Uncut Gems Movie Review

When the brothers Safdie (Ben and Josh) made Good Time in 2017, the thriller centering on low-life crime figures contained segments that showed the duo was capable of creating something special. Clearly influenced by similar grimy pics in the 1970s, that film gave Robert Pattinson a role that drew him far away from a sullen romantic vampire and is primarily responsible for his current career trajectory. However, I found Good Time better in spots than as a cohesive whole. Their follow-up is Uncut Gems and it’s the “something special” that was hinted at in their predecessor.

In many ways, it stays in the Good Time lane. The setting is again the Big Apple. The characters are again a level of bottom dwelling criminals who aren’t exactly top level at their professions. And like Pattinson, Gems allows a very famous actor to try something different. Here it’s Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, who owns a diamond store and is a degenerate gambler. In Howard’s universe, there’s not a problem that he can’t seem to make worse.

His family life is in a constant state of chaos as his wife (Idina Menzel) is ready to freeze him out and his brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian) is a loan shark that Howard owes money to. Then there’s his girlfriend Julie (Julia Fox, in her feature debut) who works for him and is a consistent source of stress. Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) is his business associate charged with bringing in celebrities and high rollers to the store. He finds one in Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett, who plays himself and does so memorably.

When Howard gets his hands on a rare Ethiopian opal, it sets off a series of frenzied events. Garnett is obsessed with purchasing the rarity while Howard looks to cash in with it at auction. The hoped for financial windfall means he can pay his off his considerable debts. Yet Howard just cannot help himself as one scheme simply leads to the next one, including betting on his NBA client for large sums of money.

Like Good Time, the pacing here is relentless. For over two hours, the screenplay and direction immerse us in Howard’s out of control daily existence. It’s exhilarating and Sandler deserves a lot of the credit. These days, it’s rare to see the performer in anything other than middling to less than middling Netflix comedies. Seeing him rise to the challenge in more dramatic material shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as we saw it in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love nearly two decades ago. It’s just been a while. Howard is onscreen nearly the entire running time and for good reason. You can’t take your eyes off him.

The lead’s remarkable work is accentuated by his supporting cast. This especially applies to the women in his life as both Menzel and Fox are given notable scenes reacting to Howard’s never-ending foibles. By the time the credits roll, one could argue Uncut Gems has the happiest ending it could have if you really ponder it. This is a tale of addiction in a highly stylized setting where Howard just can’t become the winner he pines to be. His turmoil is interrupted by brief glimpses of happiness and we witness a couple of great ones. In the era that the Safdies are paying homage, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro might have played Howard. Sandler gets the job here and knocks it out the park. It’s something special.

**** (out of four)

Uncut Gems Box Office Prediction

Veering far away from the Netflix comedies like Murder Mystery that he’s become known for over the past few years, Adam Sandler headlines the critically heralded crime thriller Uncut Gems and it expands nationwide on Christmas, The pic comes from directors Ben and Josh Safdie and the supporting cast includes future NBA hall of famer Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, pop star The Weeknd, and Eric Bogosian.

Since its initial screenings at the Telluride Film Festival in late August, Gems has shone brightly with reviewers. It stands at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and Sandler has picked up early awards precursors and could be in the running for an Oscar nomination. How will this translate to box office dollars? For the past two weeks, the film has been in limited release in five venues and performed well with $1 million in its coffers.

Whether or not Gems translates widely to mainstream viewers across the country is a trickier question. Even with Sandler’s involvement, this may cater more towards the art house circuit as opposed to audiences looking for holiday options. I’ll project that this hits mid single digits from Friday to Sunday and low double digits for the extended five-day rollout.

Uncut Gems opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $11 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Little Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/little-women-box-office-prediction/

For my Spies in Disguise prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/spies-in-disguise-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Uncut Gems

Amidst a stream of Netflix comedies that haven’t exactly had critics on their side, Adam Sandler is now garnering some career best reviews for his starring role in Uncut Gems. The crime thriller from directors Josh and Benny Safdie premiered at the Telluride over the weekend ahead of its December, non-Netflix release.

Praise has been heaped on Sandler and he finds himself potentially in contention for Oscar chatter for the first time in years. In 2002, the comedian’s heralded work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love nabbed some awards buzz that ultimately went unrealized. The Brothers Safdie are making their follow up to 2017’s Good Time, which generated some talk of a Robert Pattinson leading actor nod that also never materialized.

This could all come down to competition for Sandler and if the pic gains any traction with a decent sized audience. Distributor A24 will probably make a push for his inclusion even as they concentrate on other titles like Waves and The Farewell. The original screenplay and cinematography from Darius Knondji have also been singled out in critical write ups.

Bottom line: Uncut Gems opens the door for Sandler to make the cut for Oscar attention, but let’s see how open the field is as time goes on. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Supporting Actor Oscar History

In the eight decades of Oscar history, we have seen the Supporting Actor category honor actors from the same picture about one-fifth of the time. It’s a fairly rare occurrence, but it’s been especially so as of late. It’s been 26 years since the Academy last did so and that serves as the longest gap by a lot. 2017 could change that.

Before we get to that, a little history lesson…

The first multiple Supporting Actor nominees happened in 1939 when Harry Carey and Claude Rains were nominated for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. 

It was 14 years before it happened again with 1953’s Shane bestowing nods for Jack Palance and Brandon deWilde. The following year gave us our first three actor nominations when Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Rod Steiger all had their names up for On the Waterfront. The 1950s would do this twice more – in 1957’s Peyton Place for Arthur Kennedy and Russ Tamblyn and 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder for Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott.

1961 would bring Scott another nod for The Hustler, along with Jackie Gleason. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde nominated both Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard.

1971 was the first year when one of the multiple picture nominees actually won. Ben Johnson emerged victorious for The Last Picture Show, while costar Jeff Bridges was nominated.

The Godfather saga would bestow six nominations among its two classic films. The 1972 original nominated James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino. The 1974 sequel had Robert De Niro winning the statue, along with the nominated Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg. 1976’s Rocky nominated both Mick (Burgess Meredith) and Paulie (Burt Young) while Jason Robards won for 1977’s Julia with Maximillian Schell getting a nod.

Timothy Hutton would win for Ordinary People in 1980 with costar Judd Hirsch nominated. Jack Nicholson won for 1983’s Terms of Endearment with John Lithgow getting recognition. 1986’s Platoon was granted two nominees – Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger.

And in 1991 – Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley were nominated for Bugsy. 

That is the 16th and final time this has happened.

As mentioned, this year could potentially change that and there’s a surprising four ways for it to happen.

The least likely of the four scenarios in my opinion would be Jason Mitchell or Garrett Hedlund for Mudbound. Perhaps Mitchell could sneak in, but even that’s a long shot and the chances of both getting in seems non-existent.

The other three scenarios are all plausible. There’s Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water. We have Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg for Call Me by Your Name. It wouldn’t shock me for either to occur, but maybe the best chance is Sam Rockwell (a lock for a nod) and Woody Harrelson (less so) for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

It’s been a quarter century since two actors from the same film heard the names called in Supporting Actor. Will 2017 change that?

Stay tuned…

Independence Day: Resurgence Box Office Prediction

20 years after its predecessor became the biggest summer hit of 1996 (and the year for that matter), the long gestating sequel Independence Day: Resurgence invades theaters next weekend. Long gestating? Absolutely. Long awaited? That remains to be seen.

Disaster director extraordinaire Roland Emmerich is back behind the camera for the reported $200 million budget alien pic and he’s brought along some of the original cast from two decades ago. That includes Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner and Vivica A. Fox mixed in with new cast members Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, Sela Ward, and William Fichtner. Conspicuously missing? Will Smith, whose character has been killed off (not a spoiler: the trailers say so). This wouldn’t have been the case if the Fresh Prince had signed up, but he’s got a more breathlessly anticipated summer ’16 flick coming with Suicide Squad.

The original was a phenomenon that took in $306 million domestically, which is equivalent to nearly $600 million today adjusted for inflation. Comparing the opening of the first Day is a tricky proposition. Independence Day opened on a Tuesday over the long Fourth of July weekend, generating $96 million over its six day roll-out. The Friday to Sunday take was $50 million.

Resurgence faces challenges that the first one did not. Will Smith was an emerging box office sensation at the time of release and he’s nowhere to be seen here. This summer has proven that there’s a touch of sequelitis occurring at the multiplex. Then there’s this – will younger audiences turn out in droves when part 1 was released when they were in diapers or before they were born?

While Resurgence shouldn’t have too much trouble topping that $50 million figure earned in the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend, it’s highly unlikely to reach the over $300M accomplished by the first one. I’ll predict an opening gross in the low to mid 60s for a so-so debut.

Independence Day: Resurgence opening weekend prediction: $63.5 million

For my Free State of Jones prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/06/15/free-state-of-jones-box-office-prediction/

For my The Shallows prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/06/15/the-shallows-box-office-prediction/