Oscar Watch: Mike Wallace Is Here

Christopher Plummer didn’t land an Oscar nod as a supporting player for 1999’s The Insider portraying legendary “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. In 2014, the same held true for Robert Redford as Wallace in Truth.

So could a documentary focused on the man himself clock the attention of awards voters? Mike Wallace Is Here gets the limited release treatment this weekend as it recounts the work of the tireless and probing newsman. It received its first screening early in the year at the Sundance Film Festival. Reviews have been quite positive with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 95%.

That said, many of the critical write ups have been more in the three star range as opposed to four. And that makes me feel that this doc is probably a long shot at Academy recognition. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Truth Movie Review

James Vanderbilt’s Truth is of the genre that All the President’s Men is, even employing one of its stars, Robert Redford. It, too, tells the tale of a President of the United States under severe scrutiny. Both show the tremendous pressure and hard work of journalists and their duty to get the story right. The main difference among the numerous similarities? Whereas Redford’s 1976 Oscar nominated picture was confident enough to mostly eschew unneeded overdramatization, Truth is not. It’s a hindrance that causes it to pale in comparison.

Set against the backdrop of George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection, the film focuses on CBS News and its digging into the President’s three decades old plus National Guard record. Producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) works for 60 Minutes and is especially close to the network’s veteran news anchor Dan Rather (Redford). The pair and their colleagues believe they have a credible story covering lapses in Bush’s attendance in the Guard – a time when Vietnam was in its darkest days. A story is aired just months before the reelect, but potential inconsistencies rise up immediately. Some are from serious sources. Others come from the burgeoning blogosphere.

Truth explores the inner workings of news today, corporate politics, real politics, and journalistic integrity. These are subjects that have been covered before and covered more satisfactorily. I’ve already mentioned Redford’s classic from 40 years ago. There’s also Network. And Spotlight. The pic’s flaws don’t lie with the acting, even though this will not rate among Blanchett’s best performances. Redford gives a passable take on Rather. Their coworkers, including Topher Grace as a freelancer and Dennis Quaid as a military affairs expert, aren’t given any time for their characters to be anything other than caricatures.

Blanchett is a tremendous actress but there are times when even she seems to be overdoing it. Not as much as Truth itself, though. From its sweeping score to reaction shots of Mary’s young child watching her work in awe on the tube, Truth often seems distracted by its own perceived virtue instead of just sticking to the facts. The subject matter is by its nature fascinating and there are occasionally well dramatized touches here. Yet President’s Men and Spotlight were confident enough in their stories to simply tell them to intriguing results. Truth rather tries too hard and often rings false for it.

** (out of four)

Todd’s October Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

It’s onto part 3 of my second round of Oscar predictions and Best Actress is on the docket. Between my previous posts covering the Supporting Actor and Actress races, I changed half of those ten predictions from my initial round in late August and early September.

For Actress, only one prediction has changed and that was because Alicia Vikander’s role in The Danish Girl (predicted here weeks ago) has been switched by its studio to Supporting. The four previous predicted women – Cate Blanchett in Carol, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Carey Mulligan for Suffragette and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn remain.

The newcomer could also be the current front runner. Brie Larson’s performance in Room has been earning raves and her nomination is virtually assured. Blanchett is actually competing with herself as her lead role in Truth could get in instead of her work in Carol.

More than any other race, this one has remained the most consistent and we shall see if that remains when my third round of predictions is revealed in November. Tomorrow: Best Actor.


Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Carey Mulligan, Suffragette

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Other Possibilities:

Cate Blanchett, Truth

Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Oscar Watch: Truth

One of the more eagerly anticipated titles to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival was James Vanderbilt’s Truth. The pic focuses on the controversy that enveloped CBS newsman Dan Rather and his reporting of President George W. Bush’s National Guard service during the 2004 election. Robert Redford plays Rather with Cate Blanchett playing his producer. Costars include Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Elisabeth Moss.

After its festival debut, reviews were mostly positive and it currently sits at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Having said that, Truth probably didn’t break out enough to gain major awards traction. Redford is a long shot to be in the mix for Best Actor and while Blanchett earned strong notices, she’ll most likely be a player in the lead actress category for Carol and not this.

So while Truth didn’t crash and burn like some other titles did at Toronto, it’s chances of real Oscar attention appears limited at best. It comes out October 16.

2015 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

How about this for a 2015 Best Actor category? You could have Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, Dalton Trumbo, Whitey Bulger, Dan Rather, Hank Williams, Edward Snowden, and Lance Armstrong all competing against one another? Yep, it’s true as this year’s possibilities contain a number of high-profile performers playing real life characters.

Today is part four of my very early Oscar predictions. In 2014, I made my initial round at the same time. For the races of Best Actress and Supporting Actor and Actress, these early 2014 prognostications yielded just two of the eventual five nominees. Yet last year in the Best Actor race, they correctly predicted four of the five eventual nominees and the fifth was mentioned in the other possibilities section.

Back to the real life folks. Of the many I mentioned, I currently only have Don Cheadle’s work as Miles Davis in Miles Ahead and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Steve Jobs getting in. Fassbender, it should be noted, also remains a contender for this fall’s Macbeth. Any of the others mentioned could bubble up: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, Robert Redford as Dan Rather in Truth, Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in The Program, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden. Like Fassbender, Gordon-Levitt could be a contender for Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, too.

Last year’s winner Eddie Redmayne has a showy role in the period piece transgender drama The Danish Girl and he could easily see a second nod in as many years. Beloved veteran thespian Michael Caine has received raves for Youth. And Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s yet to win, is sure to receive attention for December’s The Revenant. 

As festivals begin to roll on and some of these aforementioned films will be reviewed, the picture should continue to become clearer. As for now:


Michael Caine, Youth

Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Other Possibilities:

Bradley Cooper, Burnt

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Johnny Depp, Black Mass

Michael Fassbender, Macbeth

Colin Firth, Genius

Ben Foster, The Program

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk

Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

Tom Hardy, Legend

Tom Hiddleston, I Saw the Light

Brad Pitt, By the Sea

Robert Redford, Truth

Best Director will be up tomorrow with Best Picture on Saturday! Stay tuned…

If you missed my previous posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, click here:




2015 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

It’s hard to believe but we are two thirds of the way through the calendar year and that means my first round of incredibly early Oscar predictions are making their way to the blog! Some caveats: it’s early. Real early. Truth be told, most of the main contenders in all the major categories will be rolling out in the fall. Many will be screening at the upcoming film fests like Toronto and New York, among others. As always, those festivals will help the picture become clearer over the next couple of months. Usually by Thanksgiving or early December, we’ve got a pretty good idea on how things are looking.

That said, I started my predictions for 2014 at the same time last year. In the Supporting Actress race, which I’m covering today, my impossibly early predictions yielded two of the five eventual nominees, Laura Dern for Wild and winner Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. It’s also worth noting that I predicted Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, who was nominated in the Lead Actress category. Let’s talk about how things look right now:


Already we seem to have one performer who appears to be a shoo in for a nod: Rooney Mara for Todd Haynes’s 1950s set lesbian romance Carol, which premiered to raves at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer. It would be very shocking not to see Mara included, unless she’s campaigned for in the Actress race. That seems unlikely because the studio should be putting her costar Cate Blanchett in that race.

After that – much uncertainty. The Irish immigration drama Brooklyn hit the festival circuit to a rapturous response and that could bode well for Julie Walters. Director Quentin Tarantino knows how to get his actors nominated which could mean a nom for The Hateful Eight’s Jennifer Jason Leigh. Director David O. Russell is exceptional at seeing his performers gets nods and his December release Joy could see kudos for either Virginia Madsen or Diane Ladd (I’m leaving both off, for now).

Elizabeth Olsen has had some critically applauded roles and her performance as Hank Williams’ wife in the biopic I Saw the Light could garner attention. So could Kate Winslet in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic.

The rest of the large field is filled with familiar names and some not. Remember the name Emayatzy Corinealdi for her work in the Don Cheadle/Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. And we have previous winners like Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Rachel Weisz in the mix.


Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Elizabeth Olsen, I Saw the Light

Julie Walters, Brooklyn

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


Other Possibilities:

Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy

Cate Blanchett, Truth

Helena Bonham Carter,  Suffragette

Jessica Chastain, The Martian

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Miles Ahead

Marion Cotillard, Macbeth

Ann Dowd, Our Brand is Crisis

Jane Fonda, Youth

Nicole Kidman, Genius

Diane Ladd, Joy

Melanie Laurent, By the Sea

Laura Linney, Genius

Virginia Madsen, Joy

Helen Mirren, Trumbo

Ellen Page, Freeheld

Julia Roberts, The Secret in their Eyes

Amy Ryan, Bridge of Spies

Meryl Streep, Suffragette

Rachel Weisz, Youth

And there’s part one of my early Oscar picks. Supporting Actor coming your way tomorrow…