Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Oscar Watch: July 22

In addition to the Bourne franchise, director Paul Greengrass is best known for making thrillers based on well-known events. This includes Bloody Sunday, United 93 (for which he received a Best Director nomination), and Captain Phillips (which nabbed a Best Picture nod). His latest is July 22 and it focuses on the 2011 Norwegian terrorist attacks.

The film has debuted at the Venice Film Festival and reviews out today are solid. However, I’m not sure the critical reaction is strong enough for Greengrass or his picture to receive Academy acknowledgment. I’m also not seeing any technical nominations at this juncture. It also may not help that the production is scheduled to debut on Netflix and the voters still may not be overly enthusiastic about recognizing the subscription service.

Bottom line: Barring a greater amount of festival love, don’t expect this to achieve the level of attention that previous Greengrass movies United 93 and Captain Phillips got.

July 22 is out on Netflix on October 10. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Film Festival Season Approaches: The 2018 Hopefuls

We may be smack dab in the middle of the summer movie season, but Oscar season will be taking shape before we know it. This week, the organizers of the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have unveiled lineups for the pictures that will be premiering at their events in a few weeks. Many of them are awards hopefuls.

To give you an idea of the importance of festivals when it comes to Oscar nominees, six of last year’s nine nominees premiered at some combination of Toronto, Venice, Telluride, New York, Sundance, or Cannes. Every Best Picture winner from this decade and beyond played at one of them. The last one that didn’t was The Departed back in 2006.

The months of September-December are the fertile ground for most nominated features. Last year, seven of the nine Picture nominees came out in that time frame. In 2016 – it was 8 out of 9.

Beginning in late August/early September, I will begin my weekly Oscar prediction columns. It works like this:

Late August/Early September – first posting of predictions in the categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

Months of September and October – weekly Oscar predictions column post covering those 6 categories, as well as Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-25. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-15.

Months of November through announcement of nominations – weekly Oscar predictions column covering every category involving feature films. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-15. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-10.

While these posts are a month away, today I bring you 25 fall awards hopefuls that I suspect I’ll be mentioning frequently. Most of these are premiering at the high-profile quartet of upcoming fests (Venice, Toronto, New York, Telluride). Some aren’t, but could certainly be added to Telluride or New York especially (as they’re more known for surprise screenings).

Let’s get to it!

A Star is Born

The third remake of the musical drama marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and features a potential showcase role for his costar Lady Gaga. Early word of mouth is already strong.

At Eternity’s Gate

He received a nomination for his supporting work last year for The Florida Project and Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in what could be another awards bait role.



Expect Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short to receive plenty of attention. Christian Bale is Cheney with Amy Adams as wife Lynne and last year’s Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.


Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell plays the father of a meth addict played by Timothee Chalamet, who was nominated last year for Call Me by Your Name.

Ben is Back

Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts headline this family drama that premieres at Toronto.


Bohemian Rhapsody

Despite some behind the scenes drama in its filming, all eyes will be on Rami Malek’s work as Queen front man Freddie Mercury.

Boy Erased

Perhaps an even larger showcase role for Lucas Hedges is this drama where he plays a homosexual sent to conversion camp. Joel Edgerton directs and costars along with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy received an Academy Award nomination with her breakthrough role in Bridesmaids. This drama about writer Lee Israel could muster attention for her yet again.

First Man

Director Damien Chazelle has seen both of his efforts (Whiplash, La La Land) nominated for Best Picture and he’s the youngest filmmaker to ever win Best Director. His third pic is a Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling. It opens the Venice Film Festival.

If Beale Street Could Talk

The follow-up to his Oscar winning Moonlight, Barry Jenkins directs this drama set in 1970s Harlem.

July 22

United 93 and Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass brings his latest to Netflix and it focuses on the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway.


Life Itself

Premiering at Toronto, this ensemble drama includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Munn, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.

Mary Poppins Returns

She’s already a contender for A Quiet Place and Emily Blunt could face competition from herself with Disney’s expected monster hit.

Mary Queen of Scots

They were both nominated for Best Actress last year and now Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie star in this historical drama about the title character and Queen Elizabeth I.

Old Man & The Gun

David Lowery directs Robert Redford in the true life tale of a prison escape artist. Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck costar.

On the Basis of Sex

The documentary RBG could get noticed by the Documentary branch, as could this biopic which casts Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh returns with this historical 19th century drama.


This Mexican family drama is Alfonso Cuaron’s first directorial effort since his acclaimed Gravity.


Call Me by Your Name maker Luca Guadagnino shifts gears for this remake of the 1970s horror classic. Don’t be surprised if this receives attention in some technical categories.

The Favourite

The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos is behind this historical drama featuring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

The Front Runner

Jason Reitman directs this biopic of failed Presidential candidate Gary Hart with Hugh Jackman cast in the role.


The Sisters Brothers

John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal are among the cast in this Western from acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard.

Welcome to Marwen

Steve Carell stars in this unique looking drama from Forrest Gump maker Robert Zemeckis.


It’s been five years between projects for Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. This heist thriller stars recent winner Viola Davis.

And there’s your very early preview of some titles to keep an eye on over the coming months. Those Oscar posts will start rolling out weekly in about a month! Stay tuned…

Jason Bourne Box Office Prediction

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return to their blockbuster franchise after nearly a decade when Jason Bourne hits theaters next weekend. Originating from the novels by Robert Ludlum, this sequel may succeed in not being a box office letdown as a number of others have this season. Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, and Riz Ahmed are among the costars.

Let’s take a trip down Bourne franchise history lane, shall we? In 2002, The Bourne Identity became a summer sleeper hit with a $27 million debut and $121 million overall domestic gross. The numbers increased with the 2004 follow-up The Bourne Supremacy (when Greengrass took over directorial duties). It had a $52 million premiere and $176 million eventual tally. In 2007, third entry The Bourne Ultimatum hit the high marks with a $69 million opening and $227 million take.

It was after Ultimatum that Damon and Greengrass departed the critically acclaimed and audience approved pics. 2012 brought The Bourne Legacy, which cast Jeremy Renner as a new operative. While it scored a respectable $38 million debut, its $113 million domestic haul was a franchise low.

Four years later – the team behind the two most successful Bourne‘s return and my hunch is that moviegoers will be ready for it. This is quite simply a well-regarded series and it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Damon is coming off an Oscar nominated turn and mega-hit with The Martian. The question to me is whether or not this manages to top the opening of Ultimatum. It might and it wouldn’t surprise me, but my projection has it falling just short of that $69M number for a movie in which sequelitis should not apply.

Jason Bourne opening weekend prediction: $67.6 million

For my Bad Moms prediction, click here:


For my Nerve prediction, click here:


2014 Oscar Predictions: Todd’s Picks for Early January

And we’re off with my next to last round of Oscar predictions before they’re announced on Thursday, January 16th. The plan is to do my final predictions, most likely either on Sunday the 12th or Monday the 13th. These new picks reflect changes in four of the six top categories. Let’s get to it shall we?


I’ve stayed consistent with predicting that nine movies will get nominated. The change here is that I’m including Dallas Buyer’s Club for the first time as I believe it’s gotten enough precursor momentum to get in. That means I had to take something out and Saving Mr. Banks has been dropped. As I see it, the race is still a battle between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity for the win with American Hustle as a possible spoiler.


American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyer’s Club



Inside Llewyn Davis


12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street


One change here: I believe the polarizing reaction to The Wolf of Wall Street might leave Martin Scorsese out in this competitive category. So he’s out and Spike Jonze, riding a wave of momentum for Her, is in. Like Picture, this race should come down to Slave‘s Steve McQueen and Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron for the victory with yet again Hustle‘s Russell as possible spoiler.


Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Spike Jonze, Her

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

David O. Russell, American Hustle


This is seriously such a loaded category. In any other year, I’d be predicting Christian Bale in American Hustle, Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ The Butler or Joaquin Phoenix in Her. None of them make the cut. Conventional wisdom is that this is a six man race and only five make the cut. Last round of predictions, I had Tom Hanks’ work in Captain Phillips left out, but now he’s back in. This came down to a decision between whether to leave out Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street or Robert Redford in All is Lost. For the first time in my predictions, it’s Redford that I’ve got drawing the short straw. I believe Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bruce Dern, or Matthew McConaughey could win.


Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club


Prediction wise, this category has remained the most stable and I have no changes this round either. As for who will win, Cate Blanchett is emerging as the clear favorite though Sandra Bullock has a shot.


Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks


This is likely the most unpredictable category that is capable of producing a surprise and my new picks reflect that. Jared Leto is the frontrunner to win and Michael Fassbender appears a lock for nomination. After that, all bets are off. I’m taking out Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street and Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks. I’m keeping in my Bradley Cooper for American Hustle prediction. Additions to my list: Daniel Bruhl, who’s picked up momentum for his role in Rush. As for the fifth slot, it could have been Hanks, Hill, the late James Gandolfini in Enough Said, Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, or Harrison Ford in 42. Like I said, I believe a real surprise nomination could surface here and that’s why I’m picking former SNL alum Will Forte in Nebraska.


Daniel Bruhl, Rush

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Will Forte, Nebraska

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club


Like the lead actress race, I’ve got no changes to report here either. This should still come down to Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence for the win.


Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

I’ll be back with last round of nomination picks soon enough!

Captain Phillips Box Office Prediction

Based on the true life 2009 Somali pirate hijacking, director Paul Greengrass tells the story of Captain Phillips, out Friday. With Tom Hanks in the title role, the pic received solid word of mouth from film festivals and sits at a strong 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Greengrass is right in his wheelhouse with the subject matter having directed United 93 as well as The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Phillips is being touted as an Oscar contender for Picture, Director, and Actor (it would be Hanks’s first nomination in 13 years). What could perhaps hinder its debut is the performance of another Oscar hopeful, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. That pic just set the October opening weekend record with $55 million and it may experience a relatively small decline in weekend number two.

Captain Phillips could fall anywhere from a $15 million debut to the high 20s, in my estimation. It should have strong legs after its opening based on critical reaction and word of mouth. For now, I’ll say it falls just shy of $20 million for an opening.

Captain Phillips opening weekend prediction: $19.1 million

For my Machete Kills prediction, click here:


Trailer Park: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Butler

This evening I bring you a new feature on the blog called Trailer Park, in which I’ll review the trailers for upcoming movies that have recently debuted. With the summer movie season freshly upon us, we’re likely to see a nice helping of trailers for pictures coming out this fall and even next summer. I’ll try to do a new Trailer Park posting every week, at least. I realize there’s probably oodles of movie bloggers like myself who also call their coming attractions posts Trailer Park, but hey – it’s a catchy name and you don’t always have to be original.

So what’s my criteria for grading a trailer? Simple. Does the trailer make me more or less likely to wanna watch the featured title? That’s pretty much it. Two recent examples: the most recent trailer for June’s Superman epic Man of Steel was a masterpiece. I went from really wanting to see it to dying to see it right away. Seriously, it’s one of the most effective trailers in a loooong time.

On the flip side, there’s R.I.P.D., coming in July. When I first heard about the movie, I thought “Sci-fi action comedy with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds?” Sure, why not? Then I saw the trailer, in which it looks like a third-rate Men in Black knock-off with terrible special effects. Jeff Bridges has got to be receiving better offers than this!

This inaugural Trailer Park post grade three titles from Oscar-nominated directors. All three pictures are in the early running for awards consideration. How do their trailers measure up?

We begin with Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and United 93 brings us this true life thriller based on the Somali pirate hostage crisis of 2009. The title character is played by Tom Hanks. Judging from the preview, we may just have the actor’s first real awards-worthy role since Cast Away over 12 years ago. Hanks is also sporting his New England Catch Me If You Can accent here. The subject matter coupled with what appears to be the perfect director doing the material bodes well. The trailer for Captain Phillips is terrific. Grade: A

Alfonso Cuaron is the brilliant director behind Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. It’s been seven long years since Children and film lovers have been eager to see what this visual genius comes up with next. The answer is Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts whose mission goes horribly wrong. This is definitely more of a teaser than full trailer, but there’s just enough there to let us know this will be a feast for the eyes, as are all of Cuaron’s efforts. I can’t wait to see a full trailer, but the final shot of Bullock barreling helplessly into space earns Gravity a B+ trailer grade.

Lee Daniels receive a Best Director nomination for his unexpected hit Precious and followed it up with last year’s critically panned The Paperboy. His latest feature, The Butler, tells the true life story of an African-American White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who served from the Eisenhower to Reagan administrations. From the Weinstein Company (they know how to get movies noticed by Oscar), The Butler looks tailor-made for Academy consideration. Another selling point: this is Oprah Winfrey’s first major film role in 15 years. I must admit, however, I’m not wild about the trailer. There seems to be almost too much information they’re trying to pack into it. And the brief glimpses of well-known actors playing the First Family – Robin Williams as Ike, John Cusack as Nixon, Liev Schrieber as LBJ, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, and Severus Snape as Ronald Reagan – are somewhat distracting. The Butler may turn out to be a great and inspiring picture, but the trailer is a tad underwhelming and only merits a B- Trailer grade.

So there you have it – my first crack at grading trailers. I’ll be back for more next week!