2020 Oscar Predictions: September 17th Edition

The Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have resulted in a number of Oscar Watch posts from last Thursday to now! And that means some changes are to be discussed.

The most notable film to debut was Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, which solidified itself as a major contender in Best Picture, Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, the pic remains firmly in 2nd place in Picture and Director and #1 with its screenplay based on its sterling critical reaction. McDormand, meanwhile, jumps to #1 in Actress. Time will tell if she remains atop the chart, but it seems a given that she’ll vie for her third win in the category.

News was more mixed for Francis Lee’s Ammonite. The mixed reaction to it has caused me to drop it from my nine predicted Picture nominees and from Original Screenplay. Yet Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan remain in my top five in the actress categories.

There were six other titles that I penned Oscar Watch posts about. None of them show up anywhere below. This includes the work of Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) and Naomi Watts (Penguin Bloom) and Mark Wahlberg in Good Joe Bell. It’s not impossible that they could surface later, but I’m not confident at the moment. As for Bell, perhaps the supporting work of Reid Miller could have a chance to enter my 15 names in Supporting Actor. When I expand my predictions to all categories covering feature pics in October, expect to see Wolfwalkers as it appears to be a shoo-in nominee in Best Animated Feature.

You can find all my posts from the past week here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/11/oscar-watch-nomadland/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-ammonite/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-the-devil-all-the-time/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-wolfwalkers/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-penguin-bloom/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-i-care-a-lot/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-concrete-cowboy/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/15/oscar-watch-good-joe-bell/

Let’s quickly walk through the latest changes and developments:

  • With Ammonite now falling from my nine predicted Picture nominees, that makes room for Florian Zeller’s The Father to make my final cut for the first time.
  • My 5 Director nominees remains unchanged, as does Best Actor. It is worth mentioning that there’s some talk that Kingsley Ben-Adir from One Night in Miami could be campaigned for in the lead race. This follows rumors of the same happening for Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. If that were to occur, it would absolutely upend my projections. For now, I’m keeping them both in supporting. Also – Clayton Davis of Variety confirmed today that Delroy Lindo will compete in the lead actor race for Da 5 Bloods. 
  • In addition to McDormand taking over the top spot in Actress over Viola Davis in Ma Rainey, I’m adding Vanessa Kirby’s work in Pieces of a Woman to my top 5. That means Jennifer Hudson in Respect drops out.
  • There’s a similar storyline in Supporting Actress with Ellen Burstyn in my five over Amanda Seyfried in Mank. Furthermore, Saoirse Ronan’s aforementioned work in Ammonite drops from #1 to #3 so we have Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) in first. At #2? Olivia Colman in The Father and that could make for a juicy race as Colman upset Close in lead actress two years ago.
  • While Nomadland definitely nabbed major Oscar buzz, the supporting performance from David Strathairn may not be big enough. He drops from #2 to outside the top five and that means Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) is back in.
  • I mentioned Ammonite had dropped from Original Screenplay and that is also to the benefit of Messiah.
  • The five Adapted Screenplay estimates stay the same.
  • Finally, while there’s no confirmation and this could change back, I’m shifting Meryl Streep from supporting to lead for The Prom. She has yet to make the five.

And with that, let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. News of the World (PR: 5)

5. One Night in Miami (PR: 6)

6. Dune (PR: 4)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 8)

8. West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. The Father (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 13)

12. Soul (PR: 12)

13. Ammonite (PR: 7)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 14)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 15)

16. Minari (PR: 16)

17. Stillwater (PR: 17)

18. Annette (PR: 18)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Respect (PR: 22)

21. Next Goal Wins (PR: 20)

22. Red, White and Water (PR: 21)

23. The Midnight Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

24. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

25. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

French Exit

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 4)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 11)

8. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods, (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 8)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: 15)

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 8)

5. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

11. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Supporting)

12. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

13. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: 11)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 14)

15. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Elisabeth Moss, Shirley

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 1)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 2)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 7)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 11)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 10)

12. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Courier (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

15. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

2. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 15)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 5)

7. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 6)

8. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 10)

9. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 7)

10. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 8)

11. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

12. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 11)

13. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Meryl Streep, The Prom (moved to lead)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

3. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 4)

4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

7. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

8. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 7)

9. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 11)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 10)

11. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 13)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 8)

14. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 5)

4. Soul (PR: 4)

5. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Ammonite (PR: 3)

8. Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Minari (PR: 7)

10. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: 15)

12. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Red, White and Water (PR: 12)

15. Palm Springs (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Annette

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. The Father (PR: 5)

3. News of the World (PR: 2)

4. One Night in Miami (PR: 3)

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 6)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. The Humans (PR: 13)

12. French Exit (PR: 10)

13. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. First Cow (PR: 15)

15. The Prom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Respect 

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 10th Edition

We have arrived at the third week for my Thursday Oscar predictions in the eight major categories and the biggest change so far can be summed up in four words: One Night in Miami.

The historical drama, which marks the debut feature film from actress Regina King, made waves when it screened this week at the Venice Film Festival. It has vaulted into the following categories for a nomination prediction: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay.

As for that supporting race, there are actually four contenders vying for attention. I’m currently giving the nod to Kingsley Ben-Adir for his portrayal of Malcolm X over his costars Leslie Odom, Jr. (Sam Cooke), Eli Goree (Cassius Clay), and Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown). Yet this could be a fluid situation and don’t be surprised if those other performers make their way to the list in future postings.

Speaking of the supporting actor race, there has been some speculation that the late Chadwick Boseman may actually be campaigned for in the lead Actor competition with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As for now, I’m keeping him ranked first in Supporting Actor. We’ll see what transpires in the weeks ahead. If Boseman does go lead, it could open the door for Glynn Turman to get a supporting nod for the picture.

As for the week that was, my Oscar Watch posts focused on Miami, as well as some other titles that debuted as Venice. Most noteworthy is Pieces of a Woman, which has caused some chatter for its lead Vanessa Kirby and her costar Ellen Burstyn. Kirby also costars in The World to Come, which garnered solid reviews but isn’t identified in my current rankings. Other write-ups this week included The Duke (which could catch the attention of the Golden Globes for Jim Broadbent) and the heist comedic drama Kajillionaire. You can read all those detailed posts here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-one-night-in-miami/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-pieces-of-a-woman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-the-world-to-come/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/05/oscar-watch-the-duke/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/09/oscar-watch-kajillionaire/

With Venice still rolling along and the Toronto Film Festival set to open, this Friday will see the initial screenings of two major contenders – Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland and Francis Lee’s Ammonite. Expect Oscar Watch posts on both hopefuls this weekend.

The loser of the week is Tenet. I’ve taken it out of consideration for Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. On the flip side, expect to see its name pop up again in October when I begin estimating all feature film races as it will surely nab some tech nods.

As for other developments since last Thursday:

  • My eight predicted Best Picture nominees from the past two weeks remains the same, but now it’s become nine with the addition of One Night in Miami.
  • Regina King’s inclusion in Best Director knocks out Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7.
  • My five Best Actress predictions remains the same, Both Vanessa Kirby and Jennifer Lawrence (Red, White and Water) join the overall mix with Julianne Moore (The Glorias) and Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) falling out.
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father) takes over the #1 spot over Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) in Best Actor. There are no changes in the top five. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) makes his first appearance at #14 with Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) dropping out of the top 15.
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank) enters the top 5 in Supporting Actress over Ariana DeBose for West Side Story. Ellen Burstyn enters the fold at #15 with Debra Winger’s work in Kajillionaire exiting the top 15.
  • As mentioned, Kingsley Ben-Adir vaults from 12th to 4th in Supporting Actor and he replaces Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah. The top 15 marks the first appearances for Brian Tyree Henry (Red, White and Water) and Glynn Turman for Ma Rainey. Dropping out are Lucas Hedges in French Exit and David Alvarez in West Side Story. 
  • In Original Screenplay, Never Sometimes Rarely Always gets its first mention since Tenet travels out of the race.
  • In Adapted Screenplay, One Night in Miami gets in over Dune in the top 5. First Cow makes its inaugural appearance in 14th with The Eyes of Tammy Faye dropping.

You can read the full slate of guesstimates here:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. News of the World (PR: 5)

6. One Night in Miami (PR: 13)

7. Ammonite (PR: 6)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 9)

11. The Father (PR: 16)

12. Soul (PR: 10)

13. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 14)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 11)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

16. Minari (PR: 15)

17. Stillwater (PR: 18)

18. Annette (PR: 17)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Next Goal Wins (PR: 23)

21. Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

22. Respect (PR: 20)

23. French Exit (PR: 24)

24. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: Not Ranked)

25. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

The Midnight Sky 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 5)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

7. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 6)

8. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 11)

11. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 14)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

8. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 9)

11. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 11)

13. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 15)

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Julianne Moore, The Glorias

Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 2)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 1)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 8)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 10)

12. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 13)

13. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 12)

14. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

7. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

8. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 7)

10. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 11)

11. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 8)

12. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 15)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 12)

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 5)

7. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 10)

8. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 7)

9. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 6)

11. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 8)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 11)

13. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 14)

14. Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

David Alvarez, West Side Story 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Soul (PR: 5)

5. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Minari (PR: 7)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Stillwater (PR: 9)

10. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

11. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 12)

12. Red, White and Water (PR: 14)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Annette (PR: 11)

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. News of the World (PR: 2)

3. One Night in Miami (PR: 9)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

5. The Father (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 3)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8)

9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 7)

10. French Exit (PR: 11)

11. Next Goal Wins (PR: 12)

12. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

13. The Humans (PR: 13)

14. First Cow (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Respect (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

And that does it for now, folks! I’ll be back at it next Thursday…

The Sisters Brothers Movie Review

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers tries to be many things at once – a traditional western, a revisionist one, a comedy, a family drama, and a good fashioned hunt for gold in the mid 19th century. It never succeeds totally at any of them as it’s shifty in tone. That said, I couldn’t help but admire it, be mostly entertained throughout it, and be impressed by one performance in particular. There’s also a dynamite score by Alexandre Desplat.

Based on a 2011 novel by Patrick deWitt, we are introduced to Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) Sisters. They’re legendary (at least in Charlie’s mind) gunslingers tasked with killing a man named Warm (Riz Ahmed) who’s allegedly ripped off their boss who goes by the Commodore (Rutger Hauer, turning up briefly in one of his final roles). The Commodore also enlists the services of pompous detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) to deliver Warm to his judgment day. Unfortunately for the Sisters, Warm and Morris form a bond as the former has a formula that makes panning for gold an easier and therefore more lucrative enterprise. It’s also extremely dangerous as it burns the hell out of your skin.

The activity of living itself is extremely dangerous in this picture. Eli and Charlie being chased by bandits is just an everyday occurrence. Charlie seems to thrive off it when he’s not drowning himself in whiskey. Eli has grown weary of his outlaw existence.

Gyllenhaal and Phoenix’s characters think they’re most sure of themselves. One trying to be a civilized gentleman in a world that’s crude and unrefined. One who thrives on being crude and unrefined with a myopic focus on wearing the most important black hat. Reilly and Ahmed’s roles have more dimension and are a bit more intriguing. That applies especially to Reilly. He’s a gentle soul in a rough setting. And Reilly’s take on him makes him a fascinating watch. Eli’s interplay with a lady of the night is unexpected and it’s probably the best scene of all. Phoenix doesn’t have as much nuance to work with, but he certainly brings his talents to the game. Gyllenhaal’s Morris is quirky in pleasing ways, but there’s not enough screen time for him to really get rolling.

The Sisters Brothers won’t be remembered as excelling at any of the genres it attempts. It has enough solid moments in all of them to keep it engrossing as it rides along.

*** (out of four)

Venom Movie Review

A comic book origin story that often masquerades as an otherworldly buddy comedy, Venom will likely be remembered for the weirdly inspired performance of Tom Hardy and not much else. We’ve seen the title character before with Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. The alien creature made of black goo played as a superfluous extra villain in that picture. Now Venom is ready for his closeup.

Hardy is Eddie Brock, a San Francisco investigative reporter with a lovely DA fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) and a penchant for asking one too many questions. He does just that with gazillionaire inventor Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who’s a beloved mogul in the community. He’s also, unbeknownst to the masses, experimenting on poor people with a mysterious alien life form that his company the Life Foundation discovered in outer space. Eddie’s inquires into these practices lead to his firing as a journalist and the dissolution of his romance.

A few months later as Eddie is down on his luck, one of Drake’s scientists spills the beans to him about further tomfoolery at the Foundation. This leads to a break-in at their research facility and one of those nasty and gooey extraterrestrials attaching themselves to Eddie. It turns out these visitors intend to destroy Planet Earth.

Yet we also find out that Eddie’s new inhabitant of his vessel has a sense of humor. And Hardy’s performance filled with strange noises, facial tics, and general bizareness makes for an often memorable duo. Venom himself is inside Eddie’s head constantly with what sounds like Christian Bale’s basement octave range from The Dark Knight series. I’m really not sure if Hardy’s work here is what you’d call good, but it’s definitely not forgettable. He seems committed to whatever the heck he’s decided Brock/Venom is and that itself is fun.

Unfortunately there’s lots of other forgettable aspects to the movie itself. This would include lots of the dialogue, the action sequences, Williams as the love interest, and Ahmed as the bad guy. Important stuff generally. It’s also amusing how crystal clear it is that director Ruben Fleischer (who’s done better with Zombieland) and the screenwriters so want this to be rated R. I assume Sony said otherwise, but the script has to reach the absolute highest level of profanity and heads being bitten off without achieving the restricted tag. I will give the writers a thumbs up for setting this in San Francisco and avoiding the umpteenth climactic battle at the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can’t deny that Hardy’s bewildering and bewitching and sometimes annoying acting nearly make this worth of the price of admission. There’s just a bit too much muck attached to it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Venom Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures hopes to kick off a franchise and set an October opening record next weekend when Venom debuts. The picture’s namesake is an anti-hero spawned from the Spider-Man comics. Moviegoers first saw him in the form of Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. That rendering of the character didn’t sit too well with comic book aficionados.

The studio hopes this version changes that. Ruben Fleischer, best known for Zombieland, serves behind the camera. Playing Venom and his alter ego Eddie Brock is Tom Hardy. Costars include Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Woody Harrelson.

Sequels and spin-offs are hoped for and the marketing campaign has been pervasive. The reaction to trailers has been mostly positive, but word is that reviews won’t be published until the day before release. That’s not always a good sign. Similar buzz greeted Suicide Squad (among others) and it managed to meet expectations and gross $133 million in its first weekend. That stands as the largest August debut ever.

The correlation is that Venom could do the same in October, but estimates aren’t as high here. This is expected to gross between $60-$70 million. Even if it reached the low-end of that spectrum, this would top October record holder Gravity at $55 million. I’ll note that Halloween (out October 19) also stands a solid shot at exceeding that.

My feeling is this will meet projections, but on the lower end of the spectrum. How it performs in subsequent weekends will be dependent on buzz and that may be the biggest indicator on whether Sony gets its longed for cinematic universe.

Venom opening weekend prediction: $62.5 million

For my A Star Is Born prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/a-star-is-born-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Sisters Brothers

Two notable Westerns have had their debuts an ocean away at Venice and Oscar attention could be questionable for both. The first is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the latest effort from the Coen Brothers. Today brings us The Sisters Brothers, The first English language project from acclaimed French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (whose titles include A Prophet and Rust and Bone).

Said to be a violent romp with comedic touches, the cast includes John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed. The performance getting the most attention is Reilly’s. Could the Academy honor the venerable actor 16 years after his sole nod in Supporting Actor for Chicago? Like any other nominations in the major categories, it’s likely a long shot. Even though Venice reviews have been pretty sturdy, I just don’t envision this as a player for Oscar voters.

Two exceptions could be Cinematography and the Original Score from Alexandre Desplat, an Academy favorite who’s won twice already for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water.

Bottom line: despite solid buzz, don’t expect that to translate to significant awards chatter for The Sisters Brothers.

The film opens stateside on September 21. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

The 20th and just wrapped season of “South Park” essentially posited a theory that a lot of the love for last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was due to our nostalgia goggles being tuned up to 11. In short, Trey Parker and Matt Stone came to the conclusion that Force really wasn’t very good. It was just that we were hungry for that feeling we had from Episodes IV-VI (I-III not so much).

Comedy Central’s show made their position clear through the ingenious creation of Member Berries, talking fruits who constantly reminded us of Star Wars characters and situations from decades ago. In other words, to Parker and Stone – The Force Awakens was partially just two hours of ” ‘Memba Han Solo?!?!?!” and ” ‘Memba R2D2?!?!?!”.

This is a feeling that many of the Star Wars legions of fans share in that Force was too much of a rehash of the beloved 1977 original. It’s fair criticism and somewhat true, but I personally felt it didn’t really take away from it being a very satisfying experience.

Another hallmark of South Park’s season (and the one before that) is that it’s been serialized into one long plot line over ten episodes. For 18 seasons, the show never did that. When we get to season 21, there are hints it could go back to the past as the finale was titled “The End of Serialization As We Know It”.

Why all the South Park talk? ‘Memba you’re supposed to be writing a review of the new Star Wars?!?!?! Well, I just love the show, but it also dovetails into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which marks the first interruption of this cherished franchise’s serialization. We have our inaugural spin-off in the series. The first without a Roman numeral episode behind the title. When Disney paid George Lucas billions of dollars to begin producing new titles, it was quickly revealed that we’d get individual stories without episode numbers involved about every other year.

Rogue One is the first and just as The Force Awakens had large expectations attached, so does this. It must simultaneously introduce new characters into that far, far away galaxy while feeding us those Member Berries. It must especially do so because the events in Rogue happen between Episode III (2005’s Revenge of the Sith) and IV (that first entry nearly forty years ago). This is when Darth Vader is alive and well and developing his Death Star to wreak havoc on the planetary system.

‘Memba Daddy issues?!?!?! They’re prevalent everywhere in this franchise and here too. Our central hero is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) was recruited against his will to develop that evil device Vader pines for. Jyn is separated from him as a child after being rescued from being taken by Imperial forces by Rebel leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Flash forward to Jyn as a young lady when she teams up with defected Imperial pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Rebel fighter Cassian (Diego Luna) to find her long captured Pops and stop Vader’s destructive deeds. In true Star Wars fashion, there’s also sidekick droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) providing effective comic relief.

‘Memba strange looking CG effects that hindered the prequels?!?!?! I found them here, but explaining them in detail would move into spoiler territory. I’ll just say there’s one well-known returning character whose inclusion is badly hampered by what I’ll refer to as technical issues.

Gareth Edwards, who last directed 2014’s pretty cool Godzilla reboot, clearly has reverance for the world George Lucas created. Since the happenings here directly lead to what we saw in 1977, Edwards does an often remarkable job in getting the look down for what transitions into Luke, Leia, and Han. The final third of Rogue One is non-stop action and it’s well-developed and thrilling. There’s not a performance I can complain about (at least not the live-action ones) and particular stand-outs include Ben Mendelsohn, an Imperial baddie trying to impress Boss Vader and Donnie Yen as a blind warrior whose belief in the Force is quite strong.

Yet this end of serialization as we know it for Star Wars presented this critic with some perhaps unavoidable challenges. I found it tough to get as involved in the central characters knowing that this is a one off picture. The Force Awakens gave us newbies mixed with oldies where we know their saga will evolve and grow. That’s not the case here. Therefore it’s often the case in Rogue One that the most memorable moments involve Member Berries being served to us as opposed to enjoying what is new. ‘Memba that feeling of dread mixed with excitement hearing James Earl Jones voice one of the greatest villains in film history?!?!?! Of course you do. You loved it then and will love it again.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Una

Rooney Mara burst onto the scene in 2011 in the Oscar nominated title role of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She received her second nomination last year in Supporting Actress with Carol. This weekend’s Telluride Film Festival has opened up the possibility of a third nod in six years with Una.

The drama is an adaptation of the stage play Blackbird, dealing with the serious theme of child molestation. It’s heavy stuff according to early reviews (mostly raves) and critics have singled out Mara’s performance. Benedict Andrews makes his directorial debut here with Ben Mendelsohn and Riz Ahmed among the supporting cast.

Whether or not Mara can get the nomination is based on at least three factors. First and foremost, there is no set release date for it, though it’s likely to get a 2016 awards qualifying run. Second, the studio will need to mount a real campaign for the picture to be widely seen. Finally, the Best Actress race on paper looks as competitive as it’s been in recent memory. Still – Telluride gave the actress some needed exposure for a potential third nomination.

image

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:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/bad-moms-box-office-prediction/

For my Nerve prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/nerve-box-office-prediction/

Nightcrawler Movie Review

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”

So says Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), our central character in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler who barely leaves the screen during the film’s running time and probably won’t escape your mind for some time either. When we first meet Lou, he’s a common thief stealing scrap metal who makes what he believes are captivating attempts at obtaining employment. We immediately notice that Lou has no social skills whatsoever. He doesn’t know how to relate to people. All he knows is how to negotiate but he hasn’t found a field in which his negotiations bear fruit.

This changes when Lou happens upon a crime scene and figures out that Los Angeles TV news stations will pay handsomely for gruesome footage. “If it bleeds, it leads” he’s told by another “nightcrawler” played by Bill Paxton . Lou believes he’s found his calling and soon his explicit videos of horrific offenses are airing at 6AM and 11PM by the lowest rated Southern California affiliate. Their news director Nina (Rene Russo) recognizes Lou’s value in increasing ratings. And Lou knows his worth and uses his leverage to bargain with her – not just for gainful employment but for everything he wants from her. This is done in a pitch black comedic restaurant “date” with Nina in which he makes his wishes explicitly clear.

Lou also hires assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and he suffers the endless banterings of a boss who is forever conducting a verbal performance review of his employee. Their interaction veers between hilarious (in a very dark way) and chilling (in a very real way). Our central character doesn’t like people in a manner that’s somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Everything is negotiable to Lou and as amazingly awkward as he is, his objectives are usually met. This extends to his filming work and if the photos of a slain family member aren’t close enough to the bullet holes lodged in the fridge, there’s a way to fix that.

For the better part of this decade, Gyllenhaal has made one solid choice after another from Source Code to End of Watch to Prisoners. This is the pinnacle so far. With director Gilroy’s screenplay giving him a truly unique and endlessly fascinating character to work with, Gyllenhaal nails his quirky and creepy role. Russo gets her juiciest part in years as the producer who will go to the same lengths as Lou to ensure success. Ahmed is the most sympathetic person here (it’s not saying much) and he sees his demented mentor much like the audience does.

Nightcrawler effortlessly manages charcoal colored comedy with a heightened sense of tension. A major accomplishment indeed. The screenplay has plenty to hint at regarding the public’s insatiable need for the most violent news stories while we are eating breakfast or ready to turn in for the night. Lou Bloom realizes it and knows how to profit from it. He figures a way to achieve his sick dreams. Our brilliantly realized title character with a career best performance from Gyllenhaal gets it right with that opening quote. He doesn’t really like people. And while the characters he speaks with in Nightcrawler thinks he doesn’t understand them, maybe he does all too well.

**** (out of four)