Oscar Watch: The Two Popes

It seems as if The Two Popes has emerged as a bright spot at the Telluride Film Festival over the weekend. The Netflix production casts Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as the future Pope Francis. Reviews suggest it’s an engaging and often funny experience that audiences should approve of. Fernando Meirelles directs and he’s a previous nominee for 2002’s City of God. He also made The Constant Gardner in 2005 for which Rachel Weisz won a Supporting Actress gold statue.

Popes may not see white smoke for a Picture nod, but other races are definitely in play. An important question is category placement. It sounds as if the two actors are co-leads. Will the studio be creative to maximize the chances for both to get in? If only one can make it, I’d bet on the never nominated Pryce over four-time nominee Hopkins (who won nearly three decades ago for The Silence of the Lambs).

There’s also Andrew McCarten, who could get noticed for his praised Original Screenplay. He’s a bit of a Best Actor whisperer as a matter of fact. Three of the last five winners in that race starred in scripts written by him: Eddie Redmayne in 2014 for The Theory of Everything, Gary Oldman two years ago in Darkest Hour, and Rami Malek last year for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bottom line: The Two Popes did well for itself in Colorado when it comes to awards viability. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Favourite Movie Review

A trio of bold performances carries the striking look and bawdy humor of The Favourite, the latest effort from visionary filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. Set in the early 18th century, it takes considerable historical liberties with its Queen and her subjects. It’s all in the service of a semi tragic comedy with the three leads seeking to hold and attain power.

Olivia Colman is Queen Anne, increasingly sickly and dependent on closest advisor Sarah (Rachel Weisz). A war with France is raging and Sarah deftly moves to provide strategic advice. Other than the 17 rabbits she keeps as pets, the Queen typically has that audience of one. That’s until Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin of Sarah’s, arrives in the luscious grounds to seek employment and eventually stake her claim as a confidante. Her scheming succeeds. This sets up a love triangle and an ever evolving quest for Anne’s affections.

The men in these women’s lives are largely disposable. Harley (Nicholas Hoult) is a thorn on their sides as the politician undermines war efforts and serves as Abigail’s co-conspirator when it fits her needs. Samuel (Joe Alwyn) has social standing important enough for Abigail to take him as a husband and accentuate her lifestyle. They’re tolerated.

This is a period piece that is anything but stuffy. If anything, it’s positively randy in its exploration of sex and greed. From its costume and production design and cinematography, this is a gorgeous looking picture.

Colman has the most dynamic part of the three. Sad and vulnerable and unwell, she’s still the ultimate actor to wield dominance and she never forgets it. While Abigail is more myopic in her thirst for influence, Sarah’s royal connection is a bit more complicated and compelling. Weisz makes the most of her layered role.

The Favourite is short of great, but it is a feast for the eyes about people whose eyes are permanently fixed on their proximity to the throne.

***1/2 (out of four)

Early 2019 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

And away we go with my very early initial Oscar predictions for the films of 2019! As has become tradition on this here blog, I make my first projections in the six top races (the acting categories, Director, Picture) in late August. This is right on the cusp of festival season (Toronto, Venice, Telluride, New York) when dozens of hopefuls will screen beginning Thursday and into the next several weeks. Expect a whole bunch of Oscar Watch posts coming your way!

At that time, the outlook will become considerably clearer when it comes to real deal contenders and pretenders. Beginning Thursday and through October, I will have a weekly column estimating my top 25 Best Picture possibilities and 15 entries in the five other races. They will be ranked unlike these first posts. Starting in November, that will dwindle down to 15 Pictures and top 10 predictions in all other categories weekly.

There is no doubt that these lists will fluctuate significantly as the year progresses. We begin with Supporting Actress. Last year, only one of my initial 5 predictions for this race ended up being nominated. It happened to be the winner… Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Of the 10 performers below the estimated five, two scored nods (Amy Adams in Vice and Rachel Weisz in The Favourite).

So without further adieu, Todd’s first Oscar calls for 2019!

EARLY PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Annette Bening, The Report

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell

Other Possibilities:

Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters 

Jennifer Hudson, Cats

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae, Harriet

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Meryl Streep, The Laundromat

Meryl Streep, Little Women

Emma Watson, Little Women

Best Supporting Actor is next!

2018 FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

We’ve had months of predictions and endless speculation on this blog about the 2018 Oscars and now it’s come to this. On Sunday, the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will air with your host…

As you’ve likely read, there actually is no emcee for this year’s ceremony. I’m not here to write about that. I’m here to make my final picks for the winners! Let’s break down each race one by one, shall we? And, of course, I’ll have a piece up Sunday night with my thoughts on how it all went down.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Analysis: First things first. It’s extremely rare that the winner here doesn’t have its director nominated. Therefore, two films that might have served as the biggest competition to Roma could now be seen as longer shots: A Star Is Born and Green Book. You could correctly point out that Argo achieved a victory just six years ago without Ben Affleck getting an individual nod. However, it had been 23 years prior to that (Driving Miss Daisy) when it had occurred previously. BlacKkKlansman and The Favourite are upset possibilities, but the smart money is on Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix Mexican drama and it would mark the streaming service’s first win in the big race.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Director

Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Analysis: I feel even more confident that Cuaron will take the gold here, even if Roma somehow comes up short in Picture. He’s run the table on precursors, including the DGA prize. It would be his second win in five years, after winning for 2013’s Gravity.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Analysis: This is a tough one as Malek and Bale have split a number of precursors. With the SAG Awards, I deemed it a coin flip and picked Malek. I was right. At the Golden Globes, they both won due to category splits. I won’t be surprised to see either win, but my 50/50 feeling going with Malek worked before

Predicted Winner: Malek

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Aparicio and McCarthy should be honored to be nominated. Colman and Gaga are threats, but Close has fared best in previous ceremonies and there’s the fact that she’s a highly respected performer who’s yet to win despite multiple nods.

Predicted Winner: Close

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Analysis: This category features the last two Oscar winners as Ali won in 2016 for Moonlight and Rockwell took it last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have far different chances to become two-time victors. Ali is the front-runner. Supporting Actor has seen upsets, but Ali looks strong.

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Marina de Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: Even though King didn’t get a SAG nod, they bestowed their award to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and she’s not even nominated. An Adams name call is feasible since she’s never won, but King will probably be crowned Sunday evening.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Star could perhaps shine here, but this really feels like the race where voters will recognize BlacKkKlansman. 

Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Analysis: This one is legitimately difficult and I think you can make a case for all of them. Roma is a distinct possibility as the Picture favorite and Green Book could make a showing. Yet my slight favorite here is The Favourite.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

Analysis: This could be interesting. As revealed above, Roma is my Picture pick. So it’s automatic that it wins here right? Not so fast. Cold War could get the consolation prize and I feel that’s even more possible since it nabbed a surprise nod for director Pawel Pawlikowski. I’m tempted to pick it, but I’ll say Roma manages the double win. However, if you wish to get creative in your office pool, this could be the race to do it.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Analysis: Pixar has dominated this field for years. In most years, it would be risky to bet against them – therefore Incredibles 2. This might be the year to do it as SpiderMan arrived late in the year, swung the momentum, and swept the precursors.

Predicted Winner: SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG

Analysis: One of the biggest shockers when nominations came out was the omission of Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I likely would’ve picked it to win had it been nominated. Now I believe this is between Solo and RBG. Reverence for the latter could swing it that way, but I’ll give a small edge to Solo.

Predicted Winner: Free Solo

Best Film Editing

Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

Analysis: Bohemian Rhapsody won the significant precursor for its branch and The Favourite or BlacKkKlansman could factor in as well. My gut says Vice may get this one, however.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Major love for the foreign pics here and Cold War has a shot. This is probably Roma’s race to lose though.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Production Design

Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma

Analysis: This one comes down to Panther and Favourite in my view and I’ll give the latter an ever so slight edge,

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots

Analysis: Like Production Design, Panther and Favourite are the favorites. The best bet could be The Favourite, but Panther has to win something right?

Predicted Winner: Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice

Analysis: A Border win isn’t out of the question, but Vice is the likely recipient here.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma

Analysis: First Man and Panther could get this, but that Wembley Stadium sequence could cause Rhapsody to achieve gold status.

Predicted Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Even though Star didn’t get in the other Sound race, Mixing seems like where it could be picked. I wouldn’t count out First Man, but I’ll guess Star wins here.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Analysis: It was a bit surprising that Black Panther missed the cut here. Its MCU counterpart Infinity is possible, but I’ll say this is the sole victory for First Man.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Score

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns

Analysis: Another chance for Panther lies here, but I’m going with a coin flip between BlacKkKlansman and Beale Street.

Predicted Winner: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “I’ll Fight” from RBG, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Analysis: My last race is the easiest. “Shallow” is the massive favorite here.

Predicted Winner: “Shallowfrom A Star Is Born

And there you have it. Enjoy the show Sunday night!

The British Are Picking! A BAFTA Recap

Our British friends had their version of the Oscars today with the BAFTA Awards. The ceremony has a checkered history with its American counterpart in matching wins, particularly with Best Picture.

In this decade, the BAFTA and Oscar victor for the top prize matched from 2010-2013. However, the shows have honored different recipients for the last four years. The Picture winner tonight is Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexican drama Roma. Given the recent BAFTA history, perhaps that isn’t a great sign for its Academy prospects. Yet it’s performed extremely well with other precursors and likely remains the front-runner for that other awards program in two weeks. Cuarón also took Best Director and the BAFTA/Oscar for that race has lined up for the previous four years.

Rami Malek won Best Actor for Bohemian Rhapsody and that could have him sitting well for Oscar as the BAFTA winner has matched Oscar seven out of eight years this decade. I give him an edge over Christian Bale in Vice.

That seven for eight statistic also applies to Best Actress and things got a little interesting today as Olivia Colman (The Favourite) took the trophy instead of Glenn Close (The Wife) and Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born). I still think Close is the Academy’s favorite, but Colman is making a potential run.

The supporting races furthered a strong front-runner and gave another a first win. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) has made it a clean sweep in Supporting Actor in the precursors and he’s the heavy expected Oscar winner. For Supporting Actress, Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) wasn’t nominated here, but remains a slight favorite two Sunday’s from now. BAFTA’s favorite, however, was from The Favourite and it was Rachel Weisz picking up her first significant trophy.

Keep an eye on the blog for my final predictions for the Oscars!

2018 SAG Awards Reaction

The wealth was spread this evening at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards as It provided more clues to how Oscar voters may choose their winners in February. I went 4 for 5 in my predictions and I’m pretty pleased with that because some of these races were quite unpredictable.

The miss was indeed a surprise as Emily Blunt took Supporting Actress for her work in A Quiet Place. She wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar and the exclusion of Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) here was significant. Ironically, the Blunt victory over the Academy nominated Amy Adams in Vice or Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite) may give King a boost come Oscar time.

As for the other acting categories, it was another trophy for Mahershala Ali in Green Book for Supporting Actor as he continues to solidify his status as the front-runner. Same goes for Glenn Close in The Wife in lead actress. In lead actor, that’s a bit murkier as Rami Malek took the Actor for Bohemian Rhapsody. I still consider the Oscar race close between him and Christian Bale in Vice. Bradley Cooper’s chances for A Star is Born have dimmed even more.

It was a bad night for that picture as it went 0 for 4. The top Ensemble race went to the sprawling cast of Black Panther. What does that do for its Oscar chances? Truth be told, I think not much as the victor here often doesn’t match the Academy’s Best Picture recipient.

There’s your recap, folks! Now it’s onto more speculation for Oscar…

2018 SAG Award Predictions

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award air tomorrow evening and they could shed some light on which performers are looking more solid for the Oscar in a few weeks. Let’s break down the top races with my winner predictions, shall we?

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born

Analysis: It’s important to note that the SAG ceremony honors casts and not the “Best Picture” like other shows. This is about the ensemble. A Star is Born is really concentrated on three performances (Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot) and they’re all up for their individual races, where they all have a shot of winning. I believe it’s entirely possible, however, that the trio also all lose and this could be a considerable consolation prize. The other four films have more sprawling casts. That’s especially true for Black Panther and I’ll say the voters ultimately reward in a different category to project.

Winner Prediction: Black Panther

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Analysis: As mentioned, Cooper is a possibility. Yet he’s come up empty in other precursors. This could come down to the two Golden Globe recipients for their categories – Bale and Malek. I think it’s a coin flip to be honest. I’ll give the latter a razor-thin edge.

Winner Prediction: Malek

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Nominees: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Gaga is the only actress whose picture is also nominated. Her tie with Glenn Close at the Critics Choice Awards made things even murkier. Colman is a possibility here, but I’ll say this branch of actors give it to Close after decades of memorable performances.

Winner Prediction: Close

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: I wouldn’t count out Elliot, but Ali appears to be the front-runner in all these shows. I think his streak continues.

Winner Prediction: Ali

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: A fascinating race as Oscar favorite Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk was surprisingly snubbed. Blunt is a double nominee, but stands little chance of emerging victorious in either spot. The Favourite ladies could split votes. Robbie didn’t land an Oscar nod and is a long shot. That leaves Adams, who could be a double winner tomorrow with her work in HBO’s Sharp Objects.

Winner Prediction: Adams

And there you have it! I’ll have a recap up after the program airs!