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 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…

 

Phantom Thread Movie Review

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread serves up a recipe that is both deliciously lush in its look and sickeningly pitch black in its sneaky comedic sensibilities. It’s a fascinating concoction to behold with an alleged swan song performance by Daniel Day-Lewis where he’s occasionally upstaged by the women around him.

The three-time Oscar winner is Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant fashion designer in 1950s London. He’s the go to dressmaker for high society and he delves into his work with the serious and intense manner in which, well, Day-Lewis inhabits his roles. Reynolds is a forever bachelor who worships his deceased mother and holds an extremely and maybe too close relationship with sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who assists with his thriving and thrifty business.

A trip to the countryside introduces Reynolds to Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young waitress. He asks her to dinner and in quick succession, she’s moved in with him. Alma serves a dress model at first, but is soon his latest muse (we imagine there’s been several) and love interest. She quickly realizes that her new and fancy world revolves around Reynolds and his routine that he despises being disrupted. He’s a tortured genius and egomaniac. Yet the roads we foresee this union dissolving into are not always what writer/director Anderson has up his sleeve.

That’s partly because Alma doesn’t turn out to be just a needy girlfriend. Some of the film’s biggest surprises and key moments come from her choices on how to deal with Reynolds. Krieps gives us a feisty and fantastic performance to behold. Manville’s work is quite impressive as well. Sister Cyril is an intriguing presence – always steps away from Reynolds and bizarrely attached to him. She’s also the only person who can speak any truth to him until Alma enters the frame.

And there’s Day-Lewis, an actor who can do more with a line reading choice or facial expression than nearly anyone else. With Reynolds Woodcock, we have one more memorable and unique creation. He’s seemingly incapable of nothing less.

Anderson, of course, already directed Day-Lewis as the unforgettable oil baron in There Will Be Blood. They mix well together. Like all of Anderson’s work, this is a visually sumptuous experience where the gorgeous score from Jonny Greenwood and costume design from Mark Bridges are especially noteworthy.

Phantom Thread hides some of its best tricks for the end. It may have you wanting to watch the off kilter courtship of its subjects a second time – or to again watch a great auteur in fine form with a trio of performances to match.

***1/2 (out of four)

 

Oscar Watch: Phantom Thread

Daniel Day-Lewis could be the only performer other than Meryl Streep whose automatic participation in a project warrants Oscar buzz. It’s not hard to figure out why. He’s the only male to win three Best Actor awards – for 1989’s My Left Foot, 2007’s There Will Be Blood, and 2012’s Lincoln.

Therefore, it was no surprise that his latest picture Phantom Thread garnered immediate awards chatter. The dramatic thriller in which he plays an obsessive London designer in the 1950s reunites the actor with his Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson. Reviews are now out prior to its end of year release and they suggest Day-Lewis should easily nab yet another nomination for what he claims is his last acting role. Winning his fourth statue could be another story.

The front-runner appears to be Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, even though Mr. Oldman curiously has been left out of many precursor awards. That could certainly change, however. As I see it, Day-Lewis is right behind him.

When it comes to the picture itself, that’s a bit more unclear. Thread stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and some reviews have praised it as one of the year’s finest. Others have been more mixed. I have had the film just getting in and just being outside of my predicted nine features to be nominated. At press time, I consider Thread, Darkest Hour, and Mudbound to be strong possibilities for inclusion, but certainly not automatic.

Thread‘s other performances include Vicky Krieps, who will be campaigned for in Lead Actress. That category appears too crowded for her to get in. In Supporting Actress, the possibility of Lesley Manville having her name called is more likely, but also not assured.

Writer/director Anderson probably won’t get in for Director, though his Original Screenplay has already won some precursors. Yet there’s no guarantee there because that particular race is also jam-packed.

Down the line, Thread appears to be a shoo-in for Costume Design (it’ll probably win) and the acclaimed Original Score. Production Design and Makeup and Hairstyling nominations are also feasible.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Founder Movie Review

Michael Keaton can convey so much with an expression. There are scenes in John Lee Hancock’s The Founder where he doesn’t need dialogue to show what’s going through his head. Luckily, a lot of the writing here is quite good and often gets close to matching the lead’s masterful performance.

The pic has Keaton playing Ray Kroc, the man who started McDonald’s. Well, sort of. We open in 1954 as Kroc is a struggling traveling salesman in Missouri who stumbles upon a restaurant in San Bernardino, California. It’s doing things differently from the endless drive-in joints across the nation. Run by Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald, McDonald’s makes its food fast in an era the term fast food was yet to be coined. The brothers also take their work seriously and have chosen not to franchise after their first try resulted in poor service and quality. There’s a scene where Dick recalls how the restaurant’s burger making assembly line was perfected that’s an absolute joy to watch.

Ray immediately realizes the cash cow that Dick and Mac are sitting on and his relentless salesmanship gets them to relent on opening more locations. This brings forth a flurry of activity as Ray gets those Golden Arches up while constantly clashing with the actual founders.

Director Hancock’s last effort, Saving Mr. Banks, showed another 1950s era titan of industry with an unending drive and ambition in the form of Walt Disney. Kroc is just as much an icon in many ways, though his motives are often far more ruthless. The screenplay by Robert D. Siegel doesn’t exactly make him a villain, but you won’t exactly sympathize with him either. With rare exception, Kroc’s actions are all about his personal gain. He barely speaks to his wife (Laura Dern) and has his eye on a business partner’s wife (Linda Cardellini). Yet at the same time, it was him who had the vision to expand a chain of restaurants that now feeds 1% of the world every day. And it probably took his kind of personality to do it.

The work of Lynch and Offerman is top-notch. Offerman’s Dick sees the writing on the wall with Ray, while Lynch’s Mac can’t quite get there. This is Keaton’s movie, though. Like Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and Daniel Day-Lewis’s Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Keaton gives us another corporate honcho to kind of despise and kind of love. The Founder may not be as fantastic as those two pictures, but the star is and it’s quite entertaining watching the intrigue unfold.

***1/2 (out of four)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Box Office Prediction

The sixth (and apparently last judging by the title) franchise entry in a nearly decade and a half series, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens next weekend. Stemming from the Capcom video game which premiered nearly 20 years ago, Evil brings back Milla Jovovich as heroine Alice with a supporting cast that includes Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose (she’s costarring in another just out sequel xXx: Return of Xander Cage), and Iain Glen. Paul W.S. Anderson (not as you may suspect, the guy who did Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood), directs his fourth Resident feature.

The latest blend of action and horror in this franchise has seen its longest lay-off in between pictures. That’s a trait recently shared by Underworld: Blood Wars, which came out earlier this month and posted a series low. The Evil pics have all opened in the high teens to mid 20s range. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Resident Evil (2002): $17.7 million opening

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004): $23 million

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007): $23.6 million

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010): $26.6 million

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012): $21 million

As you can see, the previous longest gap was three years and this one has been five. As with the aforementioned Underworld, that might mean a lower opening than the series has witnessed thus far. Blood Wars managed just $13.6 million out of the gate while the four preceding it all made over $20M.

My guess is that this will suffer a very similar final fate and a gross in the low to mid teens range.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million

For my A Dog’s Purpose prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/a-dogs-purpose-box-office-prediction/

For my Gold prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/gold-box-office-prediction/

Top 25 Best Movie Trailers (1990-2015): Nos. 15-11

We have moved to day 3 of my personal top 25 best movie trailers of the last 25 years and that means numbers 15-11 before we get to the Top Ten tomorrow!

And here they are:

15. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has made some of the finest pictures of the last couple of decades and that greatness extends to his trailers. His last two efforts, The Master and Inherent Vice, were both considered for this list but I went with the trailer for There Will Be Blood with its first menacing glimpse of Daniel Day-Lewis’s amazing Oscar winning performance.

14. Cloverfield (2008)

While the movie itself was a bit of a letdown, this spot for this sci-fi pic rightly generated considerable buzz for the mysterious project and is a major example of a trailer contributing to considerable box office success. And it has the coolest Statue of Liberty shot since the original Planet of the Apes.

13. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Once again, I was disappointed in the eventual final product but the trailer for 1999’s out of nowhere financial smash Blair Witch had audiences wondering whether what they were going to see was real or not.

12. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick’s final motion picture with at the time real life husband and wife Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had a dandy of a sensuous and effective trailer set to Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing’.

11. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Truth be told, I could have listed any of the trailers for Peter Jackson’s massive trilogy, but I went with the original which gave audiences their first stunning glimpse of the director’s Tolkien created universe.

Top Ten tomorrow, folks!