Oscar Watch: A Private War

In a Best Actress race that is growing crowded, the Toronto Film Festival gave us yet another possibility with Rosamund Pike in A Private War. The film focuses on the true life story of Marie Colvin, a war journalist killed in Syria in 2012. Matthew Heineman directs and he’s best known for his documentaries, including the Oscar nominated Cartel Land and last year’s City of Ghosts. Jamie Dornan and Stanley Tucci costar.

The picture itself is getting mixed to positive reviews, but critics are heaping praise on Pike’s work. Four years ago, she was nominated for Gone Girl. Its distributor will need to mount a serious campaign for Pike to nab her second nod. That could be a tall order with more high-profile projects in the mix.

Bottom line: Pike could find herself in the mix, but it’s a bit of a long shot.

A Private War opens domestically on November 2. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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Oscar Watch: Hostiles

Today’s earlier Oscar Watch post focused on Victoria and Abdul, the Queen Victoria biopic featuring Judi Dench that’s set in the late 19th century. We are in the same time period for this next write-up, but it’s a much different genre and setting.

Scott Cooper’s Hostiles has premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and award chatter for it has been bolstered. Christian Bale headlines as an Army captain escorting a Native American chief back to his native land. The Western’s costars include Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster, and Timothee Chalamet (who could be in the Oscar mix for another performance in Call Me by Your Name).

Cooper directed Jeff Bridges to an Oscar win in 2009 with Crazy Heart. This is his second collaboration with Bale after 2013’s Out of the Furnace and his follow-up to the 2015 Johnny Depp Whitney Bulger pic Black Mass. Any advance word of Hostiles has been low-key for a rather simple reason. It’s yet to have been picked up by a distributor so its release by 2017 was uncertain. Positive word-of-mouth emanating from Telluride should solve that problem.

That said, whichever studio that picks up Hostiles for an awards qualifying run will have a stiff challenge. The film’s success or non success among audiences could determine whether it’s seriously looked at as a contender. Time will tell, but at the least Telluride has provided it hope for Academy attention.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KczRX9oOl5U

Oscar Watch: A United Kingdom

Amma Asante’s interracial romantic drama A United Kingdom has screened at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. The pic tells the true life story of the relationship between an African prince (David Oyelowo) and a London woman (Rosamund Pike) some seven decades ago.

Initial critical reaction has mostly been positive, but not to the level where Academy attention seems realistic. The lead performers have been on the radar screen of Oscar voters just two years ago when Pike nabbed a nomination for Gone Girl and Oyelowo surprisingly missed out on a nod for Selma.

If Kingdom somehow breaks through at the box office, the dynamic could change. However, that looks doubtful at this juncture. In fact, awards voters are far more likely to turn their attention to Jeff Nichols’ Loving, another mixed race drama that has received more buzz.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue as more Toronto hopefuls screen…

2016 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Day 3 of my early Oscar predictions arrives with Best Actress. These late August/early September guesstimates yielded two of the eventual nominees in 2014 and three last year.

Looking over the field of possibilities for Best Actress in 2016, one thing seems clear. More than most years, this particular race seems loaded with legitimate contenders and it could be one of the more competitive categories of the year.

Let’s start with three actresses who have received nominations but never won: four-time nominee and never winner Annette Bening is headlining this fall’s 20th Century Women. She was a strong contender for wins in both 1999 and 2004 (for American Beauty and Being Julia), but lost out in both cases to Hilary Swank.

There’s five-time nominee and never winner Amy Adams, who has two pictures in which she could be recognized: Arrival and Nocturnal Animals.

We have Viola Davis in this December’s Denzel Washington directed Fences. She was nominated for 2011’s The Help but lost to Meryl Streep in her role as The Iron Lady.

Speaking of Meryl Streep… there’s Meryl Streep going for her 20th nomination as Florence Foster Jenkins. Its potential drawback could be muted box office numbers this summer, but you can never count her out.

Emma Stone will likely draw attention for her work in the musical drama La La Land. Ruth Negga has received early raves costarring in the interracial romance Loving. Then there’s the biopic Jackie (as in Kennedy), which casts 2010 winner Natalie Portman in the title role. She could be a major contender, yet there’s some uncertainty as to when it’ll come out.

Oh there’s more! Jennifer Lawrence will go for her fifth nomination in seven years with sci-fi drama Passengers. Emily Blunt could be a player with The Girl on the Train, as could previous nominees Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Rosamund Pike (A United Kingdom), and Rooney Mara (Lion). Not to mention previous winners like Sally Field (My Name is Doris), Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky) and Marion Cotillard (Allied).

Bottom line: this race looks packed and we’ll see how it develops in the coming weeks. For now…

TODD’S EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS – BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams, Arrival

Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

Viola Davis, Fences

Ruth Negga, Loving

Emma Stone, La La Land

Other Possibilities:

Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals

Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane

Marion Cotillard, Allied

Sally Field, My Name is Doris

Rebecca Hall, Christine

Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Jennifer Lawrence, Passengers

Rooney Mara, Lion

Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky

Rosamund Pike, A United Kingdom

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Alicia Vikander, The Light Between Oceans

Rachel Weisz, Denial

Best Actor tomorrow!

Oscar Winner Predictions: Todd’s Take

We are officially ten days away from Neil Patrick Harris hosting the Oscars and it seems like a perfect time to chime in with an update on what and who I believe will win in the eight major categories. Next weekend – I’ll provide final predictions in all of the races. Here we go:

BEST PICTURE

Of the eight movies nominated here, it now appears only two have a legit shot at becoming 2014’s Best Picture: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman. The momentum still appears to be on the side of Linklater’s 12 years in the making family drama.

Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Birdman

Other Nominees: American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash 

BEST DIRECTOR

Like the Picture race, it’s between Linklater and Inarritu. This practically seems like a coin flip at this point, but I’ll give the Birdman maker the slight edge since he just won the Director’s Guild of America award (often a solid predictor of who wins here).

Predicted Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Runner-Up: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Other Nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

BEST ACTOR

While Michael Keaton remains the front runner for his Birdman comeback, don’t sleep on the chances of Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, especially following his somewhat surprising SAG Awards victory. I’m still clinging to Keaton winning though.

Predicted Winner: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Runner-Up: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Other Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

BEST ACTRESS

Julianne Moore’s work in Still Alice is widely expected to nab the celebrated actress her first golden statue. Any other winner here would be a rather big surprise.

Predicted Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Runner-Up: Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Other Nominees: Marion Cotillard (Two Days One Night), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Another easy race to predict as J.K. Simmons’ turn as the sadistic music teacher in Whiplash has won essentially all precursors. Only a Birdman sweep could mean Edward Norton is victorious and that’s a long shot.

Predicted Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Runner-Up: Edward Norton, Birdman

Other Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Like the two previous acting categories, Patricia Arquette’s Boyhood performance has scored at other awards shows and anyone but her winning would be a massive upset.

Predicted Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Runner-Up: Emma Stone, Birdman

Other Nominees Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

This is one heckuva category but again should come down to Birdman and Boyhood. Like in the Director race, Birdman gets a small edge. Watch out for Budapest as a potential spoiler.

Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: Boyhood

Other Nominees: Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

This would appear to be the best chance for The Imitation Game to win a major award, but Theory of Everything may be hot on its heels.

Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

Runner-Up: The Theory of Everything

Other Nominees: American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Whiplash

And that’ll do it. Keep an eye out for final predictions next weekend!

2014 Oscar Nominations Reaction

And they’re out!

The Oscar nominations for the 2014 movie year were released this morning. As readers of the blog know, I made my final predictions yesterday evening in the eight major categories. So how did I do?

Well… not too shabby as I see it. Of the 44 nominations predicted, I correctly got 38 which equates to 86% overall and perfect scores in three of the races. Let’s take a look at the categories one by one and, for the first time, I’ll offer my initial thoughts on what and who will win:

BEST PICTURE

As mentioned last night, I finally got on the Nightcrawler bandwagon. Frankly, I should have been thinking more about the American Sniper bandwagon. It’s the only movie that received a nod that I didn’t predict. There were eight nominees instead of my estimated nine, which meant my Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler calls were left off. So overall – 7 out of 9 on Best Picture.

Nominees

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

This appears to be a three film race between Boyhood, Birdman, and The Imitation Game with Boyhood appearing to have the edge. Selma was once thought to be in that mix, but today’s lack of nods in other categories render its chances virtually non-existent.

Current Predicted Winner: Boyhood

BEST DIRECTOR

Went 4 out of 5 here. Bennett Miller’s nomination for Foxcatcher was only surprising because the picture itself wasn’t recognized. I included Ana DuVernay for Selma yet her exclusion isn’t that shocking since Selma has been losing steam.

Nominees

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

For the last two years, Oscar has split their Picture and Director winners. I could easily see a scenario where Boyhood takes top prize with Inarritu’s virtuoso work in Birdman victorious in this category. This is a tough call, but for now I’ll go with Linklater’s heralded and long gestating accomplishment in Boyhood.

Predicted Winner: Linklater

BEST ACTOR

4 for 5 again. This race had turned into a seven man showdown and two were going to be left out. They were David Oyelowo in Selma (who I predicted wouldn’t be nominated) and Jake Gyllenhall in Nightcrawler (I predicted he would). The Sniper love meant Bradley Cooper picked up his third consecutive nomination and he’s the one I left out.

Nominees

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

We’ll keep this short and sweet. Cumberbatch or Redmayne could spoil, but this is Keaton’s race to lose.

Predicted Winner: Keaton

BEST ACTRESS

5 for 5 here! I’ll pat myself on the back for including Marion Cotillard’s “surprise” nom for Two Days One Night. Some were surprised at Jennifer Aniston’s exclusion for Cake, but the film was so small and reviews so not solid that I wasn’t.

Nominees

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Like the Best Actor race, we have a big front runner here and it’s Moore (a celebrated and often nominated actress who’s never won). It’s simply hard to imagine any of the other four topping her.

Predicted Winner: Moore

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

5 for 5 again!! Not much to add here as these five actors were the expected nominees and that’s how it panned out.

Nominees

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but again there’s a major front runner. J.K. Simmons has won most of the precursors. Only an extremely good night for Birdman and a Norton upset seems plausible… but not that plausible.

Predicted Winner: Simmons

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

4 for 5 here as Laura Dern’s work in Wild (which I’d predicted previously but took her off) was included and Jessica Chastain’s in A Most Violent Year was excluded.

Nominees

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

The broken record continues as Stone could reap the benefit of a Birdman love fest. However, Arquette seems to be in a solid position for gold.

Predicted Winner: Arquette

Best Original Screenplay

Perfection again – 5 for 5!!! ‘Nuff said…

Nominees

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

This would appear to be the race where Birdman has an ever so slight edge over Boyhood. If there’s a spoiler, it could be Grand Budapest.

Predicted Winner: Birdman

Best Adapted Screenplay

4 for 5. The American Sniper props continued as I didn’t include it. That meant Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her book Gone Girl was left off… which was a bit of a surprise.

Nominees

American Sniper

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Here, The Imitation Game seems the most likely to win and it’ll likely represent its only victory in the main races.

Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

As for surprises in the down ticket categories, there were a couple of big ones. In the Animated Feature category, The LEGO Movie was seen to many as a potential winner and it wasn’t even nominated. In the Documentary race, the Roger Ebert pic Life Itself was shockingly left out.

Please note that my current winner predictions are not my final ones and I will have a post up the weekend before the ceremony to make those picks in all categories.

Stay tuned!

 

Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions!

Well here we are! Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning and this is my sixth and final round of predictions for nominees in the eight major categories. For my final predictions, I’ll list the predictions as well as others that could potentially make the cut. Here’s what changed the most: I have finally gotten on the Nightcrawler bandwagon and am now predicting a number of nominations for it. Tomorrow – I”ll have my reaction post up and pontificate on where I went wrong and right.

As you may know, the Best Picture race (unlike all others) can list anywhere from 5-10 nominees. I finally settled on nine… which is the same number of films nominated each year since that system was put into place. And without further adieu – Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Gone Girl, Unbroken

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ana DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Other Possibilities: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhall, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Other Possibilities: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), David Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Other Possibilities: Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Other Possibilities: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Tom Wilkinson (Selma)

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Other Possibilities: Laura Dern (Wild), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent)

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Other Possibilities: The LEGO Movie, A Most Violent Year, Selma

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Wild 

And there you have it, folks! We’ll see how smart (or dumb) I am tomorrow morning!!