As mentioned in those posts, these are an early bird snapshot of where I see the races before they come into sharper focus beginning next week. That’s when the film festival kicks off and many of the Oscar bait fall titles will be screened for critics. Starting next Thursday (August 30), I’ll begin posting my weekly ranked predictions in the major film categories.
Today brings us Best Actress and I’ll have Best Actor up later today!
The first major distribution deal at the Sundance Film Festival transpired this weekend when Bleecker Street and 30WEST acquired the rights to Colette. The biopic focuses on acclaimed French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Knightley in a performance that has critics raving. Costars include Dominic West and Fiona Shaw. The pic is directed by Wash Westmoreland, who last helped guide Julianne Moore to a Best Actress Oscar in StillAlice.
It’s safe to assume the studios who payed for Colette will be making a push for Knightley to nab her second nomination after PrideandPrejudice in 2005. Her inclusion will depend on the competition over the next year and how well the film is marketed to audiences.
Bottom line: there’s enough buzz out of Utah to justify Knightley as one to watch in 2018.
David Frankel’s CollateralBeauty starts with a pretentious name and goes downhill from there. It’s a film dealing with weighty subjects in a manner that is borderline offensive and cheats the audience and its talented actors of quality. When you can’t get past an incredibly contrived concept, it makes any semblance of emotional resonance that the screenplay is trying to beat into you fail badly. And it does.
Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising exec who’s mourning the loss of his young daughter. He can’t get past the loss and he’s cut off communication with the world, including his coworkers. There’s three of them that are focused on and they’re all given their own soap opera subplots. Whit (Edward Norton) is a divorcee trying to reconnect with his own little girl. Claire (Kate Winslet) is the workaholic wanting to become a mother. Simon (Michael Pena) is terminally ill and trying to hide his diagnosis from everyone.
The trio make the tough decision to try to push Howard out of the company. In order to do so, the script invents quite a remarkably ridiculous way to do so. You see – Howard writes letters to issues he’s grappling with – Love, Death, Time. When his coworkers are at their wit’s end, they make the puzzling decision to hire an acting troupe to portray those emotions, catch Howard’s reaction to them on camera, and exploit his response for the company’s gain. It’s even more contrived than it sounds. So we have Helen Mirren as Death, Keira Knightley as Love, and Jacob Latimore as Time. Howard also reaches out to a grief counselor (Naomie Harris) who’s experienced similar life issues.
This is the type of picture that some may not want to criticize due to its subject matter. Yet CollateralBeauty deserves scorn, especially because so many other films have dealt with similar themes in far more mature and satisfying ways. There’s not a performance here worthy of praise and that’s remarkable considering the cast. Smith is stuck playing one note throughout and even Mirren (one of our finest actresses) is annoying. No actors could make this dialogue work to be fair. It’s as if screenwriter Allan Loeb took a bunch of sympathy and encouragement cards and self-help manuals, cut them up, threw them in the air, and let treacly word piles form. The result is ugly.
After a six-year hiatus, Jack Sparrow and company return Memorial Day weekend in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The Disney property represents the fifth pic in the 14 year-old franchise with Johnny Depp returning in the role that made him a global box office superpower (at least for a while). Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg are new directors to the series. Costars include Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, and apparently Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley reprising their roles (they sat out the fourth edition). Even Paul McCartney is said to have a cameo!
While Disney has been printing money with their Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar, and live-action animated reboots, Pirates is more of a risk. First, there’s the massive reported $320 million price tag. Then there’s the matter of Depp not being the draw he once was (tabloid fodder hasn’t helped much). It was just during the last Memorial Day weekend that the Depp/Disney combo resulted in the flop of Alice Through the Looking Glass.
And there’s genuine curiosity as to whether the franchise has run low on steam. Let’s take a trip down Sparrow’s box office memory lane, shall we?
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Opening Weekend: $46.6 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $305.4 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Opening Weekend: $135.6 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $423.3 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
Opening Weekend: $114.7 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $309.4 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Opening Weekend: $90.1 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $241 million
As you can see, the Pirates saga hit its high mark over a decade ago and the last entry in 2011 posted the lowest total domestic earnings. I believe the days of Pirates making $100 million in a weekend are over. Even though it shouldn’t have much trouble at all placing first over the holiday weekend, I’ll predict a four-day gross in the high 70s to low 80s is most likely.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opening weekend prediction: $78.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
Director Guy Ritchie has, in recent years, brought back Sherlock Holmes to pleasing box office results and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to less than pleasing returns. Next weekend comes his take on another well-known character as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword debuts.
Charlie Hunnam is the title character in this adventure epic that costars Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, and Eric Bana. The Warner Bros production comes with a budget just north of $100 million.
The last time the legend of King Arthur was on the screen in the summer was 13 years ago and the result was a flop. Antoine Fuqua’s take that starred Clive Owen and Keira Knightley managed just a $15 million opening weekend and $51M eventual domestic gross.
Legend of the Sword should fair better, but by how much? Well, there is a considerable roadblock with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being in its second weekend. Poor reviews won’t help. I’ll predict this gets to low to mid 20s, which could put it in a battle for second place with Snatched (though Sword is getting the edge).
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opening weekend prediction: $24.4 million
OK – stop rolling your eyes. When Collateral Beauty (out Friday) had its trailers unveiled months ago, it was not out of the question that the film could receive some awards chatter. After all, the cast is made up of multiple Oscar winners and nominees – Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley. Maybe its director David Frankel (who’s had some hits with The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) would enter a new phase of his career that included Academy attention.
So it wasn’t unreasonable to include the Picture, the Lead Actor with Mr. Smith, and supporting players like Norton and Mirren in the realm of possibility for nominations. Yet there was also a general feeling from the trailers that perhaps it was trying a bit too hard. Reviews out today seem to confirm that notion. Bottom line? Collateral Beauty won’t get any Oscar nods.
Interestingly, a number of critical write-ups have called it the Hollywood version of Manchester by the Sea, which also deals with the heavy issue of losing a child. Those reviews haven’t exactly meant it as a compliment. While Manchester is poised for many nominations (including Picture), Beauty‘s best hope now is to connect with audiences. At least its costar Naomie Harris looks certain to be recognized, but it’ll be for Moonlight and not this.
After headlining the summer comic book hit Suicide Squad, Will Smith switches to drama mode in the holiday season with Collateral Beauty. Out next weekend, the pic casts the Fresh Prince as a father who loses his child and begins writing letters to events and feelings such as Love, Death, and Time. It turns out those things are embodied by real people and some of them are famous actors. Costars include Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, and Michael Pena. David Frankel, who’s had his hits (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and misses (The Big Year anyone?), directs.
The trailers for Beauty leave no doubt that this aims to be a tearjerker appealing to an adult (and probably more female) crowd. Word of mouth could cause this to play well throughout the Christmas season. For its opening, I don’t anticipate anything higher than to low to possibly mid teens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is opening against it and I think it’s a rather safe bet it will dominate the charts and possibly siphon away some of the females Beauty is looking to attract.
Though they are certainly not apples to apples comparisons, I could actually see this performing similarly to last year’s Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. That pic also opened against the Star Wars franchise (in the form of The Force Awakens) at $13.9 million and subsequently managed to perform admirably from weekend to weekend. I’ll predict this falls a couple million under that.
Collateral Beauty opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million
For my Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prediction, click here: