Predictions Friday – Just How White Are the Oscars Going to Be? – Awards Daily

I was a little surprised that The Hollywood Reporter’s Netflix story asks whether there would be three Netflix nominees for Best Picture and not four. The world of punditry, blogging and film criticism is a bubble but it can’t possibly be that insular not to have noticed how well Dolemite Is My Name has landed. Of course, it’s true that it would have been helped by coming into the race with box office clout — like a $100 mil kind of clout, which it would have easily earned. No one else would make the movie so Netflix did, but it is the only one of the four that clearly isn’t going to benefit from the streamer’s profit model. The bloggers are hard core in the tank for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes but I can tell you, without singling anyone out, that Dolemite Is My Name is better than at least two of those.

The outright dismissal of the film by so many of those who cover the race is a little shocking, considering most are banking on it being in the Best Picture lineup. Oh sure, they continue to advocate/predict by cherry picking those they feel give them street cred.  They select a contender here or there to make sure their predictions aren’t 100% white.

If no film with an all black cast is selected this year it will break a strong and significant trend that has been in place since the ballot expanded. With a few exceptions, the expansion of the race and the invitation of new members to break up the “old white guy” contingent at the Academy has resulted in a definite shift. It also coincides with a strong wave of films by black filmmakers about black characters. Dolemite Is My Name is a culturally important film about the origins of hip-hop, with Moore’s patter now widely regarded as a catalyst for rap — but more than that, it’s about a resourceful entrepreneur of color who never accepted the barriers put up in front of him.

It’s a perfect film that hits its tone exactly right – it manages to deliver its hard hitting message without sounding preachy and honestly, if this film is in the race it would bring a gust of fresh air into the proceedings like no other.

Here’s the rather shamefully scant history of films nominated for Best Picture that had predominantly black casts:

1972 – Sounder
1985 – The Color Purple
[24-year gap – I’m not fucking kidding – 24-year gap]
2004 – Ray
2009 – Precious
2010 – The Help (mixed but driven by strong perfs)
2011 –
2012 – Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained (mixed but driven by strong perfs)
2013 – 12 Years a Slave — WINS Best Picture as the first film with an all black cast to do so.
2014 – Selma
2015 –
2016 – Moonlight (won Best Picture), Fences
2017 – Get Out
2018 – Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman

And the handful of films nominated for Best Picture that had predominantly non-white casts:

1987 – The Last Emperor
1990 – Dances with Wolves
2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima, Babel
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire
2012 – Life of Pi
2018 – Roma

And indeed, Parasite’s all but guaranteed inclusion means they’re “off the hook” because that means it’s not going to be a 100% lineup. The thing is, Dolemite doesn’t need to be guilt-predicted into the race because it’s easily one of the best films of the year. And yet, it’s way down on the list for most pundits.

Seriously, at Gold Derby right now it’s underneath Avengers: Endgame. (Gold Derby is currently predicting Awkwafina as their only person of color to be nominated.) I’ve already spoken to about five people who don’t have their heads plugged up the backside of Oscar punditry that call Dolemite Is My Name their favorite film of the year. That means all it is going to take is for 200 or 300 Academy members to do that and the film is in. With that big of a cast, with people like Spike Lee and Jamie Foxx championing Eddie Murphy and the film, with it being on Netflix now so everyone can see it, are you all 100% sure it’s not getting in because those three Netflix movies are “better”?

It is my hope that SAG voters shut down this argument. It is my hope that this isn’t a year where only the stories in the mix are about white people matter — Parasite not withstanding. And indeed there is another movie coming out with an all-black cast that people should pay attention to and that’s Queen & Slim. There is also Harriet. And Jordan Peele’s Us, which earned $178 million at the box office. And there is one of the most entertaining and thrilling movies of the year that doesn’t have the opportunity to come into the race with the box office success everyone knows it would have gotten and that’s Dolemite Is My Name. I’ve seen all four movies. I liked all four. I loved three of the four but only two of the four I think are worthy of a Best Picture nomination.

Probably you all out there dismissing Dolemite Is My Name will be right. Probably you will circle back to remind me and mock me and laugh about how absurd it ever was to see this movie as an Oscar contender. You can do that and it might make you feel good for about five seconds. But I can tell you this much – macro out from that joy you receive and think about what that really means.

This is a wide open race. The Oscars are fluid, not static. What happens around us changes how the consensus ultimately votes, what it votes for and why. People who pretend to know how it’s going to go right now are, not to be crude, talking out their ass.

We haven’t seen the shitstorms that will be forthcoming and there will be many. This is the season of screenings, where films are hand-delivered to Oscar voters with high-profile names introducing them to get people to come out and see them. If any high profile name likes a movie they are asked to host a screening and invite bloggers and influencers to attend. The old model was – a movie is released. Do people actually like it? Yes. Do critics like it? Yes. Then it has a chance to be nominated. But everything has changed and changed really fast and we’re living through an era where critics barely matter.

Somehow, through it all, the Oscars still matter. They are supposed to reflect high achievements in film by the members each selecting their number one favorite films. I have the small handful of films I think are the best of the year and believe me, Dolemite Is My Name is right at the top of that list. And it’s an easy call. And sure, I know we’re still talking about the Academy has having a very specific kind of taste. I’m betting that taste has evolved, if recent history is any indication.

The films that, so far, stand out in my mind and continue to resonate long after I’ve seen them this year and will likely make my top ten list also include:

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Ford v Ferrari
Queen & Slim
Dark Waters

I expect some of these will get in, but it’s probably not likely all will. That doesn’t mean they aren’t contenders. You can’t second judge voters until REAL PEOPLE see the films and watch how the votes go down. After all, everyone on Film Twitter underestimated Bohemian Rhapsody and overestimated A Star is Born last year — and I was skeptical about both of these takes – and yet, everyone still acted like they were right to be 100% confident. I was wrong about Black Panther and First Man, without a doubt, but both of those were evaluated in what is a fluid race, not a static one.

Here is a list of actors in Dolemite Is My Name – now imagine their friends and friends of their friends:

Eddie Murphy
Wesley Snipes
Chris Rock
Snoop Dog
Keegan-Michael Key
Da’Vine Joy Randolph

97% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 91% audience rating — it would have gotten an A+ CinemaScore if it had been given a regular release, and very likely a $100+ mil box office take. And it’s a movie about determined filmmakers making a movie.

What I’m saying here is that, at the very least, it is a CONTENDER.

Last year around this time I had Green Book in the number one spot to win and had 6 out the eventual 8 Best Picture contenders. I was missing Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice. I was still thinking First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk would get in. I very stupidly had Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga winning in the acting categories too. You see, I do follow conventional wisdom some of the time.

Here are my current predictions, for what they’re worth — and yes, I’m giving voters the benefit of the doubt that they will be smart enough to know a good thing when they see it.

A couple of things to go by:

  1. Are there acting contenders and/or frontrunners in the film?
  2. Will the screenplay be nominated?
  3. Anne Thompson’s rule ‘How you build a contender’ – branch by branch

Best Picture – Frontrunners
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – acting, writing, directing + crafts
The Irishman – acting, writing, directing + crafts
1917 (sight unseen) – maybe acting, maybe writing, directing + crafts
Jojo Rabbit – Toronto Audience Award – acting, writing, directing + crafts
Parasite – Palme d’or – writing, directing + crafts
Ford v Ferrari – maybe acting, writing, maybe directing + crafts
Marriage Story – acting, writing, maybe directing
Dolemite Is My Name – acting, writing + crafts
Joker – Golden Lion – acting, maybe writing, maybe directing, maybe crafts
Bombshell – acting, writing + crafts

Strong contenders
Little Women
Queen & Slim
Uncut Gems
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Motherless Brooklyn
Dark Waters
The Farewell

Best Director – Frontrunners
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Sam Mendes, 1917 (sight unseen)

Strong Contenders
James Mangold, Ford V. Ferrari
Todd Phillips, Joker
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Craig Brewer, Dolemite Is My Name
Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes
Jay Roach, Bombshell
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Todd Haynes, Dark Waters
Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers
Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
Trey Edward Shults, Waves
Jordan Peele, Us
Lulu Wang, The Farewell
Scott Z Burns, The Report
Edward Norton, Motherless Brooklyn
Marielle Heller, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Actor – Frontrunners
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Robert De Niro, The Irishman

Strong contenders
Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
Matt Damon, Ford v Ferrari
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy
Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters
Daniel Kaluuya, Queen & Slim
Edward Norton, Motherless Brooklyn
Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
Adam Driver, The Report

Best Actress – Frontrunners
Renee Zellweger, Judy
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Lupita Nyong’o, Us

Strong contenders
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Alfre Woodard, Clemency
Elizabeth Moss, Her Smell
Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts

Best Supporting Actor – Frontrunners
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Tom Hanks, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Wesley Snipes, Dolemite is My Name
Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Strong contenders
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari
Sam Rockwell, Jojo Rabbit
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Zack Gottsagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon
John Lithgow, Bombshell
Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
Alan Alda, Marriage Story
Ray Liotta, Marriage Story
Sterling K. Brown, Waves
Tim Robbins, Dark Waters
Timothee Chalamet, Little Women
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. Waves

Best Supporting Actress – Frontrunners
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite Is My Name
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Strong contenders
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters
Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell
Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit
Taylor Russell, Waves
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Motherless Brooklyn
Elisabeth Moss, Us
Annette Bening, The Report

Original Screenplay
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho, Jin Won Han
Dolemite is My Name, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Ford V. Ferrari , Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth

Not yet seen: 1917 

Strong contenders
Queen & Slim, Lena Waithe
Us, Jordan Peele
Bombshell, Charles Randolph
Waves, Trey Edward Shultz
The Farewell, Lulu Wang
Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf
Late Night, Mindy Kaling
Booksmart , Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman
The Report , Scott Z Burns

Adapted Screenplay – Frontrunners
Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi
The Irishman, Steve Zaillian
The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten
Little Women, Greta Gerwig
Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver

Strong contenders
Hustlers,  Lorene Scafaria
Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton
Just Mercy, Daniel Destin Cretton, Andrew Lanham

A Hidden Life
Ad Astra
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman
Little Women
The Aeronauts
Jojo Rabbit
The Two Popes

Ford v Ferarri
The Irishman
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Jojo Rabbit

Strong contenders
Marriage Story
Dolemite Is My Name
The Two Popes

Production Design – Strong Contenders
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
1917 (sight unseen)

Strong contenders
The Aeronauts
Little Women
Ad Astra
Motherless Brooklyn

Sound Mixing
Ford v Ferrari
1917 (sight unseen)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari
1917 (sight unseen)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Costume Design
Dolemite is My Name
Little Women
Jojo Rabbit
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Downton Abbey
Jojo Rabbit
The Irishman
Knives Out
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
The Aeronauts

And that is all she wrote, for now, which is more than enough.


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