Oscar Watch: The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, updating the H.G. Wells novel and classic 1933 film, debuts Friday. With 90% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the word-of-mouth should propel the pic to quite visible box office numbers. In doing so, Invisible should break a streak of underperforming horror titles in recent months.

Much of the praise from reviewers is centered on its lead Elisabeth Moss. The Emmy winner for The Handmaid’s Tale garnered a small amount of Oscar buzz in 2019 for Her Smell that never came to fruition. I look for this to be the third year in a row where an actress garners buzz for a scary movie. In 2018, it was Toni Collette in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. In 2019 – Lupita Nyong’o for Jordan Peele’s Us. Both performers received a few wins from the critics groups. They both failed to get nods come Academy time.

This will likely be the case for Moss as well, but expect lots of speculation that she could make the cut before she doesn’t. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh’s Supporting Actress nod in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is next up in my Case of posts!

The Case for Florence Pugh

The actress broke out in a major way in 2019 with well-reviewed roles in the wrestling dramedy Fighting with My Family, Ari Aster’s horror pic Midsommar, and in this latest iteration of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. Even though Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Best Actress, it was Pugh who got a lions share of critical attention. Pugh’s ascendance into the mainstream will blossom even more in 2020 with a prominent role alongside fellow Supporting Actress nominee Scarlett Johansson in the MCU’s Black Widow. If the Academy wants to pick a young upstart, this is the way to go.

The Case Against Florence Pugh

She missed out on both Golden Globe and SAG nods and that’s never a solid sign. Laura Dern, her Little Women costar, is the massive front runner for Marriage Story. 

The Verdict

A solid 2019 for Pugh culminated in this nomination. It won’t end in a win.

My Case of posts will continue with the direction of Todd Phillips for Joker!

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 giving us 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.

*** (out of four)

2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Midsommar Box Office Prediction

Arriving smack dab in Hollywood’s version of midsummer is Ari Aster’s Midsommar next week. The horror pic is the filmmaker’s sophomore effort after his critically acclaimed debut Hereditary from last summer. Centered around a pair of couples who attend a mysterious Swedish festival that occurs every 90 years, the creepy flick stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, and Will Poulter.

Like Hereditary, Aster’s follow-up has garnered strong critical reaction with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. Last June, Hereditary started off with $13.5 million with an eventual $44 million domestic gross. Reviewers liked it more than audiences did and word of mouth suggests that could apply to Midsommar.

It’s out on Wednesday to capitalize on the long July 4th holiday frame. A potential comp could be 2014’s Deliver Us From Evil, another scary title that opened over the same weekend. Evil took in nearly $10 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday period with $15 million when adding Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll say Midsommar falls a bit under those numbers.

Midsommar opening weekend prediction: $7.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $13.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my SpiderMan: Far From Home prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/25/spider-man-far-from-home-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Midsommar

Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut Hereditary from last year. The filmmaker stays in the horror genre for this tale of two couples visiting a mysterious Swedish festival that only occurs every 90 years. Cult like scares follow.

The pic has screened ahead of its July 5 stateside bow and critics are once again singing Aster’s praises. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while some reviews point out audience reaction could be quite mixed (like his first effort).

This particular genre is usually ignored by Oscar voters. A groundswell of support began to gather in 2018 for Toni Collette’s lead role in Hereditary. The female lead here, Florence Pugh, has also gotten raves for her work. Yet if Collette couldn’t get in, it probably doesn’t bode well for this lead actress. Furthermore, Lupita Nyong’o could garner attention for her work earlier in 2019 for Jordan Peele’s sophomore flick Us.

Bottom line: if Hereditary couldn’t get on the Academy’s radar, don’t expect Midsommar to do so. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hereditary Movie Review

**It is difficult to write a proper review of Hereditary without some light spoilers, so proceed with caution if you have yet to see it.

The real unsettling nature of Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary comes after the credits roll and not necessarily from heads rolling off bodies (though that happens too). The film is about grieving and the realization of not being able to control fate. Not until fade to black does it set in how truly powerless the people here are.

We begin with the text of an obituary. Ellen is the just deceased mother of Annie Graham (Toni Collette), an artist who specializes in miniature designs for doll houses. She’s married to a kindly therapist (Gabriel Byrne) with high school aged son Peter (Alex Wolff) and middle school aged daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Annie doesn’t seem too distraught over her loss and her eulogy for mom hints at a secretive existence before dementia took over her final years. Only Charlie seemed to have a real connection with the late matriarch and we sense something is a bit off with her.

A second tragedy breaks the Graham unit apart. The history of Annie’s upbringing that she wants to ignore at first becomes inescapable. Every family has its demons. In Hereditary, we witness the literal meaning behind that phrase. The supernatural happenings that follow manifest themselves on Annie and Peter primarily. Collette and Wolff both are convincing at being scared out of their wits most of the time. For Collette especially (who has a bit of experience in the genre with The Sixth Sense), her performance is a terrified tour de force. The Graham clan are typically the only humans on-screen. Ann Dowd appears as a woman also grieving a recent loss who convinces Annie to engage in seance.

Hereditary has a conjuring, but it’s not as preoccupied with jump scares and sound effects wizardry for its frights like the successful franchise (not that they’re totally absent). Comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby are far more appropriate. Much of the movie leaves you in a state of confusion and you might need to do a Google or Wiki search after to digest what happened. Writer/director Aster announces himself as an exciting voice in the horror game and one who seems most influenced by genre tales of the late 60s and 70s. While this doesn’t rise to the level of the Roman Polanski classic from a half century ago, I found myself feeling rewarded after everything was over. The Graham family, on the other hand, doesn’t get that lucky.

***1/2 (out of four)

Hereditary Box Office Prediction

The horror thriller Hereditary generated a lot of buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and A24 unleashes it to audiences next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Ari Aster, early reviews suggest a highly effective and scary experience. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 100% (never a bad selling point for TV spots). Toni Collette stars alongside Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

This particular genre is often the hardest to predict as horror movies can vastly over or under perform. It’s also perhaps the genre where reviews truly don’t mean a lot. For instance, 2016’s The Witch and last year’s It Comes at Night both had critics on their side in a major way. Their respective debuts were only $8.8 million and $5.9 million (with It Comes at Night being released on the same June weekend as this is). On the other hand, something like A Quiet Place took in $50 million for its start just a few weeks ago.

So what’s a prognosticator like me to do? I’ll admit that this is a tough one and I foresee a wide range for the opening of Hereditary. It won’t come anywhere near the earnings of A Quiet Place, but debuting around $20 million wouldn’t shock me. The problem is that if it fell to high single digits or low double digits, that wouldn’t really shock me either.

Fair warning: this is an estimate that may fluctuate during the next nine days. For the time being, I’ll say Hereditary posts an opening in the low double digits to possibly low teens as it will hope to leg out decently based on buzz in subsequent frames.

Hereditary opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

For my Ocean’s 8 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Hereditary

Two months ago, the supernatural horror flick Hereditary debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and it made quite an impression. Reaction from Utah (where this was also shot) has indicated it’s a genre exercise that truly is a frightening experience and it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes currently. The film marks the directorial debut of Ari Asher with a cast led by Toni Collette and costarring Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

As we know, horror pics face an uphill battle for any Academy recognition and that could certainly be the case here. That said, the buzz for this is getting louder as it debuts stateside on June 8. Critics have particularly taken notice of Collette, saying her performance is masterful. If she manages a nomination for Actress, it would be her second Oscar nod. She was recognized nearly 20 years ago in Supporting Actress for another genre piece, The Sixth Sense. Collette is not the only actress generating some buzz in this category as Emily Blunt could garner attention for this April’s A Quiet Place.

Bottom line: even with its sterling critical reaction, Hereditary could be a long shot for attention. Collette, on the other hand, could be worth keeping an eye on.