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…

Oscar Watch: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

An eagerly anticipated premiere at the Sundance Film Festival occurred yesterday with the screening of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. Set for release on Netflix this year, the true life crime thriller casts Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Joe Berlinger, who’s known primarily for documentaries (his sole fictional work is the maligned horror sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) directs. The filmmaker also made an extensive documentary about Bundy that’s up on the aforementioned streaming service this weekend. Costars in Vile include Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich.

Early reviews are mixed and its Rotten Tomatoes score is presently at 67%. Yet critics seem to agree on one thing and that’s the terrific work of Efron in the lead. Some suggest it could be a career changing performance. I know that the concept of Efron nabbing an Oscar seems far-fetched. Yet if Netflix can put together a solid campaign and depending on how competition plays out in 2019, you never know. The company did prove in 2018 that they’re now a factor with the Academy (see multiple nominations for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Report

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this weekend and feature films and documentaries are premiering that could factor into the Oscar race a year from now. One such effort is The Report, a true life political drama from director Scott Z. Burns. He’s best known as a screenwriter as he penned The Bourne Ultimatum and Steven Soderbergh’s pics The Informant!, Contagion, and Side Effects.

Adam Driver (currently nominated in Supporting Actor for BlacKkKlansman) stars as a Senate staffer investigating the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Annette Bening plays one of his superiors, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Others in the cast include Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Maura Tierney, Ted Levine, and Corey Stoll.

Early reviews are positive and suggest it’s a throwback to 1970s movies with a message. Driver and Bening are both enjoying kudos for their work. What’s currently unknown is whether this will register with audiences. Political works based on real and touchy events can often have a difficult time at the box office.

If The Report manages to become as high-profile as its subject matter, it might be worth keeping an eye on for awards consideration, especially for Driver and Bening. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Kindergarten Teacher

The Kindergarten Teacher premiered way back in January at the Sundance Film Festival and Maggie Gyllenhaal received raves for her role. Netflix snatched it up and it premiered on the streaming service October 12th. Sara Colangelo directs with a supporting cast including Parker Sevak, Anna Baryshnikov, and Gael Garcia Bernal. Any awards focus, however, will solely be on its star.

With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 89%, the film is garnering greater exposure now with its release. Could Gyllenhaal be a nominee in the Best Actress race? Despite heralded performances in Secretary and Sherrybaby, she has yet to be nominated in the lead category. Gyllenhaal did receive a Supporting Actress nod in 2009 for Crazy Heart. Coupled with her acclaimed work in HBO’s “The Deuce”, it’s been a good year for the actress. Yet I still suspect she’ll be on the outside looking in considering competition.

That said, Gyllenhaal is likely to appear in the bottom portions of my top 15 projections in my weekly Oscar predictions on Thursday. It would mark her first appearance thus far.

Bottom line: despite high marks, it would be a surprise to see Gyllenhaal score her first nomination in Best Actress. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…