Oscar Predictions: The Bad Guys

We’re not yet a third of the way into 2022 and it’s at least feasible that three of the five eventual Best Animated Feature nominees will have been released. DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys opens this Friday and with a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score, it shouldn’t be counted out for inclusion.

It joins the already out Turning Red (Disney) and Apollo 10 1/2 (Netflix) as viable contenders for the prize. None are shoo-in nominees, but all three had their chances assisted today with the announcement that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has been pushed to 2023.

Bottom line: there’s two-thirds of the year left for other hopefuls to emerge, but The Bad Guys has a fighting shot to make the cut. My Oscar Predictions posts will continue…

The Bad Guys Box Office Prediction

Having already premiered to decent grosses overseas, DreamWorks Animation is hoping for good returns for The Bad Guys when it debuts domestically on April 22nd. From first-time director Pierre Perifel, the crime comedy features the voices of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos, Craig Robinson, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, and Zazie Beetz.

Based on a series of children’s graphic novels, Guys arrives during an April with other high-profile family offerings. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be in its third weekend with Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in its sophomore frame.

That should dilute the money that this brings in. Impressive reviews (94% currently on Rotten Tomatoes), however, could help this open or perhaps exceed its expected $10-15 million range. I’ll give it the slight benefit of the doubt.

The Bad Guys opening weekend prediction: $16.7 million

For my The Northman prediction, click here:

The Northman Box Office Prediction

For my The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent prediction, click here:

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Box Office Prediction

Swan Song Review

Benjamin Cleary’s Swan Song is told through the eyes of two characters in a near future setting. In years approaching, it seems that our contact lenses serve as cameras allowing remote bystanders to witness the interactions of others. This comes into play with a tale of clones and impending loss.

Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali) is facing a quandary that’s slightly less believable than his disposable camcorders. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, he struggles with how to tell his wife Poppy (Ali’s Moonlight costar Naomie Harris in another fine performance). With a young child and another on the way, an alternative solution is presented. Kindly Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) can make an exact copy of him. Cameron would face his final days at a lush and remote medical facility. Poppy and the rest of the family would have no idea.

At Dr. Scott’s locale, he meets patient #2 Kate (Awkwafina). He would be third. Away from it, Cameron is introduced to her engineered doppelgänger. That interaction helps push him to the yes column. Yet when he meets the clone called Jack (also played by Ali, naturally) – doubts are cast.

Song features plenty of flashbacks showing Cameron’s existence in healthier days. This includes his meet cute with Poppy involving a candy bar. It gets more dramatic when his eventual spouse is dealt a devastating loss.

The new technology would prevent that from happening and Cleary’s screenplay mostly succeeds in navigating the sticky wicket ethical issues presented. A two-time Oscar winner given his first sole leading role, Ali is excellent. He has the assignment of playing two characters. They may be the same person, but they have different motivations at various times. That’s not an easy feat to pull off and Ali passes the test impressively with subtle grace.

Swan Song is indeed with a tearjerker that manages to earn them with much credit to its lead(s). Cleary is not overly clear about how this enterprise of Xeroxing yourself came to be. It actually works in the picture’s favor. I’m not sure those explorations could have been more revelatory from those we’ve seen in other sci-fi tales with similar themes. Instead we are presented with Cameron’s predicament in real time and with the understandable conflicts he undergoes as his decision clock winds down before our eyes.

***1/2 (out of four)

 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is planted firmly in mid-tier Marvel territory and that’s to say it’s quite an enjoyable origin spectacle with humorous moments sprinkled in. The formula is adhered to, but there’s enough quality entertainment to make it worthwhile. We expect an abundance of Daddy issues in our MCU tales and we sure get it. What makes it new(ish) is the patriarchal villain is given dimensions that prevent another franchise feature where the bad guy is the weakest character (an attribute that also pertained to Black Panther).

Shaun (Simu Liu) has a fascinating backstory for a San Francisco valet. He’s rather aimless in his pursuits and seems content parking whips of the wealthy with his bestie Katy (Awkwafina, providing sturdy comic relief).   He grew up overseas as Shang-Chi, the heir to his father Wenwu’s (Tony Leung) world conquering dynasty. Dad is an immortal ruler who fooled around and fell in love with Ying Li (Fala Chen). Shang-Chi is the first born with sister Xi Xialing following. After some past associates of Wenwu off Mom, our teenage title character is eventually given the choice to exact revenge or abandon his birthright. He chooses the latter but can’t escape his upbringing when Papa comes calling.

That’s when Shang-Chi is forced to show Katy that he’s a well trained martial arts master and superhero in waiting during a meticulously choreographed action sequence aboard a bus. He also tracks down his estranged sister (Meng’er Zhang) who now runs an underground fighting circuit. They’re reunited with Wenwu, whose wrists are adorned with the ten rings that give him his otherworldly powers. If you need some context for MCU purposes, think of them as like Infinity Stones but they… actually just think Infinity Stones and you should be fine.

Wenwu is convinced that their departed matriarch is still alive and being held captive in Ta Lo, a mystical place filled with CG beasts that’s only reachable through an ever shifting forest. His kids aren’t buying it and they put it upon themselves to stop Dad, his henchmen, and his Stones (sorry… Rings) from their nefarious land acquisition. In Ta Lo, they are subject to more training from their aunt (the welcome sight of Michelle Yeoh).

Like the karaoke ditties that Shaun and Katy drunkenly belt after a day’s work, this material has been covered better before. We are in rare MCU territory with nearly all never before seen characters (though there’s a few recognizable surprise appearances that I won’t spoil). The faces may change yet their circumstances remain the same. Part of Rings is told through flashbacks that feel familiar. They’re brief enough that they generally don’t weigh down the forward momentum.

Shang-Chi and Xi Xialing are clearly being set up for further duty in this universe and I’d say the jury is still out on how effective they’ll be as leaders of the new Marvel school. Tony Leung, a legend in Chinese cinema, makes for a compelling villain with more layers than your run-of-the-mill MCU antagonist.

By the time we reach the climax, Rings is hampered with some indecipherable and visually unappealing CG mayhem. That serves as an unfortunate drag on the proceedings, but much of what precedes it is a pleasurable intro to some new players that I’m anxious to see again.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Swan Song

Playing at AFI Fest ahead of its December 17th streaming premiere on Apple TV, early word is out for the futuristic drama Swan Song. Marking the feature length directorial debut for Benjamin Cleary (who won the Oscar for Live Action Short Film in 2015 for Stutterer), Mahershala Ali stars as a terminally ill man faced with decision of cloning himself. Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, and Awkwafina costar.

Based on a rather small sampling of critical reaction, the buzz seems mixed. Some reviewers are hailing it as an effective weepie while others are more soft in their praise. The bulk of write-ups are quick to point out the fine work from Ali and Harris. This isn’t their first collaboration. Five years ago, Ali knocked out all competitors to win Supporting Actor for Moonlight. Two years later, he would again be victorious in the same race for Green Book. Harris made the cut in Supporting Actress for Moonlight, but ultimately lost to Viola Davis for Fences. 

With two gold statues to his name, it’s hard to fathom this is Ali’s inaugural sole lead cinematic part. Apple will probably mount an awards push for him and Harris. However, I suspect it could be too late in the game for either to have a legit chance and the varied reaction to the quality of the pic itself won’t help. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Box Office Prediction

A new group of Marvel cinematic heroes and villains arrives onscreen over Labor Day weekend with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The 25th MCU feature (and second of four in 2021) is out in theaters only with Disney choosing not to make it available simultaneously on their streaming service. I have already written a bit about the challenges it faces. They include releasing it during a holiday frame not known for unveiling blockbusters, as well as ongoing COVID related hindrances. You can read that post here:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Labor Day Box Office

Destin Daniel Cretton, who’s best known for dramas with Captain Marvel Brie Larson like The Glass Castle and Just Mercy, directs. The cast features Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung. You can also expect some villains that have populated previous MCU flicks.

Early word-of-mouth should help. Rings currently sports a strong 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That said, there is the possibility that the non-traditional release date and other factors threaten to make this the lowest MCU premiere of the lot. It also doesn’t help that there’s really no familiar characters to draw some viewers out. The same could be said for Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther, but they had sizzling buzz that this needs to generate in a hurry (the solid reviews might help).

Shang-Chi will have a posted four-day gross due to the Labor Day holiday (where 2007’s Halloween holds the largest ever debut at $30 million). There’s little question that this should easily eclipse that record. In MCU terms, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk experienced the smallest start at $55 million. That’s followed by 2015’s Ant-Man with $57 million.

The extra day of reported earnings may help. I don’t see this getting anywhere near what Black Widow did ($80 million) at the start of summer. My feeling is that Rings, in its Friday to Sunday financial report, may hold the distinction of having the smallest gross in the MCU franchise. Yet the Monday could push it toward a mid to high 50s take with $60M+ certainly as a possibility.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opening weekend prediction: $58.9 million

Oscar Watch: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Ahead of its Labor Day weekend bow in theaters only, Disney has lifted its review embargo for the 25th Marvel Cinematic Universe pic. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is garnering positive reaction to the tune of a current 91% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Many reviews point out that it closely follows the MCU formula, but there’s enough to make it highly recommendable. Despite the many kudos, I don’t see anything that indicates a play for Best Picture (where Black Panther still is the studio’s sole nominee in that race).

Instead Shang-Chi‘s possibilities at awards attention should come down to where most MCU titles are viable. That’s in Best Visual Effects. Early buzz suggests it may be strong enough in that space to qualify. However, it will face numerous competitors with three coming from its own multi-billion dollar franchise.

I do think it has a better shot at making the final five than the already out Black Widow. Yet Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home loom. It’s worth noting that neither Spider-Man entry from the MCU (Homecoming or Far From Home) made the cut. Eternals could be the biggest in-house competitor. Then we have plenty of other hopefuls. Some have premiered and they include Godzilla vs. Kong, Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, The Suicide Squad, and Free Guy. Some await like Dune and The Matrix 4.

Bottom line: there’s much to be determined, but Shang-Chi could certainly be the MCU’s nominee in VE. I doubt it will be the fourth picture with Rings in the name to win (as Peter Jackson’s trilogy did). After all, 10 of Marvel’s flicks have nabbed a nod for their visuals. None have won. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon

As we await the five nominated pictures in the 2020 Animated Feature race at the Oscars, a legitimate hopeful has already emerged for 2021. This Friday, Disney’s traditionally drawn Raya and the Last Dragon debuts in theaters and on Disney Plus. The action fantasy features a mostly Asian American voice cast including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Daniel Dae Kim, Gemma Chan, Sandra Oh, and Benedict Wong. Directing duties are handled by Don Hall (whose Big Hero 6 landed an Academy nod in 2014) and Carlos Lopez Estrada.

Reviews are up and they’re very solid at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unsurprisingly, Disney has been quite the player since the inception of the animated category back in 2001. As is often the case for the studio, the Mouse Factory may well compete against itself with Pixar’s Luca slated for release this summer. That will probably occur this year with Soul and Onward as likely nominees.

Bottom line: the critical reaction for Raya (even this early in the calendar) establishes it as a sturdy contender for recognition already. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Raya and the Last Dragon Box Office Prediction

A totally different kind of COVID test arrives in theaters March 5 with the release of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. It’s the latest traditionally animated feature from the Mouse Factory and it hits multiplexes and Disney+ on the same day. The fantasy adventure is co-directed by Don Hall (who made Big Hero 6 for the studio) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (maker of the decidedly non Disney pic Blindspotting). The predominately Asian-American voice cast includes Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, and Alan Tudyk.

Raya marks the highest profile release of 2021 thus far on the big screen. The question is whether family audiences will mostly opt to shell out thirty bucks to watch it on the tube. All things considered – that’s probably less money than a night out for a clan of four to view it. And the Disney+ model is already familiar to subscribers with recent products such as Mulan and Soul.

In these uncertain pandemic days, it is difficult to find any real comps for opening weekend estimates. The Croods: A New Age debuted over Thanksgiving weekend and took in a better than anticipated $14 million over the five-day frame with nearly $10 million of it from the traditional Friday to Sunday portion. Yet that’s not exactly a reliable comp as Croods was a sequel to a well known property out during a holiday period. Still… this is Disney…

As I’ve said repeatedly with any box office guesstimates for nearly a year, we are in unpredictable territory. However, I’ll say Raya makes between $11-$14million and I’ll go a bit on the higher end of that range.

Raya and the Last Dragon opening weekend prediction: $13.2 million

For my Chaos Walking prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/02/24/chaos-walking-box-office-prediction/

2019 FINAL Oscar Nomination Predictions

And it comes down to this…

After months and months of speculation, dozens of blog posts, and constant shifting around, these are my final predictions for the 2019 Oscars. There’s been thousands of words written about the races so I’ll keep it simple here.

The nominations are out Monday. I’m picking nine pictures to get recognition (there can be anywhere from 5 to 10 and 8-9 is usually the sweet spot). For each category, I’m also naming an alternate and second alternate.

Lastly, you can be sure come Monday that I’ll have a recap up with reaction and my results. Here we go folks!

Best Picture

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite 

ALTERNATE – The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Knives Out

Best Director

Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Sam Mendes, 1917

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – Todd Phillips, Joker

ALTERNATE 2 – Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story 

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

ALTERNATE – Awkwafina, The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Lupita Nyong’o, Us

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

ALTERNATE – Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

ALTERNATE 2 – Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

ALTERNATE – Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

ALTERNATE 2 – Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – Song Kang-Ho, Parasite

ALTERNATE 2 – Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

The Two Popes

ALTERNATE – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

ALTERNATE 2 – Hustlers

Best Original Screenplay

The Farewell

Knives Out

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

ALTERNATE – 1917

ALTERNATE 2 – Uncut Gems

Best International Feature Film

Atlantics

Les Miserables

Pain and Glory

Parasite

Those Who Remained

ALTERNATE – Beanpole

ALTERNATE 2 – Honeyland

Best Animated Feature

Frozen II

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body

Missing Link

Toy Story 4

ALTERNATE – Klaus

ALTERNATE 2 – Abominable

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory 

Apollo 11

For Sama

Honeyland

One Child Nation

ALTERNATE – Midnight Family

ALTERNATE 2 – Maiden

Best Cinematography

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Joker

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

ALTERNATE – The Lighthouse

ALTERNATE 2 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Best Costume Design

Dolemite Is My Name

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rocketman

ALTERNATE – Downton Abbey

ALTERNATE 2 – The Irishman

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Joker

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

ALTERNATE – 1917

ALTERNATE 2 – Marriage Story 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell

Joker

Judy

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rocketman

ALTERNATE – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

ALTERNATE 2 – Dolemite Is My Name

Best Production Design

1917

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 

ALTERNATE – Parasite

ALTERNATE 2 – Joker

Best Original Score

1917

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Ford v Ferrari

ALTERNATE 2 – Jojo Rabbit

Best Original Song

“Glasgow” from Wild Rose

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman

“Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

“Spirit” from The Lion King

“Stand Up” from Harriet

ALTERNATE – “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough

ALTERNATE 2 – “A Glass of Soju” from Parasite

Best Sound Editing

1917

Avengers: Endgame

Ford v Ferrari

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Joker

ALTERNATE 2 – Rocketman

Best Sound Mixing

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Joker

Rocketman

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Avengers: Endgame

ALTERNATE 2 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Visual Effects

1917

Avengers: Endgame

The Irishman

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

ALTERNATE – Alita: Battle Angel

ALTERNATE 2 – Gemini Man 

And that means my final tally for pictures getting the following number of nominations goes like this:

11 Nominations

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

9 Nominations

The Irishman

8 Nominations

1917, Joker, Little Women

6 Nominations

Marriage Story

5 Nominations

Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Rocketman

4 Nominations

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

3 Nominations

Bombshell

2 Nominations

Avengers: Endgame, Frozen II, Harriet, Judy, The Lion King, Pain and Glory, The Two Popes

1 Nomination

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, American Factory  Apollo 11, Atlantics, Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, For Sama, Honeyland, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hustlers, I Lost My Body, Knives Out, Les Miserables, Missing Link, One Child Nation, Those Who Remained, Toy Story 4, Wild Rose