Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

2014 was an admittedly sturdy year in the Best Actor category with Eddie Redmayne winning the prize for The Theory of Everything. The other nominees were Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). However, one could argue that Carell could have fit into the Supporting Actor derby (and he probably would have been nominated over his costar Mark Ruffalo).

So while all five contenders above turned in fine performances, I still cannot fathom how Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was left out. As a demented Los Angeles photojournalist, the actor (whose only Academy nod is for supporting in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain) turned in a career best performance. In fact, Nightcrawler itself is my favorite movie of its year and should’ve certainly been a Best Picture nominee too.

This was the second year in a row where I feel an obviously worthy turn was ignored. In 2013, it was Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Gyllenhaal’s exclusion is just as baffling and that’s especially true because he was nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards.

Oscar History: 2014

Six years ago in Oscar history began an impressive two year run for filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with Birdman emerging as the big winner of the evening. The film took Best Picture and Director over its major competitor – Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. This was a ceremony in which the largest category did have some suspense. Birdman took the prize over the aforementioned Boyhood and six other pics: American Sniper (the year’s top grosser), The Grand Budapest Hotel (marking Wes Anderson’s first and only Picture nominee), The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. 

In this blogger’s perfect world, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler would have been recognized. It was my favorite movie of that year so get used to seeing it pop up in this post. Other notable selections from 2014 left on the cutting room floor: David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. 

Mr. Miller did have the notable distinction of being nominated for Best Director despite his work not showing up in Best Picture (very rare these days). As mentioned, Inarritu took the gold over Miller as well as Linklater, Anderson, and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). Gilroy, Fincher, and Joon-ho might have warranted consideration in my view as well as Chazelle’s bravura debut in Whiplash. 

One could argue that Nightcrawler isn’t your prototypical Picture contender. However, Jake Gyllenhaal being left out of the five Actor contenders stands as one of the noteworthy snubs in recent history. It was Eddie Redmayne emerging victorious for The Theory of Everything over his closest competitor Michael Keaton (Birdman). Other nominees: the three C’s of Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, picking up his third nomination in a row), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

There is a voluminous list of solid performances beyond just Gyllenhaal’s that were left wanting. It includes Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), David Oyelowo (Selma), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), and Miles Teller (Whiplash).

In Best Actress, Julianne Moore triumphed for Still Alice after four previous nominations without a win. She took the honor over Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Moore’s selection was one of the easiest to project as she’d been a sturdy frontrunner all season.

Looking back, how about Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow? Its action genre trappings probably prevented consideration, but she might have made my quintet. Amy Adams won the Golden Globe for Actress in Musical/Comedy, but missed here.

Another easy (and absolutely deserved) winner was J.K. Simmons in Supporting Actor for Whiplash over Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher).

I will yet again mention Nightcrawler as I might have considered Riz Ahmed. There’s also Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice.

Boyhood nabbed its major race victory in Supporting Actress with Patricia Arquette. Other nominees were Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), and the always in contention Meryl Streep for Into the Woods.

As for others, I’ll start with (surprise) Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Others include both Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent in addition to Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice).

My Oscar History will continue soon with 2015 as Mr. Inarritu will dominate the director race yet again while the Academy chose to spotlight something in Best Picture!

Oscar Watch: The Aeronauts

Flying into Telluride this weekend is the hot air balloon adventure The Aeronauts, which reunites The Theory of Everything costars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. The Amazon Studios production comes with high hopes (a reported $80 million budget) and early reviews suggest it’s fast paced and fun entertainment. Tom Harper directs. Earlier this year, he put out the indie country music drama Wild Rose with an acclaimed performance from Jessie Buckley.

Jones and Redmayne both nabbed Academy nods five years ago for Theory with the latter winning Best Actor. Since then, they’ve moved on to franchise material like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Fantastic Beasts pics. Their reunion is highly unlikely to make them return nominees.

If The Aeronauts can factor in anywhere, perhaps it’s Visual Effects. Yet that could be a tall order considering competition that could include heavy hitters such as Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, and this December’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Production Design and Costume Design might be reachable as well. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Two Popes

It seems as if The Two Popes has emerged as a bright spot at the Telluride Film Festival over the weekend. The Netflix production casts Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as the future Pope Francis. Reviews suggest it’s an engaging and often funny experience that audiences should approve of. Fernando Meirelles directs and he’s a previous nominee for 2002’s City of God. He also made The Constant Gardner in 2005 for which Rachel Weisz won a Supporting Actress gold statue.

Popes may not see white smoke for a Picture nod, but other races are definitely in play. An important question is category placement. It sounds as if the two actors are co-leads. Will the studio be creative to maximize the chances for both to get in? If only one can make it, I’d bet on the never nominated Pryce over four-time nominee Hopkins (who won nearly three decades ago for The Silence of the Lambs).

There’s also Andrew McCarten, who could get noticed for his praised Original Screenplay. He’s a bit of a Best Actor whisperer as a matter of fact. Three of the last five winners in that race starred in scripts written by him: Eddie Redmayne in 2014 for The Theory of Everything, Gary Oldman two years ago in Darkest Hour, and Rami Malek last year for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bottom line: The Two Popes did well for itself in Colorado when it comes to awards viability. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

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

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…

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!

Oscar Watch: Mary Magdalene

In 2016, the directorial debut of Garth Davis was Lion and it earned an impressive six Oscar nominations. His follow-up is an ambitious one – Biblical drama Mary Magdalene. The film casts previous nominees Rooney Mara in the title role with Joaquin Phoenix portraying Jesus.

Anything featuring this director, the subject matter, and the leads is bound to lead to Oscar curiosity. Yet buzz out today strongly suggests otherwise. Reviews have been rather weak with one major trade publication deeming it a sophomore slump.

While Phoenix has been singled out for his performance, he is far more likely to garner a nod for other pictures he’s got in the 2018 hopper. They are Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and You Were Never Really Here and they’ve already been covered on the blog.

Besides the unimpressed critical reaction, there are other issues. While Magdalene is scheduled to roll out internationally in various countries in the coming days and weeks, it’s U.S. distribution is uncertain. The pic was originally scheduled for release from the beleaguered Weinstein Company and is currently without a release date.

There is one possible exception to its Academy chances. The film is composed by Johann Johannson, a previous nominee for The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Mr. Johannson died unexpectedly on February 9 and there could perhaps be a push to honor him posthumously.

Bottom line: don’t look for Mary Magdalene to have any real impact come Oscar time next year.

Oscar Watch: Breathe

Andrew Garfield goes for his second Best Actor Oscar nod in a row with Breathe, which has screened at the Toronto Film Festival. In it, Garfield plays a man diagnosed with polio who becomes a disabilities advocate. The drama marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, known most for giving life to CG creations in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises. Other stars include Claire Foy and Hugh Bonneville.

Early reviews haven’t been too positive, but they’ve pointed out it wears its Oscar hopes on its sleeve. It’s been compared to The Theory of Everything, which did win Eddie Redmayne a statue. With Best Actor looking like it has some open slots (for now), a strong campaign could give Garfield nod #2 after last year’s Hacksaw Ridge. Yet the troubling reviews won’t help.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Danish Girl

image If it seems a bit too early to get into 2015 Oscar predictions not even two weeks after the ceremony for 2014 movies, I give you The Danish Girl. It doesn’t come out until November yet it undeniably seems to have awards cred firmly established.

Why? Its director Tom Hooper has seen his two previous features earn Best Picture nominations. 2010’s The King’s Speech won the big prize while 2012’s Les Miserables got a nod. The Danish Girl is set in the 1920s and tells the true story of Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.

Hooper has also directed five performers to acting nominations with including two winners: Colin Firth as Best Actor for Speech and Anne Hathaway as Supporting Actress in Miserables. The character of Elbe is played by Eddie Redmayne, who is fresh off an Oscar victory for Actor in The Theory of Everything. This seems like just the kind of role that could easily return him to the party. Whether or not he can pull a Tom Hanks and win twice in a row remains to be seen. As Elbe’s wife, keep an eye on Swedish actress Alicia Vikander in either the Actress or Supporting Actress category. She’s unknown in the states at present time but has a slew of movies out this year, such as this summer’s high profile The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

With its director and actor having just recently tasted Oscar glory, The Danish Girl earns its designation as my first 2015 film to keep an eye on in the awards derby. It comes out November 27.

Oscar Recap 2014

Well it’s been nearly 24 hours since the 87th edition of the Academy Awards reached its conclusion and somewhere Neil Patrick Harris is still trying to make that “secret Oscar ballot” gag work. The show was, as usual, a mixed bag that went on far too long. It featured some solid musical numbers (Common and John Legend, Tim McGraw) and a truly memorable one with Lady Gaga paying tribute to the 50 year old Sound of Music, complete with a Julie Andrews cameo at the end.

Being the host is largely a thankless job but NPH did OK. I don’t think his performance was strong enough to warrant a return engagement, but you never know. I still say let Fallon and Timberlake do it or bring in Louis C.K. to really make things unpredictable.

There were some genuinely humorous bits like John Travolta making nice with Idina Menzel after butchering her name last year, but not close to enough to justify its laborious length which ran past midnight.

It was a mediocre ceremony that was truly made fascinating only by the real suspense generated with the top awards. OK, it was a given that Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette would take home acting trophies and they did. I admittedly let my heart and not mind pick Michael Keaton over Eddie Redmayne and was unsurprisingly proved wrong.

The genuine suspense came with Best Picture and Director where there was a real coin flip between Birdman and Boyhood. It got even more confusing when both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash started winning in categories they weren’t expected to. Could a massive upset be brewing with one of them?

Yet when Birdman took the Original Screenplay award over expected winner Budapest, it started to look like a good night for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s movie. He would win the Director prize and the film would win the biggest race of all.

This left Boyhood as the evening’s loser, picking up only Supporting Actress for Arquette. Birdman and Budapest won four awards with Whiplash at three. Interestingly, this Oscars had the rare occasion of all eight nominated features winning at least one race. My predictions were as uneven as the show… 12 for 20 and that is on the low end for this humble blogger.

So, all in all, a ho hum affair with some solid moments sprinkled throughout. By the end of the show, however, it wasn’t only Octavia Spencer that appeared exasperated by that flat NPH ballot gag.