Best Picture 2015: The Final Five

We have reached 2015 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut? If you missed my write-ups centered on 2009-14, 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

Best Picture 2013: The Final Five

Best Picture 2014: The Final Five

There is one certainty when it comes to 2015 and that’s Spotlight earning a spot in the final five. After all, it won the big prize. It was also the rare BP recipient that emerged victorious in only one other category (Original Screenplay).

For 2015, eight movies were nominated. Time to put a spotlight on which ones get in and which ones are left on the cutting room floor:

The Big Short

Adam McKay’s satirical take on the 2008 financial crisis is the first of 3 Best Picture nominees in a row for the filmmaker. It earned a total of five nods with a win for its Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. With nods for the director, the win for the script, and an editing nom – a quintet inclusion is highly likely.

Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg’s Cold War set drama starred Tom Hanks and his costar Mark Rylance won a surprise Supporting Actor trophy over the favored Sylvester Stallone for Creed. There were six nominations total.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Despite the considerable pedigree, the misses in directing and editing are significant.

Brooklyn

John Crowley’s 50s set period drama was the first of three eventual Best Actress mentions for Saoirse Ronan. With an Adapted Screenplay nod, its own. three tries at gold are the least among the 8 BP hopefuls.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No – primarily for the last sentence above. Brooklyn probably just snuck in the top 8.

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s long in development fourth entry in his wild action franchise received 10 nominations and took home 6 (all technical in nature). That’s easily the most victories of the evening.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. With Miller in Director and a Film Editing win, I don’t see how it would have missed.

The Martian

Ridley Scott’s outer space tale with Matt Damon garnered 7 mentions but came up empty-handed on the night.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I’d rank it sixth. I couldn’t make the call, however, since Scott was omitted in Director and it failed to make the Editing group.

The Revenant

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made it two directing wins in a row after Birdman for his survival pic. Leonardo DiCaprio, after several close but no cigar tries, was finally crowned Best Actor. Overall, this was the most nominated film at 12 with 3 wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes and I suspect it was the runner-up to Spotlight.

Room

Brie Larson was the Best Actress for the abduction drama where Lenny Abrahamson was also an unexpected directing contender. With an Adapted Screenplay nom, it managed 4 mentions.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes though I’d put in fifth and in a close race with The Martian. Abrahamson getting in made the difference.

And that means my five BP contenders match the Best Director contestants. That’s a rare thing before the race expanded in 2009. Yet it seems appropriate for this particular year.

The whittled down five would be:

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

I’ll cover 2016 in short order!

Summer 2002: The Top 10 Hits and More

In the turbulent months that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11, domestic audiences needed some escapism at the box office. In the Christmas season of 2001, they found it with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. 

By summer 2002, moviegoers turned out in record-setting droves for the first big screen treatment of an iconic superhero.

20 years later, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed as Spidey continues to dominate the charts. It all started with a memorable upside down kiss. Before we go there, there’s plenty more to discuss for the cinematic summer of two decades past.

As I do every season on the blog, I’m recounting the top 10 hits, other notable features, and flops from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my post covering 1992, it’s right here:

Summer 1992: The Top 10 Hits and More

Let’s begin with that top 10!

10. Mr. Deeds

Domestic Gross: $126 million

When Adam Sandler remade Frank Capra, the result was another blockbuster for the star and a needed one after his previous pic Little Nicky was a rare commercial flop.

9. Minority Report

Domestic Gross: $132 million

The first and still only collaboration between Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg is a prescient sci-fi tale and its reputation has grown since its release. It’s my personal favorite film of 2002.

8. xXx

Domestic Gross: 142 million

Riding high off the success of the previous summer’s The Fast and the Furious, Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel reunited for this over the top action flick. A sequel would follow three years later without Diesel’s involvement (Ice Cube starred instead), but Vin would return to the role in 2017.

7. Lilo & Stitch

Domestic Gross: $145 million

This Disney animated effort performed just fine (if not in the stratosphere of some 90s gems) and spawned numerous direct-to-video follow-ups. A live-action version is being planned.

6. Scooby-Doo

Domestic Gross: $153 million

Critics might have thought it was a dog, but crowds lapped up this live-action/animated hybrid based on the very 1970s cartoon. Scoob and the gang would return two years later for part 2. Fun fact: James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame wrote the script.

5. Men in Black II

Domestic Gross: $190 million

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teamed up again for the sci-fi comedic spectacle from Barry Sonnenfeld. This fell short of the original’s $250 million domestic haul and the reviewers weren’t impressed, but that didn’t prevent a third offering that will be discussed in my summer of 2012 post.

4. Austin Powers in Goldmember

Domestic Gross: $213 million

Mike Myers continued to flex his box office mojo alongside Beyonce, Michael Caine, and Mini-Me in this threequel that I believe surpassed the quality of predecessor The Spy Who Shagged Me. 

3. Signs

Domestic Gross: $227 million

After the more mixed reaction that Unbreakable garnered, M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix was more of a return to crowd favorite status. What followed was several pics from him that drew considerably more ambivalent to negative vibes.

2. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Domestic Gross: $302 million

$302 million is just dandy for nearly any movie, but this second prequel from George Lucas fell well short of the $431 million achieved by The Phantom Menace three summers prior. Many consider this the worst of the nine officials episodes. I’m one of them.

    1. Spider-Man

Domestic Gross: $403 million

When Sam Raimi’s spin on the webslinger kicked off the summer, it did so with the largest opening weekend of all time at $114 million (breaking a record that had just been set by the first Potter). Two sequels followed for the Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst trilogy and, as we all know, the character has never left us. Spider-Man: No Way Home recently brought all 3 Spideys (Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland) into its MCU Multiverse.

Now let’s move to some other notable titles from the season:

The Bourne Identity 

Domestic Gross: $121 million

While outside the top ten, Paul Greengrass’s action thriller with Matt Damon as an amnesiac spy is more influential than the bulk of the flicks above it. Damon would return to the role three times.

The Sum of All Fears

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Right behind Damon is his buddy Ben Affleck who took over the role of Jack Ryan (previously played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford) in the Tom Clancy adapted hit.

Road to Perdition

Domestic Gross: $104 million

His follow-up to Best Picture winner American Beauty, the Depression era crime drama from Sam Mendes cast Tom Hanks against type as a hitman with Paul Newman as his underworld boss. This only nabbed a Cinematography Oscar, but reviews were mostly strong. It also provides a juicy role for pre-007 Daniel Craig.

Insomnia

Domestic Gross: $67 million

Hanks wasn’t the only legend stretching in a villainous turn. Robin Williams memorably did the same as he was pitted against Al Pacino’s detective in this chilly thriller from Christopher Nolan (three years before Batman Begins).

Unfaithful

Domestic Gross: $52 million

Adrian Lyne made a movie about another fatal attraction and Unfaithful earned Diane Lane an Oscar nomination as the cheating wife of Richard Gere.

And now for some movies that didn’t perform so well…

Reign of Fire

Domestic Gross: $43 million

This dragon centered fantasy arrived before Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale would be Oscar winners a few years later. Critics weren’t kind and the box office failed to generate much fire.

Windtalkers

Domestic Gross: $40 million

John Woo’s financial win streak blew over with this World War II action drama headlined by Nicolas Cage that only managed 32% on Rotten Tomatoes.

K-19: The Widowmaker 

Domestic Gross: $35 million

Seven years before her Oscar winning The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow’s 1960s set submarine thriller with Harrison Ford was a pricey disappointment.

Halloween: Resurrection

Domestic Gross: $30 million

Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode are about to team up for the final (?) time in Halloween Ends in October. In 2002, this was the sequel to the successful Halloween H20 from 1998. This one was not so successful and it’s considered by many aficionados as the weakest of the whole franchise.

Bad Company

Domestic Gross: $30 million

One is a double Oscar winner and the other is one of greatest stand-ups of all time, but this cinematic pairing of Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock in Joel Schumacher’s action comedy was met with a shrug.

Blood Work 

Domestic Gross: $26 million

Ten years after Unforgiven won Best Picture after its summer release, Clint Eastwood’s mystery didn’t work for critics or crowds.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Domestic Gross: $4 million

Speaking of legendary stand-ups, Eddie Murphy reached a career low point as sci-fi comedy Nash stands as one of cinema’s most notorious flops. Its budget was a reported $100 million and that’s not a misprint above… it made an embarrassing $4 million.

2012 is up next!

Thor: Love and Thunder Box Office Prediction

Each Thor pic has outdone the last and Disney hopes that trend continues when Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters on July 8th. The sixth MCU entry in the past 14 months, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down as this follows juggernauts Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. 

This particular series is only the second to have a fourth feature (the other being Avengers). Taika Waititi, who made 2017’s predecessor Ragnarok, returns behind the camera with Chris Hemsworth once again hammering away as the title character. Natalie Portman’s Jane is back after sitting out part 3 and other familiar faces include Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, and Jeff Goldblum. The Guardians of the Galaxy are also in the mix. Newcomers to the fold are Christian Bale as main villain Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe as Zeus. Expect plenty of cameos as well.

The first Thor (only the 4th of now 29 MCU flicks) grossed $65 million out of the gate with an overall gross of $181 million. Two and a half years later, The Dark World improved upon that with $85 and $206 million, respectively. Ragnarok easily surpassed that with $122 million and $315 million eventually.

Love and Thunder should continue the trend. Since the character’s last stand-alone effort, Thor was prominently placed in the massive Avengers sagas Infinity War and Endgame. That said, Multiverse from early May was a direct benefactor of following No Way Home when it premiered with $187 million. Its Spidey predecessor swung the second largest domestic opening of all time behind Endgame. 

I don’t believe Thunder will reach the stratosphere of Multiverse. Somewhere between $140-$160 million seems doable. If buzz continues to grow louder in the coming days, I reserve the right to revise up. My current take puts it in the range of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($146 million) and Captain Marvel ($153 million). I’ll put it slightly over both.

Thor: Love and Thunder opening weekend prediction: $155.7 million

2021: The Year of Jodie Comer

My fourth and final post regarding actors who had a memorable 2021 on the big screen brings us to the only performer that wasn’t in Spider-Man: No Way Home and that’s Jodie Comer.

Prior to this year, the English actress was primarily known for her small screen leading role on the BBC’s Killing Eve (for which she’s won an Emmy). While that work continues, she made waves with audiences and critics alike in the multiplexes.

While box office success did not greet Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Comer earned raves as Marguerite de Carrouges in the historical yet timely drama. In a cast that included Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, Comer garnered the lion’s share of awards buzz and deservedly so.

A couple of months before Duel, she was widely seen alongside Ryan Reynolds in the family friendly action comedy Free Guy (which took in over $300 million worldwide). A sequel is already being planned.

For Comer, 2021 succeeded in transitioning her success from TV to film. This concludes my Year Of write-ups and here’s to 2022!

The Last Duel Review

Sword fights abound literally and figuratively in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which finds the legendary director covering familiar red stained territory in a unique storytelling format. Based on a true incident that transpired in late 14th century France, Good Will Hunting scribes Matt Damon and Ben Affleck collaborate with Nicole Holofcener for this three tiered tale of a tragic crime mixed with a touch of black comedy. It explores the horrors of machismo at a time when women were seen as property by the standards of thought and law. The most fascinating aspect of the film (and most appalling) is that the three principals may truly believe they’re the victim, including two that should not.

Shot in gray with a focus on grey areas, Duel is fashioned into triangular chapters (from a novel by Eric Jager). Each outlines the plot from these perspectives: Jean de Carrouges (Damon), who fancies himself a brave and noble knight; the philandering squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) who has the ear of the authoritative and even more philandering Count Pierre d’Alencon (Affleck); and Jean’s educated and strong wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer). Jean and Marguerite’s marriage is one of convenience and real estate opportunities for the former. He also desires a male heir that Marguerite has yet to produce. Jacques, meanwhile, has access to influence that Jean doesn’t possess. When he becomes smitten with his friend’s bride, the power dynamic turns more dangerous.

An accusation of rape is made in an era when most women didn’t dare do so (made clear in a potent monologue by Jean’s emotionally barren mother played by Harriet Walter). 600 plus years ago, that meant Jean and Jacques would participate in the picture’s title if a trial permitted it (and allow for Scott to play in some Gladiator type set pieces). Where the screenplay derives some humor is that the two leading men seem convinced that they are the aggrieved party and are oblivious to the damage inflicted on Marguerite. As nearly every male character is given a chance to bask in his laurels, we detect plenty of side eyes from the women around them. I suspect those sharp edges come courtesy of Holofcener’s script portions.

The Last Duel is fueled by Comer’s central performance as a victim who spoke up centuries before hashtags existed. The struggles to hold her perpetrator responsible are both centuries old and of today. Didn’t she remark that he was attractive? Maybe her no was a yes and she enjoyed it. Damon and especially Driver add sturdy support and Affleck commands the screen in his relatively brief runtime (once you get past the odd looking wigs).

The chaptered structure is occasionally repetitive. However, by the time the literal swordplay commences, the time spent with the trio builds a sense of genuine tension. Marguerite will be punished by a grisly death unless Jacques succeeds. In other words, her words mean little and she must rely on her husband to determine whether her time is up. That’s the wound that cuts the deepest as we await their fates.

***1/2 (out of four)

October 22-24 Box Office Predictions

Arriving a year after its COVID delay is Denis Villeneuve’s version of the sci-fi epic Dune along with the animated Ron’s Gone Wrong. The latter will try to keep the October box office hot streak rolling along with the latter attempting to bring in family audiences. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Dune Box Office Prediction

Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction

We have had three weekends in a row with newcomers premiering at over $50 million or darn close. Dune could fall right in that range. A potential drawback could be its simultaneous availability on HBO Max. However, I do believe enough viewers are aware that it should be seen on the biggest screen possible. I have it in the low 40s, but as Venom and Halloween Kills have shown us, the chance of over performing is certainly there for the taking.

As for Ron’s Gone Wrong, it has the disadvantage of not being based on known IP. Reviews are decent yet I have it placing fifth and under $10 million.

Halloween Kills exceeded most estimates (more on that below). Its 2018 predecessor fell 59% in its sophomore frame with a B+ Cinemascore average. The sequel has a B- and I envision it dropping in the high 60s range. No Time to Die could see around 50% decline in its third outing while Venom: Let There Be Carnage may see only a dip in the low 40s to mid 40s.

And with that, my top 5 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Dune

Predicted Gross: $42.8 million

2. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $15.4 million

3. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $9.5 million

5. Ron’s Gone Wrong

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

Box Office Results (October 15-17)

Haddonfield wasn’t the only place where Michael Myers made a killing over the weekend as Halloween Kills premiered at the highest end of projections. The $49.4 million start slashed my $41.2 million prediction. Its simultaneous release on Peacock didn’t appear to make much of a difference. That’s no huge surprise considering the streamer’s membership is minuscule compared to Netflix, HBO Max, and others. While the Kills gross is far under the $76 million achieved by Halloween in 2018, this is still a big win for Universal.

No Time to Die slipped to second with $23.7 million, a bit below my $25.8 million take. The 25th Bond adventure stands at $99 million. While its overseas earnings are pleasing, Daniel Craig’s swan song isn’t quite hitting the anticipated target stateside.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was third with $16.5 million (I said $14.1 million) and it’s up to $168 million.

The Addams Family 2 had the best hold of all in fourth with $7 million, in range with my $6.6 million projection for $42 million total.

Finally, despite mostly solid reviews, Ridley Scott’s medieval tale The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver received little good will from moviegoers. It bombed hard with only $4.7 million in fifth. That’s a far cry from my estimate of $10.4 million. Duel is further proof that adult themed product is having a difficult time getting the intended demographic to the multiplex.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

October 15-17 Box Office Predictions

Jamie Lee Curtis is back battling Michael Myers in Halloween Kills while Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver also debuts. These are the new offerings in the mid October frame as No Time to Die enters its sophomore frame following a less than expected start. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the fresh offerings here:

Halloween Kills Box Office Prediction

The Last Duel Box Office Prediction

It has been two straight weeks of me either grossly underestimating (Venom) or significantly overestimating (Die) the newbies. So let’s see what happens with Halloween, shall we? I’m going with a low to mid 40s take and that would be well under the $70M+ that its 2018 predecessor made (Kills is curiously available for streaming on Peacock). Of course, given my October track record, watch it make $60 million or more. I gotta get something on the money in October though… right??

As for The Last Duel, the less than anticipated haul for 007 was further evidence that pictures geared toward older viewers continue to struggle. With scant awards buzz, I’m projecting Duel barely gets to double digits and that should mean a fourth place showing.

Back to Bond. 2015’s Spectre dropped 52% in its second frame and I see no reason why Craig’s finale wouldn’t dip about the same. Venom may fall in the mid 50s in weekend 3 with The Addams Family 2 rounding out the top five with the smallest decline (mid to high 30s) of the bunch.

Here’s how I see the top 5 looking:

1. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $41.2 million

2. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $25.8 million

3. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $14.1 million

4. The Last Duel

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

5. The Addams Family 2

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

Box Office Results (October 8-10)

Well, we all get carried away sometimes. The fantastic premiere for Venom and the hoopla surrounding Craig’s swan song got me thinking No Time to Die was capable of achieving a COVID era best start of $94.1 million. I was dead wrong. Die managed just the fourth best output of its star’s five features. The $55.2 million debut didn’t approach the vicinity of Skyfall ($88 million), Spectre ($70 million), or Quantum of Solace ($67 million). Only Casino Royale‘s $40 million fell under it. Theories will abound. Was six years (COVID delays were abundant) too long a break? Perhaps. As mentioned, it likely didn’t help that older moviegoers are still seemingly reluctant for a multiplex engagement. Die‘s saving grace is overseas grosses in line with expectations. Yet it’s hard to spin the fact that the 25th 007 adventure came in at the absolute lowest range numbers that prognosticators foresaw.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was second with $31.7 million, not quite hitting my $33.7 million estimate. The $141 million ten-day tally is very impressive as it looks to reach $200 million by the end of its domestic run.

The Addams Family 2 took in $10.1 million in its second weekend, ahead of my $9.2 million projection for $31 million overall.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was fourth with $4.3 million (I said $3.4 million) and it’s up to $212 million.

Finally, The Many Saints of Newark crumbled after its weak beginning. The $1.4 million gross (I went with $1.8 million) brought its puny earnings to $7 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Last Duel Box Office Prediction

Had The Last Duel come out, say 15 years ago, it probably would be looking at a debut north of $20 million. That’s when director Ridley Scott was not far removed from his Oscar winning Gladiator and at a time when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had more drawing power. In 2021, I’m not so sure. The 14th century set historical drama features the two Good Will Hunting stars as well as Jodie Comer and Adam Driver.

Originally slated for Christmas 2020 before its COVID delay, this is now the first of two Ridley Scott efforts hitting multiplexes this fall (the next being November’s House of Gucci). Early reviews indicate this will not be much of an awards player. With a 67% Rotten Tomatoes score, the bulk of the praise has come to Killing Eve actress Comer (who was recently widely seen in Free Guy). She could score a Best Actress nod, but don’t look for Duel to compete anywhere else.

The pic is hoping for an adult audience and many of those titles have struggled during this era. Additionally, competition is steep. Halloween Kills opens on the same day with No Time to Die in its sophomore frame. If it was garnering legit Oscar buzz, I might be more optimistic. However, I suspect Duel might arrive at a standstill next weekend. That could mean a premiere that just gets past double digits.

The Last Duel opening weekend prediction: $10.4 million

For my Halloween Kills prediction, click here:

Halloween Kills Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Last Duel

The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up and it has done so with a big debut in Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel. The first of two Oscar contenders from Scott in 2021 (the other is the forthcoming House of Gucci), Duel was seen as the lesser of the duo when it comes to awards prospects.

That has turned out to be accurate based on the Italian buzz. Duel stands at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. As generally expected, I wouldn’t anticipate Scott’s epic (out October 15) to factor into Best Picture, Director, or its Adapted Screenplay from Nicole Holofcener. Nor do I believe much attention will be paid to its trio of male leads (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver). The latter will have another at bat for Gucci or possibly Annette in the lead Actor derby.

Jodie Comer, an Emmy winner for Killing Eve and recently seen in the hit Free Guy, has always been looked at as the real hopeful in Actress. Comer is getting the best reviews of the cast. She could sneak in, but I suspect her race could be quite competitive and she’s probably on the outside looking in. One of her strongest competitors might be Lady Gaga from (you guessed it) Gucci. That’s in addition to the already in Kristin Stewart (Spencer) and numerous others.

Duel could play in some technical races like Production and Costume Design or Sound. However, any hopes of a Gladiator like run at the Oscars (Scott’s 2000 Best Picture winning epic) has been thwarted in Venice. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…