Fresh from its People’s Choice Award win at the Toronto Film Festival, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” received a rapturous reception at the London Film Festival. This Fox Searchlight release will unspool stateside on October 18 and is poised to be a major contender this Oscar season.
Waititi adapted Christine Leunens novel “Caging Skies.” He boldly added a layer of humor to her serious-minded story about a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) in Nazi Germany who has Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend. His script blends comedy and drama and is certain to figure in the Adapted Screenplay race at the Academy Awards. Waititi, who also directed, pulls triple duty by playing Hitler as well. His edgy portrayal of the dictator as a complete moron was a stand-out and could well reap him a third nomination. Indeed, you wish there were more scenes with him.
The evolving relationship between Jojo and the Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his house is fraught with tension that is resolved in a satisfying way. They both both merit mention on BAFTA’s Rising Star list. Could McKenzie or Griffin also join the young club of Oscar nominees?
Most recently, Quvenzhané Wallis earned herself a Best Actress nomination in 2013 for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee in history at the age of nine; she lost to Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook.” Lawrence herself was a young Best Actress nominee in 2011 for “Winter’s Bone” – she was 20, a year older than McKenzie – while Keisha Castle-Hughes was only 13 when she received her nomination for “Whale Rider” in 2004. Jackie Cooper was nominated for Best Actor at nine years old in 1931 for “Skippy,” while Mickey Rooney was 19 when he earned his nomination for “Babes in Arms” in 1940. Griffin was only nine when he had his first audition for the film.
There are genuinely moving moments throughout the film, especially those between Jojo and his mother (Scarlett Johansson). The actress, who has yet to contend at the Oscars, could be a double nominee this year for her supporting turn here and her starring role in “Marriage Story.”
As the disgruntled officer in charge of the Hitler youth, Sam Rockwell shines in another role that sees redemption for a flawed character and he may well reap his third consecutive Oscar nomination. Rebel Wilson and Alfie Allen steal scenes as his inept underlings, So too does Archie Yates as Jojo’s best friend and Stephen Merchant as the Gestapo officer in the film’s tensest scene, which is also its funniest.
Production designer Ra Vincent, who was nominated in 2013 for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” could well contend again. Mayes C. Rabeo‘s costuming is playful as well as artful. She’s never been nominated for an Oscar despite designing the costumes for “Avatar” (2010) and Waititi’s Marvel marvel “Thor: Ragnarok” (2018). Also looking for his first bid is cinematographer Minai Malamaire Jr. whose auburn-hued work gives the film a stylized look that befits its tone.
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are also a likely source of reward for this war movies. This genre tends to do well in these races, with many such films scoring bids for both sound categories including “Inglourious Basterds” (which also featured Hitler!) and “The Hurt Locker” (which won both) in 2010, “American Sniper” (won editing) in 2015, “Hacksaw Ridge” (won mixing) in 2017, and, most recently, “Dunkirk” (which won both) in 2018.
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.