Awards Profile 2019: Taika Waititi’s ‘Jojo Rabiit’ from Fox Searchlight Pictures

First still from the set of WW2 satire, JOJO RABIT. (From L-R): Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has dinner with his imaginary friend Adolf (Writer/Director Taika Waititi), and his mother, Rosie (Scarlet Johansson). Photo by Kimberley French. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Jojo Rabbit”

DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight Pictures
DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi
PRODUCERS: Taika Waititi, Carthew Neal, Chelsea Winstanley
WRITERS: Taika Waititi
CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant
SYNOPSIS: A World War II satire about a ten-year-old boy who, ridiculed by his peers and misunderstood by his mother, can’t quite figure out how to fit in. As the naïve young German struggles to understand his place in an increasingly Fascist regime, he resorts to an imaginary friend ([Adolf Hitler], to be played by Taika) who can offer advice and help him cope. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: To be announced, 2019

Potential Highlights:

Best Adapted Screenplay is the film’s best chance at an Oscar nomination (the film is based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens).  Nominations in the two Best Screenplay categories will often feature at least one comedic entry like “The Disaster Artist” or “The Lobster.” If “Jojo Rabbit” makes it in, it will probably be in that vein. And like those films, realistically, that would likely be its only nomination.

However, is it possible that this will land Scarlett Johansson her first Oscar nomination? With lauded performances in everything from Sofia Coppola’sLost In Translation” to Woody Allen’sMatch Point,” she has been in the Oscar conversation multiple times but has thus far been unable to break through. Could this be her year?

The film also stars Thomasin McKenzie and Sam Rockwell in supporting roles. McKenzie’s breakthrough role in last year’s “Leave No Trace” left her just short of an Oscar nomination. With this movie and Netflix’s “The King,” McKenzie will likely receive a decent amount of attention. And Rockwell has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor each of the last two years, including a win for 2018’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Three consecutive Oscar nominations are rare, but they do happen. Most recently, Bradley Cooper accomplished the feat for “Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle” and “American Sniper.”

Potential Challenges:

The biggest question surrounding Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” is “huh?” Any time your movie is going to offer a humorous take on Hitler, people are likely to have questions. Time will tell how successful the film will be at answering those questions. But some have pointed to one of his previous directorial efforts, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” as indicative of the tone he might try to strike with this effort. Though that move was a critical success, it did not figure into any awards conversations.

Taika Waititi is perhaps best known as the director of 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” Traditionally, being known for work outside the Academy’s wheelhouse has held people back, but we did just see the writer and director of “Dumb and Dumber,” Peter Farrelly, win Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. The awards chances of everyone involved will likely rise and fall on the success of the film.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Lead Actress (Scarlett Johansson)
  • Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell)
  • Supporting Actress (Thomasin McKenzie)
  • Adapted Screenplay (Taika Waititi)

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Best Adapted Screenplay (WGA)
  • Best Lead Actress (Golden Globes): HFPA loves to include famous names like Scarlett Johansson even when their work is otherwise going unrecognized like Charlize Theron in “Tully” and Nicole Kidman in “Destroyer” last year.

Are you excited or skeptical about Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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