Jojo Takes Toronto

Buckle up Oscar prognosticators because we are in for a heckuva awards season over the next few months!

One week after Joker took the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and increased its Oscar chances for Best Picture, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit has emerged victorious in the People’s Choice Award in Toronto.

A very solid argument can be made that this particular designation is even more key in determining an eventual BP nod. Why? The odds are certainly in its favor. 10 out of the last 11 winners have received a nod in the big race come Oscar time. Four of them – 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, 2010’s The King’s Speech, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave and last year’s Green Book – ended up winning BP.

What makes the Jojo victory surprising is the mixed critical reaction it’s garnered. The buzz for this award was centered on titles like Parasite (which was a runner-up), Marriage Story (another runner-up), and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Conventional wisdom in the last few days has been that Jojo is an on the bubble BP contender at best. The Toronto audience love shows that its admirers are passionate. And that might be enough to overcome the naysayers.

There is no doubt that this is exactly the kind of prize Jojo needed to keep its Oscar viability alive. And now Jojo and Joker have more in common than their alphabetical proximity. They’re contenders.

My Jojo Rabbit review can be found here:

Oscar Watch: A Hidden Life

In his near half century as an acclaimed director, Terrence Malick has only made ten features and his latest is the World War II era drama A Hidden Life. The Fox Searchlight pic debuted early this summer at the Cannes Film Festival and has continued to Toronto before its December release.

Some critical reaction indicates it could be an awards player while other reviews haven’t been quite as effusive. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 74%. Malick has seen two of his works attract Academy attention in the last two decades with 1998’s The Thin Red Line and 2011’s The Tree of Life. Both received Picture nods and nabbed direction calls for Malick.

With Jojo Rabbit garnering a heavily mixed response in Toronto, perhaps Fox (now owned by Disney) could shift its marketing focus to Life. I wouldn’t count their campaign abilities out, but this will definitely need a strong push to contend. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Honey Boy

There was a time and it wasn’t long ago when Shia LaBeouf’s career appeared to be a Hollywood cautionary tale. Just about a decade ago, he was the industry’s hot new leading man with starring roles in the Transformers franchise, Disturbia, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, his bizarre personal antics and a high profile 2017 arrest looked to derail his promising standing.

2019 has proved to be a resurgent period. There’s his acclaimed turn in the indie hit The Peanut Butter Falcon. And early this year, Honey Boy was unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival and screenings have continued in Toronto.

LaBeouf wrote the screenplay and it serves as an autobiographical look at his childhood. He also costars and he gave himself a part in which he plays his own father. Other actors include Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Maika Moore, and Natasha Lyonne. Like Falcon, the film has garnered critical praise to the tune of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Academy voters love a solid comeback story. Could they reward LaBeouf with a supporting actor or original screenplay nod? I generally think Honey Boy might be a tad too low profile for inclusion and Original Screenplay in particular seems awfully crowded. Yet when it comes to how things were looking just two years ago, awards chatter is a positive sign of where Shia’s career is at. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Lucy in the Sky

Natalie Portman is an astronaut who seems to lose touch with reality when she becomes Earthbound again in Lucy in the Sky, which has screened at the Toronto Film Festival. And while many critics are praising her performance, their reception to the picture itself is having a problem.

Noah Hawley, who created the acclaimed TV adaptation of Fargo, makes his directorial debut with a supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, and Ellen Burstyn (who reportedly gets to spout some salty dialogue). As mentioned, Lucy did not fly in its rollout and it sits at just 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Portman is an Oscar winner from 2010’s Black Swan in addition to two other nods for Closer and Jackie. With tepid reaction to her latest, expect her nominations number to stay put at three. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019 Oscar Predictions: September 12th Edition

Well, a lot has certainly transpired on the Oscar prognostication front in the past week! Most notably would be the Toronto Film Festival and as usual, it helped some pictures and performers and threw shade on the hopes of others.

For blog followers, you’ve seen a whole bunch of Oscar Watch posts over the last few days. Various rankings in the eight major categories have shifted as we arrive at today’s predictions with some newcomers hitting predicted territory.

Let’s go through some highlights:

  • One of the more unexpected events from up north was the love for Hustlers, out tomorrow. The attention was particularly centered on the performance of Jennifer Lopez. She goes from unranked all the way to #3 in Supporting Actress.
  • The Two Popes is gathering more admirers as it plays the circuit. I now have it #4 in my BP derby (up five spots). This could change, but I think it’s one of a handful of pics that could win top prize.
  • Joker surprised many by emerging victorious for the Golden Lion at Venice. It now enters the fray as a predicted nominee in BP and Adapted Screenplay, in addition to Joaquin Phoenix.
  • Like Popes, Waves is also making a festival splash and it enters my projected BP recipients in ninth.
  • My projections in the lead acting categories remains the same ten, albeit with some jockeying from last week to this one.
  • In Supporting Actor, lots of movement. Tom Hanks was heralded for his portrayal of Mister Rogers in Toronto for Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I also have Sterling K. Brown in Waves pulling a J-Lo and going from not ranked to nominee. And Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy is drawing acclaim so he joins the shortlist. They replace Willem Dafoe, Al Pacino, and Taika Waititi in a crowded field.
  • Speaking of Waititi, Jojo Rabbit was met with wildly divergent opinions in Toronto. I now have it only receiving an Adapted Screenplay nod, but expect its journey to Oscar attention or no attention to be an ongoing story.
  • Harriet seemed to be a bit of a Toronto disappointment. While I’m still listing Cynthia Erivo’s work as the title character in Actress, the movie itself has dropped completely out of my top 25.
  • There is no doubt that the badly reviewed The Goldfinch has seen its Academy dreams totally vanish.

Keep reading on to see how I have everything shaking out at the moment and I’ll have updates forecasts next Thursday!


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Marriage Story (PR: 2)

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

4. The Two Popes (PR: 9)

5. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 4)

6. Parasite (PR: 5)

7. Little Women (PR: 7)

8. Joker (PR: 15)

9. Waves (PR: 12)

10. 1917 (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 14)

12. The Farewell (PR: 11)

13. Just Mercy (PR: 21)

14. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

15. The Report (PR: 10)

16. Pain and Glory (PR: 13)

17. Dark Waters (PR: 17)

18. Bombshell (PR: 18)

19. A Hidden Life (PR: 16)

20. The Lighthouse (PR: 19)

21. Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

22. Booksmart (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Queen and Slim (PR: 23)

24. Rocketman (PR: 22)

25. Ad Astra (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:


The Laundromat


Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 3)

4. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 4)

5. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

7. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

8. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 7)

9. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 11)

10. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: 9)

11. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 12)

12. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 13)

13. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 10)

14. Todd Haynes, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

15. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 15)


Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 4)

3. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 5)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

5. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

8. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 9)

9. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 8)

10. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 15)

11. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 11)

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 10)

13. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 12)

14. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim (PR: 13)

15. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: 14)


Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 2)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 3)

4. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 4)

5. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

7. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 7)

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 9)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 10)

10. Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love (PR: 13)

11. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 11)

12. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 15)

13. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 12)

14. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 14)

15. Elle Fanning, Teen Spirit (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Natalie Portman, Lucy in the Sky


Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 6)

3. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 11)

4. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 4)

5. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 2)

7. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 3)

8. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 7)

9. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 12)

10. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 8)

11. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 5)

12. Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 15)

13. Jamie Bell, Rocketman (PR: 10)

14. Chris Evans, Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Aldis Hodge, Clemency (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Waves

Gary Oldman, The Laundromat

Matt Damon, Ford v Ferrari


Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 2)

3. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: Not Ranked)

4. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 5)

7. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat (PR: 6)

8. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 7)

9. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 11)

10. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory (PR: 8)

11. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 12)

12. Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

13. Anna Paquin, The Irishman (PR: 13)

14. Ana de Armas, Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Renee Elise Goldsberry, Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Janelle Monae, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Taylor Russell, Waves


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 3)

3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 6)

4. Joker (PR: 7)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities:

6. Just Mercy (PR: 8)

7. Dark Waters (PR: 4)

8. The Laundromat (PR: 5)

9. Hustlers (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Luce (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Judy (PR: 15)

12. Toy Story 4 (PR: 11)

13. Downton Abbey (PR: 14)

14. Motherless Brooklyn (PR: 12)

15. The Good Liar (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

The Goldfinch

The King


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

3. The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Parasite (PR: 4)

5. Waves (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Farewell (PR: 6)

7. The Report (PR: 5)

8. Pain and Glory (PR: 7)

9. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

10. Booksmart (PR: 10)

11. Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Bombshell (PR: 12)

13. The Lighthouse (PR: 11)

14. 1917 (PR: 14)

15. Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


Dolemite Is My Name

Oscar Watch: Harriet

Harriet has been a circled possibility for Oscar attention since the project was announced and it’s now screened in Toronto. The biopic of abolitionist Harriet Tubman is from director Kasi Lemmons, whose debut Eve’s Bayou garnered acclaim over two decades ago. Cynthia Erivo, who received her own critical kudos in last year’s Widows, plays the heroic title character. The supporting cast includes Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monae.

A first glance at the current 91% Rotten Tomatoes score indicates it might be the Best Picture contender it was anticipated to be. Yet a deeper dive shows even the mostly positive reviews have significant reservations. Few writers are calling it great and there’s more using words like standard.

Erivo still has a major chance at a Best Actress nod, though I don’t think it’s guaranteed. Critics have singled out her work. That’s probably the extent of acting notices at the Oscars and I’m now relatively confident Best Picture will be elusive. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Downton Abbey

Fans of the British period piece series Downton Abbey, which aired stateside on PBS, will get their fix nearly four years after its conclusion with a film version. Written by its creator Julian Fellowes, Abbey picks up shortly after the events of the series finale with many cast members (Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, and more) returning to their roles.

The show was no stranger to major awards attention, including Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, and dozens of Emmy nods. Could that TV love translate to Oscar voters noticing the cinematic rendering?

Probably not in major categories. Abbey has a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 80% and while reviews are solid, I don’t see this getting attention in Picture or the acting derbies. On the other hand, Production Design and especially Costume Design could be doable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…