Oscar Watch: The Banker

Last November, The Banker was scheduled to have its rollout at the AFI Film Festival. The period drama tells the true story of two of the first African-American bankers in the United States, as played by Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson. Yet the picture hit a hiccup on its way to the festival. One of the film’s coproducers was hit with sexual abuse allegations and the premiere was canceled. The original awards friendly December release date was indefinitely postponed. I wrote about it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/20/oscar-watch-the-banker-bounced/

Now The Banker is at last ready for its close up. It opens this weekend on limited screens before a debut on Apple TV two weeks later. That streaming service is attempting to get in the Netflix game with features that Oscar voters could notice.

I wouldn’t bank on this being that movie. In addition to a now unfriendly release date, critical reaction is mixed with a current 69% Rotten Tomatoes score. While Mackie and Jackson are getting solid notices, I just can’t picture The Banker being fresh on the minds of the Academy at the end of the year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Way Back

Ben Affleck has certainly had a fascinating history with Oscar voters. He’s a double winner who has never been nominated for the profession he’s known best for. In 1997, Affleck (along with Matt Damon) took home the Best Original Screenplay trophy for Good Will Hunting. Fifteen years later, his directorial effort Argo was named Best Picture and as a producer, he picked up his second Academy Award. However, he’s one of the few filmmakers whose project was victorious in the biggest race while he was snubbed in the directing category.

This Friday, Affleck stars in Gavin O’Connor’s basketball drama The Way Back. Playing a coach battling addiction problems, some early reviews are calling it his finest performance to date. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 85%. O’Connor’s previous sports related picture, 2011’s Warrior, nabbed Nick Nolte a Best Supporting Actor nod.

In addition to being ignored for Director with Argo, Affleck also failed to garner a Best Actor nod. As mentioned, he’s yet to pick up recognition in that space. There was some buzz he could get a nomination alongside his Gone Girl costar Rosamund Pike in 2014, but it never materialized.

Could The Way Back change that? Doubtful. The release date is awfully early and box office prospects don’t look too encouraging. Affleck could get a second bite at the apple in December with Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. That historical drama features the actor in a supporting role alongside Damon and Adam Driver. Affleck cowrote the screenplay and we could see another example of his writing skills being noticed as opposed to his own performance. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, updating the H.G. Wells novel and classic 1933 film, debuts Friday. With 90% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the word-of-mouth should propel the pic to quite visible box office numbers. In doing so, Invisible should break a streak of underperforming horror titles in recent months.

Much of the praise from reviewers is centered on its lead Elisabeth Moss. The Emmy winner for The Handmaid’s Tale garnered a small amount of Oscar buzz in 2019 for Her Smell that never came to fruition. I look for this to be the third year in a row where an actress garners buzz for a scary movie. In 2018, it was Toni Collette in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. In 2019 – Lupita Nyong’o for Jordan Peele’s Us. Both performers received a few wins from the critics groups. They both failed to get nods come Academy time.

This will likely be the case for Moss as well, but expect lots of speculation that she could make the cut before she doesn’t. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Emma

Emma is the latest adaptation of the 1815 Jane Austen novel and it’s out this weekend in limited release and posting solid numbers. This version stars Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role. She’s best known for her work in the horror genre with The Witch, Split, and Glass. Reviews are praising with a current 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film marks the debut of director Autumn de Wilde and arrives at an awfully early frame for awards voters to remember it. One of the last renderings of the book was in 1996 with Gwyneth Paltrow starring. It opened in the summer of that year and nabbed Oscar nods for Costume Design and Score. The former category is certainly a possibility. However, like what came before nearly a quarter century ago, I am skeptical this Emma contends for top of the line races.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a surprise for this to be placed in the Musical/Comedy lane at the Golden Globes. We have seen years where the Actress derby there is rather weak (including in 2019 when none of the five nominees managed Academy recognition). That could allow Taylor-Joy to be noticed at the Globes. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Onward

Pixar Studios is booking box office real estate early in 2020 with the release of next weekend’s Onward, which had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. The animated adventure follows two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Early reviews have been mostly positive with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%.

That said, many critics are saying that it’s not in the same league as other Pixar classics. And several of them have managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. So where will Onward stack up?

Since the inception of the category in 2001, Pixar has seen 13 of its 18 titles nominated for the award. 10 have emerged victorious, including Toy Story 4 two weeks ago. There have been two years where the studio has put out more than one feature. In 2015, Inside Out took the Oscar while The Good Dinosaur went without a nomination. The same happened in 2017 with Coco winning and Cars 3 missing a nod.

I say this because 2020 will also see a double release with Onward next weekend and Soul in June. It’s certainly possible that Pixar will save its awards campaigning for the latter instead. However, reviews for the former are decent enough that it could nab a slot among the five (depending on competition over the next ten months). Also worth mentioning is that Dan Scanlon, who directs here, made one of the other titles to go without a nomination with 2013’s Monsters University. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Crip Camp

Now that the Oscars honoring the films of 2019 have aired, I am catching up on some features that screened at the Sundance Film Festival that could attract the attention of 2020 voters. The documentary Crip Camp has a connection with what happened at the Academy Awards on Sunday evening.

In the Best Documentary Feature race, American Factory rode its buzz all the way from Sundance to the Oscar stage. It came from the Netflix owned production company Higher Ground, which includes former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama as its founders. The film achieved front runner status in the fall and that never really let up.

Crip Camp, from filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, has the same credentials. The doc tells the story of Camp Jened, credited with ushering in the disability rights movement in the 1970s. Reviews are strong with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%. With its expected Netflix rollout in the near future, Camp certainly has the possibility of following in the footsteps of Factory for an awards run. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2019 Recap: The Parasite Show

There was certainly an international flavor to last night’s Oscar ceremony and it was in a history making way. The Academy Awards honoring the pictures and performers of 2019 will forever be known as The Parasite Show as voters fell hard for Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean export.

So how did I do on predictions? 18/21 and I’m pretty darn pleased with that. There were few surprises that didn’t involve Eminem popping up for an out of nowhere performance of his 2002 Best Song winner “Lose Yourself” (of which he missed that acceptance speech 17 years back).

Best Director was certainly the biggest race I missed. That’s because Sam Mendes (1917) was undeniably the front runner after taking home the Golden Globe and especially the Directors Guild of America, which almost always previews the eventual Academy winner. Yet the Parasite love extended to Joon-Ho, whose interpreter seemed to get more airtime than anyone. The film also was victorious for Best Picture, International Feature Film, and Original Screenplay, which I correctly projected. In doing so, Parasite is the first foreign language entry to take Best Picture in its 92 year history. The four victories ended up leading the night over 1917, which took three in tech categories (Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Visual Effects).

In the acting races, everything was according to script as the quartet of Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Renee Zellweger (Judy), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Laura Dern (Marriage Story) went to the podium. Anything else happening would have constituted serious upset territory.

Other correct calls are as follows:

Adapted Screenplay – Jojo Rabbit

Animated Feature – Toy Story 4

Costume Design – Little Women

Film Editing – Ford v Ferrari

Makeup and Hairstyling – Bombshell

Original Score – Joker

Original Song – “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Production Design – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Besides Director, I whiffed on Documentary with my slight upset pick of For Sama. It went to the front runner American Factory. Same goes for Sound Editing, which Ford v Ferrari took as opposed to 1917.

I was correct in my thinking that The Irishman would be the only Best Picture nominee to come up completely empty-handed, despite 10 nominations. Lucky for Martin Scorsese, he received plenty of shout-outs including from the maker of Parasite. Joon-Ho (and his interpreter) certainly came away as the story of the evening. And I’m ready to get the 2020 Oscar speculation rolling!