We talk a lot about which performers and directors have been snubbed at Oscar time.
For movie lovers, that’s an important subject. We all know that great actors like Peter O’Toole, Cary Grant, Albert Finney, and far too many others all went to their grave with several nominations but not a single competitive Oscar to their name. Just two years ago, Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103 without having ever won a competitive Oscar. And certainly, over the past two years, we have been made far more aware of the fact that everyone is going to die someday. We always talk about how certain actors are overdue for their first Oscar but sometimes we forget that being overdue doesn’t always translate into an eventual win. Sometimes, it translates into people watching a movie on TCM and saying, “How did that person never win an Oscar?”
With that in mind, here are 6 performers who I sincerely hope will have won their first Oscar by the time that 2032 rolls around:
Seriously, if you look up overdue in the dictionary, there’s a chance that Bradley Cooper would be used as the example. He’s been nominated so many times and he has yet to win, though I do get the feeling that he may have come close a few times. He deserved a nomination this year for Nightmare Alley and, if his role had been bigger, you could probably argue that he deserved one for Licorice Pizza as well. One gets the feeling that Cooper is taken for granted, in the way that many effortlessly good performers are. Maybe his upcoming biopic of Leonard Bernstein will finally do the trick.
2. Rachel Sennott
Rachel Sennott’s performance in Shiva Baby was one of the best of 2021 and it’s one for which she deserved to be nominated. It’s impossible to imagine that film working without her performance. Hopefully, it’ll lead to more worthy roles for her.
3. Chaske Spencer
Chaske Spenser gave one of the best performances of 2021 in Wild Indian. Though the film may not have been widely seen, Spenser’s performance was powerful and unforgettable and, much as in the case of Sennott, I hope it leads to more worthy roles for him.
4. Ann Dowd
It’s hard to believe that Ann Dowd hasn’t even received an Oscar nomination yet. Her performance in Mass was one of the best of 2021. In a role that others probably would have used as an excuse to overact and show-off, Dowd gave a quietly devastating and emotionally honest performance. Perhaps because Dowd disappears so effortlessly into her role, the Academy took her work for granted. Perhaps the film’s subject matter was simply too grim for the voters. Regardless of why the Academy didn’t respond to Mass, Dowd deserves an Oscar.
5. Adam Driver
It’ll happen soon. And I bet this former Marine will give the best acceptance speech of the night.
6. Scarlett Johansson
Much as with Driver, it’ll happen soon. Picking up both a lead and supporting nomination in 2020 was definitely a good start.
I can’t wait to see all six of these performers win their first Oscar! Don’t disappoint me, Academy!
As we all know, this year’s Sundance Film Festival started tonight.
To me, Sundance has always signified the official start of a new cinematic year. Not only is it the first of the major festivals but it’s also when we first learn about the films that we’ll be looking forward to seeing all year. It seems like every year, there’s at least one successful (or nearly successful) Oscar campaign that gets it start at Sundance. Last year, for instance, Minari took Sundance by storm and it was able to ride that momentum all the way to a Best Picture nomination. Before that, nominees like Manchester By The Sea and Brooklyn got their starts at Sundance.
And, even if their films weren’t nominated for best picture, some of the most important filmmakers of the past few decades got their first exposure at Sundance. The Coen Brothers first won notice with Blood Simple. Years later, Quentin Tarantino took the festival by storm with Reservoir Dogs. Though an argument can be made that Sundance is now just as corporate as the Hollywood system to which it’s supposed to providing an alternative, one can’t deny the importance of the Festival.
For the next few days, I’m going to taking a look at a few films that made their initial splash at Sundance. Some of these films went on to become award winners and some did not. But they’re all worth your attention, one way or another.
Take for instance, Mass.
The first directorial effort of actor Fran Kranz (you may remember him as the clever and genre-savvy stoner from The Cabin In The Woods), Mass made its debut at least year’s Sundance Film Festival. It was one of the more critically acclaimed films of the festival and, in a perfect world, it would currently be an Oscar front runner. And who knows? There’s always a chance that Mass could pick up a nomination or two. Ann Dowd is apparently running a very energetic campaign for Best Supporting Actress and she’s said to be well-liked in the industry. It’s probably a bit too much to expect the film to be nominated for Best Picture, though it certainly deserves some consideration. It’s perhaps a bit too low-key for a year that’s full of bombast and big emotional moments. It’s a film that raises interesting questions but refuses to provide easy answers. In short, it’s the type of film that, ten years from now, people will watch it and say, “How did this not get nominated?” Even if it’s not a Sundance film that’s destined for the Oscars, it is a Sundance film that will be remembered for heralding the arrival of a vibrant new directorial talent.
Playing out in almost real time, Mass is a film about two couples having a very emotional conversation. Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd) are the parents of Hayden. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are the parents of Evan. Hayden and Evan went to the same high school. Years ago, Evan was killed in a school shooting. Hayden was the shooter. After killing ten students, Hayden killed himself.
The two couples are meeting in a room in the back of a church. It’s a part of therapy. They meet and they talk about their children and the events that led to the shooting. Jay and Gail demand answers. Richard and Linda can’t provide them. At first, Gail is angry and Jay is the one who tries to keep things civil but, as the conversation continues, it becomes obvious that Jay is in fact angrier than Gail. Even when Richard and Linda express obviously sincere remorse for what Hayden did, Jay cannot accept it because, in a way, he needs them to be evil or ignorant or both. Linda and Richard struggles to reconcile their love for their son with their hatred over what he did. Gail and Jay feel that their son was unfairly taken from them and they’re right. Richard and Linda feel that they’re being blamed for something they couldn’t control and they’re also right. There are no easy villains or heroes in this film. Instead, there are just four unique and interesting characters, all trying to understand something that makes no sense.
Almost everything we learn about the characters comes from listening to them speak. Almost the entire film takes place in that one room. By the end of the film, not a single character is who you originally believed them to be. Jay’s search for meaning has led to him becoming a political activist. He insists that there has to be some sort of identifiable reason to explain why his son is dead, even though he secretly realizes that there isn’t. Gail, who starts out as the angriest person in the room, reveals herself to be the most empathetic. At the start of the film, Jay accuses Richard of not having any emotions but, by the end, we see that Richard’s emotions are very real. Finally, Linda seems meek but quickly reveals herself to be perhaps the strongest and most honest person in the room.
It may sound a bit stagey, this film that takes place in one room and which is basically just four characters having a conversation. But director Fran Kranz does a wonderful job keeping the story moving and the conversation within the room never seems to drag. Indeed, the room itself is almost as fascinating as any of the people inside of it. At the start the film, we watch two church employees and social worker going out of their way to make the room as safe and non-confrontational as possible. However, their efforts have the opposite effect. The room is so friendly that it makes it impossible not to compare its pleasantness with the issues being discussed behind the room’s closed doors. The room itself tries so hard to avoid confrontation that it has the opposite effect.
In the end, the film suggests that there are no neat answers. Even though the two couples come to an understanding and even a sort of peace, there’s no guarantee that peace will last more than a day. Indeed, as soon as they leave the room, their initial awkwardness returns, a reminder that we can understand pain but we can’t necessarily vanquish it. It’s not a film about easy answers but there’s something liberating about the film’s willingness to acknowledge that life can be difficult but that life also goes on.
The film is a masterclass of good acting, with Dowd and Isaacs getting the biggest dramatic moments while Birney and Plimpton offer fantastic support. In a perfect Oscar world, all four of them would be nominated and so would the film itself. Unfortunately, one of the lessons of Mass is that there is no such thing as a perfect world.
Well, the year’s nearly over and that means that it is time for me to post my final Oscar predictions for 2021. The race has gotten much clearer with the start of the precursor season. The critics love The Power of the Dog. However, it’s perhaps a bit too early to declare it the front runner. I want to see how things go with the Guilds in January before I bestow that title on any film.
A few thoughts:
There are ten Best Picture nominees this year so we won’t have any of that, “Here’s a random number of nominees” crap. In theory, that should open the door for some unconventional nominees that might have missed the cut-off in previous years. Again, I said, “In theory.” They tried this 10 nominee thing before and it didn’t really lead to the results that a lot of people were expecting.
Still, I’m going to swing out on a web and predict a Best Picture nomination for Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s got Disney and Sony behind it. It’s making a ton of money despite not playing in China. It’ the film that’s currently giving the industry hope that there’s a future outside of the streaming sites. Plus, after the nominations of Black Panther and Joker, it might be time to give the whole “They’ll never nominate a comic book movie!” argument a rest.
I’m also going to predict a Best Picture nomination for Drive My Car, which has been getting a lot of attention from the critics.
The critics also loved West Side Story but now, it’s probably best known for being a bust at the box office. I still think the movie will be nominated but I don’t think it’ll win. And I think it’s a lot less likely that Rita Moreno will pick up a nomination. People seem to have moved on from the movie. Again, this could all change once the Guilds start announcing their nominations.
The critics are split on Don’t Look Up. I personally think it’s one of the worst films of 2021. But the film will be nominated for much the same reason that The Big Short and Vice were nominated. There’s a lot of Academy members who agree with McKay’s politics. And the people who do like Don’t Look Up really, really like it. And I also think there’s probably enough people annoyed with Elon Musk that Mark Rylance will sneak into the supporting actor race.
Belfast has not been dominating the early part of awards season but I think it will come on strong once the Guilds start announce their nominations.
The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics have announced their nominees for the best of 2021! The winners will be announced tomorrow so that means you have exactly one day to see all the nominees. GET TO IT!
The Green Knight
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM!
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
Kristen Stewart – Spencer
Tessa Thompson – Passing
Best Supporting Actor
Jamie Dornan – Belfast
Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog
Best Supporting Actress
Caitríona Balfe – Belfast
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Ann Dowd – Mass
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Best Acting Ensemble
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
The Power of the Dog
Best Youth Performance
Jude Hill – Belfast
Emilia Jones – CODA
Woody Norman – C’mon, C’mon
Saniyya Sidney – King Richard
Rachel Zegler – West Side Story
Best Voice Performance
Awkwafina – Raya and the Last Dragon
Stephanie Beatriz – Encanto
Abbi Jacobson – The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Kelly Marie Tran – Raya and the Last Dragon
Jacob Tremblay – Luca
Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Mike Mills – C’mon, C’mon
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Fran Kranz – Mass
Best Adapted Screenplay
Siân Heder – CODA
Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth – Dune
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Steven Levenson – tick, tick…BOOM!
Tony Kushner – West Side Story
Best Animated Feature
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon
The First Wave
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Best International/Foreign Language Film
Drive My Car
The Worst Person in the World
Best Production Design
Jim Clay, Production Designer; Claire Nia Richards, Set Decorator – Belfast
Patrice Vermette, Production Designer; Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos, Set Decorators – Dune
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – The French Dispatch
Tamara Deverell, Production Designer; Shane Vieau, Set Decorator – Nightmare Alley
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – West Side Story
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast
Greig Fraser – Dune
Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight
Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Belfast
Joe Walker – Dune
Andrew Weisblum – The French Dispatch
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Myron Kerstein & Andrew Weisblum – tick, tick…BOOM!
Best Original Score
Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner – Cyrano
Hans Zimmer – Dune
Alexandre Desplat – The French Dispatch
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer
It’s time for my monthly Oscar predictions! Awards Season is going to begin in just another two days and the Oscar picture has become a lot more clearer.
Last month, I was ready to write off West Side Story as a contender. However, following both the film’s recent screening and the death of Stephen Sondheim, it’s now once again very much a contender. If nothing else, Rita Moreno seems like the clear front runner for Supporting Actress. This would be her first nomination since she won an Oscar for appearing in the original West Side Story. Who can resist that narrative?
I’ve also added Licorice Pizza back to my list of nominees. At first, I thought it sounded too slight to be a contender but the enthusiasm that I’m seeing for the film would seem to indicate that I was incorrect.
As always, keep in mind that I don’t claim to be an expert. The picture is a bit clearer but I don’t claim to have any inside information or anything like that. These are just my guesses, for better or worse. To see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July and August and September and October!
It’s time to take a little break from horror so that I may once against do my list of my monthly Oscar predictions! I guess some people would consider predicting the Oscars to be a scary thing. Personally, I have fun doing it, even if my predictions often seem to be for naught. That said, I did manage to predict that Thomas Vinterberg would be nominated for Best Director last year so take that, haters.
Probably the biggest development this month is that I’ve lost all faith in Spielberg’s West Side Story. It’s just not getting the type of hype that I would expect from a Spielberg Oscar movie. In fact, it seems like everyone involved is in kind of a hurry to move on. So, for now, I’m dropping it from my predictions. While West Side Story goes, Dune has definitely established itself as a probable nominee. I think the only problem that Dune will have is the possibility of people saying, “We’ll just nominate the sequel instead.”
I’ve also added C’mon C’mon and Passing to my list of Best Picture nominees. This is almost totally due to their popularity with the Gothams. If the other critics groups don’t duplicate the love, they’ll probably get dropped from my predictions come January.
As always, keep in mind that I don’t claim to be an expert. The picture is a bit clearer but I don’t claim to have any inside information or anything like that. These are just my guesses, for better or worse. To see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July and August and September!
No, not that time! That time ended two days ago. I’m talking about the fact that it’s time for me to once again share my monthly Oscar predictions. Thanks to the festival circuit, we’ve finally gotten some advance word on the big Oscar contenders that will be coming out over the next few months.
Belfast, as of right now, sounds like the prohibitive favorite to win it all. At first, it seemed like the reaction to The Power of the Dog was a bit mixed but later reactions were almost overwhelmingly positive. It sounds like the type of film that will be nominated even if it won’t necessarily win. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter is coming on strong, as is Spencer. For me, the biggest surprise has been the amount of acclaim that Dune has been getting. I was a bit dismissive of its Oscar chances earlier this year but now it definitely sounds like it will be in the hunt.
West Side Story has been seen by no one but I continue to list it because it’s a Spielberg film and, with all the musicals that are being released this year and which have subsequently struggled with either critics or audiences or both, it still seems the most likely to pick up a nomination. I’m a little bit skeptical on whether or not Nightmare Alley is going to be an “Oscar picture” but the trailer was nice to look at so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. House of Gucci is three hours long and full of stars so it’s either going to be an Oscar nominee or a complete bomb.
You may notice a lack of predicted nominations for Licorice Pizza. Licorice Pizza is a film that I fully expect to love but the trailer definitely feels a bit more like Inherent Vice than The Phantom Thread. I still think that the actors could get nominated but the rumor right now is that Bradley Cooper’s role is actually very small. That’s why I no longer have him listed as a supporting actor nominee.
Again, keep in mind that I’m not an expert. The picture is a bit clearer but I don’t claim to have any inside information or anything like that. These are just my guesses, for better or worse. To see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July and August!
It’s time for me to do my monthly Oscar predictions. Again, as I’ve said in the past, the majority of these predictions are based on a combination of instinct and wishful thinking. However, the picture may become a bit clearer as early as the end of this week. With the Venice and Telluride film festivals right around the corner and Toronto also swift approaching, critics are finally going to get a chance to see some of the contenders and, as the early reviews come in, it should be easier to pick the probable nominees from the also-rans.
Personally, I will curious to see how people react to Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. Among the other possibilities that we’ll be hearing about: Spencer, King Richard, Dune, The Lost Daughter, The Last Duel, and Belfast.
If you’re curious to see how my thinking has developed, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July!
It’s that time of the month again! It’s time for me to make my early Oscar predictions.
This year, the Cannes Film Festival really didn’t clear much up. TheFrenchDispatch was acclaimed but, in every review, there was an admission that, for everyone who absolutely loved it, there would probably be someone else who would absolutely hate it. I did decided to include RedRocket on my list of predictions, based on the Cannes reaction. I’m still not a 100% convinced that it’s going to be a contender, of course. But the idea of a Simon Rex movie being nominated for best picture was just too wonderfully strange for me to ignore. That’s the same logic that led to me including Pig as a best picture nominee, by the way.
On the Ridely Scott front, the overacting in the trailer for HouseofGucci really turned me off so I dropped it from all of my predictions. TheLastDuel looks like it might have a chance, however.
Anyway, the main thing to remember when looking at these predictions is that the majority of them are just random guesses, based on hunches and past Academy behavior. So, as always, take them with several grains of salt.
If you’re curious to see how my thinking has developed, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June!
Occasionally, you see a film that is so misjudged and so poorly executed that it leaves you wondering whether or not the entire production was meant to be some sort of elaborate practical joke. Perhaps not surprisingly, these films are usually a mix of comedy and drama and they tend to try to deal with the big issues — life, death, love, and all the rest. These films are fueled by a mix of ambition, sincerity, and a total inability to understand how people actually think and live. Invevitably, these films come out at Oscar time and they tend to have surprising twists that are designed to tug at the heart strings but to also make you think. They’re usually have titles that sound good but don’t make much sense and they often feature the type of talented actors who really should know better. Audiences should also know better but all of these films have devoted fans who insist that the rest of us are just too cynical or jaded to really appreciate a good story.
2016’s Collateral Beauty is one such film.
Set during the Christmas season, Collateral Beauty tells the story of Howard Inlet (Will Smith). Howard was an advertising genius but then his daughter died and he sunk into a deep depression. In this film, being clinically depressed means that you ride your bicycle a lot. It also means that you spend a lot of time building domino chains. Because Howard is too depressed to do anything, his advertising firm is on the verge of going bankrupt. His partners — Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Pena) — all want to sell the firm but they have to get Howard to sign off on it and Howard refuses to talk to anyone.
However, his three business partners come across letters that Howard wrote to the abstract concepts of Death, Time, and Love. And, realizing that Howard had some issues with those concepts, they decided to hire three actors to pretend to be those concepts so that they can film Howard talking to them. The plan is to film Howard talking to the actors and then use digital technology to erase the actors from the footage so that Howard will look like he’s talking to himself, which will make it easier to prove that Howard is not mentally stable enough to run the company and….
What? Yes, that’s the plot. Undoubtedly, it seems like there should be an easier way to prove that Howard is not mentally fit to run his company but the three business partners decided to go with the plan that makes absolutely no sense and the film applauds them for doing so. It does seem like, if they really cared about Howard, they would have instructed the actors to provide some sort of comfort to Howard but apparently, no one in this movie has seen It’s A Wonderful Life or read A Christmas Carol. The film assures us that making a suicidal man think that he’s gone legitimately insane is definitely the humane way to deal with this situation.
Anyway, the three actors are played by Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore, and Keira Knightley. And, in order to study Howard, each spends time with his business partners and we learn about everyone’s life. For instance, Whit has a daughter that he needs to connect with. Claire is depressed because she wants a child. Simon is dying, which means that he spends the entire movie vomiting. Amazingly, no one but Helen Mirren notices. Not only does the actors help Howard but they help his partners as well. Awwwww!
After the actors all visit him, Howard is so upset by the encounters that he goes to a support group that’s run by Madeline (Naomie Harris), who lost a daughter (just like Howard!) and who is divorced (just like Howard!) and who has a note from her ex-husband in which he says that he wishes they could act like strangers again and hey, guess who her ex-husband is!? (Yes, it’s Howard.) Anyway, some mysterious woman once told Madeline that, even as her daughter was dying, she should always celebrate the “collateral beauty of it all” and I have no idea what that was supposed to mean but Madeline sure does talk about it a lot.
I like to think that Collateral Beauty shares the same cinematic universe as The Book of Henry and Life Itself. It’s a universe where simplistic thoughts are held up as being extremely profound and where no one actually does anything that makes sense. Just as The Book of Henry asks us to be touched by an annoying little brat insisting (from beyond the grave, no less) that his mother to assassinate their neighbor, Collateral Beauty asks us to appreciate all the effort that goes into tormenting an already seriously depressed human being. Just as Life Itself insists that life being an unreliable narrator is somehow a mind-blowing concept, Collateral Beauty insists that everything will be okay as long as we appreciate the “collateral beauty of it all.” It may feel like a parody but Collateral Beauty not only takes itself seriously but it also seems to be convinced that you’ll take it seriously as well. There’s something rather presumptuous about the film’s insistence that it actually has something unique or interesting to say.
Amazingly enough, a truly great cast signed up to appear in this film. Most of them turn in performances that are either forgettable or regrettable. Edward Norton gives a performance that is so annoyingly mannered that it’s hard not to be reminded of the rumors that he was basically playing himself in Birdman. Considering that she’s one of the greatest actresses around, Kate Winslet is shockingly bad. Helen Mirren appears to be having a laugh. Will Smith actually gives a good performance but it’s a waste to cast such a great talker as someone who barely speaks.
Collateral Beauty came out in December of 2016. Before it was released, it had Oscar buzz. After it was released …. well, let’s just say that it didn’t. Critics hated the film but it did well at the box office and it has its fans. I’m not one of them but perhaps someday, I’ll appreciate the collateral beauty of it all.