Oscar Predictions: The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Peter Farrelly’s Green Book scored an upset Best Picture victory over Roma in 2018 and that’s still stuck in the craw of many cinephiles. While I actually found it to be pretty good overall, I get it. It is one of the weaker BP winners in recent times.

His follow-up is The Greatest Beer Run Ever starring Zac Efron in the stranger than fiction true story of a merchant seaman bringing some suds to his buds serving in ‘Nam. Russell Crowe and Bill Murray costar.

Like Green Book, it has debuted in Toronto before its simultaneous theatrical and Apple TV streaming debut on September 30th. Unlike Green Book, don’t expect this to attract any awards talk. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a skunky 42%. I saw it up north and would be shocked if it contended for any category. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review

The original Ghostbusters, lest we forget, was filled with ribald humor coming from SNL vets that were in the prime of their careers. Overloading the reboot/sequel Afterlife with gooey family drama feels, in many ways, as misplaced as the missteps that 2016’s version took or that 1989’s traditional follow-up was a fairly weak retread of the first. This franchise hasn’t succeeded in their attempts to capitalize on what made 1984’s pic special and that extends to this.

It’s not for a lack of trying as the 2021 iteration goes to extreme lengths to get our nostalgia radars working into overdrive. Jason Reitman takes over directorial duties from his father Ivan, who made the 80s blockbusters. There’s not a piece of attire or Twinkie or demonic marshmallow from 1984 that isn’t placed with the clear purpose of inspiring wild cheers. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows the name of every nearly four decade old artifact, vehicle or gadget. In this Afterlife, it more often feels forced than welcome.

We shift from the Big Apple to the sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma. Egon Spangler, Harold Ramis’s nerdy scientist from the OG ‘Busters, has relocated to a dilapidated farmhouse and cut off contact with his family and former colleagues. His demise in the prologue causes his heirs to inhabit the dusty domicile. This includes down on her luck daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids. Since I think it’s now contactually necessary for Stranger Things players to participate in these reboots, Finn Wolfhard is her teenage son Trevor. Mckenna Grace is the real lead as 12-year-old daughter Phoebe, who resembles her granddad in looks and interests. An outcast at school, she bonds with fellow geek Podcast (Logan Kim) and her summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

Trevor and Phoebe are completely unaware that Egon was a Ghostbuster (we’ll just go with that I suppose). Paranormal activities start revealing his life’s work including Phoebe’s ongoing chess game with an unseen spirit. The iconic car (yay!) is stored on the property. Of course, the late Egon was in Summerville for a reason and it has to do with familiar haunters from ’84 and preventing them from returning.

This all leads to familiar heroic faces eventually turning up (though not with significant screen time). With their limited participation, the question is whether the new and much younger generation of spirit crushers is compelling enough to warrant a feature. I didn’t think so, but there are some positives. Grace’s performance is terrific (while Wolfhard and his budding romance with his bellhop coworker Celeste O’Connor adds little). Rudd’s considerable talents (he takes a liking to Callie) add a bit of fun. The sight of Bill Murray randomly turning up anywhere is good for a smile (though not much more here than reading about how he does so in real life).

However, the tone in general struck me as off. It’s hard not to be touched by its tribute to the late Harold Ramis (a man responsible for so many laughs in landmark comedies of the past). I felt the sentiment because of that and not the absence of Egon. Afterlife seems trapped in the notion that our emotional connections to these characters run deeper than they do. Like many reboots nowadays, the mere presence of something old is meant to provide the requisite entertainment value. It made me feel mostly dispirited.

** (out of four)

2021 Golden Globe Predictions

Let’s begin with this blanket statement… I’m basically flying a bit blind with my predictions for the Golden Globe Awards, which will be revealed tomorrow morning. For those who don’t follow the awards derbies closely like I do, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been in some considerable hot water for the last couple of years. So much so that NBC has decided they won’t air the January 9th ceremony due to lack of diversity for its voting membership. There were genuine questions as to whether the HFPA would even hold an event for their 79th awards, but they are pushing forward amidst the controversy.

Then there’s the simply the matter of the Globes being quite unpredictable. We tend to see a shocker nomination at least once a year… remember Kate Hudson’s nod in Actress (Musical/Comedy) for the barely seen and critically reviled Sia directed Music in 2020? Then the voters went ahead and nominated the picture itself!

Last year in Supporting Actress, Jodie Foster scored a surprise nomination and win for The Mauritanian. The Academy didn’t even bother to nominate her. In Supporting Actor, both Jared Leto (The Little Things) and Bill Murray (On the Rocks) made the cut in Supporting Actor though not at the Oscars. This is why my general rule at the Globes is to fill in bigger names when I’ve got a spot or two left over in an acting race.

The HFPA’s method of dividing Drama and Musical/Comedy always creates category questions and that holds true in 2021. Where’s CODA? Or House of Gucci and C’Mon C’Mon? Or Being the Ricardos. We don’t know. For prediction purposes, I’m putting them in Drama. Obviously, if they’re not, that would alter my estimates and make some of my calls moot.

Let’s take go through the categories one by one and see how this guesswork turns out, shall we? I’ll do a runner-up and second alternate for each race as well.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Predicted Nominees:

Belfast

Dune

King Richard

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: CODA

Second Alternate: The Tragedy of Macbeth

Commentary – At this point, Belfast, Dune, King Richard, and Power of the Dog seem like pretty safe bets. Any one of them missing out would be considered a significant snub. The fifth slot is wide open in my view. The surging CODA (if it’s placed in Drama) could certainly make the cut. Tragedy is a strong possibility and I wouldn’t count out Being the Ricardos, C’Mon C’Mon and House of Gucci (if they’re in Drama), The Last Duel, or Spencer. Despite some critical reservations, I’ll go with Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. It’s important to remember that foreign films are relegated to their own category at the Globes. That’s why Parasite didn’t show up here two years ago and it’s why A Hero or Drive My Car won’t contend in this competition.

Best Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy

Predicted Nominees:

Cyrano

Don’t Look Up

Licorice Pizza

Tick Tick… Boom!

West Side Story

Runner-Up: In the Heights

Second Alternate: Cruella

Commentary – The Musical/Comedy derby actually has a bunch of musicals to choose from in 2021 and West Side Story and Tick Tick… Boom! especially seem like surefire additions. Between In the Heights and Cyrano, I’m giving the latter a slight edge (though both could make it). Licorice Pizza should get in though I’m a tad more unsure about Don’t Look Up. I would generally say the top six listed here will be duking it out for five slots (Cruella is kind of a throwaway addition but if Music could get in…)

**Note that pics like CODA, Gucci, or Being the Ricardos could be campaigned for here and not Drama and that could change the dynamic.

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Runner-Up: Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Second Alternate: Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard

Commentary – Feeling good about Branagh, Campion, Spielberg, and Villeneuve. The 5 spot is tougher but I’ll give del Toro the nod over Anderson (who, somehow, has never been nominated for a Globe).

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama (Actress)

Predicted Nominees:

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Runner-Up: Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Second Alternate: Jodie Comer, The Last Duel

Commentary – So here’s when it gets truly complicated as Gaga, Hudson, and Kidman could all theoretically wind up in Musical/Comedy. If not, both Gaga and Kidman seem like likely nominees in Drama. So do Chastain and Stewart. I’m picking Hudson over considerable competition that includes Colman, Comer, Emilia Jones in CODA (if placed here), Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth), and Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers).

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama (Actor)

Predicted Nominees:

Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Runner-Up: Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Second Alternate: Nicolas Cage, Pig

Commentary – Cumberbatch, Smith, and Washington are obvious choices. The other two slots – not so much. Phoenix could be in Musical/Comedy, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and put him here. Same with runner-up Bardem. As much as I’d like to anoint Cage for Pig, I’ll hedge with Cooper in Alley. Super dark horse choice: Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey. 

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy (Actress)

Predicted Nominees:

Haley Bennett, Cyrano

Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza

Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up

Emma Stone, Cruella

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Runner-Up: Melissa Barrera, In the Heights

Second Alternate: Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World

Once again – there’s some women I have in Drama that might shift over this way (Gaga, Hudson, Kidman, Jones). That would make this category more interesting as, right now, this is Zegler’s to lose based on my current composition. If serious hopefuls like Gaga and Kidman stay in Drama, this race could be ripe for an out of nowhere pick (I’m thinking either Annie Mumolo or Kristin Wiig in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar).

Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy (Actor)

Predicted Nominees:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom!

Anthony Ramos, In the Heights

Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy

Runner-Up: Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza

Second Alternate: Simon Rex, Red Rocket

Commentary – The first four seem probable and the safer choice for #5 would be Hoffman (that’s if Joaquin Phoenix or Javier Bardem don’t play here). I gotta pick at least one head scratcher though so let’s throw in Reynolds for the hit Free Guy!

Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture (Supporting Actress)

Predicted Nominees:

Caitriona Balfe, Belfast

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up

Runner-Up: Rita Moreno, West Side Story

Second Alternate: Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley

Commentary – Balfe, DeBose, Dunst, and Ellis are likely. If any of that quartet miss, it could be Dunst. I’m utilizing my aforementioned big name theory by picking Streep in the five spot. Could be Moreno or Blanchett and the star power could overshadow other possibilities like Ruth Negga (Passing) or Ann Dowd (Mass).

Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture (Supporting Actor)

Predicted Nominees:

Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza

Jamie Dornan, Belfast

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Jared Leto, House of Gucci

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Runner-Up: Mike Faist, West Side Story

Second Alternate: Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar

Commentary – No one can really make heads or tails of Supporting Actor in 2021 so there’s some winging it happening. I’ll say both Belfast boys get in while HFPA recognizes Cooper’s limited screen time in Pizza and Leto’s out there performance in Gucci. Smit-McPhee has been picking up critics awards and that could get him in. Truth be told… anything could happen in this one.

Best Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

Licorice Pizza

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

Runner-Up: King Richard

Second Alternate: Being the Ricardos

The one I’m uncertain about is Don’t Look Up with its many lackluster reviews, but I’ll go for it over Richard. I also wouldn’t completely dismiss Ricardos due to the Aaron Sorkin factor.

Best Animated Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

Encanto

Flee

Luca

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Vivo

Runner-Up: Raya and the Last Dragon

Second Alternate: Belle

Best Foreign Language Film

Predicted Nominees:

Drive My Car

Flee

A Hero

Titane

The Worst Person in the World

Runner-Up: Parallel Mothers

Second Alternate: The Hand of God

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

Spencer

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Runner-Up: The French Dispatch

Second Alternate: Don’t Look Up

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

“Be Alive” from King Richard

“Down to Joy” from Belfast

“Every Letter” from Cyrano

“Just Look Up” from Don’t Look Up

“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

Runner-Up: “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

Second Alternate: “So May We Start” from Annette

My picks equate to the following scorecard in terms of total nominations:

7 Nominations

Belfast, The Power of the Dog

6 Nominations

Don’t Look Up

5 Nominations

West Side Story

4 Nominations

Cyrano, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley

3 Nominations

Dune

2 Nominations

Flee, House of Gucci, Spencer, Tick Tick… Boom!, The Tragedy of Macbeth

1 Nomination

Being the Ricardos, C’Mon C’Mon, Cruella, Drive My Car, Encanto, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Free Guy, A Hero, In the Heights, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, No Time to Die, Respect, Titane, Vivo, The Worst Person in the World

I’ll have a post up later tomorrow with my results! Critics Choice predictions are next…

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Box Office Prediction

It’s in with the old and in with the new as Ghostbusters: Afterlife debuts in theaters November 19th. This was originally scheduled to haunt multiplexes in the summer of 2020 before numerous COVID delays. Jason Reitman directs and there’s some family legacy involved as dad Ivan made parts I and II in 1984 and 1989. Newcomers to the series include Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Tracy Letts, and Paul Rudd (not to mention Stay Puft Marshmallow Minis according to the trailer). Returnees from the 80s are Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver.

If rebooting this franchise sounds familiar – that’s because it happened five years ago to middling results. The Paul Feig helmed remake led by Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig took in $46 million on its opening weekend but fizzled quickly due to so-so reviews and audience reaction. It also featured the OG Busters making cameos. This new iteration serves as a direct sequel to the first two.

Some estimates have Afterlife beginning at $50 million or above. That’s certainly doable, but I’m not so sure. While it’s obviously a well-known property and the ’84 original is rightly considered a classic, both follow-ups have been letdowns. The 71% Rotten Tomatoes score is OK, but its actually below the 74% that greeted the ballyhooed 2016 pic.

I’m projecting that this makes it to $35-$40 million and doesn’t get to the number we saw just a half decade back.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife opening weekend prediction: $38.1 million

For my King Richard prediction, click here:

King Richard Box Office Prediction

The French Dispatch Box Office Prediction

Wes Anderson’s latest comedy The French Dispatch is being delivered to 52 theaters on October 22nd before its wide release the following weekend. The anthology pic arrives a year after its COVID delay. It received a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival over the summer.

Like most of his unique tales, Dispatch features a massive cast (many of whom have appeared in multiple previous works from the director). That list includes Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schrieber, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Fisher Stevens, Henry Winkler, Bob Balaban, Rupert Friend, Griffin Dunne, and three actors from No Time to Die (Lea Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, and Christoph Waltz).

There is no question that Anderson has an ardent fanbase. However, there’s some drawbacks. Reviews are not quite up to the level of other features like Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 79% and it is not thought to be an awards contender. That’s unlike his previous live-action film Hotel, which was nominated for nine Oscars and won four. It ended up with $59 million domestically after a long and leggy run in multiplexes. This might be fortunate to nab a couple of tech nods from the Academy.

Dispatch‘s wide release on October 29th comes with caveats in terms of my prediction. I have yet to see a theater count and that could easily alter my projection once known. However, I’m leaning towards this being one of Anderson’s lesser earning titles. This is somewhat of a placeholder estimate, but I’ll say $3-5 million seems likeliest.

The French Dispatch opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my Last Night in Soho prediction, click here:

Last Night in Soho Box Office Prediction

For my Antlers prediction, click here:

Antlers Box Office Prediction

For my My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission prediction, click here:

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission Box Office Prediction

For my A Mouthful of Air prediction, click here:

A Mouthful of Air Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The attendees of New York Comic Con were treated to a surprise this weekend with a screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The fourth film in the franchise that famously began in 1984 serves as a direct continuation to the original and its 1989 follow-up. It’s all about family with Jason Reitman as director (his father Ivan made those first two). Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, and Paul Rudd join the bustin’ action with series stalwarts Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver making appearances. Afterlife is finally coming to life after numerous COVID delays with a November 19th stateside release.

Early reviews indicate a long gestating sequel has extreme reverence for its past. Some critics claim it might be a bit too nostalgic, but reaction is overwhelmingly pleasing with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% (based on 11 reviews).

The original classic 37 years ago managed 2 Oscar nominations. They’re what you would expect: Best Original Song for that addictive title track by Ray Parker Jr. and Visual Effects (it lost to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Also as you might expect, Ghostbusters II and the ballyhooed 2016 Paul Feig reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig achieved zero awards attention. I would anticipate the same for this despite the kudos. Visual Effects is a remote possibility, but there’s a slew of contenders more likely (Dune, The Matrix Resurrections, Eternals to name just some).

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Survivor

For about a decade starting in the early 80s, the films of Barry Levinson were a magnet for awards nominations. 1988’s Rain Man won Best Picture and Levinson took directing honors. 1991’s Bugsy scored numerous nods including the aforementioned big races. The Natural and Good Morning, Vietnam earned acting mentions. Levinson received screenplay nominations for Diner and Avalon.

Over the past decade or so, the filmmaker’s most acclaimed titles have come on the small screen with several HBO movies. His previous big screen offering was the panned 2015 Bill Murray vehicle Rock the Kasbah. 

Those fortunes could change with The Survivor, which has screened in Toronto. The black and white Holocaust drama tells the true life story of Harry Haft (Ben Foster). During his captivity at Auschwitz, he was forced to box fellow prisoners in order to survive. Costars include Billy Magnussen, Danny DeVito, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Leguizamo.

Reviews from our neighbor up north have resulted in an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score. Not all the generally positive reaction are raves, but there’s one consistency. Foster is being heralded for his role. Despite praised performances in Hell or High Water and Leave No Trace, Foster has yet to capture the attention of Oscar voters. The actor reportedly lost a tremendous amount of weight for the part. That has been a recipe for making the ballot for plenty of winners and contenders including Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just two. The Best Actor race probably has two slots filled already with Will Smith (King Richard) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog). Hopefuls are waiting in the wings like Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up). There’s other performances from the fest circuit such as Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon), Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), and Clifton Collins Jr. (Jockey) in the mix.

First things first. The Survivor needs to find a distributor and a 2021 release date to qualify. It will likely do so. The next question is how hard its eventual studio/streamer pushes for Foster. The Survivor is also a possibility in Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, and maybe even Picture and Director if its gets the right push.

Bottom line: I’ve yet to even mention The Survivor in my weekly Oscar predictions. I doubt I’ll be projecting it yet for inclusion in the aforementioned categories, but I do suspect it will bubble up for the first time in other possibilities. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Space Jam Review

For reasons I cannot really explain, I never saw 1996’s Space Jam until yesterday. Followers of my blog know I’m a bit of a movie lover (hence the blog). Yet there’s plenty of films I haven’t watched. Gone with the Wind springs to mind. I still haven’t caught up with Demi Moore’s take on The Scarlet Letter and it came out a year before this one.

However, I was 17 when Michael Jordan’s collaboration with the Looney Tunes was released in theaters and it was a huge hit. I’m also a massive basketball fan and was an ardent admirer of #23 (who had just won his fourth NBA Championship in the months prior to Jam‘s release). Hell, I even had the soundtrack on CD. It featured Seal’s cover of “Fly Like an Eagle”. There was also “Hit ‘Em High” and it featured the divine hop hop quintet of B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes. The biggest hit causes some trepidation nowadays as the picture opens with the crooning of R. Kelly and “I Believe I Can Fly”.

It seems a bit silly to recount the plot all this time later, but here goes. Space Jam takes place in that strange time known as Michael Jordan’s first retirement. That’s when the superstar chose to play baseball and ended up in the Minor Leagues. That aforementioned first scene set to Kelly’s syrupy ballad is actually a touching one that features MJ as a young tyke on the court with his father. Followers of Jordan know why the sequence likely had some emotional resonance with him.

The comedy begins in another animated realm where Mr. Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito) lords over his minions in a place titled Moron Mountain. That locale is part of an amusement park in need of more sizzling attractions. Swackhammer decides he wants to recruit the Looney Tunes characters (against their will) to join the party. When Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, the Tasmanian Devil and others are given the proposition – they challenge the newly formed Monstars to a basketball game. If they win, they’re free to go and resume their normal cartoon hijinks.

Swackhammer won’t go down without some creative team building so he steals the bodies of NBA stalwarts like Charles Barkley, Muggy Bogues, and Patrick Ewing to join his squad. Bugs and company have an ace up their sleeve, however, with the greatest of all time.

The blend of animation and live-action still holds up quite well from the mid 90s. At the time, it was quite cutting edge. This Jam runs just 88 minutes and mostly flies by. Jordan isn’t asked to do Shakespeare here. He plays a version of himself and does it well. The screenplay even has some fun with his many corporate connections by name dropping his many commercial brands (from Hanes to McDonald’s) at one point. Wayne Knight (fresh off being decimated by Dinos in Jurassic Park) plays MJ’s pushy but good-hearted publicist. Jordan’s family (Theresa Randle is his wife) appear intermittently but aren’t really a focus. MJ has a game to win after all and he takes it personally.

Having the Looney Tunes posse allows for plenty of humorous moments. No, this isn’t them at the height of their glory, but they still deliver. Interestingly enough, I found myself wanting the script to delve more into certain subplots. Having been a viewer of Inside the NBA for many years, I have no doubt that Charles Barkley could have been utilized to better effect (the dude’s hilarious).

My overall reaction to Space Jam is that I totally get why it’s become so appreciated. Is it a classic? No. Does it take its limited premise and make it amusing? Yes. In 2021, Lebron James has become the face of his league and that’s warranted the just out sequel. I won’t wait 25 years to watch it and my review of A New Legacy is coming to the blog soon.

Not everything has changed in the last quarter century by the way. Bill Murray shows up out of nowhere at a couple of key times. You’re a Google search away from reading stories about the legendary actor doing that all over the world. Google may not have been a thing 25 years ago, but Mr. Murray popping up unexpectedly to make things better is timeless.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was supposed to premiere at Cannes in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic altered that plan. One year later, the auteur’s latest has screened in the French Riviera and it’s probably the most eagerly awaited debut of the festival. The film boasts an ensemble that is to be expected from the filmmaker and it reads like a who’s who of his frequent collaborators and several other previous awards nominees: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schrieber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz, Jason Schwartzman (who shares a story credit with Anderson and others), Bob Balaban, and Anjelica Huston. Yeah, I know.

Early reviews indicate that this anthology (out stateside on October 22) is a loving ode to journalism and that could be right up the alley of Academy voters. Yet some buzz is also indicating this isn’t among his strongest efforts. One thing seems certain: Dispatch is a visual feast that should easily assert itself in several technical categories. That certainly includes Production Design, Costume Design, Alexandre Desplat’s Original Score, Cinematography, and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling (though that race in particular could be packed this year).

What do all those races have in common? They were all nominations received for Anderson’s 2014 pic The Grand Budapest Hotel, which scored nine mentions (winning for Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Score, and Production Design). Don’t be surprised if this is a major hopeful in those same categories.

As for the massive amount of actors, here’s a fun fact: no performance from an Anderson production has ever been nominated. That seems hard to believe, but his casts often make it tricky to pick a favorite or two to mount a campaign for. Del Toro, Chalamet, Wright, and McDormand have been singled out in some write-ups already. I suspect none will emerge to make the Oscar cut. Chalamet has hope in lead actor for Dune and the same can be said for McDormand with The Tragedy of Macbeth (time will tell).

Now to the biggest derbies. Will The French Dispatch manage Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay nods? The latter seems most possible. And while some European chatter indicates the other two could be out of reach, it’s important to remember that it took a little time for Budapest Hotel to become the Academy player that it turned out to be.

Bottom line: the future is cloudy for Dispatch when it comes to the most high-profile competitions. Some Academy love down the line in the tech races already seems highly likely. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 1991: The Top 10 Hits and More

It is officially summertime 2021 and that brings my annual seasonal three-part series where I take a look back at the top ten pics, flops, and other notable selections from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means I’ll begin with 1991 at a time where Arnold Schwarzenegger said hasta la vista to all competitors.

Let’s count down from #10 to numero Ah-nuld along with other entries worthy of discussion (both good and bad).

10. Doc Hollywood

Domestic Gross: $54 million

Michael J. Fox had a midsize hit with this fish out of water comedy about an uppity surgeon stuck in the rural south. It marks the star’s last solid performer that he headlined.

9. Boyz n the Hood

Domestic Gross: $57 million

John Singleton had one of cinema’s most memorable directorial debuts with this coming-of-age drama set in South Central. He would become the youngest filmmaker ever to be nominated at the Oscars and the critically hailed pic kickstarted the careers of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube.

8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians 

Domestic Gross: $60 million

Disney re-released their 1961 classic three decades after its release and picked up a cool $60 million for it. Later in 1991, the studio would begin another renaissance with Beauty and the Beast becoming the first animated film to nab a Best Picture nomination. Five years later, Glenn Close would headline the live-action version and another reboot, Cruella with Emma Stone, is currently in the top five.

7. What About Bob?

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Bill Murray had one of his signature roles as the multi-phobic patient tormenting shrink Richard Dreyfuss on his vacation. Apparently this comedy was a bit dramatic behind the scenes with the two leads having an actual antagonistic relationship.

6. Hot Shots!

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Spoofs were a hot commodity in the early 90s following the success of 1988’s The Naked Gun. Jim Abrahams, one of that film’s writers, created this sendup of Top Gun and many others that starred Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.

5. Backdraft

Domestic Gross: $77 million

Ron Howard directed this firefighting drama that heated up the box office with Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, and a creepy Donald Sutherland as a pyromaniac. There was even a sequel released in 2019 with Baldwin and Sutherland that went direct to streaming and that I frankly forgot existed.

4. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Domestic Gross: $86 million

The spoofing love continued as Leslie Nielsen reprised his role as doofus detective Frank Drebin in this sequel to the 1988 classic. It couldn’t hold up the original, but it was better than part 3 which followed in 1994. And, needless to say, this was a simpler time for costar O.J. Simpson.

3. City Slickers

Domestic Gross: $124 million

As New Yorkers learning life lessons on a cattle drive, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby starred in the comedy smash of the summer and costar Jack Palance even ended up with a Best Supporting Actor victory. A less regarded follow-up would come in 1994.

2. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Domestic Gross: $165 million

While his accent was spotty at best, Kevin Costner parlayed his Oscar success from the previous year’s Dances with Wolves into this blockbuster about the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor hero. The highlight was Alan Rickman’s sublime work as the Sheriff of Nottingham while critics mostly turned up their noses.

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Domestic Gross: $204 million

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s android went from being the bad guy in the 1984 original to the good robot in James Cameron’s sequel that gave us eye popping and revolutionary special effects and a dynamite Linda Hamilton returning as a buffed up Sarah Connor. There’s been four more entries in the franchise and none have matched the potency of this one.

Now let’s turn the focus to some other notable releases:

Thelma & Louise

Domestic Gross: $45 million

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both scored lead actress Academy nods for Ridley Scott’s now iconic tale of feminism and revenge with an unforgettable ending. This also marked audiences falling in love with a then unknown actor by the name of Brad Pitt.

Point Break

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Patrick Swayze starred in the previous summer’s high earner with Ghost. This surfing action pic from director Kathryn Bigelow paired the actor with Keanu Reeves and has amassed a deserved cult following. An unnecessary remake wiped out in 2015.

Dead Again

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Kenneth Branagh’s sophomore effort after the acclaim of his Shakespearian Henry V was this Hitchcock homage costarring his then wife Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, and Robin Williams. As tributes to the Master of Suspense go, this is one of the best.

Soapdish

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey, Jr., and Whoopi Goldberg are part of the ensemble in this comedy set in the world of the afternoon melodramas that populate the airwaves. Not a big hit at the time, its reception has since grown.

Jungle Fever

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Spike Lee’s tale of an interracial couple played by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra received critical kudos. The two most memorable performances come from Samuel L. Jackson as a crack addict and Halle Berry (in her feature debut) as his girlfriend.

Madonna: Truth or Dare

Domestic Gross: $15 million

As she often is, Madonna was ahead of the cultural curve with this documentary set during her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. This was reality programming before it exploded.

Barton Fink

Domestic Gross: $6 million

The Coen Brothers pitch black comedy was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival, winning Picture, Director, and Actor for John Turturro. It would land three Academy nominations including Michael Lerner in Supporting Actor.

Now it’s time for the pictures that either didn’t land with audiences or critics (or both):

The Rocketeer

Domestic Gross: $46 million

Disney was hoping for a new franchise with this comic book based property. Yet the period adventure underwhelmed at the box office. This was a different era for the genre before the MCU changed everything. Director Joe Johnston, coincidentally, would go on to make Captain America: The First Avenger 20 years later.

Dying Young

Domestic Gross: $33 million

This seems hard to believe now, but Premiere magazine predicted this romance would be the largest grossing feature of the summer. Not so much. However, Julia Roberts was just coming off her smash breakthrough Pretty Woman. This didn’t land with audiences in the same way.

Only the Lonely

Domestic Gross: $25 million

Chris Columbus was basking in the box office bonanza that was Home Alone. This rom com with John Candy and Ally Sheedy that followed six months later didn’t cause many filmgoers to leave their homes.

Mobsters

Domestic Gross: $20 million

1990 was gave us lots of mobster fare such as GoodFellas, The Godfather Part III, and Miller’s Crossing. Crowds and critics didn’t take to the Christian Slater and Patrick Dempsey versions of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, respectively.

Hudson Hawk

Domestic Gross: $17 million

Bruce Willis’s vanity project is considered one of the gargantuan flops in history. Grossing only about a fourth of its $65 million budget, it was awarded the Golden Raspberry for Worst Picture of the year.

V.I. Warshawski

Domestic Gross: $11 million

Based on a series of successful novels, audiences didn’t take to Kathleen Turner in the title role for this detective action comedy. It made less than half its budget.

Delirious

Domestic Gross: $5 million

Also set in the world of soap operas, this marked another dud for John Candy in the same season.

Another You

Domestic Gross: $2 million

Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder are a classic combo with well-regarded comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Even See No Evil, Hear No Evil in 1989, despite critical scorn, performed well. That’s not the case with their last collaboration (which reviewers also drubbed).

And that concludes my look back at summer 1991. Next up is the sweltering season of 2001!