Steve Jobs and Its Oscar Problem

When Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in early September, it immediately vaulted itself into contention as a Best Picture front runner. Nearly two months later, the narrative has shifted and it’s mostly due to the picture’s very lackluster box office numbers. It opened nationwide last weekend to a tepid seventh place $7.1 million placing. This weekend, early numbers show it tumbling approximately 65% for a grand total of around $14 million.

If this trend continues (and it probably will), Jobs will be lucky to make $25 million. That would put it barely above the $16 million earned by Jobs in 2013, where Ashton Kutcher played the Apple founder. It’s worth noting that the Kutcher version had no Oscar buzz whatsoever. Therefore, it’s clear that while moviegoers may like Apple’s products, they don’t like watching films about the guy who started the company.

Let there be no confusion: the bad numbers will affect its chances at a gold statue. Most Best Picture winners make decent money and this one isn’t. In 2009, we did see an exception when The Hurt Locker won with just a $17 million domestic take.

I still believe Jobs will find itself in the mix for a nomination and Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet should get nods in Actor and Supporting Actress. Yet my earlier inclination that it could win has dissipated. We are already seeing the spotlight turn to, well, Spotlight – the upcoming journalistic expose about the Catholic Church priest abuse scandal. And there’s still Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant left to screen.

Bottom line: box office numbers do often matter when it comes to Oscar chances and Steve Jobs’s numbers have been going in the wrong dIrection.

Top 25 Best Movies (1990-2015): Nos. 20-16

Today we arrive at part two of my personal top 25 movies of the last generation – 1990 to now and that covers numbers 20-16. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

20. There Will Be Blood (2007)

From master director Paul Thomas Anderson comes this riveting tale of oil and greed at the turn of the 20th century. It features a towering and Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.

19. The Player (1992)

Robert Altman made some incredible pictures in the 1970s and had a career resurgence in the 90s and his pitch black comedy about Hollywood and its superficiality is the best example of it.

18. Kill Bill – Vol I and II (2003/2004)

OK, maybe I cheated a bit here with this actually being two movies, but Quentin Tarantino’s genre hopping master work stands (almost) at the top of his filmography.

17. Being John Malkovich (1999)

Spike Jonze has been making singularly unique films for nearly two decades now and Malkovich is his most rewarding. There’s simply nothing like it and I mean that in a very great way.

16. The Departed (2006)

Martin Scorsese finally earned his Oscar (though he’d been snubbed plenty of times before) for this twisty and deliciously fun and violent crime thriller with a killer cast that included DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg, and Nicholson.

And we’ll get to numbers 15-11 tomorrow, readers!

Top 25 Best Movies (1990-2015): Nos. 25-21

With 2015 nearly over, we can take a look at the beginning of the 1990s through today and see an entire generation of films represented. It caused your trusty movie blogger to think about what my personal favorite 25 pictures have been over that time period and that’s a daunting task. I chose to make the list anyway and, truth be told, it’s a list that could literally fluctuate from day to day.

For one thing, it certainly wouldn’t be accurate to say I’ve seen every acclaimed film from 1990-2015 (and there’s still more to come). Yet I certainly feel confident I’ve viewed enough to make a solid listing and if it changes, I’ll gladly update this.

What we have here is my personal best breakdown of my 25 pictures I keep going back to. That I just can’t quit (Brokeback Mountain didn’t make the cut, by the way). Obviously this is entirely subjective. Movies I wrote down that didn’t make the list are ones that I truly love and or admire from comedies like Dumb and Dumber, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, The Big Lebowski, There’s Something About Mary, The 40 Yr. Old Virgin, and Superbad. Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, which is way at the top of my traditional animated material from the studio. Same goes for Pixar’s Toy Story franchise. Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. Fincher’s The Game. Genre standard bearers like Scream, The Matrix, and Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Best Picture winners Unforgiven and No Country for Old Men. American Psycho. Glengarry Glen Ross. Black Swan. Nightcrawler. Captain Phillips. American Sniper. Lost in Translation. Casino. Traffic. The Sixth Sense. The Usual Suspects. L.A. Confidential. Inception. And this is what didn’t make it.

So let’s get to what did, my friends! We’ll do this in five installments counting down from #25 to #1. Here we go:

25. Drive (2011)

Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s ultra violent art house crime pic is a triumph of mood and music with magnificent performances from Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks. More than most others, Drive stayed with me and I find myself going back to it frequently. Is it in acquired taste? Yes and definitely mine.

24. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

This is the only documentary of many I could have considered for inclusion, including Hoop Dreams, Man on Wire, and so on. Yet no documentary floored me like Capturing the Friedmans, which tells the truth is stranger than fiction tale of family members accused of child molestation. It’s riveting, heart wrenching stuff that I found myself endlessly recommending to friends.

23. Fight Club (1999)

I wasn’t crazy about David Fincher’s Fight Club when I saw it in the theater circa October 1999. Since then, I’ve come around and been able to recognize it for the timely masterpiece that it is.

22. Casino Royale (2006)

It’s my second favorite James Bond flick ever after only 1963’s From Russia with Love. It brilliantly cast Daniel Craig in the role of 007 and stands as an absolute classic in the canon of the British super spy franchise.

21. Minority Report (2002)

Many movie fans simply thought this Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise futuristic action thriller was solid. I thought it was amazing from the moment I set eyes on it and it says a lot about the current state of our world and its security. It’s Spielberg’s best work since the early 1980s in my opinion.

And there you have it! I’ll have 20-16 up very soon…

The Gift Movie Review

Many psychological thrillers have memorable moments, but are hampered by cliched third acts that are utterly predictable. Joel Edgerton’s The Gift is more the inverse. For a long portion of its deliberate running time, it feels like every other genre title that was much more popular over two decades ago (think The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female, Unlawful Entry). They’ve been called the “Blank from Hell” movies. Fatal Attraction = Mistress from Hell. Roommate, Cop, Nanny from Hell.

The Gift is the Old Friend from Hell. Yet not really an old friend. Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a yuppie couple recently relocated to Los Angeles from Chicago. Upon shopping at a home furnishing store, they’re encountered by Gordo (Edgerton, directing himself in his feature debut). He describes himself as a high school acquaintance of Simon’s though Gordo is hardly recalled by him. Gordon’s soon dropping off housewarming presents with notes punctuated by smiley and frowny faces. Twenty years ago when this kind of film thrived, that particular character trait may have seemed odd. Now everyone does it. Don’t worry, though, because Gordo has plenty of other legitimate quirks. He’s socially awkward and seems fixated on Robyn. It gets to the point where Simon must confront him.

And that’s when the hallmarks of this genre are on full display. Missing dog. A pregnancy to complicate matters. Our heroine in the shower, possibly vulnerable. There are hints of a deeper history between Simon and Gordo the Weirdo as he calls him. Side note: Weirdo was Edgerton’s original title (he wrote it too) and it’s much better than The Gift.

When the connection between them is revealed, The Gift stops being a typical entry in the Blank from Hell canon and becomes something far more interesting. It’s just too bad it takes a while to get there. When it does move into genuinely unexpected territory, I found enough to savor to make this just worthy of a recommendation. The trio of lead performers elevate it as well. Edgerton is a perfectly acceptable Weirdo and Bateman continues to show he’s a pro in non-comedic roles, too. While much of The Gift keeps on giving familiar material, the final parts that intensify the character’s relationships and motivations are a welcome surprise.

*** (out of four)

The Peanuts Movie Box Office Prediction

Some 65 years after Charles M. Schulz’s iconic characters first appeared in newspaper comic strips – Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and company hits screens next weekend in The Peanuts Movie. It’s been 35 years since they graced the silver screen in 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!), but the Peanuts gang have been omnipresent on our TV screens around the holidays for decades.

The reported $100 million budgeted 3D animated affair looks to score with family audiences and it should. Obviously, there’s a built-in familiarity among all ages with this franchise and 20th Century Fox has likely found itself a series with sequels to come. It’s possible that some of the parents who’d be taking their kids to see it may choose to have their own date night with Spectre, but it shouldn’t be much of a factor.

As I see it, The Peanuts Movie should manage to surpass $40 million out of the gate, though anything beyond $50M seems a little high. As long as the buzz is solid, Peanuts should able to settle in a for a very solid run through the next couple of months.

The Peanuts Movie opening weekend prediction: $43.4 million

For my Spectre prediction, click here:

Spectre Box Office Prediction

Three years after the triumphant box office performance of the 23rd 007 entry Skyfall, Daniel Craig is back for the fourth time as James Bond in Spectre, out next Friday. The big question is whether or not it will manage to top the franchise high debut of its predecessor. It could come close or surpass it, as I see it.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with Craig’s 007 filmography. His first, 2006’s Casino Royale, started with $40.8 million on its way to a $167M eventual domestic gross. The second, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, earned $67.5 million out of the gate and just edged its predecessor’s haul with $168M. Then – 2012’s Skyfall was a game changer. It made $88.3 million for its astonishing opening weekend and ended with $304M. Worldwide, it took in a cool $1.1 billion, easily setting the high bar for the now 53 year old series.

The studio clearly has employed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule as Skyfall director Sam Mendes has returned. Christoph Waltz joins the fray as the main villain with Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris returning as M and Moneypenny, respectively. Spectre has already set records in the United Kingdom, where it was already released this week. Reviews have been mostly strong and it stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, though it’s worth noting that critics generally have stated it’s not quite at the level of what preceded it.

This 24th official Bond pic should debut with Skyfall like numbers. On the high end, it could possibly gather over $100M in its first weekend. It could also earn $75-$80M and that would certainly be on the lower end of expectations. My feeling is that it’ll be within about $5M of what the last one made on the same November weekend in 2012 and that Spectre will just manage to outdo it for the largest 007 premiere in U.S. history.

Spectre opening weekend prediction: $91.3 million

For my prediction on The Peanuts Movie, click here:

Todd’s October Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

This evening we arrive at the final installment of my second round of Oscar predictions for 2015 (October Edition). Of course, that means the biggest prize of all: Best Picture.

In my initial round nearly two months back, I predicted that eight movies would get nods. As you may know, unlike every other category, the number of Picture nominees can fluctuate anywhere between five and ten. I now have 9 pictures vying for the top prize.

Of the original eight that I predicted, six remain: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, Joy, The Revenant, and Steve Jobs. It’s worth noting that half of them -have yet to be seen by anyone (The Hateful Eight, Joy, The Revenant) and I’m basing my inclusion of them mostly on the pedigree involved. And when you consider that pedigree is Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – who can blame me, right?

So what two pictures fell off? That would be Carol and Suffragette, whose buzz has seemed to fade in recent weeks. Carol certainly remains a possibility, but I’m not even including Suffragette as having a chance at this point.

This also means we have three newbies joining the list and all have been screened and seem like strong contenders: John Crowley’s Brooklyn (which I barely left off last time), Lenny Abrahamson’s red hot indie drama Room, and Tom McCarthy’s journalistic expose Spotlight, which some have pegged as the current soft front runner.

Of course, things are bound to change by the time my third round of estimates is released in November, but at this juncture:


Bridge of Spies


The Danish Girl

The Hateful Eight


The Revenant



Steve Jobs

Other Possibilities:

The Big Short



Inside Out

In the Heart of the Sea

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian


Son of Saul

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens


And there you have it, my loyal readers! Expect the third round to be coming your way about Turkey Day time…


Todd’s October Oscar Predictions: Best Director

We are back at it for my second round of Oscar predictions – October edition. The acting categories have been completed and we’ve arrived at Best Director with Best Picture up next. And from my initial round of estimates nearly two months ago, much has changed. In fact, only two of my five original picks remain: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for The Revenant and Danny Boyle for Steve Jobs, who have both won this category before with Birdman and Slumdog Millionaire, respectively.

Out of the lineup are Todd Haynes (Carol), Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl), and David O. Russell (Joy). All remain possibilities. Joining the party are Tom McCarthy for Spotlight and Lenny Abrahamson for Room. Their pics have caught on as major festival favorites that are both set to hit screens nationwide in the next couple of weeks. For the fifth slot – there’s plenty of possibilities but I’m going with a bit of an upset name for now: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s a long respected director whose return to the franchise that made him famous over three decades ago was seen as a triumph and I could see his fellow auteurs honoring him.

We shall see how it plays out when my third round arrives in November, but for now:


Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Other Possibilities:

John Crowley, Brooklyn

Todd Haynes, Carol

Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl

Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul

David O. Russell, Joy

Ridley Scott, The Martian

Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Picture is up next, folks!

Box Office Predictions: October 30-November 1

Three new films open this Halloween weekend and I have every one of them debuting to below $10 million. They are: Bradley Cooper drama Burnt, zombie comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and Sandra Bullock political comedy/drama Our Brand Is Crisis. You can peruse my detailed individual prediction posts on each here:

After the downright embarrassing performances of some of last week’s newbies (much more on that below), I’m not even supremely confident that putting each of these new entries in the $7-9 million range is correct, but we shall see.

**blogger’s update: due to the previously unknown knowledge that Scouts Guide is only opening on 1500 screens, I am downgrading my $8 million estimate to just $4.2 million

As for the top spot, it could continue to be a battle between The Martian and Goosebumps and my estimates reflect a photo finish. Bridge of Spies, in its third weekend, should continue its small declines from week to week.

And with that, we’ll do a top five projections for what should be a sluggish frame before Spectre and The Peanuts Movie roll out the following weekend:

  1. Goosebumps

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million (representing a drop of 28%)

2. The Martian

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million (representing a drop of 31%)

3. Burnt

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million

4. Bridge of Spies

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million (representing a drop of 29%)

5. Our Brand Is Crisis

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million

Box Office Results (October 23-25)

Well, I thought it might be an unpredictable weekend and was it ever! Not too often that my #1 pick comes in seventh and my #4 pick finishes on top, but that’s exactly what happened.

Ridley Scott’s The Martian climbed back into the #1 position with $15.7 million, ahead of my $12.5M projection to bring its fine total to $166M in four weeks.

Last weekend’s champ Goosebumps fell to second with $15.5 million, under my $17.8M estimate for a two week tally of $43M. As mentioned above, I expect this and The Martian to duke it out for box office supremacy once again this weekend.

Bridge of Spies was third in weekend two with $11.3 million, on target with my $11.9M projection for a $32M total.

The first newcomer of five lackluster debuts belonged to Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter, taking in just $10.8 million compared to my $15.8M prediction. Poor reviews and a blah marketing campaign didn’t help.

Animated holdover Hotel Transylvania 2 was fifth with $8.8 million (I said $7.6M) for a current $148M haul.

In sixth was Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension with $8 million (as opposed to my $9.7M projection). The latest and reportedly final entry in the franchise went out with a whimper, partly due to its low number of screens due to controversy about it debuting on VOD in just two weeks. This caused several theater chains to boycott it. While this opening is certainly soft, it is worth noting that it had the highest per screen average of anything in the top ten.

The big surprise of the weekend was the performance of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, which came with sizzling Oscar buzz. I predicted it would win the weekend with $19.6 million, but it stumbled with a seventh place showing at $7.1 million – obviously way less than expected. Jobs will hope for small declines over subsequent frames as the studio hopes it can possibly play well into awards season.

Guillermo del Toro’s dud Crimson Peak was eighth in its sophomore frame with $5.6 million (I said $6.1M) for a lackluster $22M gross.

Positions nine and ten belonged to holdovers that I didn’t predict would be there – The Intern with $3.7 million and Sicario with $2.8 million. Their respective grosses stand at $64 and $39M.

That’s because two other new flicks had disastrous debuts. Bill Murray’s critically reviled Rock the Kasbah made just $1.4 million compared to my extremely generous $7.8M estimate and the live-action version of 80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms posted a pathetic $1.3 million (I said $4.1M). That’s good for respective 13th and 15th position debuts. Ouch.

And that’s all for now, my friends! Until next time…

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Box Office Prediction

**blogger’s note – due to previously unknown knowledge this is just opening on 1500 screens, I’m revising my original $8 million projection to just $4.2 million

Next weekend we have yet another zombified horror comedy as Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse hits screens. From the screenwriter of a number of the Paranormal Activity franchise flicks, Apocalypse stars Tye Sheridan, David Koechner and even Cloris Leachman.

It is tough to imagine this breaking through in any major way. Moviegoers have certainly seen their share of this genre in recent years and I am skeptical this will succeed in capitalizing on its Halloween weekend release. Like both other new entries rolling out next weekend (Burnt and Our Brand Is Crisis), I don’t believe this will manage double digits for its premiere.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse opening weekend prediction: $4.2 million

For my Burnt prediction, click here:

For my Our Brand Is Crisis prediction, click here: