Oscar Predictions: Petite Maman

French director Celine Sciamma’s 2019 historical romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire turned plenty of heads upon its release. Its accolades included the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a nod for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

Her follow-up is the family drama Petite Maman, which premiered this spring in Berlin and was released overseas in the summer. Reviews for the feature are mostly glowing and it stands at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

If France selects Maman for representation in International Feature Film, it could achieve something that Portrait did not – a nomination in that category. Two years ago, the French chose to go with Les Miserables instead and it did make the final cut (losing to juggernaut Parasite).

A nod is certainly feasible, though this race has plenty of major contenders including A Hero, Flee, The Worst Person in the World, and The Hand of God. Whether there’s room for Sciamma’s latest is certainly a question mark at the moment. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2022 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Tragedy of Macbeth

The veil has lifted for a major awards hopeful with Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. This version of the Shakespearian tragedy casts Denzel Washington as Lord Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth and it is kicking off the New York Film Festival. Between the two leads, they have five Oscars between them. Do they need to find more room on their shelves?

With Denzel, news from the Big Apple indicates yes. Some early reviews are calling it among his career best work. In the Best Actor derby, it’s likely that Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Will Smith (King Richard) have already punched their tickets to the dance. I believe we can add a third today with Mr. Washington.

With McDormand, it’s a bit more complicated. The answer may come down to whether distributor A24 elects for a campaign in lead or supporting. Based on the buzz, it sounds like a case could be made for either. My hunch is that Supporting Actress (which appears fairly wide open at the moment) will be the play. If so, McDormand probably stands a better chance for inclusion. I question whether her recent Best Actress victories (in 2017 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and last year’s Nomadland) make her vulnerable to newcomers. Yet in Supporting Actress, I could easily see the Academy making room for her.

As for the rest of the cast, both Corey Hawkins and Kathryn Hunter are generating solid notices. However, their screen time could be a hindrance to make the cut (for Hunter, this definitely holds true if McDormand goes supporting).

Beyond Denzel, the cinematography is being heralded and it’s a safe bet Macbeth gets recognized there. Other techs like Production Design and Sound are feasible. Adapted Screenplay from Mr. Coen (making his first pic without brother Ethan) is in the cards. On the other hand, it’s said to deviate very little from the Shakespeare text and that may leave it off some ballots in that particular category.

Moving to the largest race of all, I’ve included Macbeth in my top ten for Best Picture all along. I don’t think it’s guaranteed a slot, but I don’t see myself moving it out based on the current buzz. Coen’s placement in Best Director is questionable but possible.

Bottom line: The Tragedy of Macbeth has elevated its lead actor and put itself in position for numerous other races. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Many Saints of Newark

During its acclaimed eight year run on HBO, The Sopranos picked up 21 Emmys, 5 Golden Globe honors, and was named by Rolling Stone in 2016 as the greatest TV series of all time (a designation I wouldn’t argue with).

It has been 14 years since the show abruptly faded to black, but The Many Saints of Newark (out October 1 in theaters and HBO Max) serves as a prequel to the action. Set three decades before the New Jersey crime family made their way to the airwaves, Newark casts the late James Gandolini’s son Michael as Tony Soprano. Alan Taylor (a series vet) directs with creator David Chase cowriting. Costars include Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga as Tony’s complicated mother Livia.

The film has screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and the review embargo is lifted. Based on its small number of write-ups, Newark stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are highlighting the performances of Nivola (as Tony’s mentor Dickie Moltisanti) and Gandolfini. However, I don’t believe what I’ve seen reaction wise indicates this will be an Oscar player in any category.

Bottom line: The Sopranos awards love will continue to rest with the TV branches of the Emmys and Globes. Don’t expect the Academy to make Newark a factor. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: September 19th Edition

Thanks to the Toronto Film Festival, we have a new #1 atop the charts in Best Picture and it’s Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. 

The coming-of-age drama won the festival’s People’s Choice Award and that is no minor development. 12 of the past 13 victors have received a BP nod. Five of them have won. And that’s enough to allow Belfast the designation of soft frontrunner (with lots of time to go and lots yet to be seen). However, the fact of the matter is, you have to go back to 2006’s The Departed to find a BP winner that didn’t screen at one of the higher profile festivals.

The Power of the Dog was a runner-up for the People’s Choice prize and it slides just one spot. Director Jane Campion  maintains top billing in her category.

There are further developments to point out:

    • King Richard is back in my top 10 BP projections edging out The Humans. The Will Smith sports drama also enters Original Screenplay over C’Mon C’Mon.
    • Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza) is in for Best Director over Ridley Scott for House of Gucci.
    • The praise for Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye is enough to put her at #2 in Actress. It’s not enough to dislodge Kristen Stewart (Spencer) from her ruling perch. I will admit that the subpar box office grosses for Faye this weekend doesn’t help, but I’m relatively confident at this juncture that she’s in.
    • The revolving door that is slot #5 in Best Actor lands on Joaquin Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon) over Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley).
    • Big changes in Supporting Actor as Jamie Dornan (Belfast) and Jared Leto (House of Gucci) are in. Dropping are Dornan’s costar Ciaran Hinds and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog).
    • While the Supporting Actress five stays intact, I’ve vaulted Ann Dowd (Mass) back to the top spot.

By this time next Sunday, we will know the buzz for Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth as it opens the New York Film Festival this Friday. Stay tuned for my Oscar Predictions post on that next weekend.

You can peruse all the action below and the forecasts will be updated next Sunday!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 4) (+3)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Dune (PR: 5) (+1)

5. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (-2)

6. Licorice Pizza (PR: 7) (+1)

7. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (-1)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8) (E)

9. Don’t Look Up (PR: 9) (E)

10. King Richard (PR: 12) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

11. The Humans (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Spencer (PR: 15) (+3)

13. CODA (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Mass (PR: 14) (E)

15. The Hand of God (PR: 13) (-2)

16. Flee (PR: 17) (+1)

17. The French Dispatch (PR: 16) (-1)

18. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 19) (+1)

19. A Hero (PR: 18) (-1)

20. The Lost Daughter (PR: 20) (E)

21. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 24) (+3)

22. Being the Ricardos (PR: 22) (E)

23. Cyrano (PR: 23) (E)

24. Passing (PR: 21) (-3)

25. Parallel Mothers (PR: 25) (E)

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7) (E)

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

9. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 9) (E)

10. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 14) (E)

15. Stephen Karam, The Humans (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 1) (E)

2. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 4) (E)

5. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 6) (E)

7. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 7) (E)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13) (+3)

11. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 10) (-2)

13. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Halle Berry, Bruised (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: 14) (-1)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 1) (E)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2) (E)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3) (E)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4) (E)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 7) (E)

8. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 8) (E)

9. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 11) (E)

12. Ben Foster, The Survivor (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Jude Hill, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Adam Driver, Annette

Filippo Scott, The Hand of God

Simon Rex, Red Rocket

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (-2)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9) (E)

10. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 7) (-4)

12. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12) (E)

13. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Dakota Johnson, The Lost Daughter (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (PR: 1) (E)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 7) (+4)

4. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 3) (-5)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Willem Dafoe, Nightmare Alley (PR: 12) (+1)

12. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Timothy Spall, Spencer

Benny Safdie, Licorice Pizza

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (PR: 1) (E)

2. Licorice Pizza (PR: 2) (E)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3) (E)

4. Mass (PR: 4) (E)

5. King Richard (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Spencer (PR: 7) (E)

8. The Hand of God (PR: 9) (+1)

9. The French Dispatch (PR: 8) (-1)

10. A Hero (PR: 12) (+2)

11. Parallel Mothers (PR: 10) (-1)

12. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Being the Ricardos (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Last Night in Soho (PR: 14) (E)

15. Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Blue Bayou

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Humans (PR: 3) (E)

4. House of Gucci (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Dune (PR: 7) (E)

8. CODA (PR: 8) (E)

9. West Side Story (PR: 9) (E)

10. Passing (PR: 10) (E)

11. Cyrano (PR: 11) (E)

12. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 12) (E)

13. The Last Duel (PR: 13) (E)

14. The Green Knight (PR: 15) (+1)

15. In the Heights (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Belfast Takes Toronto

It’s a wrap for the Toronto Film Festival as prognosticators awaited the naming of the People’s Choice Award. Why? It has become one of the most reliable indicators for a movie nabbing a Best Picture nomination from the Academy.

As in – 12 of the latest 13 victors have done so. Five have gone onto win the big prize: 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, 2010’s The King’s Speech, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, 2018’s Green Book, and last year’s Nomadland. That’s one heckuva track record.

When Kenneth Branagh’s black and white coming-of-age drama Belfast premiered at Telluride and reached Toronto, it became somewhat of a surprise awards contender. Yet coming into today, it was not an unexpected development for it to take the People’s trophy.

Belfast was listed at #4 in my BP possibilities last Sunday. I can guarantee it will rank higher when I update my projections tomorrow. Simply put, Belfast can be written in pen with your ten nominees in the BP derby.

Toronto also has runners-up. They were the Canadian drama Scarborough (which shouldn’t factor into Oscar chatter) and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog (which certainly will). Campion already took directing honors at Cannes for Dog and the Toronto appreciation solidifies her latest as a major player. Don’t be shocked if Belfast and Dog are listed at 1-2 tomorrow and perhaps not in that order.

Bottom line: Belfast has been moving up the charts and what occurred this evening keeps it moving in the right direction.

Oscar Predictions: The Rescue

In 2018, documentary filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin had a breakout hit with the climbing tale Free Solo. It took gold for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars. The duo has debuted their latest true life saga The Rescue at Telluride and Toronto.

This story goes below ground in recounting the Tham Luang cave rescue in the summer of 2018. Early reviews from the festival circuit indicate they have made another stunner (100% on Rotten Tomatoes). Based on these reactions, I think it’s safe to assume The Rescue will make one of the five slots in the race that the directors triumphed in three years ago. The only caveat is that the documentary branch of the Academy is sometimes known for shocking snubs.

That said, there’s no doubt that The Rescue is not only in line for a nod, but it is a serious threat to win.

Oscar Predictions: The Mad Women’s Ball

Stateside audiences may know Melanie Laurent best as Shosanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but the French actress has been directing in her native county for a decade now. Following Adopted (2011) and Respire (2014), her latest is The Mad Women’s Ball and it is streaming on Amazon Prime as of yesterday.

Laurent costars in the thriller that premiered days ago in Toronto. Costarring Lou de Laage and Emmanuelle Bercot, Ball currently has a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s under her predecessor Respire (93%). I’m not so sure France will even submit this for the Academy’s consideration in International Feature Film and this appears unlikely to find its way on ballots in any other categories.

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

Oscar Predictions: Best Sellers

Michael Caine, the legendary 88-year-old Brit, has had a unique Oscar history. He’s 2 for 2 with victories when nominated for Supporting Actor (1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters, 1999’s The Cider House Rules). Yet Caine is 0 for 4 when up for Best Actor (1966’s Alfie, 1972’s Sleuth, 1983’s Educating Rita, 2002’s The Quiet American).

This weekend, his dramedy Best Sellers is out via streaming services. It casts him as a cantankerous author adapting to the industry in the 21st century. Lina Roessler directs with a supporting cast including Aubrey Plaza, Scott Speedman, and Cary Elwes.

While Caine is receiving solid notices for his performance, the picture itself is garnering mixed takes. The Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at 61%. Due to this, it’s a safe bet that the star won’t be contending for a 7th nod with the Academy. I suppose the Golden Globes (if they happen this year) are a slight possibility in the Musical/Comedy race, but that could also be a crowded field due to a high number of genre selections in the former. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Good House

The Good House, from directors Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, has premiered in Toronto and it marks the third cinematic pairing of Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline. The two starred in the 1993 political comedy Dave and Ang Lee’s 1997 acclaimed drama The Ice Storm. 

House combines both genres and initial reviews specifically praise Weaver’s work. The three time Oscar nominee received all her nods in the 1980s with Aliens, Working Girl, and Gorillas in the Mist. A consistent fixture in leading and supporting roles for over 40 years, she could be a part away from more serious awards consideration.

I doubt The Good House lays the foundation for that. Best Actress simply looks too crowded for that occur despite the critical appreciation. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Survivor

For about a decade starting in the early 80s, the films of Barry Levinson were a magnet for awards nominations. 1988’s Rain Man won Best Picture and Levinson took directing honors. 1991’s Bugsy scored numerous nods including the aforementioned big races. The Natural and Good Morning, Vietnam earned acting mentions. Levinson received screenplay nominations for Diner and Avalon.

Over the past decade or so, the filmmaker’s most acclaimed titles have come on the small screen with several HBO movies. His previous big screen offering was the panned 2015 Bill Murray vehicle Rock the Kasbah. 

Those fortunes could change with The Survivor, which has screened in Toronto. The black and white Holocaust drama tells the true life story of Harry Haft (Ben Foster). During his captivity at Auschwitz, he was forced to box fellow prisoners in order to survive. Costars include Billy Magnussen, Danny DeVito, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Leguizamo.

Reviews from our neighbor up north have resulted in an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score. Not all the generally positive reaction are raves, but there’s one consistency. Foster is being heralded for his role. Despite praised performances in Hell or High Water and Leave No Trace, Foster has yet to capture the attention of Oscar voters. The actor reportedly lost a tremendous amount of weight for the part. That has been a recipe for making the ballot for plenty of winners and contenders including Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just two. The Best Actor race probably has two slots filled already with Will Smith (King Richard) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog). Hopefuls are waiting in the wings like Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up). There’s other performances from the fest circuit such as Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon), Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), and Clifton Collins Jr. (Jockey) in the mix.

First things first. The Survivor needs to find a distributor and a 2021 release date to qualify. It will likely do so. The next question is how hard its eventual studio/streamer pushes for Foster. The Survivor is also a possibility in Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, and maybe even Picture and Director if its gets the right push.

Bottom line: I’ve yet to even mention The Survivor in my weekly Oscar predictions. I doubt I’ll be projecting it yet for inclusion in the aforementioned categories, but I do suspect it will bubble up for the first time in other possibilities. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…