Oscar Watch: Irresistible

With his consistently Emmy winning work as host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart became synonymous with biting political satire for a generation of viewers. Toward the end of his run hosting the program, he took a hiatus to helm his directorial debut Rosewater, a political drama that failed to gain much of an audience. It was released in 2014 and despite mostly positive reviews, it came and went with zero awards buzz. As a side note, the break that Stewart took allowed John Oliver to gain exposure and nab his own currently running acclaimed HBO show.

Stewart is back in the director’s chair again with Irresistible, a political satire focused on a small town mayoral race. The pic stars Steve Carell, who first entered the mainstream on the show Stewart hosted with a supporting cast including Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Topher Grace, and Natasha Lyonne. It hits a small number of theaters and the VOD circuit today after its original May release was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some reviews are quite positive (including Rolling Stone), many critics are saying Irresistible is quite resistible. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 40%. So while Mr. Stewart picked up many awards for his television work, don’t look for his second feature behind the camera to follow suit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Honey Boy

There was a time and it wasn’t long ago when Shia LaBeouf’s career appeared to be a Hollywood cautionary tale. Just about a decade ago, he was the industry’s hot new leading man with starring roles in the Transformers franchise, Disturbia, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, his bizarre personal antics and a high profile 2017 arrest looked to derail his promising standing.

2019 has proved to be a resurgent period. There’s his acclaimed turn in the indie hit The Peanut Butter Falcon. And early this year, Honey Boy was unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival and screenings have continued in Toronto.

LaBeouf wrote the screenplay and it serves as an autobiographical look at his childhood. He also costars and he gave himself a part in which he plays his own father. Other actors include Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Maika Moore, and Natasha Lyonne. Like Falcon, the film has garnered critical praise to the tune of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Academy voters love a solid comeback story. Could they reward LaBeouf with a supporting actor or original screenplay nod? I generally think Honey Boy might be a tad too low profile for inclusion and Original Screenplay in particular seems awfully crowded. Yet when it comes to how things were looking just two years ago, awards chatter is a positive sign of where Shia’s career is at. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Show Dogs Box Office Prediction

Global Road Entertainment is hoping family audiences turn out for next weekend’s Show Dogs. The live-action comedy exists in a world where humans and canines communicate verbally. That means the voice-over cast includes Ludacris, Jordin Sparks, RuPaul, Gabriel Iglesias, Shaquille O’Neal, Stanley Tucci, and Alan Cumming alongside real cast members Will Arnett and Natasha Lyonne. The pic is directed by Raja Gosnell, who has experience with pup flicks including Scooby-Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (as well as the first two Smurfs entries).

Show Dogs doesn’t exactly seem to be generating much heat, but there isn’t much out there for kids who won’t be allowed to see Deadpool 2 (which opens against it). Family pics can always outdo projections, but I’ll say this falls a under double digits for its premiere. That would put it far from best in show and towards the bottom end of the top 5 for its weekend.

Show Dogs opening weekend prediction: $7.9 million

For my Deadpool 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/09/deadpool-2-box-office-prediction/

For my Book Club prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/09/book-club-box-office-prediction/

For my Pope Francis: A Man of His Word prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/13/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word-box-office-prediction/

A Futile and Stupid Gesture Movie Review

David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture centers on a Golden Age of comedy while attempting to tell a conventional biopic story line somewhat unconventionally. At times, it succeeds. In others, it strains itself. The overall effect is a retelling of moments that led millions of us to some of our biggest laughs in print and onscreen, even if the humor here is hit or miss.

The film’s central figure is Doug Kenney (Will Forte) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (as he constantly reminds us). He grew up in that affluent Ohio suburban setting in the 1950s with uppity parents and a family tragedy that seems to inform his feeling of self-worth. However, he’s got one whip smart sense of humor and it translates to his time at Harvard. He partners with fellow humorist – the ironically pipe smoking Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and they excel at producing the “Lampoon”, the university’s premier comedy publication. While this Ivy League duo could pretty much get any job, Doug convinces Henry to expand the magazine nationally. Hence the “National Lampoon” and the treasure trove of history that follows.

Kenney and Beard’s venture turns out to be a runaway success that provides a platform for brilliant writers such as Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke and performers Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to shine. It’s obvious to say that “Saturday Night Live” never would have existed without Kenney and Beard and that’s acknowledged here. Some of these later famous faces are given seconds of screen time and others considerably more. In a movie about the advent of ironic comedy in many respects, there’s some casting irony here. Joel McHale is Chevy Chase, an actor who dealt with the well-documented difficult nature of Chevy himself on the set of “Community”. Martin Mull is the narrator of Gesture as the older man who Kenney himself never became. The screenplay gleefully acknowledges the many clichés that come with making a biopic. The drug use, strained romantic relationships, and family drama are presented here, but with a winking eye.

The picture often plays like a greatest hits of Kenney’s accomplishments. His contributions to the big screen were short but monumental with National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The screenplay doesn’t linger long on either and perhaps it could have benefited with more minutes spent on the party atmosphere of the former and the coke fueled chaos of the latter.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is clearly made by a team who reveres its central subject. It doesn’t delve too far into Kenney’s considerable issues in an attempt to keep the tone fairly light. Yet it also doesn’t fully enjoy the opportunities to spend time with these young upstarts who would become comedy legends. That creates a sometimes unwieldy mix. Forte certainly impresses in the lead and there’s a few memorable supporting turns, including Matt Walsh as the magazine’s beleaguered financier and Ed Helms in a brief, but devastatingly biting scene as interviewer Tom Snyder.

There are segments of Gesture that remind us to thank our lucky stars for the existence of the people chronicled here. It doesn’t fully succeed as a stand-alone movie that ironically apes the biopic genre that it finds itself in, though it tries hard. In fact, it sometimes tries a little too hard to be ironic. The makers of the “Lampoon” shown here probably would have known how to make it a little funnier and let the serious moments be a tad more subtly rewarding.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Hello, My Name Is Doris

This past weekend, comedic drama Hello, My Name Is Doris impressed box office observers by making nearly a million dollars on just 128 screens. The film premiered at the SXSW Film Fesitval days ago to positive response with a current rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The bulk of the film’s praise has been devoted to its lead star, Sally Field, playing an older woman romancing a younger man. If distributor Roadside Attractions is able to mount a credible campaign, Field could find herself in line for her fourth nomination in just under 40 years. In 1979, she was victorious in Best Actress for her title role in Norma Rae and in 1984, won again for Places in the Heart. In 2012, she was nominated in Supporting Actress in Lincoln. 

This is highly likely to be the only category where Doris could be a factor. Costars including Max Greenfield, Stephen Root, Natasha Lyonne, and Tyne Daly shouldn’t garner attention. While reviews are strong, March is awfully early in the Academy’s season and her inclusion may depend on how solid the race for Actress becomes (a question mark currently).

That said, Field is a beloved performer whose track record with the Academy has been sterling over four decades. They’re capable of liking her – really, really liking her. It’d be foolish to completely count her out.