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.
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
***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:
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.
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…
Ron Howard’s IntheHeartoftheSea is a periodically engrossing yet often curiously flat rendering of the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s famed novel MobyDick. 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. IntheHeartoftheSea 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. IntheHeartoftheSea 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.
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…
TODD’S EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS – BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The summer movie season has wound to a close and we can feel the autumn season just around the corner. That means football, leaves changing, and back to school. It also means the 2016 fall movie season is about to begin and that means – early Oscar speculation!!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it may seem a bit too early for that, but it isn’t. The film festival season will be starting before we know it with Venice, Toronto, Telluride and New York on deck. A host of Oscar hopefuls will receive their first screenings and generate their first buzz. So this week – as I have in years past – I roll out my first round of Oscar predictions. This will be done in six installments beginning with Supporting Actress today and continuing daily with Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, Director, and the big dog – Picture. Each post will predict the five nominees (or in the case of Picture – five to ten). As the week wear on, I’ll be increasing my predictions to a weekly feature on the blog.
For Supporting Actress, let’s take a little trip down memory lane with my predictions in 2014 and 2015. Two years back, my earliest predictions yielded two out of the eventual five nominated performers (including winner Patricia Arquette for Boyhood). Last year, these initial predictions gave us three of the five and, in a way, four. At the time, there was uncertainty as to whether Alicia Vikander would be campaigned for in lead or supporting for The Danish Girl and I predicted her at the time for Actress. The campaign went with supporting and she was the winner. Let’s get to it!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
At this juncture, I’d say there’s no shoo-in nominees but Michelle Williams in this fall’s Manchester by the Sea is about as close as it gets. The pic has already screened at festivals to raves with many critics singling out her work.
Ang Lee’s November war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk looks to be a player in many categories and that could certainly trickle down to Kristen Stewart. The trailer for Moonlight seems to indicate a very meaty and Oscar-baity type role for Naomie Harris. There are questions surrounding how many nominations the acclaimed slavery pic The Birth of a Nation will receive (more on that in future posts), but Aja Naomi King has gotten acclaim for her role already.
As for a fifth, I’m just going to go with a total and complete wild card: Bryce Dallas Howard in December’s Gold, which not much is known about at the moment (no trailer even). Why? Well, this category is quite unformed at the moment, so why not? If it pans out, I’ll look really smart!
There’s a slew of others as possibilities, including multiple possibilities for 20th Century Women, American Pastoral and The Girl on the Train (with both Fanning sisters no less) and we shall see how it plays out in the coming weeks and months. For now…
TODD’S FIRST PREDICTIONS – BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The 2016 fall movie kicks off in muted fashion (per usual) with two new entries debuting: sci-fi thriller Morgan and period piece romantic drama The Light Between Oceans. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:
I’m not expecting either to make much of a splash and I’m predicting Light will just outshine Morgan for the #3 spot. Labor Day weekend has shown in past years that holdovers often don’t lose much of their audience from the previous weekend. In fact, in many cases, its percentage can increase a bit.
This will probably not hold true for current #1 Don’t Breathe, which had a smashing weekend out of the gate (more on that below). Like most horror titles. it should lose a fairly hefty percentage of its opening weekend crowd. Yet it’s likely to remain #1, unless one of the newbies surpasses expectations or Suicide Squad holds even better than forecast. Kubo and the Two Strings likely will round out the top five, though Pete’s Dragon may challenge it for that spot.
As for my blog poll on the two newcomers – 45% believe my Morgan estimate is Just About Right with 39% saying it’s Too High and 16% saying Too Low. With The Light Between Oceans, 40% think it’s Too High, 33% Just About Right, and 27% Too Low.
And with that, my top 5 projections for the holiday weekend that includes Friday to Sunday and Friday to Monday estimates:
1. Don’t Breathe
Predicted Gross: $13 million (Friday to Sunday), $16.7 million (Friday to Monday)
2. Suicide Squad
Predicted Gross: $10.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $12.9 million (Friday to Monday)
3. The Light Between Oceans
Predicted Gross: $9.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $11.3 million (Friday to Monday)
Predicted Gross: $9 million (Friday to Sunday), $10.6 million (Friday to Monday)
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
Predicted Gross: $6.2 million (Friday to Sunday), $8 million (Friday to Monday)
Box Office Results (August 26-28)
Low-budget horror pic Don’t Breathe continued a solid season for the genre with a fantastic $26.4 million debut (over double my meager $12.4M projection). The critically heralded project, with a reported budget of only $9.9 million, opened beyond even the rosiest of expectations, ousting Suicide Squad from its three-week reign at #1.
Squad dropped to second with $12.2 million (a bit ahead of my $10.6M estimate) for a four-week tally of $283M.
Animated Kubo and the Two Strings actually rose a spot to #3 with $7.8 million in its sophomore frame (in line with $7.5M prediction) for a ten day gross of $24M. A much different animated tale, Sausage Party, was fourth with $7.5 million (I said $7.6M) for a $79M tally.
Opening softly in fifth was the Jason Statham sequel Mechanic: Resurrection with $7.4 million (a bit under my $8.5M forecast).
Following closely behind in sixth was Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, also with $7.4 million (I said $6.6M) for a $54M haul.
War Dogs slipped from third to seventh in its second weekend with $7 million (I said $7.4M) for a $27M overall gross.
Bad Moms continued its impressive run in eight place with $5.5 million (I said $5.4M) for a $95M total. Jason Bourne was ninth with $5.1 million ($4.6M prediction here) for a gross of $149M. Ben-Hur continued its disastrous run in 10th with $4.5 million (a bit below my $5.2M estimate) for a total of only $19M.
There were a pair of limited releases – one that opened OK and the other not so much. Southside with You, dramatizing the first date of first couple Barack and Michelle Obama, managed $2.8 million on 813 screens for 14th place (it’ll expand a bit wider this weekend). Boxing drama Hands of Stone stumbled with just $1.7 million (below my $3.2M projection) on 810 screens for 16th place.
And finally – on this sad day for movie fans – a little of the incomparable Mr. Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. May he rest in peace.
Two high-profile horror flicks coming out this fall seem to have a lot in common. Both will help answer the question as to whether late 90s and early 00s nostalgia scares up business for the both of them.
Both Blair Witch (out September 16) and Rings (October 28) have had interesting journeys to the silver screen. Witch is, of course, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project from 1999. It came out of nowhere that summer and kicked off the found footage craze of the genre that continued for some time. Shot for a tiny $60,000, it grossed $248 million worldwide. This new one comes from director Adam Wingard (who made 2013’s well-regarded You’re Next). For months, it was known as The Woods and the reveal that it was actually related to the famed pic from 17 years ago was unknown until recently.
Rings reinvigorates the dormant franchise of movies that hit it big with 2002’s The Ring, Gore Verbinski’s remake of 1998’s Japanese flick Ringu. It starred Naomi Watts in the role that exposed her to mass audiences and made $249 million globally. Like Blair Witch Project, it ushered in its own sub genre of horror that included The Grudge. Rings has been delayed a couple of times – it was originally scheduled to premiere last November, then pushed to April, and finally to this Halloween.
A similarity that these two series share: an underwhelming second picture in between the original and the reboots coming our way this autumn. 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 didn’t strike the kind of chord that its predecessor did, earning weak reviews and just $50 million in sales. 2005’s The Ring Two also suffered mediocre critical response and audience reaction (making $76 million domestically compared to the original’s $129 million). What I recall most about it is some of the worst CG deer in the history of cinema.
The nostalgia train has been rolling along in theaters recently with some smashing successes (Jurassic World) and crushing failures (Independence Day: Resurgence). The horror genre is one that constantly remakes and re-imagines its popular franchises, but Blair Witch and Rings are among the first to test out moviegoers fondness for these series that hit it big less than two decades ago. Stay tuned!