Oscar Watch: Palm Springs

Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/10/palm-springs-movie-review/

The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.

So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.

I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Midyear 2020 Report

It might be hard to fathom, but we are at the midpoint of this experience we call 2020. As COVID-19 and social issues dominate the landscape, the cinematic world has necessarily taken a backseat to the times. The Academy recently announced that the Oscars will be delayed until April 2021 and that movies premiering in January and February of that year will be eligible for consideration. This is in addition to previous notice that streaming pictures that forgo a theatrical release will also be able to nab nominations at that ceremony.

Since theaters have essentially been shuttered since March and with several festivals (the normal breeding grounds for awards hopefuls) either canceled or significantly modified, a midyear report on Oscar contenders is, to put it mildly, challenging.

Yet… here goes! As awards followers already know, the bulk of serious contenders aren’t  typically released until fall anyway. In fact, the earliest release of the nine Best Picture nominees last year was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came out in late July. The remaining 8 had autumn and winter dates.

The Sundance Film Festival from January did give us some potential contenders. Florian Zeller’s The Father was acclaimed and it could score nods for previous winners Anthony Hopkins in lead actor and Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress. The biographical tale of feminist icon Gloria Steinem finds several actresses playing her at different ages. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander (they also both have gold statues) are among them and could be potential nominees. Previous nominee Carey Mulligan garnered solid reviews for Promising Young Woman. 

And there’s Minari. The South Korean family drama starring Steven Yeun won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. I wouldn’t sleep on its chances with the right marketing push from its studio A24. That same studio has the 19th century set indie First Cow, which also has its ardent admirers. They would need to make a major push in order for Oscar to notice it.

For movies that have actually come out, the Jane Austen inspired Emma saw positive notices for lead Anya-Taylor Joy. Ben Affleck got some of the best reviews of his career with the basketball drama The Way Back. Pete Davidson’s starring debut in The King of Staten Island drew mostly praise. And Elisabeth Moss starred in the hit The Invisible Man and it’s a possibility she could be recognized even though acting nominations in horror flicks are rare. Neither Toni Collette (Hereditary) in 2018 or Lupita Nyong’o (Us) last year could pull it off. Moss could also be recognized for Shirley, a drama that debuted at Sundance and is already available via streaming.

Then there’s Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee. The director saw his last picture, BlacKkKlansman, receive numerous nominations and win Adapted Screenplay. I would posit that Bloods stands the best chance at multiple nods including possibly Picture and Director. Delroy Lindo (though it’s not clear whether he’d be campaigned for in lead or supporting) seems highly likely to be recognized. And if he’s campaigned for in Best Actor (which he probably should be), it could open the door for Clarke Peters or Jonathan Majors to make the cut in supporting.

In other races – Pixar’s Onward could compete in Animated Feature, though Disney could save their muscle for the upcoming Soul. Look for Emma to nab a Costume Design nod.

And we shall leave it there for now, folks! As readers of the blog know, expect more Oscar Watch posts to come your way as titles screen. Typically it’s late August when I start my weekly predictions and hopefully that’s a tradition that can be kept in this crazy thing we call 2020…

Oscar Watch: Crip Camp

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…

Downhill Box Office Prediction

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)

For my Sonic the Hedgehog prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/06/sonic-the-hedgehog-box-office-prediction/

For my Fantasy Island prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/06/fantasy-island-box-office-prediction/

For my The Photograph prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/08/the-photograph-box-office-prediction/

Oscars 2019: The Case of Anthony Hopkins

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 Verdict

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!

Oscar Watch: The Father

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…

Oscar Watch: The Last Thing He Wanted

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…

Oscar Watch: Promising Young Woman

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…

Oscar Watch: Wendy

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…

Oscar Watch: The Glorias

The Glorias is one of the more closely watched titles currently playing at the Sundance Film Festival. This is a biopic of feminist activist Gloria Steinem with four actresses, including Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander, portraying her at various stages of life. In that sense, it resembles 2007’s I’m Not There. That unconventional Bob Dylan tale earned Cate Blanchett a nomination. The pic comes from famed theater director Julie Taymor, whose filmography includes 2002’s Frida which nabbed Salma Hayek a Best Actress nod.

Reviews are positive. However, as with everything else screening so early in 2020, time will tell when it comes to awards prospects. If The Glorias can develop buzz throughout the year, it will be interesting to monitor which performers garner attention. Obviously you start with Moore and Vikander (who have each previously won Oscars). Yet it’s supporting player Lorraine Toussaint who is being singled out for raves over Bette Midler (who could also contend) and Janelle Monae.

Whether any of the Gloria playing thespians and beyond are still in the mix months from now remains to be seen. Sundance has opened the door of possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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