Best Picture 2017: The Final Five

We have reached 2017 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut? If you missed my write-ups centered on 2009-16, they are linked at the bottom of the post.

There were nine nominees for 2017’s competition. If there were 5, we know Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water would have made the quintet. It won BP along with Director, Original Score, and Production Design and received 13 nods total (easily the most of all).

Of the 8 remaining movies, here’s my thoughts on which half is in and which half and is out.

Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romance was a critical darling that won Adapted Screenplay. It was also up for Actor (Timothee Chalamet) and Original Song. The Academy likely almost nominated Armie Hammer for Supporting Actor and are probably glad they snubbed him.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I struggled with this call. An argument could be made with the Adapted Screenplay victory. However, none of the other four nominees in this category were BP nominees (extraordinarily rare). Call could’ve heard its name up, but I have it sixth or seventh.

Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill was a recipe for a Best Actor win and it was up for Production Design, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling (another victory), and Costume Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Despite its admirable turn in the tech derbies, this was all about Oldman. The lack of directing, screenplay, and editing noms leave this out. This is the rare occurrence where I’m saying the Best Actor winner’s movie doesn’t get in the BP race.

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s epic WWII tale earned 8 mentions (2nd behind Shape) and won 3 – both Sound races and Film Editing. Nolan also scored his first and only directing nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. I don’t think it’s 100% considering other contenders, but this probably had enough support and was generally considered Nolan’s strongest awards pic in his filmography.

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s heralded horror flick was a box office smash. Its other three nominations were Director, Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), and Original Screenplay where it beat out Shape of Water.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Like Dunkirk, not a guarantee but that screenplay statue (over the BP recipient and two other contenders) make me think so.

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age dramedy nabbed 5 inclusions with Director, Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Original Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Broken record… not a slam dunk considering it went 0 for 5. Yet it took the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy (over Get Out) and was highly acclaimed.

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial drama was an overachiever on nomination morning with six including Director, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actress (Lesley Manville), Score, and Costume Design (the sole win).

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I was tempted. It really did perform better than anticipated. I could also see it just missing considering the competition. It might have been sixth.

The Post

Steven Spielberg’s Watergate era drama received only one other nom for Meryl Streep in Actress.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No and this is by far the easiest projection. Spielberg’s magic probably got it in the mix, but I suspect it was ninth.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A player in 7 categories, Martin McDonagh’s pic took home Actress (Frances McDormand) and Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell). Woody Harrelson was also up for Supporting Actor in addition to Original Screenplay, Score, and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, even with McDonagh missing Director. If for no other reason, I can’t imagine the four acting winners having none of their movies up. That would be the case if you left this off considering Oldman’s Darkest Hour and I, Tonya (where Allison Janney took Supporting Actress) not being in the nine.

If you weren’t keeping score, here’s my projected 2017 five:

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll have my thoughts on 2018 up soon!

Previous Posts:

See How They Run Review

You know a genre has made a real comeback when the passably forgettable entries pop up. That’s an apt description for Tom George’s See How They Run which features lovely production design, a few humorous bits, and a murder mystery that’s hard to get invested in. The 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express and 2019’s Knives Out made whodunits a valuable commodity again as Run catches up with the trend.

This one is a little meta (very much of the times) as the killing occurs in London’s West End circa 1953. The Mousetrap, a play written by Agatha Christie, is celebrating its 100th performance. Side note: for some fun research, look up how long the actual play ran. American film director Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), a drunken louse, is slated to make the film adaptation. His inappropriate behavior puts him at odds with the stage performance’s lead Dickie Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), producers John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) and Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson), and screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo). Another side note as my 90s kid upbringing only left me slightly distracted that Dickie Attenborough would become a famed director who also happens to be John Hammond from Jurassic Park.

Moving on, Leo’s early narration correctly surmises that the most contemptible character in these stories usually gets offed. Therefore his time is short-lived and everyone onscreen seems to have a motive. Another drunken louse is in charge of the crime solving when Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) is assigned the case. Shadowing him is the eager but inexperienced Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan).

The chemistry between the two investigators is meant to carry the load for most of the snappy runtime (98 minutes). This is where the screenplay from Mark Chappell isn’t quite up to snuff. Rockwell speaks his lines in a woozy register that recalls Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Lady Bird‘s Ronan (like the rookie she’s portraying) gives it her all. Unfortunately the material is pretty thin. It might be considered a lesser tome from Christie, who factors into the plot in numerous ways. To put it simply, the case that Stoppard and his trusty Stalker are looking into isn’t that compelling.

See How They Run goes by quickly and there are a handful of inspired bits. When the action reaches a snowed in mansion in the third act, I wished the whole picture could’ve been set there. Most of it is as disposable as the victim.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Ammonite

When Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are romancing one another in a 19th century set costume drama, you better believe there’s going to be Oscar speculation. This is for good reason. Between the two performers, they’ve collected a staggering 11 Academy nods. There’s just one victory among them.

Francis Lee’s Ammonite has premiered this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. As mentioned, it casts Winslet as a paleontologist who strikes the fancy of Ronan’s wealthy wife. It is Lee’s follow-up to his hailed 2017 pic God’s Own Country.

Critical reception from up north does include some rave reviews. There are others that are decidedly more mixed and even negative. The Rotten Tomatoes score of 64% puts a Best Picture and Directing and Original Screenplay nomination into serious question. Right now, I would say it’s certainly iffy.

Tech nods like Costume Design, Score, and Production Design are feasible. Yet the main chatter centers on the leads. The likelihood is that Winslet will contend in lead Actress with Ronan in supporting. Winslet would be scoring her eighth nomination in 25 years. Her lone win was for 2008’s The Reader. Based on buzz, she appears poised to grab it. That said, let’s keep an eye on how competition plays out in the coming weeks. Frances McDormand (Nomadland) seems like a shoo-in for inclusion. There’s other potential heavy hitters in the wings, including Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Michele Pfeiffer (French Exit), and Jennifer Hudson (Respect) to name just three.

Ronan has achieved 4 nominations since 2007 for Atonement, Brooklyn, Lady Bird, and Little Women. She’s yet to walk to the podium. There’s a general feeling that her time is coming and I have had her ranked #1 in Supporting Actress since I began my weekly prediction posts last month. Now I’m wondering whether she even makes the final five. It is still a strong possibility, but I highly doubt you’ll see her atop the estimates this coming Thursday. I would say right now that 2020’s Supporting Actress winner probably hasn’t her movie screened yet.

Bottom line: the reception for Ammonite in Toronto raises more questions than it answers about its chances. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Saoirse Ronan

My Case of posts for Oscar contenders arrives at our third contestant for Best Actress… Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Let’s get into it!

The Case for Saoirse Ronan

Her work as Jo in the latest iteration of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel drew raves and robust box office. At age 25, Ronan has racked up an incredible 4 nominations: 2007’s Atonement, 2015’s Brooklyn, 2017’s Lady Bird, and now this. She’s yet to win and voters might feel it’s time.

The Case Against Saoirse Ronan 

Despite a couple of critics groups awards, Ronan has come up empty-handed in major precursors. Those losses have almost exclusively come at the hands of Renee Zellweger in Judy, who is rightly seen as the front runner. Ronan’s inclusion here was seen as a question mark all the way up to nomination morning.

The Verdict

The very high likelihood is that Ronan goes 0 for 4 come Oscar evening.

Up next in my Case of posts… Al Pacino in The Irishman!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Little Women

My Case of posts discussing the pros and cons of Oscar nominees in the major categories continues with Best Picture hopeful Little Women from director Greta Gerwig. If you missed my first four write-ups in the biggest race of all, you can read them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

The Case for Little Women

Based on the beloved 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel, Gerwig’s version of Little Women drew raves from the critical community. The 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating stands among the highest of the nine pictures. Previous adaptations have garnered Academy attention as well. The 1994 rendering saw Winona Ryder nominated for Actress in addition to Costume Design and Score. Back in 1949, that version took home Art Direction and got a Cinematography nod. Yet this is the first adaptation since 1933’s classic to be named in Best Picture. The box office is strong at $80 million as it looks to top the century mark before the ceremony airs.

The Case Against Little Women

It has missed numerous nominations in key precursors. The pic was ignored by SAG and didn’t get named in Picture at the Golden Globes. Gerwig didn’t make the final cut in Best Director from the Academy. As discussed before, it’s rare for the Picture recipient to win without attention there. Many prognosticators even questioned whether it would make it in this race and the same can be said for Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in their acting categories (though they did get in). The six nominations are certainly under the total count of the heavy hitters.

The Verdict

It is a remote possibility that Gerwig could win Adapted Screenplay since she was snubbed for Director. As far as this taking Best Picture, I wouldn’t look for the fourth time to be the charm among Alcott adaptations. This appears to be heading the route of Gerwig’s previous acclaimed effort Lady Bird which had five nominations and zero victories.

Up next in my Case of posts… Marriage Story!

Little Women Box Office Prediction

It’s certainly not the first adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s period drama novel released over 150 years ago, but the latest version of Little Women is the first for this generation. Greta Gerwig (coming off her Oscar nominated Lady Bird) directs and reunites with her star Saoirse Ronan. Other costars include Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep.

The reported $40 million production is garnering Oscar buzz and the Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 97%. As mentioned, this is the first adaptation of the famed novel since 1994. Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon headlined that iteration, which took in $50 million at the time domestically.

Little Women should prove to be a strong option for the female audience over the long holiday weekend. It opens Christmas Day and if history is any guide, its Wednesday and Thursday earnings might be about equal to the traditional weekend Friday to Sunday haul.

I’ll say the March sisters begin in the low to mid teens range for the final 2019 weekend and that means mid to high 20s for the five-day rollout.

Little Women opening weekend prediction: $14.5 million (Friday to Sunday); $28.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Spies in Disguise prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/spies-in-disguise-box-office-prediction/

For my Uncut Gems prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/22/uncut-gems-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Little Women

It’s been just over 150 years since Louisa May Alcott’s novel was published and 25 years since the last cinematic version to garner awards attention has been released. Now Greta Gerwig takes her turn adapting the classic Little Women for the big screen. Somewhat surprisingly, the pic skipped this fall’s festival circuit, but its first industry screenings were held this week.

The verdict? Advance word of mouth indicate it’s a winner, but its inclusion in Best Picture remains on the bubble. Same can be said for Director. Women comes two years after Gerwig broke out with Oscar voters for Lady Bird. She was nominated for her work behind the camera and for Original Screenplay. This time around, her inclusion in Adapted Screenplay seems feasible in a field that is a tad less crowded than Original.

A big question mark has been which actors from the ensemble cast will emerge as contenders. Saoirse Ronan (Gerwig’s Best Actress nominated Bird star) appears likely to get a nod for lead here. For Supporting Actress, voters have Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Emma Watson to choose from. Buzz strongly suggests Pugh is the most probable and deserving of the quartet. As for Dern, she’s already headed for a nomination for Marriage Story. Streep, who can never be totally counted out, appears destined to come up short (as is the case with her work in The Laundromat). The legend may have to be content with her 21 previous nominations and three victories. Timothee Chalamet is said to be a standout here, but Supporting Actor is extremely packed already and he’ll probably find himself on the outside looking in.

Down ballot nods for Production and Costume Design are near certainties and Alexandre Desplat’s score is a strong contender as well. Bottom line: Little Women could find itself in the awards mix in a major way. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Booksmart Box Office Prediction

The best known actress involved with Booksmart is making her directorial debut and is not in front of the camera. Yet the pic is riding a wave of critical kudos since its premiere at South by Southwest in March. The comedy is centered on two teenage girls and their last day of high school. Olivia Wilde makes that aforementioned first turn in the captain’s chair. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird) are the two graduates. Costars include Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s hubby).

Booksmart stands at a super fresh 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could still face hurdles when it opens over the long Memorial Day weekend. Opening on approximately 2300 screens, I’m skeptical as to its awareness factor among general audiences. This could be a slow builder if word-of-mouth takes off or become a cult hit following the theatrical release.

I’ll say a debut in the upper single digits is where this starts out at.

Booksmart opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Aladdin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/14/aladdin-box-office-prediction/

For my Brightburn prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/15/brightburn-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Rider Takes The Film Critics Cup

The National Society of Film Critics bestowed their best of 2018 awards today and it showcases another victory for Chloe Zhao’s western drama The Rider. The indie pic already won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards over some higher profile competition. With two top prize victories, is there any chance The Rider could gallop into Oscar contention?

That seems doubtful, but you never know. This particular critics branch has previously honored movies that the Academy ignored. Recent examples include 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers and 2014’s Goodbye to Language from legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. It is worth noting that the winners in 2015 and 2016 (Spotlight, Moonlight) won the Oscar and last year’s Lady Bird was nominated.

In the Director race, it was another trophy for Alfonso Cuaron’s work in Roma. He already has achieved status as the Academy favorite. He also won for his cinematography.

Ethan Hawke received yet another critics prize here for Actor in First Reformed, as did Olivia Colman in Actress for The Favourite. The latter’s Oscar chances seem assured while Hawke is more of a mystery (I’ve got him in currently). Regina King’s SAG snub is seeming less and less important as she got another honor in Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk. And Steven Yeun added to his reviewer group awards here with his Supporting Actor role in Burning. He’s racked several up, but still appears to be a long shot for Academy inclusion. Same goes for Screenplay as the Society went with The Death of Stalin. I’ve yet to include it in my Adapted Screenplay projections. It’s possible, but it probably won’t get in.

So while it was another good day for The Rider, I’m still skeptical that will equate to Oscar attention.