On day 2, the Venice Film Festival continues to showcase potential Oscar bait and today’s story belongs to Guillermo del Toro’s TheShapeofWater. Deemed a dark fantasy with lots of heart, Water has debuted to rave reviews with critics calling it the filmmaker’s best work since 2006’s Pan’sLabyrinth. That film received nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay.
The Fox Searchlight production isn’t out stateside until December 8, but the overseas buzz already makes it a contender in several Academy races. The pic’s cast includes familiar faces, such as Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Yet it’s lead Sally Hawkins, whose performance as a mute janitor who befriends a strange creature, who is being singled out. She stands a fine shot at recognition in lead Actress and it would mark her second nomination (the first was for Supporting Actress for 2013’s BlueJasmine).
If Water manages to keep momentum generated from Venice through the year’s end, it’s entirely feasible that Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay (del Toro and Vanessa Taylor) could be in the mix as well.
In 2014, 2015, and 2016 – my initial projections yielded two of the eventual five nominees. For the last two years, the first predictions have named the winner (Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, Mahershala Ali in Moonlight).
Let’s begin with some confusion – there are three potential nominees where it’s uncertain as to whether they’ll be campaigned for in Lead Actor or this race. They are: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), and James Franco (The Disaster Artist). The Best Actor race already looks incredibly competitive this year, so I’m currently operating on the assumption that all 3 will find themselves campaigned for here.
There are no sure things yet in this category, but festival season could easily change that. Here is my first blush take:
TODD’S FIRST PREDICTIONS – BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Laurence Fishburne, Last Flag Flying
James Franco, TheDisasterArtist
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Mark Rylance, Dunkirk
Idris Elba, Molly’s Game
Richard Graham, Phantom Thread
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Ed Harris, mother!
Garrett Hedlund, Mudbound
Ben Mendelsohn, Darkest Hour
Jason Mitchell, Mudbound
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Papers
Christoph Waltz, Downsizing
Predictions for the Lead Acting Races are on the way…
Fall season is upon us and that means my Oscar prediction posts will be ramping up on this here blog. I will be following the same formula as I did last year. Six “early” prediction posts on Picture, Director, and the four acting races. It’s my goal to have all of these posted by Monday, if not earlier.
From there, every Thursday I’ll bring you my weekly prediction posts all the way to the nominations next year. In both these initial posts covering the six categories and for the weekly posts starting next week, I’ll list my predicted nominees for Best Picture as well as 25 pictures total as possibilities. For the other races (the two Screenplay categories will be included with the weekly posts), I’ll list my five predicted nominees along with ten other ranked possibilities. From week to week, you’ll be able to track the up and down movement of my predictions, who and what have dropped out, and who and what have joined the mix.
We begin today with Best Supporting Actress and just like any category at this juncture (just as festival season is beginning), everything is up in the air. I would say Hong Chau’s work in Downsizing is pretty darn close to a sure thing with Melissa Leo’s role in Novitiate close as well (as long as her campaign doesn’t switch to Lead Actress).
As far as history with my previous year’s earliest predictions in Supporting Actress, 2014 and 2016 yielded two of the eventual five nominees while 2015 gave us three.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
TODD’S FIRST PREDICTIONS – BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Melissa Leo, Novitiate
Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour
Michelle Williams, The Greatest Showman
Kirsten Dunst, The Beguiled
Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Samantha Isler, Molly’s Game
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Tatiana Maslany, Stronger
Julianne Moore, Suburbicon
Michelle Pfeiffer, mother!
Margot Robbie, Goodbye Christopher Robin
Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
And there you have it! I’ll have Supporting Actor up shortly…
Blogger’s Update (09/19/17) – What Venice giveth, Toronto and Telluride taketh away. Since my original writing of this post on 08/30, Oscar prospects for Downsizing have dimmed due to mixed reaction from the aforementioned festivals.
A major piece of the 2017 Oscar puzzle has come into focus today with the debut of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing at the Venice Film Festival. This picture has been circled on the calendar of Academy Awards prognosticators since it was announced. Why? For starters, this is Payne’s seventh directorial feature and his previous five efforts have all received Oscar attention. For 1999’s Election, Payne received a nod for Adapted Screenplay. 2002’s About Schmidt landed two nominations in the acting races for Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. 2004’s Sideways nabbed five nominations, including Picture, Director, and a win for Payne and writing partner Jim Taylor for Adapted Screenplay. 2011’s The Descendants also received five nominations, with Payne winning once again for Adapted Screenplay. His last film, 2013’s Nebraska, garnered six nominations including Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. His last five movies have resulted in a total of seven acting nods.
So yeah… pretty much anything Payne puts out is an automatic Oscar contender. That does not look to end with Downsizing, his science fiction comedic drama that has drawn rave reviews out of the gate. It’s not out until December 22, but trade reviews are up and they’re glowing with praise. The Hollywood Reporter: “Big and beautiful” and arguably his best film. Variety: “playful, spectacular, mischievous, and audacious”. Interestingly, both reviews reference it as like as a live-action Pixar feature.
Downsizing has a highly recognizable cast that includes Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, and Jason Sudeikis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Damon in the mix for Best Actor, based on early word. Yet it’s a name you probably haven’t heard that you’ll soon become familiar with. Playing a Vietnamese refugee, Hong Chau has been singled out for her work and I’d venture to say she will be receiving a Supporting Actress nomination here.
Before today, Dunkirk was the only picture that I feel confident saying will receive a Best Picture nomination. Downsizing is now the second and it will probably land Payne directing and original screenplay (along with Jim Taylor) recognition. Beyond that – Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and even Visual Effects categories are all feasible.
Bottom line: Downsizing just announced itself as a potential force this awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Reese Witherspoon is back in rom com territory when Home Again debuts in theaters next weekend. The Open Road Films release casts the actress as a single mom who allows three college age men to bunk at her place and hijinks and hopeful hilarity ensue. The pic marks the directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer (who also penned the screenplay), daughter of Nancy Meyers who’s made similar genre titles such as Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, It’s Complicated, and The Intern. Costars include Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Pico Alexander, Michael Sheen, and Candice Bergen.
The film should have little trouble placing second on the charts after the box office juggernaut that is likely to be It. This could potentially serve as decent counter programming for female audiences who aren’t feeling the clown horror. That said, Witherspoon’s drawing power has waned a bit through the years and the actress is past the days when she experienced $30M+ openers like Sweet Home Alabama and Four Christmases. Her last headliner was the poorly reviewed Hot Pursuit, which debuted to just under $14M in the summer of 2015. She has gotten a bit of recent exposure with her Emmy nominated turn in the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies.
Besides It, it could help Home that there’s little in the way of competition. Due to that factor, I’ll say this manages to top single digits.
Home Again opening weekend prediction: $11.3 million
It’s been a rough stretch at the box office in recent weekends and Hollywood’s prescription seems to be… send in the clowns! That happens on September 8th when It unleashes itself into multiplexes. It could set some records along the way.
Based on Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, the Warner Bros pic has been building steady momentum through its creepily effective trailers and TV spots. There’s an entire generation of moviegoers who recall the 1990 miniseries where Tim Curry portrayed demented clown Pennywise. This time around, it’s Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard donning the makeup. Andy Muschietti, who made the well-regarded 2013 horror flick Mama, is behind the camera. The rest of the youthful cast deemed The Losers includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Finn Wolfhard (who you may recognize from Netflix’s Stranger Things).
As mentioned, the current rough stretch on the box office charts looks to demolished by this killer clown. Tracking has been rising in recent weeks with It, so much so that the following records could be done away with. The current all-time September best debut is 2015’s Hotel Transylvania 2 with $48 million. When it comes to horror titles in general, that record is held by 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3 at $52 million. If you throw 2001’s Hannibal into that category, that gets you to $58 million.
The current financial slumber in theaters should only help It break out in a major way. Genre enthusiasts should eat this up and crossover appeal based on buzz and solid early word-of-mouth should be significant. I’m predicting It will break all the records mentioned and float north of $60 million for its start.
After this weekend’s incredibly sluggish box office frame (more on that below), Hollywood is more or less taking the Labor Day holiday off. Only two pictures are debuting and neither is a wide release. They are the Spanish language comedy Hazlo Como Hombre and oft-delayed costume drama Tulip Fever. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:
Even though Hombre is on 200 screens less than Tulip, I’m predicting it will have a higher opening. My $3.5 million estimate for it outshines my $1.9 million one for Tulip. Either way, my takes on the newbies put them both outside the top 5.
The good news (if you can call it that) for returnees is that this particular weekend usually sees very small declines and even increases from the previous weekend. That should mean a return engagement on top for The Hitman’s Bodyguard for the third time.
There could be a legitimate battle for #2 depending on the fluctuations of holdovers like Annabelle: Creation, Leap!, WindRiver, Dunkirk, or a potentially higher Hombre gross than I’m saying.
And with that, my top 5 estimates for the holiday weekend:
1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 13%)
2. Annabelle: Creation
Predicted Gross: $5.7 million (representing a drop of 25%)
Predicted Gross: $5.4 million (representing an increase of 15%)
Predicted Gross: $5.1 million (representing an increase of 11%)
Predicted Gross: $4.2 million (representing an increase of 10%)
Box Office Results (August 25-27)
It was, to put it mildly, a terrible weekend at the box office. Between the lack of any high-profile releases, a hurricane in Texas, and a boxing match that captured the nation’s attention on Saturday night, the top 12 sunk to its lowest level since late September 2001. Obviously, this was at a time when the country was still reeling from the 9/11 tragedy. It will clearly take It the following weekend to wake the box office from its slumber because it isn’t happening over Labor Day.
As anticipated, The Hitman’s Bodyguard repeated at #1 with $10.2 million, in line with my $10.5M estimate for a two-week total of $39M. Look for it to three peat this weekend in another disastrous frame.
Annabelle: Creation held the runner-up spot again with $7.6 million, on pace with my $7.7M projection for a $78M overall tally.
Animated Leap! debuted in third with a middling $4.7 million, a bit above my $4.1M take. The production did manage an A Cinemascore grade, so it’ll hope for a fair Labor Day gross.
I incorrectly left the Jeremy Renner thriller WindRiver outside the top 5, but it expanded its screen count to place fourth and made $4.6 million to bring its earnings to $10M.
LoganLucky was fifth with $4.2 million (I said $4M) and it’s lackluster total is $14M.
Dunkirk was sixth with $3.9 million (I estimated $4.2M) for $172M overall.
Other debuts failed to garner eyeballs. BirthoftheDragon was 8th with $2.7 million compared to my $2.9M projection. Faith based drama AllSaints faltered in 16th with $1.5 million. I was more generous with a $2.6M prediction.
Hollywood is pretty much taking the Labor Day weekend off and the highest debut (unless Tulip Fever blossoms which is unlikely) could well be Pantelion’s Hazlo Como Hombre. The Spanish language comedy comes from a studio that is used to releasing their product on this particular weekend to robust results.
Four years ago, Pantelion’s studio put out Instructions Not Included and shocked box office prognosticators with a $10.3 million four-day holiday gross. Last year during the same frame, No Manches Frida took in $4.6 million. The release pattern for both pics were similar: put them out in 300-something theaters and watch the high per screen averages roll in.
The studio had a huge hit earlier this year with How to Be a Latin Lover, which debuted in over 1000 theaters and made over $12 million for its start. Hombre is slated to premiere on approximately 370 screens. Not every Pantelion pic has been a success, as June’s 3 Idiotas stumbled with just north of $600,000 on the typical 300ish screens.
So where’s that put this one? Well, it’s unpredictable when you look over the history, but I’ll say this performs similarly yet a bit lower to No Manches Frida in the $3-potentially $5M range.
Hazlo Como Hombre opening weekend prediction: $3.5 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
A film focusing on a meticulous and eccentric legend who’s bedded scores of women would seem to be right up Warren Beatty’s alley, but Rules Don’t Apply is a rather big letdown for the director’s first effort in nearly two decades. It’s a passion project for Mr. Beatty that partially focuses on the life of reclusive aviation and movie making billionaire Howard Hughes. Unlike the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio biopic The Aviator, however, Rules isn’t nearly as concerned with historical accuracy and is as much an old-fashioned Hollywood romance.
Beatty plays Hughes circa 1958-1964, a time where his OCD and reliance on pharmaceutical relief had reached massive levels. He’s still running RKO Pictures and flying girls in from all over the country for screen tests. One such prospect is Marla (Lily Collins), a devout Baptist from Virginia who flies into La La Land with her equally proper mother (Beatty’s spouse Annette Bening). She’s never had a drink, never “gone all the way” (as is the common term in this screenplay), and certainly never met a character like Mr. Hughes. Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) is one of Hughes’s many chauffeurs who’s actually yet to meet the man himself. He’s tasked with driving Marla around and they soon begin a courtship, even though Frank is engaged to his childhood sweetheart.
Further complications arise when Hughes (who strictly forbids such interaction between his many employees) gets to know Marla better. The screenplay (by Beatty and his longtime collaborator Bo Goldman) juggles the romance with some of Howard’s business and government dealings as his abnormal behavior continues to increase. We do not see the grotesque and totally shut off character that DiCaprio showed us a dozen years ago in his Oscar nominated role. Rules is much lighter stuff and feels considerably less consequential.
Some welcome comedic hey is made of the many people who wait on Hughes hand and foot, including Matthew Broderick’s assistant and Candice Bergen’s secretary. There’s many familiar faces who pop up in smaller roles (most of them likely just wanted to work with Beatty) and they include Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Platt.
Part of the problem is that while Collins and Ehrenreich are perfectly fine in their performances, their chemistry is adequate at best. A bigger issue is that Rules feels a bit all over the map in plot and tone. The arc of Howard’s disintegration into madness is an odd mix of humor and drama that never gels despite Beatty’s best efforts. It’s also hard to ignore that he’s about 20 years older than Hughes at this particular point in his life, but if anyone can pull that off…
For a director who’s known to be incredibly particular, this one contains only fleeting moments that you’ll remember. The rest, sadly, don’t apply.
Blogger’s Note (08/25): The reported theater count of only 600 screens has caused my revision to be lowered to $1.9 million.
There’s only new picture opening over the long Labor Day weekend and it’s unlikely to blossom into any sort of hit. Justin Chadwick’s Tulip Fever finally makes it to the big screen with a cast that includes Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell, Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis, Matthew Morrison, and Cara Delevingne.
The reported $25 million production from the Weinstein Company has had a long and delayed journey to the silver screen. Tulip was shot over three years ago and was originally slated to debut in theaters last summer before the studio’s financial woes got in the way. It was then rescheduled for February of this year. Finally, it was supposed to debut this coming weekend before the Weinstein Company chose to release it wide (with little fanfare) just days ago as the sole release over the holiday weekend.
This does not bode well for its chances stateside. Even though there’s little competition, I’d say its best scenario is earning the $6.1 million captured by last year’s Labor Day release The Light Between Oceans (also starring Vikander). However, I’m not convinced it even manages that (a theater count when released will help). For now, I’ll say a debut between $4-$5 million is my diagnosis.
Tulip Fever opening weekend prediction: $1.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)