22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

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

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

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

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

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

Armageddon Time

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

Avatar 2

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

Babylon

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

Canterbury Glass

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

Elvis

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

Empire of Light

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

Everything Everywhere All at Once

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

The Fabelmans

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

Killers of the Flower Moon

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

Poor Things

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

Rustin

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

See How They Run

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

She Said

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

The Son

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

TAR

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

Three Thousand Years of Longing

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

The Whale

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

White Noise

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

The Woman King

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

Women Talking

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

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

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Box Office Prediction

After hopping around the release calendar at least half a dozen times due to COVID-19 delays, the hybrid live-action/animated comedic adventure Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway hits theaters June 11. Will Gluck returns to direct with James Corden again voicing the title character and Margot Robbie reprising her behind the mic work as Flopsy. Live-action participants include Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, and David Oyelowo. Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne, Sia, and Sam Neill are among the voice cast.

In 2018, the first Rabbit premiered on the high end of expectations with $25 million and legged out nicely to a $115 overall domestic haul. Part 2 shouldn’t fall too far off that mark, but I do believe it’ll have trouble reaching that number. This won’t have anything to do with reviews. The 2018 pic had a mixed critical reaction with 63% on Rotten Tomatoes while the sequel is currently perched at 71%.

The Runaway has already opened in Australia and the United Kingdom to decent results. More than three years after the original, there could be a falloff of some youngsters not clamoring to see the followup. That said, a gross of $20 million is feasible. I’ll put it a few million below that figure though.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opening weekend prediction: $15.9 million

For my In the Heights prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/02/in-the-heights-box-office-prediction/

Oscar History: 2014

Six years ago in Oscar history began an impressive two year run for filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with Birdman emerging as the big winner of the evening. The film took Best Picture and Director over its major competitor – Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. This was a ceremony in which the largest category did have some suspense. Birdman took the prize over the aforementioned Boyhood and six other pics: American Sniper (the year’s top grosser), The Grand Budapest Hotel (marking Wes Anderson’s first and only Picture nominee), The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. 

In this blogger’s perfect world, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler would have been recognized. It was my favorite movie of that year so get used to seeing it pop up in this post. Other notable selections from 2014 left on the cutting room floor: David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. 

Mr. Miller did have the notable distinction of being nominated for Best Director despite his work not showing up in Best Picture (very rare these days). As mentioned, Inarritu took the gold over Miller as well as Linklater, Anderson, and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). Gilroy, Fincher, and Joon-ho might have warranted consideration in my view as well as Chazelle’s bravura debut in Whiplash. 

One could argue that Nightcrawler isn’t your prototypical Picture contender. However, Jake Gyllenhaal being left out of the five Actor contenders stands as one of the noteworthy snubs in recent history. It was Eddie Redmayne emerging victorious for The Theory of Everything over his closest competitor Michael Keaton (Birdman). Other nominees: the three C’s of Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, picking up his third nomination in a row), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

There is a voluminous list of solid performances beyond just Gyllenhaal’s that were left wanting. It includes Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), David Oyelowo (Selma), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), and Miles Teller (Whiplash).

In Best Actress, Julianne Moore triumphed for Still Alice after four previous nominations without a win. She took the honor over Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Moore’s selection was one of the easiest to project as she’d been a sturdy frontrunner all season.

Looking back, how about Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow? Its action genre trappings probably prevented consideration, but she might have made my quintet. Amy Adams won the Golden Globe for Actress in Musical/Comedy, but missed here.

Another easy (and absolutely deserved) winner was J.K. Simmons in Supporting Actor for Whiplash over Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher).

I will yet again mention Nightcrawler as I might have considered Riz Ahmed. There’s also Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice.

Boyhood nabbed its major race victory in Supporting Actress with Patricia Arquette. Other nominees were Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), and the always in contention Meryl Streep for Into the Woods.

As for others, I’ll start with (surprise) Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Others include both Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent in addition to Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice).

My Oscar History will continue soon with 2015 as Mr. Inarritu will dominate the director race yet again while the Academy chose to spotlight something in Best Picture!

Chaos Walking Box Office Prediction

The sci-fi adventure Chaos Walking, on its surface, seems to have a lot going for it. It’s based on a well regarded series of YA novels by Patrick Ness (who cowrote the screenplay). Doug Liman, maker of successful pics like The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow, directs. The two stars are instantly recognizable faces from recent franchises blockbusters: Daisy Ridley (Rey from Star Wars) and Tom Holland (the current Spider-Man). And Lionsgate ponied up a reported $125 million to make it.

Yet closer inspection reveals a different story as it opens next Friday in multiplexes. Chaos was originally slated for release all the way back in pre-COVID March 2019. Poor test screenings allegedly forced reshoots which were overseen by Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez. The pandemic has shifted the drop date once again from January of this year to early March.

Now it appears the high budget Walking is limping its way into theaters in already uncertain times. In addition to its stars, the supporting cast includes Mads Mikkelsen, Demian Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo. I’m not even confident that the awareness level of its existence is enough to bring in the intended audience. This has been looked at as a potential major flop for some time and I don’t foresee this exceeding any expectations upon release.

Chaos Walking opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million

For my Raya and the Last Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/02/23/raya-and-the-last-dragon-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Midnight Sky

Netflix’s slew of December releases that are potential Oscar contenders continues with George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky. The sci-fi drama stars its director as an Arctic scientist attempting to prevent a group of astronauts from their return to Earth due to environmental hazards. The roughly $100 million budgeted pic hits theaters in a limited fashion this Friday though most viewers will see it when it materializes on the streaming service on December 23rd. Costars include Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, and Caoilinn Springall.

The review embargo lifted today and it is most certainly a mixed bag. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is at only 54%. Numerous critics have brought up recent and similar genre fare in comparison, including Gravity (which also featured Clooney), Interstellar, The Martian, and Ad Astra. Several of them say that Sky doesn’t measure up.

It has been 15 years since Clooney’s work behind the camera has significantly attracted Oscar attention with Good Night, and Good Luck. His last two directorial efforts, The Monuments Men and Suburbicon, were both critical and commercial disappointments. With a number of write-ups skewing so-so or even negative, it’s hard to envision Sky aiming for a Picture nod or for any of the actors involved to contend.

On the other hand, reviews do suggest this could be a factor in some technical races. Most notable of them is Visual Effects, Production Design, and Sound. There is also plenty of praise for the Original Score by Alexandre Desplat, a two-time winner for his work on The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water. 

Bottom line: it will be a struggle for The Midnight Sky to reach the attention of voters in the major races, but it could still end up with close to a handful of nominations. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Don’t Let Go Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions hopes to have a sleeper hit on their hands over Labor Day weekend with Don’t Let Go. The supernatural thriller finds David Oyelowo attempting to retroactively prevent the death of loved ones. Jacob Aaron Estes directs with a supporting cast including Storm Reid, Bryon Mann, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina, and Brian Tyree Henry.

The pic premiered eight months ago at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reaction. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is at 47%. That’s not a great number to generate buzz and Go appears to be lacking it. While it’s a little risky to underestimate Blumhouse, the Labor Day release date isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

I’ll say this doesn’t manage to achieve double digits over the four day holiday weekend. Mid single digits is possibly where this goes.

Don’t Let Go opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Gringo Box Office Prediction

Gringo is action comedy laced with marijuana humor and it hits theaters next weekend. The film marks the directorial debut of Nash Edgerton (previously known for being a stunt coordinator). The cast includes David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Nash’s brother Joel Edgerton, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, and the King of Pop’s daughter Paris Jackson.

Distributed by Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment, I’m having trouble envisioning much of an audience for it. The cast probably isn’t enough to get moviegoers too interested (save for maybe Theron) and the trailers and TV spots might not do enough to keep this from being a home viewing experience.

Gringo is rolling out on approximately 2400 screens (higher than I would have anticipated), but I’ll predict it struggles mightily to break through to American audiences.

Gringo opening weekend prediction: $3.1 million

For my A Wrinkle in Time prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/28/a-wrinkle-in-time-box-office-prediction/

For my The Hurricane Heist prediction, click here:

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

For my The Strangers: Prey at Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/28/the-strangers-prey-at-night/

A Most Violent Year Movie Review

JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year finds our central character succeeding and struggling to achieve the American dream. It is a journey hampered by time, place, and competition. It is one helped by his own drive and tireless ambition and a genuine belief that he is always attempting to do the right thing.

That person is Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) circa New York City 1981. He owns Standard Heating Oil Company and he’s already taken it from a small operation to a growing one. The time and place troubles he faces is a metropolis plagued by high crime rates. His trucks are frequently being hijacked. The competition troubles comes from his suspicions that his rivals are responsible. And that attempting to always do the right thing business doesn’t mean an ambitious District Attorney (David Oyelowo) isn’t breathing down his neck.

Abel’s professional endeavors are assisted by two key individuals: his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) and his attorney (Albert Brooks) who seems to rarely give him good news. Anna is a fascinating character and Chastain’s performance only accentuates her. We are told she comes from a known family with a Brooklyn gangster father. We see flashes of ruthlessness in her that likely came from that upbringing. There are times when you wonder if Abel’s burgeoning yet troubled enterprise would run more smoothly (and probably with more bloodshed involved) if she were CEO.

We’ve seen plenty of crime dramas where our subject is a bad guy attempting to go good. Abel is more of a protagonist trying not to turn antagonist. Isaac is terrific. There are absolutely times where his acting reminds us of Pacino in the first Godfather. He’s a man surrounded by corruption, but with a moral compass that allows him to sleep at night.

For a movie called A Most Violent Year, we see little of it. A subplot involving one of Abel’s drivers (Elyes Gabel) provides some suspenseful and unexpected moments. There is thematically nothing very new here, but I welcomed this Sidney Lumet influenced character study and the first rate acting. Its early 80s NYC vibe doesn’t feel retro. More pleasingly, Year just feels like it could have made in 1981 when we would have watched it in old school VHS glory.

*** (out of four)

Queen of Katwe Box Office Prediction

Most biographical sports films focus on football or boxing in recent years, but Disney changes it up next weekend with The Queen of Katwe. The pic tells the true-life tale of Ugandan chess master Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga). Mira Nair directs with a cast including David Oyelowo and recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Katwe screened at the Toronto Film Festival to positive critical reaction (it’s at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). At one time, this was looked at as a potential awards hopeful yet that has been tampered down a bit (Nyong’o could be a factor in Supporting Actress, but probably not). The film comes with a rather minor $15 million budget.

Disney’s best hope is for a decent opening followed by long legs if audiences love what they see. Opening on a relatively small 1252 screens, expectations aren’t too high and I’ll predict this manages to reach $5 million for its start.

Queen of Katwe opening weekend prediction: $5 million

For my Deepwater Horizon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/deepwater-horizon-box-office-prediction/

For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-box-office-prediction/

For my Masterminds prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/masterminds-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: A United Kingdom

Amma Asante’s interracial romantic drama A United Kingdom has screened at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. The pic tells the true life story of the relationship between an African prince (David Oyelowo) and a London woman (Rosamund Pike) some seven decades ago.

Initial critical reaction has mostly been positive, but not to the level where Academy attention seems realistic. The lead performers have been on the radar screen of Oscar voters just two years ago when Pike nabbed a nomination for Gone Girl and Oyelowo surprisingly missed out on a nod for Selma.

If Kingdom somehow breaks through at the box office, the dynamic could change. However, that looks doubtful at this juncture. In fact, awards voters are far more likely to turn their attention to Jeff Nichols’ Loving, another mixed race drama that has received more buzz.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue as more Toronto hopefuls screen…