AFI Recap: Yes on Nope and Nope on Babylon

The American Film Institute (AFI) said yes to Nope and nope to The Whale and Babylon today as they named their top ten movies of 2022. Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale was perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch.

The AFI list, in the previous decade, typically gives us seven of the eventual Best Picture contenders at the Oscars. In other words, they’re worth paying attention to. Coupled with Wednesday’s National Board of Review selections, there’s much to discuss. First, here’s the full AFI Ten:

Avatar: The Way of Water

Elvis

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Fabelmans

Nope

She Said

Tár

Top Gun: Maverick

The Woman King

Women Talking

It’s key to remember that only U.S. made pictures are eligible. That means titles like All Quiet on the Western Front, Decision to Leave, RRR, and The Banshees of Inisherin were not in the mix. However, Banshees received a Special Award similar to what eventual Academy hopefuls like Roma and Parasite nabbed.

I went 7 for 10 on my predictions. I correctly named Avatar, Elvis, Everything Everywhere…, The Fabelmans, Top Gun: Maverick, The Woman King, and Women Talking. I didn’t name Nope, She Said, and Tár. Instead I picked Babylon, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. For She Said and Tár especially, these were important nods considering they missed NBR (as did Nope).

Let’s start with the films that made the AFI and NBR lists. I’m counting Banshees with its AFI Special Award shout-out and there’s six more: Avatar: The Way of Water, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Top Gun: Maverick, The Woman King, and Women Talking. This is a list you want to be on when it comes to an Oscar BP nom.

In the previous five years, ten pictures that made AFI and NBR were ignored by the Academy. They are 2017’s The Florida Project, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place, First Reformed, and Eighth Grade (all from 2018), Knives Out and Richard Jewell from 2019, Da 5 Bloods and Soul in 2020, and last year’s The Tragedy of Macbeth.

If history is our guide, at least one of the seven from 2022 will miss out. Looking at the list, The Woman King is probably most vulnerable. That said, I’ve yet it to include it in my Oscar ten and the stock is rising.

In the past five years, only five pics have missed AFI and NBR (including Special Awards) and received a BP nod from the Academy. They are Darkest Hour from 2017, Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice in 2018, The Father in 2020, and last year’s Drive My Car.

What about the movies that didn’t make AFI or NBR in 2022? That list includes Babylon, The Whale, Triangle of Sadness, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, All Quiet o the Western Front, and Decision to Leave. The last two weren’t eligible for AFI. Nevertheless this isn’t a list you want to be on though the outlook isn’t completely dire.

If history guides us again, 2 of the aforementioned 2022 titles could still get love from Oscar. Perhaps Monday’s Golden Globes nods will save some of them. There’s no doubt that Babylon and The Whale are looking shakier for Academy inclusion after this week. They need some attention from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

I’ll have my Golden Globe nominations recap up Monday and if you missed my predictions on them, you can find them here:

Updated Oscar predictions will be on the blog Tuesday!

New York Circles Tár

The New York Film Critics Circle have made their selections for the year’s best and that kicks off a flurry of regional awards coming our way in the days and weeks ahead. This particular critics group (as is the case with most) isn’t much of a barometer on who and what will win. It is, however, a decent glimpse of who and what could contend.

Todd Field’s Tár and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin each earned two honors. The former was named Best Film with Cate Blanchett taking the Actress award. Eight of the last 10 NYFCC victors in Film went on to receive a BP Oscar nomination. Yet none of those movies won the big prize from the Academy. The last one that did was 2011’s The Artist. And that make sense here. Tár appears highly likely to make the BP cut though it isn’t much of a threat to take the gold. Five of the past 10 Actress recipients were nominated with only one winner. Who was that winner? Cate Blanchett for 2013’s Blue Jasmine. She could certainly do so again. This won’t be the only critics branch to name her.

Colin Farrell was Best Actor for Banshees and After Yang. Like Actress, half of the previous ten New York honorees made the Oscar quintet with two winners – Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea). Farrell appears to be locked in a tight three-way race with Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Austin Butler (Elvis). Every precursor like this helps a little. Banshees also won Best Screenplay. That’s another Academy three-way battle in Original Screenplay with Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Fabelmans.

The supporting fields are a bit more predictive as far as Academy matches. Eight of 10 Supporting Actor NYFCC takers were at the Oscars. That includes four winners in Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). We could see another match with Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once). Expect to hear his name a lot.

Supporting Actress, on the contrary, was more of a surprise. Keke Palmer’s work in Nope topped all rivals in a wide open field that’s hard to peg for Oscar prognosticating. 7 of 10 winners here made the big dance including the victorious Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Laura Dern (Marriage Story). I’ve yet to have Palmer in my top ten. I’m starting to wonder if she could get in the mix for her memorable performance in the sci-fi horror tale. I should note that NYFCC named Lupita Nyong’o Best Actress for Peele’s Us from 2019 and she came up short with Oscar voters.

The rest of the categories all showcased viable contenders in their respective competitions. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On picked up Animated Feature and I expect it to get love from the critics. Same with Non-Fiction Film and All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (I have it ranked first in Oscar’s Documentary Feature). Poland’s EO was a slightly unexpected choice in Foreign Film over Decision to Leave (which I have pegged as the soft frontrunner for the Academy). Finally, Top Gun: Maverick aced Cinematography and it should get an Oscar nod there for the thrilling aerial camerawork.

Keep coming to the blog for all your awards news and I’ll have updated Oscar predictions up this Sunday!

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:

Oscar Predictions: My Father’s Dragon

It could be time to admit that I’ve slept on My Father’s Dragon when it comes to Oscar consideration. Based on the 1948 children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett, the 2-D fantasy makes its way to Netflix on November 11th. It had its unveiling at the London Film Festival. Dragon is the fifth animated feature from Cartoon Saloon and their track record is, shall we say, fire.

The Irish outlet is 4 for 4 when it comes to getting their pics nominated for Best Animated Feature: 2010’s The Secret of Kells, 2014’s Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner from 2017, and 2020’s Wolfwalkers. Despite their success rate getting their product in the final quintet, they’ve yet to win.

Dragon is directed by Nora Twomey, who co-directed Kells and solo helmed The Breadwinner. The sprawling voice cast includes Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Jackie Earle Haley, Whoopi Goldberg, Dianne Wiest, Rita Moreno, Chris O’Dowd, Judy Greer, Alan Cumming, Yara Shahidi, Mary Kay Place, Leighton Meester, and Ian McShane.

Reviews are just beginning to trickle out of London and so far so good. The initial buzz indicates this should be a contender. Like its earlier efforts, I’d say it’s a viable film for nomination and not a victory. My last estimates had it ranked seventh… pretty low for a production company with the aforementioned history.

Yet there could be roadblocks on the Saloon’s road to five in a row. The main one is internal competition from Netflix itself. Most prognosticators (myself included) have Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio from the streamer listed in first place. Even though that’s sight unseen, the pedigree would suggest it’ll be Netflix’s biggest push for the gold statue. Others that the company could be focused on include this summer’s acclaimed The Sea Beast and Wendell and Wild from Jordan Peele, which debuts later this month and nabbed positive feedback at the Toronto Film Festival.

That’s four legit contenders from Netflix and Disney (for one) will have something to say about them achieving four nominations (they won’t). Something’s gotta give and we’ll see how the next few weeks play out to determine which movies from the quartet don’t make the dance. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Wendell & Wild

Henry Selick burst onto the stop-motion big screen animation scene nearly 30 years ago with The Nightmare Before Christmas and continued on with James and the Giant Peach and Coraline (which received a Best Animated Feature). Note that the category didn’t exist when Christmas and Peach came out. His first feature in 13 years is Wendell & Wild, which premiered at Toronto and hits Netflix on October 28th (with an awards qualifying run a week prior).

A familiar comedic duo, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, voice the demon sibling title characters. Other performers behind the mic include Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, James Hong, and Ving Rhames. The Canadian debut yielded a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Most reviews are not overwhelming raves and I don’t see this winning the top prize. Netflix’s biggest contender could be the forthcoming Pinocchio from Guillermo del Toro. I also wouldn’t discount their acclaimed The Sea Beast from earlier this year. Wild could easily make the top five when the dust settles though I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Box Office Prediction

As the wealthy First Lady and Pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown headline the satire Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. After originally premiering at Sundance in January, it’s out in approximately 1800 theaters and streaming on Peacock for Labor Day weekend. Adamma Ebo directs and costars include Austin Crute and Nicole Beharie.

The Focus Features title received mostly positive spins on the festival circuit and the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 88%. Honk will hope for a solid African-American turnout, but this could have challenges finding parishioners. The most obvious is that the early September holiday weekend is one where moviegoers are often distracted with end of summer activities. I also haven’t seen much of a marketing campaign.

With Jordan Peele serving as executive producer, the answer to whether this gets to even $3 million could be nope. 

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. opening weekend prediction: $2.4 million (Friday to Monday prediction)

For my Spider-Man: No Way Home – The More Fun Stuff prediction, click here:

Spider-Man: No Way Home – The More Fun Stuff Edition Box Office Prediction

For my Jaws prediction, click here:

Jaws Box Office Prediction

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…

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping moviegoers catch the Bullet Train when it debuts August 5th. The action comedy comes from John Wick maker David Leitch with Brad Pitt headlining as an assassin. The supporting cast includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman, Bad Bunny, and Pitt’s recent The Lost City costar Sandra Bullock (in a role first slated for Lady Gaga).

The Japan set stunt fest is hoping to turn out an adult audience ready for original programming in a summer filled mostly with plenty of sequels and superheroes.

Since starting a franchise with Wick in 2014, Leitch followed up with Atomic Blonde. It was a box office disappointment that debuted with just over $18 million. Train should have no trouble getting past that number. However, it won’t reach the earnings of his last two pictures which were built-in franchise entries: Deadpool 2 and Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw. 

Nope was able to reach mid 40s and it had the advantage of Jordan Peele’s brand. This will rely mostly on Pitt’s star power. I’m curious to see how word-of-mouth is in the coming days and that could increase or decrease my projection. My hunch is that mid 2os is the floor and low 40s could be the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes toward the lower end of that spectrum, and I’ll say high 20s to low 30s is where this lands.

Bullet Train opening weekend prediction: $29.7 million

For my Easter Sunday prediction, click here:

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

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)