Oscar Preview: Weekend of Feb. 12-14, 2021

We had three films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Although director Shaka King has absolutely no history with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, his film about an intended FBI sting against Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton, has become a major late-season Oscar player. The film has so far earned a lot of praise. On Rotten Tomatoes, it’s currently sitting at 96% Fresh while at MetaCritic, it has an insanely impressively 87 score. That’s one of the highest of the year. If it starts showing up in all sorts of guild precursors, it could be a huge player.

Apart from contending in the Best Picture category, prior Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya will now enter a huge fight with Leslie Odom Jr. for Best Supporting Actor with Odom Jr. currently standing taller, but with Kaluuya building up steam. The film has a potential for a screenwriting nomination as well as nominations in Production Design and Costume Design. Film Editing and Cinematography are also possible, but we’ll have to wait until the guilds have more input to be certain.

French Exit

Azazel Jacobs’ new film, French Exit, is about an aging Manhattan socialite who moves to an apartment in Paris to save money while her son and cat make the move along with her. Thought to be a major vehicle for Michelle Pfeiffer’s big return to the limelight, the film has been struggling to find an audience. That could be because critics haven’t been enamored with the film. MetaCritic has it at 59 while Rotten Tomatoes has a slightly rosier outlook on the film with a still-mediocre 63% Fresh rating.

The film had gotten pushed into 2021 by the pandemic, but as the Academy re-arranged its eligiblity schedule, extending through February, the production companies behind the film chose to leave it where it was at and push Pfeiffer anyway. That could be because they realized after people saw the film that it wasn’t going to do as well as they had hoped, so they decided to cut their losses and move on to the next potential Oscar contender. Poor Pfeiffer has been left behind several times as she tries to re-mount her career and while an appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp might have been a high profile effort, it did little for her serious acting career which has been in serious decline for over two decades.

Minari

Several films released at the end of 2020 with an “Oscar-qualifying run.” That’s not because they needed to, as the Academy’s deadline was well known to be Feb. 28, 2021, but because many critics groups opted to stick with the traditional Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 release window for their eligibility. Of course, they also let TV movies and Emmy contenders compete for awards, but that’s their decision, not a reality-based one.

As to Minari, the film played the festival circuit to critical acclaim. With an outstanding 88 score from MetaCritic and a superb 97% Fresh from Rotten Tomatoes, the film clearly has a lot of supporters. The film is about a South Korean family who starts a new life in the United States hoping to make a life for themselves on an Arkansas farm. The film is a major contender in many categories, including the acting races. That said, Steven Yeun and Youn Yuh-jung cracking the Oscar list might be a steep hill to climb. While they are more obvious lead and supporting roles respectively, even the more praised Parasite couldn’t secure those citations. The biggest boon could be that those two actors earned Screen Actors Guild award nominations when their predecessors did not. It could be a good sign, but you should ask Hong Chau how that worked out for her after the SAG nomination for Downsizing, which resulted in nothing from the Academy. That film wasn’t well liked, though, so that could make all the difference.

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