October 4-6 Box Office Predictions

The new month’s box office kicks off with Warner Bros not clowning around and hoping for the best October opening ever with Joker. The Joaquin Phoenix led hard R rated comic book adaptation has received a ton of publicity (both pro and con) over the last few weeks. This certainly isn’t a picture that’s sneaking into theaters and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/09/24/joker-box-office-prediction/

In order to set the record, Joker needs to top the $80.2 million premiere by Venom last year. I’m estimating that it will do so by nearly $10 million. It’s worth noting that forecasts are varying wildly with guesstimates as low as $65 million and others saying it could top $100 million.

No other studio chose to debut anything against it so the rest of the top five will be filled with holdovers. Here’s one to keep to an eye on: the Renee Zellweger Oscar hopeful Judy has the highest per screen average this past frame. That was in just under 500 theaters and word is that it’ll expand to approximately 1500 venues. If that holds, the pic could make a home in the top five over It Chapter Two and Ad Astra.

And with that, my look at the weekend ahead:

1. Joker

Predicted Gross: $89.6 million

2. Abominable

Predicted Gross: $12.5 million

3. Downton Abbey

Predicted Gross: $8 million

4. Hustlers

Predicted Gross: $6.7 million

5. Judy

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

Box Office Results (September 27-29)

As expected, Dreamworks Animation’s Abominable debuted atop the charts with a so-so $20.6 million, right on target with my $20.7 million forecast. That’s on the low end of where these family friendly toons have premiered in late September over the last few years.

Placing second, Downton Abbey did show a front loaded nature as it fell to $14.3 million in weekend #2, below my $17.4 million projection. The two-week haul, however, is a magnificent $58 million.

Hustlers displayed a fine hold in third with $11.3 million compared to my $9.5 million prediction. The Jennifer Lopez flick has amassed $80 million.

It Chapter Two was fourth and is nearing the double century mark, earning $10.2 million (I was under at $8.3 million) to bring its tally to $193 million.

Ad Astra rounded out the top five with $10 million (I said $10.3 million) for $35 million overall.

Rambo: Last Blood was sixth with $8.5 million, a bit above my $7.8 million take. Total is $33 million.

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

Midsommar Movie Review

Ari Aster has, as the Swedish might say, bollar. Look it up and I suspect you’ll agree. His sophomore effort Midsommar is another cult movie. I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of a picture outside the mainstream that has a devoted following, but that applies too. Aster makes stuff about actual cults and the rituals they participate in. He makes horror movies without the jump scares we’ve grown accustomed to. That applied to his debut Hereditary, which stuck with me more powerfully post credits than this did. Midsommar sometimes fails at the delicate line of laughing at it rather than being creeped out by it. I can’t help but be impressed at the filmmaker’s gusto for trying, however.

Just as in Hereditary, the storyline is focused on grief and a lead female character experiencing it. College student Dani (Florence Pugh) is dealing with a horrific tragedy involving her mentally unbalanced sister and a murder suicide that tears her world apart. Boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) seems ill equipped to console her. A mysterious trip to a remote commune in Sweden to decompress seems to be as viable a distraction as any. So off they go with Christian’s roommate Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who grew up in the far off location. They’re joined by other flat mates Josh (William Jackson Harper), who is centering his thesis on the excursion and the constantly vaping Mark (Will Poulter), who seemingly just thinks he’s in for a fun summer getaway. Not even a little bit.

Bizarre sex, hallucinogenic drugs, and disturbing deaths involving rocks roll before our often unbelieving eyes over the next two and a half hours. That’s a lot of running time to spend with these demented country folk. Aster has no qualms about slowing things down and daring us to take it all in. The scenery is beautiful. This is a rare horror film that basks in the daylight. There’s no darkness to shroud the rather infrequent gore.

Midsommar is ultimately about Dani dealing with her stages of grief and stages of a relationship on the fritz. Pugh proves herself up to the task in displaying the range of emotions that the role requires. Reynor has to bare a lot as well, both literally and figuratively. No performance quite rises to the impeccable work of Toni Collette in Hereditary. There are sequences that do succeed in a severe sense of the heebie jeebies. Perhaps the most garishly impressive is early when we witness Dani’s family disbandment.

I suspect Midsommar will find its cult of admirers who declare it brilliant. Others will refuse to buy into what it’s selling. There are stretches where it’s a challenge to accept Dani and Christian wouldn’t have just headed for the hills when they realized what they were getting themselves involved in. I’m more middle of the road when considering its overall impact and that’s at least a couple notches below where Aster’s first cult flick grabbed my attention.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Gemini Man

Sporting a lowly 29% Rotten Tomatoes ranking prior to its October 11 release, Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is certainly no candidate for Best Picture recognition like the director’s previous works Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi. The sci fi action thriller casts Will Smith in an effects heavy experience where the actor plays an aging hitman who must battle a younger version of himself.

While it’s no surprise that the pic won’t contend for top line prizes, Gemini has always been eyed as a possibility for Visual Effects. The 3D high frame per second look is one employed by Lee in his last film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. That drama was seen as awards bait before poor reviews sunk its viability.

Visual Effects nowadays is a race where there’s usually no shortage of contenders. In 2019, we have the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in addition to The Irishman, The Lion King, Avengers: Endgame, and Smith’s own summer blockbuster Aladdin. I believe Gemini could still sneak in the category, but its own negative critical reaction might derail it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Irishman

The biggest Oscar domino not yet fall screened has been Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the three and a half hour gangster drama headlined by genre legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. That changed today. The epic opened the New York Film Festival exactly two months ahead of its Netflix debut. And – no real surprise here – it appears to be a serious contender.

The Irishman is said to be both a humorous and contemplative piece with De Niro and Pacino providing their best performances in years. Same goes for Pesci as he’s been away from the silver screen for nearly a decade.

While nearly all reviews are positive, they’re not all raves. My early hunch is that this will earn Picture and Director nods. Winning is another story and that is one still left to play out. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 100%. This will likely mark Scorsese’s ninth nomination (he’s won once for 2006’s The Departed). That’s also his only effort to be named Best Picture. The Adapted Screenplay from Steve Zaillian should also make the final cut.

Down the line recognition presents many chances including Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, and Visual Effects. For the latter, the de-aging technology that allows its stars to look younger could attract the notice of that branch. The pic would actually be the second Scorsese title to get a Visual Effects nod after 2011’s Hugo (which won).

Now to the thespians. The thinking is that De Niro will be in lead actor with Pacino and Pesci in supporting. It sounds as if they will be the trio in contention. De Niro would gunning for his eighth appearance as a nominee. He won Supporting for 1974’s The Godfather Part II and lead in Scorsese’s 1980 masterwork Raging Bull. I’ve had him listed in spot #6 for some time in my weekly rankings. I could still see him missing the cut as his role is said to be less flashy than his costars, but I think his chances are better today. Numerous critics have stated that Pacino steals the show and he’s going for nomination #9 (his sole win is 1992’s Scent of a Woman). Like De Niro, I’ve had him slotted sixth and I expect him to enter the top five in a supporting actor race that is already jam packed. As for Pesci (who won for 1990’s Scorsese classic GoodFellas), other reviewers are singling him out. That opens the door for two men to be nominated in the supporting race for the second time since 1991 when Harvey Keitel (who’s also in this) and Ben Kingsley were recognized for Bugsy. This occurred again two years ago with Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Pesci is not the near sure thing Pacino is, but it could happen.

Bottom line: The Irishman did what it needed to do in the Big Apple to establish itself as a player in awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Jewell Enters The Oscar Fray

Clint Eastwood works quickly and it’s become an almost common occurrence that his efforts pop up early in the fall for a late year release. That’s precisely what happened today with Richard Jewell, the filmmaker’s chronicle of the man falsely accused in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

The movie is set for a December 13 release. Anytime Eastwood has something out at this time of year, you can bet awards pundits will take notice. A project long in development, Jewell was originally set to star Jonah Hill as the title character and Leonardo DiCaprio as the lawyer defending him (they still serve as producers). Now it’s Paul Walter Hauser (memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) and Sam Rockwell headlining with Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Hamm included among the cast.

For now, it’s uncertain which races Hauser and Rockwell will be campaigned for. Both are likely to be included as possibilities in my weekly predictions next week (and probably Bates in Supporting Actress).

Eastwood has a mixed record with these “surprise” Christmastime outings. Fifteen years ago, Million Dollar Baby came out of nowhere to win Picture, Director, Actress (Hilary Swank), and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). Yet just last year, The Mule failed to gain any traction with voters. Bottom line: we shall see how it plays out, but Clint and company are at least back in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Clemency

35 years ago, Alfre Woodard received a Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for Cross Creek. She hasn’t nabbed another one since, despite heralded roles in pictures such as Passion Fish and Down in the Delta. When it comes to her television work, it’s an entirely different story as she’s had 18 Emmy nominations and won four.

Clemency, in which Woodard plays a prison warden, debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival and the actress is earning some of the best reviews of her career. The film itself holds an impressive 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating prior to its late December release (Neon picked up distribution rights).

The likelihood is that any Oscar attention will center solely on its star. Aldis Hodge is also garnering critical kudos, but the Supporting Actor category is jam packed already. In my latest Academy forecast, I have Woodard listed in sixth. I’ve found myself indecisive every week about her inclusion.

Bottom line: it’s no slam dunk, but Clemency could well provide this acclaimed actress a second trip to the red carpet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019 Oscar Predictions: September 27th Edition

When it comes to Oscar prognosticating, it’s been a fairly quiet weekend without any festivals or particularly high profile screenings. Yet that’s bound to change tomorrow because The Irishman cometh.

Two months ahead of its Netflix debut, Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster drama with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci will open the New York Film Festival. There are a few notable Academy hopefuls that haven’t screened like 1917, Bombshell, Little Women, and Dark Waters. Mr. Scorsese’s latest is the most eagerly awaited and we will know its potential Oscar viability in just a few hours (expect my individual post for it no later than Saturday).

So as we await that verdict, there were some developments in the past week:

  • I have moved Christian Bale from lead actor to supporting and that means he’s in for the first time, replacing Jamie Foxx.
  • Awkwafina gets the Best Actress #5 spot over Alfre Woodard.
  • The Two Popes has shifted to Adapted Screenplay and that takes Joker out.
  • The misfortune for Joker continues as I’ve moved it out of my top ten Picture projections in favor of The Farewell. 
  • With Popes removed from Original Screenplay, Waves takes its slot.

WINNER OF THE WEEK: The Farewell 

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Joker 

Let’s get to it!

BEST PICTURE

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 4)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

6. Parasite (PR: 5)

7. 1917 (PR: 6)

8. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

9. Little Women (PR: 10)

10. The Farewell (PR: 13)

Other Possibilities:

11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

12. Joker (PR: 9)

13. Waves (PR: 12)

14. Pain and Glory (PR: 18)

15. A Hidden Life (PR: 15)

16. Bombshell (PR: 16)

17. Ad Astra (PR: 23)

18. Just Mercy (PR: 14)

19. The Lighthouse (PR: 17)

20. The Report (PR: 21)

21. Booksmart (PR: 19)

22. Dark Waters (PR: 20)

23. Judy (Not Ranked)

24. Rocketman (PR: 24)

25. Knives Out (PR: 22)

Dropped Out:

The Good Liar 

BEST DIRECTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 3)

3. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 4)

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

8. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

10. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 10)

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 12)

12. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 14)

13. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: 15)

14. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

15. James Gray, Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Todd Phillips, Joker 

BEST ACTRESS

Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 2)

3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 4)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 3)

5. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 6)

7. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 8)

8. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 7)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 10)

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 11)

11. Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love (PR: 9)

12. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 12)

13. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 13)

14. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 14)

15. Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Elle Fanning, Teen Spirit 

BEST ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 5)

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 9)

8. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 8)

9. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra (PR: 13)

10. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 12)

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 11)

14. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: 15)

15. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (moved to Supporting)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 2)

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

5. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

Other Possibilities:

6. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 5)

8. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 7)

9. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

10. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 9)

11. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 10)

12. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 11)

13. Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 13)

14. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 12)

15. Chris Evans, Knives Out (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Bell, Rocketman 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 2)

3. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 3)

4. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 6)

8. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 12)

10. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat (PR: 11)

11. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 9)

13. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Anna Paquin, The Irishman (PR: 13)

15. Octavia Spencer, Luce (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory 

Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters 

Ana de Armas, Knives Out 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Original)

4. Little Women (PR: 3)

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joker (PR: 5)

7. Just Mercy (PR: 6)

8. Judy (PR: 10)

9. Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

10. Dark Waters (PR: 7)

11. The Good Liar (PR: 11)

12. Luce (PR: 12)

13. Hustlers (PR: 13)

14. The Laundromat (PR: 9)

15. Toy Story 4 (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Motherless Brooklyn 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 5)

5. Waves (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pain and Glory (PR: 8)

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

8. The Report (PR: 10)

9. Booksmart (PR: 7)

10. Bombshell (PR: 12)

11. The Lighthouse (PR: 13)

12. Knives Out (PR: 11)

13. Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Uncut Gems (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Honey Boy (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Two Popes (moved to Adapted)

1917