Best Picture 2017: The Final Five

We have reached 2017 in my posts speculating on a specific piece of Oscar history. As awards followers are aware, 2009 saw the Academy expand the Best Picture category from five movies to ten. That lasted for two years and in 2011, it switched to anywhere from 5-10 with 8 or 9 as the magic numbers for several years. In 2021, the number reverted back to a set ten.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if the BP derby had stayed at a quintet? What pictures would have made the cut? If you missed my write-ups centered on 2009-16, they are linked at the bottom of the post.

There were nine nominees for 2017’s competition. If there were 5, we know Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water would have made the quintet. It won BP along with Director, Original Score, and Production Design and received 13 nods total (easily the most of all).

Of the 8 remaining movies, here’s my thoughts on which half is in and which half and is out.

Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romance was a critical darling that won Adapted Screenplay. It was also up for Actor (Timothee Chalamet) and Original Song. The Academy likely almost nominated Armie Hammer for Supporting Actor and are probably glad they snubbed him.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I struggled with this call. An argument could be made with the Adapted Screenplay victory. However, none of the other four nominees in this category were BP nominees (extraordinarily rare). Call could’ve heard its name up, but I have it sixth or seventh.

Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill was a recipe for a Best Actor win and it was up for Production Design, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling (another victory), and Costume Design.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Despite its admirable turn in the tech derbies, this was all about Oldman. The lack of directing, screenplay, and editing noms leave this out. This is the rare occurrence where I’m saying the Best Actor winner’s movie doesn’t get in the BP race.

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s epic WWII tale earned 8 mentions (2nd behind Shape) and won 3 – both Sound races and Film Editing. Nolan also scored his first and only directing nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. I don’t think it’s 100% considering other contenders, but this probably had enough support and was generally considered Nolan’s strongest awards pic in his filmography.

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s heralded horror flick was a box office smash. Its other three nominations were Director, Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), and Original Screenplay where it beat out Shape of Water.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Like Dunkirk, not a guarantee but that screenplay statue (over the BP recipient and two other contenders) make me think so.

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age dramedy nabbed 5 inclusions with Director, Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Original Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Broken record… not a slam dunk considering it went 0 for 5. Yet it took the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy (over Get Out) and was highly acclaimed.

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial drama was an overachiever on nomination morning with six including Director, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actress (Lesley Manville), Score, and Costume Design (the sole win).

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but I was tempted. It really did perform better than anticipated. I could also see it just missing considering the competition. It might have been sixth.

The Post

Steven Spielberg’s Watergate era drama received only one other nom for Meryl Streep in Actress.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No and this is by far the easiest projection. Spielberg’s magic probably got it in the mix, but I suspect it was ninth.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A player in 7 categories, Martin McDonagh’s pic took home Actress (Frances McDormand) and Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell). Woody Harrelson was also up for Supporting Actor in addition to Original Screenplay, Score, and Film Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes, even with McDonagh missing Director. If for no other reason, I can’t imagine the four acting winners having none of their movies up. That would be the case if you left this off considering Oldman’s Darkest Hour and I, Tonya (where Allison Janney took Supporting Actress) not being in the nine.

If you weren’t keeping score, here’s my projected 2017 five:

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll have my thoughts on 2018 up soon!

Previous Posts:

They/Them Review

John Logan’s directorial debut They/Them tries to mix social commentary with the slasher genre. The result doesn’t feel sharp or incisive and it especially doesn’t provide many scares. Logan has written many a screenplay (from Gladiator to The Aviator to Skyfall) and it’s a little shocking how much of a misfire this blend ends up being.

A group of teens and young adults arrive at the Whistler Camp run by Owen (Kevin Bacon) and wife Cora (Carrie Preston). It’s billed as a conversion camp for the LGBTQ community though Owen insists the experience is all about finding your true self. Their educational methods are soon discovered to be on the bizarre and barbaric side with non-binary Jordan (Theo Germaine) as the most vocal critic. Another skeptic is Molly (Anna Chlumsky), a newly employed nurse at the facility. She’s the only member of the staff not drinking the Kool-Aid.

In addition to the horror of Owen’s work, there’s a potential Friday the 13th situation happening with a masked killer on the grounds. That part of the storyline is put on the back burner mostly until the third act and the eventual twists are pretty obvious.

For the majority of its length, They/Them struggles mightily with its tone. We have glimmers of camp (including a cringe worthy Pink singalong) and then a therapy session that goes for Get Out vibes and fails. Some of the performances are decent. A small subplot about deeply closeted high schooler (Anna Lore) and her budding romance with the more confident Veronica (Monique Kim) might have been interesting in a different movie.

Despite the clever title with a double meaning (they slash them), the picture itself never solves its own identity crisis. By doing so, it certainly does a disservice to the issues it tries to explore.

*1/2 (out of four)

August 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (08/03): My projection for Easter Sunday has taken a downward turn. Instead of $8.2M, I’m now only projecting $5.6M and that puts it outside of the top five – with Minions: The Rise of Gru now getting the 5 spot.

Brad Pitt looks to conduct Bullet Train to a sizeable debut while the Jo Koy comedy Easter Sunday looks be a sleeper hit. They are the newbies as August dawns at the box office. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

There’s no question that Train (from John Wick maker David Leitch) will hit #1. It’s all about by how much. Some estimates have this in the $40 million range, but I’m skeptical. In the last couple of weekends, both Nope and DC League of Super-Pets have come in under expectations (more on those developments below).

While Pitt certainly has star power, I feel like buzz needs to pick up and fast for this to reach $40 million. Perhaps my projections will rise before Thursday evening. For now, I have Bullet a shade under $30 million.

As for current champ Super-Pets, a dip in the mid to high 30s seems likely and that should place it firmly as the runner-up.

The truly interesting competition could be for the #3 slot. Easter Sunday could surprise and vastly overperform and end up #2. Or it could be outside of the top five with below $8 million. I’m putting at $8.2 million in its basket and here’s where it could be awfully close. If Nope has another plummet close to 60% and Thor: Love and Thunder sees a mid to high 30s drop, the grosses for the trio could be separated by basically nothing.

That’s what I’m thinking will occur and here’s how I think the top 5 ends up looking:

1. Bullet Train

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million

2. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

4. Nope 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 29-31) 

The Warner Animation Group won’t be barking loudly about the earnings of DC League of Super-Pets as it came in the very low end of its range. With a muted $23 million, the animated superhero canine teaming of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a disappointment (coming in well under my $33.6 million prediction). The only silver lining could be lack of competition for the month. That could mean meager declines until the bulk of kiddos go back to school.

Nope, as anticipated with its lackluster B Cinemascore grade, cratered in its sophomore frame with $18.5 million (a smidge ahead of my $17.5 million projection). Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale is up to $80 million, though it will come in well under his predecessors Get Out and Us. 

Thor: Love and Thunder was third with $13.1 million, besting my take of $11.4 million. The MCU four-quel has hammered home $301 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took fourth at $10.9 million (I said $10.3 million) to brings it haul to $320 million.

Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five at $8.4 million, right on target with my $8.3 million guesstimate. The airborne phenomenon achieved another milestone at $650 million. It will soon become the 7th largest domestic earner in history when it vaults over Titanic ($659 million) and Jurassic World ($652 million).

Finally, When the Crawdads Sing held up solidly in weekend #3 with $7.5 million (I went with $6.9 million). The mystery based on a bestseller is past the half century mark with $53 million.

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

July 29-31 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (07/27): I am revising my Super-Pets estimate down considerably- from $42.6M to $33.6M

DC League of Super-Pets should have no trouble hitting the top spot as July closes out at the box office. It’s the only wide new offering coming to multiplexes and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

DC League of Super-Pets Box Office Prediction

My low to mid 40s projection puts the animated comedic adventure reuniting Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in the same range with where Jordan Peele’s Nope premiered this past weekend.

There’s more on that Nope debut below, but it could be headed for a sophomore fall in the mid to upper 50s. Considering its weak B Cinemascore grade, it’s not out of the question that it could plummet even farther. We could see a close race for the #3 position between Thor: Love and Thunder and Minions: The Rise of Gru, depending on how far each title drops. The former is likely to see a larger decline. However, Super-Pets being out could cause Gru to have a heftier dip than its meager mid 30s decline last weekend. Top Gun: Maverick could hold the #5 slot with Where the Crawdads Sing falling to sixth place.

Here’s how I see that top 6 playing out:

1. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $33.6 million

2. Nope

Predicted Gross: $17.5 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $11.4 million

4. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

5. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

6. Where the Crawdads Sing 

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24) 

As mentioned previously, Nope started out on the lower end of expectations with $44.3 million. That’s under my call of $53.2 million and there were estimates that it would surpass my projection. While the sci-fi horror pic may end up turning a profit, Peele’s third outing opened nearly $30 million below his predecessor Us (which benefited by being the auteur’s follow-up to the unexpected smash Get Out). Word-of-mouth is not strong and that’s why you see me projecting a nearly 60% sophomore drop above.

Thor: Love and Thunder was runner-up after two weeks in first. Its $22.5 million gross is right on target with my take of $22.4 million as the MCU fourquel has hammered home $276 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took third with $18 million (I was close with $17 million) for a four-week tally of $298 million.

Where the Crawdads Sing had a solid hold in weekend #2 with $10.3 million, just ahead of my $9.5 million prediction. The ten-day earnings are $38 million.

Top Gun: Maverick was in the five spot with $10.2 million (I said $9.8 million). The overall $635 million haul is now 9th all-time as it just flew ahead of 2012’s The Avengers.

And that does it for now! Until next time…

Nope Review

***While this review doesn’t really spoil any major plot details that don’t take place within the first 10 minutes or so, you may want to wait until post viewing if you wish to go in completely clean***

In Jordan Peele’s Nope, it’s easier for the central characters to monetize a tragedy rather than deal with it. That’s one theme of many in the filmmaker’s third feature which blends more sci-fi with its horror than Get Out or Us. Another theme is that some creatures simply can’t be tamed. Peele too is in kitchen sink mode – willing to throw lots of ideas at the screen and see what sticks. This allows for some incredible sequences and the technical aspects are the most impressive of his filmography (particularly the sound work). I’d also, at least for now, rank it behind those aforementioned pictures. That’s with a caveat as both Get Out and Us grew in my estimation on rewatches.

There’s alien activities happening beyond one character being a tech support worker who actually provides meaningful tech support. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) helps his father (Keith David) run a ranch that provides horses for Hollywood productions. The patriarch meets a sudden end when a coin falls from the sky and makes deadly impact. Six months later, OJ’s spirited little sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) is helping her brother with the now struggling family business. The siblings soon discover items of an unidentified nature are hovering in the expansive California stratosphere.

They eventually enlist aforementioned electronics clerk Angel (Brandon Perea) and well-known cinematographer and wonderfully named Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) to capture the UFOs. Not in the sense of capturing or killing, but capturing footage for the world to see.  The motive seems less about revenge for what killed Dad and more about getting something on camera that will bring fame and fortune. Or, as Emerald describes it, the Oprah shot. YOU get the definitive proof of aliens! And YOU get the definitive proof of aliens!! 

Not far from the ranch is a Western theme park (a triumph of production design) run by former child star Jupe Park (Steven Yeun). An incident from his second sitcom Gordy’s Home in the late 1990s about a domesticated monkey gives us a creepy prologue and a later sequence that is terrifying. Does it fit with the rest of Nope? One could argue it doesn’t. Yet Jupe’s unwillingness to deal with what occurred is similar to OJ and Emerald’s own actions.

This is a gorgeous looking movie made for IMAX. Nope excels at presenting a wholly unique setting in a great wide open space. It may only be a few miles from Hollywood and it may be steeped in niche Hollywood history, but it feels much farther away. Kaluuya and Palmer both give first-rate performances as brother and sister of far different demeanors. I would describe the characters as less compelling than some from Peele’s previous works.

Whether from a simian scare or otherworldly interventions, there are thrilling moments in Nope. There’s also stretches where the electricity goes out and not just literally. Unpacking various concepts presented may be enriched on subsequent viewings. On first watch, I found myself often wowed by the behind the camera beauty of it all if not always by the plot mechanisms.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Nope

Five years ago, Jordan Peele’s horror debut Get Out was a critical and commercial phenomenon that won the auteur an Oscar for Original Screenplay. It also nabbed nominations for Picture, Director, and Actor (Daniel Kaluuya). Two years later, Us drew a more mixed reaction (though similar box office numbers) and garnered no attention from the Academy This was despite Lupita Nyong’o getting Critics Choice and SAG nods.

On Friday, Peele’s third feature Nope unveils itself and the review embargo is up. Many critics are saying yep to seeing it with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%. Yet that’s under the 98% bestowed upon Get Out and Us‘s 93%.

A consistent theme in various write-ups is that Nope has the weakest screenplay of the trilogy, but the best technical aspects. You’ll note that all of Get Out‘s nominations were above the line mentions. Nope, if anything, could see the opposite. Best Sound appears to be a real possibility with Cinematography, Production Design and Visual Effects standing more remote chances.

Finally, there’s Keke Palmer. She’s said to be the standout in a cast that includes Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, and Brandon Perea. However, if Nyong’o couldn’t get recognized for her participation in Peele’s sophomore effort, it’s hard to imagine Palmer breaking through for this. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Nope Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (07/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my Nope prediction slightly from $49.2M to $53.2M

Five years after his first feature Get Out was a critical and box office phenomenon, Universal is hoping audiences say yep to Jordan Peele’s Nope on July 22nd. The plot for the sci-fi horror tale is pretty successfully being kept under wraps. Based on the footage, it appears to involve cowboys and aliens. Daniel Kaluuya (who rose to stardom in Get Out) headlines alongside Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott.

In the spring of 2017, Peele’s debut rode a wave of buzz to a $33 million opening and eventually legged out to $176 million domestically. His 2019 follow-up Us was breathlessly awaited based on the Out appreciation. It got off to a $71 million start. However, it was not nearly as universally beloved by moviegoers. Us‘s legs were less sturdy and it actually grossed $1 million less than Out at $175 million.

The trailers and TV spots for Nope have keyed in on the Peele participation. That strategy worked for Us (especially the opening). Will it matter less this time around? Probably. Us had the advantage of following its predecessor by only two years. We’ve waited almost three and a half years for Peele’s third genre excursion.

As I write this post, we have yet to see reviews. That could cause my initial projection to rise or fall. I am rather confident that Nope won’t reach Us levels as far as the debut weekend. Estimates have this generating between $40-$60 million and that seems right. At press time, I’m thinking the $50 million mark seems doable. I’ll put it just a touch under with the possibility of revision possible.

Nope opening weekend prediction: $53.2 million

Candyman (2021) Review

There’s a sequence in Candyman in a high school girls bathroom that plays like it belongs in a less meditative continuation of the franchise. While it’s certainly cleverly shot, the scene feels out of place with its bad sequel slasher vibe. It may well be the point of the tone that its filmmakers are satirically putting forth. After all, they jettison anything that transpired in the two inferior follow-ups to the 1992 original. That doesn’t mean the excursion works and it’s a nagging issue with the film as a whole. There’s no doubt that a lot of thought went into this melding of issues from racial discrimination to white privilege to gentrification to police brutality. What plagues it somewhat is that it seldom succeeds in getting under your skin.

Nearly 30 years ago, Bernard Rose’s Candyman (from a story by Clive Barker) shook up a tired horror genre filled with Freddy, Jason, and Michael sequels. There was gore to be had, but also plenty of subtext in its tale of the urban legend with a hook for a hand and a bevy of bees emanating from his torso. As the 1890s era tortured artist whose love for a Caucasian woman resulted in his own torture, Tony Todd created an iconic title character with more narrative meat on the bones than your typical weapon wielding terrorizer from that time. It was an arthouse movie and so is this (it’s even set in an arthouse for chunks).

This new version, as mentioned, serves as a direct restart. The Cabrini Green projects where part I was placed is no longer the notorious crime hub of Chicago. The gentrified and souped up property is now home to young and thriving professionals. This includes Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris). She’s an art gallery director and he’s a painter who’s stuck in a creative rut. Their collective work is contingent on the approval of the snooty types who make it their business to judge them (critics, gallery owners). One message seems clear – their assessment of an African-American artist’s work rises in their esteem if it’s more violent.

Anthony gets a burst of inspiration that is kickstarted by Brianna’s brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). When he regales the couple and his boyfriend with the nearly forgotten account of the buzzy killer whose name shan’t be uttered five times in a mirror, it gets Anthony’s creative juices flowing. This leads him to investigate the crimes of Daniel Robitaille (Todd) and the crimes committed against him. Billy (Colman Domingo) is a longtime Cabrini tenant who is more than pleased to help with the backstory (he had his own dealings with Robitaille in the late 1970s). Anthony’s research results in a project that dares you to say Candyman’s name and await the consequences. This is when blood starts flowing.

Nia DaCosta directs her second feature with a screenwriting and production assist from Jordan Peele. The script incorporates the plot from 1992 with new twists. The primary one is that there’s not only one Candyman. We know this when Anthony’s past involvement in the saga is revealed and he begins showing symptoms of becoming him after a nasty bee sting. Side effects include often visually striking murders.

While DaCosta is just establishing her filmography, Peele is recognized for his melding of social issues with scare tactics (Get Out and Us are both superior examples of how to do it). In Candyman, there’s more of an appreciation for what it’s trying to do than what it ultimately accomplishes onscreen. Sort of like a painting that’s busy with ideas but there’s not enough time allotted for it to really hook you in. I admired the picture to a point though I left unconvinced the deeper dive was worth it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Cannes Can’t Resist Titane

The big victor at the Cannes Film Festival turned out to be an anticlimactic announcement when jury president Spike Lee accidentally revealed it at the beginning of the evening. Julia Ducournau’s Titane, said to be one of the most shocking and viscerally thrilling entries coming out of the French Riviera, won the Palme d’Or (the fest’s equivalent of Best Picture).

This is a gift for distributor Neon as they will handle its domestic distribution. Sporting a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could Titane enter the Oscar conversation in Best International Feature Film? The three previous Palme recipients from 2017-2019 managed to do so (The Square, Shoplifters, Parasite). Remember there was no competition in 2020. My feeling is that it’s a contender though I doubt it will cross over for Best Picture consideration (and a win) like Parasite did.

The Grand Prix award (basically runner-up) was split between Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen’s Russian feature Compartment No. 6. Of those two, the latter has the best opportunity to break through with the Academy.

Leos Carax is best director for his opening night selection Annette. The musical drama starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard elicited strong reactions (mostly positive, some negative) from the French crowd and it is a major question mark heading into awards season.

Caleb Landry Jones, seen in numerous supporting roles recently like Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was named Best Actor for the thriller Nitram. Winning over higher profile contenders like Driver and Simon Rex (Red Rocket), the eventual stateside distributor would need to mount quite a campaign for Jones to be in contention, but you never know.

Same goes for Best Actress Renate Reinsve in The World Person in the World, the Norwegian romantic comedic drama which had ardent admirers at the fest. This is a picture to keep an eye on as well that the international voters could pick up on.

Lastly, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was perhaps the most notable premiere, but it came up empty-handed when all was settled. It could still certainly be a factor at the Oscars despite not getting a boost here.

For my blog readers, expect more Oscar Watch posts in the coming days as I sort out all the Cannes action and that will include Titane, The World Person in the World, and more. Stay tuned!

Oscars 2020: The Case of Lakeith Stanfield

The performance of Lakeith Stanfield in Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah is last up in my Case Of posts for Supporting Actor hopefuls. For the previous four write-ups, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/01/oscars-2020-the-case-of-sacha-baron-cohen/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/07/oscars-2020-the-case-of-daniel-kaluuya/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/11/oscars-2020-the-case-of-leslie-odom-jr/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/17/oscars-2020-the-case-of-paul-raci/

The Case for Lakeith Stanfield:

The past couple of years has brought Stanfield exposure in acclaimed projects ranging from Sorry to Bother You to Knives Out and Uncut Gems. His work here brought career best reviews in his burgeoning career.

The Case Against Lakeith Stanfield:

His nomination came as a total surprise. For starters, Warner Bros campaigned for him in lead actor, but Academy voters went ahead and ignored that. Then there’s the matter of his costar Daniel Kaluuya (they were also in Get Out together). Kaluuya’s win seems assured next weekend as he’s had a clean sweep at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, SAG Awards, and BAFTA.

The Verdict

According to his own Twitter feed, Stanfield even seemed blindsided by his nod. Judas will probably only get one Oscar and it will be in this race. That will be for Stanfield’s costar.

My Case Of posts have concluded! Thanks to all who have perused all 33 of them. The next matter of business… final Oscar predictions and they’re coming your way very shortly!