Oscar Watch: The Imitation Game

Another day, another potential Oscar contender to discuss on the blog. This time it’s The Imitation Game from the Weinstein Company, which had its world premiere this weekend at the Telluride Film Festival and opens domestically November 21. The film is a biopic of Alan Turing, known for cracking Nazi codes during World War II and, based on early buzz, the man playing Turing is receiving the most awards talk.

That would be Benedict Cumberbatch, best known to viewers as TV’s “Sherlock” and pictures including Star Trek Into Darkness and 12 Years a Slave. He has yet to receive an Oscar nomination, though it could certainly change based on initial reviews of his work here. Cumberbatch joins a Best Actor race that already seems ultra competitive (just like last year) and I’ll have my first predictions in that race on the blog tomorrow.

The Imitation Game could potentially be a player in the Picture, Director (Morten Tyldum), and Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley) categories. The Weinstein studio is better than any other at generating Oscar buzz for their works. Yet Telluride gave the biggest boost to Cumberbatch and he’s a likely name to be seen when nominations are announced early next year.

The Identical Box Office Prediction

The weekend after Labor Day is often the slowest box office frame of the entire year and 2014 stands an excellent chance at keeping that tradition going. There is only one new release opening wide Friday and it’s not a very high profile one – The Identical, a musical drama that will attempt to bring in faith-based audiences. I’m highly skeptical that it will. The decades spanning period piece imagines that Elvis Presley’s identical twin does not die during childbirth and grows up unaware of his famous lineage while struggling to forge his own music career.

The Identical has some recognizable faces in supporting roles, including Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pantoliano. Real life Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne is in the title role. Marketing for the pic has seemed minimal and it opens on a low numbers of screens (approximately 1450). Being the only newbie in town next weekend, it seems destined for a bad opening well behind holdovers Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Identical opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million

Todd’s Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Today we’ve arrived at day 3 of my first round of Oscar predictions and that means Best Actress is on deck. If you missed my early calls for the Supporting categories, you can read them here:



We’ll get to Actor, Director, and Picture soon enough – but for now, here’s my list of my current Actress predictions with other possibilities also listed. In my original Actress predictions in 2013, I yielded four of the five eventual nominees, so we’ll see if that holds true here, too!

Let’s get to it!

Todd’s Early Predictions for Best Actress

Amy Adams, Big Eyes

Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Reese Witherspoon, Wild


Other Possibilities:

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Julianne Moore, Map to the Stars

Hilary Swank, The Homesman

Mia Wasikowska, Tracks

Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars

Best Actor will be up tomorrow!

Oscar Watch: Wild

Last year, Jean-Marc Vallee directed two actors to Oscar wins – Matthew McConaughey for Actor and Jared Leto for Supporting Actor in Dallas Buyer’s Club. In 2014, history could repeat itself with the difference being Vallee potentially helming two actresses to Academy glory. The film is Wild and the actresses are Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. Wild tells the true story of a woman who hikes the over thousand mile Pacific Coast Trail by herself.

The picture recently premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and it opens domestically December 5. Early reviews are very positive, especially for Witherspoon. As you may recall, she won Best Actress some nine years ago in Walk the Line. Since then, decent roles for Reese have been few and far between and Wild is likely to be considered a comeback movie (something Hollywood loves).

Based on early buzz, it’s hard to imagine Witherspoon not being nominated in the Actress category. Whether or not Wild gets recognized for Picture, Director, or Dern’s lauded work in the Supporting Actress race remains to be seen. Yet the pic’s festival debut has definitely given us our first nearly surefire name for Best Actress.

Todd’s Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

We’ve arrived at Day #2 of my first Oscar predictions covering the films of 2014. If you missed my post yesterday on Best Supporting Actress, you may find it here:


For round 1 of my predictions, I’m just listing my current five predictions, along with other possibilities in races that are just beginning to take shape. Let’s get to Best Supporting Actor, shall we? I will note that my inaugural 2013 picks done around the same time last year correctly yielded 2 of the 5 eventual nominees.

Todd’s Early Predictions for Best Supporting Actor

Domhall Gleeson, Unbroken

Logan Lerman, Fury

Edward Norton, Birdman

Tim Roth, Selma

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher


Other Possibilities:

Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year

Benicio del Toro, Inherent Vice

Johnny Depp, Into the Woods

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Matthew Goode, Men, Women, and Children

Neil Patrick Harris, Gone Girl

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

John Lithgow, Love is Strange

Adam Sandler, Men, Women, and Children

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Tom Wilkinson, Selma

We’ll get to Best Actress tomorrow!




Todd’s Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

As the fall movie season officially gets underway, that means a host of Oscar contenders will be opening between September and December, with many of them screening at upcoming film festivals – including Toronto, Telluride, New York, and Venice. What does that mean? My first round of Oscar predictions has arrived at the blog!

You may say it seems too early to start predicting Oscar nominees? This is true… to a point. At this same time last year, I did my first early predictions. In today’s first category – Supporting Actress – those predictions yielded three out of the five nominees, including Lupita Nyong’o from Twelve Years a Slave, the eventual winner. For followers of my blog, you’ll know that I’ll be consistently refining and updating my predictions until nominations are announced in early 2015.

Today – we begin with Supporting Actress. Tomorrow: Supporting Actor. Sunday: Actress. Monday: Actor. Tuesday: Director. Wednesday: Picture.

We’ll keep it simple for the early predictions. I will just list my round of five that I’m currently predicting along with a subsection of other possible nominees. Enjoy!

Todd’s Early Best Supporting Actress Predictions

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Emily Blunt, Into the Woods

Laura Dern, Wild

Carmen Ejogo, Selma

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything


Other Possible Nominees:

Jessica Chastain, Interstellar

Jennifer Garner, Men, Women, and Children

Anne Hathaway, Interstellar

Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher

Maya Rudolph, Inherent Vince

Emma Stone, Birdman

Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice

Emily Watson, The Theory of Everything

Naomi Watts, St. Vincent

Oprah Winfrey, Selma

That’s all for now, folks! I’ll be back with my early guesstimates for Supporting Actor tomorrow…


Oscar Watch: Birdman

Today the Venice Film Festival kicked off and immediately there is major Oscar news to pass along in the form of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman, which opens domestically on October 17th. The film was already considered a potential Academy Awards contender and its premiere more than solidified that status. Early reviews are fantastic.

The advance word today has put me in the unique position of making some rare declarative statements in late August, considered very early in the Oscar season when most contenders have yet to be seen. However, based on the buzz emanating from Italy – I give you these all but guarantees:

Birdman will be nominated for Best Picture

Its director Inarritu will be nominated for Best Director

Its star Michael Keaton will be nominated for Best Actor

The comedy/drama comes from acclaimed director Inarritu, whose other efforts include Amores perros, 21 Grams, and Babel (which was nominated for multiple Oscars in 2006). Besides his directing nomination, expect him and his cowriters to be recognized in the Original Screenplay category.

Birdman focuses on an aging actor best known for playing a superhero… a role Michael Keaton seems tailor made for. And the reviews suggest this is Keaton’s finest role yet. He seems a shoo-in to earn his second Best Actor nomination… some 26 years after his first for Clean and Sober.

As for supporting players, costars Edward Norton and Emma Stone appear to be strong possibilities in the Supporting Actor and Actress races, though their nominations don’t seem quite as assured as Keaton’s. At least not yet. It would mark Norton’s third nod after 1996’s Primal Fear and 1998’s American History X and the first for Stone.

Birdman becomes the third 2014 release that are highly likely to compete in the biggest race of all – Picture. The other two: Boyhood and Foxcatcher and you can read my detailed posts on each of them here:



Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel could find itself in the mix as well, but it’s inclusion is currently more up in the air:


Next week – I’ll be posting my first predictions in all six major categories for the Academy Awards. You can bet Birdman will be featured prominently.

Box Office Predictions: August 29-September 1

The fall movie season officially kicks off this Labor Day weekend with two new entries: the horror flick As Above, So Below and Pierce Brosnan spy thriller The November Man. You can find my detailed individual prediction posts on each here:



As you can see, I’m predicting neither of the newbies will add much firepower to the box office. That leaves August’s megahits Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles likely to continue their reign at the top two positions. Keep in mind that my weekend projections this time around are for the four day holiday weekend and that means holdover pics often see an increase in dollars compared to the previous weekend. That holds true with my estimates for Guardians, TMNT, If I Stay, When the Game Stands Tall, and Let’s Be Cops.

And with that – we’ll do Top Seven predictions for the Labor Day frame:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Predicted Gross: $21.1 million (representing an increase of 23%)

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Predicted Gross: $19.3 million (representing an increase of 16%)

3. If I Stay

Predicted Gross: $17.2 million (representing an increase of 11%)

4. As Above, So Below

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million

5. Let’s Be Cops

Predicted Gross: $11.4 million (representing an increase of 6%)

6. When the Game Stands Tall

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million (representing an increase of 19%)

7. The November Man

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million (Friday to Monday projection), $11 million (Wednesday to Monday projection)

Box Office Results (August 22-24)

As the summer movie season drew to a close, there were two big stories: Guardians of the Galaxy became the season’s biggest grosser and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For had one of the worst debuts in recent memory.

Marvel’s Guardians vaulted back to the #1 spot after two weeks behind Ninja Turtles. The blockbuster took in $17.2 million, outshining my $15M estimate. It’s taken in $251 million so far and therefore passed Transformers: Age of Extinction as the King of Summer Movies.

Ninja Turtles slipped to second with $16.7 million, holding up considerably better than my $12.7M prediction. In three weeks, the reboot has amassed $145 million and it should surpass $175M when all is said and done.

The YA pic If I Stay got off to a decent start with $15.6 million – ahead of my $12.1M projection. Many prognosticators had it opening #1, but two teams of venerable superheroes prevented that from happening.

Somewhat surprisingly, Let’s Be Cops only dropped a respectable 39% in its sophomore frame and placed fourth with $10.8 million. I incorrectly didn’t place it in the top five and its two week total stands at $45M. It should reach $75M, which is great considering its meager budget.

The sports drama When the Game Stands Tall earned $8.3 million for a fair fifth place opening, right in range with my $9M projection. With a solid A- Cinemascore grade, it should hold up well next weekend.

And this brings us to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Let’s get this out of the way: I had it opening #1 with $20.8 million. Ummm…. oops!

Arriving nearly ten years after the original, Dame performed a fantastically bad box office belly flop with only $6.3 million for a pathetic eighth place debut. Simply put, even though the first was generally well-received, its sequel registered barely any audience interest. Dame easily qualifies as one of 2014’s biggest bombs.

And that’s all for now, folks!


The November Man Box Office Prediction

Pierce Brosnan is back in spy mode with The November Man, which debuts Wednesday before the long Labor Day weekend. It seems unlikely that this will approach anywhere near the numbers Brosnan enjoyed with his more known spy character, James Bond.

The star reunites with his Dante’s Peak director Roger Donaldson and costars with Olga Kurlylenko, who appeared alongside Daniel Craig’s 007 in Quantum of Solace. The studio is hoping that audiences are primed to see Pierce return to the kind of role people most identify him with, but there are troubling signs. Reviews have been bad and The November Man currently stands at only 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. This should contribute to negative word of mouth.

As I see it, the pic should struggle to make double digits in its six day rollout and The November Man should fade fast and be available for home viewing by its title month.

The November Man opening weekend prediction: $8.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate), $11 million (Wednesday to Monday estimate)

For my As Above, So Below prediction, click here:


As Above, So Below Box Office Prediction

It’s been a shaky year, to say the least, for horror flicks and this Labor Day weekend – the found footage pic As Above, So Below will attempt to reverse that trend. The film showcases American tourists exploring the catacombs in Paris with haunting results. There have yet to be many reviews, but the ones available don’t inspire much confidence.

As Above, So Below appears unlikely to inject some much needed energy to horror genre. Still, it should manage a double digit debut – especially over the four-day holiday weekend. I don’t believe, however, that Below will end up opening above what the Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles manage to gross next weekend.

As Above, So Below opening weekend prediction: $11.8 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my The November Man prediction, click here: