Oscar Predictions: Cat Person

After starring in last year’s Oscar winning Best Picture CODA, Emilia Jones is back onscreen in two features playing at the Sundance Film Festival. One is Fairyland which I’ll get to in my prediction posts shortly. The other is thriller Cat Person from director Susanna Fogel (who cowrote 2019’s acclaimed coming-of-age dramedy Booksmart).

Based on a short story that generated lots of attention after it was published in The New Yorker, Jones plays a college student in a dangerous online romance with an older man (Nicholas Braun from Succession). Costars include Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Michael Gandolfini, Liza Koshy, and Isabella Rossellini.

Early reviews are of the mixed variety with a current 75% rating based on the small sampling via Rotten Tomatoes. This could generate some buzz with audiences after a distributor picks it up and that should occur imminently. I doubt it will follow suit with awards chatter. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Zola

Janicza Bravo’s Zola (or @zola) is certainly a film of its time. The biographical dramedy is based on a series of Tweets that went viral and led to a Rolling Stone article. Taylour Paige is the title character – a part-time stripper whose adventures in Tampa are chronicled here. Costars include Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo, Ar’iel Stachel, and Ts Madison.

Released Wednesday on approximately 1400 screens, Zola is picking up some buzz following its well-regarded screening at Sundance in January. It should make its meager $3 million budget back in its first few days of release. Critics have taken notice too and it sports an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating. As a side note – this was originally slated for James Franco to direct before his personal scandals canceled that possibility.

Distributor A24 could mount an awards campaign. Paige turned some heads late last year in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and is being heralded with this headlining showcase. Zola could also be the first Adapted Screenplay contender originated from the omnipresent social media platform.

My guess is that the subject matter may be a tad too left field for the Academy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some critical branches have this on their radar screen at the end of the year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

How to Be Single Movie Review

How to Be Single is about four single gals finding their way in the Big Apple and if that sounds like “Sex and the City”, you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s Alice (Dakota Johnson), our central Carrie character. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the inappropriate Samantha like friend. Lucy (Alison Brie) is the Charlotte-ish hopeless romantic who’s constantly trolling dating sites for true love. And Meg (Leslie Mann) is the career woman (and Alice’s older sister) whose got it together, but realizes she needs a baby. Kind of like Miranda.

Alice is just embarking on her first dip into the single pool when she breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and sees what NYC has to offer. It includes a bartender (Anders Holm) that has the playa life down cold and a sweet widower and dad (Damon Wayans Jr.) still getting over his wife’s death. There’s also the ex-flame (Nicholas Braun) who keeps turning up. Truth be told, none of these relationships are terribly interesting or well-written and Dakota Johnson still seems to be struggling to infuse much personality into her performances. This is also a problem that plagued Fifty Shades of Grey, which was far more dreadful than this.

If anything, How to Be Single is just kind of dull and conventional. It sold itself as a raunch fest, but it’s not. My favorite moments involved Mann and her earnest younger boyfriend (a funny Jake Lacy), yet the script never succeeds in juggling its separate plot lines. More of those characters might have worked. Maybe. The screenwriters might have figured out a way to make them tiresome, too.

** (out of four)