Oscar Watch: The Mauritanian

Political legal drama The Mauritanian, which tells of the true life trial of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, hits theaters on February 19th and its embargo lifted this week. Kevin Macdonald, who directed Forest Whitaker to a Best Actor Oscar in The Last King of Scotland, is behind the camera with a cast headlined by Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Zachary Levi.

Critical reaction thus far is quite mixed with a 55% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Distributor STX Entertainment has already announced the category placements of Rahim for lead actor and two-time winner Foster for Supporting Actress. They are the two performers getting the most praise for their work.

However, the subject matter and the so-so feedback will present a challenge for The Mauritanian to reach audiences and awards voters. Two years ago, the similarly themed The Report had a much better Tomatoes rating (82%) and a thought that Annette Bening could contend in Supporting Actress. That never materialized and I’d be surprised if this ends up being a player in a couple of months. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Whitney

There’s been some high-profile documentaries as of late focused on high-profile people. This Friday, that trend continues with the release of Whitney. It covers the life of the late Whitney Houston and is directed by Kevin Macdonald. He’s known for making fictional efforts such as The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, as well as critically heralded docs Touching the Void and Marley (which covered another legendary musician).

Whitney screened in May at the Cannes Film Festival to positive notices (the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 90% right now). In order for it to be noticed by Oscar voters, it would need to get on equal footing with other recent acclaimed docs like RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

This could be a challenge. My feeling is that Whitney may have trouble making the short list come nomination time as voters may save their love for other entries.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…