How Good Were My Year-Old Oscar Predictions?

A little under a year ago, I fisked a Variety article written about the day after last year’s Oscars. My purpose was to make fun of Variety’s substanceless click-bait, but as it evolved, I emitted a handful of sneering predictions. Which is to say, inasmuch as I participated in the anticipation of a program I never watch, Variety won that exchange. But let’s see how I did:

Regarding Marwen:

Prediction: Carell gets a best actor statue for this weepie, since it’s a mostly comedic actor playing a tear-jerk. The Academy loves that crap. Zemeckis gets nominated, doesn’t win. The film doesn’t get nominated, and everyone gets pissy about how that can even happen.

I was right about the film not getting nominated, wrong about everything else. I expected it to be competent enough to be Oscar-worthy. Nope.

Regarding First Man:

Prediction: This film will do reasonably well at the box office, and won’t get any nominations.

Got one for Production Design. I guess that means I was wrong.

Regarding If Beale Street Could Talk:

That’s more like it. Something obscure and from the director of a previous Best Picture. This will do garbage box office and be hailed by the people who hail things as Significant and Powerful. It will get some nominations, maybe one Oscar, for screenplay or something.

If Beale Street Could Talk Domestic Box Office : $10,912,908

If Beale Street Could Talk Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 95% Fresh

“With Beale Street, (director Barry) Jenkins cements his status as this generation’s cinematic poet laureate of the American condition.”

-Matt Ward, Cinematic Considerations

Oscar Nominations: 2, for Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay.

nailed-it-4

Regarding The Favourite:

Nominated for Costume Design. Wins for Costume Design. The End.

Well, I was wrong about that. Best Picture, Best Actress, Two for Best Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, AND Costume Design. Although if it wins for Costume Design and nothing else, I will be proved retroactively right. So there’s that.

Regarding Isle of Dogs, well, I’ve beaten that one to death. But it ended up with a nomination for Animated Film, as predicted. That means a win.

Regarding Hereditary: 

If a horror film ever gets Oscar Gold, it’s going to have to be blessed by Sundance or something else first. And it’s going to need to have Topical Politics, so everyone can high-five each other about how much it would bother Mike Pence if he saw it.

Prediction: Toni Collette gets a nomination. No idea if she wins or not.

I was right about the film, wrong about Toni Collette. I underestimated Hollywood’s love of self-referential entertainment (Lady Gaga, A Star is Born, really?).

Regarding Mary, Queen of Scots:

My initial response is to say that Costume Dramas don’t win Oscars, but some instinct tells me not to leave out the possibility that they’ll nominate both Ronan and Robbie for the same award, that Drama and Sisterhood might ensue. Besides, Ronan-Robbie has a certain ring to it.

My instinct was right, but should have been applied to The Favourite. My initial response remains undecided.

Regarding Boy Erased:

This wins Best Picture. You heard it here first.

LOL. That’ll learn me.

Regarding Vice:

I think the whole “Prosthetics and Weight Gain for Oscars” thing might be played out now that they finally gave one to Gary Oldman for doing it. But Dick Cheney might make a good MASH-mask for Donald Trump, so who knows.

Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director. These are the Big Boys. Mike Pence will totally hate it if it wins for something. So I’m going to call this a win.

I didn’t make any predictions regarding Black Panther, so that’s a wash.

Overall Score: 3 Solid Right, 2 Partially Right, 3 Solid Wrong. I am the Detroit Lions of Making Oscar Predictions a Year Out.

Next: Winner Predictions based on Nominations

Quick Review: The Favourite

the-favourite-image-credit_-yorgos-lanthimos-rachel-weisz-olivia-colman-e1532374834538One of these days, I’m going to write one of these that’s not about the Stuart dynasty in some way.

Queen Anne reigned briefly at the beginning of the 18th century, and spent most of her reign at war with France over who got to sit on the throne of Spain (that Hapsburg penchant for cousin marriage caught up with them). She is not well-remembered. Fat, sad, gouty, and childless, she seemed largely at the mercy of court favorites, especially the Churchills (yes, Sir Winston’s ancestors, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his wife). Her 17(!) pregnancies resulted in 4 live babies, none of whom made it past the age of 11. When she died, the very Glorious Revolution that put her sister and then her on the throne decreed that a Hanoverian clod named George should occupy it instead of the surviving members of her family. In short, in an unlucky dynasty, she was perhaps the unluckiest, almost certainly the saddest. Even her grandfather’s grandmother Mary, in her proud, defiant exile, never approached that level of melancholy.

Now, historians will quibble over how true that really was, and point out counter-narrative facts, like how Anne presided over Cabinet meetings far more regularly than her predecessors or successors. But this is the movies, and the movies will print the legend. So Queen Anne becomes a cipher controlled by other women.

And more than controlled. Because this is a 21st century film, we must treat 18th century gossip-rag rumor (the Gawker of its day) as Gospel truth, and believe that Her Majesty was giving away more than her trust to her favorite women. We will leave utterly unexplored the relationship between her and her husband, Prince George of Denmark, the father of those 17 pregnancies, nor give any credence to the widely-reported rumor that she loved him deeply and was heartbroken at the loss of him. That kind of film won’t give us a chance to see Emma Stone naked.

That being grumbled, did I like the damn thing? Yes. It aspires to a kind of Barry Lyndon feel, and it gets there. Rachel Weisz, as Sara Churchill, is at least as much fun as Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons. Actually, more so, because Sara Churchill has a depth to her that the Marquise de Merteuil does not have. Churchill doesn’t play the game just to be Queen of the Mountain, she actually cares about the politics. She favors the vigorous prosecution of the war with France, even at the risk of her husband, the great general Marlborough. She labors against France just as her descendant Sir Winston would labor against Germany, and for the same reason. Louis XIV was no Hitler, but he was the head of the strongest state in Europe with a habit of bullying smaller states and seeking to make himself the arbiter of Western Civilization. The War of the Spanish Succession was in this respect as epoch-defining as the Napoleonic wars were a century later. And the film focuses on this, brings it right front and center. The script gives Weisz a chance to elevate Sara Churchill from mere schemer to stateswoman.

By contrast, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) has no interest other than not going back to the scullery. Which, who could blame her, but the cynical disinterest in policy, the refusal to even countenance that her actions will have consequences, is not driven home until the last scene, when it becomes clear what she has bought herself. The ending is dour to the point of being anticlimactic.

But that’s what happens when you try to do history, which gives us very few third-act turnarounds. In real life, the Churchills were disgraced, the war party-Whigs sent packing, and peace with France was negotiated. The Churchills lost, and Anne died a few years later. That was how it was, and the film finds a poignant if irretrievably current way to express that. Peace to all of them, and to the shades of them we conjure up on film, just for good measure.