Best Supporting Actress: A Look Back

Today begins a new blog series where I’m looking back at five of the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present: the four acting races and Best Picture. This is essentially the time period where I’ve closely watched and analyzed. My charge? Picking the three largest upsets in each said category and the three least surprising winners… a film or performer where it truly would have been a shock if they didn’t emerge victorious.

We begin with Best Supporting Actress and this is one in which there have been some genuine upsets over the past quarter century plus. Unlike some other races we’ll get to later, it was not a challenge to pick three unexpected winners.

The other agenda item here is I’m picking my personal selections for strongest and weakest overall field among the five nominees in the acting derby’s and five-ten for Best Picture.

For starters, here’s the list of women that won gold statues in the supporting race from 1990 to now:

1990 – Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost

1991 – Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King

1992 – Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

1993 – Anna Paquin, The Piano

1994 – Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

1995 – Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite

1996 – Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

1997 – Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential

1998 – Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love

1999 – Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted

2000 – Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

2001 – Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

2003 – Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

2004 – Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

2005 – Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner

2006 – Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

2007 – Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

2008 – Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

2009 – Mo’Nique, Precious

2010 – Melissa Leo, The Fighter

2011 – Octavia Spencer, The Help

2012 – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

2013 – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

2015 – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

2016 – Viola Davis, Fences

2017 – Allison Janney, I, Tonya

I’ll begin with the least surprising winners. Truthfully, there are plenty of selections (and will be in each race) to pick from here. It’s normal procedure for the front runner to actually win. Here’s three that did just that:

3. Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

Of the 28 recipients to choose from, note that 3 of them were under the direction of Woody Allen. None were surprise winners. That’s most evident with Wiest’s showcase work as an aging diva here. Her win here came just eight years following her Oscar winning role in another Allen pic, Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Fans of the Broadway play this is based upon knew Ms. Hudson could have a legitimate breakthrough part here. She nailed it and her win was never in much doubt.

1. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Similar to Hudson’s victory, Hathaway’s casting as Fantine and her “I Dreamed a Dream” dramatic solo made her the odds-on favorite from the moment the project was announced. That never changed.

Now we get to the upsets and there were four to choose from. I could easily include Anna Paquin in The Piano, who became the second youngest winner when she beat out favorite Winona Ryder for The Age of Innocence. Here’s 3 I rank as even more surprising:

3. Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

Harden had won no significant precursors and Kate Hudson was expected to have her name called for Almost Famous. She wasn’t even nominated for a Golden Globe or SAG.

2. Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

While the film itself was the anticipated winner for Picture (which it did), the Oscars were expected to select the legendary Lauren Bacall for her work in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. Yet it was Binoche’s performance that was unexpectedly honored.

1. Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

For starters, comedic roles are rarely nominated and wins are even more unheard of. Tomei was a newcomer in a picture that wasn’t a factor in any other category. Her competition was a list of venerable actresses: Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives), Joan Plowright (Enchanted April), Vanessa Redgrave (Howards End), and Miranda Richardson (Damages). The victory here was so shocking that conspiracy theories emerged that presenter Jack Palance had accidentally read the wrong name. That’s been debunked, but Tomei’s trip to the stage remains one of Oscar’s largest jaw droppers.

As for the fields, I’m going with 1991 for the weakest link in the chain. I probably would have given the award to Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear. However, the group was not particularly strong:

Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King (Winner)

Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose

Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear

Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides

Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes

For the strongest field overall, I went with 2004 when Cate Blanchett won for her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. The other nominees:

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

And there you have it! I’ll have Supporting Actor up soon…

Fifty Shades Freed Movie Review

A franchise can’t run out of steam if it never gathered any to begin with. That is the legacy of the Fifty Shades films and it climaxes limply with Fifty Shades Freed. The third and final (!) entry in the romantic saga of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele-Grey (Dakota Johnson), we open with the lovebirds tying the knot. And by tying the knot, I mean they’re getting married and not just tying some knot as part of their wild sex escapades. We’ve seen that before and it’s a major reason why the pictures (based on the E.L. James bestsellers) have their legions of fans.

Their wedded bliss is relatively short-lived, though describing anything as short-lived is generous in this sluggishly paced series. For one thing, Ana’s stalker Jack (Eric Johnson) is causing mischief once again. There’s also feelings of jealousy happening with Christian’s former flame (Kim Basinger). That subplot actually gets less screen time than the relationship woes of Ana’s best bud (Eloise Mumford) and Christian’s brother (Luke Grimes). What do these storylines have in common? None of them are interesting. For a trilogy wanting to burst with lustful excitement, Freed and its predecessors have been so very listless.

I was never familiar with the source material from which these movies were spawned. Upon viewing Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time, I was more than willing to keep an open mind and try to understand how the novels become phenomenons. Three tales later, I just don’t get it and that certainly applies to its cinematic renderings. The performances of Johnson and Dornan still come across as flat. My previous descriptions of the “hot scenes” being no more gripping than late night Cinemax still stands (the writing is no better either).

Thankfully I can now officially close that once open mind when it comes to Christian and Anastasia. I am freed.

* (out of four)

Fifty Shades Freed Box Office Prediction

For the third Valentine’s Day frame in the past four years, the romantic adventures of Anastasia and Christian will be on display for moviegoers when Fifty Shades Freed opens next weekend. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return with James Foley (who made previous entry Fifty Shades Darker) directing. Costars include Kim Basinger, Eric Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden, and Rita Ora.

This is the third and final chapter of the franchise based on E.L. James’s sultry bestsellers. The trailer reminds us to not miss the climax (get it?). The series has been a popular one for Universal Pictures, but there was a significant dip between 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey and 2017 sequel Darker. Three years ago, Grey premiered to $85 million with an eventual $166 million domestic haul. Darker managed $46 million for its start with $114 million overall.

Freed appears likely to follow that downward trend, but its drop shouldn’t be nearly as pronounced as the last one. Current estimates have this hovering around the $40 million mark and that seems about right. I’ll say it falls just under that as fans bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Grey.

Fifty Shades Freed opening weekend prediction: $38.4 million

For my Peter Rabbit prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/31/peter-rabbit-box-office-prediction/

For my The 15:17 to Paris prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/31/the-1517-to-paris-box-office-prediction/

Fifty Shades Darker Movie Review

There’s a scene towards the end of Fifty Shades Darker where we find ourselves in Christian Grey’s childhood bedroom. He is engaged in deep conversation with Anastasia Steele. Instead of giving anywhere near a damn about what they were discussing, I found myself distracted by the movie poster in his room: The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel.

For the next couple of minutes, my mind wandered to the following questions: What made the set designers pick that 2004 sci-fi flick? What made them deduce that their lead character with a penchant for dominance and sadism would choose that film over any other? I thought about what age Christian would have been when it was released. 17 maybe? Here’s a guy, even as a youngster, that could have bought any movie poster, yet he chose The Chronicles of Riddick. Then I realized the fact that I was preoccupied with this minor piece of set decoration said a lot. I didn’t really care about anything else in that bedroom and or anyone in it.

Fifty Shades Darker is the sequel to 2015’s smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey and continues the saga of that man with the Riddick poster (Jamie Dornan) and book editor Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). Their romance was originated in a series of wildly popular E.L. James novels. As I opined in my one star review of Grey, I tried my best to understand its mass appeal to viewers and readers, but just couldn’t get there. Yet here we are again. When we last left the lovers, they had broken up because Anastasia just couldn’t quite get there with Christian’s kinky preferences. It takes about ten minutes of screen time for her to inexplicably change her mind and they’re back at it.

Part two does bring some new dynamics and characters into the fold. Anastasia’s new boss (Eric Johnson) wants more than her editing services. Christian’s sexual mentor (Kim Basinger) keeps popping up, as does a former lover (Bella Heathcote) who’s still subservient to her former master. These subplots lead to jealousy on both ends. There’s also a bit of exploration of Christian’s troubled childhood. All of these items seem like wind up to whatever the inevitable third picture will bring. There’s no pay off.

Instead we get a whole lot of conversations between our two leads and two underwhelming actors playing them. More than anything, the Fifty Shades series rises and falls with the chemistry of Dornan and Johnson. Once again, its mostly non-existent. The franchise’s selling point is the sex scenes and even they’re nothing more than what you’d see on cable after dark.

That said, I’m awarding Fifty Shades Darker a whole half star more than Grey. Why? Good question. Johnson’s acting is probably a half star better. There is perhaps a half star’s worthy more plot developments than in the first. Or maybe the Riddick poster distraction put me in a better mood. Who knows? The more likely reasoning is I’ve become more numb to the pain this unfortunate series has inflicted on me.

*1/2 (out of four)

Fifty Shades Darker Box Office Prediction

Two years ago, the film version of the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey made a killing in theaters. This prompted the back to back shooting of second and third sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Next weekend, Darker hits screens and hopes to keep the momentum going.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back in the roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey as their, shall we say, unique love life is further explored. Costars include Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, and Rita Ora. James Foley takes over directorial duties from Sam Taylor-Johnson (Foley will also helm the third installment out in February 2018).

The initial pairing of these kinky leads led to a box office bonanza in February 2015 when Grey took in an astonishing $85 million in its first weekend with an eventual domestic haul of $166 million.

Early tracking suggests Darker is highly unlikely to compete with that opening frame gross. In fact, it’s been speculated that this follow-up may only earn about half that number. This sounds about right. While Grey easily took the #1 spot out of the gate, this opens against The Lego Batman Movie and probably won’t whip that serious competition. I’ll say Darker gets to the mid 40s for its start, which is still pretty solid considering its reported $55M budget.

Fifty Shades Darker opening weekend prediction: $44.8 million

For my The Lego Batman Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/02/the-lego-batman-movie-box-office-prediction/

For my John Wick: Chapter 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/02/john-wick-chapter-2-box-office-prediction/

The Nice Guys Movie Review

Shane Black knows his way around kick ass action flicks injected with humor – much of it loaded with profanity, kids in danger, and booze and cigarettes. This is the man who wrote Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Fans of Black can spot the rhythm of his screenplays a mile away. I suspect, by the way, that Quentin Tarantino was influenced by some of Black’s beats for his later compositions.

In 2005, he directed his first feature, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was an often hilariously trippy private eye tale for the ages and truly ushered in the comeback of one Robert Downey Jr. (with a glorious Val Kilmer at his side). The Nice Guys puts the auteur right back in Bang Bang territory after a nice excursion into blockbuster land with 2010’s Iron Man 3.

For admirers who have gobbled up Black’s words over the past three decades, this is a return to form that doesn’t quite match his finest work. Yet it’s satisfying nonetheless and contains some real laugh out loud moments. This is a buddy flick that would’ve been right at home being made in the 1980s, but it’s set in 1977 Los Angeles. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are both private eyes. Neither is exceptionally bright and in true Black fashion, Gosling’s teenage daughter is often the smartest person in the room. Crowe is more an enforcer who transacts business through broken bones. Gosling is more of a con artist.

The pair become embroiled in a dense plot that involves murdered porn stars, an endangered porn actress whose Mom (Kim Basinger) runs the Justice Department, and an assortment of goons and henchman who would be right at home tormenting Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans in Last Boy Scout. The plot is secondary in these proceedings to the dialogue.

Black revels in these shady characters who occasionally experience flashes of humanity. Not too much though and that’s what we kind of hope for and expect. One character gives up his years long sobriety by our conclusion and it’s practically treated as a moment of valor. I wouldn’t have it any other way from the guy behind the camera and typewriter (he probably doesn’t use a typewriter anymore, but I prefer to believe otherwise).

Crowe and Gosling seem to be having a ball, too. Matt Bomer stands out as the most memorable henchman in a pic filled with disposable ones. There were more lines and setups that killed in Kiss Kiss to put it on another level from this. There’s more than enough of that bloody Black humor to make this worthwhile, including the most unexpected use of Richard Nixon since at least Point Break.

*** (out of four)

The Nice Guys Box Office Prediction

Shane Black was known as a high-priced screenwriter in the 1980s and 90s with features like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight to his credit. In 2005, he made his directorial debut with the critical hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then made a mega-hit in 2010 with Iron Man 3. His third feature is The Nice Guys, out next weekend.

Set in 1970s L.A., this buddy cop action/comedy stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and its release date could be a hindrance for box office success. Many comedy fans may turn their attention to its competition, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Strong reviews could help and that could get this to low teens.

Even though trailers and TV spots have been pretty darn funny in my view, among newbies Neighbors and Angry Birds – it’s highly likely that Nice Guys will finish last. It stands a better shot at becoming a cult hit than an actual one.

The Nice Guys opening weekend prediction: $14.4 million

For my Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/11/neighbors-2-sorority-rising-box-office-prediction/

For my The Angry Birds Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/11/the-angry-birds-movie-box-office-prediction/