Oscar Watch: Doctor Sleep

When it was released nearly 40 years ago in theaters, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not considered the landmark horror classic that it is today. In fact, the film received zero Oscar nominations. It did score two Razzie nods. That ceremony celebrates the worst in moviemaking each year. Both Kubrick and Shelley Duvall as the terrified wife of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance were singled out for their (apparently) subpar work.

That seems hard to fathom these days with its standing as one of the genre’s best. This weekend comes Doctor Sleep, the sequel to both Stephen King’s 1977 novel and Kubrick’s picture. Reviews are mostly solid, but not across the board and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.

Truth be told, Sleep was never expected to be an awards player and reaction so far hasn’t done anything to alter that. There is one potential, if unlikely, exception. Critical buzz has heaped praise on the supporting work of Rebecca Ferguson, who’s said to steal the show as a cult leader with psychic powers.

A performance being recognized in the horror space is quite rare. Just last year, there were numerous calls for Toni Collette to get Best Actress attention in Hereditary. It never happened. Ferguson absolutely needs critics groups to bestow her with wins in order to get anywhere on Academy voters radar. If that occurs, she may have a small shot. If so, she would be the sixth performer Oscar nominated from a King adaptation: Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in Carrie, Kathy Bates (who won for Misery), Morgan Freeman for The Shawshank Redemption, and Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile.

Bottom line: Ferguson needs a whole lot of outside help to be a factor in the Supporting Actress derby and I wouldn’t count on it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

2013: The Year of Tom Hanks

In 1993, Tom Hanks literally made a dramatic shift to more serious projects with Philadelphia, which brought the AIDS epidemic front and center to a more mainstream audience. For his performance, Hanks won an Oscar and forever changed moviegoers perceptions of him from a comedic actor to a jack of all trades.

The following year, Forrest Gump turned into a smash hit and Hanks would win his second Best Actor trophy in a row (a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since Spencer Tracy in the late 1930s). The rest of the 1990s would see the performer headlining one prestige project after another that connected with critics and audiences alike. Apollo 13. Saving Private Ryan. The Green Mile. Cast Away. In addition, he starred in a pair of hit rom coms with Meg Ryan – Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

The last decade or so for Hanks could be described as spotty at best. After a mostly well-received turn in Sam Mendes’ Prohibition era pic Road to Perdition (where he cast against type as a hitman), there was Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal, which failed to make a major impression with audiences. The actor’s biggest financial successes were with adaptations of Dan Brown novels, 2006’s The Da Vinci Code and 2009’s Angels and Demons. Neither pictures were particularly beloved by critics. Of course, there was also the animated smash hit Toy Story 3 in 2010. And a supporting turn in Catch Me If You Can, another collabo with Spielberg that turned out well. However, there were disappointments as well. 2004’s Coen Bros remake The Ladykillers was a box office disappointment. 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War was expected to be an Oscar player, but wasn’t. His directorial effort Larry Crowne costarring Julia Roberts didn’t resonate with audiences or critics. And last year’s Cloud Atlas was a financial dud domestically.

Two decades after Hanks achieved double Oscar glory, 2013 will be seen as a return to form. October’s Captain Phillips (the tale of the 2009 Somali hijacking incident) earned the actor his best reviews in years. The project (from director Paul Greengrass) gives Hanks his greatest chance for an Oscar nod in the last 13 years. He hasn’t been recognized by the Academy since 2000’s Cast Away. Audiences responded well to Phillips, too. It’s earned $102 million domestically at press time.

Captain Phillips would probably be enough to earn Hanks a spot in this blog series, but there’s another feature coming this month that should only add to his solid year. John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks casts Hanks (recently named America’s most trusted person in America) as iconic studio head Walt Disney. The film focuses on the making of 1964’s Mary Poppins and stars Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers. Attention is already focused on Hanks receiving a Best Supporting Actor nod for his turn as Disney. If that happens, the performer may well be a double nominee as this year’s ceremony. Banks also seems likely to be a commercial hit.

While the last few years have been a mixed bag commercially and critically for Mr. Trustworthy, audiences and critics (and probably Oscar voters) entrusted Hanks at a level in 2013 not seen in a while. Hanks has no projects lined up for release in 2014, though expect Toy Story 4 and The Lost Symbol (another Dan Brown adaptation) in the future.

Part three of my six-part series on performers who had a profound impact in the movies in 2013 continues tomorrow with an actress who gave a performance that was literally out of this world.