Movie Perfection: Growing UP and Growing Old

For my third edition of the Movie Perfection series, I wanted to concentrate on a pair of scenes that not only embody Movie Perfection, but really came out of nowhere when I viewed the film I’m about to speak of.

When we watch a film of a certain genre, we come into it with certain expectations at the most elementary level. If it’s a comedy, we want to laugh. If it’s a big budget superhero movie, we want to be wowed by kick ass action scenes and maybe get some good character development in between. And so on and so forth.

Like most movie goers, the story of Pixar and their rapid ascension to kings of animated features has been a joy to watch. From the Toy Story series to Monsters Inc. to Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, this is the studio that seems to hit it out of the park every time. When we know the animated film is Pixar, we expect quality. We expect brilliant animation, a good story, fun characters, and even some moments of emotion (see Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo).

In 2008, Pixar seemed to up its game in many ways with Wall-E, a feature that seemed geared almost as much for adults as it was for their children. And there were emotional moments in that one, too.

But nothing – NOTHING – prepared me for Pixar’s follow-up to Wall-E, 2009’s Up. Let’s get this out of the way first – it’s my favorite Pixar feature. And I knew the reviews were wonderful (as they nearly always are with the company’s films). So when I rented Up shortly after its DVD release, I expected to be highly entertained.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional powerhouse that it was. And nothing shows this more than a montage early in the film that shows the lives of the film’s main character Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) and his wife Ellie. There are no words, just the beautiful musical score of Michael Giacchino (who has scored other Pixar features and the TV show “Lost”). Those few minutes of seeing these character’s lives set to that music threw me for a loop when I saw it. This sequence is for the adults in the audience. It’s about the love of two people. It’s about promises they’ve made to each other. It’s about how promises can be broken because regular life gets in the way. It’s about life not living up to the lofty expectations we make when we’re children. It’s about seeing your loved one’s health decline. It’s about life and death. It’s mature film making at its highest level. And it’s most emotional level.

The sequence of Carl and Ellie meeting as children, getting married, and growing old together is a beautiful sequence. And I won’t lie – my reaction to it did not involve dry eyes. The first time I saw it, I felt like a fool watching it, getting emotional about two animated characters. But we forget they’re animated characters while we’re watching it. That’s what great movies can accomplish. You forget you’re watching a movie and the emotions we feel remind us of times in our own lives and of people we know and love. That’s what Up does in that sequence better than almost anything else I’ve ever seen.

After that amazing musical sequence, we get into the plot of the movie, which involves Carl going on an amazing adventure with his balloon-powered home. The rest of the movie is fantastic.

Later in the movie, though, we return to the story of Carl and Ellie. In the sequence I’ve spoken of, we see The Adventure Book, where the couple are going to chronicle all their adventures all over the world. During most of the film after Ellie’s death, Carl can’t bring himself to look at it because of his intense disappointment in not going on those adventures he and his wife had dreamed of as children. When Carl finally takes a look at the book, he accidentally discovers that before her death, Ellie filled the book in with pictures of their life together. As Carl looks at the book and his eyes well up with tears, he recognizes that those pictures do show the adventures he and his late wife experienced together. And he finally realizes that Ellie was grateful to have such a loving husband in her life. As he looks at the Adventure Book, it closes with a handwritten note from her: “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own”. Emotional stuff that is handled brilliantly in the movie.

I am not someone who gets teary-eyed a lot during movies, but Up did the trick during both of those scenes… and have every time I’ve watched it since. In the years since I’ve seen it, I have definitely discovered I’m not the only one who had a similar reaction to that movie after talking with friends who sheepishly admit they teared up as well.

Up is Pixar’s masterpiece so far in my opinion and that’s saying a lot. That gorgeous score by Giacchino would win the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe. Up would be nominated for Best Picture. These sequences are the epitome of Movie Perfection. If you’ve seen Up, enjoy this YouTube video of the two sequences cut together. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Box Office Results: Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend 2012 will go down as the biggest Turkey Day frame in Hollywood history, with the majority of movies exceeding my forecasts, with one very notable exception.

I predicted that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 would remain at #1 and it did. However, it outperformed my forecast, grossing $64 million (I said $61.4M).

James Bond remained #2, with Skyfall grossing an astonishing $51 million in its third weekend (I only predicted $33.5M). Clearly, moviegoers were in the mood for 007 and I suspect some of it was repeat viewings. Already the highest grossing Bond film ever, expectations for 2014’s Bond will be high after the critical and audience smash that this one has become.

Lincoln had an incredible second weekend. Grossing $34.1 million over the five-day (I predicted $31.2M), Steven Spielberg’s drama has captured the love of audiences and is a frontrunner for Best Picture, along with Argo and probably Les Miserables.

The real suprise this weekend is the lackluster performance the animated Rise of the Guardians. Most analysts (including me) assumed it would open at #2 and perhaps even challenge Twilight for the top spot. It stumbled out of the gate – grossing $32.6 million over the frame. I predicted $53.8 million. There is no doubt that Guardians is subpar compared to most animated openings and it will need to have strong legs over the next few weekends. If not, it will surely be considered a major disappointment.

Opening strong at #5 is another Oscar contender, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which overperformed expectations as well. I predicted $24.4 million, but Pi grossed $30.2M. Expect it to have strong legs in the weeks ahead too.

Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph was sixth in its fourth weekend, grossing a better than expected $23 million, higher than my $18.5M forecast.

I was right about Red Dawn opening seventh, but it also performed way better than expected. The remake of the 1980s action flick grossed a solid $22 million, much higher than my $14 million prediction.

Finally, while I did not predict a gross for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, the Oscar contender performed well in its limited opening – #9, grossing $4.6 million on only 367 screens. Playbook will expand next weekend and could see solid results in the weeks ahead.

So there you have it – unless you’re Dreamworks who distributed Guardians – this was a great weekend for movie studios and a record-making Turkey Day weekend. I’ll post box office predictions on Thursday for next weekend!

Oscar History: 1992

And now a brand spanking new feature on my blog that will look back on certain years in Oscar history and review what won and was nominated, what wasn’t, and why.

We’ll start with 1992 – a year that brought one iconic actor some very overdue recognition, gave us a real surprise in the Supporting Actress category, and started the Academy recognition for another iconic director and actor that would continue over the next two decades.

In the Best Picture race, the film to beat was actually released in summer 1992: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, which received critical acclaim and was a huge box office hit.

Eastwood had not exactly been on a roll in 1992. Titles he directed and appeared recently before that included Pink Cadillac, an action comedy co-starring Bernadette Peters and the buddy cop flick The Rookie, with Charlie Sheen. Unforgiven marked a great achievement for Eastwood – a great Western with a wonderful cast that included Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris. Audiences responded well and the Academy saw it as their first real chance to honor the filmmaker.

Also nominated in the Best Picture race: Rob Reiner’s hit A Few Good Men, with an all-star that included Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Kiefer Sutherland. We all remember the final courtroom scene showdown between Cruise and Nicholson (I won’t bother quoting it – you couldn’t handle it). Released in December 1992 to decent reviews and huge box office, I won’t deny that Men is an intensely watchable film with some fine moments. However, I’ve always maintained that it’s a little bit overrated. Still, 1992 is a pretty weak year for movies, so it’s nomination is no big surprise and I do not strenuously object to its nomination.

On the British side, we have Jame Ivory’s Howards End with Anthony Hopkins (fresh off winning Best Actor in 1991 for some movie where played a cannibal) and Emma Thompson, based on E.M. Forster’s novel. I would love to share my thoughts on this picture, but truth be told, it’s been years since I’ve seen it and I don’t remember much about it. Rewatching the trailer – I kind of want to see it again and I’m sure the performances were terrific, but I’m not going to pretend I recall a whole lot about it.

A film that came out of nowhere in 1992 is Neil Jordan’s thriller The Crying Game, starring Neil Jordan, Jaye Davidson, Miranda Richardson, and Forest Whitaker. A top-notch thriller – it’s become famous for a twist in the second half that truly is shocking. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it (because you should), but it took the film in a totally unexpected direction that helped garner the attention paid to it. Shocking twist aside, The Crying Game, along with Unforgiven, deserved its Academy recognition.

The same cannot be said, in my humble opinion, for the fifth nominee – Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino stars as a blind Army colonel who gives his new aide (Chris O’Donnell) a hard time and in the process they learn about life and stuff. Pacino also has a now famous tango scene. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but Scent of a Woman didn’t have much of an impact on me and it, unfortunately, helped start a little down slide in the great Pacino’s career where he overacted way too much.

Those were the five nominees in 1992. Unforgiven was the clear frontrunner at the time and it won, as did Eastwood for his directing. Other directing nominees were Martin Brest for Scent, James Ivory for Howards End, and Neil Jordan for Crying Game. Rob Reiner’s direction in A Few Good Men was not nominated. Instead, the fifth slot went to Robert Altman for The Player, a biting satire of Hollywood that is one on my favorite features of 1992 and should ha received a Best Picture nomination.

What else could’ve or should’ve been Best Picture contenders in 1992? Many would say Spike Lee’s biopic Malcolm X. Or Glengarry Glen Ross, a terrific film adaptation of David Mamet’s play. Or how about Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day-Lewis? Also, Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It. 1992 also marked Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which in a perfect world, should’ve been nominated. Another favorite of mine from that year is George Miller’s Lorenzo’s Oil, starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as the parents of a boy with a rare disease. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s great.

In the Best Actor race, the Academy would finally give Pacino his gold statue. It’s unfortunate that his only Oscar win came for something as unspectacular as Scent. He definitely should’ve won in 1974 for The Godfather – Part II, instead of Art Carney in Harry and Tonto. He also should’ve won Supporting Actor in 1972 for the original Godfather. I’ll forgive him not winning in 1975 for Dog Day Afternoon because I think Jack Nicholson was equally deserving for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His 1992 win is clearly an example of the Academy honoring someone for their body of work and not necessarily the particular film. His competition that year: Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and Denzel Washington (Malcolm X). Many thought Denzel was the actor who deserved it. I probably would’ve found room for Day-Lewis in Mohicans and Nolte in Lorenzo’s Oil among the five as well and perhaps Tim Robbins in The Player.

Emma Thompson would win Best Actress for Howards End, over Catherine Deneuve in Indochine, Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish, Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field, and Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo’s Oil. Pretty weak category that year and I can’t really think of anyone left off who was totally deserving.

The Supporting Actor category would reward Gene Hackman for his terrific performance in Unforgiven. Other nominees: Jaye Davidson in Crying Game, Jack Nicholson in Few Good Men, Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross, and David Paymer for Mr. Saturday Night. I definitely would’ve left Nicholson and Paymer off the list and replaced them with two more actors in Glengarry Glen Ross: Jack Lemmon (who is the heart and soul of that great movie) and Alec Baldwin, who only has one scene in it, but it’s so fantastic that I would’ve given him a nomination.

The Supporting Actress category would have a foreign feel to it. The nominees: Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, Joan Plowright in Enchanted April, Vanessa Redgrave in Howards End, and Miranda Richardson in Damage. But it’s the winner that shocked Hollywood: Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. First off, the Academy hardly ever nominates peformers in comedies so Tomei’s nomination was rare. For her to win over that group of actresses though? Shocking. So shocking that there’s been conspiracy theories in Hollywood that Jack Palance (the elderly actor who presented the category) read the wrong name on stage. Probably not true, but Tomei winning is a true Academy surprise. I thought Vinny was a watchable, though completely unremarkable comedy and her performance was good, but Oscar worthy? In that category, I probably would’ve found room for Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns.

 

So that’s 1992 – a good year for Eastwood and Pacino but a pretty blah year for movies in general. 1993 would be a definite improvement, even if that Best Picture race ended when its winner was released. Stay tuned.

Box Office Predictions: Thanksgiving Weekend

The long Thanksgiving weekend is always a huge box office weekend and 2012 looks to be no exception – with the second week of Twilight and Lincoln, the third weekend of Skyfall, and the debut of three new titles – Rise of the Guardians, Life of Pi, and Red Dawn.

It’s certainly a crowded marketplace and not everything can do great, can it? For The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the film did not set the all-time Twilight opening record this past weekend, but still managed the eighth biggest debut of all time. To determine how it will hold up over the five-day turkey weekend, there is certainly precedence. Both New Moon and last year’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened in the mid-November weekend prior to Thanksgiving and both of those titles dropped approximately 70% during the holiday time frame. There is very little reason to suspect the final Twilight won’t follow a very similar trajectory.

That will probably be enough for the vampire saga to remain #1 at the box office, but it does face serious competition from the new Dreamworks animated feature Rise of the Guardians, which features Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy as an Avengers type team (pretty cool concept, I must admit). With Wreck-It-Ralph now in its fourth weekend, kids should be primed for something else to drag their parents to. Guardians has received positive reviews and looks to have an impressive debut.

There could be a real battle for #3 between 007, Abe Lincoln, and Pi. Skyfall had a much smaller drop than its predecessor Quantum of Solace and its five-day gross might not be dramatically lower than its low-40s gross over the weekend.

Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee and receiving Oscar buzz, is based on a well-loved book whose readers might make a trip to the theater this weekend. Pi is similar to Argo and Lincoln in the sense that its opening may not be mind-blowing, but it could have strong legs in the weeks ahead into Academy Awards season.

The real curiosity this weekend is Lincoln. It got off to a fantastic start with $21 million over the weekend on a relatively small number of screens. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I believe Lincoln has the real possibility of grossing quite a bit more over the Thanksgiving frame than its initial weekend. For one, it just seems like the type of film that families may go see over the break. I need look no further than my own – where my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and I are planning a Friday trip to see it. Secondly, Lincoln is bound to capitalize on its terrific response from audiences this past weekend – it received a Cinemascore grade of “A”. Those who’ve seen it are telling their friends to see it – trust me, I know.

Finally, this weekend brings us the debut of Red Dawn, a remake of a 1980s cult classic. The film was shot a couple of years ago and shelved due to MGM’s financial difficulties. It does feature well-known stars Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), but the reviews have been negative and the field may simply be too crowded for this to do any big business.

With all that as context, here are my predictions for box office grosses from Wednesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 25:

1. The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 

Predicted Gross: $61.4 million

2. Rise of the Guardians

Predicted Gross: $53.8 million

3. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $33.5 million

4. Lincoln

Predicted Gross: $31.2 million

5. Life of Pi

Predicted Gross: $24.4 million

6. Wreck-It-Ralph

Predicted Gross: $18.5 million

7. Red Dawn

Predicted Gross: $14 million

There they are and I’ll post the updates on actual grosses Sunday night. In the meantime, I’m looking to post some new blog material over the holiday weekend! And thanks to those of you who have “liked” this blog’s new Facebook page. Please know that I “like” you all too!!

Box Office Results (Weekend of November 16-18)

No one doubted that we were going to see a huge weekend at the box office and we did. On Thursday, I made my weekly box office predictions. For three of the four pictures, I overestimated a bit. For the other, I underestimated (hint: 16th President).

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 was gunning for a Top Ten All-Time opening and it achieved that. The film opened to $141.3 million, good for the eighth best opening of all time and fourth best of 2012, behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games. However, it did not achieve the distinction of highest Twilight opening ever, which still belongs to New Moon at $142.8 million. This is a bit of a surprise, as most analysts (including this blogger) figured it would have the biggest opening in the franchise. I (over) predicted a gross of $153.8 million.

It’s hard to say a $141.3 million opening is disappointing and it’s truly not. It’s just a bit below a lot of projections, including my own. The final Harry Potter film easily had the greatest opening in its series, so it stood to reason that the last adventure of Edward, Bella, and Jacob would too. But it wasn’t to be.

I predicted Skyfall would fall 51% in its second weekend. It dropped slightly more – 53% – for a second week gross of $41.5 million. That’s still a terrific holdup, considering steep competition and the fact that the last Bond, Quantum of Solace, dropped 60% in its second frame. Even more impressively, Skyfall is already the highest grossing 007 picture ever worldwide. Amazing.

I wrongly predicted Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph would be #3 this weekend and drop only 36%. It dropped more (45%) and grossed $18.3 million in its third weekend. Ralph is a major hit for Disney, though.

Other than Twilight having an all-time Top Ten debut, the other major story this weekend is Lincoln. I predicted a #4 debut with a gross of $18.1 million. That gross would’ve been considered very good, since its playing on a relatively low number of screens and is expected to do well not just on its opening weekend, but for the weekends to come. It outperformed my expectations and most others, opening third to $21 million. This is a fantastic opening. It received a grade of “A” from Cinemascore (audience polls), indicating it’s got a wonderful road ahead. I’ll avoid making the Lincoln/theater joke because you’ll see that everywhere else. What this means is that Lincoln and Argo are locked in a serious competition for what will win Best Picture (as I’ve mentioned before, Les Miserables could join that list too). Lincoln is bound to hold up very well over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ll be making next weekend’s predictions likely on Tuesday this week, since the new releases open Wednesday due to the holiday weekend. Stay tuned.

The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Five

The first half of the 1990s would not be a great time for Mr. Eddie Murphy, with big box office disappointments including The Distinguished Gentleman, Beverly Hills Cop III, and Vampire in Brooklyn. In the last half of the decade, he would find his footing, reinventing himself a family movie star with giant hits The Nutty Professor and Doctor Dolittle, mixed in with big flops like Holy Man. In 1999, he would end the decade with two well-received titles, Life and Bowfinger.

The 2000s decade would begin with the obligatory sequel Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. It was not nearly as well-reviewed as the 1996 original, but it still performed quite well with $123 million domestically.

The summer of 2001 would bring another obvious sequel – Dr. Dolittle 2. Again, it wasn’t quite as well-received as the first, but grossed a very respectable $112 million.

The real story that summer for Murphy would be his debut as Donkey in the Dreamworks animated feature Shrek. Teaming with Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz, the film’s ironic twist on fairy tales scored huge with audiences and critics. It grossed an astonishing $267 million and Murphy’s Donkey character was singled out as a highlight. Instantly becoming an animated classic (and deservedly so), Shrek would spawn several sequels and give Murphy one of his most memorable characters in some time.

While Murphy’s first three films of the decade were all high grossers, he would make three movies in 2002 and all were box office and critical disappointments. We start with Showtime, a comedy which would team Murphy with Robert DeNiro. I recall being very excited for this one and like most audience members and critics, profoundly disappointed when I saw it. Lots of potential wasted here in a by-the-numbers buddy cop formula comedy. Showtime would only earn $38 million at the box office.

If Showtime was a major letdown, The Adventures of Pluto Nash was an outright disaster. And a historical one at that. Produced on a $100 million budget, this lame sci-fi comedy took in $4.4 million. Yes, you read that correctly. It didn’t even make 5% of its budget back. Ouch. Pluto Nash would join such legendary Hollywood flops such as Howard the Duck, Ishtar, and Waterworld as cautionary tales of massive overspending when the people behind the movie should’ve realized that it wasn’t any good. Like most movies in this category, it’s probably not as awful as its reputation, but it’s still pretty weak.

Murphy would round out 2002 with another flop, the remake of the 1960s TV show I Spy, costarring Owen Wilson. Once again, the movie didn’t connect with audiences or critics, making only $33 million. Much like Showtime, I Spy has lots of potential that was mostly squandered. I will give it some backhanded praise, though. Of his three 2002 disappointments, it’s the best of the worst.

2003 would see Murphy going the family friendly route again with two features. Neither were hits with critics, but both did well at the box office. First, Daddy Day Care. Critics savaged it, but it earned $104 million and I will admit, it has its funny moments and I can see why kids would like it.

Disney’s The Haunted Mansion didn’t do quite as well, but made a respectable $75 million. It’s nothing special, but again it has its moments and did well with the kiddos. What was becoming disappointing to Eddie fans was that these family guy roles did little to challenge this extraordinary performer. Sure, he could be funny in anything, but he was definitely coasting.

Summer 2004 would have Murphy doing the Donkey thing again in Shrek 2. This installment drew raves from audiences and critics again, to the tune of an incredible $441 million at the box office. Shrek 2 still stands as Eddie’s biggest box office hit and it’s hard to see anything ever replacing it.

Eddie has been working a LOT in the early part of the decade, so we would see his longest break after Shrek 2. It would two and a half years before another movie. 

That would turn out to be 2006’s Dreamgirls, a musical drama based on the Broadway play. Dreamgirls would turn out to be a major change of pace for Murphy. It would allow him to stretch as an actor, with his first real dramatic role as a drug-addicted James Brown type singer, James “Thunder” Early. 

Murphy would absolutely hit it out of the park. His brilliant performance reminded audiences the amazing singular talent that Murphy was. He won the Golden Globe award for Supporting Actor and many felt he was one of his way to Oscar. On Oscar night, however, the statue surprisingly ended up going to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine, denying Murphy his own real chance in his career to win. He should’ve won. Dreamgirls stands as the first time Murphy tackles a dramatic role and proves he should have done that more. Maybe three less boring family guy roles. Audiences would respond well too, with the film taking in $103 million.

The Oscar buzz Eddie would gain for Dreamgirls gave him a golden opportunity to expand his career. Would he use that opportunity? We’ll find out in the last installment of The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy, coming soon.

Oscar Predictions: What Has Changed (Acting Categories)

As a continuation of yesterday’s post, I am updating predictions on what I believe will be nominated for Oscars. Updates were provided in the last post regarding Best Picture and Director. Tonight, the acting categories.

BEST ACTOR

Last month, my predicted five were Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, John Hawkes in The Sessions, Denzel Washington in Flight, and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. The first three listed are shoo-ins and it would be a shock if they weren’t nominated. Washington is a near shoo-in. It’s the fifth slot that’s tricky – other than Cooper, it could easily be Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock, Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour, Richard Gere in Arbitrage, Ben Affleck in Argo, or Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables. There has really been nothing in the last month, however, to put them over Cooper. Yet. For now, my predicted five from my October is my predicted five in November.

BEST ACTRESS

The biggest change here since October is that Jessica Chastain’s performance in Zero Dark Thirty was announced as a Best Actress campaign, not Supporting Actress. No one’s seen it yet, but her role has been rumored to be a great one. There’s really only one shoo-in for a nomination and that’s Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. The other four I predicted were Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, and Helen Mirren in Hitchcock. I’m going to go ahead and say Chastain gets in, but it’s tough to predict who gets left out. For now, I’ll replace Riva with Chastain, but we’ll see how this shakes out in a month or so when I update predictions. Also, Naomi Watts in The Impossible is a real possibility.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

In both supporting categories, I predicted one from each that I know believe will not be nominated. For supporting actor, it’s William H. Macy in The Sessions. Don’t think it’s happening now. I’m not changing the other four I predicted – Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook, and Alan Arkin in Argo. With Macy out, candidates for the fifth slot include Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained, John Goodman in Argo, Russell Crowe in Les Miserables, Ewan McGregor in The Impossible, Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike, and a new contender not mentioned last month, Javier Bardem in Skyfall. No one has seen Django yet, but director Quentin Tarantino has a great record of his actors getting Awards nomination, particularly in the Supporting categories. So for now, my fifth slot predictions goes to DiCaprio.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Like Macy, I now believe Jacki Weaver is unlikely to be nominated for Silver Linings Playbook. Again, the other four predicted from last month still stand: Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, Sally Field in Lincoln, Helen Hunt in The Sessions, and Amy Adams in The Master. Fifth slot possibilities include Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and now Judi Dench in Skyfall. However, my new fifth slot prediction now goes to Samantha Barks, a newcomer who apparently has a key role in Les Miserables.

So there you go! In December, I’ll make further prediction updates. 

Oscar Predictions: What Has Changed (Best Picture and Director)

About a month ago, I made my Academy Award predictions in the six major categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress.

As always, things in the race are constantly changing and I felt it was a good time to tell you what has changed in these races over the last 30 days, as more contenders have been seen and more buzz is out there. A few predictions I made don’t seem feasible anymore and other have solidified their standing over this time period. And now, all six categories and what has changed.

BEST PICTURE

As I explained in an earlier post, the number of Best Picture contenders can be anywhere between five and ten films, based on a complicated voting system. All other categories are limited to five and five only. In October, I predicted there would be eight: Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Flight. The following pictures have yet to be seen by any critics or audiences: Les Miserables, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Any of these pictures are possible nominees, but Les Miserables seems to be the one talked about the most. There is no reason to predict it still won’t be nominated. We’ll know more about these films when I post my next update in early December.

As for the other seven pictures I predicted, the one that seems the most unlikely now is Flight, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington. The film is out and doing good box office, but it seems to be flying under the radar now for Awards consideration for Best Pic. 

In my previous post, the biopic Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren had yet to be seen. Now it has and it’s generated lots of positive reviews and a few negative. It doesn’t quite seem to have enough juice to make the list. 

A month ago, Skyfall seemed like a complete long shot. Now, I’d say it stands a chance, but it’s still unlikely. 

At this point, I am taking Flight off the list and adding nothing, making my current Best Picture predictions:

ARGO

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

LES MISERABLES

LIFE OF PI

LINCOLN

THE MASTER

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

 

BEST DIRECTOR

I’ll make this one super quick. Last month, I predicted the five directors nominated as:

Ben Affleck, Argo

Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Tom Hooper, Les Miserables

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

At this time, I am not changing those predictions, though David O. Russell’s work in Silver Linings Playbook could end up making the list and knocking someone off.

We shall see. I’ll be back soon with updates on Actor and Actress, followed by Supporting Actor and Actress in the coming days.

 

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 16-18

First things first: this is going be an enormous weekend at the box office. 

Reason #1: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. The final installment of the franchise based on the bestselling novels had high expectations, to say the least. How high? If it doesn’t have one of the Top Ten biggest debuts of all time, that would be considered a disappointment. 

For some context, two of the last three Twilight installments currently sit at #7 and #8 of all-time opening weekends. Seventh is 2009’s New Moon, which made $142.8 million and eighth is Breaking Dawn Part I, which took in $138.1 million in the same weekend last year. 2010’s Eclipse, which came in between those two, opened on a Wednesday over the July 4th weekend and took in $176 million over that time frame.

Recent history tells us that the last opening has a great chance of being the biggest yet. In 2010, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I made $125 million in 2010. Its follow-up (which was the final Potter) made $169 million and currently sits at #2 of all-time openings.

With this being the last time audiences get to watch Edward, Bella, and Jacob – fans are bound to rush out right away and see it. However, I have a hard time seeing it grossing the amount of money that the last Potter made over its predecessor. I suspect Breaking Dawn, Part 2 will take in only slightly more than New Moon did three years ago, but still have the designation of biggest Twilight opening. 

This weekend’s two slot will undoubtedly be Skyfall, which broke the all-time Bond opening last weekend by a lot, earning $88.3 million. As I mentioned in a previous post, Skyfall is already considered one of the greatest 007 films ever and its second weekend drop-off will probably not be as steep as 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which dropped 60% in its 2nd weekend. A 50% drop seems more likely.

Then we get to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, whose box office prospects I wrote about extensively earlier this week. In that blog post, I wrote that I expected the film to gross anywhere between $18-$38 million. I also mentioned that it was opening on only 1500 screens, which is a low number for an opening weekend. After writing my blog, I researched that screen number a little more closely and I am now very confident in stating that $38 million is out of the questions. For that matter, $28 million seems highly unlikely too. With the massive competition it’s facing, I expect Lincoln to debut on the lower spectrum of what I said earlier… and maybe less. It could open at #3, but it’s more likely to be number four, behind the third weekend of Wreck-It-Ralph.

With all that context, here are my official predictions for the box office this weekend. I’ll report back Sunday and tell you how smart or dumb I am:

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Predicted Gross: $153.8 million

2. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $43.4 million (representing a drop of 51%)

3. Wreck-It-Ralph

Predicted Gross: $21.2 million (representing a drop of 36%)

4. Lincoln

Predicted Gross: $18.1 million

Yes, that’s about as low as you can get on the scale I gave you earlier this week about Lincoln, but that will still be considered a rock solid opening on 1500 screens and I suspect it will continue to play well week to week, just like Argo is currently doing.