Oscar Watch: Stan & Ollie

Stan & Ollie has just closed out the London Film Festival and reviews are piling up. The film centers on legendary comedy duo Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) in the waning times of their career. Jon S. Baird directs with a screenplay from Jeff Pope, who was nominated for his adapted screenplay along with Mr. Coogan five years ago for Philomena.

Most early reviews indicate this a winner. Some point out flaws in the picture itself, though praise appears to be unanimous for its two leads. Distributor Entertainment One has reportedly made the choice to campaign for Coogan and Reilly in the lead Actor race at the Oscars. That could be tricky. That category is already looking very crowded. Beyond that, the two could cancel each other out. Additionally, Reilly faces competition with himself when you include his performance in The Sisters Brothers.

Bottom line: I don’t see Stan & Ollie as a factor in Best Picture. In a weaker year, Best Actor (for Reilly especially) could be reachable, but is more of a long shot. Pope could find himself in the mix for Original Screenplay if this gets enough exposure, but that also appears unlikely right now. Its best chance at any nod may well be Makeup & Hairstyling with Reilly’s transformation into Hardy.

Stan & Ollie opens December 28 stateside in limited release. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Oscar Watch: Victoria and Abdul

Victoria & Abdul has screened at the Venice Film Festival and the late 19th century period piece has been looked at as potentially scoring Judi Dench her eighth Oscar nomination. Why? Well, pretty simple: 1) it’s Judi Dench; 2) it casts her once again as Queen Victoria, whom she played in 1997’s Mrs. Brown where she landed her first nod; 3) it reunites her with her Philomena director Stephen Frears where she received her seventh nomination; and 4) it’s Judi Dench, people.

Predictably, the Dame has garnered solid notices for her return to the role two decades later. That said, competition is becoming fierce in the Actress race. Both the Venice and Telluride Festivals have showcased potential nominees such as Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes, Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, and Annette Bening in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. That’s in addition to some performances with promise like Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Jennifer Lawrence in Mother!, as well as pics to be screened later showcasing Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) and Meryl Streep (The Post).

There’s only five nominations to go around and Dench could find herself on the outside looking in. It’s also highly unlikely costar Ali Fazal or the Picture or Director will find themselves in contention.

Bottom line: it’s Judi Dench (once again), so there’s a chance but competition could provide some difficulties for nod #8.

Philomena Movie Review

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a former journalist turned British government official who’s recently lost his job in disgrace. His preference would be to concentrate on writing a book about Russian history to fill his time, but a human interest story comes his way. He disdains the idea of that type of journalism but even his cynical nature is trumped by a realization. As human interest stories go, this is a fascinating one. Plus no one seems to be clamoring for his ruminations about Lenin and Brezhnev.

Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) is still haunted by the events surrounding her separation from her son fifty years ago. After becoming pregnant at age 18 and giving birth to Anthony, she is sent to an Irish convent. She is forced to work long hours in the laundromat with access to her offspring for one hour per day. Anthony is soon put up for adoption without Philomena’s consent. On what is Anthony’s 50th birthday, his long lost mother takes further steps to find him by enlisting Martin.

This eventually leads to what becomes a road trip drama with heavy comedic undertones. The mix of slightly snooty Martin with Philomena provides humorous results. She seems often incapable of understanding sarcasm which Martin excels in. They are also polar opposites on the faith scale with the title character having never lost it. The same cannot be said for her traveling companion.

Washington D.C. becomes their landing spot where surprising revelations (surprising to some) about Anthony come out. The lighthearted nature of the proceedings continue with heavy drama interrupting it. Philomena is torn between a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and watching the Martin Lawrence pic Big Momma’s House on the hotel movie service. And there’s amazement on her part about free breakfasts and drinks on airplanes.

While we are dealing with a true story here, writers Coogan and Jeff Pope (adapting Martin’s book) could’ve spent a bit less time exploring Philomena’s personality quirks. It’s good for some laughs, but it’s also highly familiar stuff. What works best is when Philomena, both the character and the film, stay in the dramatic lane. By the time all is revealed about the backstory on why she never could find her son, the pic delivers serious emotional material that is effective. It’s just an uneven process getting there.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan make a solid team. We’ve come to expect greatness from Dame Judi and she is terrific here. Yet Coogan is impressive as well as he veers away from his usual type of material. They alone are reason enough to recommend Philomena and its manageability to get at our heartstrings after awhile is another.

*** (out of four)

 

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

After five posts predicting the other major categories for this year’s Academy Awards, we’ve arrived at the biggest race of all: Best Picture. Here are the nine nominees:

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

As I see it, there are three films that stand a realistic chance at taking home the gold. Those three do not include Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, or The Wolf of Wall Street.

That leaves us with American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.

While I have predicted that Alfonso Cuaron will win Best Director for Gravity (a pick I’m highly confident in), the chances of his picture winning are much more slim. While it was a hit with audiences and critics – the sci-fi epic has won no major precursors to speak of. Its recognition should come to Cuaron and in various technical categories.

American Hustle certainly has plenty of fans and director David O. Russell has been on a heckuva hot streak. The pic stands the second best chance of being the victor.

However, the fact is that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is undeniably the frontrunner and it has been for awhile. Slave has won a slew of precursors, including the Golden Globe for Best Drama. From an odds perspective, I’d put it this way:

12 Years a Slave: 75% chance of winning

American Hustle: 20% chance of winning

Gravity: 5% chance of winning

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

For a full breakdown of my picks, here ya go:

Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Director – Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Actor – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Next weekend – I’ll have my final predictions in all categories before the big show. If any of the six major ones change in the next week (unlikely), I’ll act accordingly. Until then!

2014 Golden Globe Awards: Todd’s Predicted Winners

In four days, we’ll have the Hollywood Foreign Press bestow their honors to the film and television world at the Golden Globe Awards with return hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Readers of my blog will note that I’ve extensively and frequently been posting my Oscar predictions. I don’t pay nearly as much attention to the Globes, but I did want to put my two cents in and predict the winners in the picture, directing, and acting categories.

The Globes are different from the Oscars because categories are divided between Drama and Musical/Comedy categories for Picture, Actor, and Actress. Director and Supporting Actor and Actress are awarded regardless of genre. If you would like to read my detailed analysis of awards contenders, I suggest you look on the blog for my Oscar predictions posts. For the purposes of this post, I’ll simply predict who I think will Globes this Sunday and note the other nominees. I am noting my second choice if my primary choice doesn’t win in bold. I am not predicting the TV categories except for one: it should be an interesting showdown in Best Drama between the final season of “Breaking Bad” and first season of “House of Cards”, but ultimately I think Walter White and company win out.

And with that, my predictions:

BEST DRAMA

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Other Nominees: Captain Phillips, Gravity, Philomena, Rush

BEST MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Predicted Winner: American Hustle

Other Nominees: Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST DIRECTOR

Predicted Winner: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Other Nominees: Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle)

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Predicted Winner: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Other Nominees: Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club), Robert Redford (All is Lost)

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Predicted Winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Other Nominees: Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Predicted Winner: Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Other Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Predicted Winner: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Other Nominees: Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predicted Winner: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Other Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Predicted Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Other Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)

And there you have my predictions for your Golden Globe winners on Sunday!

Oscar Predictions: Todd’s December Take

Well, folks, we’ve arrived at my December predictions for the six major categories at the Oscars! And there’s been significant changes in some categories. There’s not one category that’s remained the same from my last go-round of guesses. A lot has happened since my November predictions. Every major contender has now screened with critics. Golden Globe and SAG nominations have been announced. And, per usual, things are unclear. Don’t get me wrong – there’s certain films and actors that seem destined for nominations. However, no field is close to being set. Not even close.

For the first time in making my predictions, I am predicting the winner in each race. I would expect at least one more round (more likely two) prior to nominations being announced in mid January. Here we go!

BEST PICTURE

Todd’s Predictions –

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Gravity

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska

Saving Mr. Banks

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

Analysis: Yes, I am keeping the number at nine predicted pictures (there could be anywhere from five to ten). This new round of predictions brings in three new films – Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks – and takes out three – All is Lost, Blue Jasmine, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Other possible nominees include Dallas Buyer’s Club, August: Osage County, Lone Survivor, Philomena, Rush, Prisoners and Fruitvale Station.

Predicted Winner: Conventional wisdom is that the race is between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, with The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle as potential spoilers. My gut tells me (at least for now) that 12 Years a Slave is in the driver’s seat and it is my current prediction to win.

BEST DIRECTOR

Todd’s Predictions –

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

David O. Russell, American Hustle

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Analyis: As I see it, only Cuaron and McQueen are surefire nominees and should compete with each other for the win. Let’s not forget that last year’s Director nominees were a total shocker to everyone when Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) did not pick up expected nominations. My predictions today reflect putting Payne and Scorsese in and taking J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost) and Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) out. Chandor seems highly unlikely to get a nod at this point, but any combination of Greengrass, Spike Jonze (Her), the Coen Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis), or John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks) could get in.

Predicted Winner: As mentioned, Cuaron and McQueen are the frontrunners. I could easily see a scenario where 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture and Cuaron still nabs Director for the amazing technical achievement that Gravity was. It’s tempting, but for now, my prediction is that Picture and Director will match up and McQueen wins.

BEST ACTOR

Todd’s Predictions –

Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Analysis: This is shaping up to be by far the most fascinating race to watch. My current predictions put Dern and DiCaprio in and Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Joaquin Phoenix (Her) out. And don’t count out Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Christian Bale (American Hustle), or Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis). Frankly, I would say Ejiofor is the only nominee I would be shocked at if he’s not nominated. The crazy thing is – I could see any one of the five predicted nominees actually win and that’s rare. This is an extraordinarily tough call, but right now I’m staying on the 12 Years bandwagon and going with Ejiofor.

BEST ACTRESS

Todd’s Predictions –

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Analysis and Predicted Winner: Just one change here – Amy Adams (American Hustle) out and Emma Thompson in. This looks to be a showdown between Blanchett (who’s picking up the majority of critics awards) and Bullock (the most popular actress starring in a wildly popular film). The fact that Bullock won four years ago leads me to give Blanchett a slight edge and she’s my prediction. Other contenders not predicted: Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), as well as Adams.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Todd’s Predictions –

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Analysis: Of the five predicted, I am only confident about Fassbender and Leto. My current predictions have Hanks in and his Captain Phillips costar Barkhad Abdi out. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Abdi, John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Will Forte (Nebraska), Harrison Ford (42), or the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said) nominated.

Predicted Winner: A 12 Years sweep could give Fassbender the prize. However, my prediction is Jared Leto for his acclaimed work in Dallas Buyer’s Club.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

Analysis: Voters might not be able to resist nominating Julia so she’s in and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) is out. Other not predicted contenders could be Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station) and Margo Martindale (August: Osage County). This race appears to be coming down to Lawrence and Nyong’o.

Predicted Winner: Much like Supporting Actor, a 12 Years night should include Nyong’o. And then came Jennifer Lawrence, who’s having an incredible film year with her Best Actress Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook and headlining the massive hit The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Her performance in Hustle is garnering raves. Could she win two years in a row? Between her and Nyong’o, this seems like a coin toss at this juncture. For now, I’ll predict the 12 Years momentum gives Nyong’o the win.

And there you have it. To recap, my current winner predictions:

PICTURE – 12 Years a Slave

DIRECTOR – Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

ACTOR – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

SUPPORTING ACTOR – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave