2020 Oscar Predictions: September 3rd Edition

We have arrived at Week #2 for my Oscar predictions in the eight major categories. I do so as the Venice Film Festival has kicked off with Telluride and Toronto slated to virtually get underway in the coming days. That means quite a few Oscar Watch posts will be up in short order, including for several of the features predicted below.

Since last Thursday, I’ve written only two Watch entries. Mulan isn’t likely to be a factor in any of the big races, but it could definitely contend for some technical categories. The forthcoming horror pic Antebellum didn’t impress critics and won’t be mentioned again here. If you would like to peruse those posts, you can do so here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/03/oscar-watch-mulan/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/31/oscar-watch-antebellum/

When I wrote my initial guesstimates one week ago, it was on the following day that movie lovers across the globe were hit with tragic news. The loss of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer has shocked and saddened all of us. Despite his acclaimed performances in 42, Get On Up, and his iconic work as Black Panther, Mr. Boseman has yet to receive a nomination from the Academy. Last Thursday, I already had him listed at #2 in Supporting Actor for the upcoming Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is now listed first as is his costar Viola Davis in Best Actress.

Here are some other developments of note:

  • I am still higher on Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which also featured Boseman) than some other prognosticators. I have it listed for inclusion in Best Picture, Actor (Delroy Lindo), and Original Screenplay. However, its numbers have fallen a bit and I am taking Spike Lee out of my Director five.
  • My estimated eight Best Picture nominees has remained intact with some shifting in the rankings.
  • Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) and Paul Greengrass (News of the World) are in for Director with the aforementioned Spike Lee and Francis Lee (Ammonite) out.
  • The five in Actress has not changed. In Actor, I’ve made the move to take Bill Murray’s performance in On the Rocks and put it in the supporting field. That allows for Tom Hanks (News of the World) to move up. In general, I have soured a bit on Rocks. You’ll see below that its numbers have dropped precipitously.
  • Supporting Actress also includes the same five women and that’s also the case with Supporting Actor.
  • Though I don’t have it in the top five, I’ve corrected French Exit to be listed in Adapted Screenplay as opposed to Original. Soul replaces The French Dispatch in Original for the moment while The Father vaults over West Side Story in Adapted.

As you’ll see, there’s plenty of new faces being mentioned for the first time that didn’t make the list last week and others who have dropped.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

4. Dune (PR: 6)

5. News of the World (PR: 7)

6. Ammonite (PR: 5)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

9. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 16)

10. Soul (PR: 14)

11. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 12)

12. The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

13. One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 10)

15. Minari (PR: 18)

16. The Father (PR: 17)

17. Annette (PR: 13)

18. Stillwater (PR: 21)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 22)

20. Respect (PR: Not Ranked)

21. Tenet (PR: 15)

22. The Midnight Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Next Goal Wins (PR: 24)

24. French Exit (PR: 25)

25. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 20)

Dropped Out:

On the Rocks

C’Mon C’Mon

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 4)

4. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

5. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

7. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 5)

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8)

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

10. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

11. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 11)

13. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 12)

14. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Christopher Nolan, Tenet (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Leos Carax, Annette

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 1)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 14)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 7)

9. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 11)

10. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 8)

11. Marion Cotillard, Annette

12. Julianne Moore, The Glorias (PR: 9)

13. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley (PR: 15)

14. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 13)

15. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rashida Jones, On the Rocks 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 1)

2. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 3)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 2)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

8. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 13)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 8)

10. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 12)

12. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10)

13. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 14)

14. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story (PR: 9)

15. Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Bill Murray, On the Rocks (moved to Supporting Actor)

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

Ben Affleck, The Way Back 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 5)

5. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 7)

7. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 14)

8. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 6)

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 9)

10. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire (PR: 8)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 11)

15. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Rebecca Ferguson, Dune

Nicole Kidman, The Prom

Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 2)

2. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 1)

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 7)

7. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Best Actor)

8. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 6)

9, Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 12)

10. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Lucas Hedges, French Exit (PR: 9)

14. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 10)

15. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Oscar Isaac, Dune

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Ammonite (PR: 4)

4. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

5. Soul (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 5)

7. Minari (PR: 10)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Stillwater (PR: 11)

10. Promising Young Woman (PR: 15)

11. Annette (PR: 13)

12. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 9)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 7)

14. Red, White, and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tenet (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

French Exit (moved to Adapted Screenplay)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. News of the World (PR: 3)

3. Dune (PR: 2)

4. The Father (PR: 6)

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 8)

8. West Side Story (PR: 4)

9. One Night in Miami (PR: 13)

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

11. French Exit (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Original Screenplay)

12. Next Goal Wins (PR: 9)

13. The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

14. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 11)

15. Respect (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

The White Tiger

The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it with updated predictions next Thursday!

2020 Oscar Predictions: August 27th Edition

As is tradition on the blog, my weekly Oscar prediction posts (coming to you each Thursday) kick off in the final weekend of August!

So while I’m following up with my normal Academy Awards speculating schedule, I am doing so in a year that is anything but traditional. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered release schedules for many pictures. This has left many release dates still uncertain.

Additionally, I have chosen this late August date because it’s usually right before some high-profile film festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are set to kick off. Some of these fests are continuing to operate in a much different fashion. We will see some of the titles identified below (including Nomadland, Ammonite and One Night in Miami) screen at these virtual competitions in the coming days.

This week, one significant contender had its unveiling for critics and that’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That reaction leads me to believe that it will certainly contend in a half dozen or so technical races, but that a Picture or Directing nod is a bit of a long shot.

Even in a year without the pandemic related challenges, Oscar speculation this early always comes with numerous caveats. They include the following:

  • Release dates will change and some movies listed here will get pushed back. This sure applies to 2020 and that’s even with the Academy extending eligibility to any features released in January and February of 2021.
  • There will be pics and performances that come out of nowhere and make their way to the release calendar that aren’t identified here.
  • Some performances listed in lead will shift to supporting and vice versa. For titles like David Fincher’s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – category placement for their large casts is still a question mark. As an example, there’s lot of potential contenders in The French Dispatch, but it’s impossible to determine who gets the critical shine. For the time being, I’m not listing any of the actors in that particular film.
  • There will be Original Screenplay hopefuls that turn out to be Adapted and vice versa.

Even with all those caveats, I was able to identify the winners in each of the top 8 categories in both 2018 and 2019. Their numeric placement varied widely. In 2018, I had Best Picture victor Green Book all the way down at 21 of my first initial 25 possibilities. Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, on the other hand, was placed at #2. Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek was at #12 in Best Actor with Olivia Colman in The Favourite at 9th in Actress. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) was 9th and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) was 2nd in the supporting fields. Adapted Screenplay winner BlacKkKlansman was in fifth with Original Screenplay recipient Green Book at #11.

As for 2019, Best Picture winner Parasite was originally placed in slot #7 while its director Bong Joon-Ho was fifth. In the lead acting companions, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) was 6th and Renee Zellweger (Judy) was fifth. In Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was perched at #1 and that never changed. Supporting Actress Laura Dern (Marriage Story) was #2. Adapted Screenplay Jojo Rabbit was fourth and Original Screenplay Parasite was 5th.

So based on history, you’re likely seeing the eventual 2020 Oscar winners somewhere here on these listings. In 2020, though, who really knows?

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Nomadland

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. Ammonite 

6. Dune

7. News of the World

8. West Side Story

Other Possibilities

9. The French Dispatch

10. Hillbilly Elegy

11. On the Rocks

12. Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Annette

14. Soul

15. Tenet

16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

17. The Father

18. Minari

19. C’Mon C’Mon

20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

21. Stillwater

22. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

24. Next Goal Wins

25. French Exit

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

3. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

5. Francis Lee, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Paul Greengrass, News of the World

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

10. Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

11. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

12. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Christopher Nolan, Tenet

14. Leos Carax. Annette

15. Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

7. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

8. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

9. Julianne Moore, The Glorias

10. Marion Cotillard, Annette

11. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

12. Rashida Jones, On the Rocks

13. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

14. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

2. Gary Oldman, Mank

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, News of the World

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

8. Adam Driver, Annette

9. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

11. Timothee Chalamet, Dune

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

13. Matt Damon, Stillwater

14. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

15. Ben Affleck, The Way Back

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

3. Olivia Colman, The Father

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

5. Helena Zengel, News of the World

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

8. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

10. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

11. Mary J. Blige, Respect

12. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune 

13. Meryl Streep, The Prom

14. Nicole Kidman, The Prom

15. Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Strathairn, Nomadland

2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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

4. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Burke, Mank

7. Tom Pelphrey, Mank

8. David Alvarez, West Side Story

9. Lucas Hedges, French Exit

10. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

11. Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah 

12. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

13. Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

14. Oscar Isaac, Dune

15. Forest Whitaker, Respect

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. Ammonite

5. The French Dispatch

Other Possibilities:

6. Soul

7. On the Rocks

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. C’Mon C’Mon

10. Minari

11. Stillwater

12. French Exit

13. Annette

14. Tenet

15. Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland

2. Dune

3. News of the World

4. West Side Story

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Other Possibilities:

6. The Father

7. Hillbilly Elegy

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

9. Next Goal Wins

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

11. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

12. The White Tiger

13. One Night in Miami 

14. Respect

15. The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it next Thursday, folks! Until then…

Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 18th Edition

Continuing on with my Daily Streaming Guide for worthy titles available on various services – let’s call today the Alex Garland Edition. He’s the director behind both science fiction titles that are highly worthy of a look:

Netflix

We begin with his intelligent 2015 effort about artificial intelligence – Ex Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. Made for a reported lowly $15 million, this is the type of sci-fi that Stanley Kubrick probably would have been proud of. Machina even won the Oscar for Visual Effects over high-profile features like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also features one of the greatest out of nowhere dance sequences in cinematic history in my view.

Hulu

Garland’s excursion into high minded sci-fi continued with Annihilation, his 2018 follow-up. The visually stunning experience featuring Natalie Portman and Isaac (again) has themes that will stick with you post credits. And just like Ex Machina features a scene that floored me, so does this. The former involved dancing. The latter involves a human and a bear sharing the same voice. You’ll see what I mean. It’s terrifying and thrilling simultaneously.

I’ll be back at it soon, folks! Until then…

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Movie Review

We talk about the Star Wars franchise the same way we speak of politics or sports. With passion and fervent opinions and disagreements. Perhaps we are giving it too much credit, but it’s become an American cinematic pastime. No group of films has inspired as much thought and re-thought. So we arrive at the ninth episode, The Rise of Skywalker, with all that baggage and more. After all, this one is tasked with closing out the saga that began at a time far, far away in 1977. Returning to direct with that weight on his shoulders is J.J. Abrams, who kickstarted the series for new owner Disney four years ago with The Force Awakens.

He does so two years following The Last Jedi from Rian Johnson, which sharply divided fans and critics by going in unexpected directions. Even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, didn’t jive with the choices Johnson made with his character shuddered on an island and not wishing to utilize his Jedi skills. That was one compliant from some diehard fans, among others. You could say they had their knives out for it, so to speak.

I found The Last Jedi to be flawed and disjointed, but also filled with great moments. There aren’t many of them here in Skywalker. As I ponder it, episodes VII-IX do follow a similar arc as the iconic I-III. The Force Awakens was tasked with introducing new and exciting characters from these galaxies. It also had to mix in Luke and Leia and Han Solo and Chewie. I felt, for the most part, that it did so successfully. That especially applies to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). In fact, their little therapy sessions from The Last Jedi were highlights of the whole trilogy. The common critique of Awakens is that it was a rehash of the first Star Wars. While this is with some merit, it didn’t take away my immense enjoyment of it.

As mentioned, The Last Jedi was more of a mixed bag. Yet with Johnson’s sometimes confounding but often daring choices, it was also the boldest. This is where a comparison with 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back seems fair. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nowhere in its league, but it did take what happened in the predecessor and take it in unexpected directions.

And now The Last Skywalker. Like 1983’s Return of the Jedi, this trilogy finale has to wrap it all up. Allow me to throw in this disclaimer – I don’t hold Return of the Jedi anywhere near the regards of what came before it. While I feel there are terrific moments, there’s a lot that didn’t work me and not just the Ewoks. It often felt a little tired and unsure of what to do with itself for a chunk of the running time. That applies to Skywalker and there’s aren’t as many terrific moments.

The similarities don’t end on just a quality level. Ultimately, the main plot here finds Rey facing a choice of whether to stay a Jedi or follow her lineage to the dark side… just as Luke did in Jedi. By the way, those lineage inquiries are addressed. Another complaint in Rian Johnson’s script was how he handled that aspect. Rey’s supporting cast is around with Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) marshaling support to take on Kylo. And as the trailer suggested, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is back in the mix, too. So is Billy Dee Williams as cocky fighter pilot Lando. His return isn’t exactly as pined for as what we got with Luke, Leia, and Han. As for Leia, Carrie Fisher does return utilizing unused footage from Awakens and Last Jedi. It’s handled delicately.

There are new players with Richard E. Grant joining Domhnall Gleeson as one of Kylo’s top lieutenants. Abrams throws some small parts to Keri Russell and Dominic Monaghan (who both starred in his TV shows). The short shrift is given to Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who had more of a presence in Last Jedi, but is basically ignored. That’s not exactly a problem as this is the Rey and Kylo show. Once again, both Ridley and Driver’s performances are first rate. Truth be told, though, Johnson wrote their dynamic better the last time around.

For the major detractors of The Last Jedi, perhaps this episode will feel like a return to Star Wars normalcy. I’m happy to listen to an argument that Johnson’s effort pairs well with the return of Abrams, but it would take lots of convincing. Skywalker often reeks of a course correction. This is becoming more common with franchises. We just saw Terminator: Dark Fate ignore the three pictures ahead of it. The X-Men series had to get creative with their timeline and do away with it under specific circumstances.

Those franchises aren’t Star Wars. The meeting between Han Solo and his son Kylo in The Force Awakens was a memorable, emotional, and surprising one. Whatever Mark Hamill and others might think about his treatment in The Last Jedi, a brief reunion with his sister in it was marvelous. In Skywalker, Abrams goes for a lot of those moments. And it felt, well, forced. The visual splendor and incredible production design (and the rousing John Williams score) is intact. A few scenes with Rey and Kylo work. Ultimately, I suspect my feelings about The Rise of Skywalker will be somewhat similar to Return of the Jedi – as an inferior product to its two predecessors.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

One day before its galactic release, the review embargo for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has expired and the news is not so great. The ninth chapter of the ginormous franchise sits at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. For all the talk about the mixed reaction to predecessor The Last Jedi in 2017, its RT score was 91%. Even last year’s mostly disregarded spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story managed 70%.

So… what does that mean for Oscar attention? Well, any remote possibility of Skywalker playing in top line categories like Picture is gone. Yet possibilities for tech nods remain intact. When counting the eight official episodes and spin-offs Rogue One and Solo, the series as a whole has gathered 34 total nominations and won seven. Six of them went to the 1977 original with another for 1980’s sequel The Empire Strikes Back. That’s right… it’s been almost 40 years since a Star Wars pic has nabbed a competitive gold statue. And I don’t expect that streak to end here.

In this currently trilogy, 2015’s The Force Awakens received five nominations: Score for the legendary John Williams, Visual Effects, Editing, and both Sound categories. The Last Jedi got the same nods minus Editing. I anticipate Skywalker will probably be recognized for the same four as Jedi and win none. Interestingly, there’s a solid chance it loses three of them (Score and the Sounds) to 1917. As for Visual Effects, that could go to The Irishman or another epic Disney franchise finale Avengers: Endgame. 

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/19): Hours before its opening, I am revising my estimate down from $206.4M to $191.4M

The ninth episode in the galaxy is not far, far away as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in a theater near you next weekend. Capping the third trilogy of the landmark franchise, the film finds J.J. Abrams returning to the director’s chair after Rian Johnson (currently having his own box office hit with Knives Out) handled duties on previous entry The Last Jedi in 2017. The familiar faces introduced four years ago in The Force Awakens return with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac headlining. Stars from the original trilogy are back including Carrie Fisher (via unreleased footage from previous efforts), Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and two cast members making their respective first appearances since 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. Other notable performers returning include Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Marie Tran. Newcomers to the series are Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, and Richard E. Grant.

Disney took over the reigns of George Lucas’s creation a few years back and the results have been billions more into the Mouse Factory’s considerable coffers. That said, the last two years have shown some chinks in the once impenetrable armor. The aforementioned Last Jedi divided audiences and critics and came in $300 million under Awakens. A few months later in May of 2018, prequel and spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story was the first picture in the series that was a genuine disappointment and actually lost money.

In Star Wars world, “disappointing” numbers are relative. The Last Jedi took in $220 million for its start on this same weekend two years ago, ending its run at $620 million domestically (that’s still good for #9 all-time). Yet, as mentioned, that’s considerably below the $936 million that Awakens achieved. It continues to stand at #1 overall in terms of stateside dollars.

Estimates for Skywalker show a pretty wide range. Some are as low as $175 million. Only in this franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe would that number be called low. Despite the mixed Jedi reaction and Solo grosses, I have a hard time buying that this last entry of the trilogy could come in with $45 million less than its predecessor.

The more reasonable anticipation is that this manages to top $200 million. There is certainly more serious family competition than Last Jedi had with Jumanji: The Next Level being in its second frame (it was the inverse in 2017 with predecessor Welcome to the Jungle arriving the week after Jedi).

My projection here gives Skywalker the seventh biggest debut ever, in between MCU titles The Avengers and Black Panther. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening weekend prediction: $191.4 million

For my Cats prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/cats-box-office-prediction/

For my Bombshell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/bombshell-box-office-prediction/

The Irishman Takes The NBR

The National Board of Review announced its victors this afternoon for their best of 2019. For the pictures and performers who were named as winners, you could say that it’s a double edged sword.

Allow me to explain. In this 2010’s, only one of their Best Film recipients took home Best Picture at the Oscars. That was last year with Green Book. This year, the award goes to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. So from an odds perspective, that could mean it faces an uphill battle for the big gold statue. On the other hand, all of the NBR Film winners from this decade, with the exception of 2014’s A Most Violent Year, have scored an Academy nod. This isn’t really in doubt for The Irishman so expect that trend to continue.

The Board always goes on to name their additional favorite 10 motion pictures and this year they are: 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. In 2018, only three of the ten additional NBR selections got Picture noms: Black Panther, Roma and A Star Is Born. Some notable titles that didn’t make the NBR cut for 2019: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Joker, Little Women, Parasite, and The Two Popes. 

When it comes to Best Director, the news is even worse for the NBR recipient. No movie this decade has seen that winner match with Oscar. In fact, the last direct match was in 2006 for… Irishman maker Scorsese for The Departed. The NBR named Quentin Tarantino today for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s got history against his side for a walk up the Academy steps.

In Best Actor, it’s the same story as only Casey Affleck for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea won NBR and Oscar in the 2010s. Adam Sandler is the winner for Uncut Gems. He’s part of a packed Best Actor race where there’s about a dozen viable candidates looking for five spots. This victory could at least help him get in as only Oscar Isaac (Violent Year in 2014) and Tom Hanks (2017’s The Post) didn’t land nods.

The numbers improve only slightly for Best Actress with two matches: Julianne Moore for 2014’s Still Alice and Brie Larson for 2015’s Room. The NBR bestowed the award this year to Renee Zellweger for Judy, who could be considered a soft front-runner for Oscar.

This brings us to Brad Pitt, winner today for Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He also holds the status of apparent favorite to win the Academy’s love. Yet there’s just two matches this decade between them and NBR: Christian Bale in 2010’s The Fighter and Christopher Plummer from 2011’s Beginners. 

Last year was the only match of the decade for Supporting Actress: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Kathy Bates took the NBR for Richard Jewell. I don’t see her winning the Oscar, but it could help her nomination odds.

In Original Screenplay, it’s interesting to note that 7 of the past nine NBR winners didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Could that be a sign of trouble for honoree Uncut Gems? Time will tell…

And for Adapted Screenplay, the NBR went with The Irishman. Par for the course, just two matches here: 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Descendants. 

Bottom line: the NBR announcements might help with fleshing out who certain nominees will be. As far as winners, that’s a whole different story…

The Addams Family Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/10): My estimate has risen from $21.7 million to $26.9 million

Snapping into theaters over a half century after the TV series and over a quarter century after the two film versions of that show, an animated version of The Addams Family debuts next weekend. Originally based on the Charles Addams comics, this iteration of the macabre clan sounds like something Tim Burton should have his fingerprints all over. And indeed, he was once attached to direct it. However, it’s Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (who last made the R rated Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg toon Sausage Party) shepherding the project. Voices of the family include Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Bette Midler, in addition to Allison Janney and Elsie Fisher.

Attempting to reach a kiddie audience pre Halloween (and a week before Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is out), it could be a somewhat tough sell for youngsters unfamiliar with the source material. That applies to the small screen 1960s version and the 1990s big screen one. In fact, this may not hit the $24 million achieved by 1991’s first live action Addams out of the gate (1993 sequel Addams Family Values didn’t fare as well).

I do envision this managing a debut of over $20 million, but perhaps not by much. That would likely put it in third place behind Joker and Gemini Man.

The Addams Family opening weekend prediction: $26.9 million

For my Gemini Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/gemini-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Jexi prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/02/jexi-box-office-prediction/

2018 Weekly Oscar Predictions: October 4th Edition

My first Oscar predictions of October are here as the new month has brought in some important scheduling announcements!

First, it has been confirmed that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule will indeed be released in 2018. While some reports suggest it’s more of a commercial play for Warner Bros than an awards one… its release means I’m including it for the first time in a number of categories as a possibility (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay). You just can’t discount Eastwood from the awards derby.

We also learned that Mike Leigh’s Peterloo and the sci-fi tale Alita: Battle Angel have been moved to 2019. While neither of them were considered players in the major categories, both could have been contenders in down the line tech races. Not anymore.

In other developments:

  • Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) has been ranked #1 since late August in Supporting Actor, but that now changes to Mahershala Ali in Green Book.
  • The first trailer for Vice is out. It maintains its spot at #9 on my Best Picture possibilities, but I’ve now moved Sam Rockwell into the five predicted nominees for Supporting Actor. I’m also vaulting Christian Bale from the 5 spot in Best Actor to second.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

1. A Star Is Born (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Roma (PR: 2)

3. First Man (PR: 3)

4. The Favourite (PR: 5)

5. Green Book (PR: 4)

6. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)

7. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 7)

8. Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Vice (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

11. Widows (PR: 11)

12. Boy Erased (PR: 12)

13. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 15)

14. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 13)

15. The Mule (PR: Not Ranked)

16. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 14)

17. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 19)

18. Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 16)

19. Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 20)

20. At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 18)

21. The Sisters Brothers (PR: 17)

22. Beautiful Boy (PR: 23)

23. Leave No Trace (PR: 21)

24. The Front Runner (PR: 24)

25. Eighth Grade (PR: 22)

Dropped Out:

Stan and Ollie

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (PR: 1)

2. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 3)

3. Damien Chazelle, First Man (PR: 2)

4. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 5)

5. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 6)

7. Peter Farrelly, Green Book (PR: 7)

8. Adam McKay, Vice (PR: 9)

9. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (PR: 8)

10. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

11. Steve McQueen, Widows (PR: 11)

12. Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 15)

13. Clint Eastwood, The Mule (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 14)

15. Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers 

Best Actor

1. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

2. Christian Bale, Vice (PR: 5)

3. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 3)

4. Ryan Gosling, First Man (PR: 2)

5. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 6)

7. Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 7)

8. Clint Eastwood, The Mule (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased (PR: 8)

10. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (PR: 10)

11. Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy (PR: 9)

12. Ben Foster, Leave No Trace (PR: 11)

13. John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 13)

14. Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner (PR: 14)

15. John C. Reilly, The Sisters Brothers (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther

Best Actress

1. Glenn Close, The Wife (PR: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Viola Davis, Widows (PR: 6)

7. Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 7)

8. Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 8)

9. Nicole Kidman, Destroyer (PR: 9)

10. Toni Collette, Hereditary (PR: 11)

11. Julia Roberts, Ben Is Back (PR: 10)

12. Keira Knightley, Colette (PR: 15)

13. Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 12)

14. Carey Mulligan, Wildlife (PR: 14)

15. Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 13)

Best Supporting Actor

1. Mahershala Ali, Green Book (PR: 2)

2. Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (PR: 1)

3. Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born (PR: 4)

4. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 3)

5. Sam Rockwell, Vice (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Daniel Kaluuya, Widows (PR: 5)

7. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)

8. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Steve Carell, Vice (PR: 14)

10. Russell Crowe, Boy Erased (PR: 11)

11. John C. Reilly, Stan and Ollie (PR: 10)

12. Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite (PR: 9)

13. Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 12)

14. Jason Clarke, First Man (PR: 13)

15. David Tennant, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Oscar Isaac, At Eternity’s Gate

Best Supporting Actress

1. Claire Foy, First Man (PR: 1)

2. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 2)

3. Emma Stone, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (PR: 4)

5. Amy Adams, Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Natalie Portman, Vox Lux (PR: 7)

7. Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased (PR: 6)

8. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 9)

9. Sissy Spacek, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 8)

10. Marina de Tavira, Roma (PR: 11)

11. Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 10)

12. Rachel McAdams, Disobedience (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace (PR: 13)

14. Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 14)

15. Dianne Wiest, The Mule (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Elizabeth Debicki, Widows

Linda Cardellini, Green Book

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 1)

2. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 2)

3. A Star Is Born (PR: 3)

4. First Man (PR: 4)

5. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Widows (PR: 7)

7. Leave No Trace (PR: 6)

8. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 8)

9. Boy Erased (PR: 9)

10. Black Panther (PR: 10)

11. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 11)

12. Disobedience (PR: 13)

13. Beautiful Boy (PR: 15)

14. The Sisters Brothers (PR: 12)

15. The Mule (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Front Runner

Best Original Screenplay

1. The Favourite (PR: 1)

2. Roma (PR: 3)

3. Green Book (PR: 2)

4. Vice (PR: 5)

5. Eighth Grade (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 9)

7. First Reformed (PR: 6)

8. At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 12)

9. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 7)

10. A Quiet Place (PR: 8)

11. Private Life (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Hereditary (PR: 14)

13. Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 13)

14. Ben Is Back (PR: 10)

15. Stan and Ollie (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Sorry to Bother You