Halfway Through 2018

For the films of 2018
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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:33 am

Mister Tee wrote: (number one: if a shotgun was plenty to take care of the creatures, where was the army?).


I'll answer this: The creatures have a natural armor that's hard to penetrate, I believe this detail was in one of those blink-or-you'll-miss-it newspaper headlines. It's only when the creatures are disoriented by the radio static feedback do they have their vulnerable flesh exposed, killable enough for a shotgun.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:55 pm

Catching up late on a couple of the so-far entries BJ cited:

Even though A Quiet Place has a remarkably similar profile to last year's Get Out -- Spring sleeper with unique premise, a debuting actor as director, strong critical score, domestic gross between $175-190 million -- I'd say it's far less likely to score with Academy voters. A Quiet Place has no zeitgeist-y subtext -- in fact, I don't think it has much subtext at all. Despite some well-crafted set pieces, by the final reel, it's no longer even a horror movie; it's just a monster movie. And the monster, it turns out, is just a virtual replica of the Alien creature, which doesn't win any creativity points. Where Get Out left audiences with at least some real-world issues on which to chew, A Quiet Place leaves one wondering about context (the movie is really skimpy on details that might have been at least hinted at) and pondering numerous plot-holes (number one: if a shotgun was plenty to take care of the creatures, where was the army?). I do think the conspicuous use of sound makes the film at least a strong possibility for those two categories, and I suppose you can never rule out a thriller for editing. But any top-line categories (film/director/screenplay) seem impossible except in an utterly barren year.

I'm beginning to think Lynne Ramsay is the antithesis of what I look for in a director. Both We Need to Talk About Kevin and now You Were Never Really Here cover subjects that, on paper, interest me, but her treatment in each case does nothing but alienate me. You Were Never Really Here has a baseline pulp premise, but Ramsay seems to be doing everything in her power to obscure that simple plot. I was constantly trying to figure out who was who and what they were doing and why. In the end, it was a very simple, wisp of a plot camouflaged by a lot of film-school bullshit. I'm an enormous fan of Joaquin Phoenix (would have given him multiple nominations over recent years) and it's not as if he does anything wrong here. But Ramsay's fog machine prevents him truly connecting with the audience. I see no chance this film gets anything more than stray mentions for Phoenix in critics' voting, and nothing from the Oscars.

Incredibles 2 is at least an enjoyable, well-paced summer movie, but it doesn't have the zing or novelty the original did (I'd rate the first film among the top five Pixars). The only really interesting question is whether the more than decent reviews and spectacular gross enable the film to get into the Academy five. As BJ notes, however much voters have showered Pixar with Oscars, they've turned their noses up at Pixar sequels -- Finding Dory had roughly the same credentials as Incredibles 2, and failed to make the cut. And, based on the trailer I saw with Incredibles, the film might also be fighting the Wreck-it Ralph sequel, which could present the same profile. I'd say Incredibles 2 is better than some movies that HAVE made the recent cut -- like, The Boss Baby -- but might be left off owing to sequel-aversion.

There's some news since BJ's post -- Sorry to Bother You and Eighth Grade have emerged as indie successes, and we've got Black Klansman and The Wife coming up pre-Labor Day. But I'll withhold comment on those till my Kicking Off the Fall Season thread, which is now just a few weeks off.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:30 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:some people have praised Jennifer Garner in it, comparing her big scene in the film to Michael Stuhlbarg's in Call Me By Your Name.

No one of sound mind would compare the two. Garner is generic; Stuhlbarg is transcendent.

Thanks as always for this, BJ. A few thoughts:

It's hard not to think of this winter/spring as more accomplished than usual -- more auteur-studded, for sure, and offering some surprise successes. Yet I'm not sure it'll contribute much to the Oscar race in the end.

Black Panther is obviously the big hopeful to date, and I fear it's going to cause me annoyance all season. Bloggers and some critics seem like they're going to heavily push the narrative BJ describes, which feels a bit like cultural bullying. I'm on record as saying I don't even think it's an exceptional Marvel movie, but many critics have given it (to my mind) inflated ratings, and that, combined with huge grosses and cultural appropriateness, make it just the kind of movie to be promoted well past its artistic value (think Mad Max: Fury Road, if it had been a bigger hit and also dovetailed into #OscarsSoWhite). One sliver of sanity: A.O. Scott listed the eight best movies so far this year, and Black Panther was not included -- so maybe there won't be as much help from the critics as I imagine.

To emphasize that I'm not an enemy of the film: I'm fine with it getting well-earned nods for costumes and production design, as well as the Marvel-standard visual effects. I just think best picture/director -- for which it will be loudly touted -- would be serious grade-inflation.

As for the analogy to Wonder Woman: haven't national politics demonstrated that it's easier for a black man than a white woman to ascend to the top? The fact that the bloggers/critics making the push are, as we've often noted here, dominantly male could make all the difference there.

After that, there's a steep drop-off in the likelihood of any film getting a best picture push. The indies are too small, the horror hits a bit too genre-y, and Isle of Dogs isn't a big enough deal (critically or commercially) to do the Up/Toy Story 3 thing. Though I am with BJ that it's very possibly our winner under animated feature -- a way for voters to finally give Wes Anderson a prize.

My antipathy for horror films -- the sheer agony they put me through in theatres -- has kept from seeing either A Quiet Place or Hereditary to date (I'm waiting for home viewing, where I can pause easily if I so desire). I have to say, even the trailers for A Quiet Place made it look like a really inventive piece of work, but, again, I'll have to wait for my own evaluation. (As for Hereditary: I have to report that a female cousin, who's a very serious film connoisseur, HATED it -- so, I'm dubious about the film's likelihood for getting a major nomination, despite the singular praise Collette's got.)

The Death of Stalin was terrific, and did enough box-office that it might have scored mention in last year's race. But I'm skeptical that 1) memories will last that long, even among the writers and 2) the adapted screenplay category will be as moribund as it was last year.

Ethan Hawke and Joaquin Phoenix were highly-enough praised that they might have slipped onto last year's best actor slate. But neither film had enough box-office impact to stick around this year, barring a truly empty competition.

Leave No Trace, as BJ notes, has got quite strong reviews, and is performing well at the start, but I'm not sure it has quite the oomph to match Winter's Bone's Oscar performance. Though it's possible some have been looking for an opportunity to cite Ben Foster.

I'm possibly the biggest fan of Ready Player One around here. I think it has easily the best visual effects I've seen so far this year, and I think production design ought to be a gimme. But it's not likely to win much in categories where Black Panther has the zeitgeist edge.

The most competitive category by far appears to be documentary feature. RBG came along and became a late-Spring indie hit (the sort no fiction film has managed to be, so far) -- but it now looks like the Mr. Rogers movie will double it. And, on top of that, Three Identical Strangers has opened to excellent notices and strong box-office. All three could get nominations, and, since each fits the profile of potential winner, it could make for a spirited race (unless the critics form their standard Unanimous Club and ruin the suspense.)

We'll next discuss all this when it's time for Venice/Telluride/Toronto.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:41 am

Another deserving contender from the first half of the year: Paddington 2. Technically a 2017 film but the distributor foolishly dropped it in January so it may be eligible for next year's Oscars. It fully deserves Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (for Hugh Grant who gives one of the best performances of his career, as far as I'm concerned), Production Design, Costume Design, Visual Effects and Original Score.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby Reza » Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:12 am

Precious Doll wrote:Hannah seems to have been pretty much been a so show everywhere, so hopefully a release will emerge sometime in the near future. Charlotte Rampling's presents is the only reason I'm interested in seeing it.


I thought "Hannah" had been released in quite a few countries - according to IMDb. I saw it online on a streaming site. Rampling is outstanding as usual. But it's not something the Academy will pay attention to.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:40 am

Reza wrote:It's actually a very sad state of affairs if THIS is the list of films that are going to be seriously considered for Oscar nominations. Hope the Academy shows a bit of sense.

For Your Consideration:

Charlotte Rampling - Best Actress nod for "Hannah"

Wishful thinking :)


This is pretty much how I feel. Aside from Leave No Trace, a film I feel could get a little traction from the Academy in the director or screenplay categories, and the animated films Isle of Dogs & Incredibles 2, this is a most dire line-up, based on what I have actually seen. Though to be fair Black Panther has some things going for it, primarily in the technical departments and I was rather taken with Annihilation but don't see it getting anything. And what I haven't seen, I don't want to. To be frank if it wasn't for this board I wouldn't even bother to see the few English language films made now that I make an effort to go to. Thank goodness of 'international' cinema which is still churning out some interesting efforts.

Hannah seems to have been pretty much been a so show everywhere, so hopefully a release will emerge sometime in the near future. Charlotte Rampling's presents is the only reason I'm interested in seeing it.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby Reza » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:38 am

The Original BJ wrote:I had two overall thoughts while writing this post. The first is a reiteration of a thought I had months ago, that the first half of 2018 has been unusually solid. Certainly not as exciting as the back half of any year, but hardly anemic for films worth seeing.

The second thought I had is that my crystal ball was actually not great at this point last year. There were a few early-year nominees I don’t blame myself for missing (The Boss Baby, Kong: Skull Island, a couple of the tough-to-predict Documentary nominees). But while I see that I discussed Baby Driver in the thread, I didn’t predict any of its three nominations. I correctly forecast Get Out in Picture/Screenplay, but didn’t think its strength would extend to Director, and couldn’t have even fathomed Actor. And Logan -- which got a major nomination -- I didn’t even mention at all!

All of this is to say, it’s very possible something that has already been released will surprise me/us later in the year with nominations I didn’t anticipate. But here’s my best stab at the contenders so far.

Let’s start with the behemoth: I think Black Panther is a dead-certain nominee for Best Picture... at the PGA. Whether this will extend to Oscar depends on the following question: is it another Dark Knight or is it another Wonder Woman? Like The Dark Knight (which certainly would have been a Picture nominee in an expanded field), Black Panther is a genuine cultural phenomenon, with enormous box office, and very strong reviews. Honestly, if it weren’t a Marvel movie, it would be hard to argue against a film with that profile getting a Best Picture nomination. But... we did just live through Wonder Woman last year, another superhero movie that hit the cultural zeitgeist, racked up big box office, and became a progressive cause celebre for its representation in front of and behind the camera. And that ended up with ZERO nominations.

I’m not sure where all of this leaves Black Panther. The folks on Vanity Fair’s podcast said that the Academy risks “relevancy suicide” if they don’t nominate the film, and when the entertainment press is rooting for something to happen -- as they certainly will for this film -- they can sometimes bring it to fruition (see: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side). But it still is a superhero movie, a genre the Academy just simply doesn’t like very much. On that same podcast, one of the commentators made the argument that Black Panther will definitely get nominated in all the usual below-the-line categories superheroes do well in, and my snarky reaction was... which ones are those? Visual Effects is basically the one category they place in, so I’d imagine that’s a good bet for Black Panther. I also think Costume Design is close to definite, as those colorful outfits are striking and imaginative, unlike anything else we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe. The Sound categories seem very possible (though again, those have been surprisingly inhospitable to superhero fare over the years), and maybe Production Design, since Wakanda is such a fresh locale. As for anything above-the-line? I think it’s a stronger candidate than any superhero movie since The Dark Knight, though I remain agnostic about its potential to go that far.

One more thought: I wonder if Black Panther’s chances will depend on how the other films with black casts/filmmakers perform this fall. Because if voters have more typically Oscar-y choices from Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins (both hot off Best Picture winners) and Spike Lee (still awaiting his first major nom), it would certainly be easier to omit Black Panther due to blockbuster-ness without triggering another #OscarsSoWhite debacle. But if Coogler and his film emerge as the best chance to get some racial diversity on the ballot, it’s going to be a lot harder to ignore without some serious protest.

Isle of Dogs is a certain Animated Feature nominee, and I actually think it might end up the winner. Disney and Pixar’s efforts this year are both sequels -- which haven’t traditionally performed well in this category -- and that could leave an opening for something fresher. Plus, I imagine voters might like the idea of finally giving an Oscar to Wes Anderson. Depending on how the year goes, the film could also possibly contend in other categories where Anderson’s films have done well: Original Screenplay or Original Score.

The Death of Stalin checks a lot of the boxes the writers’ branch likes: it’s full of witty dialogue, but also features weighty enough subject matter that it won’t be dismissed as lightweight either. I think it could contend in Adapted Screenplay, much like In the Loop did, particularly now that Ianucci’s profile has only grown with Veep. Had it been released at the end of 2017, I wonder if it might have nabbed Logan’s spot.

Hereditary may turn out to be too divisive for the Academy—that ‘D+’ CinemaScore shows mainstream audiences are clearly finding its most extreme elements revolting. But I think A24 should at least try to give Toni Collette a decent push in Best Actress. Acting noms for horror films are rare, but hey, she’s already got one for such fare, and she’s got some great showcase scenes here, though we’ll see if the more outlandish aspects of the last reel might just be too much for voters.

A Quiet Place had some comparisons to Get Out -- an early year horror flick with surprising box office strength -- though I think its lack of similar social relevance will keep it from the major nominations Peele’s film got. I do wonder if the Sound categories might be possibilities, though, given how important the soundtrack is in the mostly dialogue-free film.

Ready Player One seems like a decent candidate for tech nominations. Visual Effects seems like a gimme, and Production Design could also very easily be in the cards if voters really dig the look of the Oasis. And there are enough loud action sequences that the Sound categories -- which Spielberg films have always done well in -- seem possibilities too. One interesting question also floating around -- might the movie be animated enough to qualify for Animated Feature? And if it does qualify, will that branch view it as being enough in the spirit of the category to include it?

Avengers: Infinity War has raked up tremendous box office, but I think it will pretty clearly be less of an Oscar player than Black Panther. The first Avengers film placed in Visual Effects, the last one did not, so I’d say that category is its best shot, but maybe only at 50/50 odds.

Incredibles 2 seems like a decent Animated Feature candidate -- its reviews and box office certainly suggest enthusiasm for it. Though it is worth noting that sequels to Cars, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. were all boxed out come Oscar time -- this branch just hasn’t been very receptive to Pixar sequels (beyond the obviously superlative Toy Story 3.) Because of that trend, I’d say it’s a decent possibility, but not a sure thing, and probably very unlikely to replicate the first Incredibles' other nominations. I would assume the attached short, Bao, gets a spot in the Animated Short race, though.

First Reformed is among the most praised films of the year thus far, but it doesn’t seem to have created much noise. (Box office hasn’t even topped 3 million.) It feels to me more like an Independent Spirit candidate than an Oscar one, but I guess if it’s a thin year, and voters need to scrounge to find candidates, maybe Best Actor and Original Screenplay might emerge later on as Academy players.

Annihilation for me was about on par with Ex Machina – a compelling, smart sci fi yarn whose narrative may not quite have had the payoff necessary to push the film into greatness territory. I don’t think it was the hit it needed to be to nab the nods even Ex Machina got, though, as that’s usually necessary for early year genre fare hoping to stay in the conversation.

A lot of folks liked Disobedience more than I did -- although serious in intent, I found much of it dealt with material too similar to other movies I’d seen, with not enough fresh flourish to make it stand out. (There were some scenes where I couldn’t believe how flat the dialogue was). It feels like the kind of movie that, merely by virtue of being material for grownups, simply remains on the fringes of the conversation, if that.

No Star Wars film has ever completely missed Oscar attention, but might Solo be the first? It’s the first one to disappoint at the box office, and it’s hard to argue that the Visual Effects, though copious, are any fresh stand-out. It might still place there based on brand name alone, but I think this will score on the low end of the Star Wars spectrum.

Tully is an enjoyable enough effort, that I found acerbic and poignant for much of its running time. I wasn’t too high on the divisive ending -- while not predictable, it just felt like a plot turn I’ve seen too many times at this point -- but I don’t think it sank the movie or anything. Hard to see much Oscar attention, but maybe a Comedy Globe nod for Charlize Theron, who is definitely at her best in comic train wreck mode?

You Were Never Really Here was a hot prospect out of last year’s Cannes, but it strikes me as another film that might just be too divisive for the Academy to get Joaquin Phoenix in there. I could see a critics’ group rallying for him, though, and maybe that could put him somewhere in the discussion, but I just feel like too many will find the movie inaccessible. (I’m mixed on it myself, admiring the bravura and the gripping nature of its best segments, but also wishing its narrative had ended up in more compelling places.)

It’s hard to pinpoint Documentary Feature nominees this far out, but there are two that have been decent box office hits this year that might be worth noting: RBG (which may get another boost when the fictional RBG film hits theaters this winter), and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (which seems like a tonic to our “everything-is-awful” cultural mood at the moment).

And then, finally, two just-released films that I don’t feel quite equipped to discuss, because I haven’t seen them yet. The first Sicario scored three nominations, so the sequel probably must be at least mentioned here, though this installment hasn’t received nearly the level of acclaim, and will probably struggle to get any awards traction. On the other hand, Leave No Trace has received some VERY strong reviews, and could possibly replicate the acting/writing citations of Debra Granik’s last fiction effort, Winter’s Bone, with perhaps even a long-shot candidacy for Best Picture not totally out of the question if it really takes off?


It's actually a very sad state of affairs if THIS is the list of films that are going to be seriously considered for Oscar nominations. Hope the Academy shows a bit of sense.

For Your Consideration:

Charlotte Rampling - Best Actress nod for "Hannah"

Wishful thinking :)

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Re: Halfway Through 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:07 am

Great article as always, BJ. A few comments!

The Original BJ wrote: But... we did just live through Wonder Woman last year, another superhero movie that hit the cultural zeitgeist, racked up big box office, and became a progressive cause celebre for its representation in front of and behind the camera. And that ended up with ZERO nominations.


I can't help but wonder if the critical and commercial disappointment of Justice League (and the rest of the DCEU) was a factor in this.

As for anything above-the-line? I think it’s a stronger candidate than any superhero movie since The Dark Knight, though I remain agnostic about its potential to go that far.


If Black Panther gets anything above-the-line, it would most likely be Supporting Actor for Michael B. Jordan. Getting a nomination (and win) for a villain role for a comic book movie isn't completely unheard of (I still believe had Heath Ledger lived, he still would've won) and Michael B. Jordan has been earning respect and accolades in recent years and is considered one of his generations' best younger actors. I think lots of people within the Academy would love to rubber-stamp him with a nomination.

Hereditary may turn out to be too divisive for the Academy—that ‘D+’ CinemaScore shows mainstream audiences are clearly finding its most extreme elements revolting. But I think A24 should at least try to give Toni Collette a decent push in Best Actress. Acting noms for horror films are rare, but hey, she’s already got one for such fare, and she’s got some great showcase scenes here, though we’ll see if the more outlandish aspects of the last reel might just be too much for voters.


I would also like to add that Alex Wolff, who plays her son, is also worthy of a nomination. It would be nice for Toni Collette to earn her second Oscar nomination for a horror film alongside her movie son again.

A Quiet Place had some comparisons to Get Out -- an early year horror flick with surprising box office strength -- though I think its lack of similar social relevance will keep it from the major nominations Peele’s film got. I do wonder if the Sound categories might be possibilities, though, given how important the soundtrack is in the mostly dialogue-free film.


I'd also love for Emily Blunt to finally get in for this. But it'd be too much to hope for TWO horror actresses filling the Best Actress spot.

Ready Player One seems like a decent candidate for tech nominations. One interesting question also floating around -- might the movie be animated enough to qualify for Animated Feature? And if it does qualify, will that branch view it as being enough in the spirit of the category to include it?


The answer is probably not. I think it's been ruled that even if Ready Player One does have enough animation to qualify, its animation is motion capture and the Animation Branch has shown some animosity towards motion-capture animation. It has only nominated one, Monster House and even ignored Spielberg's own The Adventures of Tintin

Incredibles 2 seems like a decent Animated Feature candidate -- its reviews and box office certainly suggest enthusiasm for it. Though it is worth noting that sequels to Cars, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. were all boxed out come Oscar time -- this branch just hasn’t been very receptive to Pixar sequels (beyond the obviously superlative Toy Story 3.) Because of that trend, I’d say it’s a decent possibility, but not a sure thing, and probably very unlikely to replicate the first Incredibles' other nominations. I would assume the attached short, Bao, gets a spot in the Animated Short race, though.


I'd also like to add that Toy Story 3 also probably won partially as a belated way to honor the previous two films which were released before the institution of the Animated Feature category. I think Incredibles 2 will get the nomination . I'd also like to add that IF it wins, Brad Bird would break the record for most Animated Feature Oscars with 3 wins. Right now, he's in a four-way tie with fellow PIXAR directors Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter with two wins each.

Another possible first-half contender is Love, Simon. John Hughes-esque teen coming-of-age movies don't usually get Oscar attention but this one made headlines as the first LGBT teen coming-of-age movie in wide mainstream release by a major studio. It might have an outside chance at Adapted Screenplay and some people have praised Jennifer Garner in it, comparing her big scene in the film to Michael Stuhlbarg's in Call Me By Your Name.

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Halfway Through 2018

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:39 pm

I had two overall thoughts while writing this post. The first is a reiteration of a thought I had months ago, that the first half of 2018 has been unusually solid. Certainly not as exciting as the back half of any year, but hardly anemic for films worth seeing.

The second thought I had is that my crystal ball was actually not great at this point last year. There were a few early-year nominees I don’t blame myself for missing (The Boss Baby, Kong: Skull Island, a couple of the tough-to-predict Documentary nominees). But while I see that I discussed Baby Driver in the thread, I didn’t predict any of its three nominations. I correctly forecast Get Out in Picture/Screenplay, but didn’t think its strength would extend to Director, and couldn’t have even fathomed Actor. And Logan -- which got a major nomination -- I didn’t even mention at all!

All of this is to say, it’s very possible something that has already been released will surprise me/us later in the year with nominations I didn’t anticipate. But here’s my best stab at the contenders so far.

Let’s start with the behemoth: I think Black Panther is a dead-certain nominee for Best Picture... at the PGA. Whether this will extend to Oscar depends on the following question: is it another Dark Knight or is it another Wonder Woman? Like The Dark Knight (which certainly would have been a Picture nominee in an expanded field), Black Panther is a genuine cultural phenomenon, with enormous box office, and very strong reviews. Honestly, if it weren’t a Marvel movie, it would be hard to argue against a film with that profile getting a Best Picture nomination. But... we did just live through Wonder Woman last year, another superhero movie that hit the cultural zeitgeist, racked up big box office, and became a progressive cause celebre for its representation in front of and behind the camera. And that ended up with ZERO nominations.

I’m not sure where all of this leaves Black Panther. The folks on Vanity Fair’s podcast said that the Academy risks “relevancy suicide” if they don’t nominate the film, and when the entertainment press is rooting for something to happen -- as they certainly will for this film -- they can sometimes bring it to fruition (see: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side). But it still is a superhero movie, a genre the Academy just simply doesn’t like very much. On that same podcast, one of the commentators made the argument that Black Panther will definitely get nominated in all the usual below-the-line categories superheroes do well in, and my snarky reaction was... which ones are those? Visual Effects is basically the one category they place in, so I’d imagine that’s a good bet for Black Panther. I also think Costume Design is close to definite, as those colorful outfits are striking and imaginative, unlike anything else we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe. The Sound categories seem very possible (though again, those have been surprisingly inhospitable to superhero fare over the years), and maybe Production Design, since Wakanda is such a fresh locale. As for anything above-the-line? I think it’s a stronger candidate than any superhero movie since The Dark Knight, though I remain agnostic about its potential to go that far.

One more thought: I wonder if Black Panther’s chances will depend on how the other films with black casts/filmmakers perform this fall. Because if voters have more typically Oscar-y choices from Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins (both hot off Best Picture winners) and Spike Lee (still awaiting his first major nom), it would certainly be easier to omit Black Panther due to blockbuster-ness without triggering another #OscarsSoWhite debacle. But if Coogler and his film emerge as the best chance to get some racial diversity on the ballot, it’s going to be a lot harder to ignore without some serious protest.

Isle of Dogs is a certain Animated Feature nominee, and I actually think it might end up the winner. Disney and Pixar’s efforts this year are both sequels -- which haven’t traditionally performed well in this category -- and that could leave an opening for something fresher. Plus, I imagine voters might like the idea of finally giving an Oscar to Wes Anderson. Depending on how the year goes, the film could also possibly contend in other categories where Anderson’s films have done well: Original Screenplay or Original Score.

The Death of Stalin checks a lot of the boxes the writers’ branch likes: it’s full of witty dialogue, but also features weighty enough subject matter that it won’t be dismissed as lightweight either. I think it could contend in Adapted Screenplay, much like In the Loop did, particularly now that Ianucci’s profile has only grown with Veep. Had it been released at the end of 2017, I wonder if it might have nabbed Logan’s spot.

Hereditary may turn out to be too divisive for the Academy—that ‘D+’ CinemaScore shows mainstream audiences are clearly finding its most extreme elements revolting. But I think A24 should at least try to give Toni Collette a decent push in Best Actress. Acting noms for horror films are rare, but hey, she’s already got one for such fare, and she’s got some great showcase scenes here, though we’ll see if the more outlandish aspects of the last reel might just be too much for voters.

A Quiet Place had some comparisons to Get Out -- an early year horror flick with surprising box office strength -- though I think its lack of similar social relevance will keep it from the major nominations Peele’s film got. I do wonder if the Sound categories might be possibilities, though, given how important the soundtrack is in the mostly dialogue-free film.

Ready Player One seems like a decent candidate for tech nominations. Visual Effects seems like a gimme, and Production Design could also very easily be in the cards if voters really dig the look of the Oasis. And there are enough loud action sequences that the Sound categories -- which Spielberg films have always done well in -- seem possibilities too. One interesting question also floating around -- might the movie be animated enough to qualify for Animated Feature? And if it does qualify, will that branch view it as being enough in the spirit of the category to include it?

Avengers: Infinity War has raked up tremendous box office, but I think it will pretty clearly be less of an Oscar player than Black Panther. The first Avengers film placed in Visual Effects, the last one did not, so I’d say that category is its best shot, but maybe only at 50/50 odds.

Incredibles 2 seems like a decent Animated Feature candidate -- its reviews and box office certainly suggest enthusiasm for it. Though it is worth noting that sequels to Cars, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. were all boxed out come Oscar time -- this branch just hasn’t been very receptive to Pixar sequels (beyond the obviously superlative Toy Story 3.) Because of that trend, I’d say it’s a decent possibility, but not a sure thing, and probably very unlikely to replicate the first Incredibles' other nominations. I would assume the attached short, Bao, gets a spot in the Animated Short race, though.

First Reformed is among the most praised films of the year thus far, but it doesn’t seem to have created much noise. (Box office hasn’t even topped 3 million.) It feels to me more like an Independent Spirit candidate than an Oscar one, but I guess if it’s a thin year, and voters need to scrounge to find candidates, maybe Best Actor and Original Screenplay might emerge later on as Academy players.

Annihilation for me was about on par with Ex Machina – a compelling, smart sci fi yarn whose narrative may not quite have had the payoff necessary to push the film into greatness territory. I don’t think it was the hit it needed to be to nab the nods even Ex Machina got, though, as that’s usually necessary for early year genre fare hoping to stay in the conversation.

A lot of folks liked Disobedience more than I did -- although serious in intent, I found much of it dealt with material too similar to other movies I’d seen, with not enough fresh flourish to make it stand out. (There were some scenes where I couldn’t believe how flat the dialogue was). It feels like the kind of movie that, merely by virtue of being material for grownups, simply remains on the fringes of the conversation, if that.

No Star Wars film has ever completely missed Oscar attention, but might Solo be the first? It’s the first one to disappoint at the box office, and it’s hard to argue that the Visual Effects, though copious, are any fresh stand-out. It might still place there based on brand name alone, but I think this will score on the low end of the Star Wars spectrum.

Tully is an enjoyable enough effort, that I found acerbic and poignant for much of its running time. I wasn’t too high on the divisive ending -- while not predictable, it just felt like a plot turn I’ve seen too many times at this point -- but I don’t think it sank the movie or anything. Hard to see much Oscar attention, but maybe a Comedy Globe nod for Charlize Theron, who is definitely at her best in comic train wreck mode?

You Were Never Really Here was a hot prospect out of last year’s Cannes, but it strikes me as another film that might just be too divisive for the Academy to get Joaquin Phoenix in there. I could see a critics’ group rallying for him, though, and maybe that could put him somewhere in the discussion, but I just feel like too many will find the movie inaccessible. (I’m mixed on it myself, admiring the bravura and the gripping nature of its best segments, but also wishing its narrative had ended up in more compelling places.)

It’s hard to pinpoint Documentary Feature nominees this far out, but there are two that have been decent box office hits this year that might be worth noting: RBG (which may get another boost when the fictional RBG film hits theaters this winter), and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (which seems like a tonic to our “everything-is-awful” cultural mood at the moment).

And then, finally, two just-released films that I don’t feel quite equipped to discuss, because I haven’t seen them yet. The first Sicario scored three nominations, so the sequel probably must be at least mentioned here, though this installment hasn’t received nearly the level of acclaim, and will probably struggle to get any awards traction. On the other hand, Leave No Trace has received some VERY strong reviews, and could possibly replicate the acting/writing citations of Debra Granik’s last fiction effort, Winter’s Bone, with perhaps even a long-shot candidacy for Best Picture not totally out of the question if it really takes off?


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