Oscars 2019: The Case of Joker

Part 4 of my Case of posts laying out the pros and cons for nominees to win the big Oscar races continues with Joker in Best Picture. If you missed the first three covering Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, and Jojo Rabbit, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/14/oscars-2019-the-case-of-ford-v-ferrari/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/15/oscars-2019-the-case-of-the-irishman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/17/oscars-2019-the-case-of-jojo-rabbit/

The Case for Joker

The grim comic book adaptation has the most nominations of any film with 11. Even heavy hitters The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood followed with 10. Of the nine pictures featured, it’s easily the box office king with $334 million domestically and over a billion dollars worldwide. Joaquin Phoenix appears to be the front runner in Best Actor. The film’s awards chatter exploded when it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Joker is further proof that the Academy has warmed to the genre after Black Panther was the first comic book flick to get a Picture nod in 2018.

The Case Against Joker

Many of the reasons listed above can actually be used against it. The picture with the most nominations fails to win Best Picture more often than not. Same goes for the movie that made the most money. Director Todd Phillips got the Oscar nod, but missed the Directors Guild final five. Furthermore, the 69% Rotten Tomatoes is awfully low for a potential Picture recipient. While Joker certainly has its fervent defenders, it was also subject to plenty of controversy about its subject matter.

The Verdict

The thought of Joker winning Best Picture seemed unlikely a short time ago. However, its chances due to the volume of nominations has certainly increased. Ultimately its best bet is for Phoenix to make it to the podium, but this a Picture victory that can’t be totally discounted.

Up next in my Case of posts… Little Women!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/19): Hours before its opening, I am revising my estimate down from $206.4M to $191.4M

The ninth episode in the galaxy is not far, far away as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in a theater near you next weekend. Capping the third trilogy of the landmark franchise, the film finds J.J. Abrams returning to the director’s chair after Rian Johnson (currently having his own box office hit with Knives Out) handled duties on previous entry The Last Jedi in 2017. The familiar faces introduced four years ago in The Force Awakens return with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac headlining. Stars from the original trilogy are back including Carrie Fisher (via unreleased footage from previous efforts), Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and two cast members making their respective first appearances since 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. Other notable performers returning include Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Marie Tran. Newcomers to the series are Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, and Richard E. Grant.

Disney took over the reigns of George Lucas’s creation a few years back and the results have been billions more into the Mouse Factory’s considerable coffers. That said, the last two years have shown some chinks in the once impenetrable armor. The aforementioned Last Jedi divided audiences and critics and came in $300 million under Awakens. A few months later in May of 2018, prequel and spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story was the first picture in the series that was a genuine disappointment and actually lost money.

In Star Wars world, “disappointing” numbers are relative. The Last Jedi took in $220 million for its start on this same weekend two years ago, ending its run at $620 million domestically (that’s still good for #9 all-time). Yet, as mentioned, that’s considerably below the $936 million that Awakens achieved. It continues to stand at #1 overall in terms of stateside dollars.

Estimates for Skywalker show a pretty wide range. Some are as low as $175 million. Only in this franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe would that number be called low. Despite the mixed Jedi reaction and Solo grosses, I have a hard time buying that this last entry of the trilogy could come in with $45 million less than its predecessor.

The more reasonable anticipation is that this manages to top $200 million. There is certainly more serious family competition than Last Jedi had with Jumanji: The Next Level being in its second frame (it was the inverse in 2017 with predecessor Welcome to the Jungle arriving the week after Jedi).

My projection here gives Skywalker the seventh biggest debut ever, in between MCU titles The Avengers and Black Panther. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening weekend prediction: $191.4 million

For my Cats prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/cats-box-office-prediction/

For my Bombshell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/bombshell-box-office-prediction/

The Irishman Takes The NBR

The National Board of Review announced its victors this afternoon for their best of 2019. For the pictures and performers who were named as winners, you could say that it’s a double edged sword.

Allow me to explain. In this 2010’s, only one of their Best Film recipients took home Best Picture at the Oscars. That was last year with Green Book. This year, the award goes to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. So from an odds perspective, that could mean it faces an uphill battle for the big gold statue. On the other hand, all of the NBR Film winners from this decade, with the exception of 2014’s A Most Violent Year, have scored an Academy nod. This isn’t really in doubt for The Irishman so expect that trend to continue.

The Board always goes on to name their additional favorite 10 motion pictures and this year they are: 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. In 2018, only three of the ten additional NBR selections got Picture noms: Black Panther, Roma and A Star Is Born. Some notable titles that didn’t make the NBR cut for 2019: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Joker, Little Women, Parasite, and The Two Popes. 

When it comes to Best Director, the news is even worse for the NBR recipient. No movie this decade has seen that winner match with Oscar. In fact, the last direct match was in 2006 for… Irishman maker Scorsese for The Departed. The NBR named Quentin Tarantino today for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s got history against his side for a walk up the Academy steps.

In Best Actor, it’s the same story as only Casey Affleck for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea won NBR and Oscar in the 2010s. Adam Sandler is the winner for Uncut Gems. He’s part of a packed Best Actor race where there’s about a dozen viable candidates looking for five spots. This victory could at least help him get in as only Oscar Isaac (Violent Year in 2014) and Tom Hanks (2017’s The Post) didn’t land nods.

The numbers improve only slightly for Best Actress with two matches: Julianne Moore for 2014’s Still Alice and Brie Larson for 2015’s Room. The NBR bestowed the award this year to Renee Zellweger for Judy, who could be considered a soft front-runner for Oscar.

This brings us to Brad Pitt, winner today for Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He also holds the status of apparent favorite to win the Academy’s love. Yet there’s just two matches this decade between them and NBR: Christian Bale in 2010’s The Fighter and Christopher Plummer from 2011’s Beginners. 

Last year was the only match of the decade for Supporting Actress: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Kathy Bates took the NBR for Richard Jewell. I don’t see her winning the Oscar, but it could help her nomination odds.

In Original Screenplay, it’s interesting to note that 7 of the past nine NBR winners didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Could that be a sign of trouble for honoree Uncut Gems? Time will tell…

And for Adapted Screenplay, the NBR went with The Irishman. Par for the course, just two matches here: 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Descendants. 

Bottom line: the NBR announcements might help with fleshing out who certain nominees will be. As far as winners, that’s a whole different story…

Queen & Slim Box Office Prediction

In what’s being called a current take on Bonnie and Clyde, Universal is hoping that moviegoers take a trip with Queen & Slim over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The romantic thriller stars Daniel Kaluuya (of Get Out and Black Panther fame) and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith as a new couple on the run after a minor traffic stop goes wrong. Melina Matsoukas, who’s won Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards for her work with Beyonce and Rihanna, makes her feature film debut. Costars include Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The pic debuted last week at the AFI Fest to very positive reviews. Yet despite the current 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating, this has yet to achieve any significant awards chatter. That could hinder its box office potential. Queen is already being called a potential cult hit. However, cult hits often take some time to achieve that status.

Opening on Wednesday, I believe this will have a five-day take in the high single digits to low double digits as it hopes for word of mouth to carry it along.

Queen & Slim opening weekend prediction: $6.9 million (Friday to Sunday); $10.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Knives Out prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/20/knives-out-box-office-prediction/

21 Bridges Box Office Prediction

For a time, Chadwick Boseman was best known for inhabiting real life figures in pictures such as 42, Get On Up, and Marshall. That all changed last year when he became Black Panther in that phenomenon and has played the superhero twice since in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. His latest effort 21 Bridges (out next weekend) finds him in neither type of role. Boseman is a NYC cop chasing down two killers in this action thriller from director Brian Kirk. Joe and Anthony Russo, who made those last two massive Avengers flicks, are producers. Costars include Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, Keith David, snd J.K. Simmons.

Bridges should prove to be a legitimate test of its lead performer’s box office prowess. The trailers and TV spots have struggled to suggest it’s much more than a run of the mill genre piece (no reviews are out at press time). With little buzz, I believe this will have an unexceptional start. Unless I’m underestimating Boseman’s bankability, this may even have a tough time hitting double digits.

21 Bridges opening weekend prediction: $9.8 million

For my Frozen II prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/12/frozen-ii-box-office-prediction/

For my A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/13/a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Dolemite Is My Name

Ahead of its October 25 Netflix release, Dolemite Is My Name introduced itself to critics this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Seen as a comeback role for Eddie Murphy, early reviews suggest it’s just that. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who was instrumental to ushering in the blaxploitation genre of the 1970s with his title character. Craig Brewer, best known for helming Hustle & Flow, directs with a supporting cast including Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg, and T.I.

In 2006, Eddie was seen as the front runner in Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls. He was upset by Alan Arkin’s work in Little Miss Sunshine. This has been eyed as his first chance at Academy attention since. The issue could be significant competition in a Best Actor derby that appears stacked already.

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote the original screenplay and they’ve specialized in highlighting colorful entertainment figures in Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. Once again, they could face trouble nabbing nods as that writing race is jam packed.

So while Dolemite should succeed in garnering the kind of praise its star hasn’t seen for some time, awards chatter might be elusive. There could be one noteworthy exception. Ruth Carter’s costume design has been noted in numerous write ups. Just last year, she became the first African-American to win that category for Black Panther. She could find herself in the mix again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Just Mercy

Just Mercy has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival ahead of its stateside Christmas release. Early reviews indicate the true life courtroom drama is a crowd pleasing tearjerker that has the potential for acting nominations and maybe more.

Michael B. Jordan plays a lawyer attempting to free Jamie Foxx’s wrongfully imprisoned murder convict. Brie Larson costars in this effort from Destin Daniel Cretton, who’s worked with the actress twice before in Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle.

Yet it’s Jordan and Foxx getting the bulk of attention. Despite acclaimed work in Fruitvale Station, Creed, and Black Panther (all from Ryan Coogler), Jordan hasn’t scored an Oscar nod. The lead actor race is looking crowded, but he could have a shot. Foxx might have a better chance in supporting. It’s been 15 years since he’s been in the awards mix. In 2004, he won Best Actor in Ray and nabbed a Supporting Actor nod simultaneously for Collateral. This could be the type of comeback role the Academy notices.

If Mercy manages to score with audiences (which it most certainly could do), recognition in  Best Picture or for its Adapted Screenplay may factor in as well. Bottom line: this pic increased its visibility playing in our neighbor to the north. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…