Oscar Watch: The Trial of the Chicago 7

One of 2020’s most talked about Oscar contenders has screened this evening ahead of its October Netflix debut. The results are encouraging when it comes to Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and it retains its status a major player throughout awards season.

The true life legal drama marks the second directorial effort of Sorkin, known most for his screenwriting work on the big and small screen. He’s thrice nominated for his words with The Social Network (where he won), Moneyball, and Molly’s Game (his debut behind the camera). Buzz indicates he’ll be nominated again for Original Screenplay. A Best Picture nomination seems likely. I’m not 100% sold he makes the director cut yet, but time will tell.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Trial has a sprawling cast of acclaimed actors that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and Jeremy Strong. To say that Netflix will need to be strategic in their Supporting Actor campaign is an understatement. This is the same issue faced with other hopefuls like Mank and One Night in Miami.

Early word of mouth could match my initial projections before this screened as Cohen and Mateen II are garnering attention. Yet the same can be said for Rylance (Supporting Actor winner for 2015’s Bridge of Spies) and Langella. I doubt it will happen, but the door is at least open for Trial to get 3 Supporting Actor nods. The combination? TBD. If that occurs, it would be the first pic to accomplish that feat since 1974’s The Godfather Part II.

Also noteworthy is an Original Song submission titled “Hear My Voice” from Celeste that could make the final five. The verdict so far is that Trial is a probable contender in Picture and Director and Screenplay (that one basically assured) with several actors in the mix. It also appears a given that this gets Best Ensemble attention at the SAG Awards. Like Nomadland and One Night in Miami, I suspect this (which has been in my Best Picture predictions from the get go) won’t be leaving. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – John Lewis: Good Trouble

CNN Films broke into the Oscar mix two years ago with two documentaries nominated – Three Identical Strangers and RBG, focused on the life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That feature has obviously played over the weekend in the wake of her death.

Their film division should have another possibiity in 2020 with John Lewis: Good Trouble. Chronicling the Civil Rights leader and Congressman’s experiences in his decades of service, Trouble premiered just two weeks before his passing in July.

Reviews were solid and respectful with some critics saying it fell a bit short of expectations. Nevertheless the Rotten Tomatoes rating is 96% and it’s easy to imagine that awards voters will wish to include this in the Documentary Feature race. I am doubtful at this point that it wins. The Netflix doc Crip Camp, which comes from Higher Ground Productions formed by Barack and Michelle Obama, is an already released strong contender. Plus we still have plenty of time for other hopefuls to emerge. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Nomadland Takes Venice

In what looks to be the first of many accolades it could receive over awards season, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland took the top prize (the Golden Lion) today at the Venice Film Festival. It screened for the first time yesterday for fest goers to the tune of rapturous reviews and a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. I wrote about it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/11/oscar-watch-nomadland/

This should come as no surprise as Nomadland has been pegged as a contender and the hype now is real. It is difficult to imagine the Oscars not nominating it in Picture, Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), and Adapted Screenplay.

The Venice love did not extend to Zhao and McDormand, however. For the directing prize, it was Kiyoshi Kurosawa for the Japanese drama Wife of a Spy. In Actress, it was Vanessa Kirby’s work in Pieces of a Woman that was honored. This particular performance is one I wrote of here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-pieces-of-a-woman/

Kirby is one to watch. Her work is drawing raves and there’s the added bonus of her having another critically lauded work at the Italian festival The World to Come. If the film’s eventual stateside distributor plays its cards right, Kirby could find herself in the Oscar mix for a nod. (**Update – Netflix has picked up distribution rights to Pieces).

Speaking of cards, you may recall that last year’s Venice proceedings produced a surprise when Joker took the Golden Lion. This gave the first real glimpse that it could become an Academy contender and it went on to nab a Best Picture nod. With Nomadland, it seems like a done deal already. Also worth noting is that in addition to Joker, the two previous Lion winners (The Shape of Water and Roma) were included in the big race with Water emerging victorious. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Devil All the Time

The Gothic thriller The Devil All the Time, based on the 2011 bestseller by Donald Ray Pollock, is in theater this weekend in limited fashion before a Netflix release this coming Wednesday. Directed by Antonio Campos, the pic boasts an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson (who’s everywhere at the moment with Tenet and The Batman trailer out).

Reviews out are of the mixed variety as Devil holds a 64% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some critics have gone out of their way to praise the performances of Holland and Pattinson. The latter, in particular, seems likely to find an awards friendly role sooner than later with his impressive post Twilight output.

However, this is highly unlikely to be it. In addition to the several negative reviews, Netflix is simply too busy this season to make this film a priority. The streamer looks to have several legitimate contenders on their hands in the near future with Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Hillbilly Elegy – all of which have actors that they’ll campaign for. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Broken Hearts Gallery Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/08): I am downgrading my original estimate from $4.3 million down to just $2.3 million. Simply put, this probably would have been better off going the streaming route.

Sony Pictures is hoping that a young audience will turn out for next weekend’s The Broken Hearts Gallery. The romantic comedy comes from first time director Natalie Krinsky and was originally scheduled for a July release before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the plans. Executive produced by Selena Gomez, it stars Geraldine Viswanathan (best known for Blockers and HBO’s Bad Education) and Dacre Montgomery (Billy from Netflix’s Stranger Things). Costars include Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, and Bernadette Peters.

I’m a bit skeptical that this has any breakout potential. Many similar pics in this genre are based on novels with a hoped for built-in audience. Gallery doesn’t have that advantage or much star power to lure its intended demographic into the multiplex. The best hope for Sony is that this crowd is simply starved for anything to go see.

I don’t believe that’ll be enough to get this over $3 million.

The Broken Hearts Gallery opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

Oscar Watch: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

For over two decades, Charlie Kaufman has been one of the most celebrated screenwriters in the business. His original written works have resulted in a nomination for 1999’s Being John Malkovich and a win for 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kaufman picked up an Adapted Screenplay nod for 2002’s Adaptation. Additionally, his direction of the stop-motion tale Anomalisa in 2015 brought in a Best Animated Feature nomination.

Kaufman’s name on a project immediately brings awards buzz and his latest effort is I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which debuts on Netflix September 4th. Described as anti-romance and a horror flick, it marks the auteur’s third film behind the camera. Based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid, Things stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.

The review embargo lapsed today and it currently stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a fine number, but some of the critical reaction mirrors 2008’s Synedoche, New York (Kaufman’s directorial debut). Hailed as a masterpiece by some with others calling it a bleak misfire, Things appears headed for a polarized mix and that will likely translate to Oscar voters.

As for the performers, it does appear Plemons would contend in lead actor (this was more uncertain previously). Several critics have compared his performance to that of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s in Synedoche. I have trouble envisioning him being a major contender here (though his supporting work in the upcoming Judas and the Black Messiah gives him another potential shot at a first time nod). Buckley got some chatter for her breakout role in last year’s Wild Rose. I feel her chances are a bit stronger than her costar, but the Best Actress race looks like it could be crowded in 2020. Despite many heralded performances, Collette has only received one Oscar nomination and it was over 20 years ago with The Sixth Sense. There could be a groundswell of support for her to be recognized, especially after many felt she were snubbed for 2018’s Hereditary. She may have the best chance for inclusion, but it too feels like a reach at the moment.

I’m thinking that Ending Things will contend in Adapted Screenplay and it certainly could be recognized there. We will have to see how this fall’s other heavy hitters land to see how full that race is. Even with some negative reaction, voters have shown their appreciation for Kaufman before and they may again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Assistant

Julia Garner has already turned into an Emmy darling based on her supporting work as Ruth Langmore in Netflix’s Ozark. Last fall at the Telluride Film Festival, The Assistant was screened which features the actress in a tale of workplace harassment.

Directed by Kitty Green, the buzz for the film and Garner’s performance has grown steadily in the past few months. Now available for streaming, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at an impressive 91%.

Will Oscar potentially notice Garner? The odds seem long at this point. While many release dates are uncertain, there’s plenty of actresses with awards bait roles lined up over the next several months. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see critics pushing for a surprise nod for The Assistant lead. It likely won’t materialize, but it’s at least possible. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

My impossibly early first looks at the major Oscar races for 2020 arrives at Best Actor. If you happened to miss my posts concerning the supporting performers, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Unlike nearly all of the potential contenders in Supporting Actor and Actress, there are already two viable possibilities from pictures that have already screened or seen release. The Sundance Film Festival shed light on Anthony Hopkins in the forthcoming The Father while Netflix’s Spike Lee joint Da 5 Bloods showcased career best work from Delroy Lindo. If it not yet known whether Lindo will compete in lead or supporting, but I’m guessing he lands here.

As for other hopefuls, there are many intriguing storylines. On the Rocks finds comedic legend Bill Murray reuniting with director Sofia Coppola. Their 2003 collaboration Lost in Translation marked Mr. Murray’s only nomination thus far. Three years after his win for Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman will headline Netflix’s Mank from David Fincher, which on paper seems like a very awards friendly venture. And the trailer out last week for Judas and the Black Messiah appears to be a bait worthy role for Daniel Kaluuya (though its release date is still up in the air).

There’s plenty more recognizable faces to consider. I nearly put Ben Affleck among the top 15. His spring sports drama The Way Back gave him some of the best critical reaction of his career. Yet he’s likely a long shot.

In 2019, my inaugural August estimates yielded an impressive three of the five eventual nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). In my 10 other possibilities, the other two contenders were also named: Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes and the winner, Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. 

Here’s my first take!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Gary Oldman, Mank

Other Possibilities:

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

George Clooney, The Midnight Sky

Matt Damon, Stillwater

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Tom Hanks, News of the World

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

John David Washington, Tenet

Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress is up next! Stay tuned…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Today brings us my second post in my very early and quite speculative predictions on Oscar contenders for this thing we call 2020. I have already generated my initial picks for Supporting Actor and you can peruse it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

So we arrive at Supporting Actress. In my previous writeup for the gentlemen vying for recognition this year, I went into great detail regarding the challenges of Academy forecasting in 2020. I will not rehash them in detail here, but they obviously involve the COVID-19 pandemic that has created tremendous uncertainty when it comes to release dates. There’s the typical every year questions as well such as whether certain performers will end up in lead or supporting (Olivia Colman in The Father is just one example). Netflix’s The Prom, with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, is another one to watch as far as campaigns (I’ve got them both here for the moment). And I’m currently guessing that Saoirse Ronan will be in this race for Ammonite with her costar Kate Winslet going for Best Actress.

We already have some storylines that could prove fascinating if they pan out. In 2018, Olivia Colman scored a surprise win for The Favourite in lead actress over the more favored Glenn Close in The Wife. In 2020, we could certainly see them go head to head once again in supporting.

When I made my inaugural predictions post in this race in 2019, I correctly identified two of the eventual nominees in my top 5. This included winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh for Little Women. In my 10 other possibilities, I named Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit. I did not, however, list the other two contenders: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) and Margot Robbie (Bombshell).

Let’s get at it!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Olivia Colman, The Father

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

Mary J. Blige, Respect

Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Felicity Jones, The Midnight Sky

Nicole Kidman, The Prom

Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Meryl Streep, The Prom 

Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca 

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Helena Zengel, News of the World 

Best Actor is next! Stay tuned…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

And a new day has dawned on this blog of mine as the 2020 Oscar Predictions begin!

To put it mildly, this is a challenge in 2020. The obvious hindrance is the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut theaters down for the past nearly five months and prevented scores of titles from their release.

It doesn’t stop there. I always do my early prediction posts in the later part of August when significant film festivals are about to get underway. The coronavirus has altered that dynamic as well. The Toronto and Venice festivals will operate in a much different fashion with some releases getting remote screenings and you should expect quite a few Oscar Watch posts in the coming weeks. However, it’s not nearly the volume of previous years. I have chosen to push up these early prediction posts because… well, I don’t have much else to write about!

To add to the mayhem – we have understandably seen a year in which release dates are constantly changing. Some of the pictures mentioned here may not see the light of day by February 2021. That, by the way, is the month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have extended eligibility to for the upcoming ceremony. A good example: Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (which has seen its date pushed back more than once) is now a TBD release. We’ve grown accustomed to that lately. For this reason, I am not including it in my inaugural round of predictions.

One potential beneficiary to all of this is Netflix. The streaming giant has loaded up on awards contenders for the season. Three of them in particular – David Fincher’s Mank, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 – boasts multiple performers who could see their work recognized in this particular category. In fact, four of the five early predicted nominees here are for Netflix properties.

As with any other year, these first projections are done with another degree of uncertainty and that’s category placement. It is inevitable that some performances in the supporting field could move to lead and vice versa. These decisions will become clearer as time goes along and will certainly shift my predictions in the future. For instance, Delroy Lindo seems bound for a nod in Da 5 Bloods. The smart money is that he’ll be campaigned for in Best Actor, but it’s in the realm of possibility that he could be a Supporting Actor contender.

Looking back at my early 2019 predictions in this category nearly a year ago, only one of my five projected nominees got through the process. It was, however, the winner with Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For context, I predict my top 5 and then list ten other possibilities. All four other eventual nominees (Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for The Irishman), were all listed as possibilities.

So… let’s get to it with my very speculative first look at which gentlemen could contend in the supporting field!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Tom Burke, Mank

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

David Strathairn, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Charles Dance, Mank

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

I’ll have Supporting Actress up next! Until then…