Now that the Oscars honoring the films of 2019 have aired, I am catching up on some features that screened at the Sundance Film Festival that could attract the attention of 2020 voters. The documentary Crip Camp has a connection with what happened at the Academy Awards on Sunday evening.
In the Best Documentary Feature race, American Factory rode its buzz all the way from Sundance to the Oscar stage. It came from the Netflix owned production company Higher Ground, which includes former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama as its founders. The film achieved front runner status in the fall and that never really let up.
Crip Camp, from filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, has the same credentials. The doc tells the story of Camp Jened, credited with ushering in the disability rights movement in the 1970s. Reviews are strong with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%. With its expected Netflix rollout in the near future, Camp certainly has the possibility of following in the footsteps of Factory for an awards run. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A remake of the acclaimed 2014 Swedish comedic drama Force Majeure, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell headline Downhill this weekend. From directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the pic debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reaction. Costars include Miranda Otto, Zoe Chao, and Zach Woods.
Downhill is the first official release from the newly coined Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight), which is now owned by Disney. I’m not sure this release gets the moniker off to a solid start. With just 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is slated to roll out on a smallish 1500 screens over the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend.
Despite its well-known two leads, the muted buzz and lack of theaters has me thinking double digits is out of reach or even $5 million.
Downhill opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
Continuing with my Case of posts for the performers nominated in the four acting races, we arrive at choice #2 for Supporting Actor – Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes. Let’s break it down!
The Case for Anthony Hopkins
A five-time nominee, the legendary thespian’s only win came with his first nod as the iconic and terrifying Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. His performance here as Pope Benedict alongside the also nominated Jonathan Pryce’s Pope Francis was seen a potent one two showcase. It also might not hurt that his role as a man with dementia in The Father (currently screening at the Sundance Film Festival) is already garnering awards chatter.
The Case Against Anthony Hopkins
The strong likelihood is that he’ll lose to his Legends of the Fall and Meet Joe Black costar Brad Pitt from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While Pryce and Hopkins both got mentions, their film failed to make the Best Picture cut.
The fifth time is very unlikely to be the second charm for Sir Anthony.
My Case of posts will continue with Laura Dern in Marriage Story!
French playwright Florian Zeller saw his play Le Pere (translation: The Father) debut onstage in 2012 to massive critical acclaim. Now Zeller has directed a version of it for the silver screen and it’s debuted at Sundance. The Father casts Anthony Hopkins as a man suffering from dementia who moves in with his daughter (Olivia Colman).
Sony Pictures Classics has already nabbed distribution rights and buzz suggests the performance of Hopkins is magnificent. Next weekend, Sir Anthony is up for Supporting Actor for playing a Holy Father in The Two Popes and it marks his fifth nomination. Yes, it’s early in the year but critical reaction opens up the very real possibility that The Father could mark his sixth. Of his current quintet of Academy recognition, he’s won once and that was his first recognition for his iconic Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. He’s not expected to pick up the trophy on February 9th for Popes.
Colman could find herself in the mix as well and it would come two years after she scored a surprise Best Actress victory for The Favourite. It’s not clear at this juncture whether Sony would campaign for her in lead or supporting.
Many Sundance selections garner a bit of fire that is doused as the season rolls along. I have a hunch that may not be the case here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In 2017, the period drama Mudbound likely just missed the cut for Best Picture consideration at the Oscars. The critically hailed Netflix production from director Dee Rees arrived at a time where Academy voters were probably still leery of the streaming service garnering significant nods. Mary J. Blige did manage a nomination for Supporting Actress.
Mudbound started its awards buzz at the Sundance Film Festival three years ago. Rees’s follow-up is the political thriller The Last Thing He Wanted and it’s also scheduled for a Netflix bow in February. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Edi Gathegi, Mel Rodriguez, Toby Jones, and Willem Dafoe in this adaptation from a Joan Didion novel.
The acclaim that greeted Rees and her picture three years ago has not repeated itself in 2020. The Last Thing currently sits at 0% (oof) on Rotten Tomatoes with reviews declaring it a serious misfire from a gifted filmmaker. The festival circuit frequently pushes along movies for consideration. It can also have the opposite effect of shutting those prospects down completely. And that’s where this seems bound. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Ahead of its April 17th stateside debut, the revenge thriller Promising Young Woman has screened at Sundance. The pic marks the directorial debut of Emerald Fennell and casts Carey Mulligan in the title role alongside a supporting cast including Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam Brody, Alfred Molina, Connie Britton, and Laverne Cox.
Early reviews are encouraging with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%. Some critical reaction is effusive enough to make one wonder if Mulligan could nab her second Oscar nod after 2009’s An Education.
In order for that, Focus Features will need to launch an aggressive campaign to keep voters focused on her work in the months that follow. The Sundance buzz, at least, is somewhat promising. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In 2012, one of the big (if not the biggest) Oscar shocker was the emergence of Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild as a contender. Shot for under $2 million, the fantasy drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a glowing audience response and critical accolades. The film would take the Grand Jury prize in Utah. It played through the festival season and maintained buzz throughout the year. The result? Four major nominations from the Academy: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Quvenzhane Wallis), and Adapted Screenplay.
Eight years later, Zeitlin finally has his follow-up with Wendy and it has debuted at Sundance too. A reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan tale, it is set for release by Searchlight Pictures on February 28th. With a cast of unknowns, Wendy is one of the more anticipated titles at Sundance due to Zeitlin’s previous credential.
The reaction has been mixed and definitely more so than the mostly fantastic Beasts reception. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 55%, despite some critics singing its praises. While it might have ardent admirers, I don’t see lightning twice for its director with Zeitlin’s sophomore effort. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…