Oscars 2020: The Case of Anthony Hopkins

The work of Anthony Hopkins in The Father is my third Case Of post for the five Best Actor contenders. If you missed the first two for Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), you can find them here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of Riz Ahmed

Oscars 2020: The Case of Chadwick Boseman

The Case for Anthony Hopkins

Nearly 30 years after winning Best Actor for his iconic role as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, the 83-year-old Hopkins is receiving some of the best reviews of his career for Florian Zeller’s Alzheimer’s drama. This is his sixth nod overall and his second in a row after last year’s supporting turn in The Two Popes. Hopkins is a beloved actor who has been seen a strong candidate in this race ever since it debuted at Sundance back in January 2020.

The Case Against Anthony Hopkins

Simply put: Chadwick Boseman. All major precursors have bestowed their honors on the late performer’s role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 

The Verdict

It’s hard to imagine Boseman not taking the gold at this point, but Hopkins and Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) are looked at the only two potential spoilers. If Hopkins were to win BAFTA tomorrow, perhaps that will feed more speculation. However, Boseman is the heavy favorite.

My Case Of posts will continue with The Father costar Olivia Colman…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Lee Isaac Chung

Now that my Case Of posts for the 8 nominated Best Picture candidates has concluded, it’s time to move to the 25 contenders in the directing and acting competitions. It begins with Best Director and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari.

The Case for Lee Isaac Chung

Since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, Chung’s drama about South Korean immigrants in 1980s rural America has been a critical and audience favorite. The film performed about as well as expected on nomination day with 6 nods. While Nomadland is certainly the frontrunner to take BP, Minari stands as one of the few titles with upset potential. Chung also landed a DGA spot which is critical for a win with the Academy.

The Case Against Lee Isaac Chung

Even if Nomadland doesn’t win the biggest prize of all, its maker Chloe Zhao seems destined for Best Director. While Minari performed well with Academy, its miss in Editing casts doubt on a BP victory. As for Chung himself, his lack of recognition at the Golden Globes seems significant. You have to go all the way back to Roman Polanski in 2002 for The Pianist to find an Oscar winning filmmaker who wasn’t nominated at the Globes.

The Verdict

In a trend you will see with other director nominees not named Chloe Zhao, it’s hard to envision Chung or the others overcoming her momentum.

My Case Of posts will continue in the field of Best Actress with Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Promising Young Woman

My Case Of posts covering the nominees for Best Picture continues with Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut Promising Young Woman. This is my sixth write-up for the 8 nominated films. If you missed any of the previous entries, you may find them here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of The Father

Oscars 2020: The Case of Judas and the Black Messiah

Oscars 2020: The Case of Mank

Oscars 2020: The Case of Minari

Oscars 2020: The Case of Nomadland

The Case for Promising Young Woman

Like The Father and Minari, this jet black revenge dramedy premiered over a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival where it earned rave reviews. It landed five Oscar nods and that includes its director, Carey Mulligan in Actress (where she’s considered a soft frontrunner), Original Screenplay, and Film Editing. The screenplay and editing nods are precisely the nominations a picture needs to be considered a threat to win it all. Furthermore, Fennell’s script just took the Writers Guild of America honor. Promising Young Woman has done what it needs to do to establish itself a genuine threat to the favored Nomadland.

The Case Against Promising Young Woman

While it’s come on strong lately, Nomadland still enjoys its status as the movie to beat this season. If the PGA goes for an upset this week and picks this (or Minari or anything else for that matter), look for that narrative to shift. As of today, however, a Promising victory would be a pretty major upset.

The Verdict

Promising Young Woman could be assisted by its movie of the moment feel. That said, victories in Actress and Original Screenplay are more likely than the grand prize.

My Case Of posts will continue with Sound of Metal…

Oscars 2020: The Case of The Father

Now that Oscar nominations are out, this evening begins my (gulp) 33 part series outlining the cases for and against the nominees in Best Picture, Director, and the four acting races. I will start with write-ups on the 8 movies recognized and then move to the directing and acting categories. We begin with Florian Zeller’s The Father:

The Case For The Father

The Alzheimer’s drama has been on the awards radar for over a year when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. Sitting at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s actually got the best rating of the pictures in contention. It’s fair to say The Father over performed on nomination morning with 6 mentions, including its two stars Anthony Hopkins (previous winner for The Silence of the Lambs) and Olivia Colman (Best Actress recipient two years back for The Favourite) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Golden Globes also were very kind with their nods for it.

The Case Against The Father

While it came on strong towards the end with voters, its omission in Best Director for Zeller is a big miss. While not unheard of, it’s very rare for a feature to take the big prize without its filmmaker making it in. The Globes put it in their mix, but it resulted in no victories.

The Verdict

Of the 8 BP hopefuls, I suspect The Father appears most likely to come up completely empty-handed on April 25th.

My Case of posts will continue with Judas and the Black Messiah…

Oscar Watch: Mass

One of the most buzzed about features that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival is Fran Kranz’s Mass, which tackles the issue of gun violence by placing the parents of a slain child with the parents of the shooter. That quartet of actors is made up of Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, and Reed Birney. Writer/director Kranz, who you may know from his role in The Cabin in the Woods, makes his debut behind the camera.

Critics have indicated that it’s an impressive one. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 92% with particular praise going to the performers. Mass is seeking distribution and it should have no trouble finding it through a streamer or studio. An awards push is likely and it will be interesting to follow what category placements the actors are put into.

It’s also an open question as to whether this tricky subject matter will translate to possible nominations. Some reviews have pointed out that this is a tough watch, but a worthy one.

Bottom line: Mass, with the right handling, could be a picture we’re discussing a year from now in the 2021 awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Land

She’s had high profile career for over 30 years now with The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, and Wonder Woman to name just three. Robin Wright has also won a Golden Globe for her streaming work on House of Cards, but she’s yet to get on the Academy’s radar. Her directorial debut Land just played at the Sundance Film Festival. Wright also stars as someone looking for the meaning of life in the wilderness (shades of Wild with Reese Witherspoon). Costars include Demian Bichir and Kim Dickens.

Critical reaction is of the mixed variety with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 63%. Land is eligible for the 2020 Oscar season since the Academy expanded the calendar. The pic lands in theaters on February 12th. However, any talk of this being a late entry making waves is pretty much finished with the so-so reviews.

Bottom line: don’t make space for Land in your predictions. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Passing

Rebecca Hall is known for her many performances including Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town, Iron Man 3, and The Gift, among others. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, she’s made her directorial debut with Passing. Based on a 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, the drama pairs Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as mixed race friends navigating the tensions of the times. Costars include Andre Holland, Alexander Skarsgard, and Bill Camp.

Early critical reaction includes some raves with particular attention to the work of its leads. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 79%. Based on the buzz, there’s little question that Passing will score a streaming or studio pickup in short order. It’s also likely that whoever distributes this will mount an awards campaign.

What that will look like is in question. Some reviews have singled out Negga’s performance, who nabbed a Best Actress nomination in 2016 for Loving. It is feasible that both Thompson and Negga could both be campaigned for in the lead race, but a shift to Negga in Supporting Actress could increase the chance for exposure.

The current reviews indicate this could be a long shot for Best Picture or Director consideration. However, a well constructed push by its distributor may change that dynamic. Bottom line: Passing is worth keeping an eye on in 2021 and especially with Negga. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: CODA

It’s taken all of 24 hours for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival to produce a potential awards contender for the next season (as we’re in the midst of the current one). This should be no surprise as the annual Utah event typically produces such hopefuls. Last year, the fest gave us a trio of pics that could end up in the 2020 Best Picture lineup (The Father, Minari, Promising Young Woman).

CODA comes from writer/director Sian Heder and it’s a remake of the 2014 French dramedy La Famille Belier. 18-year-old Emilia Jones stars as the only hearing member of her deaf family that runs a fishing business. Costars include Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, and Eugenio Derbez. The opening night selection of Sundance suggests this is a major crowd pleaser that should have no trouble getting snatched up by a studio or streamer (and probably at a nice price). The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% based on 20 reviews.

When it comes to Sundance, it always feels too early that discern whether praise will result in Oscar attention over a year later. That said, early signs here are encouraging and especially for Jones. Critics have deemed this a star making performance and she’s certainly worth keeping an eye on as the long next awards guesstimating period officially kicks off. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

***Update (01/30/21): Apple has acquired CODA for a record setting $25 million. This is the first genuine 2021 hopeful, folks!

Oscar Watch: Judas and the Black Messiah

I continue with my Oscar Watch posts for pictures sending screeners late in the season and we arrive at one with real potential – Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah. The Warner Bros production hits theaters and HBO Max simultaneously on February 12. It stars Lakeith Stanfield as an undercover FBI informant tasked to take down Black Panther head Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

While the review embargo is still intact, social media reactions are available today. They point to a feeling many had when the first trailer debuted months ago in that Judas could nab several nominations come Oscar morning. In particular, Kaluuya’s performance (being campaigned for in Supporting Actor) is being highly praised. This would be his second nomination behind his lead work in 2017’s Get Out. His inclusion in the supporting field appears not only likely, but he could win. I could foresee a narrative in which Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7) and Kaluuya vie for the prize and this storyline could play out until April.

Stanfield is in the Best Actor mix, but his final five status is much more questionable. Like Best Actress in 2020, lead actor may already have four performances that are “in”. That would be Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), and Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods). The fifth slot could be a toss-up between several performers including Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night in Miami), Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round), Gary Oldman (Mank), and Steven Yeun (Minari). Today’s buzz suggests adding Stanfield to that list is warranted.

Same goes for Supporting Actress with Dominique Fishback as several posts are highlighting her work. This year’s lineup appears in flux and there’s room for last minute surprises in that particular field. She will be one to keep an eye on.

As for Best Picture, Judas has been kept out of my predicted nine until word of mouth was available. When my estimates are updated on Thursday, it could well make its initial appearance. King’s direction is also on the table for final five status. Several down the line races are possible including Cinematography (also being mentioned a lot), Editing, Production Design, and Original Song (with a composition by H.E.R.). Warner Bros seems to know it has a real hopeful on its hands as this has been added to the Sundance schedule later this month.

Bottom line: the social media reaction indicates critics aren’t betrayed by Judas and it has officially announced its way into Academy consideration. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Black Bear

Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear premiered long, long ago in something called January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival and became available for streaming this weekend. The drama casts Aubrey Plaza as a filmmaker looking for inspiration in dangerous places and many critics are calling it her finest performance to date. Costars include Sarah Gadon and Christopher Abbott.

The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a sturdy 87%. Plaza is having a nice year as reviewers also praised her supporting work in the recent holiday rom com Happiest Season. That said, I have discussed how competitive Best Actress is numerous times here. Black Bear probably isn’t high profile enough to earn its star her first Oscar nod, but she’s certainly earning her critical bonafides as of late. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…