Oscar Predictions – Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

John Mulaney and Andy Samberg lend their vocal and comedic talents to Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, based on the animated series that started in 1989. Akiva Schaffer (Samberg’s partner in their group The Lonely Island) directs. Other familiar faces behind the pic’s creatures include KiKi Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, and Dennis Haysbert.

Rangers is foregoing the theatrical experience with a Disney+ rollout this Friday. Could the Mouse Factory make a play for a Best Animated Feature nod? With the review embargo lapsing, that seems at least feasible. Sitting at 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, some critics are heaping praise with some comparisons to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 

On the other hand, the studio will surely push the upcoming Lightyear and this spring’s Turning Red in the category. It remains to be seen whether there’s a significant push for the chipmunks. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2022 Oscar Predictions: May 10th Edition

My second round of Oscar predictions in the six biggest races are before you. When I update them next, we’ll be in the midst of the Cannes Film Festival where some of these hopefuls are screening.

As for category placement changes, I’ve moved Jesse Plemons in Killers of the Flower Moon to Supporting Actor from lead. It remains to be seen which contest he’s placed in. If it is supporting, we shall see if it’s him or Robert De Niro that gets the buzz. I’m betting on the latter at press time.

Let’s get into it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Women Talking (PR: 5) (+1)

5. The Son (PR: 4) (-1)

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 8) (+2)

7. She Said (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Bardo (PR: 7) (-1)

9. The Whale (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rustin (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam (PR: 11) (E)

12. Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

13. White Noise (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Poor Things (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 17) (+2)

16. Empire of Light (PR: 16) (E)

17. Tar (PR: 14) (-3)

18. Till (PR: 15) (-3)

19. Armageddon Time (PR: 25) (+6)

20. Elvis (PR: 22) (+2)

21. Thirteen Lives (PR: 20) (-1)

22. The Woman King (PR: 23) (+1)

23. Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 24) (+1)

24. Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 18) (-6)

25. Next Goal Wins (PR: 19) (-6)

Dropped Out:

The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

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

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 6) (E)

7. Florian Zeller, The Son (PR: 7) (E)

8. Maria Schrader, She Said (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale (PR: 8) (-2)

11. George C. Wolfe, Rustin (PR: 10) (-1)

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 12) (E)

13. David O. Russell, Amsterdam (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 11) (-3)

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Noah Baumbach, White Noise

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 2) (E)

3. Carey Mulligan, She Said (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar (PR: 6) (E)

7. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (E)

9. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Laura Dern, The Son (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 14) (+2)

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run (PR: 13) (E)

14. Ana de Armas, Blonde (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Greta Gerwig, White Noise 

Best Actor

1. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Brendan Fraser, The Whale (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 8) (+3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christian Bale, Amsterdam (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Joaquin Phoenix, Disappointment Blvd. (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said (PR: 3) (E)

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son (PR: 4) (E)

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hong Chau, The Whale (PR: 6) (E)

7. Jean Smart, Babylon (PR: 7) (E)

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till (PR: 8) (E)

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam (PR: 9) (E)

10. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Rooney Mara, Women Talking (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said (PR: 12) (E)

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 13) (E)

14. Margaret Qualley, Poor Things (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

Sadie Sink, The Whale

Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Tom Hanks, Elvis (PR: 10) (+6)

5. John David Washington, Amsterdam (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 7) (E)

8. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 5) (-3)

9. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead Actor)

10. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Anthony Hopkins, The Son (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Frankie Faison, Till (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans (PR: 8) (-6)

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Don Cheadle, White Noise 

2022 Oscar Predictions: May 1st Edition

Welcome to the first ranked Oscar predictions of the 2022 season for the 95th Academy Awards! I’ll be doing these every few days (once a week or every two weeks) for the high-profile races of Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies. In the fall (maybe earlier), this will expand to all categories covering feature lengths films.

For BP, I will list 25 possibilities with 15 hopefuls in the others. Some quick caveats that always apply – titles of the pictures will change. Just this week, David O. Russell’s Canterbury Glass became Amsterdam and Avatar 2 is now Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Actors listed in lead will become supporting players and vice versa. Some movies will be pushed to 2023. And, of course, titles listed on the first day of May will become commercial and critical disappointments and drop off the list. Some pics and performances I’m not even considering at the moment will rise during festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Telluride, and Venice.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon 

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

3. The Fabelmans

4. The Son

5. Women Talking

6. She Said

7. Bardo

8. Everything Everywhere All at Once

9. The Whale

10. Rustin

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam

12. White Noise

13. Poor Things

14. Tar

15. Till

16. Empire of Light

17. Avatar: The Way of Water

18. Don’t Worry Darling

19. Next Goal Wins

20. Thirteen Lives

21. The Banshees of Inisherin

22. Elvis

23. The Woman King

24. Three Thousand Years of Longing

25. Armageddon Time

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon 

2. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

3. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once

7. Florian Zeller, The Son

8. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale 

9. Maria Schrader, She Said

10. George C. Wolfe, Rustin

11. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water

13. Noah Baumbach, White Noise

14. David O. Russell, Amsterdam

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon

2. Regina King, Shirley 

3. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

4. Carey Mulligan, She Said 

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar

7. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light 

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody 

9. Emma Stone, Poor Things 

10. Laura Dern, The Son

11. Viola Davis, The Woman King 

12. Greta Gerwig, White Noise

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run 

14. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling 

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brendan Fraser, The Whale

2. Hugh Jackman, The Son 

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon 

4. Colman Domingo, Rustin 

5. Christian Bale, Amsterdam 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon 

7. Adam Driver, White Noise 

8. Austin Butler, Elvis 

9. Diego Calva, Babylon 

10. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans 

11. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo 

12. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives 

13. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

14. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin 

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son 

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Hong Chau, The Whale 

7. Jean Smart, Babylon 

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam 

10. Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

11. Sadie Sink, The Whale 

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said 

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin 

14. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King

15. Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

3. Brad Pitt, Babylon 

4. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once 

5. Glynn Turman, Rustin 

Other Possibilities: 

6. John David Washington, Amsterdam 

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things

8. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans 

9. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things 

10. Tom Hanks, Elvis

11. Anthony Hopkins, The Son

12. Frankie Faison, Till

13. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking 

14. Don Cheadle, White Noise 

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light 

2022 Oscar Predictions: April Edition (Best Supporting Actor)

Well, folks, I just can’t help myself. A mere two weeks after the 94th Academy Awards, I’m getting into speculation for the 95th ceremony honoring the best of 2022.

I know… it’s only April. And there’s certainly a great chance that these impossibly early predictions will look foolish a few months down the road. It’s all part of the fun though!

Here’s how it works. I’m going to do monthly forecasts for the six biggest races (Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies). For Picture, I’ll project the ten BP nominees along with 15 other possibilities. In the other races, I’ll name my five with ten other hopefuls.

Starting in August, the monthly predictions will shift to weekly ones. In October, it branches out to all feature film competitions and the list of possibilities dwindles from 25 to 15 in BP and ten in all others. Got all that? Good!

Some quick caveats – when you’re this early in the projecting game, it’s basically guesswork. For instance, I’m saying Leonardo DiCaprio will compete in Supporting Actor for Killers of the Flower Moon. It could be lead. The same logic applies to Leo’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood costar Brad Pitt for Babylon. Some movies named here will be pushed back. Some roles with familiar faces will not be the Oscar bait that seems plausible at the moment.

I’m starting with Supporting Actor and I’ll have Supporting Actress up next!

TODD’S APRIL 2022 OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon

Brad Pitt, Babylon

Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Glynn Turman, Rustin

Other Possibilities:

Don Cheadle, White Noise

Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

Frankie Faison, Till

Colin Firth, Empire of Light

Tom Hanks, Elvis

Andre Holland, Shirley

Anthony Hopkins, The Son

Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans

John David Washington, Canterbury Glass

Ben Whishaw, Women Talking

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

Oscar Watch: An American Pickle

In another case of a comedic release going the streaming route due to the COVID-19 pandemic, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen hits HBO Max tomorrow. The pic finds its lead as immigrant Herschel Greenbaum in 1920, who falls into a vat of pickle juice that perfectly preserves him until he snaps out of his slumber in 2020. Rogen also plays the dual role of Greenbaum’s great grandson in the fish out of water flick.

Some of these Oscar Watch posts over the summer could better be termed as Golden Globe Watch. Pickle currently sports a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s not bad, but a number of the reviews are lukewarm with others downright non-complimentary. In other words, any Oscar consideration for this is wishful thinking. Yet the 2020 experience could open up the door for unexpected comedies to contend at the Globes in their separate Musical/Comedy categorization.

The odds are long for that as well. Based on the critical reaction, I would list the film and Rogen’s performance as behind that of two other streaming comedies released this year: The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson and Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg.

Bottom line: it would be quite a jarring development to see An American Pickle in any sort of awards contention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The King of Staten Island Movie Review

Pete Davidson is not your average Saturday Night Live cast member. He is less known for characters he plays and is more known for essentially portraying himself on Weekend Update sketches. That includes warts and all with his much publicized romantic life, struggles with mental health and drug issues, and tragic family history. It is no surprise that Judd Apatow is the director to bring his semi autobiographical story to the big screen in The King of State Island. And the Apatow treatment comes with the high points of his previous efforts. It also comes with the warts and all of his pics that includes an unnecessarily lengthy running time and subplots that don’t really pan out.

The big screen treatment ended up being a misnomer since Island went the Video on Demand route due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davidson is Scott Carlin, an aimless 24 year old living with his mom Margie (Marisa Tomei) in the borough where it is joked that New Jersey looks down upon. His little sister (Maude Apatow) is an achiever who is moving along to college. Scott’s longtime friend and sort of girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) is a glass half full type in contrast with his constantly half empty outlook. The similarities between Davidson and his character are hard to miss. Scott’s father was a firefighter who died in the line of duty and so did Davidson’s on 9/11. Substance abuse and effects of ADD are prevalent with Scott and, as mentioned, the actor hasn’t been shy about addressing those matters.

One key difference: Davidson has been a pop culture fixture on the famous sketch comedy show for a few years. The man he is playing isn’t accomplishing much of anything. His idea to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant is met with understandable skepticism. Scott’s arrested development is dealt a setback when Margie finds romance after 17 years of being a widow with fireman Ray (Bill Burr). Their courtship elevates his anxieties to a new level.

Apatow, over the past decade and half, has elevated numerous comedic performers to new heights. These include Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. The similarities here are most in line with the latter as Davidson’s known persona is put through the cinematic lens. As an avid SNL watcher, I have found his bits occasionally inspired and frequently a little grating. It is a credit to Apatow and Davidson that Island finds a balance that is primarily satisfying. However, that’s not to say there aren’t issues. Island is too long. A subplot regarding Scott and his buddies and a pharmaceutical heist could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. While it often deftly switches between humorous and serious segments, the tone shifts are not always consistent.

On the bright side, some scenes are quite well done. This includes a night out with Scott, Ray, and some fellow firefighters where his late dad’s angelic legacy is tarnished to his son’s delight. Every time romantic interest Kelsey (with a terrific performance by Powley) is around, it works. I actually found myself wishing Scott had more interest in her because she deserves more screen time.

Ultimately The King of Staten Island is vintage Apatow and that includes the glass being measured in both ways. Thankfully it is full for the most part.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The King of Staten Island

The latest dramedy from director Judd Apatow is receiving a lot of similar praise and a bit of the same criticism as other titles in his filmography. The King of Staten Island hits the VOD circuit this Friday after foregoing a theatrical release due to COVID-19. The pic is a showcase for Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson, who’s received as much press for his personal life as his SNL antics. This is a semi-autobiographical vehicle for him and reviews out today give high marks to his work.

Overall Island currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics are calling it Apatow’s most mature work. There are kudos for the supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, and Bel Pawley. On the flip side, there are some complaints about its 136 minute runtime. This is a common gripe for the director’s efforts.

While Oscar attention is unlikely, the pic could garner the attention of Golden Globes voters since it splits acting races between Drama and Musical/Comedy. In the latter, Davidson could be a contender for Actor. Yet the Apatow track record at the Globes is shaky. Neither Steve Carell (The 40 Yr. Old Virgin) or Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) made the final five. I would especially say that Carell was robbed in 2005. On the other hand, 2015’s Trainwreck nabbed Amy Schumer an Actress mention.

Bottom line: some awards chatter for Apatow’s latest stand-up star could happen, but I don’t think it would be at the biggest show of all. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Oscars Go Streaming

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.

A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.

So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.

With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.

My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!

Good Boys Movie Review

Yes, there’s an apt comparison to be made between Good Boys and 2007’s Superbad. This is kind of the middle school version of that movie from over a decade ago. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the latter and they serve as producers here. Both involve young boys with their dirty minds trying to make it to a party that they view as potentially life changing (all events are greatly elevated in status at these ages).

What both get right is portraying the naïveté of their central characters. They may talk a good game in their minds, but there’s a whole lot about sex and drugs that they simply don’t understand yet. There’s inherent humor in that. Plenty of raunchy youth comedies are simply in it for the gross out humor. Another layer exists here and it’s one of sweetness to occasionally balance out the R rated aspects.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have just entered the wild world of middle school. Their curiosity level when it comes to girls, beer, and after school get togethers is in peak form. They christen themselves The Beanbag Boys since a good chunk of their lives are spent playing games and conversing while sitting on them. Max has a crush on a fellow student and might have an opportunity to make his move at a party that the cool kids invite him to. Thor is more interested in excelling at the school musical (an ill conceived pint size rendering of Rock of Ages), but struggles with that since the cool kids don’t think that’s cool. Lucas has a happy life that’s disrupted by parental divorce. He’s unlikely to ever be the cool kid and doesn’t quite know that yet.

The boys friendship is tested over a long day where they skip school, steal Max’s dad’s fancy drone, and turn into amateur ecstasy dealers so they don’t get in deeper trouble (it all makes sense in context). The laugh ratio here is pretty high as the trio must learn about kissing (the porn sites they go don’t help much) and dealing with college kids to score drugs.

Tremblay is the famous kid of the bunch as he’s known for his impressive serious work in Room and Wonder. He gets to drop some F bombs for the first time and he looks precocious doing it. I would say it’s Williams, however, that shines the brightest. The couple scenes with his splitting parents are comedic highlights. They display what makes Good Boys work best. It’s funny, but with an undertone of these kids learning the real world for the first time. Like Superbad, the central figures come to discover life will exist beyond their childhood friendships. It takes plenty of crass jokes to get them there, but those gags work more often than they don’t.

*** (out of four)