Oscar Watch: The Light Between Oceans

Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans sure looked like an Oscar contender on paper, but things change quickly in the busy awards derby. Based on a bestselling novel and starring a trio of Oscar winners and nominees, the period piece romance opens Friday. Frankly, I thought it was a bit curious that reviews were embargoed until yesterday.

Now we may know why. Sitting at a so-so 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, many critics haven’t been kind to it. Cianfrance has experienced raves throughout his directorial career with 2010’s Blue Valentine and 2013’s The Place Beyond the Pines (neither received Academy attention, however).

Critics have been gentler with the performers, with Rachel Weisz especially being singled out. She remains a contender in Supporting Actress – albeit a long shot. Fassbender and Vikander appear to be out of the running, as do nods for Picture or Director. Its best chance at recognition probably goes to its composer, Alexandre Desplat. It would mark his ninth nomination.

While La La Land gave us a surefire autumn contender this week, The Light Between Oceans presented quite the opposite.

When the Bough Breaks Box Office Prediction

Screen Gems has quite a profitable enterprise going for the last two years and will try to keep it up for a third with When the Bough Breaks, opening next weekend. The thriller stars Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, and Jaz Sinclair and was produced for a mere $13 million.

In 2014, the studio put out the similarly themed No Good Deed. The result was a $24.2 million opening. Last year, it was The Perfect Guy (also featuring Chestnut) and it took in $25.9 million for its start. These romantic potboilers have largely appealed to African-American female audiences over 30 and are pretty much critic proof (Perfect Guy didn’t bother to screen for reviewers).

I don’t see much reason why Bough wouldn’t break out in the same way. In fact, I believe it stands an excellent chance at being #1 next weekend over the Clint Eastwood directed/Tom Hanks starring Sully. A debut in the low to mid 20s looks probable for another Screen Gems cash cow.

When the Bough Breaks opening weekend prediction: $22.7 million

For my Sully prediction, click here:


For my The Disappointments Room prediction, click here:


For my The Wild Life prediction, click here:


Sully Box Office Prediction

***BLOGGER’S NOTE (09/08/16): I’ve caved on Sully prediction. My $19.8M prediction is clearly too low, so I’m switching to $28.5M.

Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks mark their first collaboration together in Sully, landing in theaters next weekend. The pic tells the true life tale of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and his “Miracle on the Hudson” water heroics in 2009 and drama that followed. Costars include Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney.

The film looks to break in adult audiences burnt out on summer blockbusters and having Mr. Hanks in the title role won’t hurt. Looking over his last two wide release starring roles, 2013’s Captain Phillips opened to $25.7 million (I would argue it had more buzz). Last fall’s Bridge of Spies premiered with $15.3 million.

**UPDATED to $28.5M prediction

Even with its familiar and much reported on subject matter, I believe Sully will probably place in between those two efforts. Good reviews and a lack of competition could lift it past that and this is something that could have solid legs with positive word of mouth. I’ll project it gets just under $30M for its start. That would actually give Mr. Eastwood his second highest directorial debut after the massive $89 million that his previous effort (2014’s American Sniper) brought in.

Sully opening weekend prediction: $28.5 million

For my When the Bough Breaks prediction, click here:


For my The Disappointments Room prediction, click here:


For my The Wild Life prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: La La Land

Some pictures seem tailor made for Oscar attention and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is one of them. This major piece of the 2016 Academy Awards puzzle was freshly unveiled at the Venice Film Festival, some three months before its December 2nd stateside bow. Based on the critical reaction, it appears we have our first legitimate gold statue contender.

La La Land is the director’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2014 pic Whiplash, which earned J.K. Simmons a Supporting Actor award and a Best Picture nomination. He missed out on his first directing nod two years ago. That could change here.

Let’s check some boxes on how La La Land will appeal to Academy voters. First, it’s about show business people. They love that. Two – it’s a throwback to the musicals of days past. They’ll adore that, too. Early reviews suggest an optimistic and vibrant movie that will contrast nicely with plenty of darker themed entries coming our way over the fall.

So let’s get this out of the way right now: it may be early, but La Land Land is going to be nominated for Best Picture. Mark it down. Chazelle stands an excellent shot at his first directorial recognition. As for the actors, our co-leads of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone appear to be on different wavelengths. Stone looks like a lock for an Actress nomination, while Gosling’s inclusion into Actor is murkier. As for Supporting performers, it remains to be seen how things shake out in those races. John Legend has been mentioned as the best possibility in Supporting Actor (I included him in my earliest predictions posted yesterday). J.K. Simmons (in the same category) and Rosemarie DeWitt in Supporting Actress currently seem less likely.

Other nomination chances are abundant. An Original Screenplay nod for Chazelle is virtually assured. Production Design. Cinematography. Editing. Multiple entries in Original Song. Score. Sound categories. Costume Design.

Venice has proven one thing and that is that La La Land seems destined to have Oscar voters singing its praises into next year. Take note.


2016 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Day 3 of my early Oscar predictions arrives with Best Actress. These late August/early September guesstimates yielded two of the eventual nominees in 2014 and three last year.

Looking over the field of possibilities for Best Actress in 2016, one thing seems clear. More than most years, this particular race seems loaded with legitimate contenders and it could be one of the more competitive categories of the year.

Let’s start with three actresses who have received nominations but never won: four-time nominee and never winner Annette Bening is headlining this fall’s 20th Century Women. She was a strong contender for wins in both 1999 and 2004 (for American Beauty and Being Julia), but lost out in both cases to Hilary Swank.

There’s five-time nominee and never winner Amy Adams, who has two pictures in which she could be recognized: Arrival and Nocturnal Animals.

We have Viola Davis in this December’s Denzel Washington directed Fences. She was nominated for 2011’s The Help but lost to Meryl Streep in her role as The Iron Lady.

Speaking of Meryl Streep… there’s Meryl Streep going for her 20th nomination as Florence Foster Jenkins. Its potential drawback could be muted box office numbers this summer, but you can never count her out.

Emma Stone will likely draw attention for her work in the musical drama La La Land. Ruth Negga has received early raves costarring in the interracial romance Loving. Then there’s the biopic Jackie (as in Kennedy), which casts 2010 winner Natalie Portman in the title role. She could be a major contender, yet there’s some uncertainty as to when it’ll come out.

Oh there’s more! Jennifer Lawrence will go for her fifth nomination in seven years with sci-fi drama Passengers. Emily Blunt could be a player with The Girl on the Train, as could previous nominees Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Rosamund Pike (A United Kingdom), and Rooney Mara (Lion). Not to mention previous winners like Sally Field (My Name is Doris), Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky) and Marion Cotillard (Allied).

Bottom line: this race looks packed and we’ll see how it develops in the coming weeks. For now…


Amy Adams, Arrival

Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

Viola Davis, Fences

Ruth Negga, Loving

Emma Stone, La La Land

Other Possibilities:

Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals

Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane

Marion Cotillard, Allied

Sally Field, My Name is Doris

Rebecca Hall, Christine

Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Jennifer Lawrence, Passengers

Rooney Mara, Lion

Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky

Rosamund Pike, A United Kingdom

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Alicia Vikander, The Light Between Oceans

Rachel Weisz, Denial

Best Actor tomorrow!

In the Heart of the Sea Movie Review

Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea is a periodically engrossing yet often curiously flat rendering of the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s famed novel Moby Dick. It begins in 1850 as the author (Ben Whishaw) visits Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the Essex, a ship that was destroyed by a great white whale and leaving its crew stranded at sea. Thomas isn’t anxious to regale Melville of the survival tactics used 30 years prior. Yet he relents and he’s soon playing Gloria Stuart to Melville’s Bill Paxton.

We move to Nantucket circa 1820 as the whale oil trade is at its height and Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is under the impression that he’ll get his first plum assignment as captain of the vessel. Politics thwarts this plan as that job goes to the more inexperienced George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), whose family are titans in the business. Speaking of politics, the screenplay occasionally (and rather needlessly) pouns the point home that the practice of slaughtering whales was a necessity 200 years ago.

Chase isn’t happy about being first mate and leaving his pregnant wife (of course she is) but he soon sets sail with Pollard and a crew that includes young Thomas (Tom Holland). There’s also a second mate portrayed by the talented Cillian Murphy, who is given incredibly little to do.

After several weeks of no luck on the mission, the Essex crew soon find themselves eye to whale eye with its pesky nemesis. Let the torment begin. In the Heart of the Sea doesn’t bother to flesh out its characters to any real degree. Hemsworth certainly looks the leading man part here and throws spears with the grace of his Thor hammer skills. His New England accent leaves much to be desired and he’s not the only one. Walker is rather dull. The best work belongs to the always solid Gleeson, who gets the most emotional material to work with.

Compliments are owed to the makeup crew and actors themselves that convincingly convey the wear and tear of the men stranded for months at sea. Howard has clearly set out to make an old fashioned story with new style CG effects. His old school sensibilities are actually more in tune with the mid-1970s than a century plus earlier. We actually don’t see the great white whale too often here… kind of like another great white dweller in Jaws. In the Heart of the Sea may be true and may have inspired a masterpiece work of art. However, that doesn’t mean that today it doesn’t feel pretty familiar and a bit like Jaws with less interesting people in the water.

**1/2 (out of four)

2016 Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

Continuing on with my first round of Oscar predictions, day two brings us to Best Supporting Actor. In both 2014 and 2015, my late August/early September initial picks yielded two out the eventual five nominees. Last year, these first picks correctly identified winner Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies.

There are plenty of contenders to list at this early stage. One of the big question marks in plenty of categories is Martin Scorsese’s Silence, a passion project and historical drama that has yet to release a trailer or announce when it’s coming out. It is assumed that it’ll be out in time for Oscar consideration. If so, Liam Neeson is likely to be a contender in this race (and maybe costar Adam Driver).

As mentioned yesterday with Kristen Stewart in Supporting Actress, Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk appears to be a potential major awards player and the beloved Steve Martin could reap the benefits with his first ever acting nod. Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, and Garrett Hedlund are also possibilities.

Michael Shannon could be under consideration for two high-profile fall entries – Jeff Nichols’ Loving or Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.

Barry Jenkins’ indie African-American romantic drama Moonlight is getting attention (I predicted Naomie Harris yesterday for Supporting Actress recognition) and Mahershala Ali (known to many as Remy Danton on Netflix’s “House of Cards”) could find himself in the mix.

Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is also expected to garner Oscar talk (it’ll screen for critics on the festival circuit in days) and it could feature a breakout role for singer John Legend.

And there’s many more possibilities, including Warren Beatty’s return to the silver screen in Rules Don’t Apply. There’s John Goodman’s already acclaimed work in 10 Cloverfield Lane (though the genre could make him a long shot). Or maybe a first nomination for Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins. And there’s two movies that Aaron Eckhart could find himself being considered for.

As always, the list will be updated in the weeks and months ahead, but for now…


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

John Legend, La La Land

Steve Martin, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Liam Neeson, Silence

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Other Possibilities:

Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Kyle Chandler, Manchester by the Sea

Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures

Billy Crudup, 20th Century Women

Robert De Niro, Hands of Stone

Vin Diesel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Adam Driver, Silence

Aaron Eckhart, Bleed for This

Aaron Eckhart, Sully

Brendan Gleeson, Live by Night

John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane

Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

Armie Hammer, The Birth of a Nation

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Stephen Henderson, Fences

Oscar Isaac, The Promise

Nick Offerman, The Founder

Edgar Ramirez, Gold

Michael Shannon, Loving

J.K. Simmons, La La Land

Timothy Spall, Denial

Chris Tucker, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

And there you have it! Best Actress tomorrow…