Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor’s just wanna have fun sometimes and it’s a feeling that runs through a solid portion of the third film in the franchise’s running time. Ragnarok, more than most Marvel Cinematic Universe entries these days, feels less like it’s building toward next summer’s Avengers free for all where all their characters will join forces. Instead it feels more like director Taika Waititi got a chance to bring an often weird, humorous and  outright loopy vibe to the proceedings. And there’s a lot to dig about it when it’s working on those terms especially.

The subtitle here refers to the destruction of Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) beloved planet of Asgard. That possibility is raised with the return of a previously unknown sister to Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) named Hela (Cate Blanchett), aka the Goddess of Death. She’s got a gnarly headdress and daddy issues like her siblings had. Of course, daddy is Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the king of Asgard who behaved like Hannibal Lecter when he raised Hela but now is basically a vegan in comparison. His daughter preferred the former.

All this business could be described as the main plot line in Ragnarok. And it’s all perfectly acceptable and visually impressive stuff that we’ve seen before. That said, Blanchett is a notch above most MCU villains because… well, Cate Blanchett is just a fantastic actress.

Yet the picture also spends lots of time on the planet Sakaar. It’s a land ruled by the flamboyant Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), whose idea of entertainment is creating Gladiator like battles for his prized possession. Turns out that possession is none other than the Incredible Hulk himself! He’s stuck in his perpetually giant green angry self for a while and not in the Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) scientist mode. It’s also where Thor meets Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a bounty hunter who happens to hail from Asgard.

Sakaar is where the best moments happen in Ragnarok and the bulk of them contain a lot of comedy that lands. Goldblum is simply a joy to watch. We have a ball watching the Hulk trapped in these surroundings. And Loki (forever the best MCU bad guy/sometimes sort of good guy) gets to display his charm coupled with Hiddleston’s always delicious work as the character.

When the first Thor premiered in 2011, I considered it a mixed bag. The Avengers and proper sequel The Dark World did more to hammer home Hemsworth’s effectiveness in the part. On a side note, the absence of girlfriend Natalie Portman is briefly addressed and all it did was remind me that her character even existed in the first place. Director Waititi imbues Ragnarok with a winky face emotion that is most entertaining when it’s away from Asgard and the familiar familial dynamics. In its own strange way, it’s the most pure fun Thor feature of the bunch.

*** (out of four)

 

Thor: Ragnarok Box Office Prediction

The first week of November should kick off in grand fashion for Disney/Marvel as Thor: Ragnarok looks to (yes) hammer all competition. The third installment in the franchise that began in 2011 and continued in 2013, Chris Hemsworth returns as the title character and he’s got his Avenger friend Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) alongside him. Tom Hiddleston returns as fan favorite Loki as well as series regulars Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba with Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Karl Urban joining the party. Taika Waititi directs.

The reported $180 million production comes four years after the second installment, Thor: The Dark World. In that time frame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded greatly with all the players set to appear in next summer’s third Avengers picture Infinity War. Reviews for Rangarok suggest it’s the best of the trio with a lighter and more fun tone. It stands at an impressive 98% on the Tomato meter.

2011’s Thor opened to $65 million and its sequel improved upon that performance with $85 million. Their respective domestic tallies were $181 and $206 million. It seems likely that part 3 will continue that upward trajectory. The Thor series is not quite in the realm of what Captain America has accomplished and the third entry in that franchise (last year’s Civil War) was essentially the third Avengers flick, which propelled it to a $179 million premiere.

This is the 17th pic in the MCU and it looks quite possible it will be the 8th to cross the century mark in its opening weekend. I don’t have it getting quite as high as Spider-Man: Homecoming ($117 million) got over the summer, but it should continue the trend of opening with roughly $20 million than its predecessor.

Thor: Ragnarok opening weekend prediction: $107.6 million

For my A Bad Moms Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/25/a-bad-moms-christmas-box-office-prediction/

Transformers: The Last Knight Box Office Prediction

A week from today, Transformers: The Last Knight appears primed to easily rule the #1 spot. The question is how the fifth entry in the franchise performs compared to its predecessors. Michael Bay is back in the director’s chair (reportedly for the final time) with returning cast members Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, and John Turturro. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicola Peltz are new to the series. Most importantly, Optimus, Bumblebee, and plenty of Autobots and Decepticons return in their CG form.

The pic, with its reported $260 million budget, faces no other features opening directly against it. This Transformers franchise has shown itself to be critic proof over its decade of existence. That said, Knight‘s predecessor posted a series low domestically.

Let’s take a trip down box office grosses lane for these bots, shall we?

Transformers (2007)

Opening Weekend: $70.5 million three-day opening with $155 million over six-day July 4th weekend roll out. $319 million total domestic gross.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Opening Weekend: $108.9 million three-day opening with $200 million five-day roll out. $402 million total domestic gross.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Opening Weekend: $97.8 million three-day opening with $180.6 million six-day July 4th weekend roll out. $352 million total domestic gross.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Opening Weekend: $100 million. $245 million total domestic gross.

As you can see, Age of Extinction earned more than $100 million less than the third entry. It’s also the only one that opened over a regular three-day release. The Last Knight debuts on Wednesday so you’ll be witnessing my guesstimate for its traditional weekend and five-day gross.

Whew… got all that?

Knight appears likely to suffer from franchise fatigue stateside. It’s worth noting that this franchise makes a killing overseas and that should not change.  I could see a three-day haul in the mid to high with a five-day take of just over $80 million.

Transformers: The Last Knight opening weekend prediction: $57.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $81.5 million (Friday to Sunday)

Collide Box Office Prediction

Action thriller Collide, out next weekend, was filmed nearly three years ago and has collected dust on the stateside shelf. It was scheduled to be released domestically nearly a year and a half ago back before Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy.

On the plus side, at least one of the actors in it has become considerably more famous since. Felicity Jones is among the cast and her profile has gone up immensely since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It shouldn’t matter much. Other stars include Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, and Marwan Kenzari.

The bank heist flick has received very limited promotion and it looks like it’s essentially being dumped into an uninterested marketplace. I believe Collide may not even reach $3 million and be On Demand your viewing pleasure quite soon.

Collide opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million

For my Get Out prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/15/get-out-box-office-prediction/

For my Rock Dog prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/15/rock-dog-box-office-prediction/

The Wolfman Movie Review

Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman is so gloriously rich in its late 19th century English atmosphere that you’ll wish a better film had been placed in it. This is a loose remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney monster affair and finds Universal back in the creature feature business. I simply love the idea of horror flicks set in this Bram Stoker’s Dracula/Sleepy Hollow/From Hell type world. Unfortunately they are all superior to this, but this iteration of The Wolfman is not without its occasional merits.

The pic casts Benicio del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, a famous Shakespearean actor who is summoned to return to his childhood English village after his brother is brutally murdered by some sort of creature that’s terrorizing the area. He gets reacquainted with his strange father (Anthony Hopkins) and meets his brother’s widow (a perpetually sullen looking Emily Blunt). The family dynamic is a focus here, especially with daddy and there’s as much father/son wolfery issues since maybe 1985’s Teen Wolf. Of course, it turns out that a werewolf is doing the damage around town and soon Lawrence finds himself the victim of a bite. Full moons become a problem for him and that means he’s the subject of attention from Hugo Weaving’s Inspector character. This sets up one of The Wolfman’s very well constructed sequences when Lawrence escapes an insane asylum in grand and bloody fashion. By the way, you know when the doctor at a loony bin speaks of the advancements of their medical treatments during a movie set in this era, you’re about to watch something old school and barbaric.

When the freaks come out at night as Whodini would say (the 1980s hip hop group, not the magician), The Wolfman follows the tenets of the genre closely and doesn’t offer up much new. There’s CG special effects that veer between acceptable and shoddy. Del Toro is surprisingly dull in his role, though props go to the filmmakers for keeping his hairy makeup design close to that of Chaney’s from the 40s. It’s really Hopkins who gets to have the fun part and there are glimpses of just how menacing he can be.

The Wolfman also takes awhile to get its motor running and I never shook the feeling that there’s a number of other examples in this genre that worked better. For a lazy night on the couch, this is fairly acceptable entertainment but not much more save for the lovely ambience.

**1/2 (out of four)