Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

Oscar Watch: Outlaw King

The historical action drama Outlaw King might not immediately strike one as an Oscar hopeful. Yet it’s considered a bit of a thematic sequel to Braveheart, the Mel Gibson epic that also focused on the Scottish battle for independence. That film won Best Picture in 1995. This is also director David Mackenzie’s follow-up to Hell or High Water, which earned a Best Picture nod two years ago. And it was selected to open the Toronto Film Festival, which has kicked off today.

Even with that considerable pedigree, critical reaction suggests this won’t be a major player on the Oscar scene. Mackenzie reunites with Hell star Chris Pine with a supporting cast including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, and Stephen Dillane. Early reviews haven’t been too kind thus far, though they have praised its epic scope. Perhaps some down the line tech recognition is possible, but even that could be a reach.

Bottom line: don’t expect Academy voters to crown King with love.

The pic is slated to debut on Netflix on November 9. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…


The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune


The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise


The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player


The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts


The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red


The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas


The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade


The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter


The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show


The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy


The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot


The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive


The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her


The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America


The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake


The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line


The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93


The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…


Todd’s Weekly Oscar Predictions: December 15th Edition

Well, folks, it’s been two weeks since I made my last Oscar predictions and a lot has happened in that time period. Both the Golden Globe and SAG nominations have been released, in addition to more critics association bestowing of honors.

The events of the last couple of weeks have led me to this conclusion: La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester by the Sea are the current hot trio for Best Picture. There was the fascinating omission of La La for a SAG Best Ensemble Award. While I still believe it’s the front runner for the Academy, if it won it would be the first picture to do so without being nominated for the SAG race since 1995’s Braveheart. 

Both SAG and Golden Globe weren’t kind to Martin Scorsese’s Silence, yet I still think it manages to get in the Picture race and nominate its director. Both organizations had their share of shocker nods – for SAG it was Emily Blunt for The Girl on the Train in Actress as opposed to Annette Bening in 20th Century Women. For the Globes, it was Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s getting a nom for Nocturnal Animals in Supporting Actor instead of his more expected costar Michael Shannon.

Here’s where I have all the races standing currently. Let’s get to it:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Moonlight (PR: 3)

3. Manchester by the Sea (PR: 4)

4. Silence (PR: 2)

5. Fences (PR: 5)

6. Lion (PR: 6)

7. Arrival (PR: 7)

8. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 12)

9. Hidden Figures (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities

10. Hell or High Water (PR: 10)

11. Loving (PR: 9)

12. Jackie (PR: 11)

13. Sully (PR: 13)

14. Nocturnal Animals (PR: 16)

15. 20th Century Women (PR: 15)

16. Patriots Day (PR: 14)

17. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: Not Ranked)

18. Live by Night (PR: 17)

19. The Jungle Book (PR: 19)

20. Gold (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


The Founder

Best Director

Predicted Nominees

1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (PR: 3)

3. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 5)

4. Martin Scorsese, Silence (PR: 2)

5. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities

6. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 8)

7. Denzel Washington, Fences (PR: 4)

8. Garth Davis, Lion (PR: 7)

9. David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Jeff Nichols, Loving (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees

1. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 2)

2. Denzel Washington, Fences (PR: 1)

3. Ryan Gosling, La La Land (PR: 4)

4. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 9)

5. Tom Hanks, Sully (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities

6. Joel Edgerton, Loving (PR: 6)

7. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic (PR: 7)

8. Michael Keaton, The Founder (PR: 8)

9. Andrew Garfield, Silence (PR: 5)

10. Matthew McConaughey, Gold (PR: 10)

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees

1. Emma Stone, La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Natalie Portman, Jackie (PR: 2)

3. Annette Bening, 20th Century Women (PR: 3)

4. Amy Adams, Arrival (PR: 5)

5. Isabelle Huppert, Elle (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities

6. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: 8)

7. Ruth Negga, Loving (PR: 4)

8. Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane (PR: 7)

9. Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures (PR: 9)

10. Rebecca Hall, Christine (PR: 10)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees

1. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight (PR: 1)

2. Dev Patel, Lion (PR: 3)

3. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 4)

4. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water (PR: 6)

5. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities

6. Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Mykelti Williamson, Fences (PR: 5)

8. Issey Ogata, Silence (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures (PR: 10)

10. Ben Foster, Hell or High Water (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Adam Driver, Silence

Liam Neeson, Silence

Stephen Henderson, Fences

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees

1. Viola Davis, Fences (PR: 1)

2. Naomie Harris, Moonlight (PR: 2)

3. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 3)

4. Nicole Kidman, Lion (PR: 4)

5. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities

6. Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women (PR: 5)

7. Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky (PR: 9)

8. Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures (PR: 6)

9. Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Molly Shannon, Other People (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Bryce Dallas Howard, Gold

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees

1. Manchester by the Sea (PR: 1)

2. La La Land (PR: 3)

3. Hell or High Water (PR: 4)

4. Captain Fantastic (PR: 10)

5. 20th Century Women (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities

6. The Lobster (PR: 7)

7. Jackie (PR: 8)

8. Eye in the Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: Not Ranked)

10. I, Daniel Blake (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Moonlight and Loving – *moved to Adapted Screenplay

Patriots Day

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees

1. Moonlight (PR: Not Ranked, was moved from Original Screenplay)

2. Fences (PR: 1)

3. Lion (PR: 3)

4. Silence (PR: 2)

5. Arrival  (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities

6. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 7)

7. Nocturnal Animals (PR: 6)

8. Loving (Not Ranked – previously listed in Original Screenplay)

9. Hidden Figures (PR: 5)

10. Sully (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:



Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees

1. Zootopia (PR: 1)

2. Kubo and the Two Strings (PR: 3)

3. Moana (PR: 2)

4. The Red Turtle (PR: 4)

5. Finding Dory (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities

6. The Little Prince (PR: 6)

7. My Life as a Zucchini (PR: 8)

8. April and the Extraordinary World (PR: 7)

9. Trolls (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Sausage Party (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Miss Hokusai

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees

1. 13th (PR: 1)

2. I Am Not Your Negro (PR: 5)

3. O.J.: Made in America (PR: 2)

4. Gleason (PR: 3)

5. Life, Animated (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities

6. Cameraperson (PR: 7)

7. Weiner (PR: Not Ranked)

8. The Eagle Huntress (PR: 6)

9. Fire at Sea (PR: 8)

10. The Ivory Game (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Miss Sharon Jones

Best Foreign Language Film

Predicted Nominees

1. Toni Erdmann (PR: 1)

2. Elle (PR: 4)

3. The Salesman (PR: 6)

4. Land of Mine (PR: 3)

5. Fire at Sea (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities

6. Neruda (PR: 10)

7. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (PR: 9)

8. Julieta (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Ma’Rosa (PR: 7)

10. The Ardennes (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

A Man Called Ove

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Moonlight (PR: 3)

3. Silence (PR: 2)

4. Arrival (PR: 4)

5. Jackie (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities

6. Nocturnal Animals (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Lion (PR: 7)

8. Hell or High Water (PR: 9)

9. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 8)

10. Live by Night (PR: 6)

Dropped Out:

The Jungle Book

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees

1. Jackie (PR: 1)

2. La La Land (PR: 2)

3. Allied (PR: 6)

4. Love & Friendship (PR: 3)

5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities

6. Live by Night (PR: 4)

7. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: 8)

8. Silence (PR: 5)

9. Rules Don’t Apply (PR: 7)

10. Fences (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:


Best Editing

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Moonlight (PR: 3)

3. Silence (PR: 2)

4. Arrival (PR: 6)

5. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities

6. Sully (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Lion (PR: 4)

8. Manchester by the Sea (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Fences (PR: 10)

10. Jackie (PR: 7)

Dropped Out:

Hell or High Water

Live by Night

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees

1. Jackie (PR: 1)

2. Star Trek Beyond (PR: 7)

3. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PR: 3)

5. Deadpool (PR: Not Ranked)

6. Suicide Squad (PR: 8)

7. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Nocturnal Animals (PR: 9)

9. Doctor Strange (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PR: 4)

Dropped Out:


Hidden Figures

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Lion (PR: 2)

3. Jackie (PR: 4)

4. Moana (PR: 5)

5. Nocturnal Animals (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PR: 7)

7.  Moonlight (PR: Not Ranked)

8. The Jungle Book (PR: 6)

9. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The BFG (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


Hidden Figures

Hacksaw Ridge

Manchester by the Sea

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees

1. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land (PR: 1)

2. “We Know the Way” from Moana (PR: 2)

3. “City of Stars” from La La Land (PR: 3)

4. “Letter to the Free” from 13th (PR: 7)

5. “Rules Don’t Apply” from Rules Don’t Apply (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities

6. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls (PR: 6)

7. “Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street (PR: Not Ranked)

8. “Dancing with Your Shadow” from Po (PR: 4)

9. “I See Victory” from Hidden Figures (PR: 5)

10. “I’m Still Here” from Miss Sharon Jones (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

“Runnin” from Hidden Figures

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Jackie (PR: 3)

3. Silence (PR: 2)

4. Arrival (PR: 5)

5. Live by Night (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities

6. Fences (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Allied (PR: 10)

8. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 8)

9. Rules Don’t Apply (PR: 7)

10. Love & Friendship (PR: 6)

Dropped Out:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Sound Editing

Predicted Nominees

1. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 1)

2. La La Land (PR: 2)

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PR: 4)

4. Sully (PR: 9)

5. The Jungle Book (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities

6. Deepwater Horizon (PR: 8)

7. Arrival (PR: 6)

8. Patriots Day (PR: 5)

9. Passengers (PR: 10)

10. Allied (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


Best Sound Mixing

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 2)

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PR: 5)

4. Deepwater Horizon (PR: 7)

5. Arrival (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities

6. The Jungle Book (PR: 6)

7. Sully (PR: 4)

8. Patriots Day (PR: 3)

9. Deadpool (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Passengers (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Live by Night

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees

1. The Jungle Book (PR: 1)

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PR: 3)

3. Arrival (PR: 6)

4. Doctor Strange (PR: 2)

5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities

6. The BFG (PR: 7)

7. Sully (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Star Trek Beyond (PR: 8)

9. Deadpool (PR: Not Ranked)

10. A Monster Calls (PR: 4)

Dropped Out:


Captain America: Civil War

That leaves the following breakdown for nominations:

14 Nominations

La La Land

9 Nominations


7 Nominations


6 Nominations

Manchester by the Sea, Silence, Jackie, Hacksaw Ridge

5 Nominations


4 Nominations


3 Nominations

Moana, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2 Nominations

Hidden Figures, Sully, Hell or High Water, Elle, 13th, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Jungle Book, 20th Century Women, Nocturnal Animals 

1 Nomination

Captain Fantastic, Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Red Turtle, Finding Dory, I Am Not Your Negro, O.J.: Made in America, Gleason, Life, Animated, Toni Erdmann, The Salesman, Land of Mine, Fire at Sea, Allied, Love & Friendship, Star Trek Beyond, Rules Don’t Apply, Live by Night, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange. 

And there you have it, folks! Updated predictions will be up next Thursday. Stay tuned…

Hacksaw Ridge Box Office Prediction

After a decade away from behind the camera, Hacksaw Ridge marks Mel Gibson’s directorial return. The World War II true-life tale casts Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector who nevertheless ended up being awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic exploits on the battlefield. Costars include Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, and Rachel Griffiths.

The reported $45 million production debuted at Venice Film Festival in September to very positive word of mouth. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 94% and it seems to be gaining some traction as a potential awards contender. Ridge is the first war drama of November, but will be followed up quickly just a week later with Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. 

Gibson, of course, is an Oscar winner for his direction of 1995’s Braveheart and struck box office gold in 2004 with his follow-up, The Passion of the Christ. 2006’s Apocalypto was his last job as director and it grossed $50M domestic. The last decade has been an interesting one for Mr. Gibson – notable more for tabloid fodder than anything on the silver screen. His acting jobs have ranged from supporting roles in Machete Kills and The Expendables 3 to direct to On Demand action flicks like Get the Gringo and Blood Father. 

It’s a legitimate question whether or not his name adds anything here. None of its stars carry much box office potency either (though Garfield will also soon headline this fall’s eagerly awaited Martin Scorsese drama Silence). What might help is the encouraging critical buzz swirling around it. I don’t expect an opening above $15 million, yet this could be a slow burner that experiences small declines in subsequent weekends. I’ll predict the most likely scenario is a low double digits opening and potential for growth as the season wears on.

Hacksaw Ridge opening weekend prediction: $12.1 million

For my Doctor Strange prediction, click here:

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Summer 1995: The Top Ten Hits and More

We are now smack dab in the middle of the 2015 summer movie season and we’ve seen our share of massive hits (hello Jurassic World) and big flops (goodbye Tomorrowland). As has become tradition on this blog, I will now take a look back at the same season from 20 years ago – giving you the top ten hits of that summer plus other notable pictures and the flops that also populated the calendar. I’ll be following up shortly with a post about the summer of 2005, one decade ago.

One thing that stands out for the summer of 1995 is that an astonishing four of the five eventual Best Picture nominees for that year came out in the summer. This is unheard of due to the fact that, typically, Oscar bait is released in the fall months. All four of those movies will be discussed in this post.

And now – let us revisit the titles that got us in the theaters during the hot months in 1995 (and some that didn’t).

10. Braveheart

Domestic Gross: $75 million

The 10th highest grosser of the season also happens to be the one that would go onto win Best Picture at the Oscars and earn director/star Mel Gibson a gold statue for his work behind the camera. The medieval war epic would win a total of five Oscars and mark a high point in Gibson’s filmography.

9. Congo

Domestic Gross: $81 million

Two summers earlier, an adventure film based on a Michael Crichton novel came out. It was called Jurassic Park and the rest is history. Expectations for the Crichton based Congo were high and it came from Spielberg protege Frank Marshall. Its $81 million gross was on the low end of expectations and critics were not kind (22% on Rotten Tomatoes).

8. Dangerous Minds

Domestic Gross: $84 million

One of the sleeper hits of the season was this urban classroom drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Now I could certainly attach a clip of the film or its trailer, but let’s be honest. The reason we remember this movie is three words: “Gangsta’s Paradise, Coolio!” Enjoy…

7. Waterworld

Domestic Gross: $88 million

The Kevin Costner adventure is widely considered to be the Heaven’s Gate of its decade. The production was a disaster with cost overruns (a budget of $172 million, which was crazy at the time) and highly mixed critical reaction. Also, like Gate, its reputation has improved over time. Yet in the summer of 1995, it was considered the season’s big belly flop.

6. Crimson Tide

Domestic Gross: $91 million

This Tony Scott directed submarine action thriller struck a chord with audiences and critics. Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman costarred with an impressive supporting cast that included Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Steve Zahn.

5. Die Hard with a Vengeance

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Bruce Willis’s third go round as John McClane costarred Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons. It couldn’t quite match the $117M take of the 1990’s Die Hard 2, but the franchise would spawn two more entries years later.

4. Casper

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Despite mixed critical reaction, this live action version of America’s favorite friendly ghost starring Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman and lots of special effects was quite the family hit.

3. Pocahontas

Domestic Gross: $141 million

While not coming close box office wise to what Disney accomplished the previous summer with The Lion King, families still turned this retelling of the Pocahontas tale into a nice hit for the studio.

2. Apollo 13

Domestic Gross: $172 million

Ron Howard’s true life space epic starring Tom Hanks earned a Best Picture nomination and the admiration of audiences and critics alike, giving its star his fourth summer blockbuster in a row after A League of their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Forrest Gump.

1. Batman Forever

Domestic Gross: $184 million

The third flick in the Caped Crusader franchise marked the end of the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton era and the beginning of the Joel Schumacher version of the series. While Forever (which cast Val Kilmer as the title character and Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones as villains The Riddler and Two Face) held bragging rights for the season’s largest grosser, it would all crumble two summers later when the disastrous Batman and Robin sunk the franchise until Chris Nolan rescued it.

And now – some other notable pictures from the summer of 1995 that didn’t make the top ten:

13. Nine Months

Domestic Gross: $69 million

This Hugh Grant comedy didn’t make much of an impression in the critical community, but audiences turned out partly because of the media swarm surrounding its star’s tabloid status involving picking up a prostitute.

14. Babe

Domestic Gross: $63 million

George Miller’s talking pig tale not only became one of the season’s sleeper hits, it also managed an unexpected Oscar nod for Best Picture.

16. Clueless

Domestic Gross: $56 million

Alicia Silverstone became a household name in this Valley Girl comedy which spawned endless catchphrases.

31. The Usual Suspects

Domestic Gross: $23 million

This indie thriller with its shocking ending started the career of director Bryan Singer and earned Kevin Spacey an Oscar for Supporting Actor.

32. Il Postino

Domestic Gross: $21 million

This Italian import was an art house favorite and is the fourth summer release in 1995 to nab a Best Picture nomination. If you’re wondering, the fifth was Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which came out in the fall.

And now, the flops of summer 1995:

Steven Seagal’s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory managed only $50 million at the domestic box office, not coming close to the $83M earned by its predecessor.

It may have been a hit kids show, but the film version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sputtered with only $38 million.

While Braveheart had audiences in period piece action movie approval mode, the Richard Gere/Sean Connery King Arthur retelling First Knight flopped with just $37 million.

Comic book fans soundly rejected Sylvester Stallone’s wrong headed Judge Dredd to the tune of a paltry $34 million take.

Two films attempting to capitalize on the virtual reality craze at the time did virtually no box office business. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe’s Virtuosity and Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Mnemonic made $24M and $19M, respectively.

Finally, while crowds loved that Babe pig, another family tale about the same animal – Gordy – came in 52nd for the summer earning just $3.9M. That’s not exactly bringing home the bacon! (I’m sorry)

And that’ll do it for my recap of the summer of 1995, folks! I’ll have 2005 up later this week…