By John H. Foote
The end of August marks the official beginning of awards season, which will last a long six months, (believe me it’s long) and when it is over the Academy Awards will be in the hands of the winners, for better or worse. In forecasting, you must understand in many cases no one has seen a frame of the films. You forecast by reputation, by inside word, by hope, and yes, you do a lot of guessing. Some of these films, most of the major Oscar contenders will play the festival circuit, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, and special screenings will be held by the Academy. Screeners go out by the end of November and the critics groups vote first, the top dogs in Boston, LA, New York, and the National Society, followed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Producers Guild, the Editors Guild, the Cinematographers Guild and the prestigious Directors Guild.
Does it go on too long?
Of course, but there is some fun piecing the puzzle together in predicting which way the Academy will go. At the end of the day, you just never know, though often Oscar night is anti-climatic, the winners having been decided months ago.
Last year coming out of TIFF, A Star is Born looked locked on to the major awards but then won only Best Song, and was cruelly snubbed for Best Director. Toronto’s People Choice Award Winner, Green Book went on to win Best Picture and the glorious First Man was ignored, so is there a rhyme and reason. That said, for all my railing about injustices, the Academy often gets it right.
So you never know.
Here is an early look at BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR.
BRAD PITT IN ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
At this writing, Brad Pitt is an absolute lock and likely winner for his sublime performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Pitt has earned raves for his brilliant work as stuntman Cliff Booth, best friend, driver and protector of movie star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). Nominated three times for acting, deserving of at least three more, he is at that stage in his career when they, (whoever they are) claim he is due. After watching Glenn Close lose again last year does being due mean anything anymore?
AL PACINO IN THE IRISHMAN
Can Martin Scorsese keep the lid on Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman? If he can bring the seventies Pacino intensity to the part, the actor could be in the race for his second Academy Award. Jack Nicholson portrayed Hoffa in 1992, brilliantly, in the film titled simply Hoffa, but the Academy snubbed him. If Scorsese can reign Pacino in, keep the “hoo-has” and volume out, he might be polishing his second Oscar.
JOE PESCI IN THE IRISHMAN
Coaxed back to the screen, the reclusive Pesci can be the most electrifying actor on the planet. Has anyone ever radiated the danger and explosive menace Pesci has? Superb for Scorsese in Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) for which he won an Oscar and Casino (1995) so there is a great reason for high expectations. Be interesting to see two nominated from the same film in the same category.
WILLEM DAFOE IN THE LIGHTHOUSE
Nominated the previous two years, and in 1986 and 2000, Dafoe should be in the running again as the bullying old sea dog in this film. Set in a claustrophobic old lighthouse, he and his young charge deal with issues of isolation and loneliness. One of the most respected actors in movies should find himself
ROBERT DOWNEY JR. IN AVENGERS: ENDGAME
In the final performance of an eleven-year arc, Downey is superb as Tony Stark/Iron Man, portraying the character for the final time. The highlight of the film was watching him reunite with Spider-Man, one of the most emotional moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A nomination would be a fitting tribute to this gifted actor, who elevated a comic book hero to art.
JAMIE BELL IN ROCKETMAN
Bell shines as Bernie Taupin, songwriter for Elton John during his rise to superstardom in the seventies. The two men loved each other, but not the love John needed as Taupin was straight. Bell, a solid character actor who exploded to fame as Billy Elliott (2000) was brilliant in the film and deserving. No small feat considering the powerhouse that was Taron Edgerton as Elton John.
JEFFREY WRIGHT IN THE GOLDFINCH
One of Broadways finest, Wright has quietly built a solid reputation as a character actor for the last twenty years. He shone brightest in Angels of America (2004) as an AIDS nurse struggling with watching his friends die. Here he portrays the kind of role that baits voters. Oh and he is, as they say, due.
TIMOTHéE CHALAMET IN LITTLE WOMEN
He was the toast of the awards two years ago for his splendid work in Call Me By Your Name, and as the major male role in Little Women, stands a good chance of being a nominee. Surrounded by a magnificent cast, perhaps he has already won, just being in the cast? A deeply gifted young man with many nominations
IAN MCKELLAN IN CATS
Knowing the play, knowing the role of Gus the Theatre Cat, may I suggest that McKellan is the perfect choice to play the part. McKellan is a brilliant actor, no question, who should have a couple of Oscars by now, and if he delivers as well as I think he might in Cats, he could make it to the race.
JOHN LITHGOW IN UNTITLED FOX NEWS DRAMA
As disgraced TV chief Roger Ailes, this is sure to be a plum role for this wonderful actor. Surrounded by great actors including Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, count on Lithgow to shine, to steal every scene he is in and bring his force to the screen.
GARY OLDMAN IN THE LAUNDROMAT
The Best Actor winner two years ago, however unjust, is back in a film that is going to attract a lot of attention. Steven Soderbergh takes on the Panama Papers with a powerhouse cast including Mery Streep. Oldman went years unnoticed by the Academy, but they appear to be making up for that now.
And who will emerge out of the Festivals?
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”