Oscar Watch: The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince hits stateside screens in limited fashion this Wednesday. Having originally premiered at Sundance earlier this year, this is a biopic of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde and it’s a passion project for director/writer/star Rupert Everett. American audiences may still remember him best as the BFF to Julia Roberts in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, as well as roles in An Ideal Husband and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. 

In addition to Everett playing Wilde, the supporting cast includes Colin Firth, Emily Watson, and Tom Wilkinson. Reviews have been mostly kind and its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently at a decent 72%. That’s probably not enough, however, for Prince to be an awards player in any category and it has yet to pop up on the radar screen in any significant way.

Bottom line: don’t expect Prince to find its way into contention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Snowden Movie Review

Maybe there’s something to the notion that the passage of time when it comes to Oliver Stone’s political dramas is an asset. After all, JFK and Nixon are two of his most riveting and they took place a couple of decades beyond the events. Whether or not you agreed with the director’s conspiracy theories or characterizations, they both flourished on separate terms. The former crackled with energy as a legal and courtroom procedural. The latter felt like a glorious Shakespearean tragedy.

In these more recent years, Stone’s films of the genre have been concerned with issues in the fierce urgency of now. His third picture named after a President – 2008’s W. – was released while Bush 43 was still sitting in the Oval and it was unimpressive. His newest is Snowden, centering on the man who turned the American intelligence universe on its axis in 2013 and beyond. The common feeling I had for both? That a solid documentary about both stories would’ve been more effective. In this case, it actually was. The director’s visual flourishes and creative editing are here in spots, just as they were in his finest works. They’re welcome on occasion, yet 2014’s Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour essentially told the same story and didn’t need Stone’s talents to tell it in an interesting way.

Joseph Gordon Levitt is Edward Snowden, who worked for both the CIA and NSA and very famously grew disillusioned with their data mining practices. His disclosures of their content and of agency practice have given him both hero and traitor status, depending on who you’re talking to. The film opens in 2013 as he’s holed up in a Hong Kong hotel with three journalists as he prepares to reveal his secrets.

Snowden then traces about a decade of his journey through government employment, government frustration, and, finally, fleeing from the government. His relationship with girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley) is also explored, from the happy times to difficult ones as he can’t really talk about what happened at the office, ever. There are also a host of familiar actors playing reporters and federal employees, though the lens is firmly trained on the title character.

Stone’s biopic presents its subject as whip smart, patriotic, and determined to right perceived wrongs. That Mr. Snowden himself makes an appearance towards the conclusion stamps his approval. Levitt does a fine job mimicking his cadence and mannerisms and his low-key persona. For those who didn’t catch watching the real man in Citizenfour, this could serve as an OK telling of the tale as Stone sees it. Yet I could not completely escape the thought of that filmmaker who’s done much better dramatically when longer political seasons passed between their happenings.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Denial

The Oscar Watch posts continue as the Toronto Film Festival does with Denial, a true-life legal drama pitting a historian (Rachel Weisz) against a Holocaust denier (Timothy Spall). Mick Jackson directs and he’s had quite the varied career that includes the 1992 blockbuster The Bodyguard, in addition to flops like 1994’s Dana Carvey comedy Clean Slate and 1997 disaster pic Volcano. He’s found greater success on TV recently, like with 2010’s Temple Grandin.

Early festival reviews are mostly positive, but not to the level where I expect Best Picture or Director attention. In a year where the Best Actress was less competitive (and there’s been those in recent years), previous winner Weisz may stand a chance at recognition. I don’t expect that to be the case in 2016 where several performances already seem to be in contention. They include Emma Stone (La La Land), Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals or Arrival), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). And we still have Viola Davis (Fences) and Annette Bening (20th Century Women) out there for their pics to screen. In other words, it may be too crowded.

Timothy Spall may be another story if Bleecker Street chooses to mount a Supporting campaign for him. The well-respected British actor has yet to receive an Oscar nomination, even though many thought he should have gotten one two years ago for Mr. Turner. If the Supporting Actor race doesn’t get too crowded, he could be a factor.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Snowden

Oliver Stone has won two Best Director Oscars for 1986’s Platoon and 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July. He’s received little love from the Academy for the past two decades and his new true life political thriller Snowden hits screen next weekend.

It screened at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend. The verdict? Look for the lack of Oscar attention to continue. Some reviews marked it as a return to form for Mr. Stone, but others weren’t impressed. The tale of CIA analyst Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon Levitt) had originally been scheduled to open late last year before being delayed.

The buzz is muted enough that I don’t expect any nominations for it, including its director, lead, and supporting cast that includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto, and Nicolas Cage.

As the Toronto Festival rolls along, so will my Oscar Watch posts.

Snowden Box Office Prediction

Four have passed since Oliver Stone released his last picture and it’s been eight years since he’s gotten political. That changes next weekend when Snowden hits theaters. This is a biopic of former CIA analyst Edward Snowden with Joseph Gordon -Levitt in the title role. A stellar supporting cast includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans, and Nicolas Cage.

The thriller was originally set for release in December of last year before being pushed to May and, finally, September. Snowden will be a test as to whether audiences wish to spend over two hours witnessing a story well-publicized in the press and already covered in the recent documentary Citizenfour.

My feeling is the answer will be no. Political dramas often struggle at the box office and I don’t see that as an exception. My prediction is Snowden doesn’t reach double digits in its debut as many moviegoers may be getting their fill of current events on the small screen.

Snowden opening weekend prediction: $6.8 million

For my Blair Witch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/07/blair-witch-box-office-prediction/

For my Bridget Jones’s Baby prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/07/bridget-joness-baby-box-office-prediction/

For my Hillsong – Let Hope Rise prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/12/hillsong-let-hope-rise-box-office-prediction/

The Choice Box Office Prediction

Next weekend brings your yearly dose of Nicholas Sparks adaptations as his 2007 novel The Choice comes to the screen. Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer headline with Maggie Grace, Tom Welling, and Tom Wilkinson costarring.

The romance seems destined to continue the trend of diminishing returns for Sparks fare. While 2012’s The Lucky One and 2013’s Safe Heaven each started out in the low 20s, 2014’s The Best of Me earned just $10 million and 2015’s The Longest Ride made $13 million out of the gate. I believe The Choice might even struggle to earn double digits and I’ll put it just under that.

The Choice opening weekend prediction: $9.6 million

For my Hail, Caesar! prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/01/28/hail-caesar-box-office-prediction/

For my Pride and Prejudice and Zombies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/01/28/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-box-office-prediction/

Selma Movie Review

Like Spielberg’s Lincoln that preceded it two years prior, Ana DuVernay’s Selma sidesteps the idea of a biopic and rather focuses on a short but integral passage of time in its subject’s life. The focus is on Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 Voting Rights marches in Selma, Alabama. The film provides a history lesson that takes strides to not portray its central figure purely as a saint – nor does its perspective shy away from criticism of President Lyndon B. Johnson, while also acknowledging his achievements.

The film opens with King (David Oyelowo) and wife Coretta (Carmen Ejojo) in Norway circa 1964 to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. They speak of an alternative lifestyle in the opening scene that doesn’t involve the constant threat of death and his constant search for equal rights and justice. The couple seems to know that this is only talk and it is not what he’s destined for. Back home, the recent signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) has done little in the South to allow African Americans the right to vote. And this sets off a decision by King to organize a march in Selma that is met with Johnson’s objections, though not near to the level of Alabama Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth).

Director DuVernay and screenwriter Paul Webb do not shy away from showing us the brutality that took place in this era in the South. We also witness the goodness of people of many faiths and races who come to lend their support to Dr. King in his efforts. It is not one march on Selma – it’s three. The first ends in violent resistance from the police. The second time it’s halted is due to a more surprising manner of resistance. The third is history. The filmmakers also tackle the Kings marital status, including Dr. King’s infidelities.

His political skills are shown as well and they are often as powerful as his oratory abilities. The scenes with King and LBJ have been challenged by some for inaccuracy, but this is not a documentary and I won’t judge it as such. My only drawback to these sequences are Wilkinson, a fine actor that’s simply not the right choice for the 36th POTUS.

The flaws don’t stop there. The complex relationship between King and Malcolm X is touched upon so briefly that it begs for further fleshing out. Adding familiar faces like Martin Sheen and Cuba Gooding Jr. for cameos threaten to take you out of the story than involve you more.

Where it delivers is its willingness to tell this important story as a real one. A human one. King is a great man, but is written as experiencing the doubts and insecurities that he must have had. Oyelowo nails the role and he excels at embodying MLK’s mannerisms and spirit.

Selma tells the story of imperfect men fighting for a more perfect union. The film is imperfect as well but it’s worthy of its important subject matter that might have occurred a half century ago, but still resonates on many levels today.

*** (out of four)

Unfinished Business Box Office Prediction

Three comedy performers known for appearing in successful raunchy R rated comedies headline Unfinished Business, out Friday. They are Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, and of course, Tom Wilkinson (??). The picture follows the trio on a European business trip gone wrong. Sienna Miller costars.

While Vaughn and Franco have been involved in genre hits like Wedding Crashers and Neighbors, it’s very hard to imagine this entry joining that company or doing anywhere near their box office numbers. Commercials for Business have done little to inspire confidence. Vaughn, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a losing streak lately. His reunion with Wedding Crashers costar Owen Wilson, The Internship, petered out at only $44 million domestically. His last pic Delivery Man only earned $7.9 million out of the gate.

I simply don’t see Unfinished Business doing anything other than lackluster business in its debut and believe it too will fail to reach double digits for its premiere.

Unfinished Business opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million

For my Chappie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/28/chappie-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/28/the-second-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions!

Well here we are! Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning and this is my sixth and final round of predictions for nominees in the eight major categories. For my final predictions, I’ll list the predictions as well as others that could potentially make the cut. Here’s what changed the most: I have finally gotten on the Nightcrawler bandwagon and am now predicting a number of nominations for it. Tomorrow – I”ll have my reaction post up and pontificate on where I went wrong and right.

As you may know, the Best Picture race (unlike all others) can list anywhere from 5-10 nominees. I finally settled on nine… which is the same number of films nominated each year since that system was put into place. And without further adieu – Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Gone Girl, Unbroken

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ana DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Other Possibilities: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhall, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Other Possibilities: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), David Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Other Possibilities: Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Other Possibilities: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Tom Wilkinson (Selma)

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Other Possibilities: Laura Dern (Wild), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent)

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Other Possibilities: The LEGO Movie, A Most Violent Year, Selma

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Wild 

And there you have it, folks! We’ll see how smart (or dumb) I am tomorrow morning!!

Todd’s Oscar Predictions: Round FIVE

OK folks! We’ve arrived at part five of my Oscar predictions and they’re coming to you nine days before the actual nominations are released. This will be my second to last round of predictions. The final ones will likely come a week from today. I’m estimating the eight biggest categories and with the exception of one race, things have changed since my preceding round nearly a month ago.

Unlike previous posts I won’t go into great detail. I’ll save that for next week. Here are predictions as they stand currently with a listing of the changes I’ve made over the past four weeks:

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

CHANGES

IN: American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel

OUT: Gone Girl, Unbroken, Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ana DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

IN: Anderson

OUT: David Fincher, Gone Girl

BEST ACTOR

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

NO CHANGES

BEST ACTRESS

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

IN: Aniston

OUT: Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

IN: Duvall

OUT: Tom Wilkinson, Selma

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

IN: Dern

OUT: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

BLOGGER’S NOTE: It was announced yesterday that Whiplash will compete in the Adapted Screenplay instead of its previously anticipated Original Screenplay race.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

IN: Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler

OUT: Selma, Whiplash

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

IN: Inherent Vice, Whiplash

OUT: Unbroken, Wild

And that’ll do it for now! My final predictions are coming to you next week.