Rian Johnson‘s new film “Knives Out” is being hailed by critics for making merry with the murder mystery genre. The family patriarch (Christopher Plummer) is offed with suspicion falling on his extended family (Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Michael Shannon). A detective arrives to find the killer.
Daniel Craig plays Johnson’s version of Hercule Poirot, Benoit Blanc, with a deep-fried Southern accent. The actor has a blast playing somebody much more eccentric, interesting, and entertaining than the bland character of Bond. This sort of scene-stealing performance is often rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination: Sam Rockwell in “Vice” (last year); Edward Norton “Birdman” (2015); Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2014); Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle” (also 2014); and Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder” (2009) are the most recent examples.
Craig’s performance is transformative, a far cry from 007. With his flourishes of flamboyance, he is the polar opposite of the ice cold 007. Critics have singled out this English actor for his portrayal of a Southern sleuth. The actors’ branch may embrace this change of pace from Craig – who has never been nominated before.
Original Screenplay also seems like a natural nomination for this film, with Johnson writing his own script as well as directing. However, the murder-mystery genre actually doesn’t fare well when it comes to writing awards. That’s despite such films featuring colorful characters, zinging dialogue, and mind-boggling plotting full of twists and turns.
Not even the excellently-reviewed “Gone Girl” (2015, adapted by Gillian Flynn from her own novel) or “The Hateful Eight” (2016, written by Quentin Tarantino) reaped bids. You have to go back to 2001’s “Gosford Park” (written by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes) for the last murder-mystery film to be nominated in either of the screenplay categories; it won the original race.
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Costume designer Jenny Eagen (Emmy-nominated for 2015’s “Olive Ketteridge”) created lavish looks that really add to each character. She used vibrant colours to represent each in turn while also paying homage to the famously colorful sleuths of Clue.
And production designer David Crank (Emmy winner for 2008’s “John Adams”) has created a detailed mansion here full of trick windows, ornaments, and richly-designed rooms – truly like Clue come to life – so he could be up for an Oscar, too.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.