The Mule Charges Into Oscar Contention

A bit of an awards season surprise turned up today when Warner Bros announced that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule will be out on December 14. The film casts Eastwood in the true story of a World War II vet who becomes a courier for Mexican drug cartels at age 80.

The Mule marks Eastwood’s first turn in front of the camera since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve. It’s the first time he’s directed himself since 2008’s hit Gran Torino. While it’s been a little while since he’s acted, he has been churning out directorial efforts every year. It’s no accident that every time he does, Oscar chatter follows.

Over the past quarter century plus, Eastwood has seen a number of his pictures win and be nominated. In 1992, Unforgiven won Best Picture and Director. Twelve years later, Million Dollar Baby was a surprise late addition to the awards season calendar (as this is). It also won Picture and Director. Additionally, Mystic River, Letters from Iwo Jima, and American Sniper all received nods in the big race.

Just last year, The 15:17 to Paris was assumed to be another possibility for inclusion for consideration. It ended up coming out in February of this year and was a commercial and critical failure. Paris is nowhere on the radar screen for Academy chatter this year.

Will The Mule be a different story? Another Million Dollar Baby that alters the Oscar race? While we’ll have to wait for buzz and reviews (there’s not even a trailer yet), some signs point to no.

There’s already rumors that Warner Bros is looking at this as more of a commercial venture  than one they will focus on for awards campaigning. The studio already has a very serious contender on its docket with A Star Is Born. Speaking of, Eastwood’s costars here include Bradley Cooper (director and star of Born) as well as Dianne Wiest, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Taissa Farmiga, and Alison Eastwood.

Even if Warner doesn’t see this as their largest Academy player, we will see if critics and audiences feel differently. One thing is for sure – we have another movie to keep an eye on in 2018.

2018 Weekly Oscar Predictions: September 27th Edition

As my weekly Oscar predictions roll along, I finally had a week not loaded with festival news and screenings. As you can see, placements in the major categories don’t have quite as much volatility this week.

That said, there was news. Of the few contenders that haven’t screened, it was announced that On the Basis of Sex will open this year’s AFI Fest in November and that Mary Queen of Scots will close it. Their inclusion in the fest bumps their stock up a bit in my rankings this time around. Of course, it won’t be until they screen that we know the real story.

In other developments related to my rankings:

  • Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) overtakes Viola Davis (Widows) for the five-spot in Best Actress.
  • Additionally in Best Actress, Glenn Close (The Wife) now holds the #1 predicted slot over Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born).
  • In Best Adapted Screenplay, the five predicted pictures remain the same. However, BlackKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk now hold the 1-2 spots over A Star Is Born and First Man.
  • Ben Foster (Leave No Trace) will apparently be campaigned for in lead Actor and not Supporting so that change has been reflected in my estimates.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

1. A Star Is Born (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Roma (PR: 2)

3. First Man (PR: 3)

4. Green Book (PR: 5)

5. The Favourite (PR: 4)

6. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 7)

7. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 6)

8. Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Vice (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

11. Widows (PR: 12)

12. Boy Erased (PR: 11)

13. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 18)

14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 13)

15. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 14)

16. Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 17)

17. The Sisters Brothers (PR: 15)

18. At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 19)

19. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 23)

20. Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 21)

21. Leave No Trace (PR: 25)

22. Eighth Grade (PR: 24)

23. Beautiful Boy (PR: 20)

24. The Front Runner (PR: 16)

25. Stan and Ollie (PR: 22)

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (PR: 1)

2. Damien Chazelle, First Man (PR: 3)

3. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

4. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (PR: 4)

5. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 6)

7. Peter Farrelly, Green Book (PR: 7)

8. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Adam McKay, Vice (PR: 9)

10. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

11. Steve McQueen, Widows (PR: 12)

12. Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers (PR: 11)

13. Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased (PR: 14)

14. Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 13)

15. Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 15)

Best Actor

1. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

2. Ryan Gosling, First Man (PR: 2)

3. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 3)

4. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (PR: 4)

5. Christian Bale, Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 8)

7. Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 6)

8. Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased (PR: 10)

9. Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy (PR: 7)

10. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (PR: 11)

11. Ben Foster, Leave No Trace (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Supporting Actor)

12. John C. Reilly, The Sisters Brothers (PR: 13)

13. John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 12)

14. Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner (PR: 9)

15. Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here

Best Actress

1. Glenn Close, The Wife (PR: 2)

2. Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Viola Davis, Widows (PR: 5)

7. Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 10)

8. Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 11)

9. Nicole Kidman, Destroyer (PR: 7)

10. Julia Roberts, Ben Is Back (PR: 9)

11. Toni Collette, Hereditary (PR: 8)

12. Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 13)

13. Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 12)

14. Carey Mulligan, Wildlife (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Keira Knightley, Colette (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Supporting Actor

1. Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (PR: 1)

2. Mahershala Ali, Green Book (PR: 2)

3. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

4. Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born (PR: 3)

5. Daniel Kaluuya, Widows (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 7)

7. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (PR: 9)

8. Sam Rockwell, Vice (PR: 8)

9. Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite (PR: 6)

10. John C. Reilly, Stan and Ollie (PR: 11)

11. Russell Crowe, Boy Erased (PR: 10)

12. Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 12)

13. Jason Clarke, First Man (PR: 14)

14. Steve Carell, Vice (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Oscar Isaac, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace (moved to Lead Actor)

Best Supporting Actress

1. Claire Foy, First Man (PR: 1)

2. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 2)

3. Emma Stone, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (PR: 4)

5. Amy Adams, Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased (PR: 6)

7. Natalie Portman, Vox Lux (PR: 8)

8. Sissy Spacek, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 9)

9. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 7)

10. Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 13)

11. Marina de Tavira, Roma (PR: 11)

12. Elizabeth Debicki, Widows (PR: 10)

13. Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace (PR: 14)

14. Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Linda Cardellini, Green Book (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Maura Tierney, Beautiful Boy

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 3)

2. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 4)

3. A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

4. First Man (PR: 2)

5. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leave No Trace (PR: 15)

7. Widows (PR: 6)

8. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 8)

9. Boy Erased (PR: 7)

10. Black Panther (PR: 9)

11. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 14)

12. The Sisters Brothers (PR: 12)

13. Disobedience (PR: 13)

14. The Front Runner (PR: 10)

15. Beautiful Boy (PR: 11)

Best Original Screenplay

1. The Favourite (PR: 1)

2. Green Book (PR: 3)

3. Roma (PR: 2)

4. Eighth Grade (PR: 5)

5. Vice (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. First Reformed (PR: 6)

7. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 14)

8. A Quiet Place (PR: 8)

9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 7)

10. Ben Is Back (PR: 12)

11. Stan and Ollie (PR: 9)

12. At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 10)

13. Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 11)

14. Hereditary (PR: 13)

15. Sorry to Bother You (PR: 15)

Oscar Watch: Capernaum

I recently did an Oscar Watch post for Shoplifters, the Japanese drama that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It stands an excellent shot at a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

So, too, does the Cannes winner for the Jury Prize and that is Capernaum. This Lebanese tearjerker from director Nadine Labaki is said to be an audience favorite. It recently played at the Toronto Film Festival and buzz continued to increase. The Jury Prize recipient in 2017 was Russia’s Loveless and it went on to score an Academy nod.

The category is beginning to look crowded with such titles as Roma, Cold War, Shoplifters, and Sunset (among others) as contenders. If Capernaum makes it in, it would be only the second picture from Lebanon to do so. Yet it would also be two in a row as last year’s The Insult was the first.

Bottom line: Capernaum stands a solid shot among the five movies to be recognized in the Foreign Language Film race.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Star Is Born Box Office Prediction

Riding a wave of serious Oscar buzz, A Star Is Born is unveiled in theaters next weekend. The musical romance is the third remake of the 1937 film (the last was from 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson). It marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper, who also stars as an alcoholic country singer who discovers and falls for a budding superstar (Lady Gaga). Costars include Sam Elliot, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, and Rafi Gavron.

After premiering at the Venice Film Festival weeks ago, Star immediately garnered awards attention. With great reviews (95% on Rotten Tomatoes), this is seen as a serious contender in a number of races including Best Picture. The performances of Cooper and Gaga have been met with raves. While she’s one of music’s biggest names, Gaga’s filmography has been limited to FX’s “American Horror Story” and Machete Kills. She seems destined to pick up an Oscar nod.

The likelihood is that Star will ride its awards chatter to solid grosses throughout the fall. How high it opens is more of a mystery. While it will almost certainly place second to Venom, the range is significant. I believe a gross of over $40 million is achievable.

A Star Is Born opening weekend prediction: $48.6 million

For my Venom prediction, click here:

Venom Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures hopes to kick off a franchise and set an October opening record next weekend when Venom debuts. The picture’s namesake is an anti-hero spawned from the Spider-Man comics. Moviegoers first saw him in the form of Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. That rendering of the character didn’t sit too well with comic book aficionados.

The studio hopes this version changes that. Ruben Fleischer, best known for Zombieland, serves behind the camera. Playing Venom and his alter ego Eddie Brock is Tom Hardy. Costars include Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Woody Harrelson.

Sequels and spin-offs are hoped for and the marketing campaign has been pervasive. The reaction to trailers has been mostly positive, but word is that reviews won’t be published until the day before release. That’s not always a good sign. Similar buzz greeted Suicide Squad (among others) and it managed to meet expectations and gross $133 million in its first weekend. That stands as the largest August debut ever.

The correlation is that Venom could do the same in October, but estimates aren’t as high here. This is expected to gross between $60-$70 million. Even if it reached the low-end of that spectrum, this would top October record holder Gravity at $55 million. I’ll note that Halloween (out October 19) also stands a solid shot at exceeding that.

My feeling is this will meet projections, but on the lower end of the spectrum. How it performs in subsequent weekends will be dependent on buzz and that may be the biggest indicator on whether Sony gets its longed for cinematic universe.

Venom opening weekend prediction: $62.5 million

For my A Star Is Born prediction, click here:

Box Office Predictions: September 28-30

**Blogger’s Note (09/27/18): My estimates for Night School and Smallfoot has risen slightly to $31.6 million and $23 million respectively.

It could be a battle for the #1 spot at the box office as September closes with the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School and the animated Warner Bros family pic Smallfoot debuting. We also have the Halloween theme park set horror flick Hell Fest opening. You can peruse my detailed individual prediction posts on the trio here:

Before we get to the heavy hitters, the Pure Flix version of Little Women is also out Friday on a low 600 or so screens. I didn’t do a separate post for it and I’m not expecting much out of it. I’ll put its premiere at just $1.1 million.

Kevin Hart has shown his potency at the box office repeatedly with several openings north of $30 million. I don’t have Night School reaching quite that high, but my mid to late 20s estimate is enough to project it will top the lower to mid 20s gross of Smallfoot. 

Competition for Smallfoot will include the second weekend of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which performed on the higher end of expectations out of the gate. It should drop to third place with A Simple Favor in fourth.

The five-spot is where I expect Hell Fest to compete. Horror movies always have the capacity to outdo expectations, but I’m not seeing much fanfare for this one. My mid single digits prediction could put it in range with the fourth weekend of The Nun.

And with that, a top 6 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Night School

Predicted Gross: $31.6 million

2. Smallfoot

Predicted Gross: $23 million

3. The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $15.3 million

4. A Simple Favor

Predicted Gross: $7 million

5. Hell Fest

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

6. The Nun

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

Box Office Results (September 21-23)

As anticipated, The House with a Clock in Its Walls topped the charts with a solid $26.6 million (ahead of my $23.2 million take). The Jack Black family pic, as mentioned, hit the better end of estimates. Considering its reported $40 million budget, this should be a nice hit for Universal.

A Simple Favor elevated from third place to second place in its sophomore weekend with $10.2 million, in line with my $10.6 million projection. Its total stands at $32 million.

The Nun crossed the $100 million mark placing third with $9.9 million (ahead of my $8.4 million estimate). Only Annabelle of the Conjuring Cinematic Universe didn’t manage to join the century club and The Nun appears poised to be the franchise’s second largest earner behind The Conjuring.

The Predator dipped mightily in weekend #2 to fourth place with a 63% fall and $9.1 million (I said $10 million) for $40 million overall.

Crazy Rich Asians was fifth with $6.3 million (I went with $5.9 million) for $159 million overall.

The newcomers besides Clock all failed to connect with moviegoers. Michael Moore’s doc (despite significant publicity) was a flop. While Fahrenheit 9/11 took in nearly $24 million in its first weekend in the summer of 2004, 11/9 managed a paltry $3 million for 8th place. I predicted $5 million.

Life Itself couldn’t overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews and the drama from “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman was 11th with a putrid $2.1 million. I was a bit higher at $3.8 million.

I didn’t make a prediction on the blog for Assassination Nation (though I said $1.2 million on Fantasy Movie League), but it was another bad opening in 15th place with $1 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Shoplifters

Back in May, the Japanese family drama Shoplifters took Cannes by storm and won the Palme d’Or (the festival’s top prize). It comes from director Hirokazu Kore’eda and five years earlier, his pic Like Father, Like Son won the jury prize at the same festival.

Japan has unsurprisingly picked Shoplifters as its official selection for Academy consideration. Based on the Cannes love, it stands an excellent shot at making the final five. It’s likely to face serious competition from Roma (the odds on favorite), Cold War, Sunset, and others which will be discussed on here in short order.

Bottom line: pencil Shoplifters in for inclusion come nominations time. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Long and Winding Bond

It’s amazing to think that The Beatles released their first single in 1962. This was also the first year that a Bond picture came out with Dr. No. Both entities are still extraordinarily relevant. Famously, Sean Connery’s Bond dissed the Fab Four in 1964’s Goldfinger. 

007 fans got some welcome news this week as Cary Fukunaga was announced as the director of the 25th (and as yet untitled) official James Bond film. By the time it comes out, Mr. Fukunaga will be the first American filmmaker to make a Bond pic in its 58 year history.

He brings an exciting resume to the fold. In addition to a filmography that includes varied directorial efforts like Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, and Beasts of No Nation, his screenwriting credits include last year’s smash It and TV’s The Alienist. His work behind the camera for television also includes the critically lauded first season of HBO’s True Detective and Netflix’s Maniac with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill (which premieres today).

The pick was a surprise and it wasn’t just due to his U.S. heritage. The producers behind Bond had recently gone with a certain type… awards friendly directors branching out to the super spy series. After Martin Campbell successfully kicked off the Daniel Craig era (just as he did for Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye), Marc Forster (maker of Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland) did the disappointing Quantum of Solace. Then it was Academy Award winning Sam Mendes behind Skyfall and Spectre. 

When Danny Boyle was announced as director for Bond 25, it seemed to fit the mold. He’s an Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire. He’s also directed some other genre fare (including Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) that made him a fairly exciting pick. Yet it somehow seemed a little safe. After creative differences caused his exit, I figured someone like Joe Wright (who last directed Darkest Hour) could be the replacement.

Fukunaga is an intriguing selection and I’m curious to see how he handles what is very likely to be Craig’s final appearance as 007. And this brings us to Mr. Craig’s longevity. Sean Connery made six movies in the official canon (1983’s Never Say Never Again isn’t considered part of it). George Lazenby did the one-off On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Roger Moore is the leader with seven. Timothy Dalton had two. Pierce Brosnan made four.

This will be Craig’s fifth 007 turn. Surprisingly, he will have actually portrayed the MI6 agent the longest by the time #25 is released in February 2020. His 14 year reign will eclipse the 12 years that Moore played him.

Attention will soon turn to the next Bond. If I had to guess, I figure the seventh actor to play him will debut onscreen in November 2022. There’s been rumors of Idris Elba taking over the role. Expect plenty of speculation over the next couple of years. By that time, the Bond franchise will be 60 years old. Like The Beatles music, it will never die and the long and winding road of the franchise continues to interest us.

Hell Fest Box Office Prediction

Set in a Halloween theme park, the horror flick Hell Fest will attempt to bring in genre fans next weekend. It’s directed by Gregory Plotkin, who’s known more for his work as an editor (Get Out, Happy Death Day). He did make Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. The cast includes Amy Forsyth, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards, and Tony Todd (otherwise known as Candyman from that franchise).

Hell Fest debuts in the middle of considerably more high-profile fright fests The Nun and Halloween. Opening on approximately 2200 screens, awareness seems rather low. That said, horror fans can sometimes cause larger than expected grosses.

I’m not seeing it here. I’ll project a mid to maybe high single digits premiere.

Hell Fest opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Night School prediction, click here:

For my Smallfoot prediction, click here:

Oscar History: 2012

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an Oscar History post (about two and a half years) and I’m at 2012. It was a year in which Seth MacFarlane hosted the show – fresh off his comedy smash Ted. Here’s what transpired in the major categories with some other pictures and performers I might have considered:

The year saw nine nominees for Best Picture in which Ben Affleck’s Argo took the top prize. Other nominees: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook (my personal favorite of the year), and Zero Dark Thirty. 

Many Wes Anderson fans would contend that Moonrise Kingdom should have made the cut. And I could certainly argue that The Avengers (perhaps the greatest comic book flick and the year’s biggest grosser) was worth a nod.

The nominations in Best Director were a huge surprise at the time. While Argo won the top prize of all, Affleck was not nominated for his behind the camera efforts. It was the first time since Driving Miss Daisy‘s Bruce Beresford where an Oscar-winning Picture didn’t see its filmmaker nominated.

Instead it was Ang Lee who was victorious for Life of Pi over Michael Haneke (Amour), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

In addition to Affleck, it was surprising that Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) was not included. And I certainly would have put in Tarantino for Django.

The race for Best Actor seemed over when the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was announced. And that’s exactly how it played out as he won his third Oscar over a strong slate of Bradley Cooper (Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

The exclusion of John Hawkes in The Sessions could have been welcomed, but I’ll admit that’s a solid group.

Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for Silver Linings over Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible).

Again, no major qualms here. I did enjoy the work of Helen Mirren in Hitchcock (for which she did get a Golden Globe nod).

Supporting Actor was competitive as Christoph Waltz won his second statue for Django (three years after Inglourious Basterds). He was a bit of a surprise winner over Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Other nominees: Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Playbook), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Here’s a year where there’s a lot of others I thought of. Waltz won, but I think the work of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson in Django was equally impressive. There’s Javier Bardem as one of the greatest Bond villains ever in Skyfall. Or John Goodman’s showy role in Flight. As for some other blockbusters that year, how about Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers or Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike? And my favorite comedic scene of that year was due to Giovanni Ribisi in Ted…

In Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway was a front-runner for Les Miserables and there was no upset. Other nominees: Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), and Jacki Weaver (Playbook).

Judi Dench had more heft to her part as M in Skyfall that year and I’ll also give a shout-out to Salma Hayek’s performance in Oliver Stone’s Savages.

And there’s your Oscar history for 2012! I’ll have 2013 up… hopefully in less than two and a half years!