Category: Oscar Preview

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 18-20, 2022

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

She Said

Even with acclaimed films like All the President’s Men and Spotlight, there aren’t a lot of movies that dig into major scandals uncovered by investigative journalists. She Said follows two journalists for the New York Times looking into the reports of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein, an explosive bit of reporting that brought down a Hollywood titan and helped launch the #MeToo movement into the stratosphere. Directed by acclaimed German filmmaker Maria Schrader, whose 2021 film I’m Your Man helped launch her Hollywood career, the film co-stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, and Samantha Morton co-star with actress Ashley Judd playing herself, one of Weinstein’s victims.

The film has already done well with critics who’ve seen it nabbing an 88% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a solid 73 score from MetaCritic. Although the film didn’t do that well at the box office, the A rating from Cinema Score suggests the film could have legs if word-of-mouth excitement spreads. Where does that leave the film with Oscar. Let’s just say that the aforementioned films, All the President’s Men and Spotlight did quite well at the Oscars. All the President’s Men looks at Woodward and Bernstein as they work to uncover the details of the break-in at the Watergate hotel, which would ultimately lead to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. It earned 8 Oscar nominations, including Picture and Directing and for two of its supporting actors, and won four prizes for Supporting Actor Jason Robards, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, and Sound. Spotlight, which examined the struggles faced by reporters at the Boston Globe as they uncovered serial child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, picked up six Oscar nominations, also for Picture and Directing, and took home the awards for Best Picture and Original Screenplay.

Another recent example, The Post, is about the first female newspaper publisher as she fights against a hostile government in an effort to release the Pentagon Papers, one of the events that fractured trust in the U.S. government as the scope of the debacle in Vietnam was revealed. That film only managed two Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep). It didn’t win.

The immediacy of the incidents with Harvey Weinstein may ultimately help the film with the Academy as they are still reeling from the effects of Weinstein’s debauchery, the trials that are still ongoing, and the salience of the #MeToo movement. With the crossover support of critics and audiences, I can see the film nabbing a Best Picture nomination as well as one for screenwriting. While most of the plaudits for the film have been given to Ehle and other members of the supporting cast, it’s likely their roles are too small to get cited, leaving Kazan, Mulligan, and Clarkson as the strongest contenders. That said, a lot will depend on who gets bumped to lead. If both Mulligan and Kazan compete for lead, they will not just cancel one another out, but in such a strong category this year, either one would struggle to get into the category. If either is pushed to support, more likely Mulligan, then she could secure a nomination. The film won’t likely win any of its nominations, but a slate of 3 to 5 nominations wouldn’t be unexpected.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 11-13, 2022

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

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

No one really thought when the first Black Panther film was in production that it would not only become the first MCU film to cross the $700 million threshold. Nor did they even contemplate its Oscar chances since comic book adaptations had largely been ignored by the Academy. Yet, critics (including me) were enthusiastic about the film and it started showing up on several best of lists and become such a fixture during Oscar season that the Academy couldn’t ignore it. In the end, it took scored 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won 3, more than any comic book adaptation to date.

Now, we’re four years later and the thrill has worn off, which makes the question: do we underestimate Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Do so at your own risk, but I wouldn’t qualify it as a contender outside of the craft categories this time. While the “glass” ceiling for comic book movies has been broken and Joker followed Black Panther through, there’s no indicating that this will be a trend. In spite of critical and box office success for the latest Spider-Man film, it still only managed a few below the line nominations. The same is likely for Wakanda Forever. I could see it doing quite well four or five nominations, but the highest I think it can get in the non-craft categories is Best Supporting Actress based on the acclaim Angela Bassett has been getting. That said, don’t count on it making it that high.

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Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 4-6, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Oct. 28-30, 2022

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

Call Jane

With the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade, films about abortion gain a more urgent salience than they might have in prior years. That said, not all films are created equal and a film like Call Jane might be lucky to post a single Oscar nomination. The film is about a woman (Elizabeth Banks) who has to have a life-saving abortion and her difficulty in getting it sets her on a collision course a group of women who secretly arrange abortions in spite of its illegality in the United States.

The film co-stars Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, and Kate Mara. The film was well received by critics, but their positive, yet not terribly enthusiastic views of the film may hurt it more than help. The year is already chock full of contenders and a meager 64 rating on MetaCritic and good, but not outstanding, 80% on Rotten Tomatoes mean the film has solid support, but probably not as much as it might otherwise have. That said, the supporting actress slate is somewhat competitive, though it’s possible the long Oscar-absent Sigourney Weaver could well pick up some steam in her supporting role if critics go along with it.

Armageddon Time

James Gray’s latest film, Armageddon Time as a similar issue to that of Call Jane. The film has a decent 77% on Rotten Tomatoes and a more solid 76 on MetaCritic, meaning there’s some support for the film, but the buzz never seems to have materialized. The film is about a young Jewish boy Paul (Paul Graff) and his Black friend (Jaylin Webb) who are caught smoking weed and sent to a private school where prejudice threatens to destroy the kids’ psyches as both struggle to find their place in a world that treats them poorly.

The real acting power here is Anne Hathaway as Paul’s mother, Jeremy Strong as his father, and Anthony Hopkins as his grandfather. All were thought to be players this year, but without a huge backing by critics, the film has been struggling to maintain its traction. While it could have been a Best Picture contender, the film’s lack of ardent enthusiasm will cause it to struggle. Hathaway, if she goes lead, will likely fail to muster enough support to overcome the incredibly stacked race, whereas if she goes support, she might stand a chance of a nomination. Strong doesn’t seem like he’s generating sufficient buzz in support and would likely lose out to Hopkins if the category only tolerates one actor from the film. And since Hopkins isn’t getting much of a push for his role in The Son, it’s possible he lands another late-career nomination. The rest of the film’s craft chances are limited with the nearness of its setting. Then there’s Gray a Best Directing citation is likely impossible, which leaves only the Original Screenplay category with an opportunity for his nomination. The biggest problem there is that, unlike Best Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay is overflowing with contenders, which means the film is likely to fall flat on most levels.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Oct. 21-23, 2022

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

The Banshees of Inisherin

You would never know it from his skill as a director, but Martin McDonagh has only directed four feature-length films. His first, In Bruges, released in 2008 and starred Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as hitmen wrestling with their demons. That film scored him his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Four years later, his second film released to much less fanfare. Seven Psychopaths came nowhere near the Oscars. Waiting 5 more years between projects, he came up with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which became his biggest hit yet. It received seven Oscar nominations, including Picture and Original Screenplay, but not directing. It also earned nods for three of its cast, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson. McDormand and Rockwell won, but neither of the others did, including nominated film editor Jon Gregory, and composer Carter Burwell.

There’s the pedigree for McDonagh at the Oscars. With The Banshees of Inisherin, McDonagh reteams with his In Bruges co-stars Gleeson and Farrell for a meditation on friendship as the longtime friendship the pair possessed crumbles after an unknown falling out. The film has already screened at festivals to great acclaim and it seems like McDonagh has a strong player on his hands. Picture, Directing, and Original Screenplay are good possibilities, but it’s really Farrell and Gleeson who have the best shots at nominations and wins. Farrell’s been on the cusp for some time and Gleeson has been constantly turning in solid performances, so both would seem to be the strongest bets.

Wendell and Wild

Henry Selick is one of the lead figures in the modern stop-motion animation movement that has featured heavily in the work of Aardman Animation and Laika for more than two decades. You could even say that Selick is the man who built Laika with his last animated effort, Coraline in 2009. 13 years a long time to be out of the game, but he’s back and Hollywood will take notice. The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Coraline are titans in animation history, each great works of art with compelling stories told well. Selick directed all of them, though he only wrote the script for Coraline. Still, the necessity of the director being intimately involved in a live-action animated production means he had a great deal of creative input and control over those prior films.

What does that mean for his first feature in that many years? Maybe a lot, maybe not much. Wendell & Wild is the first stop-motion animated feature that focuses in on black characters, which might just be enough to get the Academy to take more notice than it usually does. That may also not be enough. What might bolster the film’s chances is the other people involved. The film marks the reteaming of Key & Peele sketch comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. You might have heard of Peele before. Not only is Peele a voice actor in the film, he also co-wrote the screenplay with Selick and shares a producer credit with him. That alone might prompt even more support for the film even if it weren’t getting solid reviews. Of course, the big problem is Netflix pushing Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio instead and once again risking a loss in a category they have tried desperately to win the last few years.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Oct. 14-16, 2022

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

Decision to Leave

There are certain international directors that have been critic favorites for so long that it seems almost inevitable that they should one day break through to the Oscars. Bong Joon-ho is a perfect example of this. After a string of critically acclaimed films, some better than Parasite, he was finally given his due by the Academy for the aforementioned 2019 Oscar winner. Another name that has gotten plenty of acclaim over the years is Park Chan-wook. Decision to Leave marks his latest acclaimed film and with the recent successes of Parasite and Drive My Car, it would seem time for yet another international legend to get his due.

The film features a detective who falls for the widow of his victim, creating conflict between what he knows he should be doing to pursue justice and his love for a woman he shouldn’t be getting involved with. With an 85 score at MetaCritic and a 93% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the film certainly has the bona fides to make a run at the Oscars. It also has the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ top prize and has been submitted by SOuth Korea for the Best International Feature Oscar. It will almost certainly be nominated there, but could reach out beyond into Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Original Screenplay. Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography could also follow, but outside of the Best International Feature Oscar, I don’t see it as a terribly major contender at this juncture.

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Oscar Preview: Weekend of Oct. 7-9, 2022

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Tár

Tár is actor-turned-director Todd Field’s third feature film, his first in 16 years. The film stars Cate Blanchett as world renowned composer/conductor whose ego gets in the way of her own success. The film co-stars Noémie Merlant as her assistant and Nina Hoss as her wife. The film premiered to great acclaim at the Venice International Film Festival where it was nominated for both the Golden Lion and the Queer Lion while Blanchett took the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. With that much acclaim, it has to be an Oscar contender, right?

Word is it’s very much an art film and the Academy hasn’t always embraced art films. Field’s prior two efforts, In the Bedroom and Little Children were more traditional narratives, so he was able to secure some hefty recognition for them. In the Bedroom earned five Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay along with nominations for three of its cast members, Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek in lead and Marisa Tomei in supporting. Five years later, Little Children didn’t quite make the Best Picture slate, but it did get another Adapted Screenplay nomination as well as two more for the cast. Kate Winslet in the lead and Jackie Earle Haley in support. That marks 5 nominations in the span of two films. He is certain to score at least one more for Blanchett who is being talked about already for a third win, but the film may also show up in screenplay. Beyond that, I don’t think it has a lot of much higher prospects.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 30-Oct. 2, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 23-25, 2022

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Don’t Worry, Darling

When a film has this much press going for it, sometimes the scathing reviews don’t bother its Oscar chances. Olivia Wilde’s box office champion Don’t Worry, Darling is a 60s-set drama with a mystery at its core that is adequately hinted at in the trailer without giving anything away. The press has been insane around the film, reporting on screaming matches between Wilde and star Florence Pugh, fighting between originally-intended star Shia LaBeouf and Wilde, and a strange questionably accurate incident of stars Chris Pine and Harry Styles spitting at one another. Honestly, I tried to stay above the furor on this, so I’m not sure who spat at who, but it’s ridiculous. No press is bad press certainly applies here, but will it have the opposite effect with Oscar voters.

Probably. They don’t like controversy, especially in relation to a film that has a dismal 38% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and 47 at MetaCritic. Critics aren’t likely to cite the film even though Pugh does receive strong remarks for her performance. That likely won’t be able to overcome the bad press and the awful reviews. The B- at CinemaScore suggests the film isn’t likely to have a lot of legs, which means all the news over the next few weeks will likely be about how it’s plummeting at the box office. In the end, the press will be bad from here on out and even if Pugh, the sets, and costumes were up for consideration, I can’t imagine any of them will be cited in the end.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 16-18, 2022

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.

Blonde

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.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 9-11, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 2-4, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 26-28, 2022

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

George Miller’s tenth full length feature film is the first since his mega-Oscar winning Mad Max: Fury Road seven years ago. Looking back over his filmmaking career will tell us a lot of what we’ll need to know about the chances of this film at this year’s Oscars. His first three films were all about Mad Max as played by Mel Gibson. None of them were major Oscar players, though Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome likely came closest of the three with an original song from Tina Turner plus those killer costumes and sets. Were the Academy of today voting then, it might have pulled in two or three nominations. His fourth film drew major stars Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer into a film about three women who who engage in witchcraft. The Witches of Eastwick netted two nominations for Original Score and Sound losing both.

His fifth film was equally successful, but in two far more noteworthy categories. Lorenzo’s Oil starred Sarandon again opposite Nick Nolte and Peter Ustinov. Sarandon was nominated in Best Actress while Miller and Nick Enright were nominated for Original Screenplay. Once again, the film went home with nothing. After the massive success of Babe, which Miller co-penned, but didn’t direct, he took aim at a sequel called Babe: Pig in the City. While the prior film scored several nominations, including one for Best Picture, Miller’s sequel only managed a single nomination for Original Song. Miller earned his only personal Oscar with his first foray into animation, Happy Feet. The film was a box office success and became one of the few non-Disney/Pixar films to capture the Animated Feature prize, its only nomination. His subsequent film was a sequel to that titled simply Happy Feet Two. It wasn’t nearly the success either at the box office or with critics and received no Oscar attention.

That leaves us with his 2015 major Oscar success Mad Max: Fury Road. Starring Tom Hardy in Gibson’s role and Charlize Theron in an original one, the film was a solid box office performer, bringing in $135 million, but it was the film’s Oscar haul that set it apart. Ten Oscar nominations in total, far and away his biggest tally to date, including Best Picture and Best Directing. It won six prizes, winning all but two of the eight craft categories in which it was nominated. That could be a clue to how well Three Thousand Years of Longing might have played had it been better liked by critics. A 71% at Rotten Tomatoes is decent, but 60 at MetaCritic isn’t good. With only a B rating from opening night audiences, the film isn’t going to be able to build buzz to the Oscars, which means its best chances are in the craft categories where Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound, and Visual Effects are all possibilities, though I suspect it might only appear in the latter three of those.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 19-21, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 12-14, 2022

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.