race to the Oscars
December 3, 2019

The race to the 2020 Academy Awards is heating up, with The Irishman taking home a pre-Oscars top prize and Adam Sandler's chances of a best actor nomination becoming even more likely.

The National Board of Review on Tuesday announced its yearly awards and selected Martin Scorsese's The Irishman as best film, with Adam Sandler winning best actor for Uncut Gems, Renée Zellweger winning best actress for Judy, Brad Pitt winning best supporting actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Kathy Bates winning best supporting actress for Richard Jewell, Entertainment Weekly reports.

These awards, which are selected by a group that includes industry professionals and academics, don't always line up with the Oscars. The National Board of Review picked Green Book as the best film of 2018, and it went on to win best picture at the Oscars, but that was the only time the two prizes have lined up this decade. Still, the National Board of Review winners have in recent years usually at least scored best picture nominations.

Sandler gets a boost in the best actor race seeing as recent National Board of Review winners like Viggo Mortensen and Matt Damon have also scored Oscar nominations, although some have missed out.

The National Board of Review awards come after the 2019 Gotham Independent Film Awards, where the top prize went to another Netflix movie that's a serious best picture contender this year, Marriage Story. Birdman, Spotlight, and Moonlight previously won this prize and went on to win best picture at the Oscars.

The best picture award eluded Netflix at the 2019 Oscars when Green Book defeated Roma, but with The Irishman and Marriage Story both strong contenders, could this be the year? Or might Once Upon a Time in Hollywood beat both? We'll get a better sense as more Oscar bellwethers continue coming in ahead of the show on Feb. 9. Brendan Morrow

September 15, 2019

Jojo Rabbit just earned a key victory in the 2020 Oscars race.

The dramedy from director Taika Waititi won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, the prize that in the past has typically gone to movies that went on to become Best Picture nominees or winners at the Academy Awards.

In fact, since 2009, the TIFF People's Choice Award winner has ultimately been nominated for Best Picture nine out of 10 times, and won Best Picture three times.

One of those instances was last year, when Green Book picked up the TIFF People's Choice Award in what was, in retrospect, the first major sign of its eventual Best Picture triumph. Best Picture winners 12 Years a Slave and The King's Speech also previously won the TIFF award, which is voted on by audiences at the festival.

Jojo Rabbit wasn't as well received by critics as other TIFF films like Ford v Ferrari and Marriage Story, though. Dubbed an "anti-hate satire," the movie features Waititi playing an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, and it currently holds a 75 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus noting its "blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won't be to everyone's taste."

The runners up for the TIFF People's Choice Award were Marriage Story and Parasite, both of which are strong contenders to become Best Picture nominees, although runners up for the audience award don't always score nominations. Of last year's runners up, one, Roma, was nominated for Best Picture, while the other, If Beale Street Could Talk, was not.

Jojo Rabbit, which also stars Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Alfie Allen, hits theaters on Oct. 18. Brendan Morrow

August 27, 2019

Netflix's struggle to win over Oscar voters looks likely to continue in 2020.

The streamer on Tuesday announced it will release Martin Scorsese's new Oscar-buzzy film The Irishman in limited theaters on Nov. 1 and then begin streaming it less than a month later on Nov. 27. But the movie won't get a wide release in major theater chains like AMC or Regal, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline report. This comes down to theatrical distributors requiring that movies they show play for three months exclusively before streaming, something Netflix remains unwilling to do.

It used to be that Netflix wouldn't even provide theaters any period of exclusivity, but this changed last year with Roma. Netflix released that movie in theaters for three weeks prior to streaming it in what was widely seen as an attempt to placate Academy voters and land Best Picture, although its release was still limited since the three-month window wasn't met. So when Roma, the Best Picture frontrunner all season, surprisingly lost to the traditional studio film Green Book, pundits wondered whether Netflix's status as an industry disruptor that refuses to adhere to theatrical norms held it back.

Indeed, Variety's Ramin Setoodeh reported after the show that a "bloc voted against" Roma "because they didn't want a Netflix movie to land Best Picture." The Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday similarly wrote that "old-guard studio types ... didn't want to hand over Oscar to such a disruptive force."

That situation may have changed if Netflix showed it was willing to play by the theatrical rules this time, and it initially seemed like it might. Netflix reportedly wanted a wide release for The Irishman and even aired an ad during the 2019 Oscars highlighting that it would be shown in theaters. But it ultimately will only play exclusively for slightly longer than Roma, meaning that if Scorsese's film is truly Best Picture-worthy, February's show could be yet another Netflix referendum. Brendan Morrow

February 22, 2019

Could the voting system used to determine the Oscars' Best Picture winner make all the difference this year?

The Academy uses a preferential ballot to select Best Picture, which means voters don't simply check off one movie to win. Instead, they rank all of the nominees. When ballots are collected, a film wins if it was ranked first by more than 50 percent of the Academy.

But that's a difficult feat considering there can be as many as 10 choices. If no film captures a majority, whichever receives the fewest votes is eliminated, and those who ranked that eliminated film first have their second pick moved up to first. For example, let's say someone ranked Vice first, followed by Roma. If Vice receives the fewest votes during the first round, this person's Best Picture pick is now Roma. The elimination and movement goes on until one film earns more than 50 percent of the votes.

A common theory among Oscars pundits is that when the Best Picture race is fairly open, many voters' second or third favorite takes the prize. Or, as the Los Angeles Times puts it, the movie that is "least disliked" will win.

So what's the least disliked this year? Many have argued it's Black Panther, while others think it could be The Favourite, which tied with Roma for the most nominations. The system may not help Green Book, though, seeing as controversy around the film has divided viewers, much like last year's losing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Bohemian Rhapsody could be set back for similar reasons, although the Academy has shown a surprising amount of love for that film.

It may be, however, that the system simply benefits the existing frontrunner, Roma. The technical accomplishments of Alfonso Cuarón's film can't be denied, even if it's not every Oscar voters' very favorite, and that may be enough to push it over the top. Brendan Morrow

February 20, 2019

Four days out from the 2019 Oscars, pundits are generally in agreement about what is likely to win in the top categories. But could some stunning upsets be in store?

A few scenarios are plausible, if still unlikely. Here are five potential outcomes to brace yourself for this Sunday:

1. Black Panther wins Best Picture: Roma is the clear frontrunner, but a foreign film has never won Best Picture, and there are some who believe its status as a Netflix movie may hold it back. If so, in years when no film runs away with the top prize, the Oscars' preferential balloting system can favor one with broad appeal. Green Book is controversial, though, and may not have the broad appeal of the $1.3 billion phenomenon Black Panther, which already picked up a win at the SAG Awards.

2. Spike Lee wins Best Director: The frontrunner here, Alfonso Cuarón, won five years ago, while the Academy has repeatedly whiffed on even nominating Lee. This year, voters could decide his time has finally come.

3. Bradley Cooper wins Best Actor: This would be the wildest upset of the night, since Rami Malek likely has this category locked up. But Cooper was shut out throughout awards season and snubbed for Best Director, which could actually work in his favor, earning him enough sympathy votes for a shocking victory, Argo style.

4. Olivia Colman wins Best Actress: This is Glenn Close's to lose, but don't fully count out Colman. There's plenty of affection in the Academy for The Favourite, which tied with Roma for the most nominations, and Colman already won an acting award at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

5. Rachel Weisz wins Best Supporting Actress: A potential red flag for this category's frontrunner, Regina King, is that she wasn't even nominated at the SAG Awards. If this sets her back, perhaps the Favourite love will continue and Weisz, who won the BAFTA, really is in contention. Brendan Morrow

January 28, 2019

After the 2019 SAG Awards, the Oscars' acting categories look to be virtually locked up, but the Best Picture race remains highly unpredictable.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Sunday's show:

1. Christian Bale is no longer set to take the Best Actor Oscar, as Rami Malek defeated him at the SAGs. In 24 years, the actor who won the SAG Award has gone on to win the Oscar 19 times. Couple that with Malek's Golden Globe victory and he's certainly in great shape for the Academy Awards.

2. Glenn Close is quite likely to take the Best Actress Oscar, having now won both the SAG and the Golden Globe, and tied at the Critics Choice Awards. The winner for Best Actress at the SAG Awards has ultimately won the Oscar 18 out of 24 times.

3. When it comes to Best Supporting Actor, there's very little chance that Oscar will go to anyone but Mahershala Ali, who took the SAG Award after already being crowned with the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award.

4. Regina King remains ahead in the Oscar race for Best Supporting Actress despite not actually being nominated at the SAGs. Emily Blunt won for A Quiet Place over the favorite, Amy Adams for Vice. An Adams SAG win could have suggested she'd throw a wrench in King's Oscars hopes, but if Adams can't even win when King, who won at the Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, isn't nominated, she probably won't be able to win while directly competing against her.

5. Black Panther took Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, but that only matches up with Best Picture at the Oscars about 48 percent of the time. The Marvel film's Oscars odds have received a slight boost, but the bigger story is that both BlacKkKlansman and A Star Is Born came up short, which could suggest both will be unable to defeat Roma at the Oscars. Brendan Morrow

January 22, 2019

A Star Is Born is looking less and less like a Best Picture Oscar winner.

The film, which was once thought to be the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards but came up short at previous awards shows in recent weeks, picked up eight nominations on Tuesday. It came in behind The Favourite and Roma, which each received 10 nominations. Eight isn't a bad haul to be sure, but the film was snubbed in two key categories that bring its Best Picture chances into even greater doubt.

The first is Best Film Editing, a category in which the eventual Best Picture winner is virtually always nominated. That's been the case at every single Oscars in the past 20 years except in 2015 when Birdman was left out, although this made some sense considering the film was presented as taking place in one long shot without any edits. Weirdly, though, Roma was also snubbed for Best Film Editing this year, despite being the clear Best Picture favorite.

More importantly, Bradley Cooper was left out of the Best Director category for his work on A Star Is Born. It's extremely rare that a film wins Best Picture without its director being nominated. Only once in the past 20 years has that happened: with Argo's Ben Affleck in 2013, which was a big deal at the time because of how uncommon an occurrence it was.

Neither of these snubs rule out a win for A Star Is Born. But this, coupled with the movie's disappointing performance at the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Producers Guild of America Awards, does not paint a pretty picture.

If A Star Is Born is to have any chance of winning Best Picture, it must turn things around at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards and Directors Guild Awards. If it's unable to, this could very well be Roma's year. Brendan Morrow

January 22, 2019

The 2019 Academy Award nominations have arrived.

In the top category of Best Picture, the nominees are BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, and Vice.

Roma and The Favourite led the pack with 10 nominations each. It was a great morning for Roma in particular, scoring unexpected nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The Netflix film is looking set to be the Best Picture frontrunner and could become the first foreign language film to ever win the top prize.

A Star Is Born earned eight nominations, but in one of the morning's biggest surprises, Bradley Cooper was not nominated for Best Director. He did, however, receive a Best Actor nod. Strangely, A Star Is Born and Roma were both left out of Best Film Editing, a category in which the Best Picture winner is almost always nominated.

The nominees for Best Actor are Christian Bale (Vice), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), and Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), while Best Actress consists of Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and Yalitza Aparicio (Roma).

In Best Supporting Actor, the nominees are Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and Sam Rockwell (Vice), while the nominees for Best Supporting Actress are Amy Adams (Vice), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Marina De Tavira (Roma), and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite).

The Oscars, which are not expected to have a host, will take place on Feb. 24. Read the full list of nominees at The Hollywood Reporter. Brendan Morrow

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