Oscar Watch – Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

The Tribeca Film Festival, cofounded by Robert De Niro and celebrating its 20th year, kicked off this weekend with the premiere of one of 2021’s highest profile documentaries. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain recounts the life and tragic 2018 death of its chef, author, TV host, and renowned traveler title subject. The film comes from Morgan Neville and he’s had a hit or miss relationship with Oscar voters.

Neville’s 20 Feet from Stardom from 2013, which told the tale of background singers working for musical legends, won Best Documentary Feature at the big show. His two follow-ups were both acclaimed and each missed the final five nominated selections from the Academy. 2015’s Best of Enemies, focused on the relationship between political commentators William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, was shortlisted for the category but didn’t hear its name called on nomination morning. In 2018, one of the biggest snubs was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? not garnering attention.The director’s bio about the legendary Mister Rogers was a box office smash as far as docs are concerned. It was considered a shoo-in for a nod with a chance to win. Yet that never materialized.

Early reviews for Roadrunner indicate that Neville has fashioned another engrossing look at a familiar television presence. However, trying to guess what the Academy’s branch of documentary voters will do is consistently a tricky proposition. Expect this pic to be on the radar screen for inclusion, but whether it makes the cut is uncertain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Spirit Untamed

In 2002, the horse drawn animated adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron managed a Best Animated Feature nomination (ultimately losing to Spirited Away). Nearly two decades ago, the pic received mostly positive reviews with a 70% Rotten Tomatoes rating and decent box office. Since then, a Netflix series focused on the main character led to Spirit Untamed, which opens in theaters today. It features the voices of some familiar faces like Jake Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore

So how are its odds to race to awards voters ballots? Not good. Untamed has mostly stalled with critics and its Tomato meter is a mere 44%. We already have solid contenders to make the final cut (Raya and the Last Dragon and The Mitchells vs. The Machines) and there’s plenty more on deck for the second half of the year including the soon to be released Luca from Pixar.

Bottom line: I can’t imagine Dreamworks Animation will mount a spirited campaign for this one. Gyllenhaal’s only equestrian related Oscar contender should remain Brokeback Mountain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Cruella

More often than not, the Disney live-action remakes related to their animated classics have managed to score Oscar nominations in various technical races. Two days ahead of its Memorial Day weekend domestic bow, the studio’s Cruella (a reboot of their 1961 animated tale and the Glenn Close live-action features) has seen its review embargo lifted. It is widely expected that the Academy will reward it in some of the races that their previous features have been mentioned in.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter currently stands at a decent 72% with many critics praising Emma Stone (Best Actress winner in 2016 for La La Land) in the title role of the dog despising villainess. She’s unlikely to get much attention in the lead race, but should certainly find herself in the mix in the Musical/Comedy competition at next year’s Golden Globes… if there is a Golden Globes next year.

As mentioned, the Academy has been kind to the remakes over the last decade plus. Alice in Wonderland won Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for Visual Effects. Nods for the costumes were also received by Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015). In 2017, Beauty and the Beast made the shortlist for Production and Costume Design. The Jungle Book (2016) was victorious in Visual Effects with Christopher Robin (2018) and The Lion King (2019) as nominees. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) nabbed a mention for its Makeup and Hairstyling. Last year’s Mulan got in for Costume Design and Visual Effects, winning neither.

All four categories mentioned are on the table for Cruella to varying degrees. Based on the buzz, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling are highly probable and could even be wins. Production Design is also feasible while Visual Effects could be more of a stretch due to expected competition.

Additionally, Florence and the Machine have contributed the original song “Call Me Cruella”. I wouldn’t bank on it making the final five in that race, but you never know (sometimes there’s surprises in that category).

Bottom line: Cruella is looking good for at least two Academy mentions and possibly more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Dream Horse

Euros Lyn’s Dream Horse debuted nearly a year and a half ago at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to solid buzz. Over this past weekend, it finally opened domestically with a soft box office imprint. The sports dramedy casts Toni Collette in the true story of a Welsh horse breeder with Damian Lewis and Owen Teale in the supporting cast.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter is 90% and critics are especially effusive in their praise for its lead. This is to be expected as Collette has turned in numerous fine performances over the past quarter century. However, this has surprisingly resulted in just one Oscar nomination in Supporting Actress for 1999’s The Sixth Sense. This is despite lead and supporting turns that could have been on the awards radar including Muriel’s Wedding, About a Boy, Little Miss Sunshine, Hereditary, and Knives Out.

There is definitely a narrative that the actress is long overdue for her second nod. With this particular feature, it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle. Luckily for Collette, she still has a role later in 2021 with Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley and it will certainly get a long look from voters.

Bottom line: it’s just a matter of time before Collette gets a return trip to the red carpet after two decades. Dream is unlikely to be the horse that carries her there. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids

As SNL just wrapped its 46th season last night, today seemed like a good opportunity to showcase an alumni deserving of awards consideration from a decade ago. In the summer of 2011, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids became the comedy smash of the season. It was noticed by the Academy. Melissa McCarthy landed a nod in Supporting Actress while Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo were nominated for their Original Screenplay.

I would contend that Wiig should have been a double nominee in lead actress, especially considering that 2011 was a rather weak year in that race. Meryl Streep took the gold for The Iron Lady in what’s widely thought of as one of her least impressive victories. She triumphed over Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

Bridesmaids is perhaps the most impressive SNL cast member starring debut in history (an argument could also be made for Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs.). Wiig’s drunken scene on an airplane headed to Vegas alone is worthy of awards attention and her work would have marked a fine occasion for the Academy to throw a rare bone to the comedic genre.

Oscar Watch: In the Heights

Jon M. Chu’s musical drama In the Heights was originally slated to hit theaters last June, but the COVID-19 pandemic altered the plan. Based on the stage musical created by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film now dances into multiplexes and HBO Max on June 11. The review embargo lifted today and it appears we have a legitimate Best Picture hopeful before us.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 97% with many critics imploring audiences to see it on the biggest screen possible. Many reviewers also note that it’s the perfect tonic after a rough year. Heights has a sprawling cast and that ensemble stands a terrific shot at SAG recognition next year. It could perform very well in the Musical/Comedy categories at the Golden Globes… if there is a ceremony next year (and that’s a big if right now).

As for the Oscars, many possibilities exist. Director Chu’s previous effort was the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, but it was completely ignored by the Academy. That’s unlikely to happen here. Best Original Song (with Miranda proving some new material) and Sound could certainly be in play.

When it comes to the big competitions, the feel good nature of Heights could absolutely lift it to a Best Picture nomination. It might be a bit more of a reach for Chu to make the final five in directing, but it’s at least feasible. Two cast members receiving immediate kudos are Anthony Ramos (in what could be quite a crowded Best Actor derby) and Olga Merediz in Supporting Actress.

Bottom line: expect this anticipated summer hit musical to be on the minds of voters in the forthcoming awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Woman in the Window

On paper, at least, Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window has a whole lot of Oscar connections in it. The psychological thriller stars Amy Adams, recipient of six nominations who’s never won (she’s considered well overdue for a victory). Costars include Academy winners and nominees such as Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore in addition to Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, and Brian Tyree Henry. Screenwriter Tracy Letts has a Pulitzer Prize to his name. And Wright has seen two of his efforts (Atonement, Darkest Hour) nab Best Picture nods.

Window hits Netflix today after originally being planned for a fall 2019 premiere via 20th Century Fox. It was pushed back to May 2020 due to reshoots and the COVID-19 pandemic. The pic was finally snatched up by the streamer, foregoing a theatrical release. So there’s the question of whether this is even eligible for the Oscars since it’s not hitting the big screen. Not that it matters.

Word of mouth over the past several months has not been kind and the just lapsed review embargo confirms that. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a troubling 27% with many critics calling it a poor Hitchcock ripoff. Despite the many participants with a nexus to awards attention, Window appears more likely to garner Razzie mentions than anything at the big dance.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder’s zombie tale Army of the Dead hits hundreds of screens this weekend before its Netflix streaming premiere on May 21. Reviews are out and several indicate it’s a winner (especially the opening scene which is drawing raves). The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 76%.

If an Oscar Watch post for this particular genre seems strange, I get it. I’m not talking about a Best Picture nod or lead actor recognition for Dave Bautista. However, some critics are pointing out Army‘s visuals. Just last year, the Netflix monster pic Love and Monsters scored a surprise nomination in Visual Effects.

Here’s the caveat: several contenders in the race from 2020 were pushed back to 2021. In other words, VE should be more of a crowded field this time around. That includes potential heavy hitters like Dune, Eternals, the fourth Matrix, Top Gun: Maverick, The Suicide Squad, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Having said that, if Netflix launches a serious campaign, Army could march to the shortlist in this specific category and a nod is not out of the question.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day

My latest Shoulda Been Oscar Contender is an appropriate one for Mother’s Day. This particular mama went to great lengths to protect her son since, ya know, he was charged with saving the universe decades later from annihilation. She even got herself thrown in a mental hospital because of her heroic efforts.

I’m speaking of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Reprising her role from the 1984 classic, Hamilton stepped up her game in the 1991 sequel alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong as her future Earth saving teen.

Terminator 2 was a game changer itself when it came to special effects and action. It resulted in six Oscar nominations, including victories for Makeup, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and (of course) Visual Effects. Yet nods in the biggest categories were elusive. 1991 was a strong year in Best Actress with Jodie Foster winning for The Silence of the Lambs over the sturdy competition of Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for Thelma & Louise and Laura Dern in Rambling Rose. 

However, Hamilton’s strong (and not just her biceps) performance could have easily gotten the fifth slot over Bette Midler in For the Boys. MTV recognized her work and she won Best Actress at their ceremony. And while the Academy isn’t known to honor performances in action flicks, they had deservedly done so just five years earlier for Sigourney Weaver in another heralded genre sequel Aliens (also directed by Cameron).

They missed a good opportunity to do the same here. Lastly, while not every mother is charged with keeping their kid alive to avoid planetary destruction, the great ones sure make us all feel like they do. Happy Mother’s Day to all of them!