracy, it’s very funny at times. The use of music (from the terrific Mike Gioulakis score to inventive spins of classic hip hop hits “I Got 5 On It” and “F*** The Police”) is expertly placed.

Lupita Nyong’o, in her dual role, is terrific. Switching between a mom in protection mode of her rather normal family to a mom orchestrating that normal family’s demise, it’s quite a role to pull off and she certainly does. Actors in this genre rarely get awards attention and the Supporting Actress winner from 12 Years a Slave deserves it. Duke (and Moss and Heidecker) bring the comic relief.

In some respects, I look at Us as the Unbreakable for Peele if Get Out is his The Sixth Sense. Why the M. Night Shyamalan comparison? Sixth Sense was a massive hit that also nabbed a Best Picture nod. Unbreakable was his breathlessly awaited next movie. It was appreciated by some and confounded others by not being as easily accessible. Those same issues apply to Us. However, just as the reputation for Unbreakable grew with time, I suspect that will hold true for Peele’s second turn. I don’t know if I’d say Us quite matches the potency of Get Out, but I think it could on subsequent screenings. For my first viewing, it definitely provided a whole lot to appreciate as this director continues to show he’s a force behind the camera.

***1/2 (out of four)

Us Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (03/19/19): The upgrade has happened from $48.8 million to $56.8 million

Next weekend we will find out if lightning strikes again for director Jordan Peele with the release of Us. The horror pic is Peele’s eagerly awaited sophomore effort and follow-up to his 2017 debut Get Out. That film rode a cultural wave of excitement and critical raves that resulted in a Best Picture nomination and an Oscar for Peele for his original screenplay.

Perhaps not since M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (his feature after The Sixth Sense) have we seen a movie that can sold mostly on “from the director of…”. Us centers on a family being terrorized by a brood that appears to be different versions of themselves. The cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker.

Any fears of a sophomore slump were eliminated this past weekend when Us screened at South by Southwest. Reviews are strong with 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Get Out exceeded opening weekend projections two years ago when it made $33 million for its start and legged out considerably to $176 million.

Us doesn’t have the benefit of unknown expectations. Peele’s name and some seriously effective trailers have prognosticators thinking this will exceed the first weekend of Get Out. Whether it experiences the smallish declines from weekend to weekend is a better question as Us should be more front-loaded with its earnings.

I’ll say mid to high 40s is where this lands with $50 million certainly being a possibility.

Us opening weekend prediction: $56.8 million

Oscar Watch: Us

The South by Southwest festival is in full swing this weekend and the most eagerly awaited film premiere has occurred. That would be Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to 2017’s Get Out.  The horror thriller is out domestically on March 22.

Early reviews are quite encouraging as it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could this follow in the footsteps of Peele’s debut effort? As you may recall, Get Out premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 to red-hot buzz. It would end up grossing $176 million stateside and garnering four Oscar nods, including Best Picture. Peele won the gold statue for Original Screenplay.

Initial consensus for Us suggests it’s scarier than Get Out, though some reviews don’t quite put it at the level of Peele’s first pic. I’ll say that if Us can resonate with audiences in a manner similar to Out, it could find itself in the Oscar conversation (especially Original Screenplay). And it might be worth keeping an eye on Lupita Nyong’o in lead actress as an outside possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…