Oscars: The Case of The Fabelmans

My Case Of posts will for the ten Best Picture hopefuls is past the halfway point as we consider the pros and cons of our sixth competitor The Fabelmans.

The Case for The Fabelmans:

Steven Spielberg’s 13th movie to be nominated for BP (only Schindler’s List won) is his most personal as arguably today’s most iconic director gets autobiographical. It was first seen at the Toronto Film Festival where it took the People’s Choice Award. That’s a prize shared by later Oscar winners such as The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, Green Book, and Nomadland. At the Golden Globes, it had a big night as it was bestowed Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Spielberg nabbed the directorial trophy. A victory here could be seen as a genuine thank you for its maker’s cinematic contributions.

The Case Against The Fabelmans:

That genuine thank you could just as easily come with Spielberg being Best Director and BP going to something else. Despite the Globes love, BAFTA was shockingly dismissive as its sole nomination is for screenplay. At Critics Choice, it went a mere 1/11 with Gabriel LaBelle as Best Young Actor (a non-existent Academy race). While the seven nominations are decent, there were notable omissions including Film Editing and Cinematography. It’s also undeniably a box office dud with $16 million at press time.

Other Nominations:

Director (Spielberg), Actress (Michelle Williams), Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Production Design

The Verdict:

There is a universe in which The Fabelmans gets BP and Director, but I would put it behind Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Banshees of Inisherin right now. An Ensemble win at SAG could help momentum. It may be behind the aforementioned at that ceremony too.

My Case Of posts will continue with Tár!

If you missed my previous posts in the series, you can access them here:

2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Picture Race

My deep dives into 6 high profile Oscar races reaches the top one with Best Picture. If you missed my posts on Director and the four acting competitions, you can find them here:

At this early November period from 2019-21, here’s how accurate I was with my BP forecast. Three years ago, I correctly called 8 of the 9 eventual nominees. That includes the winner Parasite, 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The ninth hopeful was Joker and it was listed in Other Possibilities. In the wildly unpredictable 2020, I was right about 5 of 8 with two months left in the calendar – Nomadland (which won), The Father, Mank, Minari, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Judas and the Black Messiah was named in Other Possibilities while Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal were not yet in my top 15. In 2021, the Academy went back to a set number of 10 BP nominees. I rightly identified 7 of the 10 with Belfast, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story. The film that emerged victorious – CODA was not yet predicted but in Other Possibilities. So was Don’t Look Up while Drive My Car wasn’t among the 15.

Moving to 2022 – I can’t recall a year where four sequels were viable for inclusion. That’s where we stand at the moment. The top grosser of the year is Top Gun: Maverick and I do believe the Academy will reward it for bringing older audiences back to multiplexes (and of course for its quality). In a few weeks, we’ll have a better idea about Avatar: The Way of Water. I’m not ready to vault into my ten, but that could change soon. Knives Out missed out on BP in 2019 so I’m skeptical for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. And while Black Panther made the lineup in 2018, Wakanda Forever seems like a stretch despite the solid buzz. Nevertheless it’s not crazy to think that 40% of the BP players could be sequels.

On the non-sequel front, we begin with The Fabelmans. Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical coming-of-age tale has been listed at #1 for weeks on the blog. Only one of the filmmaker’s works – 1993’s Schindler’s List – has won BP. Shakespeare in Love was a surprise recipient in 1998 over the favored Saving Private Ryan. Nearly 30 years later, Fabelmans could have the credentials to be the second.

However, the frontrunner at this stage often doesn’t cross the finish line and Spielberg’s latest feels like a soft frontrunner. I could easily envision a scenario where the voters go outside the box with Everything Everywhere All at Once. A24’s multi-genre pic achieved wide acclaim and did great business at the box office. While spring releases rarely make the journey all the way through the awards calendar, Everything could buck that trend.

Other spoilers include The Banshees of Inisherin and Women Talking, which both garnered kudos at film festivals and will have their ardent admirers. I believe that logic also applies to Tár and The Whale though I don’t see either having a shot to win. And we are still waiting to see if Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is as viable as its pedigree suggests (we’ll know in a few days when it screens).

It’s become more common for an international feature film to get in and the two most likely to do so are All Quiet on the Western Front (which might just be Netflix’s most serious hopeful) and Decision to Leave. The reviews for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Bardo should leave it out (it might not even make the separate international race).

While Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is the favorite to be Best Animated Feature, I don’t see it breaking into the big dance. It’s probably the only animated title with any sort of chance.

The festival circuit always lessens the viability of some pics. In 2022, I would put the following on that list: Empire of Light, The Son, and Armageddon Time.

The Academy could choose to honor some moneymakers like Elvis and The Woman King (though putting Maverick in could check that box). Till may only show up in Best Actress for Danielle Deadwyler. And it’s tough to know what to make of the upcoming Emancipation considering it’s led by Will Smith (who has some, um, recent history with the ceremony).

Bottom line: there is a lot of uncertainty about BP. I feel fairly confident about The Fabelmans, Everything Everywhere, Women Talking, The Banshees of Inisherin, Top Gun: Maverick, Tár, and The Whale (more than others with that one). We’ll know about Babylon shortly so that leaves two spots. I could definitely see a sequel or a foreign flick jumping up. For now, the 9th and 10th entries go to Triangle of Sadness and She Said. Expect movement as the weeks roll along.

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1 . The Fabelmans (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 2) (E)

3. Babylon (PR: 3) (E)

4. Women Talking (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 5) (E)

6. Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 6) (E)

7. Tár (PR: 7) (E)

8. The Whale (PR: 8) (E)

9. Triangle of Sadness (PR: 9) (E)

10. She Said (PR: 12) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

11. All Quiet on the Western Front (PR: 11) (E)

12. Decision to Leave (PR: 10) (-2)

13. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Elvis (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (PR: 15) (E)

Stay tuned for estimates on all the races coming up soon!

2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

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

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

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

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

5. Todd Field, Tár (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Picture is up next, folks! Stay tuned…

Oscar Predictions: The Fabelmans

For several weeks, I have had Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans listed at the top in my predictions for Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams). Prior to its November 11th limited release and Thanksgiving holiday domestic expansion, the coming-of-age drama has screened in Toronto. That’s a first for the most famous director in the world and festival goers are celebrating what they’re seeing in his autobiographical tale.

Reviews are strong with a current 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Awards voters have always been fans of pictures centered on its industry and The Fabelmans is said to be a loving look back at Spielberg’s formative years. There’s little doubt that this has already done enough to become his 14th feature to nab a Best Picture nod (Schindler’s List remains the sole winner). This should also mark his 8th mention in Director (he’s won twice for List and Saving Private Ryan). An Original Screenplay nod (alongside Tony Kushner) is coming where it could be a battle with Everything Everywhere All at Once or others.

What of the cast? It appears Williams (essentially portraying the filmmaker’s mom) deserves that front runner status in Supporting Actress. Her fifth nomination (after Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilyn, Manchester by the Sea) could at last be the charm. As Dad, Paul Dano could be in the mix for his first nod in an impressive year that includes his turn as The Riddler in The Batman. Yet it could be Judd Hirsch (in what’s said to be about 10 minutes of screen time) that lands attention in that race. His scene is said to be a scene stealer and if there’s only one nominee in the Supporting Actor field, expect it to be Hirsch over Dano or Seth Rogen. If so, that would come 42 years following Hirsch’s sole nod for Ordinary People. As for 19-year-old newcomer lead Gabriel LaBelle, he’s absolutely a contender for Best Actor though I’d say his making the cut is less certain than Williams or Hirsch.

No surprise that tech nods are anticipated including Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Sound, and so forth. Bottom line: The Fabelmans has begun its long Oscar journey north of the border. Not only will it be nominated in the major categories, but it could win. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscars 2021: The Case of Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s direction of West Side Story closes out my five Case Of posts for the nominees in the race. If you didn’t catch the previous four, you can get ’em here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Paul Thomas Anderson

Oscars 2021: The Case of Kenneth Branagh

Oscars 2021: The Case of Jane Campion

Oscars 2021: The Case of Ryusuke Hamaguchi

The Case for Steven Spielberg:

He’s Steven Spielberg – the most famous and beloved director in the world. Garnering an 8th nomination for his behind the camera work, he could follow in the footsteps of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. They won 60 years ago for their direction of the 1961 original.

The Case Against Steven Spielberg:

Spielberg’s two previous victories were for Best Picture frontrunners Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan (which ended up getting upset by Shakespeare in Love). West Side Story is not expected to take the big prize and it was also a high-profile box office disappointment.

Previous Nominations: 7 (for Directing only)

Close Encounters of Third Kind (1977); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Schindler’s List (1993 – WON); Saving Private Ryan (1998 – WON)Munich (2005); Lincoln (2012)

The Verdict:

When Spielberg took gold for Schindler’s 28 years ago, he beat out Jane Campion for The Piano. She was probably runner-up. It appears that dynamic will be reversed as Campion is the odds on favorite.

My Case Of posts will continue with the final Best Actress hopeful – Kristen Stewart for Spencer

Oscars 2021: The Case of Jane Campion

The third entry in my Case Of posts for the Best Director nominees belongs to Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. If you missed the first two, you can find them here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Paul Thomas Anderson

Oscars 2021: The Case of Kenneth Branagh

The Case for Jane Campion:

After a 12 year absence from filmmaking, New Zealand’s Campion made an acclaimed return with the Netflix drama. It led all movies in terms of nods with an even better than anticipated 13. Already the winner of the Golden Globe, Campion has been the frontrunner ever since Dog‘s release. She would become just the third female to take this race after Kathryn Bigelow with 2009’s The Hurt Locker and Chloe Zhao for last year’s Nomadland. 

The Case Against Jane Campion:

If Dog is simply all nominations and very few wins (similar to The Irishman from two years ago), we could see plenty of upsets and that would include Campion losing here.

Previous Nominations: 1 (for directing only)

The Piano (1993)

The Verdict:

In 1993, Campion was probably runner-up in this category to Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List. Even though Spielberg is up against her again with West Side Story, Campion comes into this ceremony as the sturdy favorite. Even if Power doesn’t take Best Picture, I’d still likely be forecasting Campion in this competition and in Adapted Screenplay. That would add Oscars two and three to her mantle after an Original Screenplay victory for The Piano. 

My Case Of posts will continue with the third Best Actress hopeful – Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

Oscar Predictions: West Side Story

Sixty years ago, West Side Story emerged triumphant at the Oscars. The musical romance (adapted from the Broadway show by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and the recently departed Stephen Sondheim) won an astonishing 10 Academy Awards including Picture, Director, and both supporting races for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno.

On December 10th comes the long awaited remake from Steven Spielberg starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Ms. Moreno returning to the project that put the O in her EGOT. While the review embargo is still intact, screenings this evening have lifted the social media one. Early word indicates the new Story could be headed for numerous nods as well.

I’ve had this pegged in my ten Best Picture contenders for quite some time and the buzz gives me no pause to change that. Whether Spielberg makes the cut for his eighth directing nod (he’s won twice for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) is a bit more uncertain though it’s certainly possible. Like the 1961 original, its best shot at acting inclusion lies not with the leads. The studio isn’t even campaigning Elgort (this is likely due to some personal issues that surfaced last year). I wouldn’t completely count out Zegler (and she’s getting raves for her cinematic debut), but the Actress derby is packed with hopefuls. In Supporting Actor, David Alvarez could contend for the role that got Chakiris a statue. So might Mike Faist. The Supporting Actor competition appears wide open and if voters truly fall for the project as a whole, either could be swept in. DeBose in Supporting Actress is the most feasible performer that could make the final five in Supporting Actress (though that race has its share of legit contenders too). If so, she’d be up for the same part that nabbed Moreno her hardware. And it’s also possible that Moreno herself could make a play. Adapted Screenplay is also a question mark as screenplays for musicals sometimes face an uphill battle.

Down the line possibilities are plentiful: Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, and Sound. It could be up for any and all and it’s hard to imagine the last three not being close to shoo-in nominations. If all goes right – Story could match the 10 nominations from six decades ago. The most optimistic projection could put it at more. I’m most comfortable proclaiming Picture and at least three tech nods (and probably DeBose) get in. We’ll see if the chatter (and box office) in the coming days elevates this even more. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

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

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

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

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

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6)

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

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

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

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

Dropped Out:

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Best Picture is next!

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Denzel Washington in Philadelphia

My latest Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders post completes a trio of supporting actors that warranted attention in 1993. That was an already impressive year in that category with Tommy Lee Jones winning for The Fugitive. The other nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List), John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire), and Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father). The other performers mentioned in previous write-ups were Val Kilmer for Tombstone and Sean Penn in Carlito’s Way. 

My final contestant is Denzel Washington in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. The AIDS drama, of course, gave Tom Hanks his first Best Actor win of two in a row (taking the prize the next year for Forrest Gump). There was little doubt at that time that Hanks would walk away with the gold and his acceptance speech remains an Oscar highlight.

That makes it even more confounding that his costar didn’t get more chatter. Washington was already a victor in supporting four years earlier for Glory. In 1992, he nabbed a Best Actor nod for Malcolm X. He would take Best Actor eight years later for Training Day and has been nominated three times since. However, the legendary actor’s role as Hanks’s reluctant attorney was critical to the success of the film and in many ways equaled the performance of the lead.

Keep an eye out for future posts of hopefuls that didn’t make the cut on the blog soon!