2021 Oscar Predictions: September 19th Edition

Thanks to the Toronto Film Festival, we have a new #1 atop the charts in Best Picture and it’s Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. 

The coming-of-age drama won the festival’s People’s Choice Award and that is no minor development. 12 of the past 13 victors have received a BP nod. Five of them have won. And that’s enough to allow Belfast the designation of soft frontrunner (with lots of time to go and lots yet to be seen). However, the fact of the matter is, you have to go back to 2006’s The Departed to find a BP winner that didn’t screen at one of the higher profile festivals.

The Power of the Dog was a runner-up for the People’s Choice prize and it slides just one spot. Director Jane Campion  maintains top billing in her category.

There are further developments to point out:

    • King Richard is back in my top 10 BP projections edging out The Humans. The Will Smith sports drama also enters Original Screenplay over C’Mon C’Mon.
    • Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza) is in for Best Director over Ridley Scott for House of Gucci.
    • The praise for Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye is enough to put her at #2 in Actress. It’s not enough to dislodge Kristen Stewart (Spencer) from her ruling perch. I will admit that the subpar box office grosses for Faye this weekend doesn’t help, but I’m relatively confident at this juncture that she’s in.
    • The revolving door that is slot #5 in Best Actor lands on Joaquin Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon) over Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley).
    • Big changes in Supporting Actor as Jamie Dornan (Belfast) and Jared Leto (House of Gucci) are in. Dropping are Dornan’s costar Ciaran Hinds and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog).
    • While the Supporting Actress five stays intact, I’ve vaulted Ann Dowd (Mass) back to the top spot.

By this time next Sunday, we will know the buzz for Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth as it opens the New York Film Festival this Friday. Stay tuned for my Oscar Predictions post on that next weekend.

You can peruse all the action below and the forecasts will be updated next Sunday!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 4) (+3)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Dune (PR: 5) (+1)

5. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (-2)

6. Licorice Pizza (PR: 7) (+1)

7. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (-1)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8) (E)

9. Don’t Look Up (PR: 9) (E)

10. King Richard (PR: 12) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

11. The Humans (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Spencer (PR: 15) (+3)

13. CODA (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Mass (PR: 14) (E)

15. The Hand of God (PR: 13) (-2)

16. Flee (PR: 17) (+1)

17. The French Dispatch (PR: 16) (-1)

18. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 19) (+1)

19. A Hero (PR: 18) (-1)

20. The Lost Daughter (PR: 20) (E)

21. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 24) (+3)

22. Being the Ricardos (PR: 22) (E)

23. Cyrano (PR: 23) (E)

24. Passing (PR: 21) (-3)

25. Parallel Mothers (PR: 25) (E)

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7) (E)

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

9. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 9) (E)

10. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 14) (E)

15. Stephen Karam, The Humans (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 1) (E)

2. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 4) (E)

5. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 6) (E)

7. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 7) (E)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13) (+3)

11. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 10) (-2)

13. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Halle Berry, Bruised (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: 14) (-1)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 1) (E)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2) (E)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3) (E)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4) (E)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 7) (E)

8. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 8) (E)

9. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 11) (E)

12. Ben Foster, The Survivor (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Jude Hill, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Adam Driver, Annette

Filippo Scott, The Hand of God

Simon Rex, Red Rocket

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (-2)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9) (E)

10. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 7) (-4)

12. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12) (E)

13. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Dakota Johnson, The Lost Daughter (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (PR: 1) (E)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 7) (+4)

4. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 3) (-5)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Willem Dafoe, Nightmare Alley (PR: 12) (+1)

12. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Timothy Spall, Spencer

Benny Safdie, Licorice Pizza

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (PR: 1) (E)

2. Licorice Pizza (PR: 2) (E)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3) (E)

4. Mass (PR: 4) (E)

5. King Richard (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Spencer (PR: 7) (E)

8. The Hand of God (PR: 9) (+1)

9. The French Dispatch (PR: 8) (-1)

10. A Hero (PR: 12) (+2)

11. Parallel Mothers (PR: 10) (-1)

12. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Being the Ricardos (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Last Night in Soho (PR: 14) (E)

15. Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Blue Bayou

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Humans (PR: 3) (E)

4. House of Gucci (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Dune (PR: 7) (E)

8. CODA (PR: 8) (E)

9. West Side Story (PR: 9) (E)

10. Passing (PR: 10) (E)

11. Cyrano (PR: 11) (E)

12. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 12) (E)

13. The Last Duel (PR: 13) (E)

14. The Green Knight (PR: 15) (+1)

15. In the Heights (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Oscar Predictions: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Best Actress race just got more interesting and we can thank Jessica Chastain for that. Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye has emerged from the Toronto Film Festival. While the reviews for the film are mixed, Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye Bakker is drawing raves.

Based on a 2000 documentary, this dramatized bio of the extreme makeup wearing televangelist and her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield) has never been pegged as much of a Best Picture contender. The critical reaction confirms that. Mr. Garfield is getting some solid notices. I question whether he gains traction in the acting derby. He’ll have another shot in 2021 with the as yet unseen Tick, Tick… Boom! If that one doesn’t materialize, Searchlight could push him in supporting.

Chastain is another story with her viability. She appears firmly in line for her third nomination. The first was in 2011 in supporting for The Help. Her second came the next year in lead for Zero Dark Thirty. Not only does she seem headed for Oscar recognition, she could be a threat to win. In other words, we may not want to crown Kristen Stewart (Spencer) the victor yet.

Makeup and Hairstyling is another obvious race where this could get in. Perhaps the gaudy 80s fashion will be noticed for Costume Design.

Bottom line: a couple of weeks back, I boldly declared that you could write Kristen Stewart’s Best Actress inclusion in pen. Here we go again for the second pronouncement… I think you can do the same with Chastain. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: September 12th Edition

With the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals having just wrapped and Toronto going strong, there are fresh updates to my Oscar predictions in every category but Director!

Of course, the big question from the past week might be: Will a movie with the word “pizza” in it finally get a Best Picture nomination? That’s more possible than ever since Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest (which had the working title Soggy Bottom) is now apparently called Licorice Pizza. It makes perfect sense if you research the setting.

It’ll be a while before we know how much of a contender that one actually is.   There is some movement based on actual buzz and it starts with Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which has screened at Toronto. I believe it could make the BP cut and I’ve got it in. I’m also returning West Side Story to the top ten. Dropping out are CODA and King Richard, though either could certainly find themselves back in the mix.

In other developments:

    • Penelope Cruz’s Venice win for Best Actress gets her back in the top five. Falling out is Jennifer Hudson for Respect.
    • I now have Bradley Cooper as a double nominee. In addition to him maintaining the top spot in Supporting Actor for Pizza (that’s gonna take some getting used to), he’s listed in Actor for Nightmare Alley. He takes the place of Adam Driver in House of Gucci. 
    • With category placement still in flux for certain pics, I’ve chosen to put the ensemble for Belfast all in supporting. That means Caitriona Balfe is in for Supporting Actress over her costar Judi Dench. I’m also elevating Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans) and dropping Marlee Matlin (CODA). Furthermore, I have Frances McDormand moved to supporting from lead and she sits just on the outside at #6. Kirsten Dunst takes over the #1 position over Ann Dowd in Mass.
    • Jamie Dornan (Belfast) also enters the competition in supporting instead of lead, but he’s not in my five. There is one change: Jason Isaacs (Mass) over Jared Leto (House of Gucci).
    • C’Mon C’Mon gets the 5th slot in Original Screenplay over Spencer. And Belfast is now listed first instead of Pizza. 
    • In Adapted Screenplay, The Humans and The Lost Daughter make the cut over The Tragedy of Macbeth and CODA. The latter did not have a good week as you can see (dropping out of Picture, Supporting Actress, and here).

We are mere hours away from knowing whether Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) deserves her #3 placement in Actress. Those developments and more will be available when I update next Sunday. Until then, you can peruse all the movement below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 3)

3. House of Gucci (PR: 2)

4. Belfast (PR: 4)

5. Dune (PR: 6)

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

7. Licorice Pizza (PR: 7) – formerly Soggy Bottom

8. West Side Story (PR: 11)

9. Don’t Look Up (PR: 8)

10. The Humans (PR: 14)

Other Possibilities:

11. CODA (PR: 10)

12. King Richard (PR: 9)

13. The Hand of God (PR: 17)

14. Mass (PR: 12)

15. Spencer (PR: 13)

16. The French Dispatch (PR: 19)

17. Flee (PR: 16)

18. A Hero (PR: 15)

19. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 20)

20. The Lost Daughter (PR: Not Ranked)

21. Passing (PR: 24)

22. Being the Ricardos (PR: 22)

23. Cyrano (PR: 18)

24. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 25)

25. Parallel Mothers (PR: 23)

Dropped Out:

The Last Duel

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 5)

5. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 6)

7. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7)

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 10)

9. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 8)

10. Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God (PR: 15)

11. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 9)

12. Stephen Karam, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: 13)

14. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 11)

15. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard

Sian Heder, CODA

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristin Stewart, Spencer (PR: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 2)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 3)

4. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

5. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

7. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 11)

8. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 15)

10. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 13)

11. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8)

12. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12)

13. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 14)

14. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Halle Berry, Bruised (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (moved to Supporting Actress)

Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (moved to Supporting Actress)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 5)

5. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

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

7. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

8. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 6)

9. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 9)

10. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

11. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 12)

12. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 13)

13. Filippo Scott, The Hand of God (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Simon Rex, Red Rocket (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Dornan, Belfast (moved to Supporting)

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

2. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

3. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

4. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 6)

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

Other Possibilities:

6. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

7. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 4)

8. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 7)

9. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

10. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: 12)

11. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 3)

12. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

13. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 9)

14. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 11)

15. Dakota Johnson, The Lost Daughter (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Nina Arianda, Being the Ricardos

Olga Merediz, In the Heights

Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (PR: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 4)

3. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 3)

4. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

5. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5)

7. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

8. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7)

9. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 8)

10. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: 9)

11. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 13)

12. Willem Dafoe, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

13. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Timothy Spall, Spencer (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Benny Safdie, Licorice Pizza (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Reed Birney, Mass

Simon Helberg, Annette

J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos

Adam Driver, The Last Duel

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (PR: 2)

2. Licorice Pizza (PR: 1)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3)

4. Mass (PR: 4)

5. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

6. King Richard (PR: 6)

7. Spencer (PR: 5)

8. The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

9. The Hand of God (PR: 11)

10. Parallel Mothers (PR: 7)

11. Being the Ricardos (PR: 12)

12. A Hero (PR: 8)

13. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13)

14. Last Night in Soho (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Blue Bayou (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Annette

Best Adapted Screenplay 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2)

3. The Humans (PR: 6)

4. House of Gucci (PR: 3)

5. The Lost Daughter (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 4)

7. Dune (PR: 8)

8. CODA (PR: 5)

9. West Side Story (PR: 12)

10. Passing (PR: 11)

11. Cyrano (PR: 10)

12. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 13)

13. The Last Duel (PR: 9)

14. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 14)

15. The Green Knight (PR: 15)

A Happening in Venice

What’s happening in Venice? Well, Happening is. As in the 1960s set French drama from director Audrey Diwan (not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s dreaded The Happening… and it won’t be). The pic surprisingly took the Venice Film Festival’s top award this afternoon – the Golden Lion.

In the past four years, the recipient of that honor has moved onto Oscar glory. Both 2017’s The Shape of Water and last year’s Nomadland took that Italian momentum to a Best Picture win. 2018’s Roma and 2020’s Joker both achieved nominations in BP and won other major categories.

My feeling is that Happening will break that streak. While France may select it for International Feature Film consideration and it could make that five, I don’t see this nabbing one of the ten slots for BP.

Diwan did not emerge victorious in Director. Instead, that went to Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog where she’s widely anticipated to follow suit with the Academy.

The Silver Lion (essentially runner-up) went to Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. While it got same raves, some critics were a little cooler. In my estimation, it has a stronger shot at BP and especially International Feature Film inclusion than Happening.

Best Actress was a category to keep an eye on as it included Oscar hopefuls like Kristin Stewart in Spencer, Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter, and Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers. It was Cruz grabbing the prize (to the shock of many a Stewart fan) and it puts the three-time nominee and one-time victor in a sturdier position to make the cut come Oscar time. As for Stewart (and Colman to a lesser degree), they’ve still done what they need to do to be in the conversation.

There wasn’t many Academy players in the male actor competition and it was John Arcilla winning for On the Job: The Missing 8, an export from the Philippines. Don’t expect his name in the mix for Oscar.

The Screenplay race honored Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter, which was received very well overseas. This increases her chances to at least get an Adapted Screenplay recognition for her work. She also directed and a nod there could be a taller order.

Overall, I wouldn’t expect 2021’s Golden Lion selection to gain much traction at the big show. Other winners solidified their statuses in various categories.

Oscar Predictions: The Last Duel

The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up and it has done so with a big debut in Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel. The first of two Oscar contenders from Scott in 2021 (the other is the forthcoming House of Gucci), Duel was seen as the lesser of the duo when it comes to awards prospects.

That has turned out to be accurate based on the Italian buzz. Duel stands at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. As generally expected, I wouldn’t anticipate Scott’s epic (out October 15) to factor into Best Picture, Director, or its Adapted Screenplay from Nicole Holofcener. Nor do I believe much attention will be paid to its trio of male leads (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver). The latter will have another at bat for Gucci or possibly Annette in the lead Actor derby.

Jodie Comer, an Emmy winner for Killing Eve and recently seen in the hit Free Guy, has always been looked at as the real hopeful in Actress. Comer is getting the best reviews of the cast. She could sneak in, but I suspect her race could be quite competitive and she’s probably on the outside looking in. One of her strongest competitors might be Lady Gaga from (you guessed it) Gucci. That’s in addition to the already in Kristin Stewart (Spencer) and numerous others.

Duel could play in some technical races like Production and Costume Design or Sound. However, any hopes of a Gladiator like run at the Oscars (Scott’s 2000 Best Picture winning epic) has been thwarted in Venice. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: September 6th Edition

Where to even begin? It’s been 11 days since I updated my Oscar predictions (a longer break than normal) but there’s good reason. A lot has transpired since then. That would be the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals where numerous contenders have been unveiled.

That means there are significant changes in all of the 8 major races that I’m currently forecasting. Let us count the ways:

    • Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog was certainly one of the most awaited arrivals. Before Venice, I had it placed #1 in Picture, Director, and Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch). The reviews do not automatically indicate it will win the prize. However, they were enough raves that I have not moved it out of the top spot in Picture and Director. Yet there is a new #1 in Actor…
    • That would be Will Smith in King Richard. While Cumberbatch only slips to #2, the reaction to Smith’s work has me thinking a narrative could develop where he sweeps the season.
    • Richard also moves into the top ten in my Best Picture rankings. So does Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, another major story of the past few days. I didn’t have the black and white period drama getting any nods a week and a half ago. It’s now listed in Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Supporting Actor (Ciaran Hinds), and Original Screenplay. There is a question with how the studio will figure out placement for its ensemble. I currently have Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan as possibilities in the lead derbies with both falling short.
    • The two newcomers in Best Picture takes out West Side Story and The Hand of God. Branagh’s rise in Director removes Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth).
    • In Actress, the festival praise for Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) has me thinking she’s in at this juncture. Falling off the top five: Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth. I nearly put McDormand in Supporting Actress and I wouldn’t be surprised if she contends there instead.
    • Another development in Actress is the vaulting of Kristen Stewart (Spencer) to the #1 slot over Lady Gaga (House of Gucci). The Venice love indicates she’s the strong frontrunner to win gold.
    • Peter Dinklage’s title role as Cyrano makes the top five in Actor to the detriment of Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up).
    • Judi Dench’s inclusion in Belfast for Supporting Actress has Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans) on the outside looking in. I desperately wanted to put Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) in the five and wouldn’t be surprised if she makes it in soon. I just couldn’t decide who to take out.
    • There are two changes in Supporting Actor. The Power of the Dog buzz provided a bit of a shocker. Kodi Smit-McPhee appears to hold a better chance at getting in over Jesse Plemons (who falls out of the mix). Also, the addition of Ciaran Hinds removes Corey Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth). For those keeping score, that’s two Supporting Actor hopefuls in the five that weren’t even ranked 11 days ago.
    • In Original Screenplay, it’s Belfast and Spencer in and The French Dispatch (whose fortunes are falling in my opinion) and The Hand of God out. In Adapted Screenplay, I have put CODA back in (sorry to The Humans… which we’ll know more about when it debuts in days up in Toronto).

Whew. Got all that? You can peruse all the movement below. And you can bet that I’ll be posting about all the fresh updates from Toronto. Until then…

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. House of Gucci (PR: 2)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

4. Belfast (PR: 14)

5. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

6. Dune (PR: 7)

7. Soggy Bottom (PR: 5)

8. Don’t Look Up (PR: 6)

9. King Richard (PR: 21)

10. CODA (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

11. West Side Story (PR: 8)

12. Mass (PR: 13)

13. Spencer (PR: 17)

14. The Humans (PR: 11)

15. A Hero (PR: 15)

16. Flee (PR: 16)

17. The Hand of God (PR: 10)

18. Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

19. The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

20. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 19)

21. The Last Duel (PR: 20)

22. Being the Ricardos (PR: 24)

23. Parallel Mothers (PR: 22)

24. Passing (PR: 23)

25. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Last Night in Soho

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 5)

4. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 12)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

8. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 7)

9. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 15)

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

11. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 10)

12. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: 14)

14. Sian Heder, CODA (PR: 13)

15. Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 4)

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 3)

4. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 14)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

7. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

8. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 7)

9. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 8)

11. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9)

12. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 12)

13. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 10)

14. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 11)

15. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Halle Berry, Bruised

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 3)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 14)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 5)

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 6)

8. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 7)

9. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 9)

10. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 8)

11. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 11)

13. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 10)

14. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 13)

15. Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Steven Yeun, The Humans

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11)

4. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 3)

5. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 5)

7. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 15)

8. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 6)

9. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 10)

10. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 9)

11. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 8)

12. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: 7)

13. Nina Arianda, Being the Ricardos (PR: 13)

14. Olga Merediz, In the Heights (PR: 12)

15. Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rebecca Ferguson, Dune

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: Not Ranked)

3. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 6)

7. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

8. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: 7)

10. Willem Dafoe, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

11. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: 13)

12. Simon Helberg, Annette (PR: 11)

13. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10)

14. J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos (PR: 14)

15. Adam Driver, The Last Duel (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Jonah Hill, Don’t Look Up

Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Belfast (PR: 7)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 2)

4. Mass (PR: 4)

5. Spencer (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

6. King Richard (PR: 15)

7. Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

8. A Hero (PR: 8)

9. The French Dispatch (PR: 3)

10. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 9)

11. The Hand of God (PR: 5)

12. Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

13. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 13)

14. Blue Bayou (PR: 14)

15. Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Last Night in Soho

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

3. House of Gucci (PR: 3)

4. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

5. CODA (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Humans (PR: 5)

7. The Lost Daughter (PR: 12)

8. Dune (PR: 7)

9. The Last Duel (PR: 8)

10. Cyrano (PR 13)

11. Passing (PR: 9)

12. West Side Story (PR: 11)

13. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

14. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 14)

15. The Green Knight (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Dear Evan Hansen

Back at it next week!

Oscar Predictions: King Richard

My previous Oscar Predictions post was for the Princess Diana biopic Spencer. I explained that it’s risky to make bold pronouncements at this juncture of the awards season. Yet the buzz from Venice strongly suggests that Kristen Stewart is going to nab a Best Actress nod for her work.

At Telluride, the same feeling holds true for King Richard from director Reinaldo Marcus Green. Hitting theaters and HBO Max on November 19, the title character is Richard Williams. He’s best known as the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena. Portraying him is Will Smith and he’s going for nomination #3 after 2001’s Ali and 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. 

So here we go again. The early reaction for Richard makes me comfortable enough to declare that Smith will get that third recognition. And he could win. Reviews also single out Aunjanue Ellis as Richard’s wife Brandy. An Emmy winner for When They See Us, I will likely include her in Supporting Actress when my estimates are updated on Monday.

As for the movie itself, it could certainly follow in the sports drama footsteps of previous Best Picture nominees like The Blind Side and Moneyball. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s certainly a possibility as this sounds like a major crowdpleaser. There’s also an original song that plays over the credits from Beyonce (“Be Alive”) and I wouldn’t bet against her.

Bottom line: Will Smith has put himself in position to be the Fresh Prince of the Best Actor derby. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Spencer

The screenings at Venice and Telluride are rolling in at a furious level (expect lots of posts up this evening). From Italy, one of the most eagerly awaited was Spencer, Pablo Larrain’s biopic of Princess Diana starring Kristen Stewart. The director is no stranger to real life tales of political figures and their tragic circumstances. In 2016, Larrain made Jackie and it resulted in a Best Actress nomination for Natalie Portman.

Word-of-mouth indicates that Spencer could be a serious Oscar player (it’s out November 5). This is particularly true for Stewart. The actress’s post Twilight career includes praised performances for Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper, but she’s yet to garner any attention from the Academy.

It’s always risky to be too declarative at this stage of prognosticating and with so many pictures left to screen, but it feels warranted here. So here goes: Kristen Stewart is going to be one of the five names for Best Actress. You can write it in ink. I will probably have her listed at #1 when I do updated predictions (which will come on Monday).

Other nominations are less certain, but totally feasible. This includes Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Score. I don’t foresee nods for the supporting cast which includes Sally Hawkins, Jack Farthing, Timothy Spall, and Sean Harris.

Bottom line: a gold statue could be in Stewart’s future and Spencer could factor into several other categories. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Parallel Mothers

The Venice Film Festival is officially underway so you better get used to reading my Oscar Predictions posts for quite a few features. The Italian fest opened with a Spanish picture – Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers.

Early word-of-mouth is strong with critics saying this is one of the auteur’s most serious and satisfying offerings. The film stars Penelope Cruz in a tale of the trials and tribulations for two expectant women (the other being the teenaged Milena Smit).

Almodovar is no stranger to Oscar attention. Three of his efforts (1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1999’s All About My Mother, 2019’s Pain and Glory) all received nods in Best International Feature film. Mother won.

As for Cruz, three of her performances have been recognized by the Academy: her supporting turns in 2008’s Vicky Christina Barcelona (which she took gold for) and 2009’s Nine. Her sole lead nod was in 2006’s Volver, which was made by Almodovar.

The question is: will a fourth nomination come for the director and his star? I’m assuming Spain will make Mothers their selection and it stands an excellent chance at inclusion in the foreign field (I highly doubt Best Picture will happen). Original Screenplay is also a major possibility.

With Cruz, it’s murkier. Two years ago, the filmmaker’s lead Antonio Banderas picked up a Best Actor spot for Pain and Glory. My hunch is that Cruz’s opportunity for #4 will be dependent on what follows at Venice, other festivals, and forthcoming pictures in the next four months. Competition is expected to be steep. Jennifer Hudson in the already out Respect could make the cut. And there’s a bunch of hopefuls waiting in the wings, including but certainly not limited to Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Jodie Comer (The Last Duel), Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth), and Kristen Stewart (Spencer).

Bottom line: Parallel Mothers could be expecting some attention at Oscar time, but other competitors will determine its chances beyond the international race. My Oscar Prediction posts for 2021 titles will continue…

The Importance of Being Venice

For those who don’t follow the Oscar game and film festivals like I do (which is understandably most of you), this post looks to be a helpful primer on why such festivals are so important when doing predictions.

The 2021 Venice Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and you can anticipate plenty of Oscar speculation chatter on the blog in the next several days. You may ask – why is this Italian extravaganza so key in determining how this year’s awards landscape may look?

Let’s look at just the past five years as prologue. Of the 43 features nominated for Best Picture from 2016-2020, 31 were originally screened at the various high-profile festivals. There were six from Sundance and four each premiered at Telluride, Toronto and Cannes (with one emanating from the New York Film Festival). Eleven had their start in Venice. That’s right. Essentially one in four. That means that, lately, the average year has seen two to three BP nominees coming from this one event.

Of the last five Best Picture winners, all of them kicked off at a festival. 1 from Telluride (Moonlight). 1 from Toronto (Green Book). 1 from Cannes (Parasite). Two from Venice: The Shape of Water and last year’s Nomadland. 

How about the acting derbies? Of the 20 winners in Actor, Actress, and the supporting fields from 2016-2020, only two were performances that did not come from a festival screened film. There’s 1 from Cannes. Three each from Telluride and Toronto. Four from Sundance. And seven from Venice.

This is why the titles hitting Venice in 2021 currently hold lofty positions with prediction makers like myself. It’s why Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog took over House of Gucci (not currently slated for a fest) at the #1 slot in my BP rankings. This explains why I’m keeping a close eye on pics like Dune, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, Spencer, and Last Night in Soho. Maybe Spencer won’t win Best Picture, but it could nab Kristen Stewart her first nomination and victory.

Of course, only the screenings themselves will demonstrate the viable contenders. Yet there’s a recent history proving that Venice has become the most important festival of all. Ask the makers of Nomadland and The Shape of Water. Or Emma Stone (La La Land), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), or Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just some.

My coverage of the Venice Film Festival begins tomorrow!