Luce Movie Review

The name Luce (sounds like loose) was given to its title character after being adopted from the war-torn nation of Eritrea at the age of ten. As he tells it, his adoptive mother Amy (Naomi Watts) couldn’t pronounce his birth name – unable to master the various syllables involved. Like Amy, we never do learn it. So Luce it is, which means light. In the context of the film Luce, this strikes me as a not insignificant detail. From the moment he comes to the United States, he’s accustomed to others defining him and believing what they see. In their eyes, there is no darkness. Only light.

Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a high school senior, raised by upper class Amy and Peter (Tim Roth). He is looked at as the model student. An all-star athlete and debate club standout, Luce can apparently do no wrong. When history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer) begins poking holes at his impenetrable facade, his status is challenged. As is her reputation.

What unfolds is a tale of race relations and, more significantly, racial expectations. No one in Luce is all that innocent. The picture often plays like a thriller where you expect a core player to snap. You’re just not sure who it will be. I’ll add that the tightly wound score from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury is a contributor to the feeling.

Harrison Jr. has a complicated character to portray and he succeeds in keeping the audience off-kilter. He’s charming, but there’s no doubt that another layer is bubbling not far under the surface. Spencer may have the trickiest role as Harriet navigates the repercussions of her discoveries about Luce. As always, she’s up to the challenge.

Julius Onah directed and co-wrote with JC Lee and Luce is an exercise clearly meant to spark discussion. The screenplay often allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions about who to root for and against or perhaps feel ambivalent about. There’s also the odd sensation of some themes being redundant. If you’re searching for a pat ending to fill in every blank, ambivalence may be your overarching reaction. The overall thesis to this story, like Luce’s original name, is unpronounced or at least left for speculation. I found Luce, for the most part, successful in creating a sense of tension before the conversations start after fade out.

*** (out of four)

Will The Indie Spirits Nominees Showcase Oscar Gems?

This afternoon, the nominations for the 35th Independent Spirit Awards were released as we prepare for the onslaught of Oscar precursors to follow. And make no mistake – the Indie Spirits are indeed a precursor. In this decade from 2010-2018, five of the nine Best Feature winners emerged victorious with the Academy for Best Picture: 2011’s The Artist, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, 2014’s Birdman, 2015’s Spotlight, and 2016’s Moonlight. Some of these years have three or four of the five nominees get Oscar nods in the big race.

However, 2018 marked the first year of this decade when none of the five nominated pictures at the Indies garnered any Academy love. I don’t expect that to occur for a second year in a row.

In this post, I’ll break down Feature, Director, and the four acting races and what it might mean for Oscar:

Best Feature

Nominees: A Hidden Life, Clemency, The Farewell, Marriage Story, Uncut Gems

First things first: Marriage Story is going to get a Best Picture nomination and probably wins here. And it might be the only one here that does. The Farewell has a decent shot and Uncut Gems is a potential sleeper (though I wouldn’t bet on it).

That said, Gems did tie The Lighthouse for most Indie mentions (5). And that brings us back to Marriage Story. The voters here chose to give it a special Robert Altman award honoring the team behind it. That includes cast members Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, and Alan Alda. They all probably would’ve heard their names here had that not occurred and same goes for director Noah Baumbach. If that seems like a bit of a cheat (taking out probable winners like Driver and Baumbach), I wouldn’t argue. The silver lining is that it does make some of these categories more interesting.

Best Director

Nominees: Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse), Alma Hor’el (Honey Boy), Julius Onah (Luce), Ben and Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers)

Like Best Feature, 2018 saw no directors recognized get Academy attention. With Baumbach getting his Altman award and out of the running, that could certainly happen again as I don’t even have any of these directors in my top ten Oscar possibilities. Perhaps this could help spur chatter for the Safdies or Scafaria. Again… I wouldn’t bet on it.

Best Female Lead

Nominees: Karen Allen (Colewell), Hong Chau (Driveways), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Mary Kay Place (Diane), Alfre Woodard (Clemency), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Six out of nine winners here from 2010-2018 went onto win the Best Actress statue: Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Brie Larson (Room), and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

Even with Johansson not included, it could be 7/10 as Zellweger is my current Oscar front runner. Woodard and Moss stand shots at nods. The other three need not shop for red carpet dresses.

One noticeable omission is Awkwafina in The Farewell, who many are predicting for Oscar attention. I currently had her on the outside looking in at sixth. That could slide when I update my estimates on Monday.

Best Male Lead

Nominees: Chris Galust (Give Me Liberty), Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Luce), Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Matthias Schoenarts (The Mustang)

Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) are the three Indie/Oscar recipients. Only in 2015 and (yes) 2018 did no nominees get Oscar nods…

I expect that to occur again. I believe only Sandler stands a chance, but it’s a reach based on severe competition.

Best Supporting Female

Nominees: Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Taylor Russell (Waves), Lauren Spencer (Give Me Liberty), Octavia Spencer (Luce), Shuzhen Zhou (The Farewell)

Four winners here have picked up Academy trophies – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), and the past two winners Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk).

With soft front runner Laura Dern in the Marriage Story special category thing, we could still see a third year in a row match with Lopez. Zhou and Spencer (to a lesser degree) may also find themselves in the Oscar mix.

And with Taylor Russell’s nod here, it’s a good time to mention that Waves really came up short with the Indies today. That doesn’t help its Oscar viability.

Best Supporting Male

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Wendell Pierce (Burning Cane)

This category is another ultra crowded one for Oscar attention, but Dafoe and LaBeouf are legit contenders for nods. Not so with the other three. The omission of Sterling K. Brown in Waves is a surprise.

There have been four Indie/Oscar victors this decade: Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Al Pacino (The Irishman) as likely favorites for the Academy, I wouldn’t expect a fifth match.

And there you have it, folks! My take on the Indies and which Oscar gems they could produce…

2019 Oscar Predictions: October 3rd Edition

Going into this week’s predictions, there was no question that Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman would be the headline. The gangster epic premiered last Friday at the New York Film Festival to overwhelmingly glowing reviews. That reaction has propelled it to the #1 spot in Picture, Director, and kept it there in Adapted Screenplay.

Additionally, the festival greatly increased the chances for Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to land nominations. De Niro makes an appearance in lead for the first time, pushing out Antonio Banderas. Pacino enters Supporting Actor, displacing Willem Dafoe. And Pesci rises to the #6 slot in that category.

Yet the movement this Thursday extends beyond Irishman. Renee Zellweger’s title performance in Judy is now #1 in Actress. In Supporting Actress, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers vaults to first position.

In Picture, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood makes its inaugural showing in my top ten projections. That pushes out Little Women, as we await reaction for it.

Finally, it was revealed (fairly unsurprisingly) that Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell will be released in December for awards consideration. I have the film, Clint, Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, and its Adapted Screenplay mentioned as possibilities.

WINNER OF THE WEEK: The Irishman 

LOSER OF THE WEEK: The Lighthouse 

Let’s get to it!

BEST PICTURE 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (Previous Ranking: 3)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

4. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 5)

5. Parasite (PR: 6)

6. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 4)

7. 1917 (PR: 7)

8. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

9. The Farewell (PR: 10)

10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. Joker (PR: 12)

12. Little Women (PR: 9)

13. Waves (PR: 13)

14. Just Mercy (PR: 18)

15. Pain and Glory (PR: 14)

16. A Hidden Life (PR: 15)

17. Judy (PR: 23)

18. Booksmart (PR: 21)

19. Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

20. Bombshell (PR: 16)

21. The Report (PR: 20)

22. Dark Waters (PR: 22)

23. Downton Abbey (PR: Not Ranked)

24. Rocketman (PR: 25)

25. Ad Astra (PR: 17)

Dropped Out:

The Lighthouse 

Knives Out 

BEST DIRECTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 2)

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

3. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 4)

4. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 3)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

7. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 7)

8. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 10)

10. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 11)

12. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 12)

13. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 14)

14. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: 13)

15. Clint Eastwood, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Todd Phillips, Joker 

BEST ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

4. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

5. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 4)

7. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 8)

8. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 7)

9. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra (PR: 9)

10. Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 11)

12. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 13)

14. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 12)

15. Matt Damon, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse 

Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim

BEST ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 2)

2. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 3)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 4)

5. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 5)

7. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 8)

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 7)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 9)

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 10)

11. Isabelle Huppert, Frankie (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 13)

13. Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 12)

15. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love 

Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 3)

2. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

3. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 2)

4. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

5. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 7)

8. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: 11)

9. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 8)

10. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 12)

11. Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 9)

13. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: 13)

14. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Meryl Streep, The Laundromat 

Anna Paquin, The Irishman 

Octavia Spencer, Luce 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 2)

3. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 6)

4. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

5. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 10)

7. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 7)

8. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

9. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 9)

10. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 8)

11. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 11)

12. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 12)

13. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 14)

14. Sam Rockwell, Jojo Rabbit (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Sam Rockwell, Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari 

Chris Evans, Knives Out 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Pain and Glory (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Waves (PR: 5)

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 7)

8. Booksmart (PR: 9)

9. Bombshell (PR: 10)

10. The Report (PR: 8)

11. 1917 (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Honey Boy (PR: 15)

13. Ad Astra (PR: 13)

14. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: Not Ranked)

15. The Lighthouse (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Knives Out

Uncut Gems 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 5)

5. Little Women (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joker (PR: 6)

7. Downton Abbey (PR: 9)

8. Just Mercy (PR: 7)

9. Judy (PR: 8)

10. Richard Jewell (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Dark Waters (PR: 10)

12. The Good Liar (PR: 11)

13. Luce (PR: 12)

14. Hustlers (PR: 13)

15. Toy Story 4 (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Laundromat 

2019 Oscar Predictions: September 27th Edition

When it comes to Oscar prognosticating, it’s been a fairly quiet weekend without any festivals or particularly high profile screenings. Yet that’s bound to change tomorrow because The Irishman cometh.

Two months ahead of its Netflix debut, Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster drama with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci will open the New York Film Festival. There are a few notable Academy hopefuls that haven’t screened like 1917, Bombshell, Little Women, and Dark Waters. Mr. Scorsese’s latest is the most eagerly awaited and we will know its potential Oscar viability in just a few hours (expect my individual post for it no later than Saturday).

So as we await that verdict, there were some developments in the past week:

  • I have moved Christian Bale from lead actor to supporting and that means he’s in for the first time, replacing Jamie Foxx.
  • Awkwafina gets the Best Actress #5 spot over Alfre Woodard.
  • The Two Popes has shifted to Adapted Screenplay and that takes Joker out.
  • The misfortune for Joker continues as I’ve moved it out of my top ten Picture projections in favor of The Farewell. 
  • With Popes removed from Original Screenplay, Waves takes its slot.

WINNER OF THE WEEK: The Farewell 

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Joker 

Let’s get to it!

BEST PICTURE

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 4)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

6. Parasite (PR: 5)

7. 1917 (PR: 6)

8. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

9. Little Women (PR: 10)

10. The Farewell (PR: 13)

Other Possibilities:

11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

12. Joker (PR: 9)

13. Waves (PR: 12)

14. Pain and Glory (PR: 18)

15. A Hidden Life (PR: 15)

16. Bombshell (PR: 16)

17. Ad Astra (PR: 23)

18. Just Mercy (PR: 14)

19. The Lighthouse (PR: 17)

20. The Report (PR: 21)

21. Booksmart (PR: 19)

22. Dark Waters (PR: 20)

23. Judy (Not Ranked)

24. Rocketman (PR: 24)

25. Knives Out (PR: 22)

Dropped Out:

The Good Liar 

BEST DIRECTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 3)

3. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 4)

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

8. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

10. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 10)

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 12)

12. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 14)

13. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: 15)

14. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

15. James Gray, Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Todd Phillips, Joker 

BEST ACTRESS

Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 2)

3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 4)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 3)

5. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 6)

7. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 8)

8. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 7)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 10)

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 11)

11. Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love (PR: 9)

12. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 12)

13. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 13)

14. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 14)

15. Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Elle Fanning, Teen Spirit 

BEST ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 5)

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 9)

8. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 8)

9. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra (PR: 13)

10. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 12)

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 11)

14. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: 15)

15. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (moved to Supporting)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 2)

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

5. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

Other Possibilities:

6. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 5)

8. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 7)

9. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

10. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 9)

11. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 10)

12. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 11)

13. Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 13)

14. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 12)

15. Chris Evans, Knives Out (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Bell, Rocketman 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 2)

3. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 3)

4. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 6)

8. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 12)

10. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat (PR: 11)

11. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 9)

13. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Anna Paquin, The Irishman (PR: 13)

15. Octavia Spencer, Luce (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory 

Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters 

Ana de Armas, Knives Out 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Original)

4. Little Women (PR: 3)

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joker (PR: 5)

7. Just Mercy (PR: 6)

8. Judy (PR: 10)

9. Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

10. Dark Waters (PR: 7)

11. The Good Liar (PR: 11)

12. Luce (PR: 12)

13. Hustlers (PR: 13)

14. The Laundromat (PR: 9)

15. Toy Story 4 (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Motherless Brooklyn 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 5)

5. Waves (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pain and Glory (PR: 8)

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

8. The Report (PR: 10)

9. Booksmart (PR: 7)

10. Bombshell (PR: 12)

11. The Lighthouse (PR: 13)

12. Knives Out (PR: 11)

13. Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Uncut Gems (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Honey Boy (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Two Popes (moved to Adapted)

1917

Ma Movie Review

The more I thought about it, Ma shares a bit in common with Tate Taylor’s predecessor  The Girl on the Train in positive and negative ways. They’re both headlined by impressive female performers – Emily Blunt in Train and Octavia Spencer here. And both are hindered by serious messaging tones in a genre that should celebrate its own trashiness. That problem is less pronounced in Ma, but it rears its head enough to make an impact.

The opening finds high school student Maggie (Diana Silvers, recently seen as an object of Kaitlyn Dever’s affection in Booksmart) transplanted to a sleepy small town. Her single mom (Juliette Lewis) is frequently off working at a casino. There’s nothing much to do except find fields to guzzle beer and smoke weed. Maggie finds some friends, including the dreamy Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) and party monster Haley (McKaley Miller). There’s a couple underwritten others who fit various stereotypes. The group needs town elders to buy them the booze and that’s where Spencer’s Sue Ann comes in.

She’s a veterinary technician who’s quite bad at her job. Her boss is played in a small role by Allison Janney, a staple of Taylor’s filmography. Luckily for the kids, she’s skilled at buying their intoxicants. Sue Ann, deemed Ma by the youngsters, befriends them and allows her basement to be the drinking spot. It doesn’t take long for Maggie and company to realize she’s a little too creepily eager to play a part in their lives.

Ma works best early when the motives of Ma are unclear. Her fascination with Andy, her zeal for bumping 70s funk hits amongst a swarm of underage students, and her endless texts and Insta videos to her new buddies set up an effective and pending sense of doom. Without going into serious spoiler territory, Ma’s bizarre behavior is based in her own upbringing and it’s told in flashback sequences. This is where explanatory content didn’t feel totally necessary. The screenplay by Scotty Landes rather clumsily attempts to insert commentary on bullying and harassment. It’s a delicate balance that never quite levels out.

Spencer is great as always and it is fun (again, especially early) to see her play against type. We also have Luke Evans as Andy’s smarmy father who plays a key role in Sue Ann’s past and Missi Pyle as his tawdry girlfriend. Despite some freaky moments, Ma is a mixed bag as we watch this girl on the crazy train go off the rails.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Luce

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, racial drama Luce has been doing decent limited release business over the past couple weeks. The film centers around a high school athletic prodigy (Kelvin Harrison Jr., in a performance drawing raves) and his adoptive parents played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Octavia Spencer costars.

Luce drew its share of admirers on the festival circuit and it currently holds a 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nigerian filmmaker Julius Onah directs with a screenplay he co-wrote along with JC Lee. It’s probably Original Screenplay where this holds a slight chance at being recognized. The likely scenario is this gets lost in the shuffle behind higher profile releases. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Ma Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions continues its output of ultra low-budget horror pics that could see impressive returns next weekend with the release of Ma. Made for a tiny reported budget of $5 million, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is cast as a homicidal veterinary aide terrorizing a group of teens. Ma reunites its star with her director from The Help, Tate Taylor (whose last effort was The Girl on the Train). Costars include Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, Luke Evans, McKaley Miller, and Missi Pyle.

The studio has been down this road before with blockbuster efforts like Get Out and Happy Death Day. I don’t expect Ma to reach their levels. While there’s no direct genre competition, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Rocketman could divert eyeballs elsewhere. Yet this could certainly triple or quadruple its budget out of the gate with an African-American audience and a teenage crowd.

Ma opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million

For my Godzilla: King of the Monsters prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/23/godzilla-king-of-the-monsters-box-office-prediction/

For my Rocketman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/23/rocketman-box-office-prediction/