We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.
The Woman King
Whether or not many considered The Woman King a major Oscar contender before now, they certainly will going forward. Opening wide this weekend, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic about a powerful African state of the 18th and 19th centuries stars Viola Davis as the titular woman king. Other notable actors in the film include John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. While it made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film wasn’t seen as a particularly major contender for the Oscars until its #1 debut at the box office this weekend. It also scored a rare A+ rating at Cinema Score, which suggests a film that’s rather popular with the intended audience. While I still consider it a contender since it first appeared on my inaugural list back in April, the real question is will it actually make a play?
David has a history with the Oscars, but Prince-Bythewood doesn’t. It has a stellar 94% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 77, a notably lesser score. Still, it has enough support from critics and some audiences that it has a lot of potential to play long into Oscar season. That said, September releases often struggle with Oscar voters. They can be rather popular upon release, but the major festivals didn’t reward the film and without that support, it has to go through three months of potential faulty memory before awards season begins in earnest. Can it keep the momentum up heading into December? Possibly. Davis doesn’t have any other major Oscar campaigns to ride to a nomination, which may help keep the film on voters’ minds. It’s possible the film is a major player on the nominations side of thing, but that it goes home empty-handed.
Although director Andrew Dominik has been well regarded as a filmmaker, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is his only Oscar success so far and it barely registered two nominations. So what can one make of Blonde, his fourth feature film? On the heels of successful biopics of major figures (Jackie Kennedy, Freddie Mercury, and Elton John for example), it’s worth discussing whether this Marilyn Monroe story has a chance. Simon Curtis’ 2011 feature My Week with Marilyn may already be forgotten among some Oscar voters. Then, they honored Michelle Williams with an Oscar nomination for playing Monroe. And she was terrific in the part. Is the tragic actor and pinup the kind of character that can enable multiple people to score Oscar nominations? This film should test that theory.
In the role of Marilyn is Ana de Armas who had a huge break-out success with Knives Out and also had a brief, kick-ass scene in the latest James Bond film (easily the best segment in the film). She’s not had the kind of career that Williams has had. She’s never been nominated, but early reviews have lavished praise on her performance. Yet, the film has mostly gotten mixed reactions. The film has a 56% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and on MetaCritic it’s slightly better at 57. While films have gotten Oscar nominations with that low a score before, it’s not that common. That said, Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Actor and had a worse score at MetaCritic (49), but a better score at Rotten Tomatoes (60%). Then there’s the very similar Rocketman, which had a 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 69 at MetaCritic. Yet, that film was mostly ignored by the Academy, winning the Oscar for original song and scoring no other nominations. Clearly, the Academy isn’t setting a standard here, so it’s possible the film can hold on, but de Armas’ chances all hinge on how stacked the Best Actress race is this year and so far, it’s looking good for the category, but bad for the actor.