2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

Best Director is on deck for my closeup looks at six major categories at the Oscars. If you missed my posts covering the four acting derbies, you can find them here:

As I have with the other competitions, let’s see how accurate my estimates were from 2019-21 at the same early November time period. In 2019, I correctly had 4 of the 5 eventual directors: winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Todd Phillips (Joker) was identified in Other Possibilities. 2020 was a trickier year due to COVID complications and I had 2 of the contenders rightly pegged: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland (who won) and David Fincher for Mank. Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) was in Other Possibilities while Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) were not yet in my top ten. Last year, I had 3 of 5 with the victorious Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza). Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) was in Other Possibilities and I didn’t have Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car) yet in the mix.

I don’t have Spielberg down as an Other Possibility in 2022. This time around, he could be in line for his third Best Director statue behind 1993’s Schindler’s List and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. It would mark his ninth overall nom. If he wins, he would become only the fourth filmmaker with three or more victories. John Ford has 4 while Frank Capra and William Wyler have 3.

The last four years have given us a nominee with an International Feature Film contender. In addition to Joon-ho in 2019 and Vinterberg and Hamaguchi the following years, Alfonso Cuaron took the prize in 2018 for Roma. There are two in 2022 that stand the best shot: Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave). If you want to be brave and predict an out of nowhere selection (like Vinterberg kinda was in 2020), look to Lukas Dhont (Close) or Jerzy Skolimowski (EO). Maybe even Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Bardo though he faces a tough road due to mixed critical reception.

However, I’m not quite ready to elevate any of them to the forecasted quintet. Damien Chazelle’s Babylon will soon screen prior to its December bow. It has the looks of a contender and he’s in unless the buzz tells me differently in a few days.

I’m also feeling good about the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) for Everything Everywhere All at Once. Same goes for Sarah Polley (Women Talking). Both appear to be surefire BP selections and would mark the Academy’s first mentions for them in this race.

As for the fifth spot, there’s plenty of names beyond the aforementioned international auteurs. Todd Field for Tár tops that list with Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin) not far behind. If Avatar: The Way of Water approaches the reception that the original received, James Cameron could enter the conversation.

If She Said or The Whale pick up even more steam in BP, I wouldn’t discount Maria Schrader or Darren Aronofsky respectively. That same logic applies to Ruben Ostlund for Triangle of Sadness. I’ve had him in my five previously.

Perhaps the voters will honor the maker of the year’s biggest blockbuster with Joseph Kosinski for Top Gun: Maverick. The more likely path is a BP nom and a few tech inclusions.

This race can and will evolve over the next couple of months. Here’s the state of the race right now:

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1 . Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 2) (E)

3. Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 3) (E)

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking (PR: 4) (E)

5. Todd Field, Tár (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 8) (E)

9. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Ruben Ostlund, Triangle of Sadness (PR: 9) (-1)

Best Picture is up next, folks! Stay tuned…

Best Picture 2012: The Final Five

My latest Final Five post brings us to 2012 and the Oscars that occurred nearly a decade ago. If you’re reading this series for the first time, this is where I whittle the 8-10 Best Picture nominees from every year since 2009 to five. As you may know, it was in 2009 that the Academy stopped listing a quintet of movies for the big prize and expanded it upwards. If you missed my write-ups about 2009, 2010, and 2011 – you can access them here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

Best Picture 2011: The Final Five

As we do with each year, we start with the obvious. Ben Affleck’s Argo certainly would have made the cut since it won BP. 2012 was a strange year with the Academy’s voters. Argo emerged as the first film since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy where the BP recipient’s director wasn’t nominated in that category. It’s happened twice since with 2018’s Green Book and last year’s CODA. I will admit that picking a fifth entry was challenging. The other 3 besides Argo seem pretty clear. Let’s get into it!

Amour

Michael Haneke’s French drama was the easy winner of Foreign Language Film and nabbed 3 other nods: Director, Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), and Original Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, though an argument can certainly be made. I would venture that with only five, the narrative would’ve been that it had no trouble in the foreign race and that would be the reward.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

This micro-budgeted indie fantasy from Benh Zeitlin scored a surprise directing nod as well as Actress (Quvanzhane Wallis) and Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. It received the least amount of nominations of the nine nominees and won none of its four mentions. That said, it’s not entirely out of the question that it could have snuck in.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino scored the biggest hit of his career with this Western which won Original Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz). It also received nods for Cinematography and Sound Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, though an argument can be made yet again (especially with the Original Screenplay victory). That said, misses for directing and editing are indications that it might have just missed.

Les Miserables

With 8 nominations and wins for Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Sound Mixing, and Makeup and Hairstyling, the adaptation of the famed musical was one of the biggest box office performers of the bunch.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No… and stop me if you’ve heard this before… but an argument could be made. Like Django, the directing and editing omissions prevent me from saying it is top five.

Life of Pi

Ang Lee’s visually striking adaptation of a bestseller tied with most nominations (11). Lee would win for his behind the camera work and it would pick up gold statues for Score, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. Unlike our last two contenders, it did receive an editing nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Furthermore, it was probably the runner-up for the win.

Lincoln

Steven Spielberg’s historical tale was the other movie to receive 11 nominations. The sole win was for Daniel Day-Lewis’s embodiment of the 16th POTUS in Best Actor.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Despite the 1 for 11 showing, the sheer number of nods strongly suggest its inclusion.

Silver Linings Playbook

With 8 nominations and Jennifer Lawrence taking Best Actress, this was the rare pic that scored nominations in all 4 acting derbies. Unlike Lawrence – Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver didn’t win their respective races. This was also up for David O. Russell’s direction, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes – based on where else it landed attention.

Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar winning The Hurt Locker won Sound Editing. Jessica Chastain was up for Actress with Original Screenplay and Editing nods making it five overall. Bigelow’s snub in the directing race was unexpected.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, but this is the one I’m most unsure about. One could easily make the case for Amour or Beasts or Django or Les Miserables. The fact that this had the screenplay nod and editing made me pick it.

So in my view your abbreviated 2012 BP lineup would be:

Argo

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty 

2013 is up next!

Bullet Train Review

David Leitch has done this cartoonishly bloody and dripping with sarcasm business before with John Wick and Deadpool 2. In Bullet Train, having Brad Pitt loaded for the quipping is a plus. The trip is rockiest in the beginning leg, but picks up steam for quite some time. In the later stages, you may be asking why we aren’t there yet with the climax.

Pitt’s assassin who goes by Ladybug boards the title mode of transportation with simple instructions to boost a briefcase. Hurtling at breakneck speed from Tokyo to Kyoto, he soon finds that many other types who share his profession are along for the ride. This includes “twins” Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Their codenames may suggest Prince backup dancers, but they’re tasked with transporting the drug addled son (Logan Lerman) of a crime lord named White Death (Michael Shannon) back home. And they also want that briefcase.

Unlike Pulp Fiction where we are still collectively wondering what was in that case, we find out quickly here. Ladybug and his fruit monikered colleagues aren’t the only ones seeking it. There’s Prince (Joey King), who’s dressed not as a backup dancer but as a schoolgirl who fools many with her innocent appearance. Kimura (Andrew Koji) is a killer burdened with a young son in danger away from the tracks. There’s more – Zazie Beetz turns up as does Hiroyuki Sanada as Kimura’s elder (he’s called The Elder). Multiplatinum rapper Bad Bunny is The Wolf, who is avenging a family massacre that could have used cleanup from Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolfe in the aforementioned Pulp. There’s cameos I won’t spoil. I will say they add little other than fleeting seconds of unexpected recognition.

Bullet Train gleefully revels in its violence. It kind of feels like a throwback to 90s excess that Tarantino’s landmark sophomore feature helped inspire. That’s not always a bad thing as the slicing and dicing is done with the visual flair we expect from Leitch. The screenplay from Zak Olkewicz is one of those where nearly every character is eventually connected. I found myself straining to care about those connections.  It takes a few minutes before Train gets up to speed. Yet Pitt’s considerable charisma and his support staff (particularly Henry and Taylor-Johnson) help alleviate a lot of those narrative bumps. So was the ride worth it? That’s debatable though I’d say there’s worse fates than taking it.

*** (out of four)

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

And now for a new category on my blog that will update itself yearly after 13 initial posts covering 2009-21. It’s a simple concept. In 2009 – the Academy shifted their rules from a set amount of five Best Picture nominees to 10. That lasted for 2 years. In 2011, the number could fluctuate anywhere from 5-10. In most years, the magic number was 8 or 9 (it was never less than 8). Last year, the big race reverted back to a definite 10.

So… what if it hadn’t? What if 5 nominees was never altered? Well, Oscar speculators like yours truly would have to write posts predicting what would’ve been the final five. So that’s what this is all about.

Naturally it begins with 2009. Before that, something from 2008 might’ve contributed to the shift when The Dark Knight famously missed BP even though it was a critical darling and box office smash. A shift to 10 allowed popcorn favorites and smaller titles to make the cut. And they did.

When it comes to whittling down from 10 (or later 8 or 9) to five, there’s plenty of factors in play. What else did the movie get nominated for or win? Some races are more important than others like Director and Editing or the Screenplay derbies.

Yet it’s far from an exact science. This is educated guesswork based on Oscar history. I’ll walk through each title and give an ultimate Yes or No on whether it makes the five. The first is automatic and that’s whatever won. In 2009 that honor belonged to…

The Hurt Locker

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes because it won Best Picture.

The other 9? That’s where it gets interesting. Let’s take them alphabetically, shall we?

Avatar

When Oscar nominations rolled out near the beginning of 2010, James Cameron’s 3D sensation was basking in the glow of becoming the biggest movie ever. That meant he was breaking his own record from 13 years earlier with Titanic. Cameron was nominated for Director – losing to ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for Locker. The film also didn’t manage a Screenplay nod though Cameron is known more for his technical prowess than writing skills. On the tech side it managed 7 nods and won three (Art Direction, Cinematography, Visual Effects). So…

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Though it lost a number of its nods to Locker, the gargantuan grosses would’ve been enough for it to advance.

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock’s crowd pleasing football drama made her an Oscar winner. Yet those are the only two nominations it received as it couldn’t make the Adapted Screenplay shortlist. In fact, Avatar and this are the only two BP nominees not to see their scripts mentioned.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. This is a perfect example of a blockbuster getting in due to the expansion that wouldn’t have with just five.

District 9

Neill Blomkamp’s acclaimed sci-fi tale was a surprise summer hit and he’s yet to replicate its mix of audience and critical appreciation. It was nominated in three other races – Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, and Film Editing. No wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

This one is actually close for me. The screenplay and editing nods certainly make it doable. If it had landed Director, I’d probably say yes. A bit of a coin flip, but I’ll land on No.

An Education

The coming-of-age pic scored Carey Mulligan an Actress nod as well as Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that it could’ve snuck in, but gotta go No. It missed a Golden Globe nod for example and a lot of the focus was on Mulligan’s work.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII opus was his return to significant awards attention 15 years following Pulp Fiction. In addition to the Pic nod, he was nominated for his direction and screenplay (losing both to Locker). Other nominations: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing, and a Supporting Actor victory for Christoph Waltz.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The 8 nominations are enough to indicate as much.

Precious

The breakthrough drama from Lee Daniels scored five other mentions for Directing, Gabourey Sidibe in Actress, Mo’Nique in Supporting Actress (a victory), Adapted Screenplay (another win), and Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The screenplay win puts it over the top.

A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers dark comedy received just one other nod for their screenplay with acclaimed lead Michael Stuhlbarg missing the Best Actor cut.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Even with the love for its brotherly makers – No.

Up

As far as I’m concerned, the Pixar masterpiece’s first few minutes should win Best Picture every year. The tearjerker was a rare animated Best Picture contender and it contended for four others. It obviously won Animated Feature as well as Original Score in addition to mentions in Original Screenplay and Sound Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

I’m saying No, but I’m not sure of that. I’d probably put it sixth.

Up in the Air

Our other Up contender is Jason Reitman’s workplace dramedy which received six nods. The others were Director, Actor (George Clooney), Supporting Actress (both Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), and Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. While it retrieved no statues, I think it would’ve just edged other hopefuls such as Up or District 9.

So that means if 2009 had just five Best Picture nominees, I believe they would’ve been:

The Hurt Locker (winner)

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

Up in the Air 

An important note – the movies here match the five Best Director nominees. That’s rare and that will be rare in subsequent postings on years that follow. From 2000-2008 that only occurred twice (2005 and 2008). So don’t get used to it.

I shall return soon with my rumblings and final five for 2010!

Licorice Pizza Review

I’ve been grooving to the beat of Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic vibes for a quarter century. There was the magnificent Boogie Nights in 1997 and the iconic Daniel Day-Lewis milkshake monologue in There Will Be Blood ten years later. A decade after that, my PTA appetite was satiated by Phantom Thread. 

His latest is Licorice Pizza and it’s his most laid back experience. This coming-of-age slice of life takes place in the Valley circa 1973. It feels lived in and authentic and personal. There’s individual scenes where the filmmaker’s brilliance is on full display. Like all of his efforts, there’s memorable performances. And unlike most of his catalogue, this Almost Famous feeling flick has flaws I couldn’t overlook. It’s almost joyous and almost worth the viewing and ultimately more problematic than rewarding.

Loosely based on the teen years of former child actor Gary Goetzman (now a highly successful producing partner of Tom Hanks), Cooper Hoffman is 15-year-old Gary Valentine. He’s costarred in movies and commercials and is far more confident than anyone his age has a right to be. That self-assured nature is evident when he asks 25-year-old photographer’s assistant Alana Kane (Alana Haim) out on a date. She rebuffs his advances at first but ends up meeting him out. The two strike up a friendship and the benefit for us is watching Hoffman and Haim shine in their acting debuts. The son of Anderson’s late frequent collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman and one third of a well-known rock band, Hoffman and Haim are naturals. The drawback is an age difference I couldn’t overlook… so let’s go there.

This is where the sunny tone of Pizza conflicted with their borderline (perhaps over borderline) inappropriate coupling. It’s not overtly sexual and Alana is well aware that hanging with the decade younger Gary is far from normal. Yet there’s enough of a leftover distasteful feeling that it hindered the entertainment value for me. One could argue Gary is more mature than Alana and perhaps that justifies some of what happens. That’s a tough needle to thread and I just couldn’t get there.

Pizza has a lazy hangout atmosphere that recalls Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Like that picture, it’s steeped in exploring a different showbiz era and the technical aspects we expect from PTA (production design, cinematography, costumes, and more) are top notch.

The episodic nature is hit or miss. Pizza‘s best course involves Bradley Cooper as hairdresser turned producer Jon Peters. His segment moves at a thrilling clip as Gary’s failing waterbed business and the 70s era gasoline shortage play important roles. I can’t say the same for Sean Penn’s bit as an aging movie star (based on William Holden) and his motorcycle exploits. By the time we arrive at Alana trying a new career as a campaign worker for conflicted mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie), the pic was starting to run on fumes.

When a director of immense capabilities makes an almost misfire, there’s no denying it’s more of a letdown. That’s where I stand with Licorice Pizza and it brings me no joy to deliver that news.

**1/2 (out of four)

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

After four posts focusing on the acting races at the 2021 Oscars, it’s time to turn to Best Director. If you missed those entries on the lead and supporting performer derbies, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

With the directing category, I do believe there’s three filmmakers that have likely punched their ticket to a nomination. Before we get there, let’s take a look at how my projections panned out at the same early November time frame in 2019 and 2020.

Two years back, I correctly identified four of the five contenders: winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) as well as Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Todd Phillips (Joker) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. 2020 was more unpredictable with two months left to go and that resulted in only two directors being accurately named: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), who took the gold, and David Fincher (Mank). Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) was in Other Possibilities while neither Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) or surprise nominee Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) were yet listed in my top ten.

Back to 2021 and the three individuals who I believe stand probable shots at making the cut. They are Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Denis Villeneuve (Dune).

It was 28 years ago that Campion was nominated for The Piano. If it hadn’t been for Oscar juggernaut Schindler’s List, she likely would’ve been making a speech. Upon its premiere in Venice, Campion took the Silver Lion (equivalent to this competition) for Dog. I don’t see her being left off the ballot.

Belfast is the current frontrunner for Best Picture and it’s hard to envision  writer/director Branagh not making it in. If so, it would be his first nod in directing since Henry V some 32 years back.

Dune is being heralded for its technical wizardry and it should pick up numerous down the line wins and nominations. Five years after his behind the camera work was recognized for Arrival, Villeneuve should be a factor again.

Interestingly, I don’t feel there’s a clear favorite to win. There are plausible scenarios for any member of this trio to emerge victorious. Campion, Branagh, and Villeneuve constitute my top 3 (in that order), but it’s more of a 1a, 1b, and 1c at press time.

As for the other two slots, there’s a few contenders stemming from unseen product. There’s big names in that bunch: Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley, who won four years ago for The Shape of Water), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza, a two-time nominee for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread), Ridley Scott (for House of Gucci and not The Last Duel), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up, previously nominated for The Big Short), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick, Tick… Boom!), and Steven Spielberg (West Side Story,  a two-time winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).

Any of these gentlemen could bubble up to the surface once their pictures are screened. I’m sticking with the two I’ve had in my five recently: del Toro and Anderson.

King Richard has a chance to win Best Picture, but I’m skeptical its maker Reinaldo Marcus Green makes it here. The sports drama seems destined to be recognized more for its performances, but if the Academy really falls for it, Green could be theoretically be swept in. That holds true for Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Pablo Larrain (Spencer) as well.

Lastly, Thomas Vinterberg’s nod in 2020 for Another Round came out of nowhere. While it was pegged to take International Feature Film (which it did), Round was not nominated in Best Picture. There’s a slew of directors who could fill the “surprise” slot this time around (many from foreign features): Pedro Almodovar (Parallel Mothers), Julia Ducournau (Titane), Asghar Farhari (A Hero), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World). I wouldn’t completely count out Rebecca Hall for Passing. Yet none of these upset selections are in my top ten.

The one that is: Jonas Poher Rasmussen for festival darling Flee. While I don’t have it nabbing a Best Pic nom at the moment, I do foresee the Danish doc contending in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film. That kind of attention could cause the voters to include him.

Here’s how those rankings look at the start of November:

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: 9)

10. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Best Picture is next!

Last Night in Soho Review

Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho is about romanticism and the death (often the grisly variety) of it. In this ghost story, the filmmaker pays homage to a far gone thrilling and swinging era in mid 1960s London while maintaining that the nostalgia of those who didn’t live through it might be displaced.

Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) looks at the period from her starry eyes and an ear tuned to its luscious record. She’s only been to present era London as a young girl having grown up in the countryside with her grandmother (Rita Tushingham). Her mother is departed in tragic circumstances that hint she mentally couldn’t handle the glitzy big city life. Her father is as much an apparition as others she encounters.

A college student attending fashion school, Eloise is swiftly out of her element with her snooty dorm mates. Relocating to an upstairs room in a home run by the strict Ms Collins (the late Diana Rigg), her clairvoyance that often includes matriarchal visions moves right along with her. They involve Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer in 1966 whose ambition introduces her to agent Jack (Matt Smith). He’s all charm at first, but darkness lurks with him and many other not so English gentlemen.

As Eloise begins to experience nightly visions of Sandie’s struggles, her own behavior rightfully begins to alarm those in her orbit. That includes John (Michael Ajao), a classmate and potential love interest who’s often the only Londoner that’s kind to her. On the not so nice list is a customer (Terence Stamp) at the local watering hole, a hub of both glamour and glumness 60 years ago, where Eloise works. He might be the key to Sandie’s backstory.

Whether in zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead or Baby Driver (where he figured out a way to make car chases cool again), Wright is a filmmaker with style to spare. Soho is a glorious visual spectacle that shows its work in explaining how Eloise is so taken with the period. And he may be second only to Tarantino nowadays when it comes to killer needle drops in the soundtrack.

Last Night in Soho may not significantly alter the mix in the spirits genre, but Wright certainly has a flair for it. He cheekily employs some British legends like Rigg and Stamp in this ferocious happening. For the former especially, it’s a delicious final role. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy mirror each other in the quality of their performances that grow more terror struck as the clock ticks. Sandie’s London journey begins with hope and ends with her bridge to stardom falling down. Eloise is there to witness it while gasping in horror. We are there to witness Wright at the top of his game.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: The Harder They Fall

Prior to its limited theatrical output on October 22 and Netflix bow on November 3, The Harder They Fall has dropped at the London Film Festival. The late 19th century set Western revenge tale comes from Jeymes Samuel, who wears many hats here as director, writer, producer, and composer. This is a fictional tale consisting of many actual African-American figures from the era. The cast includes Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, and Lakeith Stanfield.

Early reviews are quite positive and Fall stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with the handful of write-ups available thus far. Some critics have compared the violent, funny, and period piece elements to Quentin Tarantino. Of the impressive cast, Elba seems to be garnering lots of ink. Despite Emmy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG nods in his filmography, he’s yet to make the cut with the Academy (his snub in 2015 for Beasts of No Nation was a surprising one).  At the moment, Supporting Actor has very few surefire hopefuls (one could argue there’s none). If Fall is able to land with awards voters, here is an obvious category where it could play.

Regina King could factor in as well though Supporting Actress may already have at least a slot or two filled. She did also win just three years ago for 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk. 

As for the movie itself, I could see a scenario where it gains popularity once it streams and has its pushers for inclusion. I wouldn’t bank on it happening, but I wouldn’t totally discount it.

Finally, there’s the soundtrack which includes original tracks from Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, and Kid Cudi. Mr. Z (who also produces) could find himself in a slot for the Original Song five. If he manages to do so, he’d almost certainly be competing against Mrs. Z (aka Beyonce, who’s got a close to assured nod for “Be Alive” from King Richard).

Bottom line: we need to see what kind of reaction The Harder They Fall garners when it steams, but the buzz is sturdy enough now to indicate a potential contender. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Mad Women’s Ball

Stateside audiences may know Melanie Laurent best as Shosanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but the French actress has been directing in her native county for a decade now. Following Adopted (2011) and Respire (2014), her latest is The Mad Women’s Ball and it is streaming on Amazon Prime as of yesterday.

Laurent costars in the thriller that premiered days ago in Toronto. Costarring Lou de Laage and Emmanuelle Bercot, Ball currently has a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s under her predecessor Respire (93%). I’m not so sure France will even submit this for the Academy’s consideration in International Feature Film and this appears unlikely to find its way on ballots in any other categories.

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

My first round of Oscar predictions in this topsy turvy time known as 2020 arrives at Best Director. If you missed my initial take on the four acting races, you can find them all here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

I’ve already discussed the challenges of making these August projections and many of them are the same as any other year. Yet it’s even trickier now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever shifting release dates that accompany it. This is why I’ve left off Wes Anderson and The French Dispatch as its premiere is especially in flux. If word comes out in the near future to its unveiling, he would almost certainly be in the top 15.

Some of the pictures and their makers listed here will (at least right now) be seen in the next few weeks at festivals. As for Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan is expected to be out in limited fashion stateside by month’s end.

2019 was a bit more stable and I correctly identified 4 of the eventual 5 nominees in my first late summer predictions. That includes winner Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese, (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). My only miss was Todd Phillips for Joker and I didn’t even have him in the 10 other possibilities.

Let’s get to it with my introductory look at the players vying for behind the camera accolades!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

David Fincher, Mank

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Paul Greengrass, News of the World

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Francis Lee, Ammonite

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater

Mike Mills, C’Mon C’Mon

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

I’ll have the big daddy of them all – Best Picture – up in short order! Stay tuned…