Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Ray Liotta in GoodFellas

Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas is one of the greatest motion pictures of all time (it’s in my top ten) and the Academy recognized that with six Oscar nominations in 1990. It won Best Supporting Actor for Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco received a Supporting Actress mention for Supporting Actress as the wife of Henry Hill. That’s in addition to the superb acting from Robert De Niro and Paul Sorvino and others. The Best Picture and Director nods should’ve been victories over Dances with Wolves. 

Furthermore, we ought’ve seen at least a seventh nomination for Best Actor with Ray Liotta as the main character. Henry Hill’s onscreen journey from a naive kid learning the ropes of Mob life to that riveting, unforgettable and coke addled last half hour of paranoia complete with black helicopters is cinema at its most addictive. And it’s Liotta’s performance that fuels it. Through the course of Scorsese’s mastery, we witness its lead shift from tender to menacing with total believability. It’s a star making role for a man who turned out to be an ace character actor.

I should’ve written this post a while ago. It’s unfathomable that the film’s central performance went unrecognized. Liotta had just achieved his biggest exposure a year earlier as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the beloved Field of Dreams. GoodFellas announced him as a leading man and he would continue on with more memorable roles with above the title credits and supporting parts. For those seeking out worthy titles, check out Something Wild and Unlawful Entry. Watch his descent into madness in Cop Land or his acclaimed role in Narc. There’s his recent turn in the Oscar nominated Marriage Story as a divorce lawyer (his costar Laura Dern won a gold statue).

Sadly – I write this post today as we learn of Ray Liotta’s passing at the age of 67. He was on location shooting his latest effort with at least 2 pictures in the can. For GoodFellas alone, he will forever be a part of the history of this medium we love. Yes, he should’ve been a contender for it. Ray Liotta, through decades of impressive performances, won us over time and again.

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Picture Race

I’m closing out my deep dives of the major Oscar races with the granddaddy of them all – Best Picture. If you missed my posts covering Best Director and the four acting categories, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Unlike the previous several years where the Picture nominees could fluctuate between 5-10 (though 8 and 9 were the magic numbers), 2021 brings fluidity with a set 10 films being honored (I’d like to thank the Academy for that).

As I’ve done with the others, let’s take a look back at how I was performing in the early November time frame from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I had 8 of the eventual 9 movies pegged: winner Parasite, 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The other – Joker – was mentioned in Other Possibilities.

2020 was trickier at this stage, but I identified 5 of the 8 hopefuls: winner Nomadland along with The Father, Mank, Minari, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Judas and the Black Messiah was named as a possibility while I didn’t have Promising Young Woman or Sound of Metal yet in the 15 selections.

For 2021 – I feel confident that four already screened entries will make the dance. We begin with Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, the 1960s set coming-of-age drama that could be looked at as the soft frontrunner. It’s been listed at #1 in my estimates for several weeks.

Belfast displaced The Power of the Dog from Jane Campion in that spot, but I still see the Netflix title having no trouble securing its placement among the contenders.

King Richard should find its way as the inspirational sports flick that will have audiences on its side. Furthermore, Will Smith appears in position to possibly win Best Actor. You have to go back to Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) twelve years ago where the Oscar winning actor didn’t see his movie recognized in Picture.

Then there’s Dune. The sci-fi epic from Denis Villeneuve got the box office and critical kudos it needed to storm the competition. The filmmaker could make a victory play for his direction while the picture itself seems destined for a nod here and tech wins elsewhere.

In past years, the bulk of nominees in Picture were screened at festivals. In 2021, that dynamic could shift as there’s a slew of unscreened material that seems like Oscar bait. That list includes Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. 

The first four of the six are ones I’ve had in my ten for a bit and I’m not changing it today. That said, this could be altered quickly once their official reviews are up (and that will be soon). Some prognosticators are more confident with Don’t Look Up. I’ll believe it when I see it.

With the pics that have been seen, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer is sure looking like it will garner Kristen Stewart her first ever nod with a solid chance at a victory. I do believe the Princess Diana tale will manage to make the cut, but it could go either way.

This also holds true for Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, which should also manage some tech recognition and for its lead Denzel Washington and maybe Frances McDormand.

I will admit that it seems strange to leave off any titles that screened early at Sundance. After all, last year there were 3 pics from the fest (The Father, Minari, Promising Young Woman) that got in. There’s a trio that could do the same in 2021 and they’re all listed in Other Possibilities: CODA, Flee, and Mass. Of that group, Flee (which I do have predicted in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film) may have the strongest chance.

Foreign flicks could factor in and they include A Hero, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, and The Worst Person in the World. I wouldn’t completely discount Netflix hopefuls such as The Lost Daughter and Passing. 

Then there’s high profile fare where the luster has been lost either to mixed reviews or poor box office. That list includes Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, and certainly Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. 

The bottom line is this – in 2021, with two months left to go in the calendar, there’s a lot yet to be determined. Here’s my take for now:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. Licorice Pizza (PR: 6)

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 5)

7. West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. House of Gucci (PR: 8)

9. Spencer (PR: 9)

10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

11. Flee (PR: 13)

12. Don’t Look Up (PR: 11)

13. Mass (PR: 12)

14. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 15)

15. CODA (PR: 14)

And that wraps the detailed looks, folks! Next weekend I’ll be back with updated estimates…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

The Oscar race for Best Actress takes center stage in my latest rundown of where the major competitions stand in early November. If you missed my posts covering lead actor and the supporting categories, they can accessed right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

As I have with the others, let’s start with my track record during the same time period from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I somehow had all five nominated actresses forecasted correctly with two months to go: winner Renee Zellweger as Judy in addition to Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). For 2020, it was three: gold recipient Frances McDormand for Nomadland and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). Both Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were listed in Other Possibilities.

In 2021, we already have a strong frontrunner and that’s Kristin Stewart in Spencer. Playing the high profile role of Princess Diana, Ms. Stewart is practically guaranteed to nab her first nod after plenty of critically appreciated post Twilight turns. She’s a serious threat to win and Stewart has been atop my chart ever since the picture screened back in September at the Venice Film Festival.

Her biggest competition could come from an as yet unseen performance – Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Judging from the trailers alone, her part seems like the kind of bait that would cause Academy voters to bite. If so, the pop superstar would receive her second nomination three years after her breakout cinematic role with A Star Is Born. 

After that, there’s a lengthy list of hopefuls for the three remaining slots. When The Eyes of Tammy Faye premiered on the festival circuit, it was a given that Jessica Chastain would make the cut. I still think she will, but the pic’s barely existent box office numbers are reason for some uncertainty.

Screenings were also kind to Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter and that momentum could result in her third inclusion in the last four years after a 2018 Actress victory for The Favourite and a supporting nod for last year’s The Father. 

Colman isn’t the only actress from a Netflix offering eyeing the prize. There’s Tessa Thompson in Passing, Jennifer Lawrence in Don’t Look Up, Sandra Bullock for The Unforgivable, and Halle Berry with Bruised. All could factor in. Other than Thompson (her costar Ruth Negga stands a greater chance in supporting), the three others have yet to be unveiled. The streamer may have to pick and choose whose campaigns they go all in with.

There’s other possibilities in the unseen column where the buzz will shortly materialize: Cate Blanchett for Nightmare Alley, Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza, Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball with Being the Ricardos, and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story). At press time, I only have Kidman in the top ten but that could change as soon as reviews start posting.

As for pictures that have been available for awhile, I feel Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur’s supporting parts in CODA are more likely to be recognized than lead Emilia Jones. Renate Reinsve will have her share of supporters for The Worst Person in the World, but its best chance lies with an International Feature Film nomination. Bad financial returns could negatively impact Jodie Comer for The Last Duel, though I will note that a number of prognosticators have her in.

For the fifth spot, I currently see three performances with roughly equal chances. Frances McDormand took the prize last year and that might make the Academy think twice about putting her up again for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Penelope Cruz is just on the outside looking in for Parallel Mothers. That leaves me with Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect. Even though the film received mixed reviews and so-so box office, praise for the Supporting Actress winner in 2006’s Dreamgirls was universal. Voters may have to think all the way back to summer to include her but I do believe it’s feasible.

And with that, here’s my standings:

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 3)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 2)

4. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 7)

7. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

8. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8)

9. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

10. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Now that the acting derbies are wrapped, I’ll have Best Director up next!

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

We come to Best Actor in my deep dive of the major Oscar races covering the four acting showdowns in addition to Picture and Director. If you missed the first two covering Supporting Actor and Actress, they’re here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

Looking at the past two years in my early November estimates in this competition, there’s a better track record than with the supporting categories. In 2019, with two months to go, I rightly had four of the five nominees pegged: winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. For the 2020 experience, that number was three – winner Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Gary Oldman (Mank). The other two were named as possibilities – Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal and Minari‘s Steven Yeun.

In 2021, it appears that three hopefuls have probably punched their tickets. The conversation begins with Will Smith. He’s a two-time nominee – once 20 years ago as Ali and 15 years past in The Pursuit of Happyness. As King Richard, it may well be the Fresh Prince’s time to be crowned for the true life sports drama that is said to be a massive crowdpleaser.

When Smith lost for Ali, it was to Denzel Washington in Training Day. The two-time winner looks to be back in the mix with The Tragedy of Macbeth. While I’m feeling confident in his nomination, I don’t see Mr. Washington emerging victorious here.

The other probable player is Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, gunning for his second nod seven years after The Imitation Game. Several festival reviews are calling it career best work and I don’t see him sliding.

After that, there’s quite a few of performers vying for the remaining two spots. There’s a few in the “not yet seen” silo. That includes Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley. We are all waiting to see how big his supporting role is in Licorice Pizza. I’ve had Cooper listed #1 there for months. If he ends up falling shot in that one, he could rise with this.

Andrew Garfield’s performance in Tick, Tick… Boom! is a trendy selection. He’s also a possibility in supporting with The Eyes of Tammy Faye (though I’m skeptical he makes it through there).

We also have Leonardo DiCaprio for Don’t Look Up. I’m not as high on the film as some other prognosticators, but laudatory screenings could change that dynamic. There’s also Adam Driver for House of Gucci and Cooper Hoffman for the aforementioned Pizza. With all these gentlemen, time will tell and we won’t have to wait long.

Back to the performances we do know about. Nicolas Cage garnered some of the best notices of his career for Pig. He’ll have internet chatter on his side but I wouldn’t bet the farm on him making it. Speaking of web love, expect the same for Timothee Chalamet (Dune). I believe he’s less likely than Cage. Same goes for former MTV veejay Simon Rex in Red Rocket.

Belfast is the frontrunner for Best Picture and its quartet of supporting thespians (Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds) could all show up in their races. The film’s young lead Jude Hill is more of a long shot. Clifton Collins Jr. drew raves beginning at Sundance with Jockey. I would say Sony Pictures Classics needs to up their game with his campaign for him to enter this derby. There’s also a slight chance that Amir Jadidi could be a factor in A Hero (which could take International Feature Film).

For now, I’m sticking with two actors that I’ve had in my five for awhile. Peter Dinklage has gotten plenty of Emmy love for his Game of Thrones stretch and his musical and dramatic stylings in Cyrano could cause the Academy to take note.

Even though he won just two years back for Joker, Joaquin Phoenix could be up again for C’Mon C’Mon if none of the unseen candidates rise in the polls.

Bottom line: Smith (especially), Cumberbatch, and Washington are all relatively safe at press time. About a dozen others will vie for slots four and five. Here’s where I have it at this beginning of November time frame:

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

7. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

8. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 9)

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

Best Actress is up next, folks!

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

The 2021 derby for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars might have a bit more clarity than the currently wide open Supporting Actor race, but not much. I’m doing a deep dive on the four acting races as well as Picture and Director. If you missed the first post covering Supporting Actor, you can peruse it right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

At this point when I was projecting the race in 2019 and 2020, I correctly identified three out of the five eventual nominees. Two years ago, that included the winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh (Little Women) and Margot Robbie for Bombshell. Scarlett Johansson was mentioned in Other Possibilities while I didn’t have Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) listed. Last year, the trio of Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), and Amanda Seyfried (Mank) were in my five. Eventual victor Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) and Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) were in Other Possibilities.

Since 2010, there have been three instances where two actresses for the same picture made the cut here. In 2010, it was Melissa Leo (who won) and Amy Adams in The Fighter. A year later, Octavia Spencer took gold for The Help while costar Jessica Chastain also got in. In 2018, both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz were nominated for The Favourite. 

The best chance of that happening in 2021 lies with Caitriona Balfe and Judi Dench for Belfast. The former could be considered the frontrunner at press time. I’m confident that Balfe will be in the quintet of hopefuls. My Supporting Actor forecast has both Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds in for Kenneth Branagh’s period drama. It might be foolish to bet against Dench and she could absolutely get her 8th nod. I do, however, feel the competition is steeper than Supporting Actor at the moment and she could miss out.

Other double nominee possibilities lie with Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson in The Lost Daughter, but I could just as easily see lead Olivia Colman garnering all the attention. The as yet unscreened Nightmare Alley could see either Toni Collette or Rooney Mara competing.

Then there’s Mass. Ann Dowd looks to be a better bet than Martha Plimpton. If the acclaimed drama catches on with the Academy, there could be room for both. For now, I’m far more confident in Dowd receiving her first nod after her somewhat surprise omission for 2012’s Compliance. 

With Balfe and Dowd penciled in, Kirsten Dunst also appears headed for her inaugural inclusion at the dance for The Power of the Dog. She could even be a threat to win.

After that, it gets murky. There’s plenty of hopefuls. 50 years ago, Rita Moreno took gold as Anita for West Side Story. The forthcoming remake could see Ariana DeBose nominated for the same role in Steven Spielberg’s remake. Marlee Matlin (35 years after taking Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God) got fine reviews for CODA. If the film registers with voters, she could be swept in. King Richard is anticipated to give Will Smith a solid chance at his first Oscar crowning and Aunjanue Ellis (as the mother of Venus and Serena Williams) could share in the wealth. Salma Hayek is part of the House of Gucci ensemble. She hasn’t been visible in the trailers and that gives me pause. Online chatter will be heavy for Rebecca Ferguson in Dune, though I question whether any of its cast makes its way in. Also worthy of mention: Olga Merediz (In the Heights), Gaby Hoffman (C’Mon C’Mon), Kathryn Hunter (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Sally Hawkins (Spencer), and Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans). All are feasible but will need lot some critics prizes to elevate their chances.

Meryl Streep is gunning for her 22nd (!) nomination for Don’t Look Up. Playing the President of the United States in the political satire, it feels strange to leave her out of the top 5 for such a high profile role. Let’s see what the critics think before I more carefully consider her.

One performer who seems to catching on is Ruth Negga for Passing. Nominated for Actress five years back for Loving, I was basically down to a coin flip between her and Aunjanue Ellis for a current slot. I’m leaning toward Negga in what would probably be the film’s sole nod.

Bottom line: right now I have Balfe, Dunst, and Dowd as (fairly) safe bets with the other two spots up for grabs. Here’s where it shakes out as October closes:

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

5. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 4)

7. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 7)

8. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley

Next up: Best Actor!

Oscar Watch: Annette

Vive la France!

The film community (and Oscar prognosticators like yours truly) are experiencing another return to normalcy today as the Cannes Film Festival kicked off today. The French fest is starting two months later than we are accustomed to, but it’s in-person and showcasing at least a handful of potential awards contenders.

The 2020 Cannes experience, before its cancellation, was supposed to feature Leos Carax’s Annette. The acclaimed auteur makes his English language debut in this musical headlined by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Early reviews are up and they indicate this will be a polarizing picture. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 85% for the moment.

Driver stars as a comedian (nearly all critics compare his character to Andy Kaufman) in a bad romance with Cotillard’s opera singer. This sounds like a meaty and memorable role for Driver. I’ll let you read about what he’s doing during a particular number called “We Love Each Other So Much”. Buzz indicates Cotillard (a Best Actress winner in 2007 for La Vie en Rose and nominee in 2014 for Two Days, One Night) may not have enough of a role to compete for a third recognition. If so, it would probably come in Supporting Actress. Some reviews have praised Simon Helberg’s supporting role. The Big Bang Theory costar likely came close to a nod for 2016’s Florence Foster Jenkins. This would have to generate a lot of love for him to be a factor.

That leaves Driver and his biggest 2021 competition could be himself. He will appear this autumn in not one, but two eagerly awaited Ridley Scott directed hopefuls. This includes a possibility at Supporting Actor in The Last Duel and especially in the lead derby for House of Gucci. If the latter doesn’t become a serious contender, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him gather his third try at gold in the past four years. Driver nabbed a supporting mention for 2018’s BlacKkKlansman and the following year in the lead with Marriage Story. 

There could be numerous potential slots for its original songs which were composed by rock band Sparks (they’re subject to an appreciated documentary out now made by Edgar Wright). Initial attention includes numerous shoutouts to opening tune “So May We Start”.

Some of the raves indicate that the Cannes crowd may eat this up more than the Academy. Expect the chatter to include some pining for its inclusion in the ten Best Pic finalists and others saying it has no place there. Amazon Studios, which will put this in theaters August 6 and on their streaming service two weeks later, will need to mount quite a campaign for it to make the cut.

Bottom line: hey, festivals are back and I’m loving it! Not everyone is loving Annette, but there’s enough admirers early on to keep it on the radar. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Gothams Have a Cow

2020’s first precursor to the big show arrived today with the Gotham Awards nominations. The group which honoring independent pictures with budgets of $35 million and under made a little history too. All five contenders for Best Feature are made by female directors: Kitty’s Green The Assistant, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, and Relic from Natalie Erika James.

The tight controls on eligibility (and some major studios didn’t submit their Oscar hopefuls) makes it tricky to prognosticate how these nods compare to what the Academy may do. This has always been the case. That said, in the previous decade, at least one Gotham Feature nominee almost always gets a Best Picture nod. In fact, from 2014 to 2016, the Feature winners (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) matched the Oscar winner. Last year, Marriage Story was the sole nominee at Gotham to make the Academy’s cut. In 2018, there were none. Three years ago, both Call Me by Your Name and Get Out got Oscar love.

First Cow led with the most nods and had itself a very good morning. However, its Oscar prospects are iffy while Nomadland looks to be the nominee that will almost certainly get recognition from the Academy (it could even win). The other three nominees are likely non-factors. We did not see another major picture from a female director with One Night in Miami make the final five, though Kingsley Ben-Adir did score a Breakthrough Performance nomination. Also left off: Minari, which seems to be rising in the Oscar chatter.

In the acting races, there were some high profile snubs particularly with Best Actress. Since this category’s inception in 2013, only one winner has matched up with Academy’s selection (Julianne Moore in Still Alice in 2014). In the previous year, none of the five women got Oscar recognition. In every other year, there’s been at least one.

The Gotham Actress hopefuls this year are Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth), Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Carrie Coon (The Nest), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari). Only McDormand seems destined for the Oscars in lead actress while Youn could show up in Supporting Actress. What is a bit surprising is the number of Gotham eligible performers who appear to be likely Oscar contenders who missed out here. That list includes Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), and Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit). I wouldn’t read too much into it, but it’s worthy of mention.

In Best Actor, Chadwick Boseman picked up his first posthumous mention for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is joined by Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Jude Law (The Nest), John Magaro (First Cow), and Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things). Some eligible actors with Oscar hopes that missed out include Winston Duke (Nine Days) and Steven Yeun (Minari). The same could be said for Bill Murray in On the Rocks, though he would compete in supporting with the Academy.

Bottom line: while the Gothams aren’t a reliable barometer for what happens months from now, it does give a fun glimpse at what could follow. Today’s actions unsurprisingly solidify Nomadland and could give a slight boost to Cow. My weekly Oscar predictions will be updated tomorrow so stay tuned!

2020 Oscar Predictions: August 27th Edition

As is tradition on the blog, my weekly Oscar prediction posts (coming to you each Thursday) kick off in the final weekend of August!

So while I’m following up with my normal Academy Awards speculating schedule, I am doing so in a year that is anything but traditional. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered release schedules for many pictures. This has left many release dates still uncertain.

Additionally, I have chosen this late August date because it’s usually right before some high-profile film festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are set to kick off. Some of these fests are continuing to operate in a much different fashion. We will see some of the titles identified below (including Nomadland, Ammonite and One Night in Miami) screen at these virtual competitions in the coming days.

This week, one significant contender had its unveiling for critics and that’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That reaction leads me to believe that it will certainly contend in a half dozen or so technical races, but that a Picture or Directing nod is a bit of a long shot.

Even in a year without the pandemic related challenges, Oscar speculation this early always comes with numerous caveats. They include the following:

  • Release dates will change and some movies listed here will get pushed back. This sure applies to 2020 and that’s even with the Academy extending eligibility to any features released in January and February of 2021.
  • There will be pics and performances that come out of nowhere and make their way to the release calendar that aren’t identified here.
  • Some performances listed in lead will shift to supporting and vice versa. For titles like David Fincher’s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – category placement for their large casts is still a question mark. As an example, there’s lot of potential contenders in The French Dispatch, but it’s impossible to determine who gets the critical shine. For the time being, I’m not listing any of the actors in that particular film.
  • There will be Original Screenplay hopefuls that turn out to be Adapted and vice versa.

Even with all those caveats, I was able to identify the winners in each of the top 8 categories in both 2018 and 2019. Their numeric placement varied widely. In 2018, I had Best Picture victor Green Book all the way down at 21 of my first initial 25 possibilities. Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, on the other hand, was placed at #2. Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek was at #12 in Best Actor with Olivia Colman in The Favourite at 9th in Actress. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) was 9th and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) was 2nd in the supporting fields. Adapted Screenplay winner BlacKkKlansman was in fifth with Original Screenplay recipient Green Book at #11.

As for 2019, Best Picture winner Parasite was originally placed in slot #7 while its director Bong Joon-Ho was fifth. In the lead acting companions, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) was 6th and Renee Zellweger (Judy) was fifth. In Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was perched at #1 and that never changed. Supporting Actress Laura Dern (Marriage Story) was #2. Adapted Screenplay Jojo Rabbit was fourth and Original Screenplay Parasite was 5th.

So based on history, you’re likely seeing the eventual 2020 Oscar winners somewhere here on these listings. In 2020, though, who really knows?

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Nomadland

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. Ammonite 

6. Dune

7. News of the World

8. West Side Story

Other Possibilities

9. The French Dispatch

10. Hillbilly Elegy

11. On the Rocks

12. Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Annette

14. Soul

15. Tenet

16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

17. The Father

18. Minari

19. C’Mon C’Mon

20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

21. Stillwater

22. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

24. Next Goal Wins

25. French Exit

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

3. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

5. Francis Lee, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Paul Greengrass, News of the World

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

10. Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

11. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

12. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Christopher Nolan, Tenet

14. Leos Carax. Annette

15. Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

7. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

8. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

9. Julianne Moore, The Glorias

10. Marion Cotillard, Annette

11. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

12. Rashida Jones, On the Rocks

13. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

14. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

2. Gary Oldman, Mank

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, News of the World

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

8. Adam Driver, Annette

9. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

11. Timothee Chalamet, Dune

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

13. Matt Damon, Stillwater

14. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

15. Ben Affleck, The Way Back

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

3. Olivia Colman, The Father

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

5. Helena Zengel, News of the World

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

8. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

10. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

11. Mary J. Blige, Respect

12. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune 

13. Meryl Streep, The Prom

14. Nicole Kidman, The Prom

15. Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Strathairn, Nomadland

2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

4. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Burke, Mank

7. Tom Pelphrey, Mank

8. David Alvarez, West Side Story

9. Lucas Hedges, French Exit

10. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

11. Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah 

12. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

13. Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

14. Oscar Isaac, Dune

15. Forest Whitaker, Respect

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. Ammonite

5. The French Dispatch

Other Possibilities:

6. Soul

7. On the Rocks

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. C’Mon C’Mon

10. Minari

11. Stillwater

12. French Exit

13. Annette

14. Tenet

15. Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland

2. Dune

3. News of the World

4. West Side Story

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Other Possibilities:

6. The Father

7. Hillbilly Elegy

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

9. Next Goal Wins

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

11. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

12. The White Tiger

13. One Night in Miami 

14. Respect

15. The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it next Thursday, folks! Until then…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

My earliest Oscar prediction posts for the 2020 season culminates today with the grand prize… Best Picture! And on a more personal note, this particular writeup marks my 3000th entry on this movie blog of mine. Thanks to all the readers over the past few years!

As I have explained in the acting and directing race estimates, this year has been a challenging one for these initial projections. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many release dates into uncertainty and that looks to continue for some time. That’s why I’m not yet putting Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch in the mix, for instance. Additionally, many of the fall festivals that showcase awards hopefuls have been downsized or canceled altogether. That said, the ones that are moving forward will do so in the coming weeks (so expect plenty of Oscar Watch posts in the near future).

Unlike the five other races already discussed, I’m putting 25 contenders in the Picture race (the others had 15). As you may know, the number of nominees in this category can fluctuate between five and ten. The magic number has been 9 for most years, including 2019. On a side note, the Academy has announced that, beginning next year, the number will move to a finite 10. I am currently going with 8 for the volume of 2020 nominees, but that could certainly change as the weeks roll along.

If you missed my aforementioned predictions on the other major competitions, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/12/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-director/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Last year, the initial Best Picture forecast in August yielded six out of the nine eventual nominees. These were the winner Parasite, The Irishman, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In my other possibilities, I identified the three other nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, and Joker.

Finally, a note on how these Oscar prognostications will move forward. Beginning on Thursday, August 27, I will begin weekly columns where I will rank and forecast the six major categories. In October, that weekly column will expand to all categories covering feature films. That will continue all the way through the announcement of nominations next year.

Let’s get at it!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST PICTURE

Ammonite

Da 5 Bloods

Dune

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Nomadland

Tenet

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

C’Mon C’Mon

The Father

First Cow

French Exit

Hillbilly Elegy

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Judas and the Black Messiah

The Midnight Sky

Minari

Mulan

News of the World

Next Goal Wins

On the Rocks

Respect

Soul

Stillwater

West Side Story

And that does it, folks! Two weeks from now… the ranked estimates begin…