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.

 

Oscar Watch: Mary Queen of Scots

At this year’s AFI Film Festival, there were two high-profile Oscar contenders screening for the first time. A week ago, it was On the Basis of Sex and I believe it lessened its chances at nominations. Last night, it was Mary Queen of Scots and we could have a potential contender on our hands.

The Josie Rourke directed historical drama casts Saoirse Ronan (nominated in 2015 and 2017 in Actress for Brooklyn and Lady Bird) in the title role with Margot Robbie (nominated last year for I, Tonya) as Queen Elizabeth I.

Early reviews suggest it’s a winner and it stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical notices don’t automatically vault it into Best Picture, though I’d say its chances have improved. It may find itself in direct competition for votes with another female led historical film The Favourite, which also has reviews on its side. Scots is expected to play in down the line races like Costume Design, Production Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

The biggest question mark was the reaction to Ronan and Robbie’s work. Buzz from AFI suggests they could both find themselves in the mix for Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively.

Bottom line: Mary has a brighter outlook for Academy attention based on last night. Expect this to appear on some category lists next Thursday when I update my predictions. My Oscar watch posts will continue…

Gotham Awards Reaction 2018

It’s only mid-October, but the first significant precursor of awards season rolled out nominations today in the form of the Gotham Awards. If you’re not familiar, the Gothams honor independent film in a limited number of categories.

While not as prolific as the Golden Globes or SAG nominations, there has been a correlation with movies and performers nominated here getting Oscar attention. Let’s take a look at the past five Gotham awards nominees and how they matched up with the Academy:

In 2013, 12 Years a Slave was nominated for Best Feature and went on to win the Oscar. In the Best Actor race, eventual Academy winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) was victorious here and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Slave) also was nominated for both. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) was nominated here and went on to win the gold statue. It’s worth noting that the Gothams do not have supporting acting categories (we’ll get to that in a minute).

In 2014, three movies that got Best Picture nods were honored here: Birdman (Oscar winner), Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In the acting races, Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Oscar/Gotham winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) were included.

For 2015, no Best Actor nominees for the Gothams correlated to Oscars. However, there were actress match-ups with Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) and Cate Blanchett (Carol). Also – the Gotham and Oscar Best Picture winners were the same – Spotlight.

That happened once again in 2016 as Moonlight won the Oscar and the Gotham. Manchester by the Sea was also nominated for both. Casey Affleck’s work in that film won Best Actor at both ceremonies. For Actress, Natalie Portman as Jackie got double nods.

Last year, two Gotham Film nominees got Best Picture recognition: Call Me by Your Name and Get Out. In Actor, it was Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out as a double recipient. In Actress, same goes for Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). And coming back to the fact that there’s no supporting races, Willem Dafoe received an Actor nomination at the Gothams for The Florida Project while being recognized for Supporting Actor at the Oscars.

So, as you can see, there’s usually some overlap for the two ceremonies. And that brings us to today’s nominees and how I think that overlap will occur this year:

In the Gotham Best Feature race, the nominees are:

The Favourite

First Reformed

If Beale Street Could Talk

Madeline’s Madeline

The River

The average number of Gotham/Oscar film nominees lately has been two and that likely holds true here with The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. The other three are highly unlikely to get Academy recognition.

In the Best Actor race, the nominees are:

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You

Grant is probably this year’s Willem Dafoe and will be recognized by the Academy in Supporting Actor. Adam Driver falls in the same category, but is more of a long shot. Stanfield is out of the running for Actor at the Oscars, while Foster and Hawke remain possibilities. That said – like 2015 – this could well be a year where there’s no matches.

That is not the case with Actress and the nominees are:

Glenn Close, The Wife

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Kathryn Hahn, Private Life

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Michelle Pfeiffer, Where is Kyra?

Collette is a possible nominee, but it’s Close that seems a near lock for Oscar attention and a possible win. The others? Not so much.

Finally, a Special Jury prize was initiated that honors the three actresses from The Favourite. That would be Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz and all three could find themselves in the mix at Oscar time. The Gothams did the same jury designation for 2014’s Foxcatcher and 2015’s Spotlight. 

So there you have it! My take on how the Gotham Awards will relate to the biggest awards show of all…