Oscars 2019: The Case of Marriage Story

My Case of posts for the nine 2019 Best Picture nominees arrives at Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. If you missed my first five entries, you can look them over at these links:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-joker/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/18/oscars-2019-the-case-of-little-women/

Let’s look at the pros and cons for this particular story:

The Case for Marriage Story

This would be the acting showcase nominee. With three nods for Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern, it has more performance nominations than anything else and Dern is seen as the front runner in Supporting Actress. The pic’s 95% Rotten Tomatoes score is certainly on the high end for the nine pictures recognized. Baumbach’s Oscar exposure previously consisted of a sole Original Screenplay nod for 2005’s The Squid and the Whale and this is his awards breakout.

The Case Against Marriage Story

The Netflix venture has yet to produce a signature victory at any of the major precursors. Baumbach was left out of the final five in Best Director and that’s almost always a troubling sign for a Best Picture victory. And there’s still the matter of potential Netflix bias from voters. Even if the streaming service doesn’t face opposition, Academy members will probably look at Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman instead.

The Verdict

Laura Dern could represent the film’s sole win on Oscar night. Baumbach could make a run at Original Screenplay with serious competition from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Parasite. A Best Picture win doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Up next in my Case of posts… 1917!

Oscars 2019: The Case of The Irishman

Continuing with my Oscar series outlining the cases for and against nominees in the top six categories, we arrive at Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. This is my second of (gulp) 34 posts for films and individuals picked in the Picture, Director, and the acting races. If you missed yesterday’s writeup about Ford v Ferrari, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

Let’s get to it!

The Case for The Irishman

Scorsese’s latest is an epic unification of screen legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in the genre they’re known best for… the gangster tale. The three and a half hour opus certainly has awards gravitas. It was pegged as a likely nominee from the moment it was announced. Both Pacino and Pesci were named in Supporting Actor and the pic sports 10 nominations, which is tied for second along with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Scorsese is obviously a legendary figure and this is his ninth effort to get a Picture nod (the only winner being 2006’s The Departed).

The critics have been on its side and it has a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Several critics group named it as the year’s best.

The Case Against The Irishman

That attention has not translated to the big awards shows yet. The Golden Globes surprised most when they picked 1917 over this in Best Drama. The Critics Choice Awards chose Hollywood. Some have griped about its length. De Niro, unlike Pacino and Pesci, couldn’t manage a nod with the Globes, SAG, or the Academy. And then there’s the still unsettled notion that the Academy could have a Netflix problem, despite the streamer leading this year’s studios in total number of nominations. In 2018, Roma appeared to be the front runner until that Netflix property lost to Green Book. 

The Verdict

There was little doubt that The Irishman would garner plenty of attention in various categories, including here. Yet viability as a winner is much in question. Scorsese’s latest could still take the top prize, but it appears to be a bit of a long shot at the moment.

Up next in my Case of posts… Jojo Rabbit!

2019 Oscar Nominations Reaction

Well, folks, the Oscar nominations were out bright and early this morning. Per usual, there were some genuine surprises and omissions that will have Twitter buzzing right up until the ceremony February 9th.

Readers of the blog know that I spend months trying to put the puzzle together on who and what will be nominated. My results today? Out of the 109 predictions made, 88 of them came to fruition. In the eight biggest categories, there were four that I got all nominees correct… including Best Picture. Truth be told, I’m pretty pleased with my results!

Before we break it down race by race, some general comments. As for movies that had a disappointing wakeup call, there were numerous entries that had possibilities in the major categories and beyond. Those left on the cutting room floor include Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Us. Another movie barely left standing was Rocketman. I had it pegged for five nominations, but it managed just a single mention in Original Song.

For the films that did make it in, Joker scored the most nominations (somewhat of a surprise) with 11 followed by The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with 10 apiece.

With some of my analysis here, you’ll see strong indications on what my winner forecast might be. Expect that post to be up a couple of days before the ceremony.

And with that, let’s break it down!

Best Picture

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 9/9 (!)

Analysis: For Oscar prognosticators, just getting the correct number of films that are nominated is an accomplishment. It can fluctuate anywhere between 5 and 10. Nine felt correct for some time and I’ve had these ones predicted for several weeks. As for a winner, I feel six of them have at least decent to strong shots. I’m nowhere near ready to crown a victor.

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It was Phillips riding the Joker wave over Greta Gerwig for Little Women. Like Picture, this race feels wide open and it could come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes.

Best Actor

The Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: With so many contenders in the running, going 4 for 5 here feels like more of an accomplishment that naming the Best Pic nominees. It was Pryce getting a slot over Taron Egerton in Rocketman. Banderas and Pryce are first time nominees. It looks like Phoenix could sweep awards season and that gives him his first win.

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: 100% here and like Best Actor, there’s a strong front runner with Zellweger. If so, she’d pick up her second statue after being named Supporting Actress for 2003’s Cold Mountain. 

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: What a list of legends we have here! There’s some interesting tidbits to share. Every nominee here has won an Oscar. Yet it’s been some time since most were nominated – Pesci since 1990 for GoodFellas, Pacino since 1992 for his double nod with Scent of a Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross, Hopkins since 1997 (Amistad), and rather shockingly, Hanks… who has his first nomination since 2000 with Cast Away. Pitt, on the other hand, is the most recent nominee for his acting (2011’s Moneyball). However, he’s the only one of the five to never win the Oscar for his performances (he does have an Oscar for producing 2013’s 12 Years a Slave). Got all that? And here’s the last word on that… Pitt seems destined to join their company in February as a winner.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now we get to the first genuine shocker and that’s Jennifer Lopez not being nominated for Hustlers. Bates takes her spot. Lopez was generally seen as close to a sure thing for recognition and I’ve had her listed at #2 behind Dern for weeks. This only helps Dern for her first podium walk.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: This has looked like the final five for a while now and this could represent the best chance for a major win for The Irishman. That said, I wouldn’t count Jojo or Joker completely out.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: No love for The Farewell here with 1917 getting in. Tarantino is a soft favorite over Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Best Internation Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

How I Did: 3/5

Les Mis, Pain, and Parasite were automatics. The last two spots were tricky to forecast and I had Atlantics and Those Who Remained instead. Honeyland pulled off a notable achievement by being named here and in Documentary. Bottom line: this is the easiest race of them all to project. It’s going to be Parasite. 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Next big surprise as Disney’s Frozen II was frozen out with Klaus taking the spot. Toy Story 4 is the favorite, but I don’t discount the possibility of an upset here (with Dragon and Body as potential spoilers).

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: The documentary branch is always unpredictable and that proved accurate this morning. Apollo 11 and One Child Nation were the two I had in over The Cave and The Edge of Democracy. Netflix’s American Factory (the first doc from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company) appears to be the leader of the pack.

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I had Ford v Ferrari over Lighthouse. This looks to be a win for 1917. 

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Surprises here with Dolemite Is My Name and Rocketman being ignored in favor of The Irishman and Joker. I even thought the two I predicted had real shots at winning. This one could be between Women and Hollywood. 

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Now this one is interesting! I had Hollywood in and not Jojo. Why is Editing important? Of any category at the Oscars, a nomination here means a lot to the eventual Best Picture winner. The last movie to win the big prize and not be nominated for Editing is 2014’s Birdman. And that’s really an asterisk since it was filmed in one long continuous shot (though the same basically holds true for 1917). Before that, the last Best Picture winner recipient to not score a nod here? You have to go all the way back to 1980’s Ordinary People. In other words, the snub for Hollywood here could mean something. Perhaps it will be an outlier. Yet I feel it’s key for ballot guessers to know that only two BP winners haven’t been recognized here in the past 40 years…

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Hollywood and Rocketman out and Maleficent and 1917 in. Expect this to be the sole win for Bombshell.

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: Back to perfection! Joker has gotten the precursor love, but 1917 is a threat.

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: This category is a head scratcher. I had “Spirit” from The Lion King and “Glasgow” from Wild Rose in over the Toy Story and Breakthrough tracks. This should be a contest between Elton John’s Rocketman tune and the Frozen song. However, both films were significantly snubbed in other categories as mentioned above. The one thing I do know… this branch clearly loves tracks that begin with the letter I.

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Little Women over Parasite. This could definitely be a W for Hollywood.

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Had Avengers: Endgame over Joker. In both sound races, this should be between Ford and 1917.

Best Sound Mixing 

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

How I Did: 3/5

Had Rocketman and Skywalker over Astra and Hollywood. See Sound Editing above.

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How I Did: 5/5 (!)

Analysis: I’m glad this category is last alphabetically so I can end on a high note! I lean Lion King, but that could change.

And that does it for my nominations recap! As stated, expect winner predictions shortly before February 9th!

 

2019: The Year of Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler

One of the welcome cinematic storylines of 2019 involves two beloved Saturday Night Live vets who accomplished some of their finest film work, have garnered Oscar attention, and both returned to the show that made them after many years away.

I’m referring to Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler and they both get spots in my Year of 2019 posts. Murphy had been absent from the silver screen since 2016’s drama Mr. Church. Over the past several years, he was known more for his family comedies then the raunchy comedian that sold out stadiums in the 1980s. 2019 saw a return to form with Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name, his critically hailed recounting of Rudy Ray Moore’s contributions to movies. The pic has given Murphy his best reviews since 2006’s Dreamgirls and gotten him back into the Oscar conversation. We also witnessed the legendary performer host SNL for the first time in 35 years. 2020 will showcase Murphy returning to stand-up (something he hasn’t done since the late 1980s) and reprising his Prince Akeem character and others in Coming 2 America, which again teams him with Netflix and Dolemite director Craig Brewer.

Mr. Sandler also hit the 30 Rock building to headline SNL. He hadn’t been back in that role since being fired from the show in the mid 90s and embarking on his own wildly successful film career. The SNL gig saw him perform a humorous and touching tribute to cast mate Chris Farley. His partnership with Netflix includes this year’s Murder Mystery with Jennifer Aniston. There’s already a sequel planned for it. And the critical kudos came with crime thriller Uncut Gems, which opens wide on Christmas. That pic, from directors Ben and Josh Safdie, has Sandler picking up awards precursors and, like Murphy, in the mix for Academy attention. He’ll return to his preferred streaming service next year with Hubie Halloween.

For SNL, 2019 will be remembered as a time when two of their most famous alumni returned. For Murphy and Sandler, it’s a time when they gave us some of the most memorable onscreen work.

Uncut Gems Box Office Prediction

Veering far away from the Netflix comedies like Murder Mystery that he’s become known for over the past few years, Adam Sandler headlines the critically heralded crime thriller Uncut Gems and it expands nationwide on Christmas, The pic comes from directors Ben and Josh Safdie and the supporting cast includes future NBA hall of famer Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, pop star The Weeknd, and Eric Bogosian.

Since its initial screenings at the Telluride Film Festival in late August, Gems has shone brightly with reviewers. It stands at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and Sandler has picked up early awards precursors and could be in the running for an Oscar nomination. How will this translate to box office dollars? For the past two weeks, the film has been in limited release in five venues and performed well with $1 million in its coffers.

Whether or not Gems translates widely to mainstream viewers across the country is a trickier question. Even with Sandler’s involvement, this may cater more towards the art house circuit as opposed to audiences looking for holiday options. I’ll project that this hits mid single digits from Friday to Sunday and low double digits for the extended five-day rollout.

Uncut Gems opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $11 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Little Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/little-women-box-office-prediction/

For my Spies in Disguise prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/spies-in-disguise-box-office-prediction/

The Two Popes Movie Review

The Two Popes volleys back and forth between light and dark tonal shifts, but is benefited greatly from moments of divine inspiration by its two leads. At its base, the film is about one man replacing another for a job. It just happens that this occupational transition involves taking over the Catholic Church and that impacts over a billion followers worldwide. The transfer of the Papacy from 2013 was a nearly unprecedented event as a sitting Pope hadn’t resigned in over 700 years. The screenplay here from Andrew McCarten imagines the potential talks that could have happened behind giant Vatican doors between the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the current Cardinal Bergoglio and soon to be Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Both men’s crises of faith are explored in dramatic ways, but they also eat pizza, talk music, and take in a soccer match while the weighty stuff is happening.

This gorgeously edited version of history from director Fernando Meirelles takes us behind the scenes of two conclaves and the Sistine Chapel as the church is experiencing various scandals. The death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 posits the question of whether the Catholic upper echelon should move in a different direction. German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger represents the old guard while Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio advocates for a different and more inclusive approach. The old guard prevails for years until Benedict contemplates the unthinkable act of renouncing the position.

The picture is mostly a two-man show that would probably work well as a stage play. It’s an excuse for Pryce (who bears a very passing resemblance to Francis) and Hopkins to have lengthy conversations about flagging faith and the pristine halls of power. And because these two leaders are human, after all, even contemporary subjects like ABBA and the Beatles come up. Hopkins is no stranger to portraying figures staring down the prospect of abdicating the throne (he did so in alternative fashion in Oliver Stone’s potent Nixon).

Like that film, the use of flashbacks is incorporated for context into the protagonist’s background. That character here is Bergoglio and the makers of The Two Popes are clearly in his corner with his focus on the poor and the environment. Yet the often humorous script is sympathetic to Benedict as he ponders his momentous choice. Juan Minujin plays the future Francis from a young priest hearing the call of his Father to a more seasoned one grappling with political upheaval in his native country. These sections are more hit or miss. They’re perhaps a little less involving because we want to get back to the master class of acting courtesy of Pryce and Hopkins. These two veterans make this well worth the price of the Netflix streaming admission.

*** (out of four)

2019: The Year of Netflix

Today kicks off my posts on the performers who will be remembered for having a strong 2019 and making an impact on the silver screen. However, as I have in previous years, my first writeup goes to a studio. And while Disney could be named every year nowadays (and they certainly had a terrific year), we turn to Netflix in 2019.

It’s hard to believe now, but it was a few short years ago that their big budget TV series House of Cards was considered a risk. Could this streaming service provide truly quality original content? Times have changed, ladies and gents.

Netflix has become an undeniable hub for high profile directors and actors. 2019 saw the studio give us successful comedies such as Murder Mystery with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and the acclaimed rom com Always Be My Maybe. 

Action directors like Michael Bay turned to the service with 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds. We have filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh making Netflix a home with both High Flying Bird and The Laundromat. Millions of eyeballs were tuned to the Breaking Bad continuation El Camino. 

Most notably, 2019 seems destined to be the year when Oscar voters won’t be able to ignore it. The conversation about Netflix being able to garner multiple Academy nods is about to become a moot one. 2017 and 2018 saw voters nibble around the edges. Two years ago, Mudbound managed a Supporting Actress nod for Mary J. Blige and Adapted Screenplay. 2018’s Roma received a number of nominations and Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director. It was considered a frontrunner for Picture, but lost to Green Book. Some blamed it on bias against the biggest streamer.

This year, we have two films that could win the largest prize of all – Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Other contenders for a nomination include The Two Popes and Dolemite Is My Name, which returned to Eddie Murphy to form. Between those four pictures, you could see as many as a dozen acting nominations.

There’s little doubt that 2019 gave us a shifting in the tide of Netflix’s credibility. And that’s likely to stay. My Year Of posts will continue soon with some of the actors who had a lot to celebrate…