Oscar Watch: The Banker Bounced

The AFI Film Festival is ongoing and it serves as the final opportunity for releases to stake their claim for Oscar consideration in the fest format. George Nolfi’s The Banker had been selected to close the proceedings tomorrow evening. Not only was this a chance for it to enter into awards chatter, but it’s also among the first feature films that will be shown on Apple TV’s new streaming service. In other words, while Netflix looks to have a banner 2019 when it comes to various contenders like The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, and Dolemite Is My Name – this picture marks a way for Apple TV to get into the game.

However, the surprise announcement came this afternoon that AFI organizers are pulling its gala screening. Details are rather scarce as reports indicate there’s potential allegations surfacing about a member of the family played by Anthony Mackie’s character. Expect those details to be fleshed out in short order. Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson star in this true tale of two African American businessmen in the 1960s. Costars include Nicholas Hoult, Nia Long, Jessie Usher, and Colm Meaney.

The Banker is scheduled for a December 6th theatrical release prior to Apple’s streaming rollout early next year. That early December slot put in contention for nominations and now its release at this juncture now appears to be in doubt. I was planning to do an Oscar Watch post on it by the end of the week, but it looks like that’s in the vault for the foreseeable future. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Knives Out Box Office Prediction

In his first feature since dividing audiences and critics with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson has come up with a comedic whodunit in Knives Out. The pic debuted at the Toronto Film Festival back in September and critics have pointed it out as a winner. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 97%. Daniel Craig leads a cast of familiar faces including Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Rolling out over the long Thanksgiving holiday (with previews scheduled for this Friday to build anticipated word of mouth as an audience pleaser), Knives hopes to generate a #2 debut behind the second weekend of Frozen II. It will likely compete with the sophomore frame of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and perhaps Ford v Ferrari for that distinction.

I believe this should serve as a solid option for adults over the Turkey Day period. A start in the mid to high teens for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion and mid 20s for the five-day looks probable. That doesn’t get it near the $28 million earned two years ago in November by Murder on the Orient Express. However, if moviegoers enjoy what they see, Knives should succeed in avoiding sharp declines in the weekends ahead.

Knives Out opening weekend prediction: $16.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $24.9 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

It Chapter Two Movie Review

It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.

In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.

On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.

Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.

Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.

The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.

**1/2 (out of four)

November 22-24 Box Office Predictions

There’s no doubt that Disney will rule the box office in this pre Thanksgiving frame as Frozen II blasts into theaters along with Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Chadwick Boseman in the action thriller 21 Bridges. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:




For the sequel to the 2013 billion dollar plus phenomenon, it’s all about the number and how high I’m willing to let it go (my apologies). Estimates are all over the map with some in the $150 million plus range. That wouldn’t exactly be a shock, but I’m a bit skeptical it reaches that vicinity. Some families may wait until the long holiday weekend. My forecast puts it about $6 million ahead of what Toy Story 4 accomplished over the summer.

The real battle could be for #2 between Neighborhood and the second frame of Ford v Ferrari. The latter debuted at the top of its anticipated range and scored a scorching A+ Cinemascore grade. The second weekend drop could be minimal and put it in the high teens range. That’s just where I expect the neighborhood for Beautiful to be and I’ll give it the slight edge.

Bridges is lacking buzz despite the presence of Black Panther and my high single digits projection puts it in fourth with Playing with Fire rounding out the top five in its third weekend.

Here’s my take on how I see it playing out:

1. Frozen II

Predicted Gross: $126.7 million

2. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 

Predicted Gross: $18.6 million

3. Ford v Ferrari 

Predicted Gross: $18.2 million

4. 21 Bridges 

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million

5. Playing with Fire 

Predicted Gross: $4.9 million

Box Office Results (November 15-17)

As mentioned, Ford v Ferrari had a rock solid showing and gave Disney its first #1 opening for a Fox owned property. The Oscar hopeful zoomed off with $31.4 million, ahead of my $24.4 million prediction. Expect sturdy holds in the weeks ahead.

An unexpected pileup happened for second place as Midway edged competitors out with $8.5 million. It didn’t reach my $10.2 million forecast and has taken in $34 million in two weeks.

Third place went to perhaps the story of the weekend as Charlie’s Angels absolutely tanked with a paltry $8.3 million, well under my projection of $14.2 million. It’s yet another example of serious 2019 franchise fatigue.

Playing with Fire was fourth and it also made $8.3 million. My guess? $8.3 million! Hey, I got something right! It’s at $25 million after ten days.

Last Christmas was fifth with $6.4 million (I said $7 million) for $22 million overall.

Finally, newcomer The Good Liar was seventh with just $5.6 million, in range with my take of $6 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

2019 Oscar Predictions: November 18th Edition

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. Marriage Story (PR: 4)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 5)

6. 1917 (PR: 7)

7. Little Women (PR: 6)

8. Joker (PR: 10)

9. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

10. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. Bombshell (PR: 9)

12. The Farewell (PR: 12)

13. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 13)

14. Rocketman (PR: 14)

15. Waves (PR: 15)

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

3. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 2)

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 4)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 6)

7. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 8)

8. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

9. Todd Phillips, Joker (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Lulu Wang, The Farewell

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 1)

2. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

3. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 3)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 4)

5. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

7. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 7)

8. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 8)

9. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 9)

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 5)

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 6)

7. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 8)

8. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 7)

9. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

10. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: 3)

3. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 2)

4. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 4)

5. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 6)

7. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 5)

8. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

9. Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 2)

3. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

4. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 3)

5. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 6)

7. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 7)

8. Song Kang-Ho, Parasite (PR: 8)

9. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 10)

10. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 9)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. Little Women (PR: 3)

4. The Two Popes (PR: 4)

5. Joker (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 5)

7. Just Mercy (PR: 7)

8. Richard Jewell (PR: 8)

9. Hustlers (PR: 10)

10. Downton Abbey (PR: 9)

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Pain and Glory (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bombshell (PR: 6)

7. Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Booksmart (PR: 7)

9. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

10. Waves (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Honey Boy

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. Parasite (PR: 1)

2. Pain and Glory (PR: 2)

3. Les Miserables (PR: 3)

4. And Then We Danced (PR: 7)

5. Beanpole (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Invisible Life (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Atlantics (PR: 4)

8. Monos (PR: 6)

9. Those Who Remained (PR: 9)

10. A White, White Day (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:


Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Toy Story 4 (PR: 1)

2. Frozen II (PR: 2)

3. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PR: 3)

4. I Lost My Body (PR: 4)

5. Weathering with You (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Abominable (PR: 6)

7. Missing Link (PR: 7)

8. Klaus (PR: 9)

9. Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (PR: 8)

10. Funan (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Spies in Disguise

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. American Factory (PR: 1)

2. One Child Nation (PR: 2)

3. The Cave (PR: 3)

4. Honeyland (PR: 7)

5. Apollo 11 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Maiden (PR: 4)

7. The Biggest Little Farm (PR: 6)

8. Sea of Shadows (PR: 10)

9. The Edge of Democracy (PR: 9)

10. Knock Down the House (PR: 8)

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

3. The Irishman (PR: 2)

4. The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

5. Joker (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ad Astra (PR: 8)

7. A Hidden Life (PR: 7)

8. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

9. Parasite (PR: 9)

10. Little Women (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Marriage Story

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 5)

3. Downton Abbey (PR: 2)

4. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 4)

5. Rocketman (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. The Aeronauts (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

9. Cats (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Judy (PR: 7)

Dropped Out:



Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 2)

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

4. 1917 (PR: 6)

5. Parasite (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Marriage Story (PR: 5)

7. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

8. Bombshell (PR: 7)

9. Joker (PR: 9)

10. Rocketman (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Avengers: Endgame

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bombshell (PR: 1)

2. The Irishman (PR: 2)

3. Judy (PR: 3)

4. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

5. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joker (PR: 7)

7. Us (PR: 10)

8. The Aeronauts (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 8)

10. Cats (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


The Two Popes 

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 3)

3. The Irishman (PR: 2)

4. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

5. 1917 (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Parasite (PR: 5)

7. Joker (PR: 9)

8. Cats (PR: 7)

9. Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

10. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Aeronauts

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Little Women (PR: 2)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Joker (PR: 5)

5. Marriage Story (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

7. A Hidden Life (PR: 7)

8. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

9. The Aeronauts (PR: 9)

10. Ad Astra (PR: 10)

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II (PR: 1)

2. “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman (PR: 2)

3. “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats (PR: 4)

4. “Stand Up” from Harriet (PR: 3)

5. “Spirit” from The Lion King (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. “Daily Battles” from Motherless Brooklyn (PR: 7)

7. “Speechless” from Aladdin (PR: 6)

8. “Show Yourself” from Frozen II (PR: Not Ranked)

9. “Together From Afar” from How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PR: 9)

10. “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4 (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

“I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough 

Best Sound Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 2)

2. 1917 (PR: 1)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Ad Astra (PR: 5)

5. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Rocketman (PR: 6)

7. The Irishman (PR: 8)

8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 7)

9. Cats (PR: 9)

10. The Aeronauts (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Richard Jewell

Best Sound Mixing

Predicted Nominees:

1. 1917 (PR: 1)

2. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 2)

3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 3)

4. Rocketman (PR: 4)

5. Ad Astra (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 5)

7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 7)

8. Cats (PR: 8)

9. Joker (PR: 10)

10. Judy (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Irishman

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PR: 2)

3. Avengers: Endgame (PR: 4)

4. The Lion King (PR: 3)

5. The Aeronauts (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ad Astra (PR: 6)

7. Gemini Man (PR: 7)

8. Alita: Battle Angel (PR: 9)

9. Aladdin (PR: Not Ranked)

10. 1917 (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:


And that equates to the following features obtaining these numbers come nomination time:

10 Nominations

The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 

8 Nominations


7 Nominations

Little Women, Marriage Story

5 Nominations

Joker, Parasite

4 Nominations

Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Two Popes

3 Nominations

Bombshell, Rocketman

2 Nominations

Ad Astra, Avengers: Endgame, Dolemite Is My Name, Frozen II, Harriet, Judy, The Lighthouse, The Lion King, Pain and Glory

1 Nomination

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Aeronauts, American Factory, And Then We Danced, Apollo 11, Beanpole, Cats, The Cave, Downton Abbey, The Farewell, Honeyland, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hustlers, I Lost My Body, Les Miserables, One Child Nation, Toy Story 4, Weathering with You

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Movie Review

Based upon Alvin Schwartz’s three horror short tale collections from the 1980s and early 1990s (with some celebrated illustrations by Stephen Gammell), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has caught the attention of Guillermo del Toro. He has, of course, turned his monster material into Oscar winning work. Mr. del Toro didn’t direct this and he shares a producer and story credit. However, this reminds one of Steven Spielberg’s output at the time when Schwartz’s works were originally being released. Films like Poltergeist, Gremlins, and The Goonies came from other filmmakers, but they might as well have been made by Spielberg because his fingerprints are all over them. Andre Øvredal directed this and he’s proved his genre chops previously with effective material like The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Yet you get the feeling this is del Toro’s vision through and through.

Set in 1968 when political upheaval and the Vietnam War were true scary stories of their own, this brings us to a small Pennsylvania town in a year where Night of the Living Dead is just out. Teenage Stella (Zoe Colletti) is obsessed with the living dead as a horror enthusiast and aspiring writer. Her seemingly only friends are Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) and the trio gets their kicks by playing Halloween themed pranks on the school bullies. They are soon joined in this quest by drifter Ramon (Michael Garza), who appears to be living out of his car. Their exploits lead them to an alleged haunted house once lived in by the wealthy and mysterious Bellows family. Their daughter Sarah was a writer like Stella. The difference is that Sarah’s writing hasn’t stopped after death and her words describe the PG-13 horror antics that follow.

This plot line allows for a small number of Schwartz’s old tales to come to life. And the CG creature effects due to that are as solid as we’d expect from anything with del Toro’s name attached. A couple of sequences radiate with a ghoulish vibe that impresses. Those moments are scary, but there’s not a lot of them. The screenwriters occasionally bring the turbulent late 1960s happenings to the mix, but that feels a bit clumsy and tacked on as they don’t really commit to it.

Instead we have a novel concept from source material of anthological form. Perhaps Sarah and Schwartz’s short stories could have worked a little better had this been adapted into a series on Netflix or another streaming service. After all, it’s probably Stranger Things and its retro goldmine of success that sped up the green light here. There’s no doubt that the those involved (particularly one) have deep affection for what they’re adapting. Despite its moments, it’s the format that’s limiting.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Klaus

2019 is shaping up to be the breakout year for Netflix when it comes to awards visibility with legitimate Best Picture contenders like The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. A smaller story is that it might have a contender in the Animated Feature race with the just released Yuletide comedy Klaus. It comes from director Sergio Plablos, who’s best known for creating the Despicable Me franchise. The voice cast includes Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm Macdonald.

In order to nab a nomination, Klaus looks to compete for the fourth or fifth slot as I believe three are already spoken for by higher profile theatrical release sequels – Toy Story 4 (the front runner), Frozen II, and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Other efforts vying for those slots include Weathering with You, I Lost My Body, Missing Link, Abominable, and (perhaps) the yet to be released Spies in Disguise. 

The pic currently sports a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s actually higher than the number (82%) for Frozen II. Yet Disney should have little trouble getting that about to be massive blockbuster in the mix.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t count Klaus out, but competition is significant. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…