Oscar Predictions: All Quiet on the Western Front

92 years ago, Lewis Milestone’s war epic All Quiet on the Western Front became just the third movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival before its October 28th Netflix stream, the latest version could attract Academy attention as well. The German production comes from director Edward Berger with a cast including Daniel Bruhl, Albrecht Schuch, Sebastian Hulk, and Aaron Hilmer.

Its native country has already named it as their submission for International Feature Film. Critical reaction is positive across the board with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. In particular, the World War I tale is being praised for tech aspects.

Along with South Korea’s Decision to Leave, I believe Quiet is pretty close to a sure thing for the IFF category. Yet it could branch out beyond that. We’ve seen a trend lately of Best Director nominees representing their foreign features. Recent examples include Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War), Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car). In the first two cases, their film didn’t even make the Best Picture cut. This could happen with Berger or Decision‘s Park Chan-wook.

The possibilities don’t end there. Adapted Screenplay looks quite open for slot availability. The aforementioned down the line chances to make the final five include Cinematography, Editing, and Sound. It’s just as possible that Quiet only makes noise in IFF, but it could contend in multiple competitions including BP. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Wendell & Wild

Henry Selick burst onto the stop-motion big screen animation scene nearly 30 years ago with The Nightmare Before Christmas and continued on with James and the Giant Peach and Coraline (which received a Best Animated Feature). Note that the category didn’t exist when Christmas and Peach came out. His first feature in 13 years is Wendell & Wild, which premiered at Toronto and hits Netflix on October 28th (with an awards qualifying run a week prior).

A familiar comedic duo, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, voice the demon sibling title characters. Other performers behind the mic include Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, James Hong, and Ving Rhames. The Canadian debut yielded a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Most reviews are not overwhelming raves and I don’t see this winning the top prize. Netflix’s biggest contender could be the forthcoming Pinocchio from Guillermo del Toro. I also wouldn’t discount their acclaimed The Sea Beast from earlier this year. Wild could easily make the top five when the dust settles though I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Swimmers

Sally El Hosaini’s The Swimmers got the plum slot of opening the Toronto Film Festival a week ago prior to its November 23rd Netflix streaming bow. An Oscar qualifying theatrical run will precede that. Based on the true story of Syrian refugee sisters hoping for Olympic gold, real life siblings Nathalie and Manal Issa star alongside Ahmed Malek, Matthias Schweighofer, and Ali Suliman.

The Toronto buzz was mixed with a 60% Rotten Tomatoes score. I don’t see this generating a wave of support for awards consideration. Many reviews say this is more successful in its depiction of the refugee experience than as a sports drama. I would second that as I attended the opening night gala in Canada. I don’t envision this contending in any race. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: A Jazzman’s Blues

Tyler Perry puts away that Madea smock for a love story spanning four decades in A Jazzman’s Blues, which streams on Netflix beginning September 23rd. The writer/director’s latest premiered at the Toronto Film Festival with a cast of relative unknowns including Joshua Boone, Amirah Vann, Solea Pfeiffer, and Ryan Eggold.

Early critical reaction is mostly appreciative of Perry’s effort. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 80%. This doesn’t, however, appear to be his bid at awards kudos. The reviews are less raves and more claims that it’s serviceable. Don’t look for this to play with the Academy. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Inspection

Basing his directorial debut on his own experiences, Elegance Bratton has premiered The Inspection at the Toronto Film Festival prior to its November 18th domestic release. The A24 title features Jeremy Pope as a Marine at boot camp whose homosexuality is revealed. Costars include Raul Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, Bokeem Woodbine, and Gabrielle Union.

Reviews out of Canada are looking good for the most part and the Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 87%. Yet I’m doubtful this could play in Best Picture or for Bratton’s original screenplay. On the other hand, many critics are calling this a star making performance from Pope. He’s a recent Emmy nominee for the Netflix miniseries Hollywood (he’s also received Tony and Grammy nods for his stage work).

The studio will need to really push Pope for any hope of making the final five. Some of the those slots – Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Hugh Jackman (The Son) – may already be spoken for. It remains The Inspection‘s most realistic hope. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The critics certainly don’t have their knives out for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. This is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Rian Johnson’s 2019 comedic murder mystery which grossed over $300 million worldwide and gave Daniel Craig another franchise. Johnson and Craig are back with a new supporting cast that includes Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessicas Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista.

Slated for select cinemas in November before a December 23rd Netflix bow, Onion has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival with reviews saying it’s quite appealing. Some even claim it improves on the original. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 100%.

Three years ago, Knives had a sliver of hope to nab a Best Picture nomination, but it never materialized. An Original Screenplay mention was the reward for its success. This time around, it would contend in Adapted Screenplay since it’s based on existing IP. That could happen though let’s see how competitive that race is over the remainder of the year. I suspect if we see a sequel nominated for Best Picture in 2022, it’ll be Top Gun: Maverick and not this… and we still don’t know how solid Avatar: The Way of Water is. As for performances, Monae is being singled out in several write-ups as the MVP. However, Supporting Actress is already starting to looked stacked.

Where Onion could sizzle is at the Golden Globes with a Musical/Comedy Best Motion Picture nod and Best Actor in that category for Craig. That occurred in 2019 and could happen again. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Swimmers Review

The emotional power of Sally El Hosaini’s The Swimmers is present, but it comes in waves interrupted by sprinkles of forced sentimentality and padded length. This true story of two sisters escaping war torn Syria is gripping enough that a Rocky style training montage and pop music interludes feels a little extra. For much of its length, this is a potent and often frightening tale of the refugee experience through their eyes and their fellow travelers from numerous nations.

Yusra (Nathalie Issa) and Sara (Manal Issa) Mardini are being trained by their father/coach (Ali Suliman) to excel in the title sport. The goal is clear – make the Olympics and do their country proud. Real world events interfere when, by 2015, President Assad is waging war on his own citizens. For any hope of success or just surviving, the sibs join their cousin (Ahmed Malek) on a trek to Germany while leaving their parents and little sister behind. The long road to pined for full family reunification find its path through several countries and the Aegean Sea.

That dangerous Sea crossing is the climactic centerpiece and it comes around the middle mark of 134 minutes. El Hosaini and her team are technically proficient. The sound and cinematography deserve special mention. It’s an expertly constructed sequence and there’s other haunting bits of the Mardini’s path to freedom.

The running time is too long. By the time the Yusra and Sara find a German instructor (Matthias Schweighofer) to assist in making the 2016 Rio games a reality (through the Refugee Olympic Team or ROT), The Swimmers becomes watered down. It simply can’t keep up with what preceded it.

You may note the actresses playing the Mardini’s have the same last name and that’s because the Issa’s are also sisters. This shows in their effortless chemistry. Yusra is focused on the gold medal goal while Sara is more of a wild card. However, she doesn’t hesitate to move into older sibling protective mode when called upon. Before they reach Rio, that’s when The Swimmers hits mostly right notes. To borrow a phrase from Duran Duran (even though it’s Sia who gets the soundtrack love), that’s when El Hosaini and her team really shine and show you all they can.

*** (out four)

Oscar Predictions: Blonde

While she received two Golden Globe nominations in her short-lived career, the Oscars never recognized Marilyn Monroe. Could the Academy honor the performance of Ana de Armas in the biopic Blonde as the icon? Arriving in limited release on September 16th before its September 28th Netlix stream, Andrew Dominik’s pic comes with a rare NC-17 rating and a near three hour runtime. Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, and Julianne Nicholson costar in the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 2000 novel.

This is Dominik’s first feature since 2012’s Killing Them Softly (his 2007 Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is considered by many to be a modern day classic). It premiered at Venice and early buzz is that this is a dark and rather sleazy and often enthralling exploration of the price of fame. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 84%.

I’m dubious that the Academy will embrace this as a BP contender. The real question is whether de Armas can make the cut. Based on initial reaction, she certainly can but it’s no guarantee… unlike, say, Cate Blanchett (Tar) or Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once). Her potential inclusion is probably contingent on how competition for slots plays out in the next four months. My Oscar Predictions posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Pinocchio

There could be a Pinocchio movie that contends for Oscars in 2022, but it’s not the one this post is focused on. Today marks the Disney Plus premiere of Pinocchio, the studio’s latest live-action remake of their iconic IP. The musical fantasy has some high profile talent with Robert Zemeckis directing and Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, and Luke Evans appearing. Voice work is contributed by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (as the title character), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Keegan-Michael Key.

Some reviews claim it’s an OK watch, but plenty others have been quiet derisive. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 32%. Even without critical acclaim, the Mouse Factory’s live-action retelling of The Lion King managed a Visual Effects nod three years back. Don’t look for that to occur here as some of the buzz is quite dismissive of its overall look.

In November, Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated version of the puppet turned real boy arrives on Netflix. We’ll see if it garners Academy chatter. This won’t. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Lady Chatterley’s Lover

In 1928, D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in the United States and elsewhere due its explicit sexual nature and profanity. Nearly a century later, the latest celluloid version of his work lands in theaters this November before a December Netflix rollout. It played at Telluride over the weekend. This is Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s second directorial effort following 2019’s critically appreciated The Mustang. Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell are the lead lovers with Matthew Duckett and Joely Richardson in the supporting cast.

Early reviews have this at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with particular praise heaped on Corrin/O’Connell’s chemistry (expect to see a lot of them according to the buzz). Corrin is a Golden Globe winner as Princess Di on The Crown and she has a busy autumn as she costars alongside Harry Styles in My Policeman (soon screening in Toronto). I don’t think this is a BP contender, but I’ll be curious to see if Netflix attempts an Actress campaign for their Crown royalty. Perhaps that notion could pick up steam if the streamer feels she’s the best option, but I wouldn’t count on it. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…