Oscar Predictions: The Humans

Adapting his own Tony Award winning play, Stephen Karam’s The Humans has debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. The initial buzz is encouraging for Oscar consideration. A Thanksgiving drama that critics are already calling a different kind of horror experience, the ensemble includes Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, and June Squibb.

Coming as no real surprise, it’s Houdyshell (the only holdover from Broadway) and Jenkins who stand the best shots at acting recognition. Jenkins is a two-time nominee (once in lead for 2008’s The Visitor and in supporting for 2017’s The Shape of Water). Houdyshell is a newcomer to the dance. Based on early chatter, I suspect both have excellent shots in their respective supporting fields.

It is possible that the dark material (even the praising write-ups call it cold) could prevent The Humans from reaching Picture. However, I feel better about its chances now that it’s screened. Same goes for Adapted Screenplay. If it really catches the fancy of the Academy, the leftover effect could even be Karam making a bid for his direction.

Bottom line: The Humans has put itself in contention for numerous races. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Watch: Palmer

I’m sad to report that Palmer starring Justin Timberlake does not feature the pop superstar playing 1980s “Addicted to Love” crooner Robert Palmer (that would be pretty sweet). Instead the drama (streaming on Apple TV this Friday) casts JT as a former felon caring for a young boy. Fisher Stevens directs with a supporting cast featuring Juno Temple, Ryder Allen, Alisha Wainwright, and June Squibb.

As of late, Timberlake has mostly focused on his music efforts. His acting credits in recent years has primarily consisted of voice work in the Trolls franchise. Some critics have praised his performance here, but the 56% Rotten Tomatoes score indicates this won’t be an awards contender.

Bottom line: Palmer doesn’t have the look of a late breaking Academy hopeful and it should be easy for voters to simply resist it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hubie Halloween Movie Review

Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems. 

Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).

As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.

Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.

The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Palm Springs

Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/10/palm-springs-movie-review/

The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.

So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.

I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Palm Springs Movie Review

Maybe it’s possible that the idea of living the same day over and over again is just something that resonates during these strange COVID-19 times. Or maybe Palm Springs really is a fresh and highly satisfying take on the Groundhog Day concept. I think it’s the latter and what a pleasant surprise.

You cannot have this plot without thinking of the incomparable Bill Murray comedy. The concept has repeated itself in the action and horror genres with Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day. Springs plays with the formula in unexpected ways. Another SNL alum headlines with Andy Samberg as Nyles. He’s the aimless boyfriend to younger Misty (Meredith Hagner) and he’s tagging along to her friend’s wedding in the title town. We realize quickly that something is really off with his behavior. It turns out that he’s already well along the way into his time loop and has been living this day repeatedly. This is the first realization that the screenplay from Andy Siara is playing by a different set of rules by dispensing with the origin story of Nyles’s Groundhog Day. This is a welcome change.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti, tough and sometimes vulnerable and terrific in this role) is the sister of the bride. She’s got character flaws equal to Nyles that aren’t because of the time loop. Yet that quickly changes when she joins him on the endless day. What follows is the duo attempting to figure out just what the heck is happening (the science fiction elements involve a mysterious cave and a goat).

They are occasionally joined in their adventure by another wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons, engaging as always) who got sucked into the vortex. It’s also possible that Nyles and Sarah are slowly – very slowly – falling in love. Or is it just that they only have each other in this untenable scenario?

The less said about how the plot rolls along the better. There are genuine revelations that I didn’t see coming, but it all fits into this clever version of a well-worn tale. This is the best Samberg has been on film and Milioti easily equals his work. We see this budding romance develop over many days, albeit the same one. As a credit to the whole team involved, it’s a lot of time well spent.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Father Figures Box Office Prediction

Looking to tickle the funny bones of audiences over the long holiday weekend, Father Figures debuts next Friday. The pic casts Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as brothers searching for their biological pops after mom Glenn Close informs them it could be several men. J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, and Terry Bradshaw (playing himself) are among them. Katt Williams, June Squibb, and Harry Shearer are included in the supporting cast with Lawrence Sher directing.

Originally titled Bastards, the comedy was originally slated by Warner Bros. for a November 2016 opening before a delay until January 2017 and finally this Christmastime release. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence with the multiple push backs.

Figures has plenty of competition and of the five wide releases premiering over the weekend, it will likely place fifth among them. Its best hope would be to replicate what Why Him? (last year’s Christmas entry in the genre) did with $15.5 million over the four-day frame.

That could be wishful thinking. I’ll predict this only reaches high single digits to low double digits for its roll out.

Father Figures opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my Pitch Perfect 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/pitch-perfect-3-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Downsizing prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/13/downsizing-box-office-prediction/

Love the Coopers Box Office Prediction

The Christmas season hits the box office in mid November as the holiday themed  Love the Coopers opens next Friday. With an all-star cast including John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Arkin, the family affair will look to cash in with audiences looking for some Xmas cheer.

Its prospects are a bit sketchy. Trailers and TV spots for Coopers have done little to make it look like another run of the mill big ensemble experience. Its best hope is to bring in a female audience looking for a diversion from James Bond, which should still be performing like gang busters in weekend #2.

That might be enough to help it reach double digits, though I don’t believe that’s guaranteed. I could actually see this debuting in line with The Family Stone, a similarly themed comedy which opened 10 years ago. Solid word of mouth could push it to perform in subsequent weekends yet that remains to be seen.

Love the Coopers opening weekend prediction: $11.3 million

For my The 33 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/06/the-33-box-office-prediction/

For my My All-American prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/07/my-all-american-box-office-prediction/

2014 Oscars: Best Supporting Actress Prediction

With the Oscars less than a month away – today I begin my picks on who will win in the six major categories at the ceremony. There will be a final round of predictions for all the races – probably two days prior to the telecast. We begin with Best Supporting Actress. Let’s recap the nominees, shall we?

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

The precursor awards have been split among Lawrence and Nyong’o. The Golden Globes, New York Film Critics, and National Society of Film Critics went with Lawrence while the SAG Awards and Critics Choice bestowed Nyong’o with the honor.

Simply put, this race appears to be down to those two ladies. A win for Hawkins, Roberts, or Squibb would be a major upset. Last year, Lawrence won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook and a victory for her here would pull off the rare feat of an actor winning two years in a row. The last time it occurred was 20 years ago with back-to-back wins for Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

American Hustle received nominations in all four acting categories and Lawrence’s inclusion represents the best shot at a win. That said, I believe the slight momentum is on the side of Nyong’o. Her nomination also represents the greatest chance for 12 Years to get a win in the acting races. From a statistics point of view – I’d put it at about 55% Lupita, 45% J-Law at this juncture and we’ll see if that remains the case in my final picks a few weeks from now.

Predicted Winner for Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Next up: Best Supporting Actor Prediction

2014 Oscar Predictions: Todd’s FINAL Predictions

The time has come to make my FINAL predictions for the Oscars. Nominations will be out on Thursday and I’m predicting every category that involves feature films. Therefore, the animated and documentary short films will not be predicted. I have written extensively about why I’m predicting certain movies, performers, and so on. That time is over. Here is my final listing of what and who I believe will be honored. The predictions are written by order of chances of nomination and I am listing runner-ups for each race in case some of my picks don’t pan out (which is guaranteed to happen). And here we go:

BEST PICTURE

1. 12 Years a Slave

2. Gravity

3. American Hustle

4. Nebraska

5. Inside Llewyn Davis

6. Her

7. Captain Phillips

8. The Wolf of Wall Street

9. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Runner-Ups:

10. Saving Mr. Banks

11. Philomena

12. Blue Jasmine

13. Lee Daniels’ The Butler

14. August: Osage County

15. Lone Survivor

16. Fruitvale Station

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

3. David O. Russell, American Hustle

4. Alexander Payne, Nebraska

5. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Runner-Ups:

6. Spike Jonze, Her

7. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

8. Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST ACTOR

1. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

2. Bruce Dern, Nebraska

3. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club

4. Robert Redford, All is Lost

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Runner-Ups:

6. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

7. Christian Bale, American Hustle

8. Joaquin Phoenix, Her

9. Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

BEST ACTRESS

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity

3. Judi Dench, Philomena

4. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Runner-Ups:

6. Amy Adams, American Hustle

7. Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Colour

8. Brie Larson, Short Term 12

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

2. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

3. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

4. Daniel Bruhl, Rush

5. Will Forte, Nebraska

Runner-Ups:

6. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

7. Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks

8. James Gandolfini, Enough Said

9. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

3. June Squibb, Nebraska

4. Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

Runner-Ups:

6. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

7. Margo Martindale, August: Osage County

8. Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. American Hustle

2. Nebraska

3. Inside Llewyn Davis

4. Her

5. Blue Jasmine

Runner-Ups:

6. Dallas Buyer’s Club

7. Gravity

8. Fruitvale Station

9. Lee Daniels’ The Butler

10. Saving Mr. Banks

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

1. 12 Years a Slave

2. Philomena

3. Before Midnight

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

5. Captain Phillips

Runner-Ups:

6. August: Osage County

7. The Book Thief

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

1. Frozen

2. The Wind That Rises

3. Ernest&Celestine

4. Monsters University

5. Despicable Me 2

Runner-Ups:

6. The Croods

7. A Letter to Mono

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1. 12 Years a Slave

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

4. Gravity

5. The Invisible Woman

Runner-Ups:

6. Saving Mr. Banks

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Oz the Great and Powerful

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1. Gravity

2. 12 Years a Slave

3. Rush

4. Inside Llewyn Davis

5. Captain Phillips

Runner-Ups:

6. Nebraska

7. All is Lost

8. Prisoners

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

1. The Great Gatsby

2. American Hustle

3. 12 Years a Slave

4. The Invisible Woman

5. The Book Thief

Runner-Ups:

6. Saving Mr. Banks

7. Oz the Great and Powerful

BEST FILM EDITING

1. Gravity

2. 12 Years a Slave

3. American Hustle

4. Captain Phillips

5. Rush

Runner-Ups:

6. The Wolf of Wall Street

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Lone Survivor

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

1. American Hustle

2. The Lone Ranger

3. The Great Gatsby

Runner-Ups:

4. Dallas Buyer’s Club

5. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

BEST SOUND MIXING

1. Gravity

2. Rush

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

4. Captain Phillips

5. Lone Survivor

Runner-Ups:

6. All is Lost

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

8. 12 Years a Slave

BEST SOUND EDITING

1. Gravity

2. Captain Phillips

3. Rush

4. Pacific Rim

5. All is Lost

Runner-Ups:

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

7. Lone Survivor

8. Man of Steel

9. World War Z

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1. Gravity

2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

3. Pacific Rim

4. Iron Man 3

5. World War Z

Runner-Ups:

6. Star Trek Into Darkness

7. Elysium

8. Oblivion

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1. 12 Years a Slave

2. Gravity

3. The Book Thief

4. Saving Mr. Banks

5. Her

Runner-Ups:

6. Monsters University

7. All is Lost

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

1. “Let It Go” from Frozen

2. “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

3. “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby

4. “In the Middle of the Night” from Lee Daniels’ The Butler

5. “The Moon Song” from Her

Runner-Ups:

6. “So You Know What It’s Like” from Short Term 12

7. “Rise Up” from Epic

8. “Sweeter than Fiction” from One Chance

I’m not listing alternates for the final two predicted categories, mostly because I’m supremely not confident with my limited knowledge for these races.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Grandmaster

The Great Beauty

The Hunt

Omar

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The Act of Killing

Blackfish

The Square

Stories We Tell

20 Feet from Stardom

This means my predictions would garner the following number of nominations for these pictures:

10 Nominations – 12 Years a Slave, Gravity

8 Nominations – American Hustle

6 Nominations – Captain Phillips, Nebraska

5 Nominations – Rush

4 Nominations – The Great Gatsby, Her, The Wolf of Wall Street

3 Nominations – Dallas Buyer’s Club, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis

2 Nominations – All is Lost, August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, The Book Thief, Frozen, The Invisible Woman, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Pacific Rim, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks

1 Nomination – Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Lone Survivor, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, World War Z

And there you have Todd’s final Oscar predictions. I will have reaction in a blog post Thursday once nominations are released and include a tally of how I did!