Ever since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival in late August, “The Two Popes” has been steadily building a fanbase. Some pundits were looking forward to an acting showcase between two veterans and found so much more. Others had zero expectations and instead found something special. However they came to it, viewers have almost unanimously fallen hard for this movie. With it now in select theaters and headed to streaming later this month, it’s worth considering just how big an Academy Award contender this title is. The film is going to get some Oscar nominations, but can it wind up with wins as well?
Starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, the flick is described by Netflix this way:
An intimate story of one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the last 2,000 years. Frustrated with the direction of the church, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) requests permission to retire in 2012 from Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Pope Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Behind Vatican walls, a struggle commences between both tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, as these two very different men confront their pasts in order to find common ground and forge a future for a billion followers around the world. Inspired by true events.
Fernando Meirelles directs a screenplay from Anthony McCarten. Cinematography is by César Charlone, while Bryce Dressler handled the music. Hopkins and Pryce headline the cast, but supporting players include Sidney Cole, Juan Minujín, and more.
“The Two Popes” is one of the more critically acclaimed works of 2019. Back at Telluride, Clayton raved about it. His review included the following heavy praise:
Precisely and sensitively confronted by two affecting performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, on the easel of the year’s most spirited and lively scripts by Anthony McCarten, the film is an undeniable triumph that very few movies will be able to achieve this year.
There are two ways to look at this film. One way is to see it as a critical favorite that only factors in as a minor contender with the Academy Awards. The other, which most on this site believe, is that Academy members are going to embrace this one in a big way, especially above the line. That would bode well for the Picture itself, along with Hopkins, McCarten, and Pryce. At that point, would some below the line attention be too far removed from reality? If it gets those, wins for the aforementioned individuals get more and more likely.
The early precursors have given the movie a slight reality check. So far, it hasn’t picked up any prizes, after a strong festival run of placing or winning Audience Awards. This could mean nothing, or it could be an early sign of the flick falling through the cracks. Netflix is juggling a potential Oscar winning “The Irishman” and another top tier contender in “Marriage Story.” Arguably, the love for this one caught them by surprise, when it was expected to contend on a lower level, like “Dolemite Is My Name.” Perhaps this is just a regression towards where it was intended to be all along? We won’t fully know until the guilds chime in. They could either give the work a huge boost or really condemn it.
On AwardsCircuit’s December 3rd prediction updates, Clayton is quite bullish on “The Two Popes,” with the film showing up in a number of Academy Award categories. Above the line, it’s currently number five in Best Picture, seven in Best Director for Meirelles, number one in Best Actor, winning an Oscar for Pryce, number four in Best Supporting Actor for Hopkins, and winning Best Original Screenplay for McCarten (though watch out for it to go back to Adapted, pending a final decision). Below the line, we have it number four in Best Production Design, fifteen in Best Cinematography, six in Best Film Editing, and four in Best Makeup & Hairstyling. If that were to hold, that’s two wins and six nominations overall, a day that Netflix would likely be very pleased with.
It’s going to be rather tough to accurately predict what will happen with “The Two Popes” this season, beyond a potential win for McCarten in whichever Screenplay category his work is placed. There’s a scenario where the film gets a half dozen nominations and two wins. However, there’s a nightmare scenario where the script is the only citation and falls short of a victory. The truth probably resides somewhere in between, and that will be what the precursors will hopefully fill us in on. Netflix certainly has grand aspirations, but reality may end up getting in the way. Stay tuned!