With the AFI screening of Mimi Leder's underwhelming RBG biopic "On the Basis of Sex" upon us, we don't have that many players left to screen as far as this year's Oscar race goes. All that's left is the Dick Cheney biopic "Vice," Clint Eastwood's "The Mule," and Josie Rourke's "Mary Queen of Scots" starring Saoirse Ronan, the latter of which is said to be a non-starter.
So with all that in mind, and unless the three aforementioned movies turn out to exceed expectations, it seems like we have two major movies that will contend for the big prize this year: Bradley Cooper's "A Star is Born" and Peter Farelly's "Green Book."
Cooper's film has become a box-office bonanza in both the movie and music charts. "A Star Is Born" has made close to $178M at the domestic box-office and it will easily surpass the $200M mark in the next few days. With Oscar noms coming up, and the film likely headed towards at least a dozen nominations, I can see Cooper's film hitting the $300M mark when all is said and done by next year. The film is by all accounts the token definition of not just a Best Picture nominee, but a Best Picture winner. Not to mention that it is directed by a well-respected actor, something that helped such esteemed actors-turned-directors like Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, Ben Affleck, and Robert Redford.
Cooper's film is reaping the benefits of having been released in October, whereas "Green Book" has not yet hit theaters. I've been insistent on my enthusiasm for the film, predicting that it will be a huge hit with audiences. Critics who have seen it, including myself, have noticed how incredibly enthusiastic audiences have been towards the film. The crowd I saw it with at TIFF ate it all up, the saccharine moments as well. This is very much a movie that you want to watch with a large audience at the multiplex. It's the kind of well-made, safe entertainment that even grouchy critics can admit they had a good time watching. What Farelly's film has going for it, that 'Star' doesn't, are socio-political themes. It's a simply-delivered indictment on racism in America, which is the kind of topic the Academy seems always hungry to reward, especially ever since the #OscarsSoWhite movement's inception more than 4 years ago now.
"A Star is Born" has no political relevance to it. It's the third remake of the same story about a white privileged musician's rise and fall, his self-destructive behavior, and how that affects the closest people to him. It's about a selfish man who, the film tries to tell us, was still good to his core and didn't mean to hurt the people around him, even though he did.
I could be very wrong when it comes to the "Star is Born" and "Green Book," after all the latter hasn't been released yet. Then there's this past week's controversy where star Viggo Mortensen dared to utter the 'n-word' at a post-screening Q&A. This not only opened up debate online about the word itself, and how it should and shouldn't be used, if at all, but to many Oscar pundits it signified a possible handicap for "Green Book" in terms of Oscar contention. Regardless of that, I believe that Green Book's chances don't lie in Op-Ed think-pieces about the Viggo controversy, but rather in how audiences will greet it this weekend and beyond, especially when word of mouth hits that it's really good. It is set for wide release this coming Friday, and huge box-office numbers would all but seal the deal for its chances as a Best Picture juggernaut.