Oscar Watch: The Front Runner

Director Jason Reitman debuted his newest feature at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend. It’s a venue that he probably has affection for. Both 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Up in the Air premiered in Colorado and went on to garner Best Picture nominations. On the other hand, his last feature to open there (2014’s Labor Day) saw its awards hopes dashed upon critical reaction.

This brings us to The Front Runner, which recounts Gary Hart’s failed 1988 Presidential campaign. Hugh Jackman plays him with Vera Farmiga as his wife. The buzz from Telluride includes some solid reviews, with some claiming it shares the vibe of Robert Altman’s 1970s works. However, not all write-ups have been raves.

This puts The Front Runner in a position of uncertainty. It could face an uphill battle for Picture or Director nods (as well as Adapted Screenplay). Jackman has only one Academy Awards nomination to his credit for 2012’s Les Miserables. He didn’t manage to score recognition last year for two high-profile roles in Logan or The Greatest Showman. Farmiga also has one nod to her credit courtesy of Reitman’s Up in the Air. Both are possibilities, but far from slam dunks in Actor and Supporting Actress.

Bottom line: let’s see how future buzz plays out, but The Front Runner might find itself on the back burner for Oscar chatter.

The film opens November 7 in the United States. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Oscar History: 2009

It’s been a little while, but this evening on the blog – we continue with my ongoing series of Oscar History posts and we’ve arrived at 2009. That year’s Academy Awards are notable for a couple of reasons. First, this was the year where the decision was made to expand the list of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. It’s likely not an accident that this occurred just one year after 2008’s commercial and critical smash The Dark Knight failed to make the five pic cut. This was the Academy’s way of including more commercially successful ventures. After all, there’s a direct correlation between hit pictures being nominated and the ratings of the telecast itself. Secondly, the real battle of nominated entries came down between the efforts of a couple that was married and divorced – James Cameron for his smash hit Avatar (which demolished all box office records) and ex wife Kathryn Bigelow for her war drama The Hurt Locker.

It would be Bigelow who would come out on top as The Hurt Locker would take Best Picture over her ex-husband’s blockbuster. The other eight nominated features: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air. The success of Hurt Locker would relegate Avatar to winning only the tech categories.

Up would mark the first animated flick nomination (and first and only Pixar one) since 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and it hasn’t happened since. Basterds would mark Quentin Tarantino’s second pic nod after Pulp Fiction fifteen years prior.

As for movies that might have made my personal cut, I advocate for Steven Soderbergh’s underrated and hilarious The Informant! And if the Academy wanted to include high profile pictures, why not consider the acclaimed Star Trek reboot or comedy smash of the year The Hangover? I’m also a big fan of Zack Snyder’s graphic novel adaptation of Watchmen.

Bigelow would go onto make history by becoming the first female Best Director winner in Oscar history over Cameron, Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and Tarantino. I may have found room for Neill Blomkamp’s impressive work in District 9.

Beloved actor Jeff Bridges would score his first Best Actor win for Crazy Heart, beating out George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), and Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker). Firth would go onto win the prize the following year for The King’s Speech. Once again, my Informant! love would have meant an inclusion for Matt Damon’s terrific work in it.

Sandra Bullock would receive her first ever nomination and a win for her hit football drama The Blind Side. Other nominees: Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). Two names I would’ve considered: Alison Lohman’s great scared crapless work in Sam Raimi’s horror tale Drag Me to Hell and Zooey Deschanel in the rom com (500) Days of Summer.

Quentin Tarantino’s knack of finding the perfect actor in the perfect role landed an at the time unknown Christoph Waltz a win in Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds. Other nominees were Matt Damon for Invictus, Woody Harrelson for The Messenger, Christopher Plummer in The Last Station, and Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones. As I’ve mentioned in these posts before, the Academy usually ignores comedies and this race would have given them an excellent opportunity to nominate Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover. Also, I may have included Jackie Earle Haley for his work in Watchmen.

Mo’Nique would win Supporting Actress in Precious over previous year’s winner Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (both nominated for Up in the Air), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart). I would have given consideration to either Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger for their roles in Basterds.

And that’s 2009 for you, my friends! I’ll get to 2010 at same point in the future…