Oscar Predictions: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Get those pens (not pencils) ready for one nominee in the Animated Feature race at the 96th Academy Awards. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out this weekend. The sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is drawing similar reactions to its predecessor. That means some serious raves as it currently stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes (on par with the 97% for part 1).

In December 2018, Into upended the animated category. Any hope that Incredibles 2 or Isle of Dogs held for taking the prize fell by the wayside upon its release. That happened late in the calendar for the first Spidey. We are not even at the midpoint of 2023 and Across has established itself as the strong frontrunner. Pixar’s Elemental, which drew so-so chatter from Cannes, may even struggle to make the final cut of five nominees.

Across is guaranteed a slot and is a huge threat to win no matter what follows in the next few months. It is only the first half of two sequels as Beyond the Spider-Verse follows in March of next year. You can safely assume it might be a hopeful for the 97th Academy Awards.

As for other competitions, I suppose Adapted Screenplay is feasible if Sony were to make a dedicated push. Critics are also pointing out the visual effects. Yet animated titles struggle to get noticed in that particular derby. It’s more likely this will stick to Animated Feature and it could very well stick the landing. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Box Office Prediction

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into multiplexes on June 2nd and hopes to start the month off on a high note. The animated sequel is the follow-up to 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse, which drew widespread critical acclaim resulting in a Best Animated Feature Oscar. It also grossed nearly $200 million domestically and $384 million worldwide.

There’s a trio of directors in Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson. Shameik Moore is back behind the mic as Miles/Spidey. Other performers voicing additional versions of the hero and other characters include Hailee Steinfeld (back as Spider-Woman), Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac, Greta Lee, Shea Whigham, and Andy Samberg.

Parts 2 and 3 of the franchise were assembled at the same time. Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse is slated for March 2024. In December 2018, part 1 started out with $35 million before legging out impressively to a $190 million stateside haul. Achieving a rare A+ Cinemascore rating, it stands to reason that audiences should be pumped for the sequel.

In the summer (as opposed to December), tentpoles are expected to post a gigantic opening immediately. Some forecasts have their projection as rosy as $120 million. That’s certainly possible, but I’ll temper expectations a bit and say $90-100 million is probably where this Verse starts.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opening weekend prediction: $96.4 million

For my The Boogeyman prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions: Asteroid City

Wes Anderson is no stranger to Cannes or Oscar nominations as Focus Features hopes the debut of Asteroid City at the former leads to the latter. A mix of comedy, drama, romance, and sci-fi, it features the auteur’s typical sprawling cast (many of whom have worked with him on multiple occasions). This includes (deep breath) Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, and Jeff Goldblum. Exhale.

Out stateside on June 23rd, City premiered in the south of France just like Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The French Dispatch. Four of his last five works have generated the Academy’s attention. 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was up for Animated Feature and Original Score (from frequent collaborator Alexandre Desplat). 2012’s Kingdom was in the Original Screenplay derby (with Anderson’s cowriter Roman Coppola). Two years later, The Grand Budapest Hotel was the massive awards breakthrough with nine Oscar nods and four victories in Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, and Production Design. It is Anderson’s sole BP nominee. 2018’s Isle of Dogs nabbed Animated Feature and Score mentions. In 2021, I had The French Dispatch predicted for Score and Production Design. It was surprisingly blanked on the morning of nominations.

Critics indicate this is an Anderson effort through and through and most reviews are of the thumbs up variety. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 84%. Like Dispatch and pics before it, Score (by Desplat of course) and Production Design are possibilities. So is the screenplay from Anderson and Coppola. Yet the overseas reaction is not to the level of Hotel and City could come up short like Dispatch did. A Best Picture nod probably won’t occur though perhaps the Golden Globes could slot it in Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy).

Finally, despite the sheer volume of familiar faces appearing in his filmography, no actors have received recognition in one of Anderson’s pics from the Academy. Bill Murray in Rushmore and Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums likely came close. I do not anticipate that streak being broken here. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The French Dispatch Box Office Prediction

Wes Anderson’s latest comedy The French Dispatch is being delivered to 52 theaters on October 22nd before its wide release the following weekend. The anthology pic arrives a year after its COVID delay. It received a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival over the summer.

Like most of his unique tales, Dispatch features a massive cast (many of whom have appeared in multiple previous works from the director). That list includes Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schrieber, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Fisher Stevens, Henry Winkler, Bob Balaban, Rupert Friend, Griffin Dunne, and three actors from No Time to Die (Lea Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, and Christoph Waltz).

There is no question that Anderson has an ardent fanbase. However, there’s some drawbacks. Reviews are not quite up to the level of other features like Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 79% and it is not thought to be an awards contender. That’s unlike his previous live-action film Hotel, which was nominated for nine Oscars and won four. It ended up with $59 million domestically after a long and leggy run in multiplexes. This might be fortunate to nab a couple of tech nods from the Academy.

Dispatch‘s wide release on October 29th comes with caveats in terms of my prediction. I have yet to see a theater count and that could easily alter my projection once known. However, I’m leaning towards this being one of Anderson’s lesser earning titles. This is somewhat of a placeholder estimate, but I’ll say $3-5 million seems likeliest.

The French Dispatch opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my Last Night in Soho prediction, click here:

Last Night in Soho Box Office Prediction

For my Antlers prediction, click here:

Antlers Box Office Prediction

For my My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission prediction, click here:

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission Box Office Prediction

For my A Mouthful of Air prediction, click here:

A Mouthful of Air Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was supposed to premiere at Cannes in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic altered that plan. One year later, the auteur’s latest has screened in the French Riviera and it’s probably the most eagerly awaited debut of the festival. The film boasts an ensemble that is to be expected from the filmmaker and it reads like a who’s who of his frequent collaborators and several other previous awards nominees: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schrieber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz, Jason Schwartzman (who shares a story credit with Anderson and others), Bob Balaban, and Anjelica Huston. Yeah, I know.

Early reviews indicate that this anthology (out stateside on October 22) is a loving ode to journalism and that could be right up the alley of Academy voters. Yet some buzz is also indicating this isn’t among his strongest efforts. One thing seems certain: Dispatch is a visual feast that should easily assert itself in several technical categories. That certainly includes Production Design, Costume Design, Alexandre Desplat’s Original Score, Cinematography, and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling (though that race in particular could be packed this year).

What do all those races have in common? They were all nominations received for Anderson’s 2014 pic The Grand Budapest Hotel, which scored nine mentions (winning for Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Score, and Production Design). Don’t be surprised if this is a major hopeful in those same categories.

As for the massive amount of actors, here’s a fun fact: no performance from an Anderson production has ever been nominated. That seems hard to believe, but his casts often make it tricky to pick a favorite or two to mount a campaign for. Del Toro, Chalamet, Wright, and McDormand have been singled out in some write-ups already. I suspect none will emerge to make the Oscar cut. Chalamet has hope in lead actor for Dune and the same can be said for McDormand with The Tragedy of Macbeth (time will tell).

Now to the biggest derbies. Will The French Dispatch manage Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay nods? The latter seems most possible. And while some European chatter indicates the other two could be out of reach, it’s important to remember that it took a little time for Budapest Hotel to become the Academy player that it turned out to be.

Bottom line: the future is cloudy for Dispatch when it comes to the most high-profile competitions. Some Academy love down the line in the tech races already seems highly likely. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Klaus

2019 is shaping up to be the breakout year for Netflix when it comes to awards visibility with legitimate Best Picture contenders like The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. A smaller story is that it might have a contender in the Animated Feature race with the just released Yuletide comedy Klaus. It comes from director Sergio Plablos, who’s best known for creating the Despicable Me franchise. The voice cast includes Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm Macdonald.

In order to nab a nomination, Klaus looks to compete for the fourth or fifth slot as I believe three are already spoken for by higher profile theatrical release sequels – Toy Story 4 (the front runner), Frozen II, and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Other efforts vying for those slots include Weathering with You, I Lost My Body, Missing Link, Abominable, and (perhaps) the yet to be released Spies in Disguise. 

The pic currently sports a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s actually higher than the number (82%) for Frozen II. Yet Disney should have little trouble getting that about to be massive blockbuster in the mix.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t count Klaus out, but competition is significant. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Big Eyes Movie Review

Early on in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) pontificates that art is not about quality when it comes to whether it sells. It’s about being at the right place at the right time. For many years, Walter’s words couldn’t ring more true for himself. And he could’ve added meeting the right person.

That person is Margaret (Amy Adams) and she’s a recent divorcee in the late 1950s (when it was quite uncommon) with a talent for painting portraits of her young daughter. Her signature look is our movie title on the face of her work. When she meets Walter, he seduces her with his plentiful charm and they’re soon married. He presents himself as a fellow painter, but his Paris landscapes don’t interest anyone. Margaret’s, on the other hand, begin to capture some attention and soon a confluence of circumstances lead Walter to claim credit for her work. Those circumstances (most completely Walter’s doing and some not) additionally lead his wife to go along with the deceit for a long time. As the years roll by, Walter becomes a renowned and celebrated figure, while conflicted Margaret paints their fortune in her secret studio in homes that grow in size.

Big Eyes is based on true events and the art filled subject matter is right up Burton’s alley, though with a majorly smaller budget than he’s used to. The 50s and then 60s San Francisco setting provides a vibrant look to the proceedings. Unlike most of the director’s recent efforts, the only special effects is some big eyes superimposed on human faces from time to time. The focus is on the relationship of Walter and Margaret. Recognizable faces like Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, Terence Stamp and Jason Schwartzman pop up in small supporting roles. Truth be told, the relationship dynamic between our two leads is often treading familiar territory. Margaret lives in an era where challenging her husband’s word is not easy. She even attempts to tell her huge secret during confession and the priest basically tells her to obey him.

The work of primarily Adams is impressive, as it almost always is. Creating a sympathetic character who still is not totally innocent in all her actions, the actress is fascinating to watch. Waltz is an exciting performer who’s earned two Oscars for his mastery of Tarantino’s dialogue. The role of Walter is a tricky one. He is painted in broad strokes in the screenplay and the filmmakers insist they actually downplayed him from real life. It may all be the truth about Walter’s world of non truth, but it is difficult to view him as anything more than a caricature on occasion.

Adams’ work and the legitimately interesting real life tale we see here are enough to recommend Big Eyes.  It is also refreshing to see Burton doing commendable work without a $200 million budget remaking something, like he did 20 years back with Ed Wood. Speaking of that effort, Big Eyes comes from the same writers (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski). This isn’t as memorable as that fine picture about a terrible director, but it’s a good film about a talented artist who is directed into a heckuva big scheme.

*** (out of four)

Moonrise Kingdom Movie Review

There is a moment in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom when its central character, 12 year old orphan Sam (Jared Gilman), asks a fellow kid why he doesn’t like him. The response: “Why should I? Nobody else does.”

Such is young Sam’s lot in life. He’s been bounced around from foster home to foster home. Some might lazily (and accurately) describe him as quirky or eccentric, which is a term that could be used for pretty much every character in a Wes Anderson picture.

A chance meeting for Sam leads him to Suzy (Kara Hayward), a fellow 12 year old whose people skills are severely lacking as well. They become pen pals and hatch a plan to run away together. This all takes place on a small New England island circa 1965 and it is Sam’s Khaki Scout summer camp which allows for the opportunity to make an escape and pair up with Suzy.

Wes Anderson is known for his unique visual style and his screenplays (with Roman Coppola cowriting this time around) that rely on dry humor with occasional serious overtones. And that style is on full display in Kingdom, the director’s coming-of-age picture that follows the same path as many that have come before it. This might sound sacrilege to the legions of die hard Anderson followers. And don’t get me wrong – much of the clever dialogue and colorful characters you’d expect from his work is included.

While the picture’s two leads are young unknowns, this is filled with recognizable faces in supporting roles. We have Anderson mainstay Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents who are trapped in a loveless marriage. There’s Bruce Willis giving an understated performance as the island’s police captain who doesn’t have much to do until Sam and Suzy go missing together. Tilda Swinton turns up as a social services worker. And Bob Balaban plays an island local who serves as the film’s narrator, warning us of an impending storm that will work its way into the plot. The best supporting performance belongs to Edward Norton as Sam’s scout leader who cares a lot about his pupils and does a truly terrible job keeping track of them. On the downside, Anderson’s penchant for putting famous actors in over-the-top roles doesn’t always succeed here, particularly in the case of Harvey Keitel as a scout commander and Jason Schwartzman playing a scout official helping the young couple execute their grand escape. These two characters serve as examples of being too farcicial in a screenplay that doesn’t need them.

It is Sam and Suzy who are at the core here and if the casting of Gilman and Hayward didn’t work, neither would the entire movie. Luckily these young actors are very impressive and we enjoy watching their relationship blossom. These are two emotionally damaged kids who find a true friend in each other for the first time. Maybe it is true love as they believe. Maybe not. While the adults here spend most of their time worrying about Sam and Suzy, many of them are even more damaged. This includes Suzy’s parents and Willis’s character. Moonrise Kingdom has its fair share of laughs and it looks beautiful like every Wes Anderson production. Where it succeeds best is making you care just enough about Sam and Suzy that you hope they don’t grow up to be as unhappy and and lonely as the adults who populate their world.

*** (out of four)

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review

Director Wes Anderson is known for being in acquired taste and I’ve always found myself somewhere towards the middle with him. The strongest proponents of his work find Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and others to be brilliant. Frankly, I do not. However, I’ve yet to watch an Anderson picture and not come away with giving it a recommendation – some more highly than others (Tenenbaums is my personal favorite).

There is nothing about The Grand Budapest Hotel that changes that dynamic. Like his aforementioned efforts, some have found this to be a masterpiece and I disagree. Yet again – the aspects that are great are truly remarkable. The majority of the pic takes place in the 1930s when The Grand Budapest Hotel is a thriving business located in the made-up European Republic of Zubrowka. The head concierge is Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), with a penchant for romancing the wealthy older (much older) female clientele of the establishment. One current conquest is Madame D (Tilda Swinton with one heckuva old lady makeup job). It is Madame D’s murder that leads to her concierge lover being framed and he must clear his name with the assistance of his best Lobby Boy Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori). This is all set against the backdrop of the outbreak of World War II and Anderson’s screenplay manages to occasionally integrate the tragic elements of the war with the madcap events happening before us. The story is told in flashback with 1980s Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) recounting the pic’s events to a writer played by Jude Law. And even the Abraham/Law dynamic is a flashback itself with a modern-day Tom Wilkinson as an older version of Law.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is loaded with actors in supporting roles that Anderson has used many times. They include Adrien Brody as the Madame’s conniving son, Edward Norton as a police inspector, Harvey Keitel as an inmate helping Gustave, Jeff Goldblum as a lawyer tasked with the Madame’s complex will, and smaller roles from Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. There’s also Saoirse Ronan as Mustafa’s love interest. The cameos by Murray and Wilson felt a bit perfunctory to me, as if Anderson simply felt the need to include his usual standbys, but the director’s biggest admirers will probably appreciate their inclusion.

For all the considerable star power inhabiting Hotel, it’s the Gustave/Mustafa relationship that fills most of the brisk 99 minute running time. And it’s the until now unknown impressive comedic chops of Fiennes that is by far the highlight. Known for being a serious actor, the actor seems to relish playing this zany character and spouting Anderson’s dialogue. I suspect he may become yet another staple of the director’s troupe (I hope so).

The production design and cinematography are fantastic. This is an absolutely gorgeous picture to look at and Anderson evens shoots Hotel in three different aspect ratios in relation to each time setting.

As already stated, the most rabid aficionados of Anderson’s work will adore this. Somewhat surprisingly – Budapest managed to breakthrough to the mainstream more than any other of his pictures with a wonderful $162 million worldwide gross. I say surprisingly because I put this on the same level with most of his other efforts. This is a consistently amusing comedy with spots of true hilarity. The moments where Anderson injects emotion into all the craziness feels a little forced, more so than it did in Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom. And any comedy that puts Bill Murray in a scene and doesn’t let him do something funny earns a demerit.

Bottom line: if you’re in the Anderson makes pretentious fluff camp, you’ll still be. If you’re in the Anderson is a God camp, you’ll worship again. Or if you’re like me… you’ll appreciate its finest moments without coming close to uttering the word masterpiece.

*** (out of four)



Oscar Watch: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yes, the Oscar ceremony celebrating the best of film in 2013 was just four days ago. Yes, it’s entirely too early to start speculating on next year’s Oscars.

Or perhaps not because tomorrow brings us what could be the first legitimate Oscar contender of 2014. It comes in the form of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Director/writer Anderson has a very loyal following that include most critics. Some of his acclaimed works include Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. All were favorites in the critical community. None have received a Best Picture nomination.

There may a feeling that Anderson is due and Budapest could be that movie. It stands at a solid 87% so far on Rotten Tomatoes. It also has one heckuva cast – with lead Ralph Fiennes joining Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwarztman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Owen Wilson. In early reviews, Fiennes has particularly been singled out and we could hear his name mentioned as a Best Actor candidate.

The picture has a great shot at a Best Original Screenplay nomination where Anderson has been nominated twice before for Tenenbaums and Kingdom. It goes without saying, but there’s no way to currently know how good a year 2014 will turn out to be. It’s not even out yet, but I’ll say with confidence that Budapest wouldn’t have been nominated in 2013.

However, 2013 was a rather strong year. With the combination of an overdue feeling for Anderson and current positive buzz, this is 2014’s first Oscar contender.