Oscars: The Case of Women Talking

Women Talking is the final Case Of post for the Best Picture nominees at the 95th Academy Awards. Will we be talking about Women gathering Oscars come March 12th? Let’s get into it.

The Case for Women Talking:

Sarah Polley’s adaptation of the 2018 Miriam Toews novel generated awards buzz out of the gate when it premiered at Toronto. At the Critics Choice Awards, it had a respectable showing with six mentions including BP and Director with a victory in Adapted Screenplay.

The Case Against Women Talking:

There’s a lot. For starters, its total of two nominations is the lowest of the candidates (it’s rare for a BP contender to have only one other nom). Women was ignored in Director, Original Score, and for any of its performances and it was once thought to be in contention for all. BAFTA totally ignored it. The Golden Globes only put it up in two races (Screenplay and Score) and it lost both. Its SAG count is one category. That was in Ensemble with individual players like Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Ben Whishaw left out. Box office grosses have been subpar.

Other Nominations:

Adapted Screenplay

The Verdict:

Women Talking does stand a chance of becoming the Adapted Screenplay recipient. Perhaps this can cling to the hope that CODA took BP last year and it tied for the least numbers of nominations among the ten. Realistically there is just about zero chance of this becoming Best Picture.

While my Case Of posts for BP have concluded, I will now move to the filmmakers and thespians in Director and the four acting derbies. That will begin with the Daniels and their direction of Everything Everywhere All at Once!

If you missed my Case Of posts for the other BP nominees, you can access them here:

Oscars: The Case of The Fabelmans

My Case Of posts will for the ten Best Picture hopefuls is past the halfway point as we consider the pros and cons of our sixth competitor The Fabelmans.

The Case for The Fabelmans:

Steven Spielberg’s 13th movie to be nominated for BP (only Schindler’s List won) is his most personal as arguably today’s most iconic director gets autobiographical. It was first seen at the Toronto Film Festival where it took the People’s Choice Award. That’s a prize shared by later Oscar winners such as The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, Green Book, and Nomadland. At the Golden Globes, it had a big night as it was bestowed Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Spielberg nabbed the directorial trophy. A victory here could be seen as a genuine thank you for its maker’s cinematic contributions.

The Case Against The Fabelmans:

That genuine thank you could just as easily come with Spielberg being Best Director and BP going to something else. Despite the Globes love, BAFTA was shockingly dismissive as its sole nomination is for screenplay. At Critics Choice, it went a mere 1/11 with Gabriel LaBelle as Best Young Actor (a non-existent Academy race). While the seven nominations are decent, there were notable omissions including Film Editing and Cinematography. It’s also undeniably a box office dud with $16 million at press time.

Other Nominations:

Director (Spielberg), Actress (Michelle Williams), Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Production Design

The Verdict:

There is a universe in which The Fabelmans gets BP and Director, but I would put it behind Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Banshees of Inisherin right now. An Ensemble win at SAG could help momentum. It may be behind the aforementioned at that ceremony too.

My Case Of posts will continue with Tár!

If you missed my previous posts in the series, you can access them here:

Oscar Predictions: Alice, Darling

The psychological drama Alice, Darling takes Anna Kendrick out of Pitch Perfect mode and into darker territory. Marking the directorial debut of Mary Nighy (daughter of Bill), Kendrick plays a domestic abuse victim coming to terms with the danger of her circumstances. The supporting cast includes Kaniehtiio Horn, Charlie Carrick, and Wunmi Mosaku.

Darling premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Early reviews have given it an 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It debuts December 30th for an awards qualifying run before an AMC Theatres exclusive release beginning January 20th.

Kendrick is a previous Oscar nominee in Supporting Actress 13 years ago for Up in the Air. Initial critical reaction has praised her work. However, distributor Lionsgate has not mounted a visible campaign in an Actress field that’s already crowded.

Bottom line: the director’s dad appears headed for an Actor nod for Living. Darling‘s prospects aren’t up in the air. They’re non-existent. My Oscar Predictions posts will continue…

The Fabelmans Box Office Prediction

Drawing on his own upbringing, Steven Spielberg’s coming-of-age drama The Fabelmans opens semi-wide over the long Turkey Day frame. After its September premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the film has been seen as a major Oscar contender with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%. Newcomer Gabriel LaBelle (essentially playing young Spielberg), Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and Julia Butters are among the ensemble.

The ode to family and cinema debuted November 11th on four screens with a fair though not impressive $40,000 per theaters average. That’s a little under what fellow awards hopeful The Banshees of Inisherin made in the same amount of venues a few weeks back.

Spielberg’s most personal work to date expands to approximately 600 screens on Wednesday, November 23rd. That meager count could mean a floor as low as $2 million for the three-day and $3 million for the five-day (if it goes any lower that would be considered a massive flop). A rosier picture could mean $5-6 million for Friday to Sunday and higher single digits when factoring in Wednesday and Thursday.

My gut says to be on the lower end of that scale as it’ll hope for solid holds throughout the holidays.

The Fabelmans opening weekend prediction: $2.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $4.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Strange World prediction, click here:

For my Devotion prediction, click here:

For my Bones and All prediction, click here:

Devotion Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping Thanksgiving moviegoers fly with Devotion when it opens Wednesday, November 23rd. The true life tale of Korean War fighter pilots stars Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Joe Jonas, and Christina Jackson. J.D. Dillard directs the reported $90 million production.

Reviews were decent after it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 85%. The pic hopes to bring in an older audience for the long holiday frame. It could help that Top Gun: Maverick and its naval storyline is the biggest blockbuster of 2022. There could be a carryover effect and it might not hurt that Powell (who played Hangman in Maverick) is in this.

That said, Devotion isn’t a sequel to an iconic 80s film and Tom Cruise is nowhere to be found in the cockpit. Considering the budget, this seems on course to flop. I’ll project the Friday to Sunday earnings fall under $10 million with the five-day in the lower teens.

Devotion opening weekend prediction: $7.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $10.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Strange World prediction, click here:

For my Bones and All prediction, click here:

For my The Fabelmans prediction, click here:

The Menu Box Office Prediction

Searchlight Pictures is hoping moviegoers check out The Menu when it opens November 18th. Mark Mylod, best known for small screens fare like Game of Thrones and Shameless, directs. The black comedy features a large cast of cooks and diners including Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, John Leguizamo, Reed Birney, Aimee Carrero, and Arturo Castro.

For the most part, critics like what they were served when this debuted at Toronto. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 88%. That said, The Menu is not generating much awards chatter which could’ve helped in appetizing an older audience.

A debut at or above $10 million would be quite an accomplishment. I don’t think it gets there with $7-9 million being more likely.

The Menu opening weekend prediction: $8.2 million

For my She Said prediction, click here:

2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

With two months to go for 2022 releases to make their mark with awards voters, it’s a opportune time to assess the six major Oscar races. That would be Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies.

It begins with Supporting Actor. Over the past couple of years, this has been the category that’s confounded me the most during this juncture in the calendar.

That was a different story three years ago. In late October of 2019, I correctly identified 4 out of the eventual 5 nominees. This included winner Brad Pitt for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as well as Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), and Al Pacino (The Irishman). The other nominee – Joe Pesci for The Irishman – was in my #6 spot.

For the unpredictable year that was 2020 (due to constantly shifting release dates because of COVID), I only named 2 of the 5 hopefuls two months out – Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom Jr. for One Night in Miami. I still had eventual victor Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) projected for lead actor until the studio announced him for supporting.

In 2021, I made a point to say that the Supporting Actor derby was wide open in late October. And that was evidenced in my only identifying 1 of the eventual Supporting Actor quintet in the Halloween time frame – Ciaran Hinds in Belfast. I had Troy Kotsur (CODA), who would take the gold statue, in 10th place. Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza) was in first place and he missed out. Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog), who made the cut, was in 8th place. His costar Jesse Plemons and J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos) weren’t listed at all.

Which brings us to 2022 and at this spooky time of year, I would say this competition is up in the air with no obvious frontrunner. 12 months ago, however, I couldn’t have imagined I’d kick off the speculation with this sentence…

The Supporting Actor discussion starts with Ke Huy Quan.

The 51-year-old actor belongs in the mid 80s cinematic Hall of Fame with his turns as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies. His return to acting in Everything Everywhere All at Once has been met with raves. It’s also undeniable that his win would be a heckuva Academy narrative nearly 40 years after his iconic child performances. I’ve had him listed in first place for weeks and that remains.

In four of the last five years, we’ve witnessed double nominees in Supporting Actor. Last year it was the aforementioned Smit-McPhee and Plemons for The Power of the Dog. In 2020, we had the winner Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah and his costar Lakeith Stanfield. 2019’s Irishman double duo was Pacino and Pesci. Five years ago, it was Sam Rockwell (who won) and Woody Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Martin McDonagh directed Billboards and his follow-up is The Banshees of Inisherin. Brendan Gleeson has sat in the #2 position for several prediction posts in a row. He’s a threat to take the prize. I believe his costar Barry Keoghan may also get in.

Banshees is not the only viable option for double nominees. Ke Huy Quan’s Doom maker Steven Spielberg has The Fabelmans. Before it screened at the Toronto Film Festival, we wondered whether Paul Dano or Seth Rogen (or both) would be the likely nominee(s). Post screening, scene (just one scene) stealer Judd Hirsch bubbled up while Rogen’s viability dwindled. Dano’s work is understated and certainly not as flashy as Hirsch’s brief turn. That leads me to put Hirsch in with Dano on the outside looking in. I’ll admit it’s a coin flip.

Damien Chazelle’s Babylon screens for critics in two weeks. There’s a trio of possibilities with Brad Pitt, Jovan Adepo, and Tobey Maguire. I’ve had Pitt in my 5 previously. It’s fair to speculate whether his recent tabloid headlines could hinder him. We’ll know more once reviews roll in.

Ben Whishaw in Women Talking is a trendy selection and for good reason. I’m not completely sold as voters could opt to focus only on his female cast members Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley (and maybe others) in Supporting Actress. Yet it feels wrong to keep him out right now.

You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time the five contenders all came from Best Picture nominees. I’m not wild about the fact that my projections currently do. There’s a few names that could get in from movies I’m not putting in BP list. We have Eddie Redmayne in The Good Nurse, Brian Tyree Henry for Causeway, Jeremy Strong or Anthony Hopkins in Armageddon Time, Mark Rylance in Bones and All, Micheal Ward in Empire of Light, Don Cheadle in White Noise, and Tom Hanks in Elvis. Of that group, I’m starting to flirt with the idea of Rylance being the guy. He scored an upset win here with Bridge of Spies in 2015 over Sylvester Stallone in Creed and Bones has its ardent admirers. I wouldn’t discount the Redmayne pick as he’s a Best Actor winner in 2014 for The Theory of Everything who was nominated again the following year with The Danish Girl. If Elvis manages a BP nod (not out of the question), this would increase the inclusion of Hanks. I do have Triangle of Sadness in my BP ten and that could mean a third nomination for Woody Harrelson.

Bottom line: I feel pretty confident about Ke Huy Quan and Brendan Gleeson. Everything everywhere else is up in the air.

With that said, here’s my state of the race:

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 2) (E)

3. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans (PR: 6) (+2)

5. Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

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

7. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 7) (E)

8. Mark Rylance, Bones and All (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Woody Harrelson, Triangle of Sadness (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Eddie Redmayne, The Good Nurse (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway

Tom Hanks, Elvis

My deep dive with the Supporting Actress field is next!

Oscar Predictions: My Father’s Dragon

It could be time to admit that I’ve slept on My Father’s Dragon when it comes to Oscar consideration. Based on the 1948 children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett, the 2-D fantasy makes its way to Netflix on November 11th. It had its unveiling at the London Film Festival. Dragon is the fifth animated feature from Cartoon Saloon and their track record is, shall we say, fire.

The Irish outlet is 4 for 4 when it comes to getting their pics nominated for Best Animated Feature: 2010’s The Secret of Kells, 2014’s Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner from 2017, and 2020’s Wolfwalkers. Despite their success rate getting their product in the final quintet, they’ve yet to win.

Dragon is directed by Nora Twomey, who co-directed Kells and solo helmed The Breadwinner. The sprawling voice cast includes Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Jackie Earle Haley, Whoopi Goldberg, Dianne Wiest, Rita Moreno, Chris O’Dowd, Judy Greer, Alan Cumming, Yara Shahidi, Mary Kay Place, Leighton Meester, and Ian McShane.

Reviews are just beginning to trickle out of London and so far so good. The initial buzz indicates this should be a contender. Like its earlier efforts, I’d say it’s a viable film for nomination and not a victory. My last estimates had it ranked seventh… pretty low for a production company with the aforementioned history.

Yet there could be roadblocks on the Saloon’s road to five in a row. The main one is internal competition from Netflix itself. Most prognosticators (myself included) have Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio from the streamer listed in first place. Even though that’s sight unseen, the pedigree would suggest it’ll be Netflix’s biggest push for the gold statue. Others that the company could be focused on include this summer’s acclaimed The Sea Beast and Wendell and Wild from Jordan Peele, which debuts later this month and nabbed positive feedback at the Toronto Film Festival.

That’s four legit contenders from Netflix and Disney (for one) will have something to say about them achieving four nominations (they won’t). Something’s gotta give and we’ll see how the next few weeks play out to determine which movies from the quartet don’t make the dance. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Daliland

It was forty years ago that Ben Kingsley won the Academy Award for Best Actor as Gandhi. He’s been nominated three times since then – twice in supporting for 1991’s Bugsy and 2001’s Sexy Beast and in lead with 2003’s House of Sand and Fog. 

Daliland closed the Toronto Film Festival and its release date is undetermined. Sir Ben plays famed artist Salvador Dali in his twilight years. This is the latest pic from Mary Harron, who made I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, and The Notorious Bettie Page. Costars include Barbara Sukowa, Christopher Briney, and Rupert Graves.

With only a 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Daliland failed to make much of an impression at the Canadian fest. Whether it comes out in 2022 or 2023, I highly doubt awards branches will take notice either. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Amsterdam

From 2010-13, David O. Russell made three pictures (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) that collectively earned an astonishing 25 Oscar nominations. This included acting wins for Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Jennifer Lawrence. The filmmaker himself has yet to receive a gold statue and his previous effort (2015’s Joy) nabbed just 1 Academy nod for its lead Lawrence.

His latest is Amsterdam and the comedic mystery will be lucky to garner any attention during awards season. It was a curious decision when Russell’s first feature in seven years skipped the festival circuit of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. Now we may know why.

Early reviews for the October 7th release are not encouraging. There’s only a handful of official reviews which show a 20% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Yet we also have plenty of social media reaction claiming this is a high profile disappointment. The impressive cast is led by Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington with tons of other familiar faces including Robert De Niro, Zoe Saldana, Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, and Chris Rock (to name some). I wouldn’t expect any to compete in the acting derbies. Bale and De Niro are getting some decent notices, but it shouldn’t matter (maybe Bale could show up at the Globes for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy if competition is light).

As I see it, Costume Design and/or Production Design are the only possibilities for Amsterdam to be an Academy player. It’s entirely feasible that it won’t show up at all. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…