Oscar Watch: Time

Garrett Bradley’s documentary Time hit streaming on Amazon Prime this month after winning accolades earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Focused on a wife trying to free her husband from a 60-year prison sentence, the pic earned Bradley the directing prize for its genre at the aforementioned fest in January. She is the first African American female to win the prize.

Time stands at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes with 90 reviews up. As the Documentary Feature category is still taking shape, this joins several others as legit possibilities. It has yet to enter my top ten contenders in my weekly Thursday estimates, but expect that to change in the next write-up. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Nine Days

Nine Days premiered nine months ago at the Sundance Film Festival. It will be available for all viewers this January after Sony Pictures Classics snatched up the rights. The science fiction drama marks the directorial debut of Edson Oda with a cast featuring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgard. Executive produced by Spike Jonze, the pic has been praised by critics for its originality, the lead performance from Duke, and its screenplay which was penned by the director. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 86% currently.

Sony Pictures will need to a mount a major campaign in order for this to gain any traction with awards voters. I’m skeptical for now, but it’s not impossible that Original Screenplay could be in play if Sony plays their cards right. Bottom line: Nine Days could easily be ignored in the Oscar conversation, but it’s at least worth keeping an eye on. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

 

Oscar Watch: The Forty-Year-Old Version

After it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to a Dramatic Competition Directing prize, Radha Blank’s The Forty-Year-Old Version is available on Netflix this weekend. A humorous take on the director/writer/star’s real life experiences, her first feature is being hailed in critical circles with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 99%.

Its title emanating from the 2005 Steve Carell breakthrough The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the pic is certainly generating some buzz now that it’s available for mass consumption. However, I’m not confident that will translate to Oscar voters. Netflix has a mighty full plate of contenders to campaign for and this could fall under the radar. As I see it, Version‘s sole chance for recognition lies in its Original Screenplay. Unless critics groups give it momentum in the months ahead, that’s probably a stretch. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Dick Johnson Is Dead

After a warm reception earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, Kirsten Johnson’s documentary Dick Johnson Is Dead is having its streaming premiere on Netflix today. The director is the daughter of the title subject – a psychiatrist who receives a dementia diagnosis. She also made the well regarded 2016 doc Cameraperson. The picture is said to deal humorously and unconventionally with its subject matter. It received a Special Jury award at Sundance and stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The issue of dementia has been a theme for 2020 features. The most high profile is Florian Zeller’s The Father, which appears headed for multiple nominations including its leads Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Less likely titles to contend for consideration are Supernova with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci and The Artist’s Wife starring Lena Olin and Bruce Dern.

On the doc side, I had Johnson listed at #4 for the various hopefuls. This race is obviously quite fluid at the moment, but the acclaim already received puts it as a strong contender. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Boys State

The buzz for Boys State began at the beginning of the year when it won the highest prize at the Sundance Film Festival for documentaries. It follows a Texas event for teenagers who build a representative form of government. The pic comes from directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. The former is responsible for the acclaimed 2014 doc The Overnighters, which didn’t manage to make the final cut in Documentary Feature at the Oscars.

State, streaming on Apple TV since August, has a strong shot at faring better. With a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score, its subject matter could resonate with voters in this highly charged political year. The documentary competition is just starting to formulate at the Academy level. Projects such as Netflix’s Crip Camp and Dick Johnson Is Dead (look for that Watch post shortly) and John Lewis: Good Trouble from CNN Films are already hopefuls and Boys State can include itself in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Kajillionaire

Writer/director Miranda July unveiled her comedic heist drama Kajillionaire back in January at the Sundance Film Festival. The pic is headlined by Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood with a supporting cast that includes Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, and Gina Rodriguez.

Slated for a limited theatrical opening in late September with a VOD debut on October 16th, it received positive notices from critics and stands at 92% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. As to whether this receives much attention from awards voters, it could potentially be more of a factor at the Golden Globes if Focus Features places it in the Musical/Comedy competitions.

Even that could be a reach as its studio will need to mount a spirited campaign. Best Picture and Original Screenplay at the Oscars seems highly unlikely. It will, however, be worth watching if any of the actors gain any traction. My suspicion is that it would be Jenkins and Winger. The former could be competing against himself with the upcoming drama The Humans. Winger is a thrice nominated performer who hasn’t been in the mix since Shadowlands back in 1993. In my first round of ranked predictions two weeks ago, I placed her 8th in Supporting Actress, but she fell to 13th last week.

Bottom line: Kajillionaire has a limited path to any legitimate attention at the big show. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Tesla

My second Oscar Watch post over the weekend for a film that has five letters and begins with the letter T is definitely not as high profile as Tenet, but Tesla is worth discussing as it has hit streaming services.

The film casts Ethan Hawke as pioneering inventor Nikola Tesla with a supporting cast featuring Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, and Jim Gaffigan. It reunites its lead with his Hamlet director Michael Almereyda from that 2000 adaptation. Critics first screened the biographical drama at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and it is available for viewing at home as of this weekend.

Reviews are decidedly mixed and the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 58%. That’s right in range with Hawke and Almereyda’s Shakesperean collaboration at 59%. Reviewers do seem to be appreciating Hawke’s performance. He’s a double nominee in the Supporting Actor field for Training Day in 2001 and Boyhood in 2014. For his contributions to the screenplays of Before Sunset and Before Midnight, he received a pair of Adapted Screenplay nominations. Despite some lauded lead roles in 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and 2018’s First Reformed, Hawke has never managed a Best Actor nod.

I would say that Tesla simply won’t get enough visibility for the actor to make a play in 2020 and the so-so reaction thus far doesn’t help. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

My impossibly early first looks at the major Oscar races for 2020 arrives at Best Actor. If you happened to miss my posts concerning the supporting performers, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Unlike nearly all of the potential contenders in Supporting Actor and Actress, there are already two viable possibilities from pictures that have already screened or seen release. The Sundance Film Festival shed light on Anthony Hopkins in the forthcoming The Father while Netflix’s Spike Lee joint Da 5 Bloods showcased career best work from Delroy Lindo. If it not yet known whether Lindo will compete in lead or supporting, but I’m guessing he lands here.

As for other hopefuls, there are many intriguing storylines. On the Rocks finds comedic legend Bill Murray reuniting with director Sofia Coppola. Their 2003 collaboration Lost in Translation marked Mr. Murray’s only nomination thus far. Three years after his win for Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman will headline Netflix’s Mank from David Fincher, which on paper seems like a very awards friendly venture. And the trailer out last week for Judas and the Black Messiah appears to be a bait worthy role for Daniel Kaluuya (though its release date is still up in the air).

There’s plenty more recognizable faces to consider. I nearly put Ben Affleck among the top 15. His spring sports drama The Way Back gave him some of the best critical reaction of his career. Yet he’s likely a long shot.

In 2019, my inaugural August estimates yielded an impressive three of the five eventual nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). In my 10 other possibilities, the other two contenders were also named: Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes and the winner, Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. 

Here’s my first take!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Gary Oldman, Mank

Other Possibilities:

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

George Clooney, The Midnight Sky

Matt Damon, Stillwater

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Tom Hanks, News of the World

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

John David Washington, Tenet

Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress is up next! Stay tuned…

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…