2022 Oscar Predictions: May 10th Edition

My second round of Oscar predictions in the six biggest races are before you. When I update them next, we’ll be in the midst of the Cannes Film Festival where some of these hopefuls are screening.

As for category placement changes, I’ve moved Jesse Plemons in Killers of the Flower Moon to Supporting Actor from lead. It remains to be seen which contest he’s placed in. If it is supporting, we shall see if it’s him or Robert De Niro that gets the buzz. I’m betting on the latter at press time.

Let’s get into it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Women Talking (PR: 5) (+1)

5. The Son (PR: 4) (-1)

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 8) (+2)

7. She Said (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Bardo (PR: 7) (-1)

9. The Whale (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rustin (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam (PR: 11) (E)

12. Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

13. White Noise (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Poor Things (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 17) (+2)

16. Empire of Light (PR: 16) (E)

17. Tar (PR: 14) (-3)

18. Till (PR: 15) (-3)

19. Armageddon Time (PR: 25) (+6)

20. Elvis (PR: 22) (+2)

21. Thirteen Lives (PR: 20) (-1)

22. The Woman King (PR: 23) (+1)

23. Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 24) (+1)

24. Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 18) (-6)

25. Next Goal Wins (PR: 19) (-6)

Dropped Out:

The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking (PR: 4) (E)

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 6) (E)

7. Florian Zeller, The Son (PR: 7) (E)

8. Maria Schrader, She Said (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale (PR: 8) (-2)

11. George C. Wolfe, Rustin (PR: 10) (-1)

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 12) (E)

13. David O. Russell, Amsterdam (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 11) (-3)

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Noah Baumbach, White Noise

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 2) (E)

3. Carey Mulligan, She Said (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar (PR: 6) (E)

7. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (E)

9. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Laura Dern, The Son (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling (PR: 14) (+2)

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run (PR: 13) (E)

14. Ana de Armas, Blonde (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Greta Gerwig, White Noise 

Best Actor

1. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Brendan Fraser, The Whale (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 8) (+3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christian Bale, Amsterdam (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Joaquin Phoenix, Disappointment Blvd. (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said (PR: 3) (E)

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son (PR: 4) (E)

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hong Chau, The Whale (PR: 6) (E)

7. Jean Smart, Babylon (PR: 7) (E)

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till (PR: 8) (E)

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam (PR: 9) (E)

10. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Rooney Mara, Women Talking (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said (PR: 12) (E)

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 13) (E)

14. Margaret Qualley, Poor Things (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

Sadie Sink, The Whale

Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Tom Hanks, Elvis (PR: 10) (+6)

5. John David Washington, Amsterdam (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 7) (E)

8. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 5) (-3)

9. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead Actor)

10. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Anthony Hopkins, The Son (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Frankie Faison, Till (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans (PR: 8) (-6)

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Don Cheadle, White Noise 

2022 Oscar Predictions: May 1st Edition

Welcome to the first ranked Oscar predictions of the 2022 season for the 95th Academy Awards! I’ll be doing these every few days (once a week or every two weeks) for the high-profile races of Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies. In the fall (maybe earlier), this will expand to all categories covering feature lengths films.

For BP, I will list 25 possibilities with 15 hopefuls in the others. Some quick caveats that always apply – titles of the pictures will change. Just this week, David O. Russell’s Canterbury Glass became Amsterdam and Avatar 2 is now Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Actors listed in lead will become supporting players and vice versa. Some movies will be pushed to 2023. And, of course, titles listed on the first day of May will become commercial and critical disappointments and drop off the list. Some pics and performances I’m not even considering at the moment will rise during festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Telluride, and Venice.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon 

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

3. The Fabelmans

4. The Son

5. Women Talking

6. She Said

7. Bardo

8. Everything Everywhere All at Once

9. The Whale

10. Rustin

Other Possibilities: 

11. Amsterdam

12. White Noise

13. Poor Things

14. Tar

15. Till

16. Empire of Light

17. Avatar: The Way of Water

18. Don’t Worry Darling

19. Next Goal Wins

20. Thirteen Lives

21. The Banshees of Inisherin

22. Elvis

23. The Woman King

24. Three Thousand Years of Longing

25. Armageddon Time

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon 

2. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

3. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

4. Sarah Polley, Women Talking

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo

Other Possibilities:

6. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once

7. Florian Zeller, The Son

8. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale 

9. Maria Schrader, She Said

10. George C. Wolfe, Rustin

11. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

12. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water

13. Noah Baumbach, White Noise

14. David O. Russell, Amsterdam

15. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon

2. Regina King, Shirley 

3. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

4. Carey Mulligan, She Said 

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar

7. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light 

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody 

9. Emma Stone, Poor Things 

10. Laura Dern, The Son

11. Viola Davis, The Woman King 

12. Greta Gerwig, White Noise

13. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run 

14. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling 

15. Tilda Swinton, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brendan Fraser, The Whale

2. Hugh Jackman, The Son 

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon 

4. Colman Domingo, Rustin 

5. Christian Bale, Amsterdam 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon 

7. Adam Driver, White Noise 

8. Austin Butler, Elvis 

9. Diego Calva, Babylon 

10. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans 

11. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo 

12. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives 

13. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

14. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin 

15. Idris Elba, Three Thousand Years of Longing 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans

3. Zoe Kazan, She Said

4. Vanessa Kirby, The Son 

5. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking 

Other Possibilities: 

6. Hong Chau, The Whale 

7. Jean Smart, Babylon 

8. Whoopi Goldberg, Till

9. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam 

10. Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth

11. Sadie Sink, The Whale 

12. Patricia Clarkson, She Said 

13. Audra McDonald, Rustin 

14. Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King

15. Frances McDormand, Women Talking 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

2. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

3. Brad Pitt, Babylon 

4. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once 

5. Glynn Turman, Rustin 

Other Possibilities: 

6. John David Washington, Amsterdam 

7. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things

8. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans 

9. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things 

10. Tom Hanks, Elvis

11. Anthony Hopkins, The Son

12. Frankie Faison, Till

13. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking 

14. Don Cheadle, White Noise 

15. Colin Firth, Empire of Light 

2022 Oscar Predictions: April Edition (Best Supporting Actor)

Well, folks, I just can’t help myself. A mere two weeks after the 94th Academy Awards, I’m getting into speculation for the 95th ceremony honoring the best of 2022.

I know… it’s only April. And there’s certainly a great chance that these impossibly early predictions will look foolish a few months down the road. It’s all part of the fun though!

Here’s how it works. I’m going to do monthly forecasts for the six biggest races (Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies). For Picture, I’ll project the ten BP nominees along with 15 other possibilities. In the other races, I’ll name my five with ten other hopefuls.

Starting in August, the monthly predictions will shift to weekly ones. In October, it branches out to all feature film competitions and the list of possibilities dwindles from 25 to 15 in BP and ten in all others. Got all that? Good!

Some quick caveats – when you’re this early in the projecting game, it’s basically guesswork. For instance, I’m saying Leonardo DiCaprio will compete in Supporting Actor for Killers of the Flower Moon. It could be lead. The same logic applies to Leo’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood costar Brad Pitt for Babylon. Some movies named here will be pushed back. Some roles with familiar faces will not be the Oscar bait that seems plausible at the moment.

I’m starting with Supporting Actor and I’ll have Supporting Actress up next!

TODD’S APRIL 2022 OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Paul Dano, The Fabelmans

Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon

Brad Pitt, Babylon

Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Glynn Turman, Rustin

Other Possibilities:

Don Cheadle, White Noise

Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

Frankie Faison, Till

Colin Firth, Empire of Light

Tom Hanks, Elvis

Andre Holland, Shirley

Anthony Hopkins, The Son

Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans

John David Washington, Canterbury Glass

Ben Whishaw, Women Talking

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

No Time to Die Review

The five film run of Daniel Craig as perhaps the world’s most famous cinematic character comes to a close in No Time to Die, the 25th feature in the nearly 60-year-old 007 franchise. It began 15 years ago with Casino Royale, which I list at #2 in the canon behind only From Russia with Love (Sean Connery’s second entry).

For those who think the dedicated team behind the series have no time for surprises, be prepared. Like the midsection poker sequence in Royale that stands as one of the finest in Bond history, there’s times where they go all in. There’s also moments that harken back to the Roger Moore days and, in this case, I mean it as a compliment. By the time we reached Craig’s third and deservedly praised Skyfall in 2012, the pics had achieved a level of seriousness that risked becoming too dour.

Despite its considerable flaws, 2015’s follow-up Spectre thankfully remembered that the action and plots in this cinematic universe can be silly. 007’s 25th adventure isn’t afraid to display that. The threat to the world here involves passing a weaponized virus only through that individual’s DNA and those related to them. It’s a little ridiculous and I once again mean that in a good way.

This is not quite the triumph that Casino Royale was. In fact, I’d also rank this a smidge behind Skyfall. The villain is not particularly memorable. Like all Craig films that followed the first, no romantic entanglement will rival the one he had with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yet Die achieves the unlikely feat of bringing those fun Moore elements dashed with Timothy Dalton’s more weighty tone. The result is that Craig’s time as the super spy (the longest in terms of actual time but not volume of titles) is easily the most satisfying since Sean Connery’s.

From the jump, we realize Die is going to be a little different. The pre-title sequence begins with a franchise first: an eerie and gorgeously rendered flashback that sheds light on the childhood of Madeleine Swann. As you may recall, she’s Bond’s love interest from Spectre played by Lea Seydoux. Her connections to that criminal enterprise led by Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is expanded upon. In the present day, James and Madeleine are making a romantic go of it. A visit to Vesper’s tomb disrupts both their safety and Bond’s trust in his current relationship.

This all occurs in the lengthy prologue before we hear Billie Eilish’s title cut. Let’s dispense with that. Ms. Eilish has some quality tunes, but her contribution is forgettable and not the kind of Bond tune you’ll be humming leaving the theater or rushing to download for the ride back.

In the serialized fashion we’ve come to expect from Craig’s tenure (something unique only to his), we jump five years to Bond in retirement. And (gasp) he’s no longer 007. MI6 is still going strong but relations with their U.S. counterparts are strained. It’s not the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) or M (Ralph Fiennes) or even his beloved Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) or Q (Ben Whishaw) that convince Bond to emerge from his Jamaican R&R. Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), along with a new eager associate (Billy Magnussen), recruit him for a mission that involves dismantling SPECTRE. Bond hooks up (not literally as Bond’s libido seems to be catching up with his age) with another agent (Ana de Armas) to do so. This culminates in a wonderfully fabulous and bizarre action set piece in Cuba.

All this activity soon puts James in the same space with Madeline again and with Blofeld. And we soon meet Safin (Rami Malek), the head baddie with his own troubled history with the criminal organization. I won’t wax rhapsodic about Safin as I mentioned he’s a pretty weak villain. On the other hand, No Time to Die is not really focused on his story. This Bond story, more than any other besides Skyfall, is really about Bond. That gives us one more opportunity to soak in Craig’s terrific performance that’s spanned this quintet. One could argue the series goes too far in making it all about him. With Craig in control, you’ll hear few complaints from me (heck even Quantum of Solace had some cool stuff in it).

No Time to Die has Cary Fukunaga taking over directorial duties from Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous two. He presides over some amazing looking chases and battles that rank right at the top of what we’ve seen previously. On a slightly contradictory note, there’s one during the climax that was a little too video game oriented for my taste. The screenwriters (with an assist from Phoebe Waller-Bridge) also remember to bring the humor. As much as Safin isn’t much of a memorable character, he does get a moment with a toddler that left me chuckling for a good minute or two after their interaction. The makers also don’t forget that these pictures can be quite weird in their production design. Safin’s Poison Garden is a glorious example.

Additionally, the team isn’t afraid to bring a rare level of emotion to the proceedings. However, it’s not that out of place for Craig’s service. We witnessed a love story in Casino Royale that went beyond his typical dalliances. His connection to Judi Dench’s M (particularly in Skyfall) went far deeper than the same character giving James his orders in the past. In No Time to Die, Mr. Craig’s mission involves the striking visuals that we’re used to. What’s different is that over the five adventures connected to each other, I felt like these missions developed a familial bond that shook the foundation of a franchise in a stirring fashion.

***1/2 (out of four)

No Time to Die Box Office Prediction

***Blogger’s Note Part III (10/06): I have revised my No Time to Die prediction from $104.1 million down to $94.1 million, which would still set a COVID era record.

***Blogger’s Note Part II (10/03): With the news that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has grossed approximately $90 million out of the gate, it’s go big or go home for No Time to Die! I’m re-upping my estimate from $84.1 million to a COVID era best $104.1 million***

**Blogger’s Note (10/01): A week before its stateside premiere, I have decided to significantly increase my prediction (partly due to the apparent over performance of Venom: Let There Be Carnage). I’m going from $72.1 million to $84.1 million**

Ladies and gentlemen, the second frame of October finally marks the weekend for Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007 in No Time to Die. The 25th official entry in the James Bond franchise was gearing up for release in April of 2020 (Billie Eilish’s title track had already dropped) when COVID scuttled the plans. It experienced several more delays before at last settling on October 8. Craig is back for his fifth and final appearance along with series returnees Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, and Christoph Waltz. On the job for the first time are Rami Malek as the main villain, Lashana Lynch, Craig’s Knives Out costar Ana de Armas, and Billy Magnussen.

Anticipation is certainly present with the culmination of Mr. Craig’s service as the British super spy – one rivaled by only Sean Connery. He’s actually had the longest run as the character in terms of time, though not actual volume of pictures. It seems like eons since moviegoers have had their Bond fix. With the frequent pushbacks, the just shy of a six-year wait is the second lengthiest break between 007 adventures (beaten by the sabbatical of 1989’s Licence to Kill and 1995’s Goldeneye at nearly six and a half years).

Fifteen years ago, Craig defied expectations with the critically acclaimed Casino Royale. It made $40 million for its start but legged out very impressively. Sequel (and it was the first true Bond sequel) Quantum of Solace debuted two years later with $67 million. 2012’s Skyfall marked a high point at the box office as it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. The premiere stateside is a series best $88 million. Three years later, Spectre kicked off with $70 million.

So where will this golden era of 007 culminate in terms of opening weekend? There’s certainly a range of possibilities. First things first: it will have no trouble eclipsing what Craig’s first foray achieved a decade and a half ago. I do believe the COVID times will prevent the record setting starting number of Skyfall managed (but you never know). It’s hard to totally factor in the excitement for its star’s last go-round. A video of Craig bidding adieu to his costars and crew has been widely circulated on social media in recent weeks.

My hunch is that a premiere in the range of Quantum and Spectre is most likely stateside (I’m sure its overseas haul will be massive). I’m tempted to say a low to mid 60s gross just under them could occur. However, I’ll err on the side of over performance and project low to mid 70s. (PER ABOVE: I have increased estimate from $72.1M to $84.1M to $104.1 million)

No Time to Die opening weekend prediction: $94.1 million

Oscar Watch: The Personal History of David Copperfield

In the first of what will be several Oscar Watch posts from screenings at the Toronto Film Festival, we consider The Personal History of David Copperfield. Armando Iannucci serves as director for the Charles Dickens based satire with Dev Patel (Oscar nominee in 2016’s Lion) in the title role. Costars include Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw.

The film is said to be a crowd pleaser. Iannucci has received Academy attention previously with his Original Screenplay for 2009’s In the Loop. Last year’s The Death of Stalin was considered a contender in Adapted Screenplay, though that nod never came. He’s best known stateside for creating HBO’s Veep.

While I don’t foresee Copperfield vying for Picture or any of the acting categories (though Patel is getting raves), Adapted Screenplay could be feasible. That’s with a rather large caveat. A number of the contenders in that race (The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Little Women) are still unseen. That’s changing shortly and we may have a better idea whether there’s any room for this soon. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Mary Poppins Returns Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): My estimate has been revised down a bit to a low to mid 30s three-day and low to mid 50s five-day

to Arriving 54 years after its beloved predecessor and with the same awards buzz, Disney unveils Mary Poppins Returns on Wednesday next week. The musical fantasy casts Emily Blunt in the role made famous by Julie Andrews, who won an Oscar as the iconic nanny. Blunt is expected to get a nod as well. Rob Marshall, the man behind 2002 Best Picture winner Chicago and most recently Into the Woods, directs. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, and Meryl Streep are included in the supporting cast. So is Dick Van Dyke, as an offspring of the role he played in the original.

Though official reviews aren’t out yet, buzz from screenings has been glowing and it’s already popped up on numerous top ten lists and major Academy precursors. The Mouse Factory marketing machine is second to none and anticipation is high. Furthermore, Poppins gets a two-day jump on its Christmas weekend competition, most notably Aquaman and Bumblebee.

It’s worthy of note that many holiday offerings greatly expand their grosses on subsequent weekends and aren’t nearly as front loaded as summer pics. That is probable here as I expect Poppins to experience a long and robust run.

The Wednesday debut probably means it’ll come in second to Aquaman, which opens Friday. I have a strong hunch you’ll see at #1 eventually. One fair comp is last year’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It also came out on Wednesday, taking in $36 million for the traditional weekend frame and $52 million when factoring the extra two days. The key number? It legged out to $404 million domestically.

I am counting on a similar track here and estimating it manages to fly a bit higher. I’ll say this reaches high 30s to low 40s from Friday to Sunday and get high 50s with Wednesday and Thursday accounted for.

Mary Poppins Returns opening weekend prediction: $34.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $52.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Mary Poppins Returns

Disney’s Christmas box office smash is expected to be Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 classic original. It comes from Rob Marshall, who directed 2002’s Best Picture winner Chicago. Even with the Oscar pedigree behind it, it was a legitimate question as to whether this would garner any awards chatter or just settle for raking in tons of dough.

The film has screened for the Screen Actors Guild and journalists. While official reviews are under embargo, the buzz indicates it’s in many ways a worthy follow-up to what came over a half century prior. This especially applies to Emily Blunt, taking over the iconic title role from Julie Andrews (who won the Oscar as Poppins). Best Actress is crowded this year. At this juncture, I’d say Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Glenn Close (The Wife), and Olivia Colman (The Favourite) are locks or darn close to it. That leaves two spots and plenty of contenders to fill them. The showings for Poppins indicate Blunt is a prime contender to get one. As a side note, she could be in excellent shape for Actress at the Golden Globes for Musical/Comedy.

As for other performers, it’s certainly possible Blunt gets all the attention. Lin-Manuel Miranda seems a longshot in Supporting Actor. In Supporting Actress, it’s another category that is already filling up. Yet if anyone could sneak in, it’s Meryl Streep (who would be going for an unprecedented 22nd nod). Marshall has already directed her to one of them before in Supporting Actress for 2014’s Into the Woods.

Before its unveiling, the pic was already thought to be a contender in numerous down the line races: Costume Design, Production Design, Score, Original Song, Visual Effects and both Sound categories. That still holds true.

When it comes to Best Picture, that’s much more of a question mark. I’d say chances have undoubtedly improved, but it could depend on how others rise and fall in the coming weeks.

Bottom line: with Blunt leading the charge, Mary Poppins Returns could have awards voters singing its praises. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Paddington 2 Box Office Prediction

Apologies in advance for the pun, but Warner Bros is hoping for a “beary” pleasing result when Paddington 2 debuts next weekend. It arrives three years after the original posted stellar results stateside during the MLK four-day frame. The family pic brings back Ben Whishaw as the voice of the title bear made famous by a series of childrens stories. Paul King returns in the director’s chair, as do cast returnees Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and Peter Capaldi. New but familiar faces to the series include Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

The sequel received a bit of unexpected publicity this fall as it was originally to be distributed by the Weinstein Company. When controversy swirled around Harvey Weinstein, Warner swooped in and picked up distribution rights. The well-reviewed predecessor premiered in January 2015 to a $25 million long weekend opening with a $76 million eventual haul. Part 2 has already taken in nearly $100 million overseas and has critics on its side, with a 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is still competition out there for family audiences as Jumanji should still be posting solid grosses. The sequel may not quite match the earnings of the first, but I’ll predict it manages to top $20 million out of the gate.

Paddington 2 opening weekend prediction: $22.4 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my The Post prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/04/the-post-box-office-prediction/

For my The Commuter prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/the-commuter-box-office-prediction/

For my Proud Mary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/proud-mary-box-office-prediction/