Oscar Watch: The Front Runner

Director Jason Reitman debuted his newest feature at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend. It’s a venue that he probably has affection for. Both 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Up in the Air premiered in Colorado and went on to garner Best Picture nominations. On the other hand, his last feature to open there (2014’s Labor Day) saw its awards hopes dashed upon critical reaction.

This brings us to The Front Runner, which recounts Gary Hart’s failed 1988 Presidential campaign. Hugh Jackman plays him with Vera Farmiga as his wife. The buzz from Telluride includes some solid reviews, with some claiming it shares the vibe of Robert Altman’s 1970s works. However, not all write-ups have been raves.

This puts The Front Runner in a position of uncertainty. It could face an uphill battle for Picture or Director nods (as well as Adapted Screenplay). Jackman has only one Academy Awards nomination to his credit for 2012’s Les Miserables. He didn’t manage to score recognition last year for two high-profile roles in Logan or The Greatest Showman. Farmiga also has one nod to her credit courtesy of Reitman’s Up in the Air. Both are possibilities, but far from slam dunks in Actor and Supporting Actress.

Bottom line: let’s see how future buzz plays out, but The Front Runner might find itself on the back burner for Oscar chatter.

The film opens November 7 in the United States. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Young Adult and Tully Movie Review

Two films this decade have combined the talents of director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody, and star Charlize Theron. Both have given Theron, who won a deserved Oscar 15 years ago for Monster another opportunity to step out of action heroine mode. That’s where she’s resided a lot recently and Reitman’s camera and Cody’s words have given her a chance to stretch.

Young Adult from 2011 is more rough around the edges, more uncomfortable, and ultimately more memorable. Theron is Mavis, who spends a little time ghost writing YA novels and the rest of her life in an aimless haze of alcohol and unreachable fantasy. She grew up in the small town of Mercury, Minnesota and moved on up to Minneapolis. When Mavis receives an email announcing the arrival of her high school sweetheart’s baby, it triggers a road trip. Her heart is set on getting Buddy (Patrick Wilson) back. Mavis seems blissfully (and often drunkenly) oblivious that his Buddy’s wife (Elizabeth Reaser) is a pretty cool mom, special ed instructor, and part-time band drummer.

Patton Oswalt’s Matt becomes Mavis’s drinking buddy and earpiece to her plans. Matt was badly assaulted in school in a sort of hate crime. They form a sad and occasionally sweet partnership accentuated by two fine performers playing them.

The title of this picture doesn’t only apply to the genre of novels that Mavis authors. She may be 37, but her mind is stuck in two decades old reversal. You may hear her bragging about leaving her small town roots, but she’s never fully escaped those prom queen days. Cody deserves kudos for making the central character a complicated one. You’ll cringe at her and sympathize with her moments later.

Tully from the spring of this year finds Theron in a different mode. She’s Marlo, a frazzled mother of two youngsters (one of whom has special needs). She’s extremely pregnant with a third when we meet her. While Mavis was the small town gal who made it out, Marlo made it to New York City in her youth and returned to the burbs. She finds her existence mundane with her little ones and slightly dull hubby (Ron Livingston). Her well off brother offers to foot the bill for a night nanny with the hope of restoring some balance to her long days and sleep deprived evenings.

This is when the free-spirited Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives. She doesn’t just help out with the new infant, but provides a sounding board to Marlo’s issues. Theron’s character here is more sympathetic while still maintaining some of the quirks (a word that gets some humorous play here) that we expect from Cody’s writing.

Theron’s award winning turn in Monster found her shedding her outward beauty. You find that in both projects here to varying degrees. Tully is more deliberate in its pacing and an act three revelation doesn’t feel as profound as it wants to be. It’s still worth your time for Theron’s work and some incisive commentary about the joys and sorrows of parenthood.

Young Adult is a bit more brave in its script and overall execution. You may not have any clue how Mavis will end up in life when the credits roll, but the time spent with her is even more rewarding on a cinematic level.

Young Adult

***1/2 (out of four)

Tully

*** (out of four)

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

Tully Box Office Prediction

A brave airline pilot executes a miraculous landing on the Hudson River…

Ok, wrong movie as Jason Reitman’s Tully is delivered to theaters next weekend. The comedic drama stars Charlize Theron as a frazzled mom who gets some help from a kindly sitter played by Mackenzie Davis. Ron Livingston costars.

Tully debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to strong critical notices and it sits at 93% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The film reunites Theron with her Young Adult director and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who also scripted Reitman’s Oscar nominated Juno. It’s a break from the action for Theron after pics including Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious, and Atomic Blonde.

Scheduled to debut on a rather low 1200 screens, Tully may open to a fairly smallish gross with hopes of legging out well in future weekends.

Tully opening weekend prediction: $5 million

For my Overboard prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/24/overboard-box-office-prediction/

For my Bad Samaritan prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/28/bad-samaritan-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Tully

A surprise addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate was a screening of Tully, the latest comedic drama from director Jason Reitman. The pic focuses on motherhood with the title character being played by Charlize Theron. It also marks Reitman’s third collaboration with writer Diablo Cody. The first – 2007’s Juno – received a host of Oscar nods. The second – 2011’s Young Adult – received no significant awards attention despite some solid reviews.

Early notices are positive and particularly praising of Theron’s work and the supporting performance of Mackenzie Davis as a nanny helping the frazzled Theron. Tully comes out stateside in April and that could be a hindrance to its Oscar potential. Voters will have to recall the work of the aforementioned actresses from months ago. If it hits at the box office, that could certainly help.

Bottom line: Tully could be a factor in both Actress and Supporting Actress, but time will tell.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Blond Ambition: Who Should Play Madonna?

There’s a well known thing in Hollywood referred to as The Black List, a compilation of screenplays that have yet to be produced. Executives in the film industry vote on which ones that they think are the best. Since the inception of the list in 2005, some that have made it on there eventually became awards worthy material. This includes eventual Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, and Spotlight. There’s Best Picture nominees like Babel, Juno, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, American Sniper and The Revenant. We have hit movies of all genres including Superbad, The Fighter, The Hangover, Arrival, and John Wick.

The 2016 Black List was released today and the pic that received the most votes caught my eye. It’s Blond Ambition, a biopic about Madonna that’s set in the 1980s as she was a struggling artist in NYC before becoming the world’s most famous Material Girl. Elyse Hollander is the screenwriter and it’s probably safe to assume this will be on the silver screen in relatively short order.

A well made Madonna biopic (paging Damien Chazelle to direct) could be quite a sight to behold. And, of course, it got me thinking. Who should play her? There’s always the option of casting an unknown. After all, taking on the role of music’s most successful female artist might work better with a performer unfamiliar to our eyes.

Yet one name in particular entered my mind when I read the news today: Chloe Grace Moretz. I think she could pull it off. Even if the film took a couple of years to get off the ground, she’s only 19 right now and would certainly fit the age appropriate timing of that are in its subject’s life. I also thought of Greta Gerwig and she could be interesting, but she’s in her early 30s and Madonna would be in her early to mid 20s here. It could still work though.

What say you? What other actresses could potentially do justice to Madge?

Oscar History: 2007

Tonight on the blog – we review the Oscars from 2007, continuing with my series of Oscar History posts. 2007 was a year in which the brilliant Coen Brothers finally received some Academy love. Their critically lauded No Country for Old Men won Best Picture and earned the twosome the Best Director prize. It’s hard to argue with the Academy’s choice of this terrific pic for the top prize.

In my view, There Will Be Blood would’ve been another deserving recipient and it was nominated for Best Picture, along with Joe Wright’s Atonement, Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton, and Jason Reitman’s Juno. I likely would’ve left Atonement and Juno off the list and considered David Fincher’s meticulously crafted Zodiac and/or Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.

A running theme of my Oscar posts has been the Academy’s consistent lack of comedy inclusion and, for me, the genre’s 2007 highlight was Superbad, one of the finest raunch-fests in quite some time.

I was also a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ode to B movies, Grindhouse.

There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson was included in the Best Director race along with Gilroy and Reitman. Atonement director Joe Wright was the lone director left out whose film was nominated and Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was a bit of a surprise nominee. As mentioned, they all lost to the Coens. I would have certainly included Fincher’s work in Zodiac.

The Best Actor race was over as soon as Daniel Day-Lewis’s work in There Will Be Blood was seen and it would mark his second win after being honored for My Left Foot eighteen years earlier. Other nominees (who truly can say it was just an honor to be nominated after Day-Lewis’s tour de force): George Clooney in Michael Clayton, Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd, Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah, and Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises.

Nobody plays a calculating bad guy better than Denzel Washington and I probably would have found room for him with his turn in American Gangster.

In the Best Actress race, Marion Cotillard would win for La Vie En Rose – beating out Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages), and Ellen Page (Juno).

Leaving out Keira Knightley’s work in Atonement was a surprise. For my dark horse contender, Christina Ricci’s fearless work in Black Snake Moan might’ve made my cut.

Like the Best Actor category, the Supporting Actor race was over when audiences and critics saw Javier Bardem’s amazing performance in No Country for Old Men. Other nominees: Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War, Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild, and Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton.

Paul Dano’s performance in There Will Be Blood certainly should’ve been acknowledged here. Two others to consider: Robert Downey Jr.’s work as a boozy reporter in Zodiac and Kurt Russell’s hilarious and sadistic role in Grindhouse.

The Supporting Actress race belonged to Tilda Swinton as a ruthless attorney in Michael Clayton. She would win over double nominee Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There, Ruby Dee for American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan in Atonement, and Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone.

I would’ve included Kelly MacDonald as Josh Brolin’s wife in No Country for Old Men.

And there’s my take on the ’07 Oscars, my friends! I’ll have 2008 posted soon.