Oscar Watch: The Personal History of David Copperfield

In the first of what will be several Oscar Watch posts from screenings at the Toronto Film Festival, we consider The Personal History of David Copperfield. Armando Iannucci serves as director for the Charles Dickens based satire with Dev Patel (Oscar nominee in 2016’s Lion) in the title role. Costars include Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw.

The film is said to be a crowd pleaser. Iannucci has received Academy attention previously with his Original Screenplay for 2009’s In the Loop. Last year’s The Death of Stalin was considered a contender in Adapted Screenplay, though that nod never came. He’s best known stateside for creating HBO’s Veep.

While I don’t foresee Copperfield vying for Picture or any of the acting categories (though Patel is getting raves), Adapted Screenplay could be feasible. That’s with a rather large caveat. A number of the contenders in that race (The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Little Women) are still unseen. That’s changing shortly and we may have a better idea whether there’s any room for this soon. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The 2019 Oscar Season Cometh

As the summer season winds down, the movie industry and this blog’s attention will soon turn to the Oscar race. And if you think it’s too early to do that, consider that less than a month from now – an avalanche of Academy hopefuls will be unveiled at film festivals. Toronto, Venice, Telluride, and the New York festivals are on deck. The programmers behind those events have already released the names of many of the pictures premiering. Here are some of the pictures wishing for Oscar glory that are hitting the circuit:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks is iconic children’s host Mr. Rogers in director Marielle Heller’s follow-up to last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which nabbed nods for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Premiering at Toronto.

Ad Astra

James Gray has made multiple critical darlings, but has yet to pop up on the awards circuit radar screen. Could this sci fi drama with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones change that? Premiering at Venice.

An Officer and a Spy

It will need serious acclaim to overcome the baggage that comes from its maker Roman Polanski, but this historical thriller will attempt to do so in Venice.

Dolemite Is My Name

Prior to its anticipated Netflix launch, Craig Brewer’s biopic of comedian Rudy Ray Moore portrayed by legendary comic Eddie Murphy will bow at Toronto.

Ema

Pablo Larrain has had his pics No and Jackie attract awards nods and this Chilean drama hopes to follow suit. Premiering at Venice.

Ford v Ferrari

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in James Mangold’s 1960s set tale of the flashy automotive industry. Premiering at Toronto.

Harriet

Cynthia Erica was a breakout in last year’s Widows. This year she has an Academy baity role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this historical epic from Kasi Lemmons. Premiering at Toronto.

Jojo Rabbit

This concoction from Taika Waititi is set during WWII with a dark comedic premise finding a young child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Hitler. The filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are among the cast.

Joker

Heath Ledger won a posthumous gold statue as the comic book villain in The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix will attempt the same here. Premiering at Venice.

Judy

It’s been awhile since Renee Zellweger had a role receiving awards buzz. This biopic of Judy Garland could alter that. Premiering at Toronto.

Just Mercy

This drama about a falsely accused prisoner features Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Premiering at Toronto.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s murder mystery has a sprawling cast of hopefuls including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon. Premiering at Toronto.

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach is a favorite of the critical community. This drama is headlined by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and hits Venice and other fests before its Netflix premiere.

The Goldfinch

Brooklyn director John Crowley adapts this drama based on a well-known 2013 novel. The cast includes Nicole Kidman and Oakes Fegley. Premiering at Toronto.

The Irishman

Rightly kicking off the New York Festival, Martin Scorsese directs this gangster saga starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

The Laundromat

Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh directs this dramatic thriller with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas. Premiering at Venice.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Lion nominee Dev Patel is the Charles Dickens character with a supporting cast including Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie. Premiering at Toronto.

The Two Popes

Jonathan Pryce is Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins is Pope Benedict in this Netflix effort from director Fernando Meirelles. Premiering at Toronto.

Followers of this blog know that I’ll do Oscar Watch posts on each of these and many others as they screen in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Oscar Watch: Mary Magdalene

In 2016, the directorial debut of Garth Davis was Lion and it earned an impressive six Oscar nominations. His follow-up is an ambitious one – Biblical drama Mary Magdalene. The film casts previous nominees Rooney Mara in the title role with Joaquin Phoenix portraying Jesus.

Anything featuring this director, the subject matter, and the leads is bound to lead to Oscar curiosity. Yet buzz out today strongly suggests otherwise. Reviews have been rather weak with one major trade publication deeming it a sophomore slump.

While Phoenix has been singled out for his performance, he is far more likely to garner a nod for other pictures he’s got in the 2018 hopper. They are Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and You Were Never Really Here and they’ve already been covered on the blog.

Besides the unimpressed critical reaction, there are other issues. While Magdalene is scheduled to roll out internationally in various countries in the coming days and weeks, it’s U.S. distribution is uncertain. The pic was originally scheduled for release from the beleaguered Weinstein Company and is currently without a release date.

There is one possible exception to its Academy chances. The film is composed by Johann Johannson, a previous nominee for The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Mr. Johannson died unexpectedly on February 9 and there could perhaps be a push to honor him posthumously.

Bottom line: don’t look for Mary Magdalene to have any real impact come Oscar time next year.

Lion Movie Review

Garth Davis’s Lion, simply by the nature of its true origins, is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Yet this doesn’t completely excuse some faults in the rendering of its tale. It tells the incredible story of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year old boy circa 1986 in a poor Indian village who becomes separated from his mother (Divian Ladwa) and older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) one fateful evening.

The lost journey leads the child many miles away in Calcutta where Saroo is placed in an orphanage that is more like a prison. He doesn’t know the language of the new land he’s stranded in and knows his mother only as “mum”. One of the amazing realizations while viewing Lion is the remembrance of lack of technology in the 1980s that basically made it impossible for Saroo to be reunified with his family.

While Calcutta couldn’t be more of a foreign land to him, he’s soon taken to a much more faraway land in Australia when a kind couple (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) adopt him. They treat him well and he’s a good kid, which isn’t the case with the troubled second child they adopt a year after Saroo.

The film eventually flashes forward to 20 years later and Saroo is now played by Dev Patel. In his late 20s, he still resides in Australia and is embarking on a career in hotel management. Lucy (Rooney Mara) is his American girlfriend. He’s still close with his adoptive parents (though not without some complications) and there’s still issues with his younger brother. The memories of his former life still consume him, however. A chance suggestion of Google Earth now having the ability to possibly locate his Indian village feeds his obsession.

Thus begins Saroo’s journey home. While he focuses myopically on finding his long-lost mother and brother, it has dramatic consequences with the current individuals in his life. Lion‘s plot is inherently fascinating. The screenplay by Luke Davies succeeds better in exploring some relationships than others. Saroo and Lucy’s is rather uninteresting, while his dynamic with Kidman provides some fine moments. Kidman’s mother is complicated and caring and the actress gives a touching performance. The same can be said for both versions of Saroo with Patel and Pawar.

When Lion reaches its conclusion with a moment we’ve been pining for, it is powerful and includes some unexpected revelations. An epilogue left me curious as to whether a documentary about the subjects may have been more potent. The answer is probably yes, but the picture does a competent and admirable job of telling a remarkable story.

*** (out of four)

Todd’s Updated 2016 Oscar Winner Predictions

Good Sunday all! 15 days from today, the Oscars will air and for the next three Sundays, I’ll be giving you my take on where I see each category standing. This means my winner prediction and each nominee listed in order of likelihood to take their prize.

My final predictions will post on Sunday, February 26 prior to the broadcast the next day. Let’s get to it, shall we?

BEST PICTURE

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight

3) Manchester by the Sea

4) Hidden Figures

5) Lion

6) Arrival

7) Hacksaw Ridge

8) Hell or High Water

9) Fences

BEST DIRECTOR

1) Damien Chazelle, La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

3) Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

4) Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

5) Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

BEST ACTOR

1) Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington, Fences

3) Ryan Gosling, La La Land

4) Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

5) Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

BEST ACTRESS

1) Emma Stone, La La Land

2) Natalie Portman, Jackie

3) Isabelle Huppert, Elle

4) Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

5) Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1) Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2) Dev Patel, Lion

3) Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

4) Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

5) Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1) Viola Davis, Fences

2) Naomie Harris, Moonlight

3) Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

4) Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

5) Nicole Kidman, Lion

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

1) Moonlight

2) Lion

3) Hidden Figures

4) Fences

5) Arrival

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) La La Land

3) Hell or High Water

4) The Lobster

5) 20th Century Women

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

1) Zootopia

2) Kubo and the Two Strings

3) Moana

4) My Life as a Zucchini

5) The Red Turtle

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

1) The Salesman

2) Toni Erdmann

3) Land of Mine

4) A Man Called Ove

5) Tanna

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

1) I Am Not Your Negro

2) O.J.: Made in America

3) 13th

4) Fire at Sea

5) Life, Animated

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight

3) Arrival

4) Lion

5) Silence

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

1) Jackie

2) La La Land

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Florence Foster Jenkins

5) Allied

BEST EDITING

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight

3) Arrival

4) Hacksaw Ridge

5) Hell or High Water

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

1) Star Trek Beyond

2) Suicide Squad

3) A Man Called Ove

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1) La La Land

2) Arrival

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Hail, Caesar!

5) Passengers

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1) La La Land

2) Lion

3) Moonlight

4) Jackie

5) Passengers

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

1) “City of Stars” from La La Land

2) “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

3) “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” from Trolls

4) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land

5) “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story

BEST SOUND EDITING

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Arrival

4) Deepwater Horizon

5) Sully

BEST SOUND MIXING

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Arrival

4) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

5) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1) The Jungle Book

2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

3) Doctor Strange

4) Kubo and the Two Strings

5) Deepwater Horizon

Next Update will be Be Sunday!

2016 SAG Awards Predictions

The final major awards ceremony before Oscar takes place tonight on TBS and TNT as the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards airs. These awards and winners are voted by fellow thespians, so the races are a bit different in the sense that there’s no Best Picture per se. Instead it’s Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and the five nominated pictures contains one rather glaring omission: La La Land, even though it’s the front runner at the Academy Awards.

We do have the other acting races we’re accustomed to, as well as Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. Let’s break each category down one by one with my predicted winners for this evening.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture 

Nominees: Captain Fantastic, Fences, Hidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Predicted Winner: Moonlight

Analysis: The recipient here could solidify its status as Most Likely to Win Best Picture at the Oscars if La La doesn’t. I’ll predict the SAG voters give the edge to Barry Jenkins acclaimed drama over Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester, just like the Globes did.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Predicted Winner: Casey Affleck

Analysis: The five nominees match five for five with the Academy. Affleck has received the lions share of precursors thus far and I expect that to continue here. Washington is the only other possibility.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Amy Adams (Arrival), Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Predicted Winner: Natalie Portman

Analysis: Yes, I’m going for the minor upset here as Stone is the likely front runner. Only the two of them and Streep match the Oscar nods, as SAG honored Adams and Blunt instead of Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Ruth Negga (Loving).

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion)

Predicted Winner: Mahershala Ali

Analysis: A win by either Bridges or Patel wouldn’t surprise me, but Ali has picked up a lot of critics prizes. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, surprise Globe winner for Nocturnal Animals, isn’t present here.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Predicted Winner: Viola Davis

Analysis: Another exact match with Oscar and I expect the same result – a win for Ms. Davis. Anything else would be a surprise.

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, Jason Bourne, Nocturnal Animals

Predicted Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

Analysis: This is a tough one as either of the comic book flicks could win. Still, I’ll go with the only nominated Best Picture at the Oscars. By the way, why Nocturnal is present here baffles me.

And there you have it! Happy watching tonight…