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…

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

Matt Damon is a Midwestern oil worker who treks to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) on trial for murder in the crime drama Stillwater, out July 30th. Tom McCarthy (whose 2015 journalistic expose Spotlight) won Best Picture directs.

The pic recently debuted at the Cannes Film Festival to mostly positive notices. It stands at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some reviews call it one of Damon’s finest performances and there’s even a chance he could garner awards buzz.

As far as box office prospects, I’m skeptical. I’m surprised Focus Features is putting this out in the heat of summer since this looks like more of a fall player. The counterargument could be that adults tired of sequels, sci-fi spectacles, family fare, and reboots will turn up. And certainly Damon’s star power helps.

That said, I suspect the verdict for Stillwater is a subpar start in the mid single digits.

Stillwater opening weekend prediction: $5.2 million

For my Jungle Cruise prediction, click here:

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

For my The Green Knight prediction, click here:

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Stillwater

Matt Damon is a three-time nominee for his acting with leading nods for 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2015’s The Martian and his supporting turn in 2009’s Invictus. He does have himself a gold statue for his cowriting of Hunting. The Cannes Film Festival has debuted his latest effort Stillwater where the Bourne star plays an Oklahoma dad transported to France when his daughter (Abigail Breslin, a nominee 15 years ago as Little Miss Sunshine) is accused of murder. So for those wondering – no, this is not about the fictional band from Almost Famous.

This marks the latest directorial effort from Tom McCarthy, whose 2015 journalistic expose Spotlight won Best Picture. Fun fact: McCarthy has to have one of the most unexpected follow-ups to a Best Pic recipient with the Disney Plus kiddie comedy Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. 

Stillwater looks like more of an awards contender. However, Failure‘s 84% Rotten Tomatoes score currently outshines the 80% held by Damon’s French excursion. That said, early critical reaction is calling this one of the actor’s best performances.

Will that be enough to get Damon to the final five? I’m skeptical. Competition will likely be steep. This reminds me a bit of The Way Back from a year ago. It gave his Hunting writing partner Ben Affleck some of the strongest notices of his filmography and garnered him some buzz. Yet he ended up not making the cut.

Bottom line: Stillwater‘s only chance at Academy recognition seems to be with Damon, but he could face an uphill climb. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Producers Roll With Nomadland

In the previous decade, the winner of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) best motion picture ended up matching with the eventual Oscar recipient 70% of the time. So it’s no wonder that all eyes of prognosticators were on tonight’s ceremony. Would the PGA do anything to interrupt the narrative that Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a sturdy favorite to take the Academy’s gold?

The answer? No. Nomadland received yet another honor from the PGA to go with its Golden Globe for Best Drama, Critics Choice Award, and numerous regional group best pic designations. Had Minari or Promising Young Woman or The Trial of the Chicago 7 won, it might have created more suspense for the Oscar ceremony happening on April 25th. Yet the PGA victory is another arrow in the quiver for Zhao’s achievement.

If you’re another movie hoping to best Nomadland, the PGA and the Academy have differed three times in the last five years. In 2015, the Guild picked The Big Short over Spotlight. In 2016, it was La La Land instead of Moonlight. Last year – 1917 over Parasite. 

As for other races, Disney/Pixar’s Soul, as expected, took animated feature and it remains a major frontrunner at the big show. The documentary category went to My Octopus Teacher and that certainly puts it in serious contention in one month.

Bottom line: Nomadland is rolling and nothing may be able to stop it.

The Gothams Have a Cow

2020’s first precursor to the big show arrived today with the Gotham Awards nominations. The group which honoring independent pictures with budgets of $35 million and under made a little history too. All five contenders for Best Feature are made by female directors: Kitty’s Green The Assistant, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, and Relic from Natalie Erika James.

The tight controls on eligibility (and some major studios didn’t submit their Oscar hopefuls) makes it tricky to prognosticate how these nods compare to what the Academy may do. This has always been the case. That said, in the previous decade, at least one Gotham Feature nominee almost always gets a Best Picture nod. In fact, from 2014 to 2016, the Feature winners (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) matched the Oscar winner. Last year, Marriage Story was the sole nominee at Gotham to make the Academy’s cut. In 2018, there were none. Three years ago, both Call Me by Your Name and Get Out got Oscar love.

First Cow led with the most nods and had itself a very good morning. However, its Oscar prospects are iffy while Nomadland looks to be the nominee that will almost certainly get recognition from the Academy (it could even win). The other three nominees are likely non-factors. We did not see another major picture from a female director with One Night in Miami make the final five, though Kingsley Ben-Adir did score a Breakthrough Performance nomination. Also left off: Minari, which seems to be rising in the Oscar chatter.

In the acting races, there were some high profile snubs particularly with Best Actress. Since this category’s inception in 2013, only one winner has matched up with Academy’s selection (Julianne Moore in Still Alice in 2014). In the previous year, none of the five women got Oscar recognition. In every other year, there’s been at least one.

The Gotham Actress hopefuls this year are Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth), Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Carrie Coon (The Nest), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari). Only McDormand seems destined for the Oscars in lead actress while Youn could show up in Supporting Actress. What is a bit surprising is the number of Gotham eligible performers who appear to be likely Oscar contenders who missed out here. That list includes Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), and Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit). I wouldn’t read too much into it, but it’s worthy of mention.

In Best Actor, Chadwick Boseman picked up his first posthumous mention for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is joined by Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Jude Law (The Nest), John Magaro (First Cow), and Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things). Some eligible actors with Oscar hopes that missed out include Winston Duke (Nine Days) and Steven Yeun (Minari). The same could be said for Bill Murray in On the Rocks, though he would compete in supporting with the Academy.

Bottom line: while the Gothams aren’t a reliable barometer for what happens months from now, it does give a fun glimpse at what could follow. Today’s actions unsurprisingly solidify Nomadland and could give a slight boost to Cow. My weekly Oscar predictions will be updated tomorrow so stay tuned!

Toronto: The People Choose Nomadland

While it was a slimmed down version of it, The Toronto Film Festival just concluded their proceedings. A similar storyline from up north follows activity from the Venice Film Festival as the People Choice’s Award has been bestowed to Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. This follows the Frances McDormand vehicle taking the Golden Lion in Italy.

There is a long history of People’s Choice recipients getting Oscar attention, especially in recent years. 11 of the past 12 winners went onto nab a Best Picture nomination. Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, and Green Book ended up as the victors.

The runner-up for the award is Regina King’s One Night in Miami. There’s also many examples of second or third place pictures becoming Academy players. Recently, that includes last year’s winner Parasite as well as Argo and Spotlight. Third place finisher, the Canadian drama Beans, is not anticipated to be an Oscar contender.

Back to Nomadland. This is the first movie to ever take the Golden Lion and People’s Choice Award. It solidifies an already strong hopeful for the big prize next April. Obviously, there’s much to be seen like David Fincher’s Mank and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 to name just two. Yet there’s no question that Nomadland is already in the upper echelon of contenders. Additionally, Miami continued to prove that it could be among the Picture nominees.

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Supporting Actress

Wrapping up my look back at the 110 Oscar nominees and 20 winners that have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man in 2008 and continuing through its next two releases (Black Widow and The Eternals), we arrive at Best Supporting Actress. If you missed my posts for the lead races and Supporting Actor, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/12/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/14/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/16/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-supporting-actor/

Supporting Actress has the least number of nominees (19), but equals the most victories with six (tying Best Actor). We start with those six gold recipients:

Tilda Swinton, who appeared in Doctor Strange, won in 2007 for Michael Clayton

Marisa Tomei, Aunt May in the Spider-Man pics, was a surprise victor in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny

Cate Blanchett, the villainess in Thor: Ragnarok, in 2004 for The Aviator

Lupita Nyong’o, of Black Panther, for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Rachel Weisz, who’s in the forthcoming Black Widow, for 2005’s The Constant Gardner

Angelina Jolie, who will appear in The Eternals, in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted

As for the 13 other nominees:

Scarlett Johansson, aka Black Widow, for last year’s Jojo Rabbit

Natalie Portman, Thor’s flame, for 2004’s Closer

Glenn Close, who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, is a three-time nominee in this category for 1982’s The World According to Garp, 1983’s The Big Chill, and 1984’s The Natural

Rachel McAdams, also of Doctor Strange, for 2015’s Spotlight

Marisa Tomei was nominated twice more after her Vinny win for 2001’s In the Bedroom and 2008’s The Wrestler

Cate Blanchett received two additional nods for 2006’s Notes on a Scandal and 2007’s I’m Not There

Annette Bening, from Captain Marvel, for 1990’s The Grifters

Florence Pugh, costar of the upcoming Black Widow, for last year’s Little Women

Rachel Weisz received another nod for 2018’s The Favourite 

And that concludes my look back on the MCU and its Oscar pedigree. Hope you enjoyed!

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Supporting Actor

Continuing with my series showcasing the voluminous amount of Oscar nominees and winners that have appeared in the 25 Marvel Cinematic Universe pictures (including the upcoming Black Widow and The Eternals), we arrive at Best Supporting Actor.

If you missed my previous posts covering the lead performers in Actor and Actress, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/12/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/04/14/a-marvel-cinematic-oscar-history-best-actress/

Supporting Actor, of the four acting categories, contains the most nominees at 36. However, there are only 4 wins represented. As a reminder, the MCU has given us 110 total nominees and 20 golden recipients.

Let’s start with the four gentlemen who made a trip to the podium:

Sam Rockwell, who costarred in Iron Man 2, took gold in 2017 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri 

Tommy Lee Jones, who appeared in Captain America: First Avenger, emerged victorious in 1993 for The Fugitive

Benicio del Toro, who memorably appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, won in 2000 for Traffic

J.K. Simmons, who popped up in Spider-Man: Far From Home reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson from the original Spidey trilogy, won in 2014 for Whiplash

And now the 29 additional performers who received nods:

Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey Jr., received a nomination in 2008 for Tropic Thunder

Jeff Bridges, the Iron Man villain, is a four-time nominee for 1971’s The Last Picture Show, 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, 2000’s The Contender, and Hell or High Water in 2016

Samuel L. Jackson, who has played Nick Fury in numerous MCU entries, got a nod in 1994 for Pulp Fiction

Edward Norton, who was the Hulk before Mark Ruffalo, is a two-time nominee for 1996’s Primal Fear and 2014’s Birdman

Tim Roth, bad guy in Norton’s The Incredible Hulk, for 1995’s Rob Roy

William Hurt, whose MCU appearances also began in The Incredible Hulk, for 2005’s A History of Violence

Sam Rockwell was nominated a year after his Billboards win in 2018 for Vice

Anthony Hopkins, Thor’s dad, for 1997’s Amistad and last year’s The Two Popes

Stanley Tucci, also of Captain America: First Avenger, in 2010 for The Lovely Bones

Mark Ruffalo is a three-time nominee: 2010’s The Kids Are All Right, 2014’s Foxcatcher, and in 2015 for Spotlight

Jeremy Renner, aka Hawkeye, in 2010’s The Town

Ben Kingsley, from Iron Man 3, is a two-time mention for 1991’s Bugsy and 2001’s Sexy Beast

Benicio del Toro also received a nomination for 2003’s 21 Grams

Bradley Cooper, Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, for 2013’s American Hustle

Djimon Hounsou, who first appeared in Guardians, for both 2003’s In America and 2006’s Blood Diamond

John C. Reilly, another Guardians performer, for 2002’s Chicago

Josh Brolin, aka Thanos, for 2008’s Milk

Sylvester Stallone, who appeared in the Guardians sequel, for 2015’s Creed

Matt Damon, who had a cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, for Invictus in 2009

Jude Law, from Captain Marvel, received a nomination 20 years earlier for The Talented Mr. Ripley

Jake Gyllenhaal, villain for Spider-Man: Far From Home, for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain

And that does it for now, folks! I’ll have Supporting Actress up in short order…

 

 

The Film Critics Catch the Parasite

The National Society of Film Critics (consisting of film reviewers in New York and Los Angeles) bestowed their honors on the day before the Golden Globes. They clearly loved Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite as it won Best Film, Director, and Screenplay. This comes one year after the NSFC surprised everyone by picking Chloe Zhao’s The Rider for their top prize. It was never considered a real contender at the Oscars. That is decidedly not the case with Parasite. Worth noting is that only two winners here over the decade (Spotlight, Moonlight) ended up taking Best Picture from the Academy.

In the acting races, there was only one surprise with Mary Kay Place winning Best Actress for Diane. I currently have her ranked #10 on my Academy chart. However, the last 7 winners here went on to nab Oscar nods. She may creep up a bit when I do my Oscar estimates on Monday, but it’s highly doubtful she’ll place in the top 5.

As for the ultra competitive Best Actor derby, Antonio Banderas took it for Pain and Glory. Along with anyone not named Adam Driver or Joaquin Phoenix, he’s among the eight thespians vying for Academy spots 3-5.

The supporting races went to two front runners. Brad Pitt got Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood while Laura Dern won in Supporting Actress for both Marriage Story and Little Women. She’s widely considered a threat to win the Oscar in the former.

Bottom line: it was a very good day for Parasite while Mary Kay Place’s victory could boost her visibility a bit.

L.A. Digs Parasite

You might think the Los Angeles Film Critics Association would bestow some love to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in a neighborly gesture. However, you would be incorrect as this West Coast branch went with a decidedly foreign flavor for several of today’s selections.

The Association clearly were huge fans of Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, which took home Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor (Song Kang-Ho). The L.A. Critics also name runners up. In each of these races, it was The Irishman, its maker Martin Scorsese, and Joe Pesci placing second.

In Best Actor, Antonio Banderas picked up another precursor for Best Actor with Adam Driver (Marriage Story) coming in behind.

There was an outside the box pick for Actress with Mary Kay Place winning for Diane and Lupita Nyong’o in Us as runner-up. This branch isn’t shy about naming unexpected recipients for lead female performers. Two recent examples are Kim Hye-Ja for 2010’s Mother and Yoon Jeong-hee for 2011’s Poetry.

Jennifer Lopez scored a victory here in Supporting Actress for Hustlers, followed by Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell. 

Finally, in Screenplay (they don’t differentiate between adapted and original), it was Noah Baumbach’s script for Marriage Story taking honors over Parasite. 

This was clearly a big day for Parasite in Southern California and my precursor posts will continue tomorrow with the Golden Globe announcements and updated Oscar predictions!