Oscars 2021: The Case of Jesse Plemons

My Case Of posts arrive at the third Supporting Actor contender and it’s Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog. The first two write-ups can be found here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Ciaran Hinds

Oscars 2021: The Case of Troy Kotsur

The Case for Jesse Plemons:

Having appeared in acclaimed TV and cinematic works including Breaking Bad and Fargo on the small screen and The Master, The Irishman, and Judas and the Black Messiah on the big one, Plemons scores his first Academy nod. Dog led all nominees with 13 and that includes Kirsten Dunst (the actor’s real life love interest).

The Case Against Jesse Plemons:

It also includes his costar Kodi Smit-McPhee, who’s nominated in the same category and won the Golden Globe. Despite a BAFTA mention, Plemons didn’t make the SAG, Globe, or Critics Choice shortlists. Smit-McPhee and Troy Kotsur (CODA) are looked at as the potential victors. Woody Harrelson in 2017 lost to his costar Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as did Lakeith Stranfield last year to Daniel Kaluuya for the aforementioned Judas. Plemons could play that role this time around.

Previous Nominations: 

None

The Verdict:

Plemons might be back again next year with Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Don’t look for an Oscar delivery here.

My Case Of posts will continue with Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s direction of Drive My Car

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review

There’s a sequence in Venom: Let There Be Carnage where Woody Harrelson’s serial killer villain engages in mayhem with his crazy girlfriend (Naomie Harris). The deadly duo wreak their havoc in a ’66 Mustang and, for a moment, I was reminded of the actor’s appearance nearly 30 years ago in Natural Born Killers. Call it Muckey and Mallory this time as the amount of extraterrestrial goo is easily doubled in this sequel.

Speaking of natural born killers, it’s an apt description for the title character. The alien symbiote longs to bite humans heads off, but he’s mostly under control due to his human host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). Poor Venom has to settle for chickens. Continuing the banter that was the highlight of the original, Carnage still allows for Hardy’s bizarre but oddly effective comedic performance.

For those who forgot (and 2018’s Venom was a bit forgettable), Eddie is a San Francisco based journalist whose expose into scientific experiments stuck him with the black liquid alien that now lives in his body. Our loony reporter is put on assignment when Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) tasks Eddie with extracting evidence from death row condemned psycho Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson).

Their jailhouse interview leads to chaos and Carnage – as in the name of a Venomous offspring that invades the already crazed Cletus. And there’s the aforementioned love interest played by Harris. Confined to the Ravencroft Institute (where we first met Cletus in a Venom post-credits bit), Frances Barrison can manipulate sound to get herself out of sticky situations. This earns her the moniker Shriek due to those deadly decibels.

Andy Serkis is in the director’s chair (replacing Ruben Fleischer) and he keeps Carnage short, light, and full of CG action. The screenplay strains a little to justify bringing back Michelle Williams as Eddie’s ex-flame. I suppose someone’s gotta get saved by the hero in the third act. Reid Scott reprises his role as her boyfriend and there are a couple of humorous moments with his character.

I couldn’t quite recommend Venom though I came close solely based on Hardy’s batty work. This is no comic book masterwork and even the great Harrelson’s villainous turn is passable at best. Yet I more or less came around with Carnage. I give it props for foregoing a bloated running time (it’s just an hour and a half). It’s hard to not be entertained by Hardy and his skull chomping companion. In the constantly growing universe of comic book based franchises, it’s getting common for the sequels to improve upon the originals. The first entries always have to go through the origin story while the follow-ups can be a little more fun. That applies here.

*** (out of four)

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

Starting on the blog today, I’m taking a deeper dive into the four acting derbies at the Oscars as well as Picture and Director. It begins with Supporting Actor.

If I could use a couple words to describe this particular race – “very open” immediately comes to mind. With just two months left in the calendar year, I would go as far to say that not I’m not 100% certain on any performer discussed below making the final five. That’s rare.

Before I delve into the many hopefuls, let’s take a look at where my projections were at in 2019 and 2020 during the same time frame. Two years ago, I had already correctly pegged four of the five eventual nominees: winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time Hollywood), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), and Al Pacino (The Irishman). The other contender was Joe Pesci (also for The Irishman) and I had him listed at #6 in Other Possibilities. In hindsight, Supporting Actor was well on its way to being established with two months remaining in 2019.

Not so much for 2020. Last year was more difficult than perhaps any before it in figuring out who’d make the cut (much of that uncertainty was due to COVID and the constantly shifting release schedule). On November 1, 2020 – my forecasted five contenders yielded just two of the eventual nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night in Miami. I still had the winner (Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah) listed for the lead Actor competition. Both Lakeith Stanfield (Judas) and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) were not yet mentioned in Other Possibilities.

With that context, we arrive in 2021. And I would say this year looks more like the previous one as opposed to 2019. There has been one constant since I began projecting the race back in the summer: Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza (known as Soggy Bottom just a couple of months ago). I’ve had him listed at #1 the whole way and it’s a prediction based mostly on gut since no one has seen the picture (that’ll change shortly). Cooper is a four-time acting nominee (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, A Star is Born). He’s yet to take the gold. Pizza looks like it should be a juicy role for him. On the other hand, we do not yet known just how big (or small) his role is. When reviews come out, he could solidify himself as the frontrunner or drop out altogether. There’s also the possibility that one of the other supporting players (Sean Penn or Benny Safdie) could rise. For now, I’m still hangin’ with Mr. Cooper until the word-of-mouth tells me otherwise.

Shifting gears – here’s a fun fact. In three out of the last four years, we’ve seen two actors from the same movie recognized here. In 2017, it was Sam Rockwell (who won) and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. For 2019 – you had Pacino and Pesci in The Irishman. Last year, it was the victorious Kaluuya and Stanfield for Judas.

Could that happen again? Absolutely and the best chance for that right now appears to be Belfast. A strong contender to win Best Picture, we could also see Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds punch their tickets here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it happen. Dornan seems likelier to make it in, but Hinds is getting plenty of laudatory chatter as well.

There are other scenarios to make it four out of five years and some lie with pictures still not screened. Don’t Look Up has Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, and Mark Rylance. Willem Dafoe and David Strathairn are viable for Nightmare Alley. And then there’s Jared Leto and Al Pacino in House of Gucci. The latest trailer features the latter more than the former. That disrupts the consensus that Leto has a better shot. I’m still going with Leto above Pacino, but when Gucci screens that dynamic may shift.

The double nominee situations don’t end there. Yet they both have actors that I believe have a significantly better chance than the other. For Mass, Jason Isaacs has been in my five while Reed Birney hasn’t made the top ten in some time. After The Power of the Dog was unveiled on the festival circuit, the narrative unexpectedly shifted to Kodi Smit-McPhee having a clearer path than Jesse Plemons. The Tragedy of Macbeth buzz solidified Corey Hawkins over Brendan Gleeson (though I’m skeptical either get in).

Now is a good time to point out that it’s been ten years since a Supporting Actor winner didn’t come from a Best Picture nominee (Christopher Plummer in Beginners). That’s why I find it a stretch that Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar), Idris Elba (The Harder They Fall), or Troy Kotsur (CODA) will be making trips to the podium. They could still get in, but their paths are tougher and they will all need heavy critics awards love to make the dance. There’s been some mentions for Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, but (somewhat surprisingly) no Wes Anderson directed performance has been Academy nominated and I don’t see this being the first.

One actor where an exception could occur is Richard Jenkins in The Humans. I doubt it will land a Pic nod, but Jenkins is drawing raves for his work. Twice nominated before for The Visitor and The Shape of Water, I could see the veteran becoming a threat to win if Cooper falls.

Others worthy of mention include Jon Bernthal in King Richard. The attention could be so focused on Will Smith (who appears to be in the driver’s seat to take Actor) that his supporting cast fails to get in (that logic also applies to Supporting Actress hopeful Aunjanue Ellis). It’s also totally feasible that Richard is so popular with the Academy that it sweeps them all in. Andrew Garfield picked up solid notices for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He might stand a better shot in lead for the upcoming and yet to be screened Tick, Tick… Boom! Timothy Spall for Spencer is doable, but Kristen Stewart is just as likely to be the sole nominee (and maybe the winner in Actress). The work of David Alvarez (West Side Story) and Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) has yet to be seen and is worth keeping an eye on.

So how does that all shake out? Truth be told, the five predicted performers listed below could look quite different a couple months from now. Here’s my best guesstimate for the moment:

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3)

3. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2)

4. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5)

5. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 4)

7. Jon Bernthal, King Richard (PR: 6)

8. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 7)

9. Al Pacino, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

I’ll have my analysis on the current state of Supporting Actress up next!

Oscar Predictions – Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Tom Hardy is back to his dualistic ways in Venom: Let There Be Carnage this weekend. The sequel to the 2018 Marvel Comics property officially had its review embargo lifted today and the results are a bit surprising. While plenty of critics aren’t being overly kind, the 58% Rotten Tomatoes rating is an improvement over its predecessor’s 30% score.

Sony is hoping audiences are primed for more of Hardy and his black goo. The only awards possibility lies in the Visual Effects race. And if part 1 couldn’t manage a nod, I doubt this will either.

There is serious competition with other comic book based pics including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the upcoming Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s also a safe bet that Dune and The Matrix Resurrections will make the cut. Perhaps Carnage will surface in the ten finalists vying for five slots, but I wouldn’t count on it getting in. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Box Office Prediction

Arriving one year after its COVID delay, Tom Hardy returns as the Marvel Comics title character in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The sequel includes returnees Michelle Williams and Reid Scott along with newcomers Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, and Woody Harrelson (who did briefly cameo in the original’s post credits scene). Andy Serkis, certainly no stranger to CG effects, takes over directorial duties from Ruben Fleischer.

Three years ago, Venom surpassed expectations with a then October best opening weekend of just over $80 million. That record was beaten a year later by Joker. The overall domestic gross of $213 million guaranteed a follow-up.

After witnessing the recent robust performance of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Sony actually pushed up the release date by two weeks.

Carnage kicks off a month where studios are hopeful for pleasing returns with heavy hitters like No Time to Die, Halloween Kills, and Dune. I don’t envision this getting to $80 million like its predecessor. A more realistic expectation would be part II nabbing about 75% of what part I achieved out of the gate.

That would be $60 million and I’ll say it goes just under that.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage opening weekend prediction: $58.7 million

For my The Addams Family 2 prediction, click here:

The Addams Family 2 Box Office Prediction

For my The Many Saints of Newark prediction, click here:

The Many Saints of Newark Box Office Prediction

Oscars 2020: The Case of Daniel Kaluuya

The second contest in the Supporting Actor field is up next in my Case Of posts for the Oscars and that’s Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah. If you missed my first post covering Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, it can be read here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/01/oscars-2020-the-case-of-sacha-baron-cohen/

The Case for Daniel Kaluuya

Ever since the trailer came out months ago for Judas, it was clear that Kaluuya’s performance as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton could be something special. When it was confirmed that he would compete in Supporting Actor, it was pretty much assumed he was an automatic hopeful. That buzz has only grown louder as Kaluuya (a previous nominee in Best Actor for 2017’s Get Out) has swept this race in the major precursors: Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice.

The Case Against Daniel Kaluuya

Perhaps the biggest surprise on Oscar nomination morning was Kaluuya’s costar Lakeith Stanfield garnering a nod here (especially since Warner Bros campaigned for him in the lead competition). So there’s always the chance that the two could cancel some of each other’s votes.

The Verdict

The vote splitting dilemma certainly didn’t hurt Sam Rockwell three years ago alongside Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s highly unlikely to hurt Kaluuya either as he feels like the safest pick in the four acting derbies.

My Case Of posts will continue with David Fincher’s direction of Mank…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 25th Edition

Two comedies make their way into my Daily Streaming Guide. Also – about the “daily” thing – I’m trying my darnedest to post each day, but sometimes life and work get in the way. I’ll do my best to update as much as possible!

Netflix

1996’s Kingpin from the Farrelly Brothers arrived in-between two of their massive and beloved comedies – Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. This bowling farce starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and a glorious Bill Murray didn’t receive near as much attention. It’s since turned into a cult favorite and its brand of depraved and often hilarious comedy is well worth a look (for Murray’s hair alone).

HBO Streaming

2004’s Along Came Polly is the romantic tale of ultra cautious Ben Stiller and free spirit Jennifer Aniston. They are responsible for plenty of funny moments, but supporting players Alec Baldwin and especially the late Philip Seymour Hoffman make it even more worthwhile.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Midway Box Office Prediction

Known for his mega budget disaster flicks such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, director Roland Emmerich tries his hand at a World War II epic next weekend with Midway. Budgeted at $75 million (pretty low considering the reported $165 million price tag for his 2016 dud sequel Independence Day: Resurgence), the cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson.

I do not expect this to be Emmerich’s Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk. Those WWII efforts had critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. This does not. There will be competition for the adult and action crowd with the debut of Doctor Sleep and second frame for Terminator: Dark Fate.

IMAX elevated pricing could help a bit, but I doubt it. My suspicion is that Midway posts middling to poor numbers in the low teens for an inauspicious start.

Midway opening weekend prediction: $13 million

For my Doctor Sleep prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/29/doctor-sleep-box-office-prediction/

For my Last Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/30/last-christmas-box-office-prediction/

For my Playing with Fire prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/playing-with-fire-box-office-prediction/

Zombieland: Double Tap Box Office Prediction

The quartet of Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin return after a decade to fight the undead in Zombieland: Double Tap next weekend. The comedic sequel find Ruben Fleischer back directing and Bill Murray back playing himself. Newcomers in part 2 include Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, and Murray’s Ghostbusters costar Dan Aykroyd.

In October 2009, Zombieland helped usher in a resurgence for the living dead. With solid reviews, the pic took in $24.7 million for its start and closed at $75 million. The band is back together after all these years and the original’s reputation has stayed intact in the interim.

In 2019, we have seen numerous examples of sequels falling short of what came before. Double Tap could be immune from that, but I don’t see it outgrossing part 1 by any substantial margin. My hunch is that this comes in barely under the debut posted in 2009 as enough moviegoers will want to catch up with this gang.

Zombieland: Double Tap opening weekend prediction: $23.7 million

For my Maleficent: Mistress of Evil prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/08/maleficent-mistress-of-evil-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Irishman

The biggest Oscar domino not yet fall screened has been Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the three and a half hour gangster drama headlined by genre legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. That changed today. The epic opened the New York Film Festival exactly two months ahead of its Netflix debut. And – no real surprise here – it appears to be a serious contender.

The Irishman is said to be both a humorous and contemplative piece with De Niro and Pacino providing their best performances in years. Same goes for Pesci as he’s been away from the silver screen for nearly a decade.

While nearly all reviews are positive, they’re not all raves. My early hunch is that this will earn Picture and Director nods. Winning is another story and that is one still left to play out. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 100%. This will likely mark Scorsese’s ninth nomination (he’s won once for 2006’s The Departed). That’s also his only effort to be named Best Picture. The Adapted Screenplay from Steve Zaillian should also make the final cut.

Down the line recognition presents many chances including Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, and Visual Effects. For the latter, the de-aging technology that allows its stars to look younger could attract the notice of that branch. The pic would actually be the second Scorsese title to get a Visual Effects nod after 2011’s Hugo (which won).

Now to the thespians. The thinking is that De Niro will be in lead actor with Pacino and Pesci in supporting. It sounds as if they will be the trio in contention. De Niro would gunning for his eighth appearance as a nominee. He won Supporting for 1974’s The Godfather Part II and lead in Scorsese’s 1980 masterwork Raging Bull. I’ve had him listed in spot #6 for some time in my weekly rankings. I could still see him missing the cut as his role is said to be less flashy than his costars, but I think his chances are better today. Numerous critics have stated that Pacino steals the show and he’s going for nomination #9 (his sole win is 1992’s Scent of a Woman). Like De Niro, I’ve had him slotted sixth and I expect him to enter the top five in a supporting actor race that is already jam packed. As for Pesci (who won for 1990’s Scorsese classic GoodFellas), other reviewers are singling him out. That opens the door for two men to be nominated in the supporting race for the second time since 1991 when Harvey Keitel (who’s also in this) and Ben Kingsley were recognized for Bugsy. This occurred again two years ago with Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Pesci is not the near sure thing Pacino is, but it could happen.

Bottom line: The Irishman did what it needed to do in the Big Apple to establish itself as a player in awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…