Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 10-12, 2017

We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Murder on the Orient Express

In 1974, Sidney Lumet brought to the big screen one of the best adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel in history. Six Oscar nominations were given to the film and, had they had ten nominees at that time, this film would surely have been among them. The box office hit scored nominations for Best Actor (Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot), Supporting Actress (Ingrid Bergman as Greta), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Cinematography, and Costume Design.

43 years later, Kenneth Branagh has attempted to re-adapt the novel with a new cast. While it’s unlikely that any film could ever assemble the star wattage of the Lumet version, Branagh has pulled together a not-unfamiliar cast to bring the story of 15 strangers in a carriage on the Orient Express each a suspect into the murder of a 16th guest. Oscar winners Penelope Cruz and Judi Dench are joined by numerous others, including Oscar nominees Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Branagh himself as the illustrious Poirt. Surely one of these individuals could be poised for Oscar nominations.

If this film were to equate to the original, Branagh and Cruz would be the Oscar-capable folk. However, Cruz is no Bergman and Branagh is no Finney. Further, had Lauren Bacall not been a rather abrasive figure, she might have figured into that year’s Oscar race, which would equate to Pfeiffer being a competitor. The problem is that both actress categories are incredibly full this year and Branagh’s chances at Best Actor are almost nil. Further, the film received a poor “B” rating from CinemaScore along with a 52 rating from MetaCritic and a 59% rotten from Rotten Tomatoes (6.1/10 rating). Without support from critics, the film is likely a no-go.

In the tech categories, things don’t look much better. Although it could still compete in Costume Design, that race is incredibly full this year and it doesn’t look like the film has enough fancy costumes to be thought of as more than a Costume Designers Guild nominee.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

On the other end of the spectrum among critics, Three Billboards has performed incredibly well. On Rotten tomatoes, the film is sitting at 95% fresh (8.8/10 rating) and an 86 from MetaCritic. Those are impressive numbers. Further, Frances McDormand has been on everyone’s list for months and the reviews have only solidified her position, one that could also result in a second Oscar.

As an Oscar nominee for his short film Six Shooter in 2004, Martin McDonagh has been bubbling under as a potential nominee in the feature categories for years now. His first full-length feature, In Bruges, was nominated for his screenplay and received strong critical acclaim. His second movie, Seven Psycopaths, wasn’t as well received and came nowhere near the Oscars.

His third feature, however, seems to be building a bit of steam. Although I’m dubious at the film’s chances for Best Picture and Director, I’m certain it will be nominated in Best Actress; likely in Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, who has been bubbling under for years and should finally get recognized here; and very possible also Best Original Screenplay. Woody Harrelson could be a dark horse for a double Supporting Actor nominee. If it’s a Best Picture contender, it will also be a Best Film Editing contender and Best Director might not be far behind.

There are a lot of factors working into this Oscar race, namely unseen films, but if they all fall through, or even if most of them do, this film could rocket into contention fairly easily.

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