Oscar Watch: The Lion King

Disney’s live-action rendering of its 1994 classic The Lion King is out next weekend and it’s expected to make a killing at the box office. The computer generated saga from director Jon Favreau is among a quartet of Mouse Factory updates of their animated filmography out in 2019.

Reviews are out today and it’s a mixed bag. Even the majority of positive reviews essentially say it’s a carbon copy of the original. Even the majority of negative reviews seem impressed with its state of the art visuals.

The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 59% and that’s right in range with the 57% that Aladdin received two months ago. That certainly puts this out of Best Picture range. However, I look for this to be a serious player in Visual Effects. If so, it would follow Favreau’s 2016 smash The Jungle Book and it won the award. This has a shot at following suit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Oscar Watch – Spider-Man: Far From Home

SpiderMan: Far From Home opens on Tuesday next week with solid reviews in its corner. With a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, many critics are calling it an improvement on its direct predecessor – 2017’s SpiderMan: Homecoming.

When it comes to Oscar’s history with the Spider-Verse over multiple features, there is past and very recent occurrences. The first two editions of Sam Raimi’s Tobey Maguire trilogy garnered nods. 2002’s SpiderMan nabbed Sound and Visual Effects nominations. Its 2004 sequel won Visual Effects, in addition to Sound nods. Since then, the four live-action features (one more with Maguire, two with Andrew Garfield, and Homecoming) received no awards love. However, last year’s animated and acclaimed SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse was the winner of Best Animated Feature.

Far From Home is, of course, part of the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe. If the studio pushes for Oscar votes, their attention in 2019 is likely to focus on Avengers: Endgame. So even with sturdy critical reaction, I would anticipate this being the fifth non-animated Spidey pic in a row to go empty handed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Wild Rose

After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, Wild Rose was released stateside in limited fashion this weekend. The musical drama casts Jessie Buckley as an ex con and mother of two who aspires to be a country crooner. Tom Harper directs and costars include Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo.

Reviews have been strong and the pic stands at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Special attention has especially been paid to Buckley, who is also among the cast of HBO’s huge miniseries hit Chernobyl.

Rose struggled to blossom at the box office this weekend on four screens. It’s doubtful it will post significant numbers in multiplexes. Yet there could be a sizable push for Buckley to nab a Best Actress nod (and maybe Nicole Taylor’s original screenplay). My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Midsommar

Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut Hereditary from last year. The filmmaker stays in the horror genre for this tale of two couples visiting a mysterious Swedish festival that only occurs every 90 years. Cult like scares follow.

The pic has screened ahead of its July 5 stateside bow and critics are once again singing Aster’s praises. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while some reviews point out audience reaction could be quite mixed (like his first effort).

This particular genre is usually ignored by Oscar voters. A groundswell of support began to gather in 2018 for Toni Collette’s lead role in Hereditary. The female lead here, Florence Pugh, has also gotten raves for her work. Yet if Collette couldn’t get in, it probably doesn’t bode well for this lead actress. Furthermore, Lupita Nyong’o could garner attention for her work earlier in 2019 for Jordan Peele’s sophomore flick Us.

Bottom line: if Hereditary couldn’t get on the Academy’s radar, don’t expect Midsommar to do so. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Toy Story 4

The fourth edition of Toy Story is unveiled in theaters next weekend and reviews are out today. It is the 21st film for Pixar that began in 1995 with… Toy Story. And when it comes to Oscar voters honoring the studio’s works, there’s a rich history.

Critics so far have given a 100% stamp of approval to the sequel. The Academy established the Best Animated Feature in 2001. There’s been 18 winners and half of them are Pixar pics. The studio has also nabbed two nods in Best Picture with 2009’s Up and 2010’s… Toy Story 3.

First things first: there is approximately zero doubt that part four will get Animated Feature recognition. And unless something special comes along in the second half of the year (perhaps Frozen 2?), it has an excellent shot at winning. It’s also feasible that it could land Pixar’s third Picture nod, but that is far less certain at this juncture.

Another category where Toy Story 4 could contend is Best Original Song. There’s two possibilities: Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let Yourself Throw Away” and “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy”, which was written by Newman and is performed by country superstar Chris Stapleton.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese

The eyes of many Oscar prognosticators will be on The Irishman later this year. The Netflix release comes from Martin Scorsese and the Mafia saga reunites many of his favorite players like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Yet the filmmaker could find himself in contention in another race with another saga featuring a legendary performer.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese debuts on the same streaming service tomorrow. The concert documentary follows Dylan’s unique 1975 tour and has caught the attention of critics. It stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is far from the first time Scorsese has turned his attention to the rock and roll world in this genre. It began over four decades ago with The Last Waltz, his feature about The Band. He’s since made pics centered on The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Dylan previously (2005’s No Direction Home).

Concert docs are a rare inclusion for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, but perhaps the Academy could decide it’s time to honor Scorsese’s contributions to the genre. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…