Will A Star Still Shine at the Oscars?

One week ago, we had a Golden Globes surprise when A Star Is Born had an unexpectedly bad night. The Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a hit with the Hollywood Foreign Press and that was much to the detriment of Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut. Rhapsody took Best Picture (Drama) and Rami Malek won Actor in the drama category over Cooper. Furthermore, it was Glenn Close winning Actress for The Wife over Lady Gaga. The only race Star won was Best Original Song for the Cooper/Gaga duet “Shallow”.

The next question is obvious: do the Globe snubs hurt Oscar chances? The quick answer: perhaps not. It’s worth noting that in this decade, the Best Picture Drama recipient from the Globes has matched the Best Picture Academy winner three out of eight times (Argo, 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight).

I have had Star ranked as my #1 choice in my weekly forecasts for Oscar nominees since I started doing it in late August. It’s never changed. That said, it’s always been a soft front-runner. I do not think Bohemian will win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s only in recent days that I’ve come to believe it’ll definitely be nominated.

The brightest challenger, in my view, is Roma. Alfonso Cuaron won the Globe for his direction over Cooper. I believe he is looking solid for the Oscar victory. One thing to keep an eye on this evening is the Critics Choice Awards. They matched the Oscar in every major category last year. If Star has another sub par evening there, look for even more chatter about its prospects dimming.

For the moment, the Globes could prove to be an anomaly for the film’s possibilities with the Academy. However, it’s well worth monitoring how these other precursors play out.

 

Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/04/best-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

The Rider Takes The Film Critics Cup

The National Society of Film Critics bestowed their best of 2018 awards today and it showcases another victory for Chloe Zhao’s western drama The Rider. The indie pic already won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards over some higher profile competition. With two top prize victories, is there any chance The Rider could gallop into Oscar contention?

That seems doubtful, but you never know. This particular critics branch has previously honored movies that the Academy ignored. Recent examples include 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers and 2014’s Goodbye to Language from legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. It is worth noting that the winners in 2015 and 2016 (Spotlight, Moonlight) won the Oscar and last year’s Lady Bird was nominated.

In the Director race, it was another trophy for Alfonso Cuaron’s work in Roma. He already has achieved status as the Academy favorite. He also won for his cinematography.

Ethan Hawke received yet another critics prize here for Actor in First Reformed, as did Olivia Colman in Actress for The Favourite. The latter’s Oscar chances seem assured while Hawke is more of a mystery (I’ve got him in currently). Regina King’s SAG snub is seeming less and less important as she got another honor in Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk. And Steven Yeun added to his reviewer group awards here with his Supporting Actor role in Burning. He’s racked several up, but still appears to be a long shot for Academy inclusion. Same goes for Screenplay as the Society went with The Death of Stalin. I’ve yet to include it in my Adapted Screenplay projections. It’s possible, but it probably won’t get in.

So while it was another good day for The Rider, I’m still skeptical that will equate to Oscar attention.

 

2018 Golden Globe Winner Predictions

The highest profile Oscar precursor airs this Sunday with Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh sharing hosting duties. That means it’s time to roll out my predictions on who and what will win in the film categories. Truth be told, some of these races are fairly easy to pick. Others… not so much. Let’s break each category down with my final picks on the victors.

Best Drama

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

It was an interesting decision for Warner Bros. to place Star here instead of in Musical/Comedy. Even with that, I believe anything else winning would be an upset (BlacKkKlansman may have the best remote shot). Star is looked at as a soft front-runner at the big show down the line. I feel a win here will help solidify that.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Musical/Comedy

The Nominees: Crazy Rich Asians, The Favourite, Green Book, Mary Poppins Returns, Vice

Unlike Drama, this race is considerably tougher to project. Vice received the most nominations of any picture and that could mean something. However, critical reaction has been more mixed than originally anticipated. Mary Poppins Returns now seems to be a legitimate question mark as to Oscar inclusion for Picture and the competition is steep. The reward for Crazy Rich Asians is its nomination.

So, for me, this comes down to Green Book and The Favourite and it’s seriously a coin flip. I am giving a tiny edge to Green Book since it received a directing nomination, unlike The Favourite. 

Predicted Winner: Green Book

Best Director

The Nominees: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice)

A win for Cooper or Lee is not out of the question, but Cuaron is the odds on favorite (as he is for the Academy). Roma was not eligible for inclusion in Drama since it’s a foreign pic. It will (spoiler alert for below!) be honored there and here.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor (Drama)

The Nominees: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

The Best Actor drama race comes down to two performers who used their musical skills to dramatic effect: Cooper and Malek. I would not at all be surprised to see Malek’s Freddie Mercury pick up the trophy, but I’ll say the Star love extends here.

Predicted Winner: Cooper

Best Actress (Drama)

The Nominees: Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Rosamund Pike (A Private War)

Not long ago, the Globes bestowed Lady Gaga with an unexpected win for her TV work in “American Horror Story”. If they did that, I’ll say they honor her here for her breakthrough film role. Close is the only actress that provides potential competition.

Predicted Winner: Gaga

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), Robert Redford (The Old Man & The Gun), John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie)

If the Hollywood Foreign Press goes crazy for Green Book, Mortensen could be a benefactor. Yet I suspect this is the most obvious category to give Vice a win for Bale’s acclaimed performance.

Predicted Winner: Bale

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Charlize Theron (Tully), Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians)

This is Blunt v. Colman. With Poppins not quite getting all the box office/critics love that was expected, I lean Colman.

Predicted Winner: Colman

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

The HFPA has had shockers in this race… Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals being a recent example. This is a tricky one. Other than Rockwell, I could see any name being called. I’m tempted to pick Grant, but I’ll go with Ali for a more safe choice (especially since it was Taylor-Johnson that unexpectedly beat him in 2016 for his Oscar-winning part in Moonlight).

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Claire Foy (First Man), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

These are the five women I currently have down for Oscar nods. I suspect The Favourite ladies will cancel themselves out. Foy would be an upset. Could the several Vice nods mean Adams is a factor? It certainly could, but I believe King’s performance in Beale (not withstanding her SAG snub) will emerge.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Screenplay

The Nominees: The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, Vice

Unlike the Oscar, the Globes do not divide this race between adapted and original screenplays. A Roma or Book win is feasible, but I’ll say The Favourite is the choice in this case.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: Capernaum, Girl, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

As already discussed, this is going to be Roma. Not much left to say.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

The Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

It’s generally not wise to bet against Pixar and Incredibles 2 stands an excellent shot. I’m thinking the Globes may go against the grain though as Spidey is peaking at the right time with its very recent raves.

Predicted Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Black Panther, First Man, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place

Once again, I’m tempted to go with Disney and their iconic nanny as this is the only musical on here. However, I’ll say Justin Hurwitz’s acclaimed score for First Man lands the win.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “Girl in the Movies” from Dumplin, “Requiem for a Private War” from A Private War, “Revelation” from Boy Erased, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

It was unexpected that Poppins made no showing here (part of the reason I’m picking against it in Score). Regardless, there is an extremely obvious front-runner here and it’s Cooper and Gaga’s duet.

Predicted Winner: “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

My projections give Star a bright evening with four victories, with The Favourite, Green Book, and Roma all picking up two. I’ll have analysis up shortly after the ceremony as to how I did. Stay tuned!

 

Gotham Takes a Ride

The Gotham Awards were held this evening in the Big Apple and the annual ceremony honoring the year’s best in independent filmmaking provided a couple of legitimate surprises. Chloe Zhao’s Western The Rider was a surprise winner for Best Feature, beating out the favored The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. The Rider premiered all the way back in April after originally screening at Cannes in May 2017. The acclaimed film from director Chloe Zhao has not been on my Oscar radar screen whatsoever.

Should it be? If you look at Gotham’s winners for the last few years, you may deduce that the answer is yes. From 2014-2016, the honored feature (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) went on to win Best Picture in the biggest race of all. Call Me by Your Name from last year got a nomination. On the flip side, the recipients from 2012 and 2013 (Moonrise Kingdom and Inside Llewyn Davis) failed to garner Academy recognition. The Rider will more than likely fall in that camp, unlike fellow nominees The Favourite and Beale Street. The other two features nominated were Madeline’s Madeline (an Oscar non-factor) and First Reformed (more on that in a minute).

The Actress race also provided an unexpected winner in the way of Toni Collette for Hereditary. She won out over Glenn Close, who seems bound for an Oscar nod in The Wife. Best Actress is crowded this year, but the fourth and fifth slots seem open to several leading ladies. If Collette can manage some critics awards (which are coming very soon), expect her name to earn more chatter. For the time being, I still believe a nomination is a reach. That could change.

For Actor, Ethan Hawke was a victor for First Reformed. Unlike Actress, this year’s crop of potential Actors at the Oscars is a little weaker. Hawke seems to be gaining momentum at the right time. Last week, I included him in my predicted five for the first time. I feel better and better about it.

Speaking of First Reformed, Paul Schrader (who also directed it) picked up the Screenplay award. Somehow he has never been Oscar nominated… not even for his Taxi Driver screenplay over four decades ago. In order to get his first, his original script would need to knock out one of the following contenders in that race: The Favourite, Roma, Green Book, Eighth Grade, or Vice. That could be a tall order, but it’s certainly possible.

Check back tomorrow as the National Board of Review (a significant precursor) unveils their winners. I’ll have reaction to that with updated Oscar predictions on Thursday!

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

Gotham Awards Reaction 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Gotham Best Feature race, the nominees are:

The Favourite

First Reformed

If Beale Street Could Talk

Madeline’s Madeline

The River

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

In the Best Actor race, the nominees are:

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You

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

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

Glenn Close, The Wife

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Kathryn Hahn, Private Life

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Michelle Pfeiffer, Where is Kyra?

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

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

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

 

Oscar Watch: Green Book

If the name Peter Farrelly rings a bell, it’s likely because you usually hear it as part of the Farrelly Brothers. They’re the comedy team responsible for directing such massive hits as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. At the Toronto Film Festival, Peter has made his first solo venture and it’s a more serious effort in the form of Green Book.

The true life pic tells the story of an Italian American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) chauffeuring jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) through the Deep South in 1962. Critical reaction is out and the term crowd pleaser is a common one in the notices. There’s even been some comparisons to Driving Miss Daisy, based on its themes. That won Best Picture nearly three decades ago.

Green Book would really need to turn into a major hit to get Best Picture attention. As for Mortensen and Ali, their work has been praised. There is some confusion which categories they’ll be placed in, but buzz up north suggests they’re both unquestionably leads. If that holds true for the Oscar campaign, they enter into a crowded race with the risk of splitting one another’s votes. Both men are no stranger to Academy attention. Mortensen is a two-time nominee for 2007’s Eastern Promises and 2016’s Captain Fantastic. Ali took the Supporting Actor statue two years ago with Moonlight.

On the brighter side, the Original Screenplay category is looking a little light right now. That could be the perfect place for this to be recognized.

Bottom line: if things go really well for Green Book, it could be a factor in more than one big race. Original Screenplay looks more possible.

The film debuts November 21. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: If Beale Street Could Talk

One of the most eagerly awaited titles screening at the Toronto Film Festival has premiered in the form of If Beale Street Could Talk, the third directorial feature from Barry Jenkins. As you may recall, his second film Moonlight took home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 in rather memorable fashion over La La Land.

Beale Street is based on a James Baldwin novel and set in mid 70s Harlem. The pic sports a large ensemble cast led by Stephan James and Kiki Layne alongside Regina Hall, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Pedro Pascal, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein, and Dave Franco. Early reviews suggest this could be a player in multiple categories, including Best Picture and Director. In down the line races, it could be recognized for its score from Nicholas Britell as well as Cinematography, Editing, and Production Design. Jenkins could also contend for his Adapted Screenplay. While most critical reaction is strong, some have said it doesn’t quite match up to Moonlight. That said, we shall see if that particular buzz changes in the coming weeks and I feel pretty secure marking it for Picture consideration.

As for the cast, that’s a little murkier. James and Layne are receiving positive notices, but both the lead acting races seem awfully crowded. Both Hall and Parris could contend in Supporting Actress, but that too is far from guaranteed.

Bottom line: If Beale Street Could Talk likely did what it needed to do to be in the Picture and Director mix, while acting nods are a bit less clear.

The film opens domestically on November 30. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: First Man

The Venice Film Festival has kicked off today with Toronto coming next week. That means you can expect two dozen or more Oscar Watch posts coming your way on the blog over the next few days!

The opening film from Venice is a big one – Damien Chazelle’s First Man. The story of Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) journey to the moon has screened for critics and the early verdict is quite strong.

It should come as no surprise that Man is considered a potential serious awards contender. Director Chazelle has seen both of his previous works – 2014’s Whiplash and 2016’s La La Land – land Best Picture nominations. The latter infamously lost to Moonlight. Additionally, both pictures resulted in Oscar wins for their performers (J.T. Walsh for Supporting Actor in Whiplash and Emma Stone in lead Actress for La La).

So where does this stand based on early buzz emanating from Italy? It would appear First Man is highly likely to be director’s third effort in a row to be recognized in Best Picture. Chazelle also stands a great chance at a directing nod (he won for La La and was the youngest filmmaker in history to do so).

As for the actors, critical notices have heaped praise on Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife Jan. Her inclusion in Supporting Actress is probable. Of the many recognizable male supporting players, it appears Jason Clarke is receiving the most attention. It’s possible that Universal’s Oscar campaign’s focus could primarily center on Gosling and Foy, but I wouldn’t count Clarke out.

Which brings us to Gosling. Critics have been very kind in praising his understated work. I don’t think it’s yet a guarantee that Gosling lands his third Best Actor nod (after Half Nelson and La La Land), but he’s absolutely in the mix.

In addition to Best Adapted Screenplay, First Man should definitely find itself under consideration for numerous tech races including Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Production Design, and Original Score.

Bottom line: First Man is the first fall festival picture to be screened… and it’s established itself as a major player.

First Man opens domestically on October 12. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…