Oscar Predictions: The Starling

In 2016, Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures earned a Best Picture nomination. Melissa McCarthy is the beneficiary of two Oscar nods – one for her supporting comedic work in Bridesmaids ten years back and for her more dramatic turn in lead actress with 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?

So on paper, The Starling might have some Academy cred. The dramedy premieres on Netflix September 24 and has screened in Toronto. Casting McCarthy as a grief stricken woman also dealing with the pesky title character, reviews are out. Several critics are downright negative. The Rotten Tomatoes score is perched at only 33%.

McCarthy has appealed to awards voters with her performances on the funny and serious side. This mix of the two won’t fly with them. My Oscar Watch posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Guilty

Despite numerous critically acclaimed performances, Jake Gyllenhaal has but one Oscar nomination to his credit in Supporting Actor for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. On October 1, his crime thriller The Guilty streams on Netflix. Based on a heralded 2018 Danish pic, it has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend.

Early reviews are decent at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly enough, some claim viewers may like it more if they haven’t seen the superior original. The Guilty is helmed by Antoine Fuqua, who directed Denzel Washington to a Best Actor win and Ethan Hawke to a Supporting Actor nod in 2001’s Training Day. Hawke costars here along with Riley Keough, Christina Vidal, Eli Goree, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Dano, and Peter Sarsgaard.

In 2014, Gyllenhaal was snubbed (in the opinion of many, including this blogger) for Nightcrawler. More recently, the Academy bypassed his leading roles in Nocturnal Animals and Stronger. The Toronto verdict indicates that nomination #2 probably isn’t coming with The Guilty. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter has screened at Venice prior to its theatrical and Netflix release in December. Olivia Colman stars as a college professor who confronts her familial past. The supporting cast includes Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ed Harris.

In addition to being behind the camera, Gyllenhaal (a 2009 Supporting Actress nominee for Crazy Heart) also adapted the screenplay based on an Elena Ferrante novel. Reviews indicate this is an impressive start to her directing career and it stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Will the Academy take notice? It certainly may with Colman, who’s unsurprisingly drawing raves. Best Actress should be a crowded field so this is no guarantee. If Colman does manage one of the five spots, it would be her third nod in four years. She won the lead race in 2018 for The Favourite and was nominated in Supporting Actress for The Father last year. Johnson and Buckley are slightly longer shots for supporting and Netflix could concentrate primarily on Colman.

I’m not sure Picture or Director are feasible, but you never know if the streamer goes all in on a campaign. Bottom line: Colman may have the best odds, but The Lost Daughter could find its way into other competitions with the right push. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Hand of God

As my weekly Oscar predictions have progressed, the #10 spot (remember there will be ten fixed nominees starting in 2021) has been a revolving door. Last week it was Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. The Italian filmmaker’s autobiographical tale of his youth comes eight years after his The Great Beauty won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (now International Feature Film). It is slated to hit Netflix worldwide on December 15.

God has now screened at the Venice Film Festival and the critical reaction is a bit varied. Based on a smattering of reviews, it stands at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some claim this is his best work. Others are decidedly more mixed. This leads me to believe that I may have been a tad overzealous when I put it in my top ten.

The Venice buzz could be enough to nab it a slot among the international flicks. However, there’s already 3 hopefuls (Flee, Parallel Mothers, A Hero) that I’d probably place before God. As far as breaking into the big race, don’t count on it. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Power of the Dog

When I did my Oscar predictions last week prior to the Venice Film Festival kicking off, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog was perched at #1 in four of the eight races that I’m currently projecting. That would be Best Picture, Director, Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Kirsten Dunst was listed in second for Supporting Actress with her real life hubby Jesse Plemons sitting in the same spot in Supporting Actor.

Dog has now screened at the Italian fest and the outlook is a bit cloudier. Some reviews are calling Campion’s early 20th-century set Western a masterpiece. Others are more mixed in their estimations. Some critics are hailing Cumberbatch’s performance as a career best. Others are saying he doesn’t quite pull the villainous role off.

It’s important to note that we are still in the early stages of Dog‘s awards road. By the time it hits theaters on November 17 and Netflix on December 1, the narrative could be clearer. Here’s where I’m at today based on the initial buzz. The pic’s Score (by Jonny Greenwood) and Cinematography (via Ari Wegner) appear to be shoo-ins. Cumberbatch is likely to nab his second Actor recognition after 2014’s The Imitation Game. Dunst is still a contender in Supporting Actress (it would be her first nomination). And I still feel confident that Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay are fairly safe bets.

With Supporting Actor, word-of-mouth suggests I may have been looking at the wrong actor (Plemons) for a spot. Kodi Smit-McPhee appears to have a more realistic shot (though I suppose they could both make it in). I wouldn’t count on it. Look for for Smit-McPhee to vault onto the charts of prognosticators.

Bottom line: The Power of the Dog could be a powerful force come Oscar time. Yet I question whether it remains in first position at any of the spots when I do my next weekly estimates (coming Monday). 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…

2021 Oscar Predictions: August 19th Edition

We are a mere two weeks away from the Venice Film Festival and that will be followed up in short order by Telluride and Toronto. It is then that a number of titles mentioned below will receive their first critical reactions. That will translate into whether their Oscar buzz is real or fleeting.

As for this week, there are some changes in the rankings and projections as follows:

    • We have ourselves a new #1 in Best Picture and Director and that is Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, supplanting Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. The film is a mainstay on the upcoming festival circuit and it could well be Netflix’s prime contender.
    • The 10 spot in Best Picture has a change. I’ve soured a bit on Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero. While I strongly feel it will contend in Best International Feature Film, I’m changing it out for Stephen Karam’s The Humans – the cinematic version of his acclaimed play. It jumps 11 spots to get into the BP derby. The Humans also is now forecasted for Adapted Screenplay to the detriment of CODA.
    • Amir Jadidi’s performance in A Hero is removed from the top five in Best Actor with Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up) taking the slot.
    • After viewing CODA, I believe Troy Kotsur (playing Marlee Matlin’s randy husband) could find a way into Supporting Actor. I don’t have him in the five, but Kotsur makes his first appearance in the race at #9.

You can read all the movement below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (Previous Ranking: 2)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 1)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Soggy Bottom (PR: 5)

6. Dune (PR: 6)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 7)

8. CODA (PR: 8)

9. West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. The Humans (PR: 21)

Other Possibilities:

11. Mass (PR: 11)

12. A Hero (PR: 10)

13. The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

14. Belfast (PR: 13)

15. Flee (PR: 19)

16. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 16)

17. Spencer (PR: 15)

18. King Richard (PR: 14)

19. Last Night in Soho (PR: 22)

20. Passing (PR: 20)

21. Parallel Mothers (PR: 17)

22. The Hand of God (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Being the Ricardos (PR: 24)

24. Cyrano (PR: 18)

25. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Blue Bayou

In the Heights

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

2. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 3)

3. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 4)

4. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

5. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 7)

8. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 8)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 10)

12. Sian Heder, CODA (PR: 11)

13. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

14. Stephen Karam, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Fran Kranz, Mass (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Pedro Almodovar, Parallel Mothers

Pablo Larrain, Spencer

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 5)

4. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 6)

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

8. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 8)

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

10. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 12)

11. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

12. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 11)

13. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 14)

14. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 13)

15. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Halle Berry, Bruised

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 1)

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

3. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

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

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

8. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 5)

9. Steven Yeun, The Humans (PR: 12)

10. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 11)

11. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 9)

12. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 14)

13. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 10)

14. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 13)

15. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom (PR: 15)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

2. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4)

3. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 2)

4. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 3)

5. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: 12)

7. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 7)

8. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 8)

9. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 6)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9)

11. Olga Merediz, In the Heights (PR: 11)

12. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 13)

13. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 10)

14. Nina Arianda, Being the Ricardos (PR: 14)

15. Salma Hayek, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

3. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom (PR: 2)

4. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: 9)

7. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 6)

8. Willem Dafoe, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

9. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall (PR: 11)

11. Bradley Whitford, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 12)

12. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: 8)

13. Simon Helberg, Annette (PR: 15)

14. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Adam Driver, The Last Duel (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Don’t Look Up (PR: 2)

3. Mass (PR: 3)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 4)

5. A Hero (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

7. Belfast (PR: 12)

8. Being the Ricardos (PR: 9)

9. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

10. Last Night in Soho (PR: 8)

11. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 10)

12. Spencer (PR: 11)

13. The Hand of God (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Blue Bayou (PR: 14)

15. King Richard (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Annette

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 2)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. The Humans (PR: 6)

5. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. CODA (PR: 5)

7. Dune (PR: 7)

8. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

9. Passing (PR: 8)

10. The Last Duel (PR: 12)

11. Cyrano (PR: 9)

12. West Side Story (PR: 11)

13. The Lost Daughter (PR: 13)

14. In the Heights (PR: Not Ranked)

15. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Dear Evan Hansen 

Back at it next week!

Oscar Watch: Worth

Sara Colangelo’s Worth debuted all the way back in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival, but is finally being released by Netflix on September 3rd of this year. The fact based drama centers on the activities around the 09/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Its cast is led by a trio of Oscar nominees in Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan. Colangelo is best known for The Kindergarten Teacher, her acclaimed second feature with Maggie Gyllenhaal that didn’t gain traction with the Academy. Max Borenstein is the screenwriter and this is certainly a departure for him as he’s recognized for penning the 2014 Godzilla reboot and Kong: Skull Island.

The streaming debut arrives just prior to the 20th anniversary of the tragic day. Early reviews from Sundance were mixed and Worth currently has a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating. There have been numerous pictures centered around 09/11 and the War on Terrorism and few have become contenders come Oscar time. The Report and The Mauritanian are two recent examples.

With its so-so critical reaction, don’t expect Worth to prove itself worthy of awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Vivo

While we wait to see whether or not most of the Best Picture contenders truly are viable, the Animated Feature race is already packed with contenders. Vivo is available on Netflix today. The Sony Pictures effort comes from director Kirk DeMicco (best known for making The Croods) and features original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The voice cast includes Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldana, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicole Byer, and Gloria Estefan.

The film’s reviews are solid with an 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating. In a lighter year, that might automatically warrant inclusion in the final five. Not so fast in 2021. The list of other hopefuls already released includes Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, Belle and The Mitchells vs. the Machines (another Netflix title that they should campaign heavily for). Additionally, Miranda has Mouse Factory effort Encanto this autumn which is another likely player. Add to the list the critically acclaimed animated doc Flee and Henry Selick’s Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 (also both upcoming from Netflix). So, yeah, it’s crowded.

If Vivo doesn’t make the cut, it could still make a play in Original Song. Estefan has the track “Inside Your Heart”. That particular competition is also expected to have plenty of tracks competing against each other.

Bottom line: there’s a lot of pics and songs in the mix, but Vivo is at least on the radar for attention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Belle

Three years ago, Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai scored a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars (ultimately losing to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). The Japanese director has unveiled his follow-up effort Belle at the Cannes Film Festival (receiving a 14 minute standing ovation) and this looks to be another contender in an already bustling 2021 field.

Critics are praising the visuals of Hosoda’s latest creation and it’s even drawing references to The Matrix for its style. It opens in Japan today with North American distribution anticipated for the fall. As mentioned, we have already seen a handful of serious hopefuls for the Academy to consider. This includes Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, and another Cannes selection with Where Is Anne Frank. The Mouse Factory also has Encanto later in 2021 while Netflix has Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 on deck.

Bottom line: add Belle as one more legit contestant for inclusion. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…