Oscars 2019: The Case of Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

My Case of posts for acting nominees continues with the third selection in Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit.

The Case for Scarlett Johansson

After years on screen in which she’s become the highest grossing actress of all time, ScarJo nabbed her first and second Oscar nominations in the same year. In Best Actress, she’s contending for Marriage Story. In Supporting Actress, it’s for Taika Waititi’s satire Jojo Rabbit where she plays the caring mother to young Roman Griffin Davis. The lovers of Jojo are passionate and she’s the only member of the cast that they can honor. Of the four contenders who could upset front runner and Johansson Marriage Story costar Laura Dern, she’s perhaps got the best scenario to do so.

The Case Against Scarlett Johansson

Upsetting Dern is a huge task considering she’s taken home every significant precursor trophy. Just as Jojo‘s fans are fervent, it’s also received mixed reaction from some critics. There could also be a feeling that she can win eventually, but that Dern’s victory is as much a career achievement prize.

The Verdict

Despite the double nominations, Johansson’s chances in both races put her at underdog status.

My Case of posts will continue with the direction of Bong Joon-Ho in Parasite!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Jojo Rabbit

In my blog series laying out the cases for and against the Oscar nominees in major categories, we arrive at the third picture for consideration. That would be Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. If you missed the first two posts covering Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

Let’s hop on it!

The Case for Jojo Rabbit

Viewers who like Jojo REALLY like it. With confusion regarding which handful of contenders like 1917, Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Joker, or The Irishman might win, Jojo could nab enough first place votes to sneak in. The satire that blends wild comedy with pathos is certainly unique and it even has comedy legend Mel Brook singing its praises. Taika Waititi is one of the hottest directors of the moment as he followed up Thor: Ragnarok with this and is now attached to an Akira remake and future Star Wars projects.

The Case Against Jojo Rabbit

Despite Waititi’s popularity, he missed out on a Best Director nomination. He was nominated by the Directors Guild. It’s very rare for the Best Picture winner to not have its maker named in the directing final five. That said, it has happened twice this decade with Argo/Ben Affleck and Green Book/Peter Farrelly. There are box office heavy hitters aplenty in the final nine this year and Jojo isn’t one of them with $22 million currently stateside. The 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating is also on the low end of the scale.

The Verdict

There’s no doubt that Jojo winning would be a major upset, though I would say it’s got the best chance of the pictures where the director isn’t nominated. That still doesn’t change the fact that it would rank 6th of out 9. Still, it’s a wide open year…

Up next in my Case of posts… Joker!

2019 Golden Globe Final Predictions – WINNERS

With the exception of two or three categories, the only thing that seems certain for Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards is that host Ricky Gervais will say something to upset people. With questions about who and what will emerge victorious this awards season, there is plenty of drama to go with the music and comedy this weekend.

While I spend a lot of time prognosticating the Oscars on this blog, I only did one post estimating what the Hollywood Foreign Press gave us for consideration. And now it’s time to predict the winners.

First, a quick Globes 101. This ceremony splits the lead acting races and pictures into Drama and Musical or Comedy. They do not split screenplay into Adapted or Original like the Academy does. Furthermore, unlike the Oscars, foreign pictures are nominated only in that race and are not eligible for the two top Picture categories.

This creates a fascinating dynamic Sunday evening as Oscar’s likely top three potential Best Picture winners (The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite) are all in different races. Bottom line: the Globes could be more helpful in pointing out what direction Academy voters may go in the acting derbies. We shall see…

Here goes as I break down each competition with analysis and a winner pick:

Best Motion Picture – Drama

The Nominees: 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, The Two Popes

Analysis: Of the three motion picture races, this is the one I feel least confident about. In 2018, the HFPA went with a giant blockbuster and a surprise with Bohemian Rhapsody. If they go this route again, you can expect Joker to be the victor. After all, 1917 hasn’t even opened wide yet (it could sneak a win too) and the other three are Netflix releases. This ultimately serves as the first major test for The Irishman as it moves through awards season. I’ll give it the edge, but not my much.

PREDICTED WINNER – THE IRISHMAN

Alternate – Joker

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Dolemite Is My Name, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Rocketman

Analysis: Some simple math here as Hollywood is the only nominee that also scored a nod for its director. That bodes well and this is the clear frontrunner.

PREDICTED WINNER – ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Alternate – Rocketman

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: This could certainly come down to Scorsese vs. Tarantino. Yet Sunday could be the beginning of a huge run for Joon-Ho picking up directing honors. I think that’s what happens.

PREDICTED WINNER – BONG JOON-HO

Alternate – Quentin Tarantino

Best Actor – Drama

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Analysis: The Driver vs. Phoenix battle begins with the Globes. Joker did extremely well with Globes voters and this race probably represents its best chance for a victory. Driver is quite viable, but I’m going Phoenix.

PREDICTED WINNER – JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Alternate – Adam Driver

Best Actress – Drama

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: In what could absolutely be the Oscar final five, Zellweger’s work as the iconic Judy Garland seems like the type of performance HFPA will eat up. Johansson and Theron are threats, but this could be the first of a couple more Zellweger podium walks.

PREDICTED WINNER – RENEE ZELLWEGER

Alternate – Scarlett Johansson

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Daniel Craig (Knives Out), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Leonardo Dicaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)

Analysis: For Craig and Davis, it’s an honor to be nominated as this is a three person race. Both Egerton and DiCaprio should pick up significant votes and I’m awfully tempted to go Leo. However, Murphy’s acclaimed performance and his legendary status (especially coming so soon after his SNL return) could be irresistible to the HFPA.

PREDICTED WINNER – EDDIE MURPHY

Alternate – Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

The Nominees: Ana de Armas (Knives Out), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Cate Blanchett (Where’d You Go Bernadette), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Emma Thompson (Late Night)

Analysis: Awkwafina is really the only player here with an Oscar shot so she’s a strong frontrunner. It’s pretty much that simple. I’d say de Armas is the only upset possibility and it’s rather slim.

PREDICTED WINNER – AWKWAFINA

Alternate – Ana de Armas

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: What a list of legends we have here as Pacino and Pesci may split votes and that paves the way for Pitt. Expect this to be a familiar refrain.

PREDICTED WINNER – BRAD PITT

Alternate – Joe Pesci

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Annette Bening (The Report), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: The smart money is on Lopez, who’s had a remarkable comeback in 2019. I may regret this, but I’m going with a gut feeling that Dern takes it and that may represent the only win for Marriage Story of its six nods.

PREDICTED WINNER – LAURA DERN

Alternate – Jennifer Lopez

Best Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, The Two Popes

Analysis: The only entry here I don’t see with a fair shot of winning is Popes. This is a coin flip situation. Despite what I just said about Dern, Marriage could absolutely win. The Parasite love could extend here and same with Irishman. Tough one, but I’ll give Tarantino the edge (especially since I’m betting against him in Director).

PREDICTED WINNER – ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Alternate – Marriage Story

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: The Farewell, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Analysis: All five pics have their ardent admirers, but here’s the deal. If Parasite doesn’t win, it would constitute the biggest upset of the evening. Not happening.

PREDICTED WINNER – PARASITE

Alternate – umm… let’s say Pain and Glory

Best Animated Feature Film

The Nominees: Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Lion King, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: Disney has 60% of the nominees here, including that rather shocking Lion King inclusion. I wouldn’t totally count out Dragon, but Pixar should get the glory.

PREDICTED WINNER – TOY STORY 4

Alternate – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Best Orignal Score

The Nominees: 1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Motherless Brooklyn

Analysis: This one isn’t easy as just Brooklyn seems unlikely to get it. I’ll give Thomas Newman (1917) a small advantage over cousin Randy (Marriage Story), Alexandre Desplat (Women), and Hildur Guonadottir (Joker).

PREDICTED WINNER – 1917

Alternate – Little Women

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Spirit” from The Lion King, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: Never count out Disney with the ballad from Frozen II, but the general consensus is it’s no “Let It Go”. There’s some serious heavy hitters here with Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Elton John in the mix. HFPA might want to see Elton onstage.

PREDICTED WINNER – “(I’M GONNA) LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Alternate – “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

So this means I’m predicting the Globes spread it around with the following winner counts:

3 Wins

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2 Wins

Parasite

1 Win

1917, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, The Irishman, Joker, Judy, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

I’ll have a recap of the show up Sunday night with my results!

2019 Golden Globe Nominations Reaction

Perhaps the most preeminent Oscar precursor announced their nominations this morning and that means it’s both time for my analysis and a report on how yours truly did with the predictions!

Some quick takes before breaking down each race… Joker and The Two Popes had good mornings and did better than anticipated. Marriage Story led the way with 6 nominations followed by The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with five apiece. As for Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic, it did miss in one key category.

Let’s take it race by race, shall we?

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Nominees: 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, The Two Popes

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: As mentioned, it was indeed a solid morning for Joker and Popes. Those were the two entries I didn’t predict and they got in over Ford v Ferrari and Little Women (which had a rather subpar day). They were my two picks for alternates at least. This appears to be a race between the pictures with the most nods – Irishman and Marriage Story with the former having the edge (see Director).

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Nominees: Dolemite Is My Name, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Rocketman

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It was my first alternate Dolemite getting in over Cats, which did screen for Hollywood Foreign Press voters even though its review embargo hasn’t yet lapsed. This is Hollywood‘s category to lose and it’s the strong front-runner.

Best Director

Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: The surprise here is certainly Phillips, who I didn’t have listed as an alternate. He gets in over Noah Baumbach, which could mean a Best Drama victory for the film itself got tougher. I’m thinking Scorsese vs. Tarantino here with Joon-Ho as a very serious spoiler.

Best Actor – Drama

Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: That key category that The Irishman missed is here with Robert De Niro not getting in the mix in favor of my first alternate Christian Bale. Another miss here is Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems as he’s won some precursors from the critical community. Just like the Oscars could be, this may come down to Driver or Phoenix.

Best Actress – Drama

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: No surprises here! It is worth mentioning that, despite some early critical precursor love, the work of Lupita Nyong’o in Us didn’t factor in. Zellweger may have the edge here, followed by Johansson or Theron. This could also match what the Academy does.

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

Nominees: Daniel Craig (Knives Out), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: Another sweep here as this list was as anticipated. DiCaprio is the favorite, but don’t sleep on Murphy or Egerton as spoilers.

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Nominees: Awkwafina (The Farewell), Cate Blanchett (Where’d You Go Bernadette), Ana de Armas (Knives Out), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Emma Thompson (Late Night)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: It’s first alternate Blanchett in for over Constance Wu from Hustlers. As I do believe Awkwafina is the only actress here with Oscar viability, look for her to win here.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: Today could have given a boost to Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse or other outliers such as Wesley Snipes (Dolemite) or Song Kang-Ho (Parasite), but it wasn’t to be as this very star studded list materialized as predicted. With Pacino and Pesci potentially splitting votes, Pitt is in the driver’s seat.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Annette Bening (The Report), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: I was a little shakier here as my first alternate Bening and unlisted Bates get in over Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) and Florence Pugh (Little Women). Expect Dern vs. Lopez in this one.

Best Screenplay

Nominees: The Irishman, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, The Two Popes

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Another feather in the cap for Popes, which could in over Jojo (which had a rather subpar morning). Hollywood could have a very slight edge over Marriage. 

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language

Nominees: The Farewell, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Nothing unexpected as Les Miserables (my first alternate) was named over Atlantics. No doubt that Parasite is the massive favorite.

Best Motion Picture – Animated

Nominees: Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Lion King, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Perhaps the shocker of the day is The Lion King nabbing a nod here. I said I Lost My Body instead. With Disney holding now three of the five slots, they’ve got 60% chance to win. Dragon could upset, but Toy Story is the probable recipient.

Best Original Score

Nominees: 1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Motherless Brooklyn

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Brooklyn got a surprise nod. I had Ford v Ferrari instead. 1917 looks to take the trophy.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Spirit” from The Lion King, “Stand Up” from Harriet

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Second alternate “Stand Up” is in over my “Daily Battles” from Motherless Brooklyn. The Globe voters could be tempted to go with Elton John here, though Frozen II is probably a soft favorite.

So, al in all, I went 54 for 70 on my overall estimates. The Golden Globes airs January 5th on NBC with Ricky Gervais hosting.

2019 Golden Globe Predictions

On Monday, one of the most significant Oscar precursors announces their nominations. Yes, we have the Golden Globe nods coming out with the SAG Awards following on Wednesday (except my predictions on them early this week).

While I’ve been updating my Oscar projections on a near weekly basis, I don’t do the same with the Globes. This will serve as my first and last batch of predictions for the ceremony airing in January with Ricky Gervais hosting.

As you’re likely aware, this show does it a bit different than the Oscars by splitting their film and lead actor categories into separate Drama and Musical/Comedy categories. For each race, I’m making my five predicted features or performers that I believe will make the cut as well as a first and second alternate.

Let’s get to it!

Best Motion Picture – Drama

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Little Women

Marriage Story

1st Alternate – Joker

2nd Alternate – The Two Popes

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Cats

Jojo Rabbit

Knives Out

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rocketman

1st Alternate – Dolemite Is My Name

2nd Alternate – Hustlers

Best Director

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Sam Mendes, 1917

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1st Alternate – Greta Gerwig, Little Women

2nd Alternate – James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari

Best Actress – Drama

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

1st Alternate – Lupita Nyong’o, Us

2nd Alternate – Alfre Woodard, Clemency

Best Actor – Drama

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Robert De Niro, The Irishman

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

1st Alternate – Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

2nd Alternate – Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems

Best Actress – Comedy or Musical

Awkwafina, The Farewell

Ana de Armas, Knives Out

Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart

Emma Thompson, Late Night

Constance Wu, Hustlers

1st Alternate – Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette

2nd Alternate – Kaitlyn Dever, Booksmart

Best Actor – Comedy or Musical

Daniel Craig, Knives Out

Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

1st Alternate – Shia LaBeouf, The Peanut Butter Falcon

2nd Alternate – Himesh Patel, Yesterday 

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

1st Alternate – Annette Bening, The Report

2nd Alternate – Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1st Alternate – Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

2nd Alternate – Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

Best Screenplay

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

1st Alternate – The Two Popes

2nd Alternate – Knives Out

Best Motion Picture – Animated

Frozen II

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body

Missing Link

Toy Story 4

1st Alternate – Weathering with You

2nd Alternate – Abominable

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language

Atlantics

The Farewell

Pain and Glory

Parasite

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

1st Alternate – Les Miserables

2nd Alternate – Monos

Best Original Score

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

1st Alternate – The Aeronauts

2nd Alternate – Us

Best Original Song

“Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats

“Daily Battles” from Motherless Brooklyn

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman

“Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

“Spirit” from The Lion King

1st Alternate – “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4

2nd Alternate – “Stand Up” from Harriet

And that equates to the following features nabbing these numbers when it comes to nominations:

7 Nominations

Marriage Story

6 Nominations

The Irishman

5 Nominations

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

4 Nominations

Jojo Rabbit, Little Women

3 Nominations

1917, Knives Out, Parasite, Rocketman

2 Nominations

Bombshell, Cats, The Farewell, Ford v Ferrari, Frozen II, Hustlers, Joker, Pain and Glory, The Two Popes

1 Nomination

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Atlantics, Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, Harriet, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Judy, Late Night, The Lion King, Missing Link, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Toy Story 4

Rest assured that I will have a post up with reaction to the Monday announcements with a recap on how I did! Until then…

Jojo Rabbit Movie Review

Taika Waititi is a tightrope walker when it comes to the execution of Jojo Rabbit, the kind of picture that few directors might be permitted to make. It helps when you’re coming off Thor: Ragnarok, the best received of that sub franchise in the MCU. This is a tale of atrocities and those involved in it. And it’s handled with a primarily light tone that eventually doesn’t shy away from the horrors of Nazi Germany.

The premise, based on a novel from Christine Leunens, sounds high concept in description. A boy with an imaginary friend that happens to be Adolf Hitler. That sentence could provide a visceral reaction for many and it’s up to Waititi to justify it. He does so in large measure.

The boy is Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old Hitler youth living with his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) in the waning days of World War II. All he really knows is the propaganda of his nation’s leaders and he’s part of the Nazi youth camps. They’re taught by an alcoholic Captain (Sam Rockwell) and a no nonsense Fräulein (Rebel Wilson). Jojo reveres Hitler so much that he acts as his imaginary companion. Waititi pulls double duty as the monstrous Chancellor and plays him as a total nincompoop. Yet like most fictitious companions (even if they’re based on evil real life figures), Jojo’s Hitler serves to reinforce his misguided feelings toward the Jewish people. Also because he’s lonely.

When he discovers that his mom is sheltering young Jewish Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) upstairs, his adolescent worldview is shattered. The witless Hitler doesn’t know what to make of it. Therefore Jojo struggles with how to handle this until his humanity starts to shine through.

To call this movie is a delicate balance is an understatement. There are satirical tones, but there’s a lot more heart. Anyone expecting a Mel Brooks style Producers exercise should look elsewhere. The humor is abundant for the first two acts especially, but always imbued with a level of pathos that comes into sharper focus as it goes on.

Jojo Rabbit is mostly an inventive case study in showing one child learning not to hate. It could fall apart without the casting of Davis. He’s rarely off screen and his performance is fantastic. Not fantastic for a child actor. Fantastic. Not many youngsters could pull off the range of emotions he has to go through and he nails it. McKenzie, in many ways, has an equally challenging role as Elsa navigates teaching Jojo not to fear her. The humanity of her character and the actress playing her convinces us and him. As you might imagine, Waititi has a tricky part as well. He’s got some of the best lines and reactions of all in his campy take. The more recognizable actors are all first-rate. In one of the most powerful scenes not involving Jojo, Johansson has a heart to heart about adulthood with Elsa (on the cusp of entering that status). And speaking of highlights, Jojo’s actual best friend Yorki, played by Archie Yates, is a scene stealer.

So… does this all work? Mostly yes. I also can’t deny that Rabbit never quite reaches the emotional impact that it’s trying to land. The concept doesn’t block that possibility. It’s more that the tonal shifts can be somewhat jarring in a couple of cases. It’s practically unavoidable. I never doubted that Waititi’s heart is in the right place and he’s assembled a superb cast to provide numerous laughs and a lot of warmth. Most importantly, it’s told through a child’s eyes who doesn’t recognize his idols are as false as can be until those eyes are opened.

*** (out of four )

Oscar Watch: Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit is undoubtedly one of Toronto’s most eagerly awaited screenings and it held its unveiling last night. The latest from writer/director Taika Waititi (who hit the big time with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok), Jojo is a comedy that involves a child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler. The child is played by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis while the filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Other costars include Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson.

It’s tough to gauge if this odd concoction will work based on the trailer. Early critical reaction is all over the map. Some love it while others seem quite turned off with claims that its unique tone never comes together. The result is shown in the current Rotten Tomatoes rating – 55%.

Most films with that score wouldn’t be in the conversation for a Best Picture nod. This could be an exception as those who like it really like it. I still think it’s probably an on the bubble candidate, but let’s see how it plays out.

The two actors getting the most praise appears to be youngsters Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Waititi and Johansson were looked at as possibilities for the supporting races. Not so much anymore in my view (Scarlett can take comfort in that she’s appears in for Marriage Story). And Waititi could still land an Adapted Screenplay nod.

Bottom line: Jojo Rabbit looks polarizing enough to keep it away from the big dance, but ardent supporters could change that dynamic. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…