Oscar Predictions: Elvis

Will Elvis be in the building when the Oscars air next year? The eagerly anticipated Baz Luhrmann biopic has debuted at Cannes prior to its June 24th stateside bow. The splashy musical casts Austin Butler as The King with Tom Hanks (in some apparently memorable makeup) as Colonel Parker. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia DeJonge, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

Luhrmann’s movies can attract wildly divergent opinions. Elvis is currently at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet it’s worth noting that the negative reviews are quite negative and the positive ones point out plenty of flaws. It’s not often you’ll read this, but Hanks’s work is drawing mixed buzz. He’ll need some coattail action to be a factor in Supporting Actor.

On the flip side, Luhrmann’s pictures also generate Academy mentions. His last four have done so. 1996’s Romeo + Juliet was nominated for Art Direction. 2001’s Moulin Rouge! was his most acclaimed title with 8 nods including Picture (though not Director). It was victorious in Art Direction and Costume Design. His less regarded 2008 follow-up Australia received a Costume Design nod while 2013’s The Great Gatsby landed wins for Costume Design and Production Design.

We are talking about Elvis so you have to assume Costume Design is easily in play. So are Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Sound. And, yes, Best Picture is a possibility. Whether or not it hits at the box office could move the needle one way or the other on the big race. If he couldn’t do so for Rouge!, I doubt Luhrmann gets his first behind the camera recognition.

One consistent thread in most of the reaction thus far compliments the performance of Butler. He is absolutely in the mix for Best Actor. Butler’s best hope is to follow in the footsteps of Rami Malek, who took home the gold stature for 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody as rock legend Freddie Mercury. Or he could end up like Taron Egerton, who surprisingly was left off the final five in 2019 as Elton John in Rocketman. 

Bottom line: despite some grumbling, Elvis has at least established itself as a mover and shaker for the awards season. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2022 Oscar Predictions: May 10th Edition

My second round of Oscar predictions in the six biggest races are before you. When I update them next, we’ll be in the midst of the Cannes Film Festival where some of these hopefuls are screening.

As for category placement changes, I’ve moved Jesse Plemons in Killers of the Flower Moon to Supporting Actor from lead. It remains to be seen which contest he’s placed in. If it is supporting, we shall see if it’s him or Robert De Niro that gets the buzz. I’m betting on the latter at press time.

Let’s get into it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Women Talking (PR: 5) (+1)

5. The Son (PR: 4) (-1)

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 8) (+2)

7. She Said (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Bardo (PR: 7) (-1)

9. The Whale (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rustin (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam (PR: 11) (E)

12. Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

13. White Noise (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Poor Things (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 17) (+2)

16. Empire of Light (PR: 16) (E)

17. Tar (PR: 14) (-3)

18. Till (PR: 15) (-3)

19. Armageddon Time (PR: 25) (+6)

20. Elvis (PR: 22) (+2)

21. Thirteen Lives (PR: 20) (-1)

22. The Woman King (PR: 23) (+1)

23. Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 24) (+1)

24. Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 18) (-6)

25. Next Goal Wins (PR: 19) (-6)

Dropped Out:

The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking (PR: 4) (E)

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 6) (E)

7. Florian Zeller, The Son (PR: 7) (E)

8. Maria Schrader, She Said (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale (PR: 8) (-2)

11. George C. Wolfe, Rustin (PR: 10) (-1)

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 12) (E)

13. David O. Russell, Amsterdam (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 11) (-3)

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Noah Baumbach, White Noise

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 2) (E)

3. Carey Mulligan, She Said (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar (PR: 6) (E)

7. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (E)

9. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Laura Dern, The Son (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 14) (+2)

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run (PR: 13) (E)

14. Ana de Armas, Blonde (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Greta Gerwig, White Noise 

Best Actor

1. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Brendan Fraser, The Whale (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 8) (+3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christian Bale, Amsterdam (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Joaquin Phoenix, Disappointment Blvd. (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said (PR: 3) (E)

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son (PR: 4) (E)

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hong Chau, The Whale (PR: 6) (E)

7. Jean Smart, Babylon (PR: 7) (E)

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till (PR: 8) (E)

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam (PR: 9) (E)

10. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Rooney Mara, Women Talking (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said (PR: 12) (E)

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 13) (E)

14. Margaret Qualley, Poor Things (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

Sadie Sink, The Whale

Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Tom Hanks, Elvis (PR: 10) (+6)

5. John David Washington, Amsterdam (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 7) (E)

8. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 5) (-3)

9. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead Actor)

10. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Anthony Hopkins, The Son (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Frankie Faison, Till (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans (PR: 8) (-6)

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Don Cheadle, White Noise 

2022 Oscar Predictions: May 1st Edition

Welcome to the first ranked Oscar predictions of the 2022 season for the 95th Academy Awards! I’ll be doing these every few days (once a week or every two weeks) for the high-profile races of Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies. In the fall (maybe earlier), this will expand to all categories covering feature lengths films.

For BP, I will list 25 possibilities with 15 hopefuls in the others. Some quick caveats that always apply – titles of the pictures will change. Just this week, David O. Russell’s Canterbury Glass became Amsterdam and Avatar 2 is now Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Actors listed in lead will become supporting players and vice versa. Some movies will be pushed to 2023. And, of course, titles listed on the first day of May will become commercial and critical disappointments and drop off the list. Some pics and performances I’m not even considering at the moment will rise during festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Telluride, and Venice.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon 

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

3. The Fabelmans

4. The Son

5. Women Talking

6. She Said

7. Bardo

8. Everything Everywhere All at Once

9. The Whale

10. Rustin

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam

12. White Noise

13. Poor Things

14. Tar

15. Till

16. Empire of Light

17. Avatar: The Way of Water

18. Don’t Worry Darling

19. Next Goal Wins

20. Thirteen Lives

21. The Banshees of Inisherin

22. Elvis

23. The Woman King

24. Three Thousand Years of Longing

25. Armageddon Time

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon 

2. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

3. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once

7. Florian Zeller, The Son

8. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale 

9. Maria Schrader, She Said

10. George C. Wolfe, Rustin

11. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water

13. Noah Baumbach, White Noise

14. David O. Russell, Amsterdam

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon

2. Regina King, Shirley 

3. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

4. Carey Mulligan, She Said 

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar

7. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light 

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody 

9. Emma Stone, Poor Things 

10. Laura Dern, The Son

11. Viola Davis, The Woman King 

12. Greta Gerwig, White Noise

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run 

14. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling 

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brendan Fraser, The Whale

2. Hugh Jackman, The Son 

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon 

4. Colman Domingo, Rustin 

5. Christian Bale, Amsterdam 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon 

7. Adam Driver, White Noise 

8. Austin Butler, Elvis 

9. Diego Calva, Babylon 

10. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans 

11. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo 

12. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives 

13. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

14. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin 

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son 

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Hong Chau, The Whale 

7. Jean Smart, Babylon 

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam 

10. Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

11. Sadie Sink, The Whale 

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said 

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin 

14. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King

15. Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

3. Brad Pitt, Babylon 

4. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once 

5. Glynn Turman, Rustin 

Other Possibilities: 

6. John David Washington, Amsterdam 

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things

8. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans 

9. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things 

10. Tom Hanks, Elvis

11. Anthony Hopkins, The Son

12. Frankie Faison, Till

13. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking 

14. Don Cheadle, White Noise 

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light 

2022 Oscar Predictions: April Edition (Best Supporting Actor)

Well, folks, I just can’t help myself. A mere two weeks after the 94th Academy Awards, I’m getting into speculation for the 95th ceremony honoring the best of 2022.

I know… it’s only April. And there’s certainly a great chance that these impossibly early predictions will look foolish a few months down the road. It’s all part of the fun though!

Here’s how it works. I’m going to do monthly forecasts for the six biggest races (Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies). For Picture, I’ll project the ten BP nominees along with 15 other possibilities. In the other races, I’ll name my five with ten other hopefuls.

Starting in August, the monthly predictions will shift to weekly ones. In October, it branches out to all feature film competitions and the list of possibilities dwindles from 25 to 15 in BP and ten in all others. Got all that? Good!

Some quick caveats – when you’re this early in the projecting game, it’s basically guesswork. For instance, I’m saying Leonardo DiCaprio will compete in Supporting Actor for Killers of the Flower Moon. It could be lead. The same logic applies to Leo’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood costar Brad Pitt for Babylon. Some movies named here will be pushed back. Some roles with familiar faces will not be the Oscar bait that seems plausible at the moment.

I’m starting with Supporting Actor and I’ll have Supporting Actress up next!

TODD’S APRIL 2022 OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon

Brad Pitt, Babylon

Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Glynn Turman, Rustin

Other Possibilities:

Don Cheadle, White Noise

Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

Frankie Faison, Till

Colin Firth, Empire of Light

Tom Hanks, Elvis

Andre Holland, Shirley

Anthony Hopkins, The Son

Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans

John David Washington, Canterbury Glass

Ben Whishaw, Women Talking

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…

Licorice Pizza Review

I’ve been grooving to the beat of Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic vibes for a quarter century. There was the magnificent Boogie Nights in 1997 and the iconic Daniel Day-Lewis milkshake monologue in There Will Be Blood ten years later. A decade after that, my PTA appetite was satiated by Phantom Thread. 

His latest is Licorice Pizza and it’s his most laid back experience. This coming-of-age slice of life takes place in the Valley circa 1973. It feels lived in and authentic and personal. There’s individual scenes where the filmmaker’s brilliance is on full display. Like all of his efforts, there’s memorable performances. And unlike most of his catalogue, this Almost Famous feeling flick has flaws I couldn’t overlook. It’s almost joyous and almost worth the viewing and ultimately more problematic than rewarding.

Loosely based on the teen years of former child actor Gary Goetzman (now a highly successful producing partner of Tom Hanks), Cooper Hoffman is 15-year-old Gary Valentine. He’s costarred in movies and commercials and is far more confident than anyone his age has a right to be. That self-assured nature is evident when he asks 25-year-old photographer’s assistant Alana Kane (Alana Haim) out on a date. She rebuffs his advances at first but ends up meeting him out. The two strike up a friendship and the benefit for us is watching Hoffman and Haim shine in their acting debuts. The son of Anderson’s late frequent collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman and one third of a well-known rock band, Hoffman and Haim are naturals. The drawback is an age difference I couldn’t overlook… so let’s go there.

This is where the sunny tone of Pizza conflicted with their borderline (perhaps over borderline) inappropriate coupling. It’s not overtly sexual and Alana is well aware that hanging with the decade younger Gary is far from normal. Yet there’s enough of a leftover distasteful feeling that it hindered the entertainment value for me. One could argue Gary is more mature than Alana and perhaps that justifies some of what happens. That’s a tough needle to thread and I just couldn’t get there.

Pizza has a lazy hangout atmosphere that recalls Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Like that picture, it’s steeped in exploring a different showbiz era and the technical aspects we expect from PTA (production design, cinematography, costumes, and more) are top notch.

The episodic nature is hit or miss. Pizza‘s best course involves Bradley Cooper as hairdresser turned producer Jon Peters. His segment moves at a thrilling clip as Gary’s failing waterbed business and the 70s era gasoline shortage play important roles. I can’t say the same for Sean Penn’s bit as an aging movie star (based on William Holden) and his motorcycle exploits. By the time we arrive at Alana trying a new career as a campaign worker for conflicted mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie), the pic was starting to run on fumes.

When a director of immense capabilities makes an almost misfire, there’s no denying it’s more of a letdown. That’s where I stand with Licorice Pizza and it brings me no joy to deliver that news.

**1/2 (out of four)

Movie Perfection: You’re Safe Now

It’s a scene I’ve returned to many times and one that can’t escape my mind since I saw it over nine years ago. The concluding sequence to Captain Phillips floors me each time I view it. It is simultaneously uplifting and devastating and features quite possibly the best three minutes of acting from Tom Hanks (and that’s saying a lot).

The scene also frustrates me to this day. Not because of anything in it. It reminds me that Hanks was snubbed of an Oscar nomination for the picture. That’s a travesty. I don’t care that he’s won two gold statues and was nominated for four more. He deserved recognition for what he did here.

As a reminder, Phillips from director Paul Greengrass recounts the Somali hijacking of the Maersk Alabama with Hanks in the title role. One of the pirates is played in an Academy nominated performance from Barkhad Abdi and the denoument finds him surviving after U.S. marksmen take out his cohorts. Phillips lives too after begging for his life in a scene that’s expertly constructed and nail bitingly tense (even though we know the outcome).

Yet it’s the aftermath that sticks with me. Phillips is taken to an infirmary after the ordeal. Clearly in shock, the confused Captain is cared for by a Naval medic. What you might not know is that the “actress” playing her (Danielle Albert) was a real sailor enlisted for the scene on the day of the shoot. Her interaction with one of the biggest stars in the world is unforgettable. However, there’s not a moment in it where you’re thinking of Hanks. It feels like you’re experiencing his trauma and his bewilderment when trying to articulate the blood on his body and the pain he feels.

Albert’s work is understandably authentic. This took a few viewings to appreciate her matter-of-fact style. The way she simply and flatly says You’re welcome when Phillips expresses gratitude. He needs to hear a common response to shake him from his nightmare.

This closing chapter wasn’t even in the script. Greengrass and his collaborators figured out that they needed a more potent ending. Mission accomplished and then some. The long journey to safety for Captain Phillips is undoubtedly an example of Movie Perfection.

Oscar Predictions: Finch

If there was a category for Best Robot at the Academy Awards, it sure sounds as if Caleb Landry Jones would be in contention for Finch. The sci-fi drama is available this Friday on Apple TV after Universal COVID delayed it from October 2020. The pic comes from director Miguel Sapochnik (best known for his small screen work on Games of Thrones) and stars Tom Hanks alongside the aforementioned Jones voicing an android, Samira Wiley, Laura Harrier, and Skeet Ulrich.

The review embargo lapsed today and it currently holds an adequate 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics are praising the bot and the pooch that costar with Hanks. Audiences may be pleased to see its lead back in dog lover mode after Turner and Hooch three decades ago.

There’s also kudos for its visual effects and that could be where Finch contends at the Oscars. Right now, only Dune seems like a surefire nominee in that category. It would be surprising if it didn’t win. There’s four other spots available. The Matrix Resurrections is an obvious hopeful. It is worth noting that parts II and III (both from 2003) didn’t get in. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has contenders like Eternals, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Others include Godzilla vs. Kong, Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley, Free Guy, and The Suicide Squad. 

The Visual Effects derby is one that can produce surprising nominees. The reaction to Finch indicates it’s got a shot, especially with the uncertain nature of the race. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Starting on the blog today, I’m taking a deeper dive into the four acting derbies at the Oscars as well as Picture and Director. It begins with Supporting Actor.

If I could use a couple words to describe this particular race – “very open” immediately comes to mind. With just two months left in the calendar year, I would go as far to say that not I’m not 100% certain on any performer discussed below making the final five. That’s rare.

Before I delve into the many hopefuls, let’s take a look at where my projections were at in 2019 and 2020 during the same time frame. Two years ago, I had already correctly pegged four of the five eventual nominees: winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time Hollywood), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), and Al Pacino (The Irishman). The other contender was Joe Pesci (also for The Irishman) and I had him listed at #6 in Other Possibilities. In hindsight, Supporting Actor was well on its way to being established with two months remaining in 2019.

Not so much for 2020. Last year was more difficult than perhaps any before it in figuring out who’d make the cut (much of that uncertainty was due to COVID and the constantly shifting release schedule). On November 1, 2020 – my forecasted five contenders yielded just two of the eventual nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night in Miami. I still had the winner (Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah) listed for the lead Actor competition. Both Lakeith Stanfield (Judas) and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) were not yet mentioned in Other Possibilities.

With that context, we arrive in 2021. And I would say this year looks more like the previous one as opposed to 2019. There has been one constant since I began projecting the race back in the summer: Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza (known as Soggy Bottom just a couple of months ago). I’ve had him listed at #1 the whole way and it’s a prediction based mostly on gut since no one has seen the picture (that’ll change shortly). Cooper is a four-time acting nominee (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, A Star is Born). He’s yet to take the gold. Pizza looks like it should be a juicy role for him. On the other hand, we do not yet known just how big (or small) his role is. When reviews come out, he could solidify himself as the frontrunner or drop out altogether. There’s also the possibility that one of the other supporting players (Sean Penn or Benny Safdie) could rise. For now, I’m still hangin’ with Mr. Cooper until the word-of-mouth tells me otherwise.

Shifting gears – here’s a fun fact. In three out of the last four years, we’ve seen two actors from the same movie recognized here. In 2017, it was Sam Rockwell (who won) and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. For 2019 – you had Pacino and Pesci in The Irishman. Last year, it was the victorious Kaluuya and Stanfield for Judas.

Could that happen again? Absolutely and the best chance for that right now appears to be Belfast. A strong contender to win Best Picture, we could also see Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds punch their tickets here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it happen. Dornan seems likelier to make it in, but Hinds is getting plenty of laudatory chatter as well.

There are other scenarios to make it four out of five years and some lie with pictures still not screened. Don’t Look Up has Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, and Mark Rylance. Willem Dafoe and David Strathairn are viable for Nightmare Alley. And then there’s Jared Leto and Al Pacino in House of Gucci. The latest trailer features the latter more than the former. That disrupts the consensus that Leto has a better shot. I’m still going with Leto above Pacino, but when Gucci screens that dynamic may shift.

The double nominee situations don’t end there. Yet they both have actors that I believe have a significantly better chance than the other. For Mass, Jason Isaacs has been in my five while Reed Birney hasn’t made the top ten in some time. After The Power of the Dog was unveiled on the festival circuit, the narrative unexpectedly shifted to Kodi Smit-McPhee having a clearer path than Jesse Plemons. The Tragedy of Macbeth buzz solidified Corey Hawkins over Brendan Gleeson (though I’m skeptical either get in).

Now is a good time to point out that it’s been ten years since a Supporting Actor winner didn’t come from a Best Picture nominee (Christopher Plummer in Beginners). That’s why I find it a stretch that Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar), Idris Elba (The Harder They Fall), or Troy Kotsur (CODA) will be making trips to the podium. They could still get in, but their paths are tougher and they will all need heavy critics awards love to make the dance. There’s been some mentions for Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, but (somewhat surprisingly) no Wes Anderson directed performance has been Academy nominated and I don’t see this being the first.

One actor where an exception could occur is Richard Jenkins in The Humans. I doubt it will land a Pic nod, but Jenkins is drawing raves for his work. Twice nominated before for The Visitor and The Shape of Water, I could see the veteran becoming a threat to win if Cooper falls.

Others worthy of mention include Jon Bernthal in King Richard. The attention could be so focused on Will Smith (who appears to be in the driver’s seat to take Actor) that his supporting cast fails to get in (that logic also applies to Supporting Actress hopeful Aunjanue Ellis). It’s also totally feasible that Richard is so popular with the Academy that it sweeps them all in. Andrew Garfield picked up solid notices for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He might stand a better shot in lead for the upcoming and yet to be screened Tick, Tick… Boom! Timothy Spall for Spencer is doable, but Kristen Stewart is just as likely to be the sole nominee (and maybe the winner in Actress). The work of David Alvarez (West Side Story) and Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) has yet to be seen and is worth keeping an eye on.

So how does that all shake out? Truth be told, the five predicted performers listed below could look quite different a couple months from now. Here’s my best guesstimate for the moment:

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2)

4. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5)

5. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 4)

7. Jon Bernthal, King Richard (PR: 6)

8. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 7)

9. Al Pacino, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

I’ll have my analysis on the current state of Supporting Actress up next!

Summer 2011: The Top 10 Hits and More

We have arrived at part III of my recaps of the summer seasons that came 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means 2011 is upon us. If you missed my sizzling throwbacks to 1991 and 2001, you can find them here:

Summer 1991: The Top 10 Hits and More

Summer 2001: The Top 10 Hits and More

As is tradition, I will recount the top 10 hits as well as other notable features and some flops in a season where moviegoers bid a fond farewell to their iconic wizard:

Let’s get to it, yes?

10. Bridesmaids

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Kristin Wiig made one of the most successful jumps from SNL to movie stardom in this critically hailed pic that also earned Melissa McCarthy her silver screen breakout and even an Oscar nomination. It might not be the highest grossing comedy on here, but it’s definitely still the most talked about.

9. The Help

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller, the 1960s set period piece from Tate Taylor brought the book’s readers and many others to the multiplex. Four Oscar nods followed including Best Picture and a Supporting Actress victory for Octavia Spencer.

8. Captain America: The First Avenger

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first big branch out occurred during this summer where we would get our first glimpse at this OG avenger in the form of Chris Evans and another one who sits at the throne of spot #6. The sequels actually improved on what we see here, but the Captain gets rolling with this.

7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Rupert Wyatt’s reboot of the franchise is deservedly better regarded than Tim Burton’s re-imagining that transpired in 2001. Debuting the fantastic motion capture work of Andy Serkis, this would spawn two follow-ups that also pleased audiences and critics and did considerable monkey business.

6. Thor

Domestic Gross: $181 million

Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian heartthrob hammered into the public consciousness alongside Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins and managed $5 million more box office bucks than the Captain. The third sequel is currently in production.

5. Cars 2

Domestic Gross: $191 million

Despite grossing nearly $200 million, this Pixar sequel is not one of the studio’s most fondly remembered vehicles with just a 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating. A third Cars did zoom into theaters six years later.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Domestic Gross: $241 million

With a reported budget of $379 million, Johnny Depp’s fourth headlining of the franchise still sports the largest price tag of all time. The actor’s final participation in the series would come in 2017 with Disney still looking to reboot it without their signature player.

3. The Hangover Part II

Domestic Gross: $254 million

Crowds were still clamoring for the drunken exploits of Bradley Copper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Critics weren’t near as kind to part II, but audiences didn’t begin to tire of the hijinks until part III two years later.

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Domestic Gross: $352 million

Michael Bay’s third saga of the Autobots and Decepticons marks Shia LaBeouf’s last appearance in the franchise and includes drop-ins from acting heavyweights John Malkovich and Frances McDormand. Mark Wahlberg would take over starring duties three years later.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Domestic Gross: $381 million

After nearly a decade of enchanting kids and their parents alike, the franchise stemming from J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels received a fittingly massive send-off with this billion dollar plus worldwide earner.

Now for other noteworthy titles from the summer:

X-Men: First Class

Domestic Gross: $146 million

Bryan Singer’s handed over directorial reigns to Matthew Vaughn for this reinvigorating reboot of the series that introduced the younger versions of Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique in the bodies of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. Numerous sequels of varying quality followed.

The Smurfs

Domestic Gross: $142 million

Sony Pictures wasn’t blue about the financial returns for this half live-action/half animated adaptation of the popular comics and animated series. A sequel came in 2013.

Super 8

Domestic Gross: $127 million

In between Star Trek pics and before rebooting Star Wars, J.J. Abrams helmed this sci-fi original which paid tribute to the Spielberg efforts of the 1980s. Critics gave it their stamp of approval and it’s notable for one heckuva train crash sequence.

Horrible Bosses

Domestic Gross: $117 million

This raunchy comedy about workers exacting revenge on their wretched superiors showed us a whole different side to Jennifer Aniston and spawned a 2014 sequel.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Domestic Gross: $84 million

Before their collaboration on La La Land earned lots of Oscar nods five years later, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling teamed up for this rom com with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore that exceeded expectations with audiences and many critics.

Midnight in Paris

Domestic Gross: $56 million

It was a different time 10 years ago for Woody Allen, who scored his last big hit with this fantastical comedy starring Owen Wilson. Woody would win the Oscar for Original Screenplay and it landed three additional nominations including Picture and Director.

The Tree of Life

Domestic Gross: $13 million

Terrence Malick’s epic philosophical drama won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography at the Academy Awards. Not your typical summer fare, but it certainly had reviews on its side.

And now for some titles that didn’t meet expectations commercially, critically, or both:

Green Lantern

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Five years before he entered the comic book flick pantheon with Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds didn’t have as much luck with this critically drubbed flop. Even the star himself has taken to calling it a waste of time for viewers.

Cowboys & Aliens

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Coming off the huge Iron Man pics, Jon Favreau cast James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in this space western that didn’t impress crowds or critics and earned considerably less than its budget domestically.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Domestic Gross: $68 million

Audiences were mostly cool to Jim Carrey’s treatment of the popular late 30s children’s book though it did manage to top its $55 million budget. It probably would have made far more during the star’s box office heyday.

Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World

Domestic Gross: $38 million

A decade after Robert Rodriguez kicked the kiddie franchise off to great results, part 4 marked a low mark for the series.

Larry Crowne

Domestic Gross: $35 million

The star power of Tom Hanks (who also directed) and Julia Roberts couldn’t elevate this rom com from a subpar showing (critics weren’t kind either). This is largely a forgotten entity on both actor’s filmographies.

Conan the Barbarian

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Before becoming known to the masses as Aquaman, Jason Momoa couldn’t fill the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in this bomb that couldn’t swim close to its $90 million budget.

And that does it, folks! I’ll have recaps of the summers of 1992, 2002, and 2012 up for your enjoyment next season!