Apple Takes on Netflix with First Oscar Slate: Tom Holland’s ‘Cherry,’ Sofia Coppola, and More

With the announcement that Apple Original Films has acquired worldwide rights to Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Cherry” in a deal reportedly worth north of $40 million, the streaming giant continues to build its first Oscar slate. Apple has announced an early 2021 release for “Cherry,” and the Russo Brothers have been touting star Tom Holland as an Oscar contender for much of 2020. Holland stars as an Army medic in Iraq who returns home suffering from PTSD and becomes addicted to opiates and heroin.

“I think it’s an Oscar-worthy performance,” Joe Russo said in April. “I think he is absolutely amazing in it. He gives a gut-wrenching performance. What he does to himself emotionally and physically is unbelievable. We haven’t seen an actor in a role like this in a while. The movie spans a decade, complemented by an epic performance. And one that I certainly hope will be in the Oscar conversation.”

“Cherry” reunites Holland with the Russo Brothers, who directed him as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame.” For the Russo Brothers, “Cherry” marks their first directorial effort since the record-breaking run of “Endgame” last summer. The script was co-written by Jessica Goldberg (“The Path”) and Angela Russo-Otstot (“The Shield”). Rising actress Ciara Bravo stars opposite Holland as his character’s wife.

Films that aim to be eligible for the 2021 Oscars have to be released by February 28, so expect “Cherry” to launch before that cut-off date. A buzzy premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival ahead of an early February streaming launch could be in the cards.

“Cherry” joins Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” and the Tom Hanks war thriller “Greyhound” as the narrative features in Apple’s inaugural Oscar slate. Coppola’s new film debuted at the New York Film Festival to positive reviews, but it’s a lighter affair for the Oscar-winning “Lost in Translation” screenwriter. Oscar voters haven’t nominated a Coppola effort since “Marie Antoinette” won Best Costume Design. Bill Murray’s well-reviewed “On the Rocks” performance might appeal more to the Golden Globes than the Oscars, but expect Apple to push the actor and Coppola’s original script for contention. A24 is opening “On the Rocks” in theaters October 2, followed by the Apple TV+ debut October 23.

“Greyhound,” written by Hanks and directed by Aaron Schneider, was released on Apple TV+ over the summer after the streamer picked up the movie from Sony Pictures amid the pandemic. While not expected to be an above-the-line contender, Apple could have success with “Greyhound” in the craft categories depending on how the rest of 2020 shakes out. War films are catnip to the sound branch (see “1917 earlier this year), and there’s a lack of big-scale studio contenders outside of “Tenet” right now. Upcoming tentpoles “No Time to Die,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” and “Dune” are likely to factor into the craft races, but there’s no guarantee these films stay on the release calendar.

Apple’s likeliest contender at the moment is Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s “Boys State,” which is in the running for Best Documentary. The film earned rave reviews out of Sundance 2020, where it was picked up in a joint deal by Apple and A24. IndieWire’s Oscar expert Anne Thompson lists “Boys State” as a frontrunner in the Best Documentary race along with Netflix’s “Crip Camp” and Amazon’s “Time.”

Netflix is expected to dominate the Oscars this year with contenders such as Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (confirmed to be a full blown contender), David Fincher’s “Mank,” Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” and George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Amazon also has Regina King’s acclaimed feature directorial debut “One Night in Miami,” which already has buzz for its performances and King’s direction.

Does Apple have what it takes to break into the Oscar race against heavyweight rivals such as Netflix and Amazon? The new streamer managed to do just that at the Emmys earlier this month, where Apple original “The Morning Show” picked up five nominations and won the prize for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series thanks to Billy Crudup’s performance. With “Cherry” now under its wings, Apple is getting ready to do the same at the Oscars.

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