Tenet Review

What time is it?

It’s an often asked question that usually elicits a clear and simple answer. Not in Christopher Nolan’s movies. The answers in his movies are complicated, often maddening, and frequently grandly entertaining. We’ve seen it in Memento, Inception, and Interstellar with the latter being a mixed bag and the first two being pretty great. His latest is Tenet and it definitely falls more into the maddening territory with big and loud moments of thrills. You may wish you had a physics degree during it, but this is mostly an excuse for Nolan to play in the super spy genre with a bunch of quantum related gobbledygook thrown in. The director’s most ardent admirers may study it endlessly for Easter eggs and clues as to its true meaning. Upon first watch, I’m not so sure Tenet is worth the scrutiny. Yet there’s some car chases and battle scenes played to Nigel Tufnel levels of volume that land pleasingly on screens big and small. Weird science and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of action set pieces… this is Nolan’s rap and he frequently goes to eleven in this one.

John David Washington is (rather annoyingly) known only as The Protagonist. Let’s call him “Pro” for the duration of this review. A government agent who proves his bonafides to his superiors, he’s allowed into a secret organization known as the picture’s title. Pro’s new assignment tasks him with preventing something “worse” than nuclear holocaust in one example of some clunky dialogue. This is where the physics lessons are useful. You see, Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) is hellbent on destroying the past and future through the concept of “inversion”. Essentially this means playing with time travel concepts that can wipe out what occurred before or after. I’m not sure Doc Brown could properly provide sufficient exposition without multiple viewings and neither can Pro or his partner Neil (Robert Pattinson). You may want to look up “temporal pincer movements” before you watch.

In addition to Pro’s teaming with Neil, his mission to stop Sator also involves the villain’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). She’s quite good here and she’s really the only heroic figure that’s written with any layers. Washington and Pattinson are just fine, though their characters are quite dull on the page and screen. For Branagh, this is his chance to ham it up in true Bond baddie style and he relishes it. We have also get a bit of Michael Caine (common for a Nolan experience) and internationally known Hindi actress Dimple Kapadia as an arms trafficker.

Tenet does feature the aforementioned action set pieces that are impressive in scope and tech wizardry. The director doesn’t handle these sequences with half measures. If the scene calls for a 747 to be demolished, you best believe that plane was actually destroyed. The inversion concept lends to eye candy moments with backwards cars screeching on the highway and seagulls (!) even flying in reverse.

Very early on, a scientist is explaining the science behind Tenet to Pro with the following dialogue: “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” I wrote that piece of advice down immediately. I had a notion these words might aptly describe the next two hours plus. And they do. I certainly felt the decibel levels of Nolan and his crew choreographing expensive battles. They take place all over the globe in Norway, Italy, and Siberia. I did not, on the other hand, feel too invested in the complicated narrative mechanics that cause them. In fact, I wrote down something else I didn’t expect to while watching – “Austin Powers”. In that super spy’s second outing, The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin attempts to understand the highly confusing time travel plot in a conversation with his colleague Basil. After twisting his brain into a knot discussing it, Basil smartly replies “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.” He then turns to the camera and says to us – “That goes for all of you, too.” It’s a funnier way of asking us to feel it whether we understand it or not. That request succeeds only intermittently with Tenet.

**1/2 (out of four)

No Time to Dune

If you felt obligated to write out a 2020 movie release schedule in pencil lately, it would be decimated with cross outs and erasure marks. Quite frankly, it’s tough to keep up with for movie lovers. In the past few days, it’s become even more pronounced and it’s more evidence that theaters simply aren’t ready for tentpole releases.

This was evident in July when Christopher Nolan’s Tenet wildly underperformed stateside. It served as a signal to studios that it’s better to wait and most of the delays have moved into 2021. Dune, the eagerly awaited latest effort from Denis Villeneuve, is the latest push. Originally scheduled for November and then delayed to December, Warner Bros. (who put out Tenet) has now slated it for October 2021.

The Dune activity occurs just after the new 007 pic No Time to Die announced a new Easter 2021 date. It was originally meant to hit theaters in February of this year. This follows Black Widow moving to May 2021 (original date was May 2020) and that meant the MCU’s Eternals traveled from February 2021 to November 2021. And that was around the time Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story received a year long delay to Christmastime ’21.

Still following? Yeah, I know. So what’s left for 2020? In short, nothing soon except for cinematic table scraps like The War with Grandpa with Robert De Niro (this Friday) and Honest Thief with Liam Neeson (next Friday).

Pixar is scheduled to unveil Soul in November. We shall see if they decide not to go the Disney+ route like they did with Mulan and other titles. The Croods: A New Age is supposed to come out over the Thanksgiving holiday. And December still has heavy hitters like Wonder Woman 1984, Death on the Nile, Free Guy, and Coming 2 America. 

The bottom line – who knows? Everything is tentative in these uncertain days. Streaming options will continue to increase. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tenet is available for a high price on such services in short order. For 007 fans and those awaiting Dune, there’s more time to anticipate.

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 10th Edition

We have arrived at the third week for my Thursday Oscar predictions in the eight major categories and the biggest change so far can be summed up in four words: One Night in Miami.

The historical drama, which marks the debut feature film from actress Regina King, made waves when it screened this week at the Venice Film Festival. It has vaulted into the following categories for a nomination prediction: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay.

As for that supporting race, there are actually four contenders vying for attention. I’m currently giving the nod to Kingsley Ben-Adir for his portrayal of Malcolm X over his costars Leslie Odom, Jr. (Sam Cooke), Eli Goree (Cassius Clay), and Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown). Yet this could be a fluid situation and don’t be surprised if those other performers make their way to the list in future postings.

Speaking of the supporting actor race, there has been some speculation that the late Chadwick Boseman may actually be campaigned for in the lead Actor competition with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As for now, I’m keeping him ranked first in Supporting Actor. We’ll see what transpires in the weeks ahead. If Boseman does go lead, it could open the door for Glynn Turman to get a supporting nod for the picture.

As for the week that was, my Oscar Watch posts focused on Miami, as well as some other titles that debuted as Venice. Most noteworthy is Pieces of a Woman, which has caused some chatter for its lead Vanessa Kirby and her costar Ellen Burstyn. Kirby also costars in The World to Come, which garnered solid reviews but isn’t identified in my current rankings. Other write-ups this week included The Duke (which could catch the attention of the Golden Globes for Jim Broadbent) and the heist comedic drama Kajillionaire. You can read all those detailed posts here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-one-night-in-miami/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-pieces-of-a-woman/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/07/oscar-watch-the-world-to-come/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/05/oscar-watch-the-duke/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/09/oscar-watch-kajillionaire/

With Venice still rolling along and the Toronto Film Festival set to open, this Friday will see the initial screenings of two major contenders – Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland and Francis Lee’s Ammonite. Expect Oscar Watch posts on both hopefuls this weekend.

The loser of the week is Tenet. I’ve taken it out of consideration for Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. On the flip side, expect to see its name pop up again in October when I begin estimating all feature film races as it will surely nab some tech nods.

As for other developments since last Thursday:

  • My eight predicted Best Picture nominees from the past two weeks remains the same, but now it’s become nine with the addition of One Night in Miami.
  • Regina King’s inclusion in Best Director knocks out Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7.
  • My five Best Actress predictions remains the same, Both Vanessa Kirby and Jennifer Lawrence (Red, White and Water) join the overall mix with Julianne Moore (The Glorias) and Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) falling out.
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father) takes over the #1 spot over Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) in Best Actor. There are no changes in the top five. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) makes his first appearance at #14 with Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) dropping out of the top 15.
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank) enters the top 5 in Supporting Actress over Ariana DeBose for West Side Story. Ellen Burstyn enters the fold at #15 with Debra Winger’s work in Kajillionaire exiting the top 15.
  • As mentioned, Kingsley Ben-Adir vaults from 12th to 4th in Supporting Actor and he replaces Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah. The top 15 marks the first appearances for Brian Tyree Henry (Red, White and Water) and Glynn Turman for Ma Rainey. Dropping out are Lucas Hedges in French Exit and David Alvarez in West Side Story. 
  • In Original Screenplay, Never Sometimes Rarely Always gets its first mention since Tenet travels out of the race.
  • In Adapted Screenplay, One Night in Miami gets in over Dune in the top 5. First Cow makes its inaugural appearance in 14th with The Eyes of Tammy Faye dropping.

You can read the full slate of guesstimates here:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. News of the World (PR: 5)

6. One Night in Miami (PR: 13)

7. Ammonite (PR: 6)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 9)

11. The Father (PR: 16)

12. Soul (PR: 10)

13. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 14)

14. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 11)

15. The French Dispatch (PR: 12)

16. Minari (PR: 15)

17. Stillwater (PR: 18)

18. Annette (PR: 17)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 19)

20. Next Goal Wins (PR: 23)

21. Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

22. Respect (PR: 20)

23. French Exit (PR: 24)

24. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: Not Ranked)

25. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

The Midnight Sky 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 5)

5. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

7. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 6)

8. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 7)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 11)

11. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 14)

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 12)

13. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 13)

14. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

15. Tom McCarthy, Stillwater (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 7)

8. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 9)

11. Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Marion Cotillard, Annette (PR: 11)

13. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10)

14. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 15)

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Julianne Moore, The Glorias

Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 2)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 1)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

7. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 8)

8. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 9)

10. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 11)

11. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 10)

12. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 13)

13. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 12)

14. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

7. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

8. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 7)

10. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 11)

11. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 8)

12. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 12)

13. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: 15)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 12)

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 5)

7. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 10)

8. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 7)

9. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 9)

10. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 6)

11. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 8)

12. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 11)

13. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 14)

14. Brian Tyree Henry, Red, White and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

David Alvarez, West Side Story 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Soul (PR: 5)

5. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 6)

7. Minari (PR: 7)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Stillwater (PR: 9)

10. Promising Young Woman (PR: 10)

11. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 12)

12. Red, White and Water (PR: 14)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 13)

14. Annette (PR: 11)

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Tenet

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. News of the World (PR: 2)

3. One Night in Miami (PR: 9)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

5. The Father (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 3)

7. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8)

9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 7)

10. French Exit (PR: 11)

11. Next Goal Wins (PR: 12)

12. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

13. The Humans (PR: 13)

14. First Cow (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Respect (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

And that does it for now, folks! I’ll be back at it next Thursday…

September 11-13 Box Office Predictions

There is one new entry populating the multiplexes this weekend and it’s the rom com The Broken Hearts Gallery, which will attempt to bring in a teen audience. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/02/the-broken-hearts-gallery-box-office-prediction/

I have already downgraded my estimate for it from an initial $4.3 million to just $2.3 million. That should be good enough for a second place showing behind Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

And now… about Tenet. All eyes were on the time shifting mega budget epic over the long Labor Day weekend. There’s good news and bad news. By Labor Day, Warner Bros reported that the pic had taken in $20.2 million domestically. That is well below the $36.9 million that I had it pegged at by that date. And it’s absolutely on the lowest end of its expected range.

On the flip side, Tenet stands at a sturdy $152 million gross worldwide thus far. The expectation is that its weekend to weekend drop-offs in the United States should be fairly minor as moviegoers are just getting accustomed to heading back out to their local theater.

On the other hand, the pic received a so-so B Cinemascore grade from audiences. That indicates some crowds weren’t wowed by the experience. Having said that, Tenet is the only major release playing for the entire month of September before Wonder Woman 1984 arrives early next month (we hope).

I will say Tenet should only dip to the mid teens for this upcoming frame with the caveat that we are truly in unknown territory. As for the scant holdovers, The New Mutants dropped 57% in its sophomore frame. That steep fall meant a gross of $3 million over the holiday compared to my more generous $3.8 million take. Its total is $11.7 million. Russell Crowe’s Unhinged was third with $1.8 million. My guess? $1.8 million! The overall tally is $11.4 million.

Here are my top 3 estimates for the weekend ahead:

1. Tenet

Predicted Gross: $14.4 million

2. The Broken Hearts Gallery

Predicted Gross: $2.3 million

3. The New Mutants

Predicted Gross: $1.5 million

And there you have it, folks! Until next time…

2020 Oscar Predictions: September 3rd Edition

We have arrived at Week #2 for my Oscar predictions in the eight major categories. I do so as the Venice Film Festival has kicked off with Telluride and Toronto slated to virtually get underway in the coming days. That means quite a few Oscar Watch posts will be up in short order, including for several of the features predicted below.

Since last Thursday, I’ve written only two Watch entries. Mulan isn’t likely to be a factor in any of the big races, but it could definitely contend for some technical categories. The forthcoming horror pic Antebellum didn’t impress critics and won’t be mentioned again here. If you would like to peruse those posts, you can do so here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/09/03/oscar-watch-mulan/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/31/oscar-watch-antebellum/

When I wrote my initial guesstimates one week ago, it was on the following day that movie lovers across the globe were hit with tragic news. The loss of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer has shocked and saddened all of us. Despite his acclaimed performances in 42, Get On Up, and his iconic work as Black Panther, Mr. Boseman has yet to receive a nomination from the Academy. Last Thursday, I already had him listed at #2 in Supporting Actor for the upcoming Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is now listed first as is his costar Viola Davis in Best Actress.

Here are some other developments of note:

  • I am still higher on Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which also featured Boseman) than some other prognosticators. I have it listed for inclusion in Best Picture, Actor (Delroy Lindo), and Original Screenplay. However, its numbers have fallen a bit and I am taking Spike Lee out of my Director five.
  • My estimated eight Best Picture nominees has remained intact with some shifting in the rankings.
  • Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) and Paul Greengrass (News of the World) are in for Director with the aforementioned Spike Lee and Francis Lee (Ammonite) out.
  • The five in Actress has not changed. In Actor, I’ve made the move to take Bill Murray’s performance in On the Rocks and put it in the supporting field. That allows for Tom Hanks (News of the World) to move up. In general, I have soured a bit on Rocks. You’ll see below that its numbers have dropped precipitously.
  • Supporting Actress also includes the same five women and that’s also the case with Supporting Actor.
  • Though I don’t have it in the top five, I’ve corrected French Exit to be listed in Adapted Screenplay as opposed to Original. Soul replaces The French Dispatch in Original for the moment while The Father vaults over West Side Story in Adapted.

As you’ll see, there’s plenty of new faces being mentioned for the first time that didn’t make the list last week and others who have dropped.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

4. Dune (PR: 6)

5. News of the World (PR: 7)

6. Ammonite (PR: 5)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

8. West Side Story (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

9. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 16)

10. Soul (PR: 14)

11. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 12)

12. The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

13. One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 10)

15. Minari (PR: 18)

16. The Father (PR: 17)

17. Annette (PR: 13)

18. Stillwater (PR: 21)

19. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 22)

20. Respect (PR: Not Ranked)

21. Tenet (PR: 15)

22. The Midnight Sky (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Next Goal Wins (PR: 24)

24. French Exit (PR: 25)

25. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 20)

Dropped Out:

On the Rocks

C’Mon C’Mon

The Eyes of Tammy Faye 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 4)

4. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

5. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

7. Francis Lee, Ammonite (PR: 5)

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8)

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 9)

10. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

11. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

12. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 11)

13. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 12)

14. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Christopher Nolan, Tenet (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Leos Carax, Annette

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 1)

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 14)

8. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 7)

9. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 11)

10. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 8)

11. Marion Cotillard, Annette

12. Julianne Moore, The Glorias (PR: 9)

13. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley (PR: 15)

14. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 13)

15. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rashida Jones, On the Rocks 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 1)

2. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 3)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 2)

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)

8. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 13)

9. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 8)

10. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 12)

12. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10)

13. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 14)

14. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story (PR: 9)

15. Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Bill Murray, On the Rocks (moved to Supporting Actor)

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

Ben Affleck, The Way Back 

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 1)

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 5)

5. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 7)

7. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 14)

8. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 6)

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 9)

10. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire (PR: 8)

14. Mary J. Blige, Respect (PR: 11)

15. Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Rebecca Ferguson, Dune

Nicole Kidman, The Prom

Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 2)

2. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 1)

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 7)

7. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Best Actor)

8. Tom Burke, Mank (PR: 6)

9, Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 12)

10. Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Lucas Hedges, French Exit (PR: 9)

14. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 10)

15. David Alvarez, West Side Story (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Oscar Isaac, Dune

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Ammonite (PR: 4)

4. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 3)

5. Soul (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 5)

7. Minari (PR: 10)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Stillwater (PR: 11)

10. Promising Young Woman (PR: 15)

11. Annette (PR: 13)

12. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 9)

13. On the Rocks (PR: 7)

14. Red, White, and Water (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tenet (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

French Exit (moved to Adapted Screenplay)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. News of the World (PR: 3)

3. Dune (PR: 2)

4. The Father (PR: 6)

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 8)

8. West Side Story (PR: 4)

9. One Night in Miami (PR: 13)

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 10)

11. French Exit (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Original Screenplay)

12. Next Goal Wins (PR: 9)

13. The Humans (PR: Not Ranked)

14. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 11)

15. Respect (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

The White Tiger

The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it with updated predictions next Thursday!

September 4-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my four and five day estimates for Tenet up to $30.3M and $36.9M, respectively.
It is quite safe to assume that Labor Day weekend has never been the most interesting box office frame before in a calendar year. Traditionally it’s a slow one when studios don’t bother to put out potential hits as the blockbusters of summer wind down and companies ready their fall product.

2020 has upended all of that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is by far the highest profile release this holiday weekend has ever witnessed. After a delay from July, the twisty thriller with John David Washington and Robert Pattinson is finally set to invade IMAX and regular screens on Thursday (with previews slated throughout this week). You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/25/tenet-box-office-prediction/

Tenet rolled out in numerous international markets (as well as our neighbor to the north) this past weekend and it blew away expectations with $53 million. That bodes quite well for its U.S. bow this week. A four-day weekend in the mid to high 20s is my best guesstimate with upwards of $30 million when factoring in the Thursday tally. And if this projection changes, I have a feeling it will go up.

This juggernaut will easily rule the weekend. In fact, based on minimal competition in September, it will probably be #1 for the entire month. As for current holdovers, The New Mutants should dip to 2nd with Unhinged in third position. I expect the sophomore dip for Mutants to be more pronounced than that of Unhinged. 

And with that, I am moving from a top 2 predictions last weekend to a whole top 3 as the box office comeback kicks into high gear for September! All estimates are for the four-day long frame unless otherwise indicated.

1. Tenet

Predicted Gross: $30.3 million (Friday to Monday prediction); $36.9 million (Thursday to Monday)

2. The New Mutants

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

3. Unhinged 

Predicted Gross: $1.8 million

Box Office Results (August 28-30)

Fox’s long-delayed and critically drubbed The New Mutants was a trouble production well before anyone knew what the coronavirus was. Originally set for 2018, this title in the X-Men Universe finally limped into theaters. That said, considering the circumstances, its performance was right at about the significantly lowered expectations at $7 million. I said $6.9 million.

Unhinged dropped to second with $2.6 million and that’s on pace with my $2.8 million estimate. The Russell Crowe road rage pic has taken in $8.8 million in two weeks.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

2020 Oscar Predictions: August 27th Edition

As is tradition on the blog, my weekly Oscar prediction posts (coming to you each Thursday) kick off in the final weekend of August!

So while I’m following up with my normal Academy Awards speculating schedule, I am doing so in a year that is anything but traditional. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered release schedules for many pictures. This has left many release dates still uncertain.

Additionally, I have chosen this late August date because it’s usually right before some high-profile film festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are set to kick off. Some of these fests are continuing to operate in a much different fashion. We will see some of the titles identified below (including Nomadland, Ammonite and One Night in Miami) screen at these virtual competitions in the coming days.

This week, one significant contender had its unveiling for critics and that’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That reaction leads me to believe that it will certainly contend in a half dozen or so technical races, but that a Picture or Directing nod is a bit of a long shot.

Even in a year without the pandemic related challenges, Oscar speculation this early always comes with numerous caveats. They include the following:

  • Release dates will change and some movies listed here will get pushed back. This sure applies to 2020 and that’s even with the Academy extending eligibility to any features released in January and February of 2021.
  • There will be pics and performances that come out of nowhere and make their way to the release calendar that aren’t identified here.
  • Some performances listed in lead will shift to supporting and vice versa. For titles like David Fincher’s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – category placement for their large casts is still a question mark. As an example, there’s lot of potential contenders in The French Dispatch, but it’s impossible to determine who gets the critical shine. For the time being, I’m not listing any of the actors in that particular film.
  • There will be Original Screenplay hopefuls that turn out to be Adapted and vice versa.

Even with all those caveats, I was able to identify the winners in each of the top 8 categories in both 2018 and 2019. Their numeric placement varied widely. In 2018, I had Best Picture victor Green Book all the way down at 21 of my first initial 25 possibilities. Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, on the other hand, was placed at #2. Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek was at #12 in Best Actor with Olivia Colman in The Favourite at 9th in Actress. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) was 9th and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) was 2nd in the supporting fields. Adapted Screenplay winner BlacKkKlansman was in fifth with Original Screenplay recipient Green Book at #11.

As for 2019, Best Picture winner Parasite was originally placed in slot #7 while its director Bong Joon-Ho was fifth. In the lead acting companions, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) was 6th and Renee Zellweger (Judy) was fifth. In Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was perched at #1 and that never changed. Supporting Actress Laura Dern (Marriage Story) was #2. Adapted Screenplay Jojo Rabbit was fourth and Original Screenplay Parasite was 5th.

So based on history, you’re likely seeing the eventual 2020 Oscar winners somewhere here on these listings. In 2020, though, who really knows?

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Nomadland

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. Ammonite 

6. Dune

7. News of the World

8. West Side Story

Other Possibilities

9. The French Dispatch

10. Hillbilly Elegy

11. On the Rocks

12. Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Annette

14. Soul

15. Tenet

16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

17. The Father

18. Minari

19. C’Mon C’Mon

20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

21. Stillwater

22. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

24. Next Goal Wins

25. French Exit

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

3. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune

5. Francis Lee, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Paul Greengrass, News of the World

8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

10. Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

11. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

12. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

13. Christopher Nolan, Tenet

14. Leos Carax. Annette

15. Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland

2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite

4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

7. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

8. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

9. Julianne Moore, The Glorias

10. Marion Cotillard, Annette

11. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

12. Rashida Jones, On the Rocks

13. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

14. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley 

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

2. Gary Oldman, Mank

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father

4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, News of the World

7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

8. Adam Driver, Annette

9. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

11. Timothee Chalamet, Dune

12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

13. Matt Damon, Stillwater

14. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

15. Ben Affleck, The Way Back

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

3. Olivia Colman, The Father

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

5. Helena Zengel, News of the World

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Amanda Seyfried, Mank

8. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire

9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

10. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

11. Mary J. Blige, Respect

12. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune 

13. Meryl Streep, The Prom

14. Nicole Kidman, The Prom

15. Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Strathairn, Nomadland

2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

4. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Burke, Mank

7. Tom Pelphrey, Mank

8. David Alvarez, West Side Story

9. Lucas Hedges, French Exit

10. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

11. Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah 

12. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

13. Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

14. Oscar Isaac, Dune

15. Forest Whitaker, Respect

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. Ammonite

5. The French Dispatch

Other Possibilities:

6. Soul

7. On the Rocks

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. C’Mon C’Mon

10. Minari

11. Stillwater

12. French Exit

13. Annette

14. Tenet

15. Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland

2. Dune

3. News of the World

4. West Side Story

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Other Possibilities:

6. The Father

7. Hillbilly Elegy

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

9. Next Goal Wins

10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday

11. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

12. The White Tiger

13. One Night in Miami 

14. Respect

15. The Midnight Sky 

I’ll be back at it next Thursday, folks! Until then…

Tenet Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my estimate from $31.9 million to $36.9 million. Those adjustments are reflected in the numbers below.

Let’s start here – Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is maybe the most challenging box office prediction I’ve ever had to write. This is, of course, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet this isn’t the only reason.

After a series of coronavirus related delays that altered its planned July premiere, the epic spy thriller is set for an extended Labor Day weekend premiere. It marks the latest mega budget (north of $200 million) feature from one of the few directors whose name is the main attraction. The recognizable actors in front of the camera include John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is out tomorrow (August 26) in numerous territories including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The international rollout could provide clues as to how it will perform stateside. That occurs on Thursday, September 3rd and runs through the holiday weekend. Speaking of Labor Day, this is traditionally considered a slow weekend at the box office as the summer season draws to a close. Like everything else this year, 2020 is far different.

While Unhinged and this weekend’s The New Mutants are the first two wide releases post COVID, Tenet is by far the most eagerly awaited and high profile. There was never any doubt that this would open theatrically and on some IMAX venues. The VOD route was never explored. While a screen count is not yet available, I’m currently assuming it’ll be around 2500. If that changes, my prediction might too.

Reviews are mostly solid with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82%. That said, some critical reaction is a bit on the mixed side. Unlike 2017’s Dunkirk, this follow-up is not generating immediate awards buzz. As mentioned, Nolan is a bankable commodity with or without Oscar chatter. You have to go back to 2006’s The Prestige to find the last entry in his filmography to gross under $100 million domestically. Both Dunkirk and its predecessor Interstellar grossed close to $200 million overall in the States. His Batman trilogy and Inception all took in north of $200 million or far more.

So where does that leaves us? Looking at Interstellar and Dunkirk, both titles achieved per theater averages of just over $13,000 for respective starts of $47 million and $50 million. The difference is that Interstellar began on 3500+ plus screens and Dunkirk at 3700+.

Due to the lower availability of venues (especially in major markets like NYC and LA) and the ongoing uncertainty of major audience turnout, giving Tenet a $10,000 per screen average would equate to around $25 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of its five-day start. I’m choosing to ratchet that up to $25.7 million. Adding Thursday and Labor Day in, I’ll kick in another $11.2 million.

Let’s end here – I am still in severe guesstimating mode and Tenet is undoubtedly the first giant test case in this new cinematic reality. Over the next few days, it’s certainly feasible that I will update this estimate. We shall see, but here’s where I stand as of now.

Tenet opening weekend prediction (Thursday, September 3-Monday, September 7): $36.9 million

Oscar Watch: Tenet

If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.

Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.

So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.

When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.

In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.

However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.

Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

My first round of Oscar predictions in this topsy turvy time known as 2020 arrives at Best Director. If you missed my initial take on the four acting races, you can find them all here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

I’ve already discussed the challenges of making these August projections and many of them are the same as any other year. Yet it’s even trickier now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever shifting release dates that accompany it. This is why I’ve left off Wes Anderson and The French Dispatch as its premiere is especially in flux. If word comes out in the near future to its unveiling, he would almost certainly be in the top 15.

Some of the pictures and their makers listed here will (at least right now) be seen in the next few weeks at festivals. As for Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan is expected to be out in limited fashion stateside by month’s end.

2019 was a bit more stable and I correctly identified 4 of the eventual 5 nominees in my first late summer predictions. That includes winner Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese, (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). My only miss was Todd Phillips for Joker and I didn’t even have him in the 10 other possibilities.

Let’s get to it with my introductory look at the players vying for behind the camera accolades!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

David Fincher, Mank

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Paul Greengrass, News of the World

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Francis Lee, Ammonite

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater

Mike Mills, C’Mon C’Mon

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

I’ll have the big daddy of them all – Best Picture – up in short order! Stay tuned…