Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a movie, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.
FILM: “Mary Poppins Returns”
PRODUCERS: John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
WRITERS: David Magee, based on the books by P.L. Travers
CAST: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Emily Mortimer, Angela Lansbury, and Dick Van Dyke
SYNOPSIS: (from IMDb) In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
WHY IT MAY SUCCEED
In 1964, Walt Disney captured something magical with “Mary Poppins.” Based on the series of books by P.L. Travers, the film starred Julie Andrews as the mysterious nanny who flies into town by umbrella and changes the lives of the Banks family forever. The 2013 film “Saving Mr. Banks” took a deeper—though highly edited—look at the process of convincing Travers to relinquish control over her story and characters, and releasing Mary Poppins into the world to find a new audience. The 1964 film was wildly successful, winning 5 Academy Awards, including Lead Actress for Andrews. It was also nominated for 8 additional awards. And when adjusted for inflation, “Mary Poppins” is in the top 30 highest grossing domestic films of all time.
Enduring popularity eventually spawned a Broadway musical, which ran from 2006 to 2013 and earned 8 Tony nominations.
News of the new “Mary Poppins” film was first met with skepticism. But when Disney announced that this would be a sequel and not a remake, the sentiment turned to curiosity. Emily Blunt takes over the title role from Andrews. Blunt showed her singing talents in the 2014 musical “Into the Woods,” earning a Golden Globe nomination. Much like the first installment paired Mary up with Bert the Chimney Sweep, this time around, she joins Jack the Lamp Lighter for their adventures. Broadway gem and Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack. He earned an Oscar nomination for his Original Song from “Moana,” but it doesn’t appear he is contributing to the writing of this music.
Other new characters pop into the film. Meryl Streep reunites with Blunt for the third time. This time around, Streep plays Mary’s cousin Topsy. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer play the all-grown-up Michael and Jane Banks. Dick Van Dyke will make an appearance as Mr. Dawes Jr, the bank manager. In the original film, in addition to playing Bert, Van Dyke also played Mr. Dawes, Sr.
‘This is Emily’s show, and I really want it to be Emily’s show. I don’t want it to be, “Oh, here comes that Mary Poppins.’ I don’t want that. I really want her to take this and run with it, because she will be brilliant.’”
Director Rob Marshall brings some decent film credits with him to this project. He directed the Academy Award-winning “Chicago” in 2002. He was nominated for Best Director, but unfortunately lost to Roman Polanski. Marshall followed up “Chicago” with the three-time Oscar winner “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and then the musical “Nine” in 2009, which earned 4 Oscar nominations. Marshall also directed Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep in the three-time nominee “Into the Woods” in 2015. All told, his five films have collected 26 Academy Award nominations and 9 wins.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are writing all new original music. Shaiman has five Oscar nominations for “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The American President,” “The First Wives Club,” and “Patch Adams.” And he co-wrote the infamous Original Song nominee “Blame Canada” from “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” The pair also earned Emmy nominations for two songs from the series “Smash” in 2012.
Marshall also reunites with cinematographer Dion Beebe, who won the Oscar for “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and was nominated for “Chicago.” Triple Oscar winner Sandy Powell designed the costumes. She was most recently double nominated for “Carol” and “Cinderella” in 2015. John Myhre is the production designer. He won the Oscars for “Chicago” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and was nominated for “Dreamgirls” and “Nine.”
The point is, there is a lot of talent on an off the screen. “Mary Poppins Returns” has plenty of reasons to succeed and a lot of people rooting for it. And Disney’s teaser trailer only helped fuel excitement.
WHY IT MAY NOT SUCCEED
Rob Marshall did very well with “Chicago,” but “Nine” and “Into the Woods” were both far less loved critically. “Into the Woods” fared better with audiences, but still wasn’t the huge theatrical hit everyone hoped it would be. Last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” from Bill Condon was a huge audience favorite, but wasn’t able to translate popularity into awards. This is important, because it proves that the academy will not blindly embrace a big studio musical just because it is popular. “The Greatest Showman” further proved that point. The question here is, Can Rob Marshall recapture the magic he found more than 15 years ago?
- Best Picture
- Best Director—Rob Marshall
- Lead Actress—Emily Blunt
- Lead Actor—Lin-Manuel Miranda (*Could go Supporting)
- Supporting Actress—Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Emily Mortimer
- Supporting Actor—Ben Whishaw
- Original Song
- Original Score
- Costume Design
- Makeup and Hairstyling
- Production Design
- Visual Effects