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…

A Happening in Venice

What’s happening in Venice? Well, Happening is. As in the 1960s set French drama from director Audrey Diwan (not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s dreaded The Happening… and it won’t be). The pic surprisingly took the Venice Film Festival’s top award this afternoon – the Golden Lion.

In the past four years, the recipient of that honor has moved onto Oscar glory. Both 2017’s The Shape of Water and last year’s Nomadland took that Italian momentum to a Best Picture win. 2018’s Roma and 2020’s Joker both achieved nominations in BP and won other major categories.

My feeling is that Happening will break that streak. While France may select it for International Feature Film consideration and it could make that five, I don’t see this nabbing one of the ten slots for BP.

Diwan did not emerge victorious in Director. Instead, that went to Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog where she’s widely anticipated to follow suit with the Academy.

The Silver Lion (essentially runner-up) went to Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. While it got same raves, some critics were a little cooler. In my estimation, it has a stronger shot at BP and especially International Feature Film inclusion than Happening.

Best Actress was a category to keep an eye on as it included Oscar hopefuls like Kristin Stewart in Spencer, Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter, and Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers. It was Cruz grabbing the prize (to the shock of many a Stewart fan) and it puts the three-time nominee and one-time victor in a sturdier position to make the cut come Oscar time. As for Stewart (and Colman to a lesser degree), they’ve still done what they need to do to be in the conversation.

There wasn’t many Academy players in the male actor competition and it was John Arcilla winning for On the Job: The Missing 8, an export from the Philippines. Don’t expect his name in the mix for Oscar.

The Screenplay race honored Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter, which was received very well overseas. This increases her chances to at least get an Adapted Screenplay recognition for her work. She also directed and a nod there could be a taller order.

Overall, I wouldn’t expect 2021’s Golden Lion selection to gain much traction at the big show. Other winners solidified their statuses in various categories.

The Importance of Being Venice

For those who don’t follow the Oscar game and film festivals like I do (which is understandably most of you), this post looks to be a helpful primer on why such festivals are so important when doing predictions.

The 2021 Venice Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and you can anticipate plenty of Oscar speculation chatter on the blog in the next several days. You may ask – why is this Italian extravaganza so key in determining how this year’s awards landscape may look?

Let’s look at just the past five years as prologue. Of the 43 features nominated for Best Picture from 2016-2020, 31 were originally screened at the various high-profile festivals. There were six from Sundance and four each premiered at Telluride, Toronto and Cannes (with one emanating from the New York Film Festival). Eleven had their start in Venice. That’s right. Essentially one in four. That means that, lately, the average year has seen two to three BP nominees coming from this one event.

Of the last five Best Picture winners, all of them kicked off at a festival. 1 from Telluride (Moonlight). 1 from Toronto (Green Book). 1 from Cannes (Parasite). Two from Venice: The Shape of Water and last year’s Nomadland. 

How about the acting derbies? Of the 20 winners in Actor, Actress, and the supporting fields from 2016-2020, only two were performances that did not come from a festival screened film. There’s 1 from Cannes. Three each from Telluride and Toronto. Four from Sundance. And seven from Venice.

This is why the titles hitting Venice in 2021 currently hold lofty positions with prediction makers like myself. It’s why Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog took over House of Gucci (not currently slated for a fest) at the #1 slot in my BP rankings. This explains why I’m keeping a close eye on pics like Dune, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, Spencer, and Last Night in Soho. Maybe Spencer won’t win Best Picture, but it could nab Kristen Stewart her first nomination and victory.

Of course, only the screenings themselves will demonstrate the viable contenders. Yet there’s a recent history proving that Venice has become the most important festival of all. Ask the makers of Nomadland and The Shape of Water. Or Emma Stone (La La Land), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), or Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just some.

My coverage of the Venice Film Festival begins tomorrow!

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

Cannes Can’t Resist Titane

The big victor at the Cannes Film Festival turned out to be an anticlimactic announcement when jury president Spike Lee accidentally revealed it at the beginning of the evening. Julia Ducournau’s Titane, said to be one of the most shocking and viscerally thrilling entries coming out of the French Riviera, won the Palme d’Or (the fest’s equivalent of Best Picture).

This is a gift for distributor Neon as they will handle its domestic distribution. Sporting a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could Titane enter the Oscar conversation in Best International Feature Film? The three previous Palme recipients from 2017-2019 managed to do so (The Square, Shoplifters, Parasite). Remember there was no competition in 2020. My feeling is that it’s a contender though I doubt it will cross over for Best Picture consideration (and a win) like Parasite did.

The Grand Prix award (basically runner-up) was split between Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen’s Russian feature Compartment No. 6. Of those two, the latter has the best opportunity to break through with the Academy.

Leos Carax is best director for his opening night selection Annette. The musical drama starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard elicited strong reactions (mostly positive, some negative) from the French crowd and it is a major question mark heading into awards season.

Caleb Landry Jones, seen in numerous supporting roles recently like Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was named Best Actor for the thriller Nitram. Winning over higher profile contenders like Driver and Simon Rex (Red Rocket), the eventual stateside distributor would need to mount quite a campaign for Jones to be in contention, but you never know.

Same goes for Best Actress Renate Reinsve in The World Person in the World, the Norwegian romantic comedic drama which had ardent admirers at the fest. This is a picture to keep an eye on as well that the international voters could pick up on.

Lastly, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was perhaps the most notable premiere, but it came up empty-handed when all was settled. It could still certainly be a factor at the Oscars despite not getting a boost here.

For my blog readers, expect more Oscar Watch posts in the coming days as I sort out all the Cannes action and that will include Titane, The World Person in the World, and more. Stay tuned!

DGA: The Zhaomentum Continues

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is a pretty darn accurate predictor of who will win at the Academy Awards. In the past 20 years, the DGA and Oscar winners for Best Director have matched 17 times. It is worth noting that one of the 3 non matches was last year as Sam Mendes (1917) took DGA while Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) took the Academy’s gold.

Tonight the DGA held their ceremony and it went as expected with Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) emerging victorious. This goes along with her numerous critics groups prizes and the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. Anyone else being named this evening would have been a surprise and it’s further evidence that Zhao is the strong favorite for Oscar. If so, she will become the second female to do so after Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s The Hurt Locker.

This is also more evidence that Nomadland itself is in the driver’s seat for Best Picture as the Academy’s ceremony is just 15 days away. Bottom line: the Zhaomentum continues and none of the other nominees appear capable of interrupting it.

2020 SAG Awards Winner Predictions

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards airs this Easter Sunday evening in an abridged hour long ceremony and, as usual, it could carry significant Oscar implications as to who the frontrunners truly are. That means it’s time for me to put my forecasting hat on and give it my best shot with predictions.

Let’s break it down category by category, shall we? I’ll provide my runner-up selection as well.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari, One Night in Miami, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Analysis: Interestingly, the last two films in the big race (Black Panther, Parasite) won without a single nomination in the individual acting races. That had only happened two times previously between 1995-2017 with 1997’s The Full Monty and 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That will not happen for 2020’s selections as all five have at least one performer contending in a separate category.

However, in a rare occurrence, only two of the five ensembles here landed a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. Those are Minari and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Only once in SAG’s history has a movie emerged victorious here without a BP Oscar nod (1996’s The Birdcage). This serves as my annual reminder that SAG picks the best cast and not the best movie.

Truth be told, Da 5 Bloods is the only pic that I believe has little chance at winning here. Yet Ma Rainey and Miami are likely at a disadvantage due to precedent. That leaves us with Minari and Trial. The latter has seen its Oscar momentum stalled in recent weeks, but its sprawling cast could finally get the major precursor victory that it’s been missing. I’m tempted to pick it and it might be the safe choice.

Minari, on the other hand, has gained steamed recently and emerged as a potential upset winner at the Oscars against Nomadland (as has Promising Young Woman, which missed here). I’m choosing to go with the picture with the hotter hand.

Predicted Winner: Minari

Runner-Up: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Analysis: The Golden Globe winner in this category (Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday) isn’t featured here. Therefore we can take a precursor sweep off the table for Best Actress. Adams is the sole nominee without an Oscar nomination so she’s out of contention. Mulligan has the Critics Choice Award and is looked at as the prohibitive favorite from the Academy. She’s the most likely SAG winner. Davis and McDormand could upset, but I’m relatively confident with this pick.

Predicted Winner: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Runner-Up: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari)

Analysis: There’s a five for five match here with the Academy, but I find this SAG lineup to be a bit more complicated due to other factors. While Boseman has taken the Globes and Critics Choice, his nod in Supporting Actor with the actors guild for Da 5 Bloods (if he wins there) opens the door for either Ahmed or Hopkins. That wouldn’t totally shock me, but it’s hard to predict against Boseman and I won’t.

Predicted Winner: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Runner-Up: Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Yuh-jung Youn (Minari), Helena Zengel (News of the World)

Analysis: Now this is a tough one. The Supporting Actress derby in the precursors has been a true head scratcher. Like in Best Actress, Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) is nowhere to be found (she missed at the Oscars too). Colman and Zengel are the two performers who are highly unlikely to take the prize. This is a genuine three person race between Bakalova, Close, and Youn. Bakalova seems to have momentum with a recent Critics Choice victory. SAG could certainly opt for Close’s baity role (the fact that they nominated her costar Amy Adams lends credence to that). Youn is without a major precursor, but Minari‘s upswing could sweep her in.

Simply put, I’ve very torn here. With Close, the Academy’s narrative for a win is that she’s without an Oscar and is looked at as overdue. SAG, on the other hand, has bestowed trophies for her twice including just two years ago for The Wife. Bakalova has the disadvantage of being in a comedy, but that hindrance may not matter much in this wide open field. I’m left with buying the Minari momentum for Youn. However, I can’t stress enough how feasible a win is for all three actresses.

Predicted Winner: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Runner-Up: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Jared Leto (The Little Things), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Analysis: This one is far simpler than Supporting Actress as Kaluuya has racked up the Globe and Critics Choice and is the heavy favorite. The only wrinkle, as mentioned above, is if SAG voters decide to honor Boseman here instead of in Best Actor. It probably won’t happen, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Predicted Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Runner-Up: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

And there you have it! I’ll have reaction up on Sunday evening. Until then…

 

The Producers Roll With Nomadland

In the previous decade, the winner of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) best motion picture ended up matching with the eventual Oscar recipient 70% of the time. So it’s no wonder that all eyes of prognosticators were on tonight’s ceremony. Would the PGA do anything to interrupt the narrative that Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a sturdy favorite to take the Academy’s gold?

The answer? No. Nomadland received yet another honor from the PGA to go with its Golden Globe for Best Drama, Critics Choice Award, and numerous regional group best pic designations. Had Minari or Promising Young Woman or The Trial of the Chicago 7 won, it might have created more suspense for the Oscar ceremony happening on April 25th. Yet the PGA victory is another arrow in the quiver for Zhao’s achievement.

If you’re another movie hoping to best Nomadland, the PGA and the Academy have differed three times in the last five years. In 2015, the Guild picked The Big Short over Spotlight. In 2016, it was La La Land instead of Moonlight. Last year – 1917 over Parasite. 

As for other races, Disney/Pixar’s Soul, as expected, took animated feature and it remains a major frontrunner at the big show. The documentary category went to My Octopus Teacher and that certainly puts it in serious contention in one month.

Bottom line: Nomadland is rolling and nothing may be able to stop it.

Oscars 2020: The Case of Nomadland

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is next up in my Case Of posts for the 8 Best Picture nominees from the 2020 Oscar season. If you missed my posts on The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, and Minari, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/16/oscars-2020-the-case-of-the-father/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/17/oscars-2020-the-case-of-judas-and-the-black-messiah/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/18/oscars-2020-the-case-of-mank/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/21/oscars-2020-the-case-of-minari/

Now to the business at hand:

The Case for Nomadland

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in September where it won the Golden Lion (the event’s top prize), Nomadland has been a serious contender that has managed to become the favorite. While many prognosticators predicted The Trial of the Chicago 7 would take the Best Drama category at the Golden Globes, Nomadland emerged victorious and it also won the Critics Choice Award recently. Other accolades include the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and numerous regional critics group selections as the film of 2020. Nomadland tied with five other pics last week with 6 Oscar nominations and it landed in the expected races beyond Picture with Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing. It is a contender to win them all.

The Case Against Nomadland

Being the frontrunner can be dangerous. It could be argued that the on paper favorites for three of the last ceremonies did not take the gold (2016’s La La Land lost to Moonlight, 2018’s Roma to Green Book, and 2019’s 1917 to Parasite). A narrative could certainly develop where a “surprise” winner (think Minari or Promising Young Woman, as well as the aforementioned Trial) could pose a serious threat.

The Verdict

Betting odds favor Nomadland as it’s done what it needs to be the picture to beat this year. That said, Oscar voters have had a way of recently upending the conventional wisdom.

My Case Of posts will continue with Promising Young Woman…

2020 AFI Top 10 Films Predictions

The American Film Institute will announce their top 10 pictures of the year tomorrow and it’s usually a safe predictor of half or more of the films that will land Best Picture nods at the Oscars. Over the past five years, the magic number has been 7 of the AFI selections getting Oscar love in the big race. That holds true for 2016, 2017, and 2019. In 2015 – it was 6. In 2018- it was 5.

So where do we stand this year? My overall estimates keep the estimated AFI number at 7 for my current Best Picture hopefuls (which could and probably will change). It is worth noting that for the previous two years, there’s a bit of an asterisk. Being that it’s the American Film Institute, foreign selections are ineligible. Due to this, surefire Oscar contenders Roma and Parasite didn’t qualify. This would apply in 2020 to The Father which is a British production.

As for the matches, they are as follows: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Now for the differences. AFI has shown a Disney love recently that the Academy did not share. AFI nominated Inside Out, Zootopia, and Mary Poppins Returns over the last five years with Oscar not following suit. Therefore I’m saying Pixar’s Soul makes the AFI cut.

The other two are critical favorites that (at press time) I have just missing Oscar’s cut: Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal. This means the three pics I have getting Oscar’s attention and not from AFI are Da 5 Bloods, The Father, and Judas and the Black Messiah.

What else could surprise? I would not be shocked to see Borat Subsequent Moviefilm make AFI’s list. If they don’t choose that comedy, there’s a lesser chance that Palm Springs could show up. AFI has also selected some blockbusters that Oscar ignored as of late. Examples include Knives Out, A Quiet Place, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, due to COVID in 2020, there’s just not a huge list of those types of contenders. Could Tenet sneak in? Doubtful.

Others that could be sleepers are First Cow, Pieces of a Woman, Malcolm & Marie, and Hillbilly Elegy, but here’s my take on what AFI does tomorrow:

AFI TOP TEN LIST PREDICTIONS

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

Promising Young Woman

Soul

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7