Get those pens (not pencils) ready for one nominee in the Animated Feature race at the 96th Academy Awards. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out this weekend. The sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is drawing similar reactions to its predecessor. That means some serious raves as it currently stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes (on par with the 97% for part 1).
In December 2018, Into upended the animated category. Any hope that Incredibles 2 or Isle of Dogs held for taking the prize fell by the wayside upon its release. That happened late in the calendar for the first Spidey. We are not even at the midpoint of 2023 and Across has established itself as the strong frontrunner. Pixar’s Elemental, which drew so-so chatter from Cannes, may even struggle to make the final cut of five nominees.
Across is guaranteed a slot and is a huge threat to win no matter what follows in the next few months. It is only the first half of two sequels as Beyond the Spider-Verse follows in March of next year. You can safely assume it might be a hopeful for the 97th Academy Awards.
As for other competitions, I suppose Adapted Screenplay is feasible if Sony were to make a dedicated push. Critics are also pointing out the visual effects. Yet animated titles struggle to get noticed in that particular derby. It’s more likely this will stick to Animated Feature and it could very well stick the landing. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into multiplexes on June 2nd and hopes to start the month off on a high note. The animated sequel is the follow-up to 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse, which drew widespread critical acclaim resulting in a Best Animated Feature Oscar. It also grossed nearly $200 million domestically and $384 million worldwide.
There’s a trio of directors in Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson. Shameik Moore is back behind the mic as Miles/Spidey. Other performers voicing additional versions of the hero and other characters include Hailee Steinfeld (back as Spider-Woman), Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac, Greta Lee, Shea Whigham, and Andy Samberg.
Parts 2 and 3 of the franchise were assembled at the same time. Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse is slated for March 2024. In December 2018, part 1 started out with $35 million before legging out impressively to a $190 million stateside haul. Achieving a rare A+ Cinemascore rating, it stands to reason that audiences should be pumped for the sequel.
In the summer (as opposed to December), tentpoles are expected to post a gigantic opening immediately. Some forecasts have their projection as rosy as $120 million. That’s certainly possible, but I’ll temper expectations a bit and say $90-100 million is probably where this Verse starts.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opening weekend prediction: $96.4 million
Disney/Pixar’s second 2020 release Soul has long been seen as their most viable Oscar contender over this spring’s Onward. Today’s buzz after it held the first screening at the London Film Festival confirms that. The jazz infused tale from Pete Docter and Kemp Powers is being called two familiar adjectives in the studio’s lexicon – heartfelt and crowd pleasing. Soul, after experiencing delays due to the COVID pandemic, is slated for a Disney+ debut on Christmas Day.
Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett, several reviews are already claiming it’s in the upper echelon of Pixar pics. Docter is no stranger to Academy love. All three of his directorial efforts – Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out – were nominated for Best Animated Feature. The latter two emerged victorious and Up is one of three animated flicks to achieve a Best Picture nomination.
The question is not whether Soul will make the final cut in Animated Feature. It absolutely will and it’s absolutely the strong front runner to win. A better debate is whether this is the fourth animated effort to contend for the big prize. I don’t believe that’s automatic. Inside Out also garnered sterling critical reaction in 2015 and fell short of that achievement. However, Soul has solidified its position as a legit hopeful.
Additionally, expect Best Sound and the Original Score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to be in the mix. Bottom line: Soul helped it cause to play beyond Animated Feature. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
When it comes to picking up hardware at awards shows for her acting, Regina King has been killing it lately. She’s won three Emmys for two different TV shows in the past half decade and may well win a fourth in a couple of weeks for HBO’s Watchmen. In 2019, King took Supporting Actress at the Oscars for If Beale Street Could Talk.
And now the Venice Film Festival has opened up real possibilities for her feature film directorial debut. One Night in Miami is based on the 2013 stage play by Kemp Powers, who adapted his own work here. It tells the fictionalized story of a real historical meeting involving Cassius Clay (before the name change to Ali) on the night he defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. The champ met with some other familiar names – Malcolm X, football star Jim Brown, and soul crooner Sam Cooke.
Reviews are out based on the Venice screening and Miami will be traveling to the Toronto Film Festival later this week. The verdict is strong so far with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Simply put, this feels like a legitimate contender for Oscar attention.
The acting placements will be interesting to watch. Of the four leading characters, conventional wisdom is that all four will contend in Supporting Actor. They are Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X, Eli Goree as Clay, Aldis Hodge as Brown, and Leslie Odom, Jr. as Cooke. The whole quartet is receiving raves, but I’d give it a slight edge for Ben-Adir to emerge out of the pack. If he does so, he would be the second performer nominated for playing X behind Denzel Washington for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. If Goree were to emerge, he would also be the second actor recognized for playing Ali after Will Smith portrayed him in Michael Mann’s Ali.
Furthermore, a directing nod for King would make its own history as she would be the first African-American female to make the final cut (only five women have been nominated total in the Academy’s history). Powers could in the mix for his Adapted Screenplay and a Best Picture nod seems possible. Also of note: Odom performs a closing credits song titled “Speak Now” which is being mentioned as a probable contender in Original Song.
Bottom line: one night in Venice has upped the visibility for One Night in Miami to be a player on the circuit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…