The PGA Goes Green

The eyes of Oscar prognosticators were on the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards and for good reason. In this decade, the Best Picture Award has matched the Academy’s 6 out of 8 times (there’s a little fudging here because in 2013 there was a tie between Oscar recipient 12 Years a Slave and Gravity). The non matches occurred in 2015 when the PGA selected The Big Short over Spotlight and the following year with La La Land winning and not Moonlight.

Two scenarios could have changed the Oscar landscape in a significant way. A victory for Roma (coming off its Critics Choice honor) could have solidified standing as a front-runner. If A Star Is Born took the top prize, it would have marked a much-needed win after some high-profile precursor snubs.

Neither scenario happened as Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was named. This is a surprise and it opens up an already uncertain race for Best Picture at the big dance. It certainly lessens Green Book winning the Oscar being seen as an upset. It’s a real contender along with Roma and Star.

Tonight’s ceremony also gave yet another animation award for SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse. Coupled with its Globes and Critics wins, it now appears Spidey is the Academy favorite over Incredibles 2.

Bottom line: the PGA made the Oscars a bit murkier. We got ourselves a race.

Vice Box Office Prediction

Three years after receiving multiple Oscar nominations for The Big Short, Adam McKay is touching hot button issues yet again with Vice. The biopic of Dick Cheney is out Christmas Day with Christian Bale in the title role. Costars include Amy Adams as wife Lynne, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Steve Carell as Don Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Jesse Plemons, and Alison Pill.

Like The Big Short, this has been subject to awards recognition already as it led the Golden Globes in number of nominations. The embargo for reviews was up earlier this week and the Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 67%. That’s a bit less than expected, but a Best Picture nod seems quite possible while nominations for Bale and Adams look assured.

The decision to release Vice in the competitive holiday week could limit its potential out of the gate – yet it could appeal to adult moviegoers and politicos. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday, it’s likely its first threes days of earnings could match or even exceed the traditional weekend that follows. Short took in just over $10 million in its Yuletide 2015 wide expansion. For another comp with similar subject matter, Oliver Stone’s 2008 biopic W. did the exact same number as Short. 

Considering there are six days to ponder, I’ll say $7 million for the weekend with over $7 million added from Tuesday-Thursday.

Vice opening weekend prediction: $7.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $14.8 million (Tuesday to Sunday)

For my Holmes & Watson prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/18/holmes-watson-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Vice

One of my most eagerly anticipated Oscar Watch entries screened for the first time yesterday in the form of Vice, Adam McKay’s biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney with Christian Bale in the lead. While official reviews are embargoed until next month, plenty of social media reaction is available. The verdict? Just as Mary Queen of Scots proved to be a potential contender at the AFI Fest earlier this week, so too has this and perhaps more so.

In particular, word of mouth on Bale’s work is rapturous. He could easily find himself in the mix for not only a nomination, but for a Lead Actor win (his most serious competition appears to be Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born). Amy Adams plays wife Lynne and reviews suggest she’s a lock for a Supporting Actress nod. It would mark her sixth nomination and she’s yet to win. As for Sam Rockwell in Supporting Actor as George W. Bush, that appears less certain but possible (he won that race last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

For the past several weeks, I’ve had Vice at #9 in a bit of a placeholder position in Best Picture. I feel more confident today that it gets in and I foresee its ranking rising when I update predictions on Thursday. Same goes for McKay’s direction and his original screenplay, where it faces stiff competition from The Favourite, Green Book, and Roma. McKay’s last screenplay (2015’s The Big Short) won him an Adapted Screenplay gold statue. In down the line slots, Editing and especially Makeup and Hairstyling are possibilities.

Bottom line: Vice has likely solidified itself as a contender, with Bale and Adams as threats to win their respective fields. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Film Festival Season Approaches: The 2018 Hopefuls

We may be smack dab in the middle of the summer movie season, but Oscar season will be taking shape before we know it. This week, the organizers of the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have unveiled lineups for the pictures that will be premiering at their events in a few weeks. Many of them are awards hopefuls.

To give you an idea of the importance of festivals when it comes to Oscar nominees, six of last year’s nine nominees premiered at some combination of Toronto, Venice, Telluride, New York, Sundance, or Cannes. Every Best Picture winner from this decade and beyond played at one of them. The last one that didn’t was The Departed back in 2006.

The months of September-December are the fertile ground for most nominated features. Last year, seven of the nine Picture nominees came out in that time frame. In 2016 – it was 8 out of 9.

Beginning in late August/early September, I will begin my weekly Oscar prediction columns. It works like this:

Late August/Early September – first posting of predictions in the categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

Months of September and October – weekly Oscar predictions column post covering those 6 categories, as well as Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-25. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-15.

Months of November through announcement of nominations – weekly Oscar predictions column covering every category involving feature films. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-15. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-10.

While these posts are a month away, today I bring you 25 fall awards hopefuls that I suspect I’ll be mentioning frequently. Most of these are premiering at the high-profile quartet of upcoming fests (Venice, Toronto, New York, Telluride). Some aren’t, but could certainly be added to Telluride or New York especially (as they’re more known for surprise screenings).

Let’s get to it!

A Star is Born

The third remake of the musical drama marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and features a potential showcase role for his costar Lady Gaga. Early word of mouth is already strong.

At Eternity’s Gate

He received a nomination for his supporting work last year for The Florida Project and Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in what could be another awards bait role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Backseat

Expect Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short to receive plenty of attention. Christian Bale is Cheney with Amy Adams as wife Lynne and last year’s Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell plays the father of a meth addict played by Timothee Chalamet, who was nominated last year for Call Me by Your Name.

Ben is Back

Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts headline this family drama that premieres at Toronto.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Bohemian Rhapsody

Despite some behind the scenes drama in its filming, all eyes will be on Rami Malek’s work as Queen front man Freddie Mercury.

Boy Erased

Perhaps an even larger showcase role for Lucas Hedges is this drama where he plays a homosexual sent to conversion camp. Joel Edgerton directs and costars along with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy received an Academy Award nomination with her breakthrough role in Bridesmaids. This drama about writer Lee Israel could muster attention for her yet again.

First Man

Director Damien Chazelle has seen both of his efforts (Whiplash, La La Land) nominated for Best Picture and he’s the youngest filmmaker to ever win Best Director. His third pic is a Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling. It opens the Venice Film Festival.

If Beale Street Could Talk

The follow-up to his Oscar winning Moonlight, Barry Jenkins directs this drama set in 1970s Harlem.

July 22

United 93 and Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass brings his latest to Netflix and it focuses on the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Life Itself

Premiering at Toronto, this ensemble drama includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Munn, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.

Mary Poppins Returns

She’s already a contender for A Quiet Place and Emily Blunt could face competition from herself with Disney’s expected monster hit.

Mary Queen of Scots

They were both nominated for Best Actress last year and now Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie star in this historical drama about the title character and Queen Elizabeth I.

Old Man & The Gun

David Lowery directs Robert Redford in the true life tale of a prison escape artist. Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck costar.

On the Basis of Sex

The documentary RBG could get noticed by the Documentary branch, as could this biopic which casts Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Peterloo

Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh returns with this historical 19th century drama.

Roma

This Mexican family drama is Alfonso Cuaron’s first directorial effort since his acclaimed Gravity.

Suspiria

Call Me by Your Name maker Luca Guadagnino shifts gears for this remake of the 1970s horror classic. Don’t be surprised if this receives attention in some technical categories.

The Favourite

The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos is behind this historical drama featuring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

The Front Runner

Jason Reitman directs this biopic of failed Presidential candidate Gary Hart with Hugh Jackman cast in the role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

The Sisters Brothers

John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal are among the cast in this Western from acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard.

Welcome to Marwen

Steve Carell stars in this unique looking drama from Forrest Gump maker Robert Zemeckis.

Widows

It’s been five years between projects for Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. This heist thriller stars recent winner Viola Davis.

And there’s your very early preview of some titles to keep an eye on over the coming months. Those Oscar posts will start rolling out weekly in about a month! Stay tuned…

War Dogs Movie Review

In a way, War Dogs is a bit of a companion piece to The Big Short. We have a director (Todd Phillips) known for humorous material making a more serious and based on true events effort about controversial policies during the Bush/Cheney era. We have a mix of dramatic and comedic actors telling the tale. However, whereas Adam McKay’s aforementioned 2014 picture was a big success, Dogs falls short.

Its failings are certainly not due to lack of an interesting story. We begin in 2005 when the Iraq conflict is at its height. While the war is dividing a nation, David (Miles Teller) is living a carefree existence in Miami as a massage therapist. His major conflict is making enough cash to support him and his pregnant girlfriend (Ana de Armas). David’s financial issues are provided a boost when he runs into his junior high best bud Efraim (Jonah Hill). He seems to be doing just fine and David soon discovers his old friend is making a killing as an arms dealer selling product to the U.S. government. Efraim soon cuts David in as a partner and their deals bring them to the Middle East, including drab Albania. It is that deal, involving selling 100 million rounds of ammo to the military, that will provide their windfall payload. It also provides all sorts of dangerous problems.

Dogs wags an understandable critical finger at the ease in which these twentysomethings with zero government or defense experience managed their exploits. As Efraim and David become richer than they ever could have envisioned, their trappings of wealth storyline feels awfully familiar. David’s relationship suffers, Efraim’s already diabolical personality grows out of control, etc… Yes, this may be a true story, but all this material felt truly well-worn.

As for performances, Hill has shown himself to be adept at both funny stuff and less funny stuff (Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street as the prime examples). His performance here isn’t near as effective and I couldn’t escape the notion that he seemed to be trying a bit too hard to pull off his bad guy role. Teller is a talent as well (Whiplash as prime example), but his work here is a couple notches above bland. Bradley Cooper turns up for a few minutes as a shady dealer whose character is just interesting enough that I would’ve liked to see him more.

The source material (based on a Rolling Stone article) should have garnered a richer experience than what Phillips gives us. War Dogs has plenty in common with The Big Short in terms of personnel involved, but little in common with it as to lasting impression.

** (out of four)

Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…