In an alternative universe, Emancipation might be in my top 10 predicted Best Picture nominees. I could potentially be discussing Will Smith’s chances of being the first back to back acting winner since Tom Hanks in 1993 and 1994.
I didn’t think this alternative universe could be a potential reality in the 2022 awards season. In 2021, Apple TV beat Netflix and others to the punch as CODA was the inaugural streaming Best Picture winner. For a while, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon appeared to be Apple’s best shot at making it two years in a row. That’s until it got pushed to 2023. In recent weeks, there was speculation that Ridley Scott’s Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix could make a jump to 2022. It wasn’t to be.
This has left Apple without a legit across the board Oscar player… until maybe today. Why? The streamer announced that Antoine Fuqua’s historical drama Emancipation will hit theaters for an awards qualifying run on December 2nd and then be available for home viewing on December 9th. The trailer was unveiled this morning.
And in case you’re still wondering why I’m skeptical… two words: The Slap. Yes, the slap heard around the globe when Chris Rock presented Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards and cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. And, of course, slap provider Will Smith giving his acceptance speech a few minutes later when he was victorious in Best Actor for King Richard.
Since then, many of Smith’s planned projects have entered turnaround status. Emancipation, in which he plays a slave who joins the Union Army, was already filmed. And Apple made the surprising decision in early October to get it out two months later. This surely means Smith will be subject to interviews where he’ll address The Slap sooner than later.
So… the obvious question: can Smith get nominated? Can the film itself do so in other categories? Even though the star resigned from the Academy in the aftermath of the incident, he can still be nominated (and he can attend if invited by other members). So while the short answer is yes… the real answer is more complicated.
My gut is that Smith’s work in Emancipation would have to be undeniably awards worthy to make the final five. Even that could be a stretch. Time heals controversies and not much time has passed. As for the film itself, it could surely garner nods from Best Picture on down (I’m curious if Ben Foster gets any chatter for Supporting Actor). Yet it starts off at a unique disadvantage.
We won’t know until reviews start surfacing and that could be a few weeks. I can only assume Apple will give this a major push for consideration. It’s a campaign that is an uphill battle for reasons unfathomable just a few months ago.
The pranksters of the Internet had a little fun with the justly criticized decision to have a “Fan Favorite” award. The top 3 consisted of Netflix’s Army of the Dead, the reviled Cinderella remake, and Johnny Depp’s barely seen Minamata. I’m guessing this viewer’s choice designation experiment will be unique to the 94th Academy Awards and this ceremony only. Gotta love footnotes, eh?
Let’s talk about what else happened at the Oscars. No… not that. Not yet.
I went 17 for 20, but I missed the biggie. CODA took Best Picture over The Power of the Dog. In fact, the Apple TV pic went 3 for 3 as it also won Adapted Screenplay (I picked Dog) and Troy Kotsur for Supporting Actor.
I admittedly had an upset selection with “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto over “No Time to Die” from that Bond pic. Billie Eilish did indeed take the musical prize and it’s now the third 007 theme in a row to win after “Skyfall” (2012) and “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre (2015).
The other 16 categories went according to my prognostications… Will Smith as Best Actor for King Richard… NOT YET…
Jessica Chastain (Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye) and Ariana DeBose (Supporting Actor for West Side Story). Belfast for Original Screenplay. Encanto in Animated Feature and Drive My Car for International Feature Film and Summer of Soul as Documentary Feature. You can read the rest. Dune won the most trophies with six.
The Power of the Dog took just one award with Jane Campion taking Director and becoming the third woman to do so and second in a row. It marks the first time since 1967 that director’s win for the movie marks its sole victory. For you trivia buffs… it was Mike Nichols for The Graduate.
OK… let’s get real. All of what I’m writing about is a footnote. That’s because Will Smith’s open hand slap of Chris Rock for a joke directed at wife Jada Pinkett Smith is all the 94th edition of the Oscars will be remembered for. It was shocking (and riveting) TV made even more so with the knowledge that Smith would be giving a speech moments later. I still don’t know what to think and I’m still a little aghast at what I saw. That whole reading the wrong winner from five years ago seems a little small potatoes now.
I do know this… my Oscar predictions and speculations for the 95th Academy Awards will be here before you know it.
When the director seems to have ambivalent (at best) feelings about returning to their franchise, that emotion might rub off on the audience a bit. And so it is with The Matrix Resurrections, arriving 18 years after parts II and III with Lana Wachowski back (though not with her sister Lilly who co-directed previous installments). An overriding theme is that Wachowski is making part IV because the studio was going to do it regardless. Apparently she’d rather not leave it in the hands of others. The more things change, the more they stay the same in one respect. Our fourth trip into this world, like the second and third, can’t come close to matching the heights of the 1999 original (no matter how many throwback clips we see from it).
A glaring flaw is Resurrections mirrors that of the first sequels. So much after part one about The One centered its drama on Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) powerful connection with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). For the most part, we were told as opposed to shown that development. The 2021 model is dependent on our wistful nostalgic pining of their romance. It’s one that I and I suspect many others just don’t possess.
In The Matrix, we were introduced to a fresh and exciting cinematic universe at the perfect time. As the 20th century drew to a close, questions abounded about machines and technology and their potential to overpower humans and their free will. It was potent in its message back then and (of course) the action was mind blowing and influenced many a 21st century spectacle.
2003’s follow-up The Matrix Reloaded was in many respects a mess, but an often highly entertaining one. Its freeway shootout was a marvel that holds up gloriously today. The first act set in a sweat drenched orgiastic Zion… not so much. The Matrix Revolutions arrived six months after Reloaded and despite some nifty moments, it was a serious letdown critically and financially.
Yet franchises never die in Hollywood so Wachowski seems to be battling her own free will and giving us her next iteration. For those who may have forgot (and it’s easy to forget Revolutions), Neo and Trinity both lost their lives while saving what was left of the human race from machine domination. In Resurrections, Neo’s real life persona Thomas Anderson is indeed alive and living 60 years in the future as a video game programmer. His lauded creation is essentially what we saw in the previous trilogy. His therapy sessions with Neil Patrick Harris’s analyst hints of his recollections and, for that, he’s prescribed blue pills. When Anderson is confronted with his past, it comes from a younger Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a new team of rebels led by a white rabbit tattooed Bugs (Jessica Henwick).
It also turns out Trinity is around in the form of Tiffany, now married with kids and without knowledge of her gravity defiant history. The deal cut by the lovebirds in Revolutions still stands albeit on shaky ground. Humans and machines have found a way to coexist but others want war times to resume. The plot, however, really isn’t focused on extinction. Tiffany is the McGuffin – and the drama centers on her chosen pill intake. It seems a tad low-pressure for a series typically concentrated on civilization’s existence.
In addition to a more youthful Morpheus, we also have Jonathan Groff as a boyish Agent Smith. Neither of their characterizations match those of Laurence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving, respectively. The screenplay, in particular, does a disservice to Mateen (a fine actor) and the treatment of Morpheus. So crucial in the trilogy, he’s relegated to an insignificant status in this one. On the flip side, Jada Pinkett Smith returns as General Niobe and she’s aged six decades. The makeup is decent. Her decision making hasn’t improved much when it comes to advising our protagonists.
Wachowski’s self-referential treatment of the material starts off fairly funny and the first hour has its charms. When a holdover from Reloaded and Revolutions appears to spew English and French rantings about our text obsessed and social media culture, it’s moved to eye rolling emoji territory. In Reloaded, that mid-picture car flipping street extravaganza alone arguably made the first sequel worth the price of admission. There’s no such centerpiece in Resurrections that approaches it. Instead we get a follow-up where the filmmaker is struggling to justify its existence and even pontificating through her subjects that it’s not warranted. Maybe she should have left this revolution for someone else to start.
In the last year of our previous century, The Matrix was a game changing action spectacle that influenced many pictures that followed in the 21st century. The Oscars took notice. It was nominated for four Academy Awards (Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects) and won all of them. In fact, it came in second in terms of number of victories behind only Best Picture winner American Beauty.
Four years later, the series became a trilogy when The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions both premiered in 2003. The story was different that time around. Neither film received a single nomination. That was a year in which The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was crowned in many a race (including three that The Matrix took).
Tomorrow marks the release of The Matrix Revolutions from Lana Wachowski with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reprising their iconic roles. Today is when the Oscar shortlists were revealed in Sound (now just one competition) and Visual Effects. Revolutions showed up as a hopeful on each top ten list.
So will the fourth Matrix manage the nod or two that its two predecessors could not? Probably. Visual Effects seems likely even though it would be shocking if fellow Warner Bros property Dune doesn’t win. Sound is a bit more iffy though it’s got a 50/50 shot.
Bottom line: Resurrectionsappears poised to put this franchise back in contention in those two races and those two races only. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…
Blogger’s Update (12/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising down Resurrections prediction from $30.7 million for the three-day and $47.2 million for the five-day to $26.7 million and $40.3 million for the five-day
The Matrix Resurrections won’t be The One when it opens December 22nd, giving itself a five-day Christmas rollout. That’s thanks to what should be a robust sophomore frame for Spider-Man: No Way Home. It might not even be The Two if Sing 2 manages to squeak by it for the runner-up position.
Arriving 18 years after The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions hit screens in 2003, this is the fourth franchise entry that began in 1999 and changed how we look at action blockbusters. The original Matrix is a landmark. The sequels that followed were met with considerably more mixed reaction (especially part 3).
Lana Wachowski directs without her sister Lilly (they made the trilogy together). Returning are Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lambert Wilson, and Jada Pinkett Smith. New to the game are Yahya Abdul-Mateen (taking over for Laurence Fishburne as a more youthful Morpheus), Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Christina Ricci. Once slated for May, it was postponed for pandemic purposes.
There’s no doubt that Resurrections is an event picture that has many devotees of the series ready to rush out. That said, it’s a major question mark as to how high this gets. While this is certainly an experience many will want to catch on the biggest screen possible, there is the option to view it simultaneously on HBO Max. Plenty of viewers not of the die-hard persuasion could choose to watch from the comfort of the couch. And while I’m sure many younger viewers are familiar with parts I-III – they may not have the reverence for it that fans, say, 35 and up do. Furthermore there is that pesky Spider-Man hanging around gobbling up the Yuletide dollars.
Don’t get me wrong. Resurrections could have a huge opening and amass $70 million from Wednesday to Sunday. Reloaded took in over $90 million for its start and held the title of highest grossing R-rated pic for over a decade until Deadpool replaced it. On the other hand, Revolutions couldn’t keep up and petered out with $139 million total.
One rather obvious comp is Dune, another sci-fi spectacle that followed 2021’s Warner Bros pattern of premiering their theatrical fare on HBO’s subscription service. It made $40 million over the traditional opening weekend. I’m estimating that Resurrections won’t hit that number from Friday to Sunday, but that the extra two days could bring in $45-$50 million.
The Matrix Resurrections opening weekend prediction: $26.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $40.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.
As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!
10. The Other Guys
Domestic Gross: $119 million
The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.
9. The Last Airbender
Domestic Gross: $131 million
Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.
8. Grown Ups
Domestic Gross: $162 million
Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.
7. The Karate Kid
Domestic Gross: $176 million
Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.
6. Shrek Forever After
Domestic Gross: $238 million
Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.
5. Despicable Me
Domestic Gross: $251 million
At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.
Domestic Gross: $292 million
Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.
3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Domestic Gross: $300 million
2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.
2. Iron Man 2
Domestic Gross: $312 million
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.
1. Toy Story 3
Domestic Gross: $415 million
Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.
And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:
Domestic Gross: $118 million
Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.
Domestic Gross: $105 million
Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.
Eat Pray Love
Domestic Gross: $80 million
This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.
Dinner for Schmucks
Domestic Gross: $73 million
Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Domestic Gross: $31 million
There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.
The Kids Are All Right
Domestic Gross: $20 million
This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.
Domestic Gross: $8 million
Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.
Domestic Gross: $6 million
This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook.
And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:
Domestic Gross: $105 million
With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.
Sex and the City 2
Domestic Gross: $95 million
The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Domestic Gross: $90 million
A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.
Domestic Gross: $77 million
A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.
Knight and Day
Domestic Gross: $76 million
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Domestic Gross: $43 million
Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.
Domestic Gross: $10 million
This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…
In 2913, OlympusHasFallen surprised box office prognosticators with a gross of $98 million stateside, eclipsing the earnings of the similarly themed and higher profile WhiteHouseDown from that same year. The Gerard Butler action thriller has now spawned two sequels with AngelHasFallen rising in cinemas next weekend.
Butler’s Secret Service agent now finds himself framed for the attempted assassination of Morgan Freeman’s character. Ric Roman Waugh, best known for directing Dwayne Johnson in Snitch, is behind the camera. Costars include Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Danny Huston, and Nick Nolte.
As mentioned, Olympus was a sleeper hit that soared out of the gate with $30 million. 2016 follow-up LondonHasFallen couldn’t match those numbers with a $21 million start and $62 million eventual tally.
My expectation is that the third edition will continue the downward trend. Mid to possibly high teens is likely. In the dog days of August, that might be enough for an unremarkable #1 debut.
AngelHasFallen opening weekend prediction: $15.2 million
Like yesterday’s Year of 2017 honoree Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish started 2017 as a stand-up comic not known to a large swath of the American public. Yet as the year draws to its close, Haddish is now quite well-known due to her scene stealing performance in the summer’s comedic sleeper hit.
Alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith, it was Haddish who garnered the most buzz in GirlsTrip, which surprised all prognosticators when it grossed $115 million. It was 2016’s Keanu that gave Haddish her first notable role, but that picture was largely ignored. Yet her raw, profane and outlandish Dina character gave the actress a showcase filled with standout moments.
Critics groups and Hollywood have certainly taken notice. Haddish became the first African American comic to host “Saturday Night Live” this fall. In 2018, she will reunite with Trip director Malcolm D. Lee for NightSchool with Kevin Hart.
Expect to see lots of Haddish in the coming years and 2017 was unquestionably her breakout.
Bloggers Note (07/19/17): I have revised my number from original post below to $27.3 million as the film’s breakout potential continues to grow.
It’s been a rather rough go for comedies in the summer of 2017 as Snatched, Baywatch, Rough Night, and The House have all performed under expectations. That could change next weekend as Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip may have some breakout potential.
The raunchy comedy, shot for a rather meager $28 million, stars Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith (reuniting after appearing over 20 years ago together in Set It Off) as well as Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish. The quarter play a group of friends on vacation together in New Orleans. Larenz Tate, Kate Walsh, and Mike Colter are among the supporting cast.
Early reviews have been quite positive with critics noting it could be a sleeper. They’re probably right. Estimates for Girls Trip have put it around $15-$17 million for the opening weekend, but I expect word-of-mouth will push it around $20 million. That would actually put it above my estimate for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which premieres the same day.
Girls Trip opening weekend prediction: $27.3 million
The Wolf Pack of TheHangover came from the minds of writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and it kicked off a male-centric trilogy of frequent hilarity (at least the first one) where bros could be wild bros. This same duo now tries to do the same with frazzled and overworked matriarchs in BadMoms and the result is considerably more hit and miss. We don’t know the answer to this question, but perhaps if this pic had been penned by an actual mom, this may have been more insightful. As it stands, this is an often generic and frequently blander than it should be experience punctuated by occasional real laughs.
Amy (Mila Kunis) is a do everything and overworked mother of two with a husband not pulling his weight. When she catches him internet cheating and sends him packing, her already jam-packed agenda just expands. She finds a kindred spirit in Kiki (Kristen Bell) whose own hubby is lackadaisical in his duties and a free spirit in single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn), who has a hands off approach with her teenager. Together, they form their own pack, rebelling against their kids school’s militant PTA leader Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate). It culminates with Amy challenging her for the next PTA election.
BadMoms makes it point early – that youngsters today are too micro managed and coddled and that too much is often expected of them in class. The items of prohibited ingredients for the bake sale reads like a list of pretty much every one there is. The central trio here stick it to the (wo)man with their changed parenting style and learn that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Kind of like this movie.
Since this is from the dudes responsible for TheHangover, there is a bit of raunch to go with a surprising amount of blandness. The cast is all just peachy, but no one particularly stands out (Bell’s character is pretty under written, truth be told). Hahn is a talent and she’s essentially given the Melissa McCarthy Bridesmaids part, even getting to give a big ole pep talk at one point. There is a romantic subplot between Amy and a single dad (Jay Hernandez) that doesn’t really warrant much attention.
Will Moms look at BadMoms as a satisfactory excursion away from their crazy lives? I’m sure some will, but this never rose above a level of mediocrity for this non-parent. And if you say maybe you have to be a Mom to get it, remind yourself that it wasn’t written by one.