Oscar Predictions: Dune

The arrival of Dune at the Venice Film Festival has been a breathlessly anticipated one. Denis Villeneuve’s epic version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel is one of 2021’s most buzzed about projects. And that’s after it held the same status in 2020 before its COVID delay. The $165 million futuristic tale held its Italian screening and the results are fascinating to behold.

Dune currently has an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some reviewers are calling it quite special and the kind of technical achievement that we witnessed 20 years ago with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, there seems to be no question that it looks amazing. There was never much doubt that this would contend in several tech races including Visual Effects (where it should be the front runner), Sound (same), Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Score.

Whether this breaks through in above the line races is less clear. The mixed to negative critical reaction is mostly focused on its narrative shortcomings. That’s why I feel Adapted Screenplay could be a reach (not to mention that it looks quite competitive anyway). My hunch at the moment is that Dune, primarily due to its technical wizardry, should still manage a Best Picture nod. If it does, I would say Villeneuve makes it in for his direction and that would give him nomination #2 after 2016’s Arrival. I will extend a caveat: if Dune is considered to be a box office disappointment when it comes out October 22, that could hinder its chances in the big dance.

As for the cast, Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson are being praised for their work. Yet I suspect none of the sprawling ensemble will hear their names among the final five.

My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Card Counter

Writer/director Paul Schrader experienced a career resurgence three years ago with First Reformed. The critically acclaimed work nabbed the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull a Best Original Screenplay nod. However, the Academy ignored the heralded lead performance from Ethan Hawke and it didn’t grab any other nominations.

Schrader’s latest is The Card Counter and it has premiered in Venice. Out September 10, the crime drama mixes political intrigue with the game of poker. The title character is portrayed by Oscar Isaac, who’s seeking his first nod despite lauded roles in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina. 

Early word-of-mouth from Italy suggests Schrader has another winning hand, though not all reviews are totally flush with praise. The lead is unsurprisingly being singled out, but if Hawke couldn’t get in for Reformed, I really question whether Isaac could. Whether he may contend in supporting for Dune is a question that will be answered in the next 24 hours. As far as all actors involved, he’s the only one that stands a remote chance and not costars Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, or Willem Dafoe.

I feel the same for its Picture and Director prospects. Original Screenplay is not out of the question though this doesn’t seem quite as highly regarded as Schrader’s predecessor. Bottom line: I wouldn’t count Card as much of an awards player. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

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/