2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Late Night Box Office Prediction

After achieving the highest limited per theater average of 2019, Late Night expands nationwide this weekend and hopes to attract eyeballs outside of major markets. The dramedy first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to sturdy reviews and it stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by Nisha Ganatra, the film casts Emma Thompson as a talk show host who hires Mindy Kaling as her first female writer. Kaling wrote the screenplay. The supporting cast includes Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Reid Scott, and Amy Ryan.

Over this past weekend, Late Night debuted in four theaters and raked in nearly $250,000. As mentioned, that’s strong enough to set the year’s best rollout for a platform release. Even with that designation, the pic could have issues reaching a mainstream audience. Original comedies have struggled recently and that includes those with positive critical reaction (Long Shot being a recent example).

Mid single digits is likely where this ends up as this plays in around 1500 theaters.

Late Night opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million

For my Men in Black: International prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/05/men-in-black-international-box-office-prediction/

For my Shaft prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/06/shaft-box-office-prediction/

For my The Dead Don’t Die prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/the-dead-dont-die-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Biggest Little Farm

After playing the festival circuit last fall and early this year, The Biggest Little Farm cultivated a decent limited release debut this weekend. The documentary follows a married couple who move from Los Angeles to agricultural country in SoCal to pursue farming. John Chester, whose short docs on Oprah Winfrey’s network has earned him Emmys, directs.

The film has garnered praise from critics (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and environmentalists.  As mentioned, Farm first screened last fall in Toronto and has played at multiple fests since including Telluride and Sundance. Neon picked up distribution rights and a theater count expansion is planned for Friday.

If this manages to stay on the radar screen for Academy voters, it stands an outside shot at a Documentary Feature nod. That could be a tall order if competition heats up as the year rolls along, which is probable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Us

The South by Southwest festival is in full swing this weekend and the most eagerly awaited film premiere has occurred. That would be Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to 2017’s Get Out.  The horror thriller is out domestically on March 22.

Early reviews are quite encouraging as it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could this follow in the footsteps of Peele’s debut effort? As you may recall, Get Out premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 to red-hot buzz. It would end up grossing $176 million stateside and garnering four Oscar nods, including Best Picture. Peele won the gold statue for Original Screenplay.

Initial consensus for Us suggests it’s scarier than Get Out, though some reviews don’t quite put it at the level of Peele’s first pic. I’ll say that if Us can resonate with audiences in a manner similar to Out, it could find itself in the Oscar conversation (especially Original Screenplay). And it might be worth keeping an eye on Lupita Nyong’o in lead actress as an outside possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Apollo 11

Focused on the mission that put a man on the moon a half century ago, the documentary Apollo 11 launched in select cities this weekend to solid box office results. The feature is directed by Todd Douglas Miller and it first garnered buzz during its January screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. Critics landed firmly in its camp as it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Apollo took in approximately $1.6 million on 120 screens for a laudable $13,000 per theater average. There are likely to be numerous docs contending for the Academy’s attention. Neon and CNN Films will need to mount a campaign that keeps this in the voters minds for months, but that’s feasible. It’s worth keeping an eye on for a Best Documentary Feature nod.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Farewell

In January, the Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. The drama casts comedian Awkwafina as a Chinese American who travels across the ocean to care for her ailing grandmother. Drawing praise upon its screening, the film currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Farewell sparked a bidding war won by A24. They purchased it for $7 million and it’s scheduled for domestic release on July 12. There’s already a feeling that it could be a significant summer sleeper. Last summer, Awkwafina broke out on the silver screen in a major way with supporting roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Her work here has garnered raves and she could find herself in the mix for a Best Actress nod a little less than a year from now.

Furthermore, Ms. Wang could be considered for her direction and especially for her Original Screenplay. The pic has a large ensemble cast and Tzi Ma is a name to keep an eye on for Supporting Actor.

Bottom line: The Farewell, if it lands with audiences, could be greeted with affection from awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Velvet Buzzsaw

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival just before its Friday debut on Netflix is Dan Gilroy’s latest picture Velvet Buzzsaw. The horror satire reunites the writer and filmmaker with his Nightcrawler lead Jake Gyllenhaal in a film said to mercilessly mock the world of art critics and collectors. Several movie critics seem quite impressed. Others are more mixed. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 82%. Costars include Toni Collette, Gilroy’s spouse and frequent collaborator Rene Russo, and John Malkovich (who must have office space at Netflix with this, Bird Box, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile).

Reviews suggest Buzzsaw could be quite polarizing. It may have a tough time breaking through with Oscar voters nearly a year from now. That said, both of the director’s previous works nabbed one nomination. 2014’s Nightcrawler was recognized for its Original Screenplay. In my view, it should’ve received more nods than that (especially Gyllenhaal). 2017’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. saw Denzel Washington garner a lead actor spot.

If Velvet has enough strong boosters, another screenplay nomination isn’t totally out of the question. Yet there’s a long road ahead to see whether that’s a possible outcome. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…