Oscar Predictions: Aftersun

Irish thespian Paul Mescal has received an Emmy nod and plenty of critical praise for his role on Hulu’s Normal People and he recently made his cinematic debut in Netflix’s The Lost Daughter. 

More kudos are coming his way via Cannes for Aftersun, a family drama currently holding at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The first feature from Charlotte Wells and produced by Moonlight auteur Barry Jenkins, the A24 acquisition is potentially the type of project that could generate awards chatter with the right campaign.

The issue could be that A24 will have other pics to focus on and there’s only so much promotion to go around. Time will tell, but there’s no doubt Mescal is an actor on the upswing. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

PGA: The Rise of CODA

When it comes to the Producers Guild of America awards, there’s a 14/21 match between their best picture and the Academy’s in the 21st century. The two-thirds ratio is 3/5 in the past five years. In 2016, La La Land took PGA over the Oscar selection of Moonlight. For 2019, PGA went with 1917 while the big show went with Parasite. Other 21st century examples: The Big Short won PGA in 2015 (Oscar: Spotlight). For 2006, Little Miss Sunshine got the PGA prize while The Departed took Oscar.

The PGA’s for 2021 occurred last night and it’s another feather in the cap for CODA. Sian Heder’s coming-of-age drama built upon its recent SAG ensemble victory  to triumph here. If there was any doubt before, CODA has unquestionably positioned itself as the alternate to The Power of the Dog winning Best Picture at the Oscars. Not Belfast. Not King Richard or Dune. This is a two-horse race between Dog and CODA and they both have important precursor hardware. No matter which one grabs the gold, it will be the first BP win for a streamer (Netflix for Dog and Apple TV for CODA).

Jane Campion’s direction of Dog won the Director Guild of America (DGA) prize this week and that’s a reliable Academy precursor. She’s almost certain to be the Oscar winner (CODA‘s Sian Heder isn’t nominated). In fact, CODA only has three nominations overall: Picture, Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), and Adapted Screenplay. It didn’t seem feasible until recently, but it could legitimately go 3 for 3.

Having said that, I wouldn’t dream of counting Dog out. It’s the Globe and BAFTA recipient. The precursor bonafides for it are just as impressive as CODA‘s. Even a week ago, however, I would’ve said Dog had about a 90% chance to be the Oscar BP. Now… well, it’s considerably less and we’ll see what I predict when I make my final picks on Wednesday.

In the Animated Feature and Documentary races at PGA, the respective winners were Encanto and Summer of Soul and they maintain their status as Academy favorites.

Oscars 2021: The Case of The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is my ninth Case Of post covering the Best Picture nominees for the 2021 Academy Awards. If you missed the previous entries, you can access them here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Belfast

Oscars 2021: The Case of CODA

Oscars 2021: The Case of Don’t Look Up

Oscars 2021: The Case of Drive My Car

Oscars 2021: The Case of Dune

Oscars 2021: The Case of King Richard

Oscars 2021: The Case of Licorice Pizza

Oscars 2021: The Case of Nightmare Alley

The Case for The Power of the Dog:

And it’s quite a case to be made. Last week, the Netflix period drama ruled Oscar nominations morning with an even better than expected 12 nods. It even garnered unexpected mentions in Sound and for Jesse Plemons in Supporting Actor (alongside his costars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee). In doing so, Dog landed placements in all of the down the line races where a BP win is key: directing, performances, adapted screenplay, editing, and so forth. At the Golden Globes (where many were predicting a Belfast victory), it took Best Drama. It’s also been the beneficiary of numerous critics groups awards for Best Pic.

The Case Against The Power of the Dog:

Being the frontrunner doesn’t always pan out and we’ve seen it in three of the past five Oscars. Just ask La La Land (which lost to Moonlight in 2016), Roma (which fell to Green Book in 2018), and 1917 (which came up short to Parasite in 2019). Getting the most nominations also doesn’t mean you’re taking the big prize. Just ask Mank from last year. Or Joker two years ago. Or The Favourite or Roma from 2018.

The Verdict:

While the case against is somewhat persuasive, there’s no denying that Dog is unquestionably the favorite to win. Yet there’s compelling evidence that an upset is certainly feasible.

My Case Of posts will continue with West Side Story

Swan Song Review

Benjamin Cleary’s Swan Song is told through the eyes of two characters in a near future setting. In years approaching, it seems that our contact lenses serve as cameras allowing remote bystanders to witness the interactions of others. This comes into play with a tale of clones and impending loss.

Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali) is facing a quandary that’s slightly less believable than his disposable camcorders. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, he struggles with how to tell his wife Poppy (Ali’s Moonlight costar Naomie Harris in another fine performance). With a young child and another on the way, an alternative solution is presented. Kindly Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) can make an exact copy of him. Cameron would face his final days at a lush and remote medical facility. Poppy and the rest of the family would have no idea.

At Dr. Scott’s locale, he meets patient #2 Kate (Awkwafina). He would be third. Away from it, Cameron is introduced to her engineered doppelgänger. That interaction helps push him to the yes column. Yet when he meets the clone called Jack (also played by Ali, naturally) – doubts are cast.

Song features plenty of flashbacks showing Cameron’s existence in healthier days. This includes his meet cute with Poppy involving a candy bar. It gets more dramatic when his eventual spouse is dealt a devastating loss.

The new technology would prevent that from happening and Cleary’s screenplay mostly succeeds in navigating the sticky wicket ethical issues presented. A two-time Oscar winner given his first sole leading role, Ali is excellent. He has the assignment of playing two characters. They may be the same person, but they have different motivations at various times. That’s not an easy feat to pull off and Ali passes the test impressively with subtle grace.

Swan Song is indeed with a tearjerker that manages to earn them with much credit to its lead(s). Cleary is not overly clear about how this enterprise of Xeroxing yourself came to be. It actually works in the picture’s favor. I’m not sure those explorations could have been more revelatory from those we’ve seen in other sci-fi tales with similar themes. Instead we are presented with Cameron’s predicament in real time and with the understandable conflicts he undergoes as his decision clock winds down before our eyes.

***1/2 (out of four)

 

2021 Golden Globe Winner Predictions

I’m used to saying the Golden Globes will air Sunday evening, but that’s not the case in 2022. The ceremony honoring the best of 2021 will come to us in an as yet undetermined format. This is due to various controversies brought to light recently about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC’s decision not to broadcast the show.

However, the show will go on (possibly streaming on your computer) and the Globes still serve as a barometer for what Oscar voters could be thinking in coming weeks. That said, the HFPA is certainly capable of providing surprises. Just last year, Andra Day’s victory in Best Actress (Drama) for The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Jodie Foster as Supporting Actress for The Mauritanian were legitimate upsets.

As a reminder, the Globes split their picture and lead acting races into Drama and Musical/Comedy though not with the supporting derbies or screenplay. I will be making my picks along with runner-up selections while also providing numbers showing the correlation of Globe winners to Oscar recipients in each respective category for the last ten years.

Let’s get to it!

Best Motion Picture (Drama)

Nominees:

Belfast

CODA

Dune

King Richard

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Belfast

Runner-Up: The Power of the Dog

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 4 out of last 10 years

Commentary: The HFPA competition for the drama prize is the first major showdown between Oscar frontrunners Belfast and The Power of the Dog. With the international flavor and feel good vibes of the former, I’m picking Kenneth Branagh’s coming-of-age drama to come out ahead. If there’s a shocker in store, it could be CODA (which seems to picking up more steam on a weekly basis).

I will admit that picking Belfast to win Drama and take no other awards (as you’ll see below) feels strange. There is recent precedent, however, with 2016’s Moonlight. 

Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees:

Cyrano

Don’t Look Up

Licorice Pizza

Tick, Tick… Boom!

West Side Story

Predicted Winner: West Side Story

Runner-Up: Licorice Pizza

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner ratio: 2 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: I wouldn’t count out Licorice Pizza but its miss in Best Director could be telling. West Side Story should be right up HFPA’s alley and its the only feature where its maker made the director cut.

Best Director

Nominees:

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Predicted Winner: Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Runner-Up: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 6 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: This is a tough one. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s nod for The Lost Daughter was unexpected and she’s the only contender that I feel stands no chance of winning. Branagh could certainly ride a wave of Belfast love. Villeneuve could be honored for the technical mastery of Dune. And Campion is the hopeful picking up the bulk of critics prizes. Yet I’ll go with the HFPA honoring the legendary Spielberg.

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama (Actress)

Nominees:

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Predicted Winner: Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Runner-Up: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 6 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: This is the first test to see whether Stewart really is the frontrunner that could sweep through the season. I’m skeptical and I honestly believe any of the performers could take this (I struggled to pick the runner-up as it could be any of them). I wouldn’t put money on it, but I’ll say Stewart manages to nab the crown.

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama (Actor)

Nominees:

Mahershala Ali, Swan Song

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Predicted Winner: Will Smith, King Richard

Runner-Up: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 8 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: As you can see, this is a rather reliable predictor of where the Academy could go. For 2021’s features, the ceremonies should boil down to Smith v. Cumberbatch. I don’t think HFPA will pass up a chance to honor one of cinema’s most durable draws for the last 25 years in one of his most acclaimed performances.

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy (Actress)

Nominees:

Marion Cotillard, Annette

Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza

Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up

Emma Stone, Cruella

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Predicted Winner: Emma Stone, Cruella

Runner-Up: Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 3 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: There was an upset last year when Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) emerged over the favored Maria Bakalova for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The West Side love extending to Zegler is probably the smartest pick to make. Alana Haim’s work in Pizza could deliver her a victory and she probably should be listed as the runner-up. Yet if there’s any upset, I could see Stone surprising and there’s almost always one during the Globes. Perhaps against my better judgment, I’m going with it.

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy (Actor)

Nominees:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza

Anthony Ramos, In the Heights

Predicted Winner: Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Runner-Up: Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 1 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: Dinklage is a threat though I’ll go with DiCaprio as the runner-up since he’s arguably the biggest star in Hollywood. That said, Garfield (he’s likely #3 in the Oscar contest at the moment) is the most likely winner.

Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture (Actress)

Nominees:

Caitriona Balfe, Belfast

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Ruth Negga, Passing

Predicted Winner: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Runner-Up: Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 7 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: Jodie Foster’s win for 2020 came out of nowhere so who really knows? I’ll go with a West Side pick and DeBose. Other than Negga, I could foresee any of these candidates making (theoretical) podium trips.

Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture (Actor)

Nominees:

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

Jamie Dornan, Belfast

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Troy Kotsur, CODA

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 8 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: Another tricky one in a race where the Globes and Academy typically match. Assuming the Belfast boys split and Affleck isn’t a factor, this comes down to Smit-McPhee vs. Kotsur. A win for either could propel them to a glorious season ahead. I’m really tempted to go with Kotsur, but I’ll say this marks the best opportunity for HFPA to bestow an honor for Dog. This is a coin flip.

Best Screenplay

Nominees:

Being the Ricardos

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

Licorice Pizza

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Licorice Pizza

Runner-Up: Belfast

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 5 out of the last 10 years (counting both Original and Adapted Screenplays at the Oscars)

Commentary: Your guess is as good as mine here. I’m going with a bit of an upset with Pizza, but the smart money is probably on Belfast or Dog. I also wouldn’t count out Aaron Sorkin for Ricardos (he took this category last year for The Trial of the Chicago 7). And Adam McKay could be called up for Don’t Look Up which (despite its mixed reviews) is drawing plenty of ink.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Encanto

Flee

Luca

My Sunny Maad

Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Winner: Encanto

Runner-Up: Flee

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 7 out of the last years

Commentary: The Globes are capable of unexpected picks here (2019’s Missing Link for example). Don’t be surprised if Flee from Iran gets this, but I’ll go with Disney’s likeliest hopeful of its trio of nominees and that’s Encanto.

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Compartment No. 6

Drive My Car

The Hand of God

A Hero

Parallel Mothers

Predicted Winner: Drive My Car

Runner-Up: Parallel Mothers

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 6 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: Watch out for Mothers to pull off an upset, but this is Drive My Car‘s race to lose. The Japanese drama has established itself as the frontrunner in international competitions at all ceremonies.

Best Original Score

Nominees:

Dune

Encanto

The French Dispatch

Parallel Mothers

The Power of the Dog

Predicted Winner: Dune

Runner-Up: Parallel Mothers

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 7 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: Another race that Mothers could unexpectedly take, I also wouldn’t discount Dispatch or Dog. This should be Dune‘s best opportunity to take a prize though.

Best Original Song

Nominees:

“Be Alive” from King Richard

“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

“Down to Joy” from Belfast

“Here I Am” from Respect

“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

Predicted Winner: “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

Runner-Up: “Be Alive” from King Richard

Globe Winner to Oscar Winner Ratio: 6 out of the last 10 years

Commentary: This should be the battle of Billie (Eilish) for “Die” vs. Beyonce (it’s just Beyonce) for “Alive” and that should be the dynamic for the Oscars. The HFPA has honored the last two Bond themes for Skyfall and Spectre. I’ll give it a very slight edge.

And there you have it! The Golden Globes will air, err happen, Sunday. I’ll have reaction up on the blog shortly thereafter.

The Lost Daughter Finds Gotham Love

The Gotham Awards, which honors independent pictures, held its annual ceremony tonight with category shifts, surprises, and ties. The NYC based event is not exactly seen as a reliable barometer of what will happen at the Oscars. However, it’s worth noting that since the Best Feature category was established in 2004, there’s only been three years (2007, 2008, 2018) in which none of the nominees made the Academy’s Best Picture cut. Four recent Gotham winners (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight, and last year’s Nomadland) ended up being the Oscar selection.

In 2021, none of the five nominees for the big race were listed in my latest Oscar estimates. In fact, none of the quintet were in my top 15 possibilities. That would be going against the grain for what Gotham typically produces and the big winner tonight is undoubtedly Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter (which hits theaters on December 17 and Netflix on New Years Eve). The psychological drama took the top prize over The Green Knight, Passing, Pig, and Test Pattern. I only foresee Daughter and Passing as having viable paths to a Best Pic nod and the former’s victory here gives it more exposure.

In addition to Best Feature, Daughter was honored for Breakthrough Director and Screenplay. I am confident an Adapted Screenplay nod from the Academy is coming its way.

As for those category shifts, the Gothams chose to eliminate gender distinction in the lead acting derbies. Yet, ironically, there was a tie bestowing the award for a male and female. That provided another statue for Daughter and its lead Olivia Colman (as her Best Actress chances are looking stronger each day). The male was a surprise with character actor Frankie Faison for The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain. You may know him best as orderly Barney in The Silence of the Lambs, but his lead role here got him attention over Joaquin Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon). I wouldn’t count on Academy members taking notice.

This is the first year in which Gotham had a supporting race (also gender neutral) and it went to Troy Kotsur in CODA. This will feels a bit more significant as the scene stealer won over stellar competition like his costar Marlee Matlin and Ruth Negga in Passing. In an Oscar year where Supporting Actor is wide open, awards like this could propel Kotsur to make the final cut.

Elsewhere Flee took Documentary (it’s a likely shoo-in with the Academy) while Drive My Car helped its case in the foreign race over Titane and The Worst Person in the World. 

Bottom line: Daughter found a precursor in Gotham that should raise the profile as the Oscar folks are starting to pay attention.

Oscar Predictions: Swan Song

Playing at AFI Fest ahead of its December 17th streaming premiere on Apple TV, early word is out for the futuristic drama Swan Song. Marking the feature length directorial debut for Benjamin Cleary (who won the Oscar for Live Action Short Film in 2015 for Stutterer), Mahershala Ali stars as a terminally ill man faced with decision of cloning himself. Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, and Awkwafina costar.

Based on a rather small sampling of critical reaction, the buzz seems mixed. Some reviewers are hailing it as an effective weepie while others are more soft in their praise. The bulk of write-ups are quick to point out the fine work from Ali and Harris. This isn’t their first collaboration. Five years ago, Ali knocked out all competitors to win Supporting Actor for Moonlight. Two years later, he would again be victorious in the same race for Green Book. Harris made the cut in Supporting Actress for Moonlight, but ultimately lost to Viola Davis for Fences. 

With two gold statues to his name, it’s hard to fathom this is Ali’s inaugural sole lead cinematic part. Apple will probably mount an awards push for him and Harris. However, I suspect it could be too late in the game for either to have a legit chance and the varied reaction to the quality of the pic itself won’t help. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Importance of Being Venice

For those who don’t follow the Oscar game and film festivals like I do (which is understandably most of you), this post looks to be a helpful primer on why such festivals are so important when doing predictions.

The 2021 Venice Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and you can anticipate plenty of Oscar speculation chatter on the blog in the next several days. You may ask – why is this Italian extravaganza so key in determining how this year’s awards landscape may look?

Let’s look at just the past five years as prologue. Of the 43 features nominated for Best Picture from 2016-2020, 31 were originally screened at the various high-profile festivals. There were six from Sundance and four each premiered at Telluride, Toronto and Cannes (with one emanating from the New York Film Festival). Eleven had their start in Venice. That’s right. Essentially one in four. That means that, lately, the average year has seen two to three BP nominees coming from this one event.

Of the last five Best Picture winners, all of them kicked off at a festival. 1 from Telluride (Moonlight). 1 from Toronto (Green Book). 1 from Cannes (Parasite). Two from Venice: The Shape of Water and last year’s Nomadland. 

How about the acting derbies? Of the 20 winners in Actor, Actress, and the supporting fields from 2016-2020, only two were performances that did not come from a festival screened film. There’s 1 from Cannes. Three each from Telluride and Toronto. Four from Sundance. And seven from Venice.

This is why the titles hitting Venice in 2021 currently hold lofty positions with prediction makers like myself. It’s why Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog took over House of Gucci (not currently slated for a fest) at the #1 slot in my BP rankings. This explains why I’m keeping a close eye on pics like Dune, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, Spencer, and Last Night in Soho. Maybe Spencer won’t win Best Picture, but it could nab Kristen Stewart her first nomination and victory.

Of course, only the screenings themselves will demonstrate the viable contenders. Yet there’s a recent history proving that Venice has become the most important festival of all. Ask the makers of Nomadland and The Shape of Water. Or Emma Stone (La La Land), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), or Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just some.

My coverage of the Venice Film Festival begins tomorrow!

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…

The Producers Roll With Nomadland

In the previous decade, the winner of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) best motion picture ended up matching with the eventual Oscar recipient 70% of the time. So it’s no wonder that all eyes of prognosticators were on tonight’s ceremony. Would the PGA do anything to interrupt the narrative that Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a sturdy favorite to take the Academy’s gold?

The answer? No. Nomadland received yet another honor from the PGA to go with its Golden Globe for Best Drama, Critics Choice Award, and numerous regional group best pic designations. Had Minari or Promising Young Woman or The Trial of the Chicago 7 won, it might have created more suspense for the Oscar ceremony happening on April 25th. Yet the PGA victory is another arrow in the quiver for Zhao’s achievement.

If you’re another movie hoping to best Nomadland, the PGA and the Academy have differed three times in the last five years. In 2015, the Guild picked The Big Short over Spotlight. In 2016, it was La La Land instead of Moonlight. Last year – 1917 over Parasite. 

As for other races, Disney/Pixar’s Soul, as expected, took animated feature and it remains a major frontrunner at the big show. The documentary category went to My Octopus Teacher and that certainly puts it in serious contention in one month.

Bottom line: Nomadland is rolling and nothing may be able to stop it.