New York Circles Tár

The New York Film Critics Circle have made their selections for the year’s best and that kicks off a flurry of regional awards coming our way in the days and weeks ahead. This particular critics group (as is the case with most) isn’t much of a barometer on who and what will win. It is, however, a decent glimpse of who and what could contend.

Todd Field’s Tár and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin each earned two honors. The former was named Best Film with Cate Blanchett taking the Actress award. Eight of the last 10 NYFCC victors in Film went on to receive a BP Oscar nomination. Yet none of those movies won the big prize from the Academy. The last one that did was 2011’s The Artist. And that make sense here. Tár appears highly likely to make the BP cut though it isn’t much of a threat to take the gold. Five of the past 10 Actress recipients were nominated with only one winner. Who was that winner? Cate Blanchett for 2013’s Blue Jasmine. She could certainly do so again. This won’t be the only critics branch to name her.

Colin Farrell was Best Actor for Banshees and After Yang. Like Actress, half of the previous ten New York honorees made the Oscar quintet with two winners – Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea). Farrell appears to be locked in a tight three-way race with Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Austin Butler (Elvis). Every precursor like this helps a little. Banshees also won Best Screenplay. That’s another Academy three-way battle in Original Screenplay with Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Fabelmans.

The supporting fields are a bit more predictive as far as Academy matches. Eight of 10 Supporting Actor NYFCC takers were at the Oscars. That includes four winners in Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). We could see another match with Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once). Expect to hear his name a lot.

Supporting Actress, on the contrary, was more of a surprise. Keke Palmer’s work in Nope topped all rivals in a wide open field that’s hard to peg for Oscar prognosticating. 7 of 10 winners here made the big dance including the victorious Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Laura Dern (Marriage Story). I’ve yet to have Palmer in my top ten. I’m starting to wonder if she could get in the mix for her memorable performance in the sci-fi horror tale. I should note that NYFCC named Lupita Nyong’o Best Actress for Peele’s Us from 2019 and she came up short with Oscar voters.

The rest of the categories all showcased viable contenders in their respective competitions. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On picked up Animated Feature and I expect it to get love from the critics. Same with Non-Fiction Film and All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (I have it ranked first in Oscar’s Documentary Feature). Poland’s EO was a slightly unexpected choice in Foreign Film over Decision to Leave (which I have pegged as the soft frontrunner for the Academy). Finally, Top Gun: Maverick aced Cinematography and it should get an Oscar nod there for the thrilling aerial camerawork.

Keep coming to the blog for all your awards news and I’ll have updated Oscar predictions up this Sunday!

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does a commendable job in its treatment of Chadwick Boseman’s 2020 passing. What remains in the sequel feels bloated (161 minutes) and is a significant decline from its 2018 predecessor. The MCU in 2022 has been in a relative rut (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse and Thor: Love and Thunder) and Forever extends that.

I will start by accentuating the aforementioned positive. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler and his team were obviously faced with a sad and unenviable task of handling the title character’s real life death. King T’Challa’s absence is addressed immediately. The departure is the emotional ripple that causes genuine waves of emotion in the beginning and especially the end.

However, we are left to wonder if the filmmakers would’ve been better off recasting the role. Boseman’s presence and the idea of having a central protagonist is missed in the follow-up. The narrative of Wakanda often feels pulled into too many directions. I found myself wishing to untangle it and cut loose ends.

The plot comes into focus one year after T’Challah’s funeral. Sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is haunted that her tech skills couldn’t save her sibling. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) rules the country with an iron fist. Other nations, including the United States, are jealous of their vibranium hoarding ways. It turns out the precious metal is also present under the surface in the underwater land of Talokan. Their ruler is Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his legion of Avatar looking subjects are grappling with how to handle their valuable commodity. Namor decides that Wakanda either needs to join him in declaring war on the rest of the world (who want that sweet vibranium) or become a nemesis of the subsurface society.

Namor, as written, is a fairly decent antagonist. Like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger in the original, his motives to be “the bad guy” are rather understandable. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had plenty of forgettable villains. Namor isn’t one, but Huerta also isn’t much of a threatening presence. This is especially true when comparing Namor to Killmonger as there is no comparison.

My biggest gripe is the one item that also hindered the third act of 2018’s adventure. The action sequences are frequently handled in clumsy fashion. They are too dimly lit or the CG happenings are confusing.

There are some welcome returns with Winston Duke as the warrior M’Baku and Danai Gurira as Okoye, leader of Wakanda’s all female fighting force. Lupita Nyong’o is back as Nakia, T’Challah’s love interest. She is summoned back to her native land by Ramonda and Bassett is given a couple of potent monologues as the mourning Queen.

Then there’s Martin Freeman back on duty as CIA agent Everett Ross. This time around, he’s teamed with his boss and ex-wife Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as they are at odds in their views on how to deal with Wakanda. The screenwriters should have dealt them off the page. They could have been eliminated altogether and the only difference would be a thankfully shorter runtime.

For all the working in water happening during Wakanda Forever, the real waterworks occur as Mr. Boseman is honored and those are powerful moments. Too much of the rest doesn’t work at all.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hopes to land the biggest opening of 2022 when it debuts this weekend. Disney would also love to see the MCU sequel to 2018’s cultural phenomenon achieve the awards love that its predecessor got. It’s not out of the question that it could.

The review embargo is up today and the Rotten Tomatoes meter is an impressive 90% (under part 1’s 96%). Critics are praising the film’s treatment of the loss of its star Chadwick Boseman in 2020. There is some griping about it being overlong. Few reviews are saying it surpasses the original in terms of quality.

The first Panther was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture. Still the only superhero pic to make the BP cut, it took 3 of 7 (Score, Production Design, Costume Design). The other nods were Original Song (“All the Stars” from Kendrick Lamar) and Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (these categories have since been combined).

All 3 races where it won four years ago could pop up this time around. Production Design and Costume Design seem like givens. Sound appears a fairly safe bet. Same with Original Song as Rihanna’s closing credits ballad “Lift Me Up” is a threat to win. Ironically, Mr. Lamar lost in 2018 to Lady Gaga and “Shallow”. Gaga could strike again with “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick.

Panther did miss Visual Effects four years back and there were grumbles about the quality. The general consensus is that Wakanda‘s effects are a step up. I don’t think it’s guaranteed to make the VE quintet. However, I do think it has the best shot of the MCU’s 2022 slate (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder are the others).

As for performances, I could see Angela Bassett nabbing some ink. Ultimately I don’t see a second nom materializing nearly 30 years after her first one for What’s Love Got to Do with It.

Now the major question – can Wakanda Forever get a BP nomination? Short answer is yes. Longer answer is more complicated. With Maverick, there’s already one sequel that looks pretty safe. We still have Avatar: The Way of Water and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery waiting in the wings. I think it’s logical to say we won’t see four sequels in BP. Three seems like a stretch. While I wouldn’t discount Wakanda in the big race, I believe the more feasible scenario is tech nods and possibly 5 to even 7 of them. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/09): I am revising my estimate down from $205.2M to $195.2M. As opposed to the narrative below, that would now give it the #9 opening of all time behind its 2018 predecessor.

On November 11th, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever looks to score the second largest opening of the young decade and add another MCU pic to the top 10 debuts of all time. The sequel to 2018’s phenomenon has Ryan Coogler returning to the director’s chair. Early reactions are very positive saying that part 2 pays touching tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who played the title character in the original and passed away in 2020. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, and Angela Bassett are among the large cast.

Wakanda is not expected to approach the $260 million that Spider-Man: No Way Home made out of the gate last December. It should, however, get beyond the $191 million that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness earned in May. If it does, it would land the #2 opening of the decade and the pandemic era.

In February of 2018, Black Panther rode a wave of sizzling buzz to a $202 million start over the Friday to Sunday portion of President’s Day weekend. For the four-day frame, it topped out at $242 million before eventually grossing $700 million domestically. The three-day premiere still stands at #8 all-time while the overall haul is 6th.

I do believe that all the Wakanda stars are lining up for a Friday to Sunday take that surpasses the original by a small margin. My estimate would give the new Panther the #8 opening while moving its predecessor down to ninth. Time will tell if it eventually approaches the $700 million that the first part amassed.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opening weekend prediction: $195.2 million

Best Picture 2013: The Final Five

My blog series continues with speculation on what a Best Picture lineup of five would have looked like in the years since the format changed to up to 10 nominees. That began in 2009 and if you missed my previous posts covering 2009-2012, you can peruse them here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

Best Picture 2011: The Final Five

Best Picture 2012: The Final Five

In our year of 2013, the magic number was 9 contenders. We know that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave would have been included since a win in Best Picture was among its nine nominations. It also took Director, Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o), and Adapted Screenplay. So what else would’ve made the cut? Let’s speculate, shall we?

American Hustle

David O. Russell’s disco era crime pic tied for the most nods with 10, including Director and four acting mentions for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence. Despite the double digit nomination haul, it ended the night with zero victories.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Even with the goose egg, the sheer number of nods indicates making the quintet.

Captain Phillips

With Tom Hanks as the title character in the true life Somali pirate drama, Paul Greengrass’s tense thriller scored 6 overall nods. In addition to Pic, Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi), Adapted Screenplay, both Sound races, and Film Editing were in the mix. Like Hustle, there were no wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. With no nods for directing or Hanks’s performance (which was a huge snub), I think this would’ve been on the outside looking in.

Dallas Buyers Club

While our first two selections went 0 for 16, this mid 80s set AIDS drama won half of its six nominations – Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), and Makeup and Hairstyling. The other two mentions were Original Screenplay and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, but it’s a close call. The three gold statues put it over the edge in my opinion despite not landing a directing slot for the late Jean-Marc Vallee.

Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s space thriller tied Hustle with 10 nominations. Unlike Hustle, it won 70% of its possibilities: Director, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. Sandra Bullock was nominated for Best Actress and it got a Production Design nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Even without a screenplay nom, this would’ve been in contention and it was probably the runner-up to Slave considering the Cuaron win.

Her

Spike Jonze’s quirky romantic drama won Original Screenplay and was up for Score, Song, and Production Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No because it missed out on key precursors including Director, Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), and Film Editing.

Nebraska

Alexander Payne’s B&W road dramedy nabbed five other nods for direction, Actor (Bruce Dern), Supporting Actress (June Squibb), Original Screenplay, and Cinematography. It didn’t emerge victorious for any.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I struggled with this one (it’s sixth). Film Editing is often the biggest indicator of a BP nom and that’s part of the reason I gave Dallas Buyers Club a slight edge.

Philomena

Judi Dench received a Best Actress nod for this adoption drama. Adapted Screenplay and Score were the other mentions as its four overall are the least of the BP hopefuls.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. The Academy loves Dench. However, that wouldn’t have been enough for this to survive a cut to five.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s raunchy tale of 80s excess landed Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill acting spots. The direction and Adapted Screenplay were up as well. It won none.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes though I will say I don’t think it’s automatic. Wolf‘s complete lack of nominations in the tech categories is a bit of a surprise, but ultimately I don’t think the voters would’ve ignored this.

So my quintet for 2013 would be:

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

The Wolf of Wall Street

2014 is up next and will be on the blog soon!

Oscar Predictions: Nope

Five years ago, Jordan Peele’s horror debut Get Out was a critical and commercial phenomenon that won the auteur an Oscar for Original Screenplay. It also nabbed nominations for Picture, Director, and Actor (Daniel Kaluuya). Two years later, Us drew a more mixed reaction (though similar box office numbers) and garnered no attention from the Academy This was despite Lupita Nyong’o getting Critics Choice and SAG nods.

On Friday, Peele’s third feature Nope unveils itself and the review embargo is up. Many critics are saying yep to seeing it with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%. Yet that’s under the 98% bestowed upon Get Out and Us‘s 93%.

A consistent theme in various write-ups is that Nope has the weakest screenplay of the trilogy, but the best technical aspects. You’ll note that all of Get Out‘s nominations were above the line mentions. Nope, if anything, could see the opposite. Best Sound appears to be a real possibility with Cinematography, Production Design and Visual Effects standing more remote chances.

Finally, there’s Keke Palmer. She’s said to be the standout in a cast that includes Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, and Brandon Perea. However, if Nyong’o couldn’t get recognized for her participation in Peele’s sophomore effort, it’s hard to imagine Palmer breaking through for this. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Resurrection

It’s happened a lot lately where films in the psychological thriller/horror realm feature lead female performances that have social media buzzing for their awards attention. Think Toni Collette in Hereditary or Lupita Nyong’o for Us. 

We could see that happen again with Rebecca Hall in Resurrection, which played at Sundance over the weekend. From director Andrew Semans, the dark tale features Hall confronting an ex flame and abuser (Tim Roth). The critical reaction is a bit mixed (76% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). However, the most positive reviews are really positive and nearly all write-ups praise Hall’s work (as well as Roth).

A quick study of the reviews will indicate this is not an Academy friendly experience. Don’t be surprised if there’s an Internet drumbeat for Hall to be recognized. She’s coming off a strong 2021 – making her directorial debut in the praised Passing and starring in the horror flick The Night House. 

Yet Collette and Nyong’o couldn’t make the Oscar cut and I wouldn’t expect Hall to. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The 355 Box Office Prediction

One thing is for certain – Simon Kinberg’s spy flick The 355 will be the highest grossing movie released in 2022. That’s, of course, because it will be the first and it will hold that title briefly since Scream comes out a week later. Coming out a year after its COVID delay, it marks the second directorial effort from Kinberg (who’s known primarily for his screenwriting). His first was the commercial and critical X-Men misfire Dark Phoenix. 

Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Fan Bingbing, Sebastian Stan, and Edgar Ramirez make up the cast. Two of them (Chastain from The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Cruz in Parallel Mothers) may find themselves competing against each other for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars.

January is often seen as a dumping ground for material that isn’t expected to make waves at multiplexes. The 355 is slated to be available for streaming on Peacock 45 days after its cinematic debut.

I don’t see this posting impressive numbers and I would certainly be surprised if it manages to top $10 million. It may be lucky to reach even $5 million.

The 355 opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Antebellum

In addition to her successful music career, Janelle Monae has transitioned nicely into the cinematic universe over the past few years. In fact, her three highest profile supporting performances – Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Harriet – have all garnered Oscar attention and nominations for her costars.

So it stood to at least wonder if her first major starring role could accomplish the same. The horror pic Antebellum was slated to hit theaters in April. Like so many other features in these COVID times, that plan was scuttled and it’s now set to debut on streaming services on September 18th. From directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, it casts Monae as both a modern day author and a slave in the era of the Underground Railroad. The supporting players include Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, and Gabourey Sidibe.

There’s been a recent trend of actresses being lauded for their work in this genre. Both Lupita Nyong’o (Us) and Toni Collette (Hereditary) likely just missed inclusion in the final five for Best Actress in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The review embargo for Antebellum expired today and it certainly doesn’t appear as if Monae will join that club. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a meager 36% and several critics are calling this is a misfire.

Bottom line: while Monae’s involvement in projects has captured the attention of awards voters, she’ll need to wait for her turn as the focus. This one isn’t it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…