Oscar Predictions: Killers of the Flower Moon

All 206 minutes of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon have been breathlessly awaited by pundits ahead of its Cannes premiere. That occurred today some five months before its domestic release. The crime western reunites the legendary filmmaker with his two most famous and frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in this adaptation of David Grann’s 2017 non-fiction novel. Lily Gladstone (in what’s long been pegged as a role with awards potential) costars alongside Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow.

On paper, Killers has looked like a surefire contender for Oscar glory ever since it was announced. Scorsese has seen five of his past eight films nominated for Best Picture: The Aviator, The Departed (which won), Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Irishman. As mentioned, the 1920s set tale of murders among the Osage Nation comes with a runtime that just exceeds its reported $200 million budget. Apple TV footed the bill, but it will see a theatrical bow prior to any streaming release.

Some of the early critical reaction does gripe about the length (same went for Scorsese’s predecessor The Irishman). Yet most reviews indicate this will be the gold player that we assumed. That last Marty movie scored 10 nods. This could match it or even exceed it. Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay (by the director and Eric Roth), Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, and Sound are all feasible. The early Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 100%.

As for the acting derbies, Leonardo DiCaprio is drawing raves and should be in line for his seventh acting nom (his sole win being 2015’s The Revenant). There was some question as to whether Gladstone would contend in lead or supporting. The buzz indicates the latter is more likely and it appears she’s a shoo-in for inclusion. I had her at #1 in my ranked predictions a few days ago and that may not change. A bigger question was Supporting Actor. It sounds like the role Jesse Plemons plays is relatively small (popping up in the third act). He could still sneak in (as he did in 2021 for The Power of the Dog). The studio’s campaigners could opt to throw their full attention to De Niro. The 79-year-old new dad looks to grab his eighth nod and first since 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. You can pencil him in with DiCaprio and Gladstone.

Can you find the nominees in this picture? There could be plenty for Killers of the Flower Moon. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Babylon Review

The silent days and boisterous evenings of Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s are meticulously depicted in Babylon. From the gourd of Damien Chazelle, this is his version of Boogie Nights in many respects. It focuses on one version of Tinseltown technology fading out in favor of another. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece from a quarter century ago, it was X rated material shot on film being transitioned to video. Here it’s the silent era making way for talkies. The adult entertainment is on ample display at the swank and sweaty bashes that feature cocaine and elephants as party favors.

We meet the main principals at an L.A. happening in 1926. Manny Torres (Diego Calva) is an immigrant doing menial work for Kinoscope Studios. At the company’s debauched soirée, aspiring star Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) literally crashes into his consciousness and a years long infatuation is born. Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) is the already established screen hero whose shooting schedules seem to last longer than his marriages. Jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) provides the soundtrack to the sin while cabaret songstress Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li) supplies sultry vocals. Columnist Elinor St. John (Jean Smart) is around to gossip about it.

The night serves as the intro point for Manny and Nellie to mount separate meteoric rises in a shifting industry. She becomes a silent film sensation just as sound (courtesy of The Jazz Singer) is around the corner. Manny’s connection with Conrad opens doors to big jobs as the movie headliner’s career begins a downward slide. Palmer, meanwhile, becomes a popular if exploited attraction in a series of musicals.

For three hours plus, Babylon celebrates and denigrates the excesses of the era. Nellie’s substance fueled rocket ride and downfall is given bulky screen time while others get the short shrift (Jun Li’s Zhu being one example). There is impressive production design to spare where odious actions occur within the walls. Tobey Maguire’s cameo as a whacked out criminal at an underground function displays scenarios that might make Robbie’s and her costars from The Wolf of Wall Street blush.

Chazelle’s message is pretty straightforward when there isn’t vomit and defecate being spewed. As ugly as Hollywood is, the end result can be beautiful. This is evident in a couple of terrific sequences that show the joy and pain of moviemaking. In one we witness Conrad’s war-torn romance catch the light at the perfect time. In another we suffer along with Nellie as she acclimates herself to the noise being introduced to celluloid.

I wish the gifted provider of Whiplash and La La Land could’ve reigned himself in. The aforementioned segments show how special this would have been with a tighter focus. Unfortunately it’s not only septa being deviated from. While Robbie and Pitt both have shining moments, Chazelle’s screenplay never makes Manny a compelling central figure. Calva doesn’t have much to work with considering his blank slate of a character. There are many known faces that pop up in the crowded script including Olivia Wilde and Katherine Waterston as fleeting wives to Conrad. Lukas Haas is the sad sack friend to the frequent divorcee whose character is similar to William H. Macy’s in Boogie Nights. That picture and Babylon take place in different eras of Hollywood shifts. One is brilliant. The other is occasionally inspired and often maddening.

**1/2 (out of four)

Babylon Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (12/20): I am revising my Babylon prediction down to $8.7 million

The La La Land man turns his attention to the debauchery of Hollywood’s early days in Babylon. Damien Chazelle directs the epic dramedy that rivals Avatar: The Way of Water (188 minutes) in terms of length. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Lukas Haas, Max Minghella, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, and Tobey Maguire are among the sprawling cast.

While the review embargo hasn’t officially lifted, social media reactions are all over the map. There’s praise and contempt for the hard R rated extravaganza. This week it received five Golden Globes nods (including Best Picture – Musical/Comedy) and nine mentions from the Critics Choice Awards (including Best Picture). Oscar attention is anticipated.

There’s comparisons in terms of tone (and rampant drug use) to The Wolf of Wall Street from 2013. It also was presented during the Christmas season to a traditional three-day haul of just over $18 million. That’s probably the ceiling of where Babylon would manage.

I’ll project lower double digits is where this starts as it hopes the buzz keeps it going into the new year.

Babylon opening weekend prediction: $8.7 million (REVISED)

For my Puss in Boots: The Last Wish prediction, click here:

For my Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions: Babylon

One of the last significant pieces of the 2022 Oscar puzzle has come into sharper focus with Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. The 188 minute epic set in late 1920s Hollywood has screened for industry and critics and reaction is wildly divergent. Some posts are calling it a triumph while others proclaim it a grotesque mess. One thing seems certain – this one will get a whole lotta chatter leading up to its December 23rd release. One other thing – the buzz below could change with more screenings as we get closer to the premiere.

Newcomer Diego Calva headlines a cast that includes Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Jean Smart, and Tobey Maguire. While the review embargo won’t lift for a bit, the all over the map chatter raises some questions for its awards viability.

Chazelle has a sterling track record with voters. His first two features – 2014’s Whiplash and 2016’s La La Land – were both Best Picture nominees (the latter rather famously losing to Moonlight). Chazelle did take the Director prize for La La. On the other hand, 2018’s First Man underperformed at the box office and with the Academy (its four nods were all in tech categories).

So it’s a given that Babylon has (sight unseen) sat high on the projections of prognosticators for months. First things first. This won’t end the streak of Chazelle’s movies getting nominations. It’s a major possibility in numerous below the line competitions like Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Score, and Sound. Film Editing is one that could be contingent on a BP nod.

Will it get there for the biggest race? I think it still probably makes the cut. Yet Paramount might be feeling that Top Gun: Maverick is now their ace contender. The studio has had such a solid year that both could get in. There’s been some comparisons to The Wolf of Wall Street with the running time and frequent debauchery. That was a BP hopeful in 2013. For another Leo pic reference, Don’t Look Up was up last year and it too garnered severely mixed reviews.

I suspect I’ll still have Babylon in my top 10 when I updated my projections this weekend. I’ve had it listed 3rd for weeks and I would anticipate that ranking will drop. Chazelle is unlikely to be my #2 where he’s sat behind Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) for awhile. I’m not completely sure he’ll be in my estimated quintet.

As for the actors – Robbie is getting a lot of praise thus far as is Calva. Best Actress, as I’ve noted a lot on here, is packed this year. I believe Cate Blanchett (Tár), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) are currently top 3 in the race and there’s a handful of others vying for spots 4-5. That includes Robbie and I still believe she stands a realistic shot. So does Calva and that may be due to Actor being pretty weak this year. His inclusion is far from guaranteed, but he could nab a fourth or fifth slot like his costar. While Pitt is getting decent notices, I’m less convinced he’s in for Supporting Actor.

Bottom line: Babylon doesn’t seem like a threat to win Best Picture and it’s questionable whether it even gets in. Acting nods are feasible but not assured. Tech noms are inevitable. My Oscar prediction posts will continue…

Best Picture 2013: The Final Five

My blog series continues with speculation on what a Best Picture lineup of five would have looked like in the years since the format changed to up to 10 nominees. That began in 2009 and if you missed my previous posts covering 2009-2012, you can peruse them here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

Best Picture 2011: The Final Five

Best Picture 2012: The Final Five

In our year of 2013, the magic number was 9 contenders. We know that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave would have been included since a win in Best Picture was among its nine nominations. It also took Director, Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o), and Adapted Screenplay. So what else would’ve made the cut? Let’s speculate, shall we?

American Hustle

David O. Russell’s disco era crime pic tied for the most nods with 10, including Director and four acting mentions for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence. Despite the double digit nomination haul, it ended the night with zero victories.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Even with the goose egg, the sheer number of nods indicates making the quintet.

Captain Phillips

With Tom Hanks as the title character in the true life Somali pirate drama, Paul Greengrass’s tense thriller scored 6 overall nods. In addition to Pic, Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi), Adapted Screenplay, both Sound races, and Film Editing were in the mix. Like Hustle, there were no wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. With no nods for directing or Hanks’s performance (which was a huge snub), I think this would’ve been on the outside looking in.

Dallas Buyers Club

While our first two selections went 0 for 16, this mid 80s set AIDS drama won half of its six nominations – Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), and Makeup and Hairstyling. The other two mentions were Original Screenplay and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, but it’s a close call. The three gold statues put it over the edge in my opinion despite not landing a directing slot for the late Jean-Marc Vallee.

Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s space thriller tied Hustle with 10 nominations. Unlike Hustle, it won 70% of its possibilities: Director, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. Sandra Bullock was nominated for Best Actress and it got a Production Design nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Even without a screenplay nom, this would’ve been in contention and it was probably the runner-up to Slave considering the Cuaron win.

Her

Spike Jonze’s quirky romantic drama won Original Screenplay and was up for Score, Song, and Production Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No because it missed out on key precursors including Director, Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), and Film Editing.

Nebraska

Alexander Payne’s B&W road dramedy nabbed five other nods for direction, Actor (Bruce Dern), Supporting Actress (June Squibb), Original Screenplay, and Cinematography. It didn’t emerge victorious for any.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I struggled with this one (it’s sixth). Film Editing is often the biggest indicator of a BP nom and that’s part of the reason I gave Dallas Buyers Club a slight edge.

Philomena

Judi Dench received a Best Actress nod for this adoption drama. Adapted Screenplay and Score were the other mentions as its four overall are the least of the BP hopefuls.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. The Academy loves Dench. However, that wouldn’t have been enough for this to survive a cut to five.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s raunchy tale of 80s excess landed Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill acting spots. The direction and Adapted Screenplay were up as well. It won none.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes though I will say I don’t think it’s automatic. Wolf‘s complete lack of nominations in the tech categories is a bit of a surprise, but ultimately I don’t think the voters would’ve ignored this.

So my quintet for 2013 would be:

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

The Wolf of Wall Street

2014 is up next and will be on the blog soon!

Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Martin Scorsese

My Case of posts for Oscar nominees now focuses on the fourth director profiled – Martin Scorsese for The Irishman:

The Case for Martin Scorsese

One of the most acclaimed filmmakers in cinematic history, Scorsese’s epic Netflix gangster drama marks his ninth nomination for Best Director. Previous nods were for Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, GoodFellas, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Hugo, and The Wolf of Wall Street. If you’re wondering why Taxi Driver isn’t among the pictures included, so am I. His only victory came for The Departed and there’s  a feeling that Oscar voters have snubbed him in the past. The Irishman pulled in 10 nominations, which is tied for second with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

The Case Against Martin Scorsese

The Irishman has gone from a Best Picture front runner to a serious long shot. This is thanks mostly to 1917 and Parasite. Therefore the Best Director derby is now seen as a battle between Sam Mendes and Bong Joon-Ho.

The Verdict

Scorsese’s win total will almost certainly be 1/9 after Sunday night as his movie’s hopes have faded in this and other categories.

My Case of posts will continue with Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!

Oscars 2019: The Case of Leonardo DiCaprio

For my second writeup in my Case of posts in the Best Actor derby at the Oscars, we come to Leonardo DiCaprio (perhaps you’ve heard of him). Here’s the storyline for and against a second trip to the podium:

The Case for Leonardo DiCaprio

Well, he’s probably the biggest movie star in the world and that helps. A six-time nominee and winner in 2015 for The Revenant, his work in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood garnered the usual raves and one heckuva meltdown scene. In a 2019 field that saw over 10 feasible contender in this race, he’s one of just three (along with Joaquin Phoenix and Adam Driver) to be nominated in all the higher profile precursors.

The Case Against Leonardo DiCaprio

Of the precursors, he’s lost them all to Phoenix. DiCaprio’s costar Brad Pitt has been receiving the lions share of awards love here with multiple Supporting Actor victories.

The Verdict

Had DiCaprio not recently won for The Revenant (Hollywood is his first movie since), there might be more of a path. However, the Phoenix factor and Pitt attention should leave Leo 1/6 on Oscar night.

My Case of posts will continue with the second nominated Best Actress… Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story!

Oscars 2019: The Case of The Irishman

Continuing with my Oscar series outlining the cases for and against nominees in the top six categories, we arrive at Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. This is my second of (gulp) 34 posts for films and individuals picked in the Picture, Director, and the acting races. If you missed yesterday’s writeup about Ford v Ferrari, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

Let’s get to it!

The Case for The Irishman

Scorsese’s latest is an epic unification of screen legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in the genre they’re known best for… the gangster tale. The three and a half hour opus certainly has awards gravitas. It was pegged as a likely nominee from the moment it was announced. Both Pacino and Pesci were named in Supporting Actor and the pic sports 10 nominations, which is tied for second along with 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Scorsese is obviously a legendary figure and this is his ninth effort to get a Picture nod (the only winner being 2006’s The Departed).

The critics have been on its side and it has a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Several critics group named it as the year’s best.

The Case Against The Irishman

That attention has not translated to the big awards shows yet. The Golden Globes surprised most when they picked 1917 over this in Best Drama. The Critics Choice Awards chose Hollywood. Some have griped about its length. De Niro, unlike Pacino and Pesci, couldn’t manage a nod with the Globes, SAG, or the Academy. And then there’s the still unsettled notion that the Academy could have a Netflix problem, despite the streamer leading this year’s studios in total number of nominations. In 2018, Roma appeared to be the front runner until that Netflix property lost to Green Book. 

The Verdict

There was little doubt that The Irishman would garner plenty of attention in various categories, including here. Yet viability as a winner is much in question. Scorsese’s latest could still take the top prize, but it appears to be a bit of a long shot at the moment.

Up next in my Case of posts… Jojo Rabbit!

McConaughey: Everything’s Not Alright Alright

When this blog started in the fall of 2012, Matthew McConaughey was coming off a solid two-year period which saw him headline the surprise legal drama hit The Lincoln Lawyer and attract rave reviews for his supporting role in Magic Mike.

Yet 2013 elevated the actor to a whole new stratosphere. His work in the acclaimed indie pic Mud garnered Oscar chatter. He had a memorable cameo alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It ironically turned out that McConaughey’s scene partner in that film was his biggest competition for an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club would see the Texan playing Ron Woodruff, a real life AIDS patient in the 1980s. McConaughey’s work was praised and he took home the gold statue. His luck streak continued into the following year starring in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, which stands as his largest grossing live-action feature.

Since then? Well, let’s just say the McConaissance has been interrupted. Or borrowing his most famous catchphrase from 1993’s Dazed and Confused – it’s not Alright Alright.

This weekend, his stoner comedy The Beach Bum tanked at the box office. Its approximate $1.8 million opening is the worst release of the actor’s career. And it follows a pattern of now seven live-action duds (he did provide voice work in the animated pics Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings). And to give a modicum of credit, he did skip the subpar sequel Magic Mike XXL.

At least Nicolas Cage had a string of action hits after his Oscar before delving into VOD territory. McConaughey hasn’t been so fortunate and he quickly needs a critical or commercial success to redeem things. His list of recent material is an unsuccessful and largely forgettable one. In three years, we’ve had:

  • Free State of Jones, his summer 2016 Civil War drama that took in $20 million domestically against a $50 million budget. Its Rotten Tomatoes score was 46%.
  • The Sea of Trees from later that summer. The drama wasn’t even released wide and didn’t make a million dollars (13% RT score).
  • True life crime drama Gold in January 2017. 42% RT. $14 million gross stateside.
  • The Dark Tower in summer 2017. The critically maligned Stephen King adaptation had a 16% RT rating and immediately ended the possibility of a franchise with earnings of $50 million.
  • Another based on actual events crime drama from last fall – White Boy Rick. 58% RT and $24 million gross.
  • Noir thriller Serenity from earlier this year. Barely promoted, it made an embarrassing $8 million total with a 23% RT score.

And now The Beach Bum, which won’t reach $10 million domestically either. It’s time for McConaughey’s people to find him some better stuff. His most memorable appearances lately have been in car commercials. If they can’t manage to do so, there’s always 2013.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5jr7Vsw7brg