Oscar Predictions: Father Stu

If you prefer Mel Gibson playing Mark Wahlberg’s dad in a drama involving religion and inflammatory muscle diseases and not comedy sequels like Daddy’s Home 2, then Father Stu might be your jam. The biopic is out today and the faith-based experience (a rare one that’s rated R) hopes to cash in during Easter weekend.

A passion project for its star, the role for Wahlberg seems like the type of material meant to garner awards chatter. Yet an underwhelming 44% on Rotten Tomatoes tells a different tale. The artist formerly known as Marky has one Oscar nomination to his credit in Supporting Actor for 2006’s The Departed. Even though three of his cast members were up for The Fighter in 2010 (with Christian Bale and Melissa Leo winning), he failed to punch in.

Bottom line: Father Stu would need divine intervention to score a nod for Wahlberg or anything else. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Amy Adams in Arrival

Five years ago, the Best Actress race at the Oscars came down to Emma Stone (La La Land) and Natalie Portman (Jackie) with the former taking the gold. That was no surprise but the category featured one of the more shocking omissions in recent Academy history.

Denis Villeneuve’s deservedly acclaimed sci-fi pic Arrival scored 8 nominations, including Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. It won a sole award in Sound Editing. That was a nice haul, but the glue that held the whole film together somehow went unnoticed.

By 2016, Amy Adams had already received five nods – one in lead for 2013’s American Hustle and four supporting bids with 2005’s Junebug, 2008’s Doubt, 2010’s The Fighter, and 2012’s The Master. She had gone 0 for 5 but surely her extraordinary work in Arrival would mark a sixth attempt.

It didn’t happen. That’s despite being nominated at the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards. Besides Stone and Portman, the other three nominees were Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). This one is simple. Take out Streep. Put in Adams.

What’s even more remarkable is that after Arrival‘s ingenious twist ending, the performance of Adams becomes even more impressive and emotionally resonant on the rewatch. The actress would get her sixth nod three years later in supporting for Vice and I’d argue she didn’t deserve to make that final five. It should have arrived with Arrival and it stands as a massive snub.

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

The 2021 derby for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars might have a bit more clarity than the currently wide open Supporting Actor race, but not much. I’m doing a deep dive on the four acting races as well as Picture and Director. If you missed the first post covering Supporting Actor, you can peruse it right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

At this point when I was projecting the race in 2019 and 2020, I correctly identified three out of the five eventual nominees. Two years ago, that included the winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh (Little Women) and Margot Robbie for Bombshell. Scarlett Johansson was mentioned in Other Possibilities while I didn’t have Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) listed. Last year, the trio of Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), and Amanda Seyfried (Mank) were in my five. Eventual victor Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) and Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) were in Other Possibilities.

Since 2010, there have been three instances where two actresses for the same picture made the cut here. In 2010, it was Melissa Leo (who won) and Amy Adams in The Fighter. A year later, Octavia Spencer took gold for The Help while costar Jessica Chastain also got in. In 2018, both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz were nominated for The Favourite. 

The best chance of that happening in 2021 lies with Caitriona Balfe and Judi Dench for Belfast. The former could be considered the frontrunner at press time. I’m confident that Balfe will be in the quintet of hopefuls. My Supporting Actor forecast has both Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds in for Kenneth Branagh’s period drama. It might be foolish to bet against Dench and she could absolutely get her 8th nod. I do, however, feel the competition is steeper than Supporting Actor at the moment and she could miss out.

Other double nominee possibilities lie with Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson in The Lost Daughter, but I could just as easily see lead Olivia Colman garnering all the attention. The as yet unscreened Nightmare Alley could see either Toni Collette or Rooney Mara competing.

Then there’s Mass. Ann Dowd looks to be a better bet than Martha Plimpton. If the acclaimed drama catches on with the Academy, there could be room for both. For now, I’m far more confident in Dowd receiving her first nod after her somewhat surprise omission for 2012’s Compliance. 

With Balfe and Dowd penciled in, Kirsten Dunst also appears headed for her inaugural inclusion at the dance for The Power of the Dog. She could even be a threat to win.

After that, it gets murky. There’s plenty of hopefuls. 50 years ago, Rita Moreno took gold as Anita for West Side Story. The forthcoming remake could see Ariana DeBose nominated for the same role in Steven Spielberg’s remake. Marlee Matlin (35 years after taking Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God) got fine reviews for CODA. If the film registers with voters, she could be swept in. King Richard is anticipated to give Will Smith a solid chance at his first Oscar crowning and Aunjanue Ellis (as the mother of Venus and Serena Williams) could share in the wealth. Salma Hayek is part of the House of Gucci ensemble. She hasn’t been visible in the trailers and that gives me pause. Online chatter will be heavy for Rebecca Ferguson in Dune, though I question whether any of its cast makes its way in. Also worthy of mention: Olga Merediz (In the Heights), Gaby Hoffman (C’Mon C’Mon), Kathryn Hunter (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Sally Hawkins (Spencer), and Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans). All are feasible but will need lot some critics prizes to elevate their chances.

Meryl Streep is gunning for her 22nd (!) nomination for Don’t Look Up. Playing the President of the United States in the political satire, it feels strange to leave her out of the top 5 for such a high profile role. Let’s see what the critics think before I more carefully consider her.

One performer who seems to catching on is Ruth Negga for Passing. Nominated for Actress five years back for Loving, I was basically down to a coin flip between her and Aunjanue Ellis for a current slot. I’m leaning toward Negga in what would probably be the film’s sole nod.

Bottom line: right now I have Balfe, Dunst, and Dowd as (fairly) safe bets with the other two spots up for grabs. Here’s where it shakes out as October closes:

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

5. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 4)

7. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 7)

8. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley

Next up: Best Actor!

Oscar Watch: Hillbilly Elegy

Junebug. Doubt. The Fighter. The Master. American Hustle. Vice. 

The World According to Garp. The Big Chill. The Natural. Fatal Attraction. Dangerous Liaisons. Albert Nobbs. The Wife. 

These 13 pictures represent, respectively, the number of Oscar nominations received by Amy Adams and Glenn Close. And there’s not a podium trip for either performer in the whole batch. It’s certainly fair to say that these actresses are both considered overdue for Academy gold. So it is no surprise that their headlining roles in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy have been circled for consideration of Oscar prognosticators for many months.

Based on J.D. Vance’s hugely popular 2016 bestseller, the adaptation hits Netflix on November 24th. The review embargo ended today. The critics have spoken and done so rather sharply. At press time, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a troubling 19%. However, before you write off the pic’s chances for any awards attention, you have to dig a bit deeper.

The trailer released weeks ago was met with some derision, but also some chatter that Close in particular has a very baity part for voters. The reviews today solidify that. I have had Close perched at #1 for some time in my weekly estimates in Supporting Actress. It is certainly possible that she stays right there when I update my projections on Friday. Ironically, her biggest competition may come from Olivia Colman in The Father. For those with short memories, it was Colman in The Favourite who scored an upset win over Close for The Wife in Best Actress just two years ago. There’s also Amanda Seyfried (Mank) generating solid buzz. That said, the 8th time may just finally be the charm for Close. Whether she can overcome the otherwise poor reaction from the critical community will be the question moving forward.

As for Adams, it’s more murky. Best Actress in 2020 is already shaping up as a crowded field. I’ve had Adams listed in third position for about a month, but now I’m questioning whether she even makes the final cut. Look for her to be in the 5-7 range when my Friday post is up and running.

Elegy could follow the example of 2013’s August: Osage County where its only nominations come for its two high-profile actresses (in that case it was Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts). The mostly weak reviews probably take it out of contention for Picture and Director. Same goes for the Adapted Screenplay by Vanessa Taylor (who was nominated in 2017 for her Original Screenplay in The Shape of Water). Lucky for Netflix, it has plenty of product that does appear headed for Best Picture inclusion (from The Trial of the Chicago 7 to Mank to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). There are two more nods that are feasible: Hans Zimmer’s score and its Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: Close is still a contender, but that’s the only category where I believe a victory is even imaginable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Good Joe Bell

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Good Joe Bell has screened at the Toronto Film Festival and the drama is eliciting markedly different reactions from critics. It comes from co-writers Larry McMurtry and Dianna Ossana, who penned the Oscar winning adapted screenplay 15 years ago for Brokeback Mountain. Mark Wahlberg stars in the title role in this true story of a man walking the country following a tragedy involving his gay son.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 75%, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Some reaction is quite positive with Wahlberg’s performance being praised. Same goes for Reid Miller, who is said to be a breakout in the part of his child. Variety, on the other hand, deems the whole film “terrible”.

This seems to preview what could be wildly divergent opinions of the feature and that could spell trouble come awards time. Wahlberg has a limited history at the Oscars as he’s only been nominated once. That was a rather surprising nod for 2006’s The Departed. He was the only performer in the top 4 quartet of 2010’s The Fighter not to receive a nomination. Costars Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were victorious in the supporting fields.

I doubt that Wahlberg will make the final five in Best Actor a few months from now, but he might creep into the top 15 in my weekly Thursday nominations. The distributor’s best hope could be Miller if they mount a strong campaign in Supporting Actor. It’s just as possible that Bell is ignored completely in the races to come. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Irishman Takes The NBR

The National Board of Review announced its victors this afternoon for their best of 2019. For the pictures and performers who were named as winners, you could say that it’s a double edged sword.

Allow me to explain. In this 2010’s, only one of their Best Film recipients took home Best Picture at the Oscars. That was last year with Green Book. This year, the award goes to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. So from an odds perspective, that could mean it faces an uphill battle for the big gold statue. On the other hand, all of the NBR Film winners from this decade, with the exception of 2014’s A Most Violent Year, have scored an Academy nod. This isn’t really in doubt for The Irishman so expect that trend to continue.

The Board always goes on to name their additional favorite 10 motion pictures and this year they are: 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. In 2018, only three of the ten additional NBR selections got Picture noms: Black Panther, Roma and A Star Is Born. Some notable titles that didn’t make the NBR cut for 2019: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Joker, Little Women, Parasite, and The Two Popes. 

When it comes to Best Director, the news is even worse for the NBR recipient. No movie this decade has seen that winner match with Oscar. In fact, the last direct match was in 2006 for… Irishman maker Scorsese for The Departed. The NBR named Quentin Tarantino today for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s got history against his side for a walk up the Academy steps.

In Best Actor, it’s the same story as only Casey Affleck for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea won NBR and Oscar in the 2010s. Adam Sandler is the winner for Uncut Gems. He’s part of a packed Best Actor race where there’s about a dozen viable candidates looking for five spots. This victory could at least help him get in as only Oscar Isaac (Violent Year in 2014) and Tom Hanks (2017’s The Post) didn’t land nods.

The numbers improve only slightly for Best Actress with two matches: Julianne Moore for 2014’s Still Alice and Brie Larson for 2015’s Room. The NBR bestowed the award this year to Renee Zellweger for Judy, who could be considered a soft front-runner for Oscar.

This brings us to Brad Pitt, winner today for Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He also holds the status of apparent favorite to win the Academy’s love. Yet there’s just two matches this decade between them and NBR: Christian Bale in 2010’s The Fighter and Christopher Plummer from 2011’s Beginners. 

Last year was the only match of the decade for Supporting Actress: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Kathy Bates took the NBR for Richard Jewell. I don’t see her winning the Oscar, but it could help her nomination odds.

In Original Screenplay, it’s interesting to note that 7 of the past nine NBR winners didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Could that be a sign of trouble for honoree Uncut Gems? Time will tell…

And for Adapted Screenplay, the NBR went with The Irishman. Par for the course, just two matches here: 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Descendants. 

Bottom line: the NBR announcements might help with fleshing out who certain nominees will be. As far as winners, that’s a whole different story…

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

Best Supporting Actress: A Look Back

Today begins a new blog series where I’m looking back at five of the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present: the four acting races and Best Picture. This is essentially the time period where I’ve closely watched and analyzed. My charge? Picking the three largest upsets in each said category and the three least surprising winners… a film or performer where it truly would have been a shock if they didn’t emerge victorious.

We begin with Best Supporting Actress and this is one in which there have been some genuine upsets over the past quarter century plus. Unlike some other races we’ll get to later, it was not a challenge to pick three unexpected winners.

The other agenda item here is I’m picking my personal selections for strongest and weakest overall field among the five nominees in the acting derby’s and five-ten for Best Picture.

For starters, here’s the list of women that won gold statues in the supporting race from 1990 to now:

1990 – Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost

1991 – Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King

1992 – Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

1993 – Anna Paquin, The Piano

1994 – Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

1995 – Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite

1996 – Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

1997 – Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential

1998 – Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love

1999 – Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted

2000 – Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

2001 – Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

2003 – Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

2004 – Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

2005 – Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner

2006 – Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

2007 – Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

2008 – Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

2009 – Mo’Nique, Precious

2010 – Melissa Leo, The Fighter

2011 – Octavia Spencer, The Help

2012 – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

2013 – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

2015 – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

2016 – Viola Davis, Fences

2017 – Allison Janney, I, Tonya

I’ll begin with the least surprising winners. Truthfully, there are plenty of selections (and will be in each race) to pick from here. It’s normal procedure for the front runner to actually win. Here’s three that did just that:

3. Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

Of the 28 recipients to choose from, note that 3 of them were under the direction of Woody Allen. None were surprise winners. That’s most evident with Wiest’s showcase work as an aging diva here. Her win here came just eight years following her Oscar winning role in another Allen pic, Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Fans of the Broadway play this is based upon knew Ms. Hudson could have a legitimate breakthrough part here. She nailed it and her win was never in much doubt.

1. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Similar to Hudson’s victory, Hathaway’s casting as Fantine and her “I Dreamed a Dream” dramatic solo made her the odds-on favorite from the moment the project was announced. That never changed.

Now we get to the upsets and there were four to choose from. I could easily include Anna Paquin in The Piano, who became the second youngest winner when she beat out favorite Winona Ryder for The Age of Innocence. Here’s 3 I rank as even more surprising:

3. Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

Harden had won no significant precursors and Kate Hudson was expected to have her name called for Almost Famous. She wasn’t even nominated for a Golden Globe or SAG.

2. Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

While the film itself was the anticipated winner for Picture (which it did), the Oscars were expected to select the legendary Lauren Bacall for her work in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. Yet it was Binoche’s performance that was unexpectedly honored.

1. Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

For starters, comedic roles are rarely nominated and wins are even more unheard of. Tomei was a newcomer in a picture that wasn’t a factor in any other category. Her competition was a list of venerable actresses: Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives), Joan Plowright (Enchanted April), Vanessa Redgrave (Howards End), and Miranda Richardson (Damages). The victory here was so shocking that conspiracy theories emerged that presenter Jack Palance had accidentally read the wrong name. That’s been debunked, but Tomei’s trip to the stage remains one of Oscar’s largest jaw droppers.

As for the fields, I’m going with 1991 for the weakest link in the chain. I probably would have given the award to Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear. However, the group was not particularly strong:

Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King (Winner)

Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose

Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear

Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides

Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes

For the strongest field overall, I went with 2004 when Cate Blanchett won for her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. The other nominees:

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

And there you have it! I’ll have Supporting Actor up soon…

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!