Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

My first round of Oscar predictions in this topsy turvy time known as 2020 arrives at Best Director. If you missed my initial take on the four acting races, you can find them all here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

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/

I’ve already discussed the challenges of making these August projections and many of them are the same as any other year. Yet it’s even trickier now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever shifting release dates that accompany it. This is why I’ve left off Wes Anderson and The French Dispatch as its premiere is especially in flux. If word comes out in the near future to its unveiling, he would almost certainly be in the top 15.

Some of the pictures and their makers listed here will (at least right now) be seen in the next few weeks at festivals. As for Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan is expected to be out in limited fashion stateside by month’s end.

2019 was a bit more stable and I correctly identified 4 of the eventual 5 nominees in my first late summer predictions. That includes winner Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese, (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). My only miss was Todd Phillips for Joker and I didn’t even have him in the 10 other possibilities.

Let’s get to it with my introductory look at the players vying for behind the camera accolades!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

David Fincher, Mank

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Paul Greengrass, News of the World

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Francis Lee, Ammonite

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater

Mike Mills, C’Mon C’Mon

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

I’ll have the big daddy of them all – Best Picture – up in short order! Stay tuned…

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…

Mulan Gets a Plus

Disney surprised a lot of box office commentators like myself to begin the week with major news about Mulan. The live-action adaptation of their 1998 animated feature, directed by Niki Caro, was intended to hit theaters on a worldwide scale on March 27th. This was, of course, just a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures of chains across the country.

Since delayed three more times, the Mouse Factory announced this afternoon that the tentpole feature will instead debut on the Disney+ streaming service on September 4. This allows lots of kids and their parents to view it over Labor Day weekend… at a cost of $30. While we have seen numerous pictures go the route of streaming as opposed to theatrical release in the past few months, Mulan is by far the most high profile.

The top brass at Disney made it clear that this is a one-off pattern. There was certainly no further announcement that their Black Widow (delayed from May) would follow suit. The news makes for a fascinating holiday weekend to monitor as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is currently scheduled for select cities in cinemas at the same time.

Depending on how well Mulan performs on the small screen (and it certainly could), one must wonder what that means for other big pics that were supposed to be released by now. To name a few – there’s No Time to Die, A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick, and Wonder Woman 1984.

It may not change anything, but Disney’s Monday bombshell feels like a potential sign of more unexpected pattens to follow. After all, the idea that Mulan would be a streaming debut would have sounded unfathomable pre-COVID. Time will tell, but those anticipating Mulan won’t have to wait long if they’re willing to fork over a premium price.

Paramount Changes

And the release dates keep shifting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier today, Disney announced sweeping changes to their future slate of projects (affecting Mulan and the Star Wars and Avatar franchises) and I covered it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/23/mickey-mouse-blinks/

That follows word from Warner Bros. on their shifting of Tenet, which I covered here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/20/tenet-falls-back/

Now it’s Paramount’s turn. There were a number of changes announced this evening, but I’ll cover the two most significant. Tom Cruise’s return to one of his signature roles was originally slated for July 12th of this year. If you think about it, it would almost surely be the #1 or #2 movie in America right now in an alternate universe. The long gestating sequel was then pushed back to December 23rd. And now its release has been delayed nearly a full year with an expected date of July 2, 2021.

A Quiet Place II was right around the corner when COVID hit with a March 18th premiere. The virus changed that plan to a Labor Day rollout. This sequel is now scheduled for April 23, 2021 – postponing its release by over a year from its intended landing.

It’s fair to say that this week has seen the most heavy hitters fall back. And as we’ve learned in 2020, expect plenty more changes and adjustments ahead.

Mickey Mouse Blinks

Today marked even more release shifting in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and it’s a lot of news of Disney. The Mouse Factory, to no one’s surprise, has moved their live-action remake of Mulan from August 21st to that date we’re all growing accustomed to… (say it together now) TBD.

That’s not all. Two of the studio’s biggest franchises saw their anticipated sequels, spin-offs, and reboots pushed back one year. The as yet untitled next episodes of Star Wars will not begin until December 2023 (with follow-up pics now slated for 2025 and 2027).

James Cameron’s four (yes, four) sequels to Avatar are delayed yet again. Part two is now pegged for December 2022 with parts 3, 4, and 5 now planned for December 2024, 2026, and 2028.

And… that’s not all. Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile (his follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express) has been pushed back two weeks from October 9th to October 23rd of this year (we’ll see it that holds). Mr. Branagh has already seen a COVID change a few weeks back when his critically reviled Artemis Fowl scrapped its theatrical bow in favor of a Disney+ debut.

Some other developments: Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel changed from Christmas 2020 to October 2021. Wes Anderson’s eagerly awaited (and potential Oscar contender) The French Dispatch saw its October 2020 premiere altered to… (say it again) TBD.

This follows the announcement from Warner Bros. earlier this week that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (long seen as the first real COVID test for theaters) is now a TBD property after its hoped for August rollout. After the Tenet news, the ball was passed to Mulan. Not anymore.

Now the paradigm shifts again… to Disney. One could say that the MCU’s Black Widow is now the first massive blockbuster scheduled to debut on November 6th. Let’s see if it stays that way in our new cinematic universe.

Tenet Falls Back

As I’ve stated in any COVID-19 related post on this blog, the release of movies in theaters is far from the most pressing concern as it relates to the pandemic. However, this site covers the world of film and a significant development occurred today when it comes to that future.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has long been seen as the first real test of financial viability for theaters. For several months now, it has been the tentpole release pegged to be out of the gate before all others. With its $200 million budget and with one of the few directors behind it that guarantees an audience, a direct to streaming output has never been an option. Many other smaller budget features have already gone that route and it’s been covered here. Tenet was originally scheduled for a global bow last Friday (July 17) before shifting to July 31 and then August 12. Hours ago, Warner Bros. made an announcement that many have been anticipating. The thriller starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson has now moved to a familiar release date… TBD.

The studio’s press release still indicates a desire for a 2020 rollout. The announcement goes on to say that Tenet may not receive a traditional release. Reading between the lines – this means it could be out in foreign markets before it hits screens stateside. This is in no doubt related to the recent surge of COVID cases in North America vs. other parts of the world.

Why is this announcement on one movie so big? Because a domino effect is sure to follow and it has already started. Rom com The Broken Hearts Gallery from Sony Pictures shifted its August 7th date to TBD shortly after. The Russell Crowe pic Unhinged is still slated to open next weekend (July 31). We will see if that holds (it could be a prime candidate for streaming).

Disney’s Mulan is currently scheduled for August 21. I would not be surprised if this changes and quickly. You may recall that it was originally supposed to come out in March when the pandemic began shutting down sectors of the economy.

Warner Bros. also revealed that The Conjuring 3 (part of their flagship horror franchise) is now moved to summer of 2021. One must wonder what other studios will do with some of their high profile product scheduled for September and October (August is pretty much wiped out at this juncture save for Mulan at the moment). That list includes A Quiet Place II (already delayed from spring) and Wonder Woman 1984 (already delayed from summer).

Bottom line: the fall back of Tenet greatly increases the probability of November being the real start of major product in the multiplexes. That’s when already delayed projects like Black Widow, No Time to Die, and Soul are scheduled. And that is, of course, tentative as well in this new cinematic reality.

Unhinged Makes Its Move

There was movie news today and it was significant. It may cause a thriller centered on the “Driver from Hell” to become a trivia answer and a historical footnote. The upstart Solstice Studios has announced that Unhinged, which casts Russell Crowe as a psychopath with serious road rage issues, will park into theaters on July 1.

This would normally not be a post worthy item. However, by vaulting its release date from September to early July, Unhinged is primed to be the first major new theatrical item to open wide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obviously, significant questions abound. How many theaters will be operating at the time? Will some states not even have multiplexes even open? Most importantly, will audiences be ready to make their trip to see Mr. Crowe terrorize his fellow motorists?

The last couple of months has seen an unprecedented shift in release dates for pictures. Many summer blockbusters moved to fall or 2021. That has caused some ’21 releases to push back to 2022. It’s been a startling domino effect.

However, Unhinged breaks the streak by actually moving up and becoming a potential litmus test for the remainder of summer and calendar year as a whole. And July still has some heavy hitters that have yet to blink, most notably Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan treatment. How will it go? Only time will tell.