Oscar Watch: The Boys in the Band

Two years ago, there was a Broadway revival of the groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. History repeats itself as the cinematic version of that revival debuts on the Netflix this weekend. That is what happened a half century ago when William Friedkin directed the adaptation of the first show (this was right before Friedkin would move on to Oscar winners and contenders like The French Connection and The Exorcist).

Joe Mantello, who helmed the 2018 stage production, reunites with executive producer Ryan Murphy and screenwriter Mart Crowley (he penned the 1968 production as well). Cast members from the play including Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer reprise their roles. Ahead of its streaming start, Band has screened for critics and the result is a current 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Both the original play and movie adaptation were considered innovational at the time due to its gay characters taking center stage. Times have progressed and critics are noting this iteration works well as a period piece and current social commentary.

That said, I’m doubtful that awards voters will take notice. As has been mentioned before in my Oscar Watch posts, Netflix has a very full slate of contenders for 2020 and they will need to be choosy about their campaigns. The 1970 pic didn’t receive any nominations. Despite generally positive reviews, the same will probably hold true again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

An eagerly anticipated premiere at the Sundance Film Festival occurred yesterday with the screening of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. Set for release on Netflix this year, the true life crime thriller casts Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Joe Berlinger, who’s known primarily for documentaries (his sole fictional work is the maligned horror sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) directs. The filmmaker also made an extensive documentary about Bundy that’s up on the aforementioned streaming service this weekend. Costars in Vile include Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich.

Early reviews are mixed and its Rotten Tomatoes score is presently at 67%. Yet critics seem to agree on one thing and that’s the terrific work of Efron in the lead. Some suggest it could be a career changing performance. I know that the concept of Efron nabbing an Oscar seems far-fetched. Yet if Netflix can put together a solid campaign and depending on how competition plays out in 2019, you never know. The company did prove in 2018 that they’re now a factor with the Academy (see multiple nominations for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures is a good film about a great story. It’s a picture about racial discrimination that isn’t looking to make any waves, but rather tell its tale in an audience pleasing style. Director Theodore Melfi and the top-notch cast manage to achieve their mission, while moviegoers looking for something deeper about similar subject matter have plenty of other quality material to select from.

Figures is set in the early 1960s and focuses on three African American women who were instrumental to the nation’s space race. Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) is a math whiz who does the work that computers would later accomplish. Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) is a capable supervisor whose chances at career advancement are hindered by her race. Same goes for Mary (Janelle Monae), a talented engineer who must fight to attend a whites only school to further her opportunities.

Each woman is presented with unique challenges based on their being in a foreign world in Langley. Even as Katherine is elevated to more important work in her field, she must run half a mile to a building with a colored only restroom as her new digs don’t have one. Dorothy’s supervisor (Kirsten Dunst) has a tough time envisioning her employee doing a similar job. Mary must be creative with the judicial system to achieve her goals.

The screenplay focuses most prominently on Katherine and her interactions with sympathetic Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), director of the Space Task Group. He enlists her help in the furious space race with the Russians as they try to get John Glenn to orbit the Earth.

Hidden Figures serves as a nifty history lesson to younger viewers and those who’ve forgotten their lessons when it comes to that race. And it’s the race of the three leads and their true stories that probably should’ve been told before now. The screenplay has apparently taken some liberties here and there with certain facts, but the contributions of Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary is not in question.

The subject’s personal lives aren’t explored in major detail, save for Katherine’s romance with a military officer (Mahershala Ali). Figures is more concerned with their work and the dynamic between Katherine and Harrison is the most interesting. It helps that both Henson and Costner do fine work here.

While the pic isn’t necessarily told in a new way as it builds toward triumphant moments for the principles, I’m glad I got to know about their previously unheralded contributions.

*** (out of four)

Hidden Figures Box Office Prediction

An Oscar hopeful expands to wide release next Friday when Hidden Figures rolls out across the country. The true tale of three women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who were instrumental in the NASA space program in the 1960s has garnered critical praise (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and is said to be quite the crowd pleaser. Theodore Melfi directs with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali in the supporting cast.

Over the Christmas weekend, Figures figured an impressive $838,000 gross on just 25 screens. That’s a strong $33K per screen average. The pic stands a decent shot at a Best Picture nomination come Oscar announcement time and Octavia Spencer could also receive a Supporting Actress nod.

As I see it, the chances for this to over perform are mathematically greater than the alternative. 20th Century Fox is hoping to attract a sizable female and African American audience and they’ll likely be successful. I believe Figures could even outdo Underworld: Blood Wars, which opens the same day. I’ve got that one pegged at $17.6M. I’ll put this one over it for what would be a #2 debut.

Hidden Figures opening weekend prediction: $19.3 million

For my Underworld: Blood Wars prediction, click here:


For my A Monster Calls prediction, click here:



Oscar Watch: Hidden Figures

Reviews are out today for Hidden Figures and its Oscar chances are becoming (somewhat) more clear. From Theodore Melfi, who last directed Bill Murray to acclaim in St. Vincent, the pic focuses on three African American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who were instrumental in the space flights of the 1960s. Other costars include Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons.

The most common two words that writers are using for Figures must be music to 20th Century Fox’s ears: crowd pleaser. Early tallies put it at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, though some of the reviews aren’t exactly raves. Still, with audiences possibly responding positively to it, it stands a real shot at a Best Picture nod. It could fit a similar slot to both 2009’s The Blind Side and 2011’s The Help. Melfi seems unlikely to make the cut in the Director race.

Acting categories could provide possibilities in both Supporting races. Henson will be campaigned for in Lead Actress and as has been discussed at length on this blog, that’s an extremely crowded category and she looks unlikely to get in. As for Supporting Actress, word is that Monae stands a better shot than Spencer for recognition. In Supporting Actor, Costner is getting good ink and could factor into a very uncertain race at press time. Figures also could receive an Adapted Screenplay nomination.

This Thursday, I’ll have my predictions updated and it will provide greater guidance on how Hidden figures into it all.

Home Box Office Prediction

Dreamworks Animation is hoping to have a kiddie hit on their hands as Home opens this Friday. The animated tale features the vocal work of Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin and Jim Parsons and comes from Over the Hedge director Tim Johnson.

Lately, the animation wing of Dreamworks has seen some disappointments as both 2014’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman and How to Train Your Dragon 2 failed to match expectations. While there isn’t much in the way of family competition, with the exception of Cinderella’s third weekend, Home seems likely to perform just OK. I believe it’ll struggle to reach $25 million out of the gate.

Home opening weekend prediction: $24.6 million

For my Get Hard prediction, click here: