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…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

2014 was an admittedly sturdy year in the Best Actor category with Eddie Redmayne winning the prize for The Theory of Everything. The other nominees were Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). However, one could argue that Carell could have fit into the Supporting Actor derby (and he probably would have been nominated over his costar Mark Ruffalo).

So while all five contenders above turned in fine performances, I still cannot fathom how Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was left out. As a demented Los Angeles photojournalist, the actor (whose only Academy nod is for supporting in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain) turned in a career best performance. In fact, Nightcrawler itself is my favorite movie of its year and should’ve certainly been a Best Picture nominee too.

This was the second year in a row where I feel an obviously worthy turn was ignored. In 2013, it was Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Gyllenhaal’s exclusion is just as baffling and that’s especially true because he was nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards.

Oscar History: 2014

Six years ago in Oscar history began an impressive two year run for filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with Birdman emerging as the big winner of the evening. The film took Best Picture and Director over its major competitor – Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. This was a ceremony in which the largest category did have some suspense. Birdman took the prize over the aforementioned Boyhood and six other pics: American Sniper (the year’s top grosser), The Grand Budapest Hotel (marking Wes Anderson’s first and only Picture nominee), The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. 

In this blogger’s perfect world, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler would have been recognized. It was my favorite movie of that year so get used to seeing it pop up in this post. Other notable selections from 2014 left on the cutting room floor: David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. 

Mr. Miller did have the notable distinction of being nominated for Best Director despite his work not showing up in Best Picture (very rare these days). As mentioned, Inarritu took the gold over Miller as well as Linklater, Anderson, and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). Gilroy, Fincher, and Joon-ho might have warranted consideration in my view as well as Chazelle’s bravura debut in Whiplash. 

One could argue that Nightcrawler isn’t your prototypical Picture contender. However, Jake Gyllenhaal being left out of the five Actor contenders stands as one of the noteworthy snubs in recent history. It was Eddie Redmayne emerging victorious for The Theory of Everything over his closest competitor Michael Keaton (Birdman). Other nominees: the three C’s of Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, picking up his third nomination in a row), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

There is a voluminous list of solid performances beyond just Gyllenhaal’s that were left wanting. It includes Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), David Oyelowo (Selma), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), and Miles Teller (Whiplash).

In Best Actress, Julianne Moore triumphed for Still Alice after four previous nominations without a win. She took the honor over Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Moore’s selection was one of the easiest to project as she’d been a sturdy frontrunner all season.

Looking back, how about Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow? Its action genre trappings probably prevented consideration, but she might have made my quintet. Amy Adams won the Golden Globe for Actress in Musical/Comedy, but missed here.

Another easy (and absolutely deserved) winner was J.K. Simmons in Supporting Actor for Whiplash over Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher).

I will yet again mention Nightcrawler as I might have considered Riz Ahmed. There’s also Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice.

Boyhood nabbed its major race victory in Supporting Actress with Patricia Arquette. Other nominees were Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), and the always in contention Meryl Streep for Into the Woods.

As for others, I’ll start with (surprise) Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Others include both Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent in addition to Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice).

My Oscar History will continue soon with 2015 as Mr. Inarritu will dominate the director race yet again while the Academy chose to spotlight something in Best Picture!

Oscar Watch: Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed has seen his profile rise in recent years with roles in Nightcrawler, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Venom. On the small screen, he is an Emmy winner for his work on HBO’s The Night Of. And now he could receive the attention of Academy voters with Darius Marder’s upcoming Sound of Metal.

The film casts Ahmed as the drummer of a band who begins to lose his hearing. Costars include Olivia Cooke and Mathieu Amalric. Metal first screened at the Toronto Film Festival over a year ago. Critics responded favorably with a 91% Rotten Tomatoes score with most of the reviews heaping praise on its lead.

It was recently announced that Amazon had picked up distribution rights. After a short theatrical run in November, it will be available for streaming in early December. Translation: expect an Oscar push for Ahmed. And it could work. At the moment, Best Actor appears less crowded than Actress. Beyond Anthony Hopkins in The Father (surefire nominee) and Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods (likely nominee), the race looks wide open. Ahmed is an up and comer and with the right campaign, he could find himself in the mix. Two weeks ago, I had him listed 15th of 15 Actor hopefuls. Last week, that rose to 12th. On Thursday, I will whittle my contenders down to ten and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s listed.

Furthermore, the storyline to Metal could lend itself to a Best Sound nomination. This is the first year where Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are being combined into one race. While this category is normally reserved for big budget blockbusters and sci-fi material, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this make a legit play. Bottom line: Ahmed’s work and the sound techs have a shot here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Velvet Buzzsaw Movie Review

There’s a moment in Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw where one of the vapid SoCal characters walks past a pile of garbage and declares it an inspired work of art. He doesn’t realize it’s just plain garbage. The writer/director has his eye trained on the reviewing class here in this satire fueled with intermittent gore. Items are junk or priceless because critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) says so. His opinion matters and his choices influence. When he has his eyes dilated after an eye appointment, someone asks if those flimsy and disposable sunglasses he wears after are the new designer craze.

These small moments provide some well-placed humor as Gilroy dissects his power-hungry characters one by one. The setting is Los Angeles, the same locale from his 2014 effort Nightcrawler (which happened to be my favorite film of that year). Gyllenhaal starred in that as well. His portrayal of Louis Bloom was a desperate figure looking to climb the ladder of his chosen profession. In Buzzsaw, Morf already has made it. The Bloom figure would be Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works for an art gallery run by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and she’s trying to make her mark. Josephina gets that chance when a tenant in her building dies and leaves behind a vast collection of paintings. No one knows much about the dead man’s background, but his works are immediately deemed masterpieces.

It takes a considerable amount of time for people to discover that the paintings have a mind of their own. A violent mind for anyone who dares to exhibit them. Or perhaps they’re just blinded to it because they see the dollar signs involved. Everyone in this piece judges art by that monetary standard only. Whether it’s an image that could harm you or whether it’s literal garbage, it’s valuation is what counts.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a bizarre and hit or miss concoction filled with stuffy self-important individuals to root against. You may find yourself cheering on the paintings to do their grisly thing. The cast is sprawling with Gyllenhaal adding another peculiar part to his repertoire. Russo (who’s married to Gilroy) is as ruthlessly profit hungry as she was in Nightcrawler (though her part isn’t as memorable). Her background here does provide the title as it’s the name of a punk rock band she was in decades ago. Toni Collette is a curator looking for her best angle to get in on the new craze. Natalia Dyer (of “Stranger Things” fame) is an opportunistic assistant who gains the unfortunate distinction of finding lots of dead bodies.

The artwork comes alive in visually arresting ways from time to time. The main difference between this and Nightcrawler comes down to this – I was constantly enthralled by the disreputable populace of the latter. It’s a more rare occurrence in the former. Velvet Buzzsaw won’t be mistaken for trash, but it shouldn’t be hailed as a sensation either.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Velvet Buzzsaw

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival just before its Friday debut on Netflix is Dan Gilroy’s latest picture Velvet Buzzsaw. The horror satire reunites the writer and filmmaker with his Nightcrawler lead Jake Gyllenhaal in a film said to mercilessly mock the world of art critics and collectors. Several movie critics seem quite impressed. Others are more mixed. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 82%. Costars include Toni Collette, Gilroy’s spouse and frequent collaborator Rene Russo, and John Malkovich (who must have office space at Netflix with this, Bird Box, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile).

Reviews suggest Buzzsaw could be quite polarizing. It may have a tough time breaking through with Oscar voters nearly a year from now. That said, both of the director’s previous works nabbed one nomination. 2014’s Nightcrawler was recognized for its Original Screenplay. In my view, it should’ve received more nods than that (especially Gyllenhaal). 2017’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. saw Denzel Washington garner a lead actor spot.

If Velvet has enough strong boosters, another screenplay nomination isn’t totally out of the question. Yet there’s a long road ahead to see whether that’s a possible outcome. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Roman J. Israel, Esq. Movie Review

Like his directorial debut Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy combines a myopically focused central character with Los Angeles landscapes in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Denzel Washington is Roman, the secret weapon in a small law firm known for its justice fighting pursuits. He’s a behind the scenes legal guru who’s uncomfortable in the courtroom and dealing with people in general.

When the public face of the firm suffers a heart attack, Roman (who I’ll refer to as that but always uses his full name and title) must go job searching. He pairs up with George Pierce (Colin Farrell), who runs a more successful operation that puts dollar signs over the virtuous work Roman is used to. It creates an opportunity for him to expand his wallet, as he struggles with the morality of his more high scale surroundings and assignments.

Part of the conscience searching is represented by Maya (Carmen Ejogo), a civil rights activist inspired. She works in an underpaid environment that her new friend would flourish in. Yet he also is effective with George until a questionable ethical decision about a murder case changes things.

Gilroy created a masterwork in 2014 with Nightcrawler. In that, Gilroy wrote Jake Gyllenhaal his best role as a strange but ingenious man whose work comes before all else. That traits apply to Roman and we have Washington providing a unique and always watchable performance. With big glasses, an Afro, and an extensive music collection constantly filling his ear buds, we’ve never seen Denzel quite like this and he seems to relish it.

Unlike Nightcrawler, this picture doesn’t totally work. The court case involved is practically an afterthought. The interpersonal relationships between Roman with George and Maya feel a tad underserved. This may be because the central figure here can’t get too close to anyone, but the film sometimes feels as distant as he is.

Washington almost makes it all worth it anyway, but ultimately Roman J. Israel, Esq. is well meaning and also slightly disappointing.

**1/2 (out of four)

 

Roman J. Israel, Esq. Box Office Prediction

Denzel Washington headlines Roman J. Israel, Esq., which expands nationwide over the Thanksgiving weekend. From Nightcrawler director Tony Gilroy, the legal drama hopes to appeal to the star’s fans and adult moviegoers looking for alternatives over the Turkey Day frame. Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo costar.

Israel has some issues that could block it from achieving solid grosses. While Washington can be a draw, this isn’t an action pic which are often his highest earners. Additionally, there is little awards buzz and reviews have been mixed (it sits at 55% currently on Rotten Tomatoes).

I’ll estimate that this won’t even reach double digits over the full five-day holiday weekend.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. opening weekend prediction: $5 million (Friday to Sunday), $6.9 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Coco prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/14/coco-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The reaction to the film itself was mixed, but Denzel Washington has increased his chances for an eighth Oscar nomination for Roman J. Israel, Esq. The legal drama is director Dan Gilroy’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2014 pic Nightcrawler (which is one of my favorite movies of the last few years). Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo costar.

As mentioned, reviews from its Toronto Film Festival screening have not all been positive (it’s at 71% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). Yet critics have singled out Denzel’s work here. His inclusion in Best Actor might be its only chance at Academy recognition. Gilroy could land an Original Screenplay nod (as he did for Nightcrawler), but that race is already looking busy.

Mr. Washington has won twice – for Supporting Actor in 1989’s Glory and lead in 2001’s Training Day. Just last year, he probably came very close to getting his third for Fences (he lost to Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea).

In my intital round of predictions last Thursday, I had the performer playing the title character here ranked 15th. He’ll be ranked higher in the second round on Thursday.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Stronger

The Toronto Film Festival is underway and that means a fresh round of Oscar Watch posts hitting the blog after Venice and Telluride provided their own.

Last night, David Gordon Green’s Stronger screened. It tells the true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing with Jake Gyllenhaal playing him. Early reviews have been positive yet it probably won’t factor into the Picture or Director races.

Gyllenhaal is a different story. His performance has been praised and it would not be surprising if he landed his first nod for Best Actor (he did get a Supporting Actor nomination for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain). Additionally, the Actor race seems somewhat light at press time and the voters could make up for other nominations Gyllenhaal could have received (Nightcrawler anyone?).

Costar Tatiana Maslany could also find herself in discussion for a Supporting Actress nod over her costar Miranda Richardson.

Bottom line: Toronto has bolstered the chances for Gyllenhaal to be among the five finalists for Best Actor.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…