Box Office Predictions: November 30-December 2

The box office weekend that follows the holiday Thanksgiving weekend in typically one of the slowest movie frames of the calendar year. The reasoning is pretty understandable: lots of families and others take the time on that long weekend to check out a movie, as evidenced by this year’s record breaking Turkey weekend.

The post-Thanksgiving weekend is usually not a time when studios unveil any major new releases. Their November blockbusters are still in their second or third weekends and their big Christmas releases are coming soon. This weekend will see only two studio releases: Brad Pitt’s crime thriller Killing Them Softly and the severely under marketed horror flick The Collection. 

Most Holiday holdovers will experience up to 50-60% drop-offs from the previous holiday weekend, if history stays true. This may leave a legitimate battle for the #1 spot this weekend between The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Skyfall. There is a good possibility that Lincoln and Life of Pi will experience smaller declines than the contenders for #1 and #2 and could sneak in to those spots, but it seems unlikely. And there’s the question of the animated feature Rise of the Guardians, which opened well below industry expectations last weekend. Will it continue to falter at the box office and or will parents and kids see it the second weekend around? I expect it will have a decline pretty similar to the other movies and not improve its standing as a box office disappointment.

Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, doesn’t seem to be generating a whole lot of enthusiasm, even though its reviews so far have been quite strong. I don’t know if its trailers will do much, however, to bring audiences out and I suspect it will open outside the Top 5 and struggle to open in double digits.

The Collection is a horror film that its studio doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of faith in and I predict it will bomb.

With all that context, here’s my predictions for the weekend:

1. The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn 2

Predicted Gross: $17.1 million (representing a drop of 61%)

2. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $16.7 million (representing a drop of 53%)

3. Lincoln

Predicted Gross: $15.4 million (representing a drop of 40%)

4. Life of Pi

Predicted Gross: $13 million (representing a drop of 42%)

5. Rise of the Guardians 

Predicted Gross: $12.8 million (representing a drop of 46%)

6. Killing Them Softly

Predicted Gross: $9.6 million

As far as the other release from last weekend, Red Dawn performed above expectations, but I will predict a pretty hefty drop at 58%, giving it a second weekend gross of $6 million.

There ya go, bloggers and blogettes. Sunday, I’ll bring you the real numbers!

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Oscar History: 1993

The Oscar race for Best Picture in 1993 was essentially over as soon as its winner that year was released: Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, the heart-wrenching Holocaust drama starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kinglsey, and Ralph Fiennes. Released to great reviews and solid box office, List won just about every movie award there was.

It’s certainly a deserving winner, no question. My experience with Schindler’s List is the following: I saw in the theater and haven’t seen it again. I’ve said many times in recent years that I want to watch it again, but let’s be honest – that’s the kind of movie you really have to dedicate your time to watching again. And also prepare yourself for its weighty subject matter. I remember how great it is and know Spielberg totally threw himself into researching that horrible time in history. It’s brilliant directed. Truth to be told, it’s also not a movie you want to view multiple times.

Obviously, the other four nominees didn’t stand a chance, but they were James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Just one year before, James Ivory’s Howards End with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson was nominated too. As I wrote in the Oscar History: 1992 blog post, I don’t remember much about Howards End. I recall a bit more about Remains, especially Hopkins’ fine performance as a repressed butler. Still, not gonna pretend I remember it well. If you’ve figured out Merchant-Ivory British costume dramas aren’t totally my cup of tea (get it?), you’d be correct.

Another nominee: Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father, a top-notch drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, and the late Pete Postlethwaite. Sheridan and Day-Lewis had teamed up in 1989 for My Left Foot, in which Day-Lewis won his first Oscar (of a soon-to-be-likely three). If you haven’t seen it, check it out to see yet another brilliant performance from its lead actor.

Jane Campion’s The Piano starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, and Anna Paquin was another nominee. I know it got rave reviews and Hunter’s performance is supposed to be spectacular, but I’ll get this one short: I haven’t seen it.

The fifth nomination was a bit unconventional: The Fugitive, based on the 1960s TV series. Starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive received rave reviews and did huge box office. That translated to some very rare Academy recognition for an action movie. It’s certainly a deserving pick and it’s one of my favorite action flicks in the last quarter century. It’s just a shame the Academy didn’t recognize some others that are even greater, like 1987’s Lethal Weapon and 1988’s Die Hard.

Having ran through the five nominees, it must be said that 1993 was a very solid year for movies. Since I haven’t seen The Piano, it’d be unfair to put something in its place (same could be said for Remains because I don’t remember it too well). But I’ll just list some other films I loved that year: Tony Scott’s True Romance. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. Brian DePalma’s Carlito’s Way. Wolfgang Peterson’s In the Line of Fire. Steve Zaillian’s Searching for Bobby Fischer. And if the Academy could make room for an action movie, I would argue they could have done something even more rare for them: nominate a comedy. And in 1993, one of my all-time favorites was released: Groundhog Day, which is easily in my Top Ten comedies ever.

Just as Best Picture was an obvious pick, Spielberg would win his first Golden Guy for Schindler. The other nominees included Jane Campion for The Piano, Jim Sheridan for In the Name of the Father, and James Ivory for Remains of the Day. It was Fugitive director Andrew Davis who was left out even though his movie was nominated. Instead, for the second year in a row, legendary director Robert Altman got nominated for Short Cuts. In 1992, he was nominated for The Player, even though the film was not.

In the Best Actor race, the Academy would honor what may be the greatest ever transition  for a comedic actor into dramatic territory: Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Starring as a brilliant lawyer who is diagnosed with AIDS and fired from his job, Philadelphia was a hot button movie that featured Hanks in his first “serious” role. We all knew he was great in funny movies, but Philadelphia proved he could do drama too. Sounds strange to say now since Hanks has stuck with the serious stuff for the most part for the last two decades, but it his performance really was a revelation in 1993.

The other four nominees: Hopkins in Remains of the Day, Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father, Neeson in Schindler, and Laurence Fishburne for his terrific portrayal of Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? Very strong group that year. I would’ve given strong consideration to the incomparable Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Also, while its Supporting Actor would win, Harrison Ford was the anchor that kept The Fugitive moving along. 

I mentioned I haven’t seen The Piano, but Holly Hunter’s portrayal of a mute who experiences repressed love (or something like that) would earn her the Gold, against Emma Thompson for Remains, Angela Bassett who was wonderful as Tina Turner in What’s Love…, Debra Winger in Shadowlands, and Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation.

As I hinted, Tommy Lee Jones would take Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive. It’s a great performance, but I wouldn’t have picked him. Maybe more than any other year I can recall – this category was amazing in 1993. The other four nominees all gave wonderful performances: John Malkovich for In the Line of Fire, Pete Postlethwaite for Name of the Father, Ralph Fiennes in Schindler, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Of those five, I probably would have gone with Fiennes. There were actually two other performances I might have made room for: Sean Penn’s amazing performance in Carlito’s Way and Val Kilmer’s unforgettable turn as Doc Holiday in Tombstone. 

For the second year in a row, a major upset would occur in the Best Supporting Actress race. The front runner was Winona Ryder for Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. If she didn’t win, it was expected to go to Rosie Perez for Peter Weir’s Fearless. The other nominees were Emma Thompson in Name of the Father and Holly Hunter for The Firm (great actress, but undeserving nominee for this role). The winner called that night: 11 year old Anna Paquin in The Piano. We all know her now from X-Men and “True Blood”, but her win truly was a shock, making her the second youngest winner ever after Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon (1973).

Another note: not only did Spielberg have immense Oscar success with List, he also directed the blockbuster Jurassic Park that year. Between Schindler and Jurassic, his two films in 1993 won a total of ten Oscars. Beside Picture and Direction, List would win for Adapted Screenplay, Score, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Editing. Jurassic would receive well-deserved awards for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects.

My Oscar history will continue soon with 1994, where one winner from 1993 would get more Oscar love and the Best Picture winner happened to be the surprise blockbuster of that year, even though two other films released that year are now held in higher regard. Stay tuned!

The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Six

When I last left you in Eddie Murphyland in my first Curious Case of series it was 2006 and Eddie was receiving raves for his first real dramatic performance in Dreamgirls, with his fantastic performance as a drug addicted soul singer.

Many Oscar watchers predicted he would win for Best Supporting Actor. But it wasn’t to be. Alan Arkin took home the statue for his role in Little Miss Sunshine. Many in Hollywood speculated that one part of the reason Murphy lost (when he was a front runner) was his Dreamgirls follow-up, which was released right around the time Academy members were casting their ballots: 2007’s Norbit.

With a screenplay credited partly to Eddie and his brother Charlie, Norbit has its star playing multiple characters and is clearly trying to capitalize on his Nutty Professor success. It was savaged by critics and maybe a little too harshly. It’s not a terrible film by any means – it has some funny moments, though it’s not exactly memorable. Part of the critical drubbing may have been due to the fact that those same critics saw what Eddie was capable of in Dreamgirls. Nevertheless, Norbit was a box office success, earning $95 million.

Eddie would have another box office success in the summer of 2007, voicing Donkey again in Shrek the Third. 

The summer of 2008 brought us Meet Dave, a comedy/sci fi flick geared towards families. It stars Eddie in a fish out of water tale as an alien who’s come to Earth with various characters living inside his “human form”. Sound weird and confusing? Yep, it is. And audiences didn’t know what to make of it – so they stayed away to disastrous box office results. Meet Dave made an awful $11 million, a little shy of its reported $60 million budget. Strangely enough, I actually thought Meet Dave was halfway decent (I’m in the minority on this one) and it does provide Murphy with some great moments of physical comedy.  Not his best by a long shot, but not his worst either.

2009’s family comedy Imagine That didn’t fair much better, earning only $16 million. This one stars Murphy as an overworked Dad whose daughter hears voices that provide him with great financial advice. Sound weird and confusing? Yep, it is. And unlike Meet Dave, this one is just pretty mediocre stuff.

Summer 2010 would bring Shrek Forever After, Murphy’s last time as the beloved Donkey. The wonderful reviews this series had received didn’t apply to the fourth entry, but it still managed to make a lot of money.

Murphy would actually shoot the movie A Thousand Words as his next project, starring as an overworked Dad (see a theme here?) who discovers he only has a thousand words left to say and then he’ll die. Sound weird and confusing? Yep, it is and it’s not too good either, save for a few funny moments. It only made $18 million.

The release date of A Thousand Words would be postponed until March 2012 however to coincide with Murphy hosting the Academy Awards, hoping that exposure would hopefully give Words exposure. Murphy was slated to host the 2011 Oscars, but ended up backing out when the show’s producer Brett Ratner was fired after making controversial comments in an interview.

Murphy agreed to host the show based on Ratner’s involvement, who directed him in a comeback movie of sorts: Tower Heist, released in November of last year. Billed as a return to Murphy being a wise-ass character like we saw in the 1980s, Heist boasts an all-star cast that includes Ben Stiller, Alan Alda, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, and Tea Leoni. And while Tower Heist is nowhere near as good as Murphy’s comedy classics, I thought it was a lot of fun. And it was especially fun seeing Eddie play a foul-mouthed jewel thief after seeing him play so many overworked Dads and donkeys over the past few years. Audience reaction was pretty strong too, with Heist pulling in $78 million.

Since that film’s release a year ago, Murphy is not currently attached to any projects. My hope is that he takes a break from family comedies, which he has hinted he will. I hope he starts working with more established directors, many of whom grew up worshiping him (as Heist director Ratner did). And I hope he tries to branch out with more dramatic roles, as Dreamgirls proved he could do well.

Recently, Spike TV ran a tribute to Murphy, with comedic actors like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, and others heaping praise on the star. He deserves it. Murphy is my favorite stand-up comedian of all time. His classics – 48 HRS, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America are some of the best comedic movies ever, with other near classics like The Nutty Professor and Bowfinger worth a second mention too. He should’ve won the Oscar for Dreamgirls. And his place in children’s animated features is certainly secure with Donkey. On top of all that, he is probably the greatest performer in the history of “Saturday Night Live”. Not bad, huh? Sure, he’s had his (pretty big) share of mediocre movies, but Murphy is a true comedic genius. He’s been brilliant a lot in movies. In other films, he seems bored. Murphy needs the material to match his immense talent and that hasn’t always been the case, to say the least. But when the material matches Murphy’s abilities, it’s something to behold.

And there we have it – close to 5000 words in this six-part series covering one of my favorite performers. I’ve enjoyed writing this series and revisiting Eddie’s career. I leave you with a clip from Delirious and Eddie’s amazing James Brown impression. Enjoy.

 

Oscar Update: 2 Films Change Everything

It’s been less than two weeks since I updated my predictions for the six major Oscar categories. Two events over the Thanksgiving holiday have solidified the standings of some and lessened the award possibilities for others: the first screenings of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.

Both films, especially Les Miserables, confirmed their standings as Best Picture contenders. I never really doubted it for Miserables, which I predicted for a nomination in my initial October 16th post. The Bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty has yet to make my Best Picture list in both of my posts. That has now changed.

Looking over my initial Best Picture predictions, I categorized them in four ways: Shoo-Ins, Strong Possibilities, Possible, and Long Shots. In this post, I will revisit the four categories. And as The Joker says, “Here we go!”:

Best Picture

Shoo-Ins

In October, I listed Argo and Lincoln. Still holds true. Today though, I am comfortable in adding two more shoo-ins: Les Miserables and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Both of those films were listed as strong possibilities in my first post. No longer – they’re in.

Strong Possibilities

How quickly things can change! In October, I wrote that Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was as close to a shoo-in without calling it that. This no longer holds true. A month and a half ago, I would’ve ranked it fourth (after Argo, Lincoln, Miserables) for its nomination chances. The film has really taken a dive in its chances. I still classify it as a Strong Possibility, but I will not be surprised if it is left out. With Miserables and Pi moving up to Shoo-In, the only other Strong Possibility I listed is David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. That still holds true and I expect it has a better chance than The Master. Moving from Possible to Strong Possibility is Zero Dark Thirty, which is said to be an epic telling of the U.S. hunt to kill the most wanted man in the world.

Possible

There are still three major films that haven’t screened: Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land. So they will remain in this category. I also listed Flight, which I predicted would get nominated originally. I no longer believe so. Both the Foreign film Amour and the indie drama Beasts of the Southern Wild also stand good chances and remain in this category. I also believe the Tsunami drama The Impossible could sneak in. As for the others I listed – Cloud Atlas, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Sessions – I now believe these three pictures stand zero chance of getting nominated and are now long shots at best. One film moving up from Long Shot to Possible: Skyfall, already the biggest 007 adventure ever. Probably won’t happen, but you never know.

Long Shots

Listed back in October: The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, The Hunger Games, Anna Karenina, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Nothing has changed here and none of these films are likely to be nominated. Another film has moved from Possible to Long Shot: Hitchcock, about the making of Psycho. Its reviews have simply not been good enough to think it has any real chance of making the list.

A few days ago, my predictions were Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Master, and Silver Linings Playbook. I now believe Zero Dark Thirty is in too. I also believe Amour and The Impossible are real possibilities and we’ll see if Hobbit or Django enter the fray when they screen very soon. I am about ready to take The Master out, but as of this moment I think it has enough support to stay.

So my current Best Picture predictions now stands at eight films:

ARGO

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

LES MISERABLES

LIFE OF PI

LINCOLN

THE MASTER

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

ZERO DARK THIRTY

Of course, I’ll keep on updating as things change so keep on reading, my friends.

 

 

Movie Perfection: Growing UP and Growing Old

For my third edition of the Movie Perfection series, I wanted to concentrate on a pair of scenes that not only embody Movie Perfection, but really came out of nowhere when I viewed the film I’m about to speak of.

When we watch a film of a certain genre, we come into it with certain expectations at the most elementary level. If it’s a comedy, we want to laugh. If it’s a big budget superhero movie, we want to be wowed by kick ass action scenes and maybe get some good character development in between. And so on and so forth.

Like most movie goers, the story of Pixar and their rapid ascension to kings of animated features has been a joy to watch. From the Toy Story series to Monsters Inc. to Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, this is the studio that seems to hit it out of the park every time. When we know the animated film is Pixar, we expect quality. We expect brilliant animation, a good story, fun characters, and even some moments of emotion (see Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo).

In 2008, Pixar seemed to up its game in many ways with Wall-E, a feature that seemed geared almost as much for adults as it was for their children. And there were emotional moments in that one, too.

But nothing – NOTHING – prepared me for Pixar’s follow-up to Wall-E, 2009’s Up. Let’s get this out of the way first – it’s my favorite Pixar feature. And I knew the reviews were wonderful (as they nearly always are with the company’s films). So when I rented Up shortly after its DVD release, I expected to be highly entertained.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional powerhouse that it was. And nothing shows this more than a montage early in the film that shows the lives of the film’s main character Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) and his wife Ellie. There are no words, just the beautiful musical score of Michael Giacchino (who has scored other Pixar features and the TV show “Lost”). Those few minutes of seeing these character’s lives set to that music threw me for a loop when I saw it. This sequence is for the adults in the audience. It’s about the love of two people. It’s about promises they’ve made to each other. It’s about how promises can be broken because regular life gets in the way. It’s about life not living up to the lofty expectations we make when we’re children. It’s about seeing your loved one’s health decline. It’s about life and death. It’s mature film making at its highest level. And it’s most emotional level.

The sequence of Carl and Ellie meeting as children, getting married, and growing old together is a beautiful sequence. And I won’t lie – my reaction to it did not involve dry eyes. The first time I saw it, I felt like a fool watching it, getting emotional about two animated characters. But we forget they’re animated characters while we’re watching it. That’s what great movies can accomplish. You forget you’re watching a movie and the emotions we feel remind us of times in our own lives and of people we know and love. That’s what Up does in that sequence better than almost anything else I’ve ever seen.

After that amazing musical sequence, we get into the plot of the movie, which involves Carl going on an amazing adventure with his balloon-powered home. The rest of the movie is fantastic.

Later in the movie, though, we return to the story of Carl and Ellie. In the sequence I’ve spoken of, we see The Adventure Book, where the couple are going to chronicle all their adventures all over the world. During most of the film after Ellie’s death, Carl can’t bring himself to look at it because of his intense disappointment in not going on those adventures he and his wife had dreamed of as children. When Carl finally takes a look at the book, he accidentally discovers that before her death, Ellie filled the book in with pictures of their life together. As Carl looks at the book and his eyes well up with tears, he recognizes that those pictures do show the adventures he and his late wife experienced together. And he finally realizes that Ellie was grateful to have such a loving husband in her life. As he looks at the Adventure Book, it closes with a handwritten note from her: “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own”. Emotional stuff that is handled brilliantly in the movie.

I am not someone who gets teary-eyed a lot during movies, but Up did the trick during both of those scenes… and have every time I’ve watched it since. In the years since I’ve seen it, I have definitely discovered I’m not the only one who had a similar reaction to that movie after talking with friends who sheepishly admit they teared up as well.

Up is Pixar’s masterpiece so far in my opinion and that’s saying a lot. That gorgeous score by Giacchino would win the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe. Up would be nominated for Best Picture. These sequences are the epitome of Movie Perfection. If you’ve seen Up, enjoy this YouTube video of the two sequences cut together. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Box Office Results: Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend 2012 will go down as the biggest Turkey Day frame in Hollywood history, with the majority of movies exceeding my forecasts, with one very notable exception.

I predicted that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 would remain at #1 and it did. However, it outperformed my forecast, grossing $64 million (I said $61.4M).

James Bond remained #2, with Skyfall grossing an astonishing $51 million in its third weekend (I only predicted $33.5M). Clearly, moviegoers were in the mood for 007 and I suspect some of it was repeat viewings. Already the highest grossing Bond film ever, expectations for 2014’s Bond will be high after the critical and audience smash that this one has become.

Lincoln had an incredible second weekend. Grossing $34.1 million over the five-day (I predicted $31.2M), Steven Spielberg’s drama has captured the love of audiences and is a frontrunner for Best Picture, along with Argo and probably Les Miserables.

The real suprise this weekend is the lackluster performance the animated Rise of the Guardians. Most analysts (including me) assumed it would open at #2 and perhaps even challenge Twilight for the top spot. It stumbled out of the gate – grossing $32.6 million over the frame. I predicted $53.8 million. There is no doubt that Guardians is subpar compared to most animated openings and it will need to have strong legs over the next few weekends. If not, it will surely be considered a major disappointment.

Opening strong at #5 is another Oscar contender, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which overperformed expectations as well. I predicted $24.4 million, but Pi grossed $30.2M. Expect it to have strong legs in the weeks ahead too.

Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph was sixth in its fourth weekend, grossing a better than expected $23 million, higher than my $18.5M forecast.

I was right about Red Dawn opening seventh, but it also performed way better than expected. The remake of the 1980s action flick grossed a solid $22 million, much higher than my $14 million prediction.

Finally, while I did not predict a gross for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, the Oscar contender performed well in its limited opening – #9, grossing $4.6 million on only 367 screens. Playbook will expand next weekend and could see solid results in the weeks ahead.

So there you have it – unless you’re Dreamworks who distributed Guardians – this was a great weekend for movie studios and a record-making Turkey Day weekend. I’ll post box office predictions on Thursday for next weekend!

Oscar History: 1992

And now a brand spanking new feature on my blog that will look back on certain years in Oscar history and review what won and was nominated, what wasn’t, and why.

We’ll start with 1992 – a year that brought one iconic actor some very overdue recognition, gave us a real surprise in the Supporting Actress category, and started the Academy recognition for another iconic director and actor that would continue over the next two decades.

In the Best Picture race, the film to beat was actually released in summer 1992: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, which received critical acclaim and was a huge box office hit.

Eastwood had not exactly been on a roll in 1992. Titles he directed and appeared recently before that included Pink Cadillac, an action comedy co-starring Bernadette Peters and the buddy cop flick The Rookie, with Charlie Sheen. Unforgiven marked a great achievement for Eastwood – a great Western with a wonderful cast that included Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris. Audiences responded well and the Academy saw it as their first real chance to honor the filmmaker.

Also nominated in the Best Picture race: Rob Reiner’s hit A Few Good Men, with an all-star that included Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Kiefer Sutherland. We all remember the final courtroom scene showdown between Cruise and Nicholson (I won’t bother quoting it – you couldn’t handle it). Released in December 1992 to decent reviews and huge box office, I won’t deny that Men is an intensely watchable film with some fine moments. However, I’ve always maintained that it’s a little bit overrated. Still, 1992 is a pretty weak year for movies, so it’s nomination is no big surprise and I do not strenuously object to its nomination.

On the British side, we have Jame Ivory’s Howards End with Anthony Hopkins (fresh off winning Best Actor in 1991 for some movie where played a cannibal) and Emma Thompson, based on E.M. Forster’s novel. I would love to share my thoughts on this picture, but truth be told, it’s been years since I’ve seen it and I don’t remember much about it. Rewatching the trailer – I kind of want to see it again and I’m sure the performances were terrific, but I’m not going to pretend I recall a whole lot about it.

A film that came out of nowhere in 1992 is Neil Jordan’s thriller The Crying Game, starring Neil Jordan, Jaye Davidson, Miranda Richardson, and Forest Whitaker. A top-notch thriller – it’s become famous for a twist in the second half that truly is shocking. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it (because you should), but it took the film in a totally unexpected direction that helped garner the attention paid to it. Shocking twist aside, The Crying Game, along with Unforgiven, deserved its Academy recognition.

The same cannot be said, in my humble opinion, for the fifth nominee – Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino stars as a blind Army colonel who gives his new aide (Chris O’Donnell) a hard time and in the process they learn about life and stuff. Pacino also has a now famous tango scene. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but Scent of a Woman didn’t have much of an impact on me and it, unfortunately, helped start a little down slide in the great Pacino’s career where he overacted way too much.

Those were the five nominees in 1992. Unforgiven was the clear frontrunner at the time and it won, as did Eastwood for his directing. Other directing nominees were Martin Brest for Scent, James Ivory for Howards End, and Neil Jordan for Crying Game. Rob Reiner’s direction in A Few Good Men was not nominated. Instead, the fifth slot went to Robert Altman for The Player, a biting satire of Hollywood that is one on my favorite features of 1992 and should ha received a Best Picture nomination.

What else could’ve or should’ve been Best Picture contenders in 1992? Many would say Spike Lee’s biopic Malcolm X. Or Glengarry Glen Ross, a terrific film adaptation of David Mamet’s play. Or how about Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day-Lewis? Also, Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It. 1992 also marked Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which in a perfect world, should’ve been nominated. Another favorite of mine from that year is George Miller’s Lorenzo’s Oil, starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as the parents of a boy with a rare disease. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s great.

In the Best Actor race, the Academy would finally give Pacino his gold statue. It’s unfortunate that his only Oscar win came for something as unspectacular as Scent. He definitely should’ve won in 1974 for The Godfather – Part II, instead of Art Carney in Harry and Tonto. He also should’ve won Supporting Actor in 1972 for the original Godfather. I’ll forgive him not winning in 1975 for Dog Day Afternoon because I think Jack Nicholson was equally deserving for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His 1992 win is clearly an example of the Academy honoring someone for their body of work and not necessarily the particular film. His competition that year: Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and Denzel Washington (Malcolm X). Many thought Denzel was the actor who deserved it. I probably would’ve found room for Day-Lewis in Mohicans and Nolte in Lorenzo’s Oil among the five as well and perhaps Tim Robbins in The Player.

Emma Thompson would win Best Actress for Howards End, over Catherine Deneuve in Indochine, Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish, Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field, and Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo’s Oil. Pretty weak category that year and I can’t really think of anyone left off who was totally deserving.

The Supporting Actor category would reward Gene Hackman for his terrific performance in Unforgiven. Other nominees: Jaye Davidson in Crying Game, Jack Nicholson in Few Good Men, Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross, and David Paymer for Mr. Saturday Night. I definitely would’ve left Nicholson and Paymer off the list and replaced them with two more actors in Glengarry Glen Ross: Jack Lemmon (who is the heart and soul of that great movie) and Alec Baldwin, who only has one scene in it, but it’s so fantastic that I would’ve given him a nomination.

The Supporting Actress category would have a foreign feel to it. The nominees: Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, Joan Plowright in Enchanted April, Vanessa Redgrave in Howards End, and Miranda Richardson in Damage. But it’s the winner that shocked Hollywood: Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. First off, the Academy hardly ever nominates peformers in comedies so Tomei’s nomination was rare. For her to win over that group of actresses though? Shocking. So shocking that there’s been conspiracy theories in Hollywood that Jack Palance (the elderly actor who presented the category) read the wrong name on stage. Probably not true, but Tomei winning is a true Academy surprise. I thought Vinny was a watchable, though completely unremarkable comedy and her performance was good, but Oscar worthy? In that category, I probably would’ve found room for Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns.

 

So that’s 1992 – a good year for Eastwood and Pacino but a pretty blah year for movies in general. 1993 would be a definite improvement, even if that Best Picture race ended when its winner was released. Stay tuned.

Box Office Predictions: Thanksgiving Weekend

The long Thanksgiving weekend is always a huge box office weekend and 2012 looks to be no exception – with the second week of Twilight and Lincoln, the third weekend of Skyfall, and the debut of three new titles – Rise of the Guardians, Life of Pi, and Red Dawn.

It’s certainly a crowded marketplace and not everything can do great, can it? For The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the film did not set the all-time Twilight opening record this past weekend, but still managed the eighth biggest debut of all time. To determine how it will hold up over the five-day turkey weekend, there is certainly precedence. Both New Moon and last year’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened in the mid-November weekend prior to Thanksgiving and both of those titles dropped approximately 70% during the holiday time frame. There is very little reason to suspect the final Twilight won’t follow a very similar trajectory.

That will probably be enough for the vampire saga to remain #1 at the box office, but it does face serious competition from the new Dreamworks animated feature Rise of the Guardians, which features Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy as an Avengers type team (pretty cool concept, I must admit). With Wreck-It-Ralph now in its fourth weekend, kids should be primed for something else to drag their parents to. Guardians has received positive reviews and looks to have an impressive debut.

There could be a real battle for #3 between 007, Abe Lincoln, and Pi. Skyfall had a much smaller drop than its predecessor Quantum of Solace and its five-day gross might not be dramatically lower than its low-40s gross over the weekend.

Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee and receiving Oscar buzz, is based on a well-loved book whose readers might make a trip to the theater this weekend. Pi is similar to Argo and Lincoln in the sense that its opening may not be mind-blowing, but it could have strong legs in the weeks ahead into Academy Awards season.

The real curiosity this weekend is Lincoln. It got off to a fantastic start with $21 million over the weekend on a relatively small number of screens. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I believe Lincoln has the real possibility of grossing quite a bit more over the Thanksgiving frame than its initial weekend. For one, it just seems like the type of film that families may go see over the break. I need look no further than my own – where my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and I are planning a Friday trip to see it. Secondly, Lincoln is bound to capitalize on its terrific response from audiences this past weekend – it received a Cinemascore grade of “A”. Those who’ve seen it are telling their friends to see it – trust me, I know.

Finally, this weekend brings us the debut of Red Dawn, a remake of a 1980s cult classic. The film was shot a couple of years ago and shelved due to MGM’s financial difficulties. It does feature well-known stars Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), but the reviews have been negative and the field may simply be too crowded for this to do any big business.

With all that as context, here are my predictions for box office grosses from Wednesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 25:

1. The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 

Predicted Gross: $61.4 million

2. Rise of the Guardians

Predicted Gross: $53.8 million

3. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $33.5 million

4. Lincoln

Predicted Gross: $31.2 million

5. Life of Pi

Predicted Gross: $24.4 million

6. Wreck-It-Ralph

Predicted Gross: $18.5 million

7. Red Dawn

Predicted Gross: $14 million

There they are and I’ll post the updates on actual grosses Sunday night. In the meantime, I’m looking to post some new blog material over the holiday weekend! And thanks to those of you who have “liked” this blog’s new Facebook page. Please know that I “like” you all too!!

Box Office Results (Weekend of November 16-18)

No one doubted that we were going to see a huge weekend at the box office and we did. On Thursday, I made my weekly box office predictions. For three of the four pictures, I overestimated a bit. For the other, I underestimated (hint: 16th President).

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 was gunning for a Top Ten All-Time opening and it achieved that. The film opened to $141.3 million, good for the eighth best opening of all time and fourth best of 2012, behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games. However, it did not achieve the distinction of highest Twilight opening ever, which still belongs to New Moon at $142.8 million. This is a bit of a surprise, as most analysts (including this blogger) figured it would have the biggest opening in the franchise. I (over) predicted a gross of $153.8 million.

It’s hard to say a $141.3 million opening is disappointing and it’s truly not. It’s just a bit below a lot of projections, including my own. The final Harry Potter film easily had the greatest opening in its series, so it stood to reason that the last adventure of Edward, Bella, and Jacob would too. But it wasn’t to be.

I predicted Skyfall would fall 51% in its second weekend. It dropped slightly more – 53% – for a second week gross of $41.5 million. That’s still a terrific holdup, considering steep competition and the fact that the last Bond, Quantum of Solace, dropped 60% in its second frame. Even more impressively, Skyfall is already the highest grossing 007 picture ever worldwide. Amazing.

I wrongly predicted Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph would be #3 this weekend and drop only 36%. It dropped more (45%) and grossed $18.3 million in its third weekend. Ralph is a major hit for Disney, though.

Other than Twilight having an all-time Top Ten debut, the other major story this weekend is Lincoln. I predicted a #4 debut with a gross of $18.1 million. That gross would’ve been considered very good, since its playing on a relatively low number of screens and is expected to do well not just on its opening weekend, but for the weekends to come. It outperformed my expectations and most others, opening third to $21 million. This is a fantastic opening. It received a grade of “A” from Cinemascore (audience polls), indicating it’s got a wonderful road ahead. I’ll avoid making the Lincoln/theater joke because you’ll see that everywhere else. What this means is that Lincoln and Argo are locked in a serious competition for what will win Best Picture (as I’ve mentioned before, Les Miserables could join that list too). Lincoln is bound to hold up very well over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ll be making next weekend’s predictions likely on Tuesday this week, since the new releases open Wednesday due to the holiday weekend. Stay tuned.