Oscars 2020: The Case of Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed’s performance in Sound of Metal is the first of the five Best Actor nominees up in my Case Of posts!

The Case for Riz Ahmed

Ever since Sound of Metal premiered way back at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019, Ahmed has been drawing raves for his work as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. Metal did better than expected on Oscar nomination morning with 6 mentions. In addition to its lead, it was nominated for Picture, Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Sound. In the latter two races, it stands a solid shot at winning. Ahmed’s career has been growing in recent years with an Emmy victory in 2017 for HBO’s The Night Of. He also made history by becoming the first Muslin nominated in Best Actor.

The Case Against Riz Ahmed

All the precursor awards have been bestowed to Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and he stands as the frontrunner. So while Ahmed has achieved nods in all the important precursors, he’s yet to walk away with a significant win. At this juncture, it’s tough to imagine anyone else taking the gold.

The Verdict

Ahmed and Anthony Hopkins (The Father) are correctly thought of as potential spoilers to Boseman’s sweep. Yet it appears unlikely to happen.

My Case Of posts will continue with the first post on a Supporting Actress nominee: Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Oscars 2020: The Case of Sound of Metal

Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal is next up in my Case Of posts for 2020’s Best Picture nominees. If you missed my previous entries, they’re linked here:

Oscars 2020: The Case of The Father

Oscars 2020: The Case of Judas and the Black Messiah

Oscars 2020: The Case of Mank

Oscars 2020: The Case of Minari

Oscars 2020: The Case of Nomadland

Oscars 2020: The Case of Promising Young Woman

The Case for Sound of Metal

While fellow nominees The Father, Minari, and Promising Young Woman were first unveiled back in January 2020, Sound of Metal was out of the gate way back in September 2019 when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Its road to the Oscar stage was more of a slow burn and that culminated with its December 2020 bow on Amazon Prime. On nominations morning, it over performed with six nominations: Picture, Actor (Riz Ahmed), Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Sound. Its 96% Rotten Tomatoes is near the top of the films selected and it’s been an audience pleaser.

The Case Against Sound of Metal

The nominations haul was better than expected, but Sound‘s miss for director Marder is a noteworthy one. Only twice in the past decade has a movie taken Best Picture without its maker being recognized. Another key omission is no nod for Best Drama at the Golden Globe Awards.

The Verdict

Critics saw Sound before any other nominee, but the late breaking surge has been impressive. The pic is unlikely to go home empty-handed on Oscar night. However, those victories are more probable in Editing and (especially) Sound and not the major races it’s up for.

My Case Of posts will continue with The Trial of the Chicago 7…

Oscars 2020: The Case of Nomadland

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is next up in my Case Of posts for the 8 Best Picture nominees from the 2020 Oscar season. If you missed my posts on The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, and Minari, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/16/oscars-2020-the-case-of-the-father/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/17/oscars-2020-the-case-of-judas-and-the-black-messiah/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/18/oscars-2020-the-case-of-mank/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/21/oscars-2020-the-case-of-minari/

Now to the business at hand:

The Case for Nomadland

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in September where it won the Golden Lion (the event’s top prize), Nomadland has been a serious contender that has managed to become the favorite. While many prognosticators predicted The Trial of the Chicago 7 would take the Best Drama category at the Golden Globes, Nomadland emerged victorious and it also won the Critics Choice Award recently. Other accolades include the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and numerous regional critics group selections as the film of 2020. Nomadland tied with five other pics last week with 6 Oscar nominations and it landed in the expected races beyond Picture with Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing. It is a contender to win them all.

The Case Against Nomadland

Being the frontrunner can be dangerous. It could be argued that the on paper favorites for three of the last ceremonies did not take the gold (2016’s La La Land lost to Moonlight, 2018’s Roma to Green Book, and 2019’s 1917 to Parasite). A narrative could certainly develop where a “surprise” winner (think Minari or Promising Young Woman, as well as the aforementioned Trial) could pose a serious threat.

The Verdict

Betting odds favor Nomadland as it’s done what it needs to be the picture to beat this year. That said, Oscar voters have had a way of recently upending the conventional wisdom.

My Case Of posts will continue with Promising Young Woman…

Oscar Watch: Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed has seen his profile rise in recent years with roles in Nightcrawler, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Venom. On the small screen, he is an Emmy winner for his work on HBO’s The Night Of. And now he could receive the attention of Academy voters with Darius Marder’s upcoming Sound of Metal.

The film casts Ahmed as the drummer of a band who begins to lose his hearing. Costars include Olivia Cooke and Mathieu Amalric. Metal first screened at the Toronto Film Festival over a year ago. Critics responded favorably with a 91% Rotten Tomatoes score with most of the reviews heaping praise on its lead.

It was recently announced that Amazon had picked up distribution rights. After a short theatrical run in November, it will be available for streaming in early December. Translation: expect an Oscar push for Ahmed. And it could work. At the moment, Best Actor appears less crowded than Actress. Beyond Anthony Hopkins in The Father (surefire nominee) and Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods (likely nominee), the race looks wide open. Ahmed is an up and comer and with the right campaign, he could find himself in the mix. Two weeks ago, I had him listed 15th of 15 Actor hopefuls. Last week, that rose to 12th. On Thursday, I will whittle my contenders down to ten and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s listed.

Furthermore, the storyline to Metal could lend itself to a Best Sound nomination. This is the first year where Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are being combined into one race. While this category is normally reserved for big budget blockbusters and sci-fi material, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this make a legit play. Bottom line: Ahmed’s work and the sound techs have a shot here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Toronto: The People Choose Nomadland

While it was a slimmed down version of it, The Toronto Film Festival just concluded their proceedings. A similar storyline from up north follows activity from the Venice Film Festival as the People Choice’s Award has been bestowed to Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. This follows the Frances McDormand vehicle taking the Golden Lion in Italy.

There is a long history of People’s Choice recipients getting Oscar attention, especially in recent years. 11 of the past 12 winners went onto nab a Best Picture nomination. Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, and Green Book ended up as the victors.

The runner-up for the award is Regina King’s One Night in Miami. There’s also many examples of second or third place pictures becoming Academy players. Recently, that includes last year’s winner Parasite as well as Argo and Spotlight. Third place finisher, the Canadian drama Beans, is not anticipated to be an Oscar contender.

Back to Nomadland. This is the first movie to ever take the Golden Lion and People’s Choice Award. It solidifies an already strong hopeful for the big prize next April. Obviously, there’s much to be seen like David Fincher’s Mank and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 to name just two. Yet there’s no question that Nomadland is already in the upper echelon of contenders. Additionally, Miami continued to prove that it could be among the Picture nominees.

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 17th Edition

The Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have resulted in a number of Oscar Watch posts from last Thursday to now! And that means some changes are to be discussed.

The most notable film to debut was Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, which solidified itself as a major contender in Best Picture, Director, Actress (Frances McDormand), and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, the pic remains firmly in 2nd place in Picture and Director and #1 with its screenplay based on its sterling critical reaction. McDormand, meanwhile, jumps to #1 in Actress. Time will tell if she remains atop the chart, but it seems a given that she’ll vie for her third win in the category.

News was more mixed for Francis Lee’s Ammonite. The mixed reaction to it has caused me to drop it from my nine predicted Picture nominees and from Original Screenplay. Yet Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan remain in my top five in the actress categories.

There were six other titles that I penned Oscar Watch posts about. None of them show up anywhere below. This includes the work of Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) and Naomi Watts (Penguin Bloom) and Mark Wahlberg in Good Joe Bell. It’s not impossible that they could surface later, but I’m not confident at the moment. As for Bell, perhaps the supporting work of Reid Miller could have a chance to enter my 15 names in Supporting Actor. When I expand my predictions to all categories covering feature pics in October, expect to see Wolfwalkers as it appears to be a shoo-in nominee in Best Animated Feature.

You can find all my posts from the past week here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/11/oscar-watch-nomadland/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-ammonite/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/12/oscar-watch-the-devil-all-the-time/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-wolfwalkers/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-penguin-bloom/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-i-care-a-lot/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/13/oscar-watch-concrete-cowboy/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/15/oscar-watch-good-joe-bell/

Let’s quickly walk through the latest changes and developments:

  • With Ammonite now falling from my nine predicted Picture nominees, that makes room for Florian Zeller’s The Father to make my final cut for the first time.
  • My 5 Director nominees remains unchanged, as does Best Actor. It is worth mentioning that there’s some talk that Kingsley Ben-Adir from One Night in Miami could be campaigned for in the lead race. This follows rumors of the same happening for Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. If that were to occur, it would absolutely upend my projections. For now, I’m keeping them both in supporting. Also – Clayton Davis of Variety confirmed today that Delroy Lindo will compete in the lead actor race for Da 5 Bloods. 
  • In addition to McDormand taking over the top spot in Actress over Viola Davis in Ma Rainey, I’m adding Vanessa Kirby’s work in Pieces of a Woman to my top 5. That means Jennifer Hudson in Respect drops out.
  • There’s a similar storyline in Supporting Actress with Ellen Burstyn in my five over Amanda Seyfried in Mank. Furthermore, Saoirse Ronan’s aforementioned work in Ammonite drops from #1 to #3 so we have Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) in first. At #2? Olivia Colman in The Father and that could make for a juicy race as Colman upset Close in lead actress two years ago.
  • While Nomadland definitely nabbed major Oscar buzz, the supporting performance from David Strathairn may not be big enough. He drops from #2 to outside the top five and that means Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) is back in.
  • I mentioned Ammonite had dropped from Original Screenplay and that is also to the benefit of Messiah.
  • The five Adapted Screenplay estimates stay the same.
  • Finally, while there’s no confirmation and this could change back, I’m shifting Meryl Streep from supporting to lead for The Prom. She has yet to make the five.

And with that, let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. News of the World (PR: 5)

5. One Night in Miami (PR: 6)

6. Dune (PR: 4)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 8)

8. West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. The Father (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 13)

12. Soul (PR: 12)

13. Ammonite (PR: 7)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 14)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 15)

16. Minari (PR: 16)

17. Stillwater (PR: 17)

18. Annette (PR: 18)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Respect (PR: 22)

21. Next Goal Wins (PR: 20)

22. Red, White and Water (PR: 21)

23. The Midnight Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

24. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

25. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

French Exit

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 4)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 11)

8. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods, (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 10)

11. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 8)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: 15)

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 8)

5. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

9. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

11. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Supporting)

12. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

13. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: 11)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 14)

15. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Elisabeth Moss, Shirley

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 1)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 2)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 7)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 11)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 10)

12. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Courier (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 13)

15. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

2. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 15)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 5)

7. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 6)

8. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 10)

9. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 7)

10. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 8)

11. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

12. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 11)

13. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Meryl Streep, The Prom (moved to lead)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

3. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 4)

4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

7. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

8. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 7)

9. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 11)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 10)

11. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 13)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 8)

14. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 5)

4. Soul (PR: 4)

5. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Ammonite (PR: 3)

8. Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Minari (PR: 7)

10. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: 15)

12. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Red, White and Water (PR: 12)

15. Palm Springs (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Annette

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. The Father (PR: 5)

3. News of the World (PR: 2)

4. One Night in Miami (PR: 3)

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 6)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. The Humans (PR: 13)

12. French Exit (PR: 10)

13. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 12)

14. First Cow (PR: 15)

15. The Prom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Respect 

Oscar Watch: Good Joe Bell

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Good Joe Bell has screened at the Toronto Film Festival and the drama is eliciting markedly different reactions from critics. It comes from co-writers Larry McMurtry and Dianna Ossana, who penned the Oscar winning adapted screenplay 15 years ago for Brokeback Mountain. Mark Wahlberg stars in the title role in this true story of a man walking the country following a tragedy involving his gay son.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 75%, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Some reaction is quite positive with Wahlberg’s performance being praised. Same goes for Reid Miller, who is said to be a breakout in the part of his child. Variety, on the other hand, deems the whole film “terrible”.

This seems to preview what could be wildly divergent opinions of the feature and that could spell trouble come awards time. Wahlberg has a limited history at the Oscars as he’s only been nominated once. That was a rather surprising nod for 2006’s The Departed. He was the only performer in the top 4 quartet of 2010’s The Fighter not to receive a nomination. Costars Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were victorious in the supporting fields.

I doubt that Wahlberg will make the final five in Best Actor a few months from now, but he might creep into the top 15 in my weekly Thursday nominations. The distributor’s best hope could be Miller if they mount a strong campaign in Supporting Actor. It’s just as possible that Bell is ignored completely in the races to come. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: I Care a Lot

Six years ago, Rosamund Pike burst onto the Oscar scene with her revenge minded femme fatale in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Since then, it’s been quiet on the nomination front. There have been a smattering of pics designed to possibly get her back in the mix – A United Kingdom, A Private War, Radioactive. None have been able to do so.

Pike’s latest showcase is J Blakeson’s thriller I Care a Lot, which screened over the weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. It casts her as a sketchy legal guardian who gets mixed up with criminals. Costars include Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Chris Messina, and Dianne Wiest.

The few reviews out have resulted in a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, though some critics are more effusive than others. There is some talk that it’s Pike’s best performance since Gone Girl. Yet as I explained in my previous Oscar Watch post (regarding Naomi Watts in Penguin Bloom), Best Actress looks competitive in 2020. And like with Bloom, the distributor that picks Care up will need to mount a spirited campaign. It’s not impossible, but competition might be too steep for Pike to get noticed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Penguin Bloom

Naomi Watts is a two-time Oscar nominee in lead actress for 21 Grams in 2003 and 2012’s The Impossible. At the Toronto Film Festival this weekend, her latest drama Penguin Bloom premiered from director Glendyn Ivin. Costars include Andrew Lincoln and Jacki Weaver.

The pics casts Watts as a paralyzed woman caring for an injured magpie. It sounds like an awards bait type of role and some of the reviews are praising her work. However, some of the critical reaction is not so high as it sits at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As discussed on this blog, Best Actress in 2020 potentially looks to be a crowded field. Whatever distributor picks Bloom up will have to mount a serious campaign for its star. My guess is that the so-so reaction from Toronto puts Watts at a competitive disadvantage to make it in. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Wolfwalkers

Disney/Pixar isn’t the only entity with a sterling track record in the Best Animated Feature race at the Oscars. Irish outlet Cartoon Saloon has seen all three of their features nominated in the category. In all these instances, their product lost to a film with Disney and Pixar stamped on the credits.

Saloon’s fourth title is the environmentally conscious adventure Wolfwalkers, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. It is Saloon’s third collaboration with filmmaker Tomm Moore (who co-directs alongside Ross Stewart). His 2009 effort The Secret of Kelis scored a nod and lost to Up. Follow-up Song of the Sea fell short to Big Hero 6. The studio’s third feature – 2017’s The Breadwinner – made the final five with Coco emerging as the victor.

Early reviews from Toronto indicate that Wolfwalkers is another winner and it seems bound for nomination #4 for the Saloon. The pic is slated for stateside distribution later this year via Apple TV. Yet Pixar awaits with the impending release of Soul, which is currently seen as the favorite to take the gold.

Bottom line: Cartoon Saloon should make it 4 for 4 in Best Animated Feature. Beating the Mouse Factory looks to be its ongoing challenge. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…