Oscar Watch: Herself

Phyllida Lloyd, a veteran theater director, burst onto the film scene just over a decade ago with the giant hit Mamma Mia! In 2011, she helmed Meryl Streep to an Oscar win as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. After a long hiatus in which she returned to the stage, Lloyd is back and at Sundance with the domestic violence drama Herself.

The pic has no stars to speak of with a cast led by Clare Dunn. Variety‘s review suggests it’s a breakout at the Utah festival while Hollywood Reporter is not as effusive. Some buzz suggests this could be an awards player with the right kind of campaign. This is also the type of smallish feature that could disappear from the radar screen altogether. Sundance has at least opened up the possibility that it might not be.

Clare Dunne and Molly McCann appear in Herself by Phyllida Lloyd, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Oscar Watch: Falling

As the Oscars honoring the best of 2019 are set to air in two weeks, today brings the first of many Oscar Watch posts for 2020. Does that seem impossibly early? Not when the Sundance Film Festival is in full effect this weekend in Utah. For decades, the fest has served as a launching pad for Oscar contenders such as Little Miss Sunshine, Precious, Boyhood, Whiplash, Manchester by the Sea and Get Out, to name a few. It is worth noting that last year’s selections (with the exception of some documentaries) failed to get Academy attention. This included such high profile titles as The Farewell, Luce, and The Report. 

We begin with Falling, a family drama that marks the directorial debut of Viggo Mortensen (who also cowrote the screenplay). The actor has been nominated for three acting Oscars in the past for Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic (which also debuted at Sundance), and Green Book. Early reviews suggest he’s got a winner on his hands. With the right distribution and campaign, Mortensen could find himself in the awards mix again.

Interestingly, critical reaction seems more focused on Mortensen’s costar Lance Henriksen. The 80-year-old character actor has appeared in hundreds of films. Some of those notables include The Terminator and Aliens. Perhaps a spirited campaign could materialize to nab Henriksen a Best Actor nomination.

Bottom line: it’s too early to know for sure, but Falling looks like a potential player a year for now with Henriksen’s work in particular. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Lance Henriksen and Viggo Mortensen appear in Falling by Viggo Mortensen, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling.nnAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

 

Oscar Watch: Clemency

35 years ago, Alfre Woodard received a Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for Cross Creek. She hasn’t nabbed another one since, despite heralded roles in pictures such as Passion Fish and Down in the Delta. When it comes to her television work, it’s an entirely different story as she’s had 18 Emmy nominations and won four.

Clemency, in which Woodard plays a prison warden, debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival and the actress is earning some of the best reviews of her career. The film itself holds an impressive 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating prior to its late December release (Neon picked up distribution rights).

The likelihood is that any Oscar attention will center solely on its star. Aldis Hodge is also garnering critical kudos, but the Supporting Actor category is jam packed already. In my latest Academy forecast, I have Woodard listed in sixth. I’ve found myself indecisive every week about her inclusion.

Bottom line: it’s no slam dunk, but Clemency could well provide this acclaimed actress a second trip to the red carpet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Honey Boy

There was a time and it wasn’t long ago when Shia LaBeouf’s career appeared to be a Hollywood cautionary tale. Just about a decade ago, he was the industry’s hot new leading man with starring roles in the Transformers franchise, Disturbia, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, his bizarre personal antics and a high profile 2017 arrest looked to derail his promising standing.

2019 has proved to be a resurgent period. There’s his acclaimed turn in the indie hit The Peanut Butter Falcon. And early this year, Honey Boy was unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival and screenings have continued in Toronto.

LaBeouf wrote the screenplay and it serves as an autobiographical look at his childhood. He also costars and he gave himself a part in which he plays his own father. Other actors include Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Maika Moore, and Natasha Lyonne. Like Falcon, the film has garnered critical praise to the tune of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Academy voters love a solid comeback story. Could they reward LaBeouf with a supporting actor or original screenplay nod? I generally think Honey Boy might be a tad too low profile for inclusion and Original Screenplay in particular seems awfully crowded. Yet when it comes to how things were looking just two years ago, awards chatter is a positive sign of where Shia’s career is at. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Don’t Let Go Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions hopes to have a sleeper hit on their hands over Labor Day weekend with Don’t Let Go. The supernatural thriller finds David Oyelowo attempting to retroactively prevent the death of loved ones. Jacob Aaron Estes directs with a supporting cast including Storm Reid, Bryon Mann, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina, and Brian Tyree Henry.

The pic premiered eight months ago at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reaction. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is at 47%. That’s not a great number to generate buzz and Go appears to be lacking it. While it’s a little risky to underestimate Blumhouse, the Labor Day release date isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

I’ll say this doesn’t manage to achieve double digits over the four day holiday weekend. Mid single digits is possibly where this goes.

Don’t Let Go opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Oscar Watch: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Perhaps this is more of a Golden Globes Watch when it comes to the new comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon. The pic features Jillian Bell as a hard partying single lady whose life is altered when she competes for the NYC Marathon. It screened at the Sundance Film Festival back in January to solid buzz. The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 93% ahead of its release this weekend.

Bell has been a scene stealer on TV’s “Workaholics” and features such as 22 Jump Street. This appears to be her breakout starring role and some reviews have suggested it could be a minor hit if Amazon handles marketing correctly. While this holds little chance at Oscar recognition, it will be interesting to see if the studio mounts a campaign for Bell for Best Actress in Musical/Comedy at the Globes. She could follow in the footsteps of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck for a similar part that got nominated. That said, Brittany is definitely lower profile. My Oscar (or GG) Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Luce

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, racial drama Luce has been doing decent limited release business over the past couple weeks. The film centers around a high school athletic prodigy (Kelvin Harrison Jr., in a performance drawing raves) and his adoptive parents played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Octavia Spencer costars.

Luce drew its share of admirers on the festival circuit and it currently holds a 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nigerian filmmaker Julius Onah directs with a screenplay he co-wrote along with JC Lee. It’s probably Original Screenplay where this holds a slight chance at being recognized. The likely scenario is this gets lost in the shuffle behind higher profile releases. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…