Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 13-15, 2020

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

Ammonite

Francis Lee, the director by the acclaimed drama God’s Own Country in 2017, writes and directs this loose adaptation of the life of paleontologist Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet. The film co-stars Saoirse Ronan as her romantic partner with Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, and James McArdle in support.

This lesbian romance has earned solid reviews, even if Rotten Tomatoes, for once, has a lower average rating than does MetaCritic. It’s not the kind of critical performance that brings Best Picture nominations, but while the film itself might have received uneven response, Winslet and Ronan are each getting strong notices for their work.

In a more stacked year, both actors could struggle to gain traction and Winslet probably has the harder time getting into the absolutely packed lead acting race, but Ronan could still pull off a nomination in support. If she does, it will mark her sixth, and first Supporting Actress, citation since 2007, and her second in as many years. Few actors can claim to have earned that many nominations at all, better yet all before the age of 26.

Mank

Earning far better reviews is David Fincher’s ode to black-and-white cinema in general and the legacy of Orson Welles in specific. Fincher’s filming of his late father’s screenplay stars Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter behind Welles’ insurmountable classic Citizen Kane, as he tries to get that film’s screenplay produced. The biggest hurdle is William Randolph Hearst on whose life the film is loosely based.

Black-and-white filmmaking is a rare occurrence today, but artistically, it’s still a fresh source of inspiration and borrowing heavily from Weslles’ filmmaking techniques to tell a behind-the-scenes story is a stroke of genius and is rather surprising that it took over a decade to bring to the big screen. Netflix surely has its eyes on this film performing well with nostalgic Oscar voters.

Several categories seem certain as this juncture from Best Picture all the way down into the creative fields. Nominations for Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Film Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairsytling, and Sound seem like good bets with Oldman, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, and Charles Dance as Hearst each receiving enough
acclaim from reviewers to be considered also likely. A tally of 12 or 13 nominations would not be at all surprising. What might be most surprising is that almost 80 years after Hearst’s newspaper empire assured Welles he wouldn’t be taking home the Best Picture Oscar, a film about the making of the film might well bring home a Best Picture Oscar as well as Fincher’s long sought after Directing Oscar.

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