Oscar Predictions: The Last Duel

The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up and it has done so with a big debut in Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel. The first of two Oscar contenders from Scott in 2021 (the other is the forthcoming House of Gucci), Duel was seen as the lesser of the duo when it comes to awards prospects.

That has turned out to be accurate based on the Italian buzz. Duel stands at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. As generally expected, I wouldn’t anticipate Scott’s epic (out October 15) to factor into Best Picture, Director, or its Adapted Screenplay from Nicole Holofcener. Nor do I believe much attention will be paid to its trio of male leads (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver). The latter will have another at bat for Gucci or possibly Annette in the lead Actor derby.

Jodie Comer, an Emmy winner for Killing Eve and recently seen in the hit Free Guy, has always been looked at as the real hopeful in Actress. Comer is getting the best reviews of the cast. She could sneak in, but I suspect her race could be quite competitive and she’s probably on the outside looking in. One of her strongest competitors might be Lady Gaga from (you guessed it) Gucci. That’s in addition to the already in Kristin Stewart (Spencer) and numerous others.

Duel could play in some technical races like Production and Costume Design or Sound. However, any hopes of a Gladiator like run at the Oscars (Scott’s 2000 Best Picture winning epic) has been thwarted in Venice. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

2021 Oscar Predictions: August 5th Edition

As we await film festivals that will shed light on many of the pictures mentioned below, today brings us my second weekly outlook on the major Oscar categories.

So what’s happened since last Thursday? That House of Gucci trailer came out and it didn’t do anything to dissuade my feeling that it’s a contender. In fact, while I shouldn’t use trailers to judge, it was enough for me to put Jared Leto in my final five (taking out Idris Elba for The Harder They Fall).

In other developments:

    • A Hero is in my top 10 for Best Picture over Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. The film also is in my projections for Original Screenplay to the detriment of Blue Bayou.
    • CODA (which I was very tempted this week to put in BP) makes the Adapted Screenplay cut over Dune. 
    • The Director, Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actress fields remain the same – with some movement in the rankings.

By this time next week, we should have a good idea of where Jennifer Hudson’s performance in Respect stands since it releases next week. It remains in my five at spot four.

Finally, I didn’t have Matt Damon in Stillwater listed in my top 15 possibilities last week. Based on the film’s subpar box office performance and some comments that landed Damon in hot water, I don’t anticipate him surfacing at any point.

Check out all the activity below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Dune (PR: 5)

6. Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

8. Mass (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. A Hero (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. CODA (PR: 12)

12. Belfast (PR: 9)

13. The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

14. Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Cyrano (PR: 17)

16. King Richard (PR: 20)

17. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 16)

18. Flee (PR: 13)

19. The Humans (PR: 18)

20. Blue Bayou (PR: 19)

21. The Last Duel (PR: 21)

22. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Being the Ricardos (PR: Not Ranked)

24. In the Heights (PR: 23)

25. Annette (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Dear Evan Hansen

Last Night in Soho

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 2)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 7)

8. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. Fran Kranz, Mass (PR: 11)

11. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

12. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 8)

13. Sian Heder, CODA (PR: 12)

14. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Joe Wright, Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

4. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 4)

5. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 7)

7. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 8)

8. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

9. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 12)

11. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 11)

12. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 13)

13. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

14. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 15)

15. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 14)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

7. Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

8. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 8)

9. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 7)

12. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 13)

13. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 15)

14. Michael B. Jordan, A Journal for Jordan (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 2)

3. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4)

4. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 5)

5. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

7. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

8. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Olga Merediz, In the Heights (PR: 7)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9)

11. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 13)

12. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11)

13. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Regina King, The Harder They Fall

Sally Hawkins, Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 4)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

7. Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: 7)

8. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall (PR: 5)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: 9)

11. Bradley Whitford, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano (PR: 10)

13. Adam Driver, The Last Duel (PR: 12)

14. Simon Helberg, Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Dornan, Belfast

Al Pacino, House of Gucci

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soggy Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Mass (PR: 1)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 4)

5. A Hero (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

7. Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

8. Spencer (PR: 7)

9. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Last Night in Soho (PR: 9)

11. Blue Bayou (PR: 5)

12. Belfast (PR: 6)

13. Parallel Mothers (PR: Not Ranked)

14. King Richard (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Adapted Screenplay)

15. Annette (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

The Harder They Fall

After Yang

Nine Days

Red Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 1)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. CODA (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Humans (PR: 7)

7. Dune (PR: 5)

8. Cyrano (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. The Last Duel (PR: 12)

11. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

12. Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

13. The Lost Daughter (PR: 13)

14. A Journal for Jordan (PR: 15)

15. Dear Evan Hansen (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

King Richard (moved to Original Screenplay)

Back at it next week!

August 6-8 Box Office Predictions

James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max streaming this Friday and it’s got surprisingly terrific reviews as a bonus feature to bring viewers out. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

The Suicide Squad Box Office Prediction

The first Squad from 2016 (the one without the THE in front of the title) landed just a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score while THE reboot is perched at an unexpectedly lofty 96%. However, with the Delta variant in play and the availability to HBO subscribers, I have this Squad achieving a low to possibly mid 40s start.

Margot Robbie and her devious friends represent the only newcomer. Jungle Cruise opened a bit above most projections (including mine). The question is whether its Disney Plus simultaneous debut will cause it to drop precipitously like Black Widow and other recent titles. I suspect the sophomore frame dip may not be quite as severe and mid 50s is my forecast.

The holdover battle for the #3 spot could be close between M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, critical favorite The Green Knight, and Black Widow. I actually think Widow could rise from 4th to 3rd with the smallest drop (assuming Old falls about 50%). Knight, despite the laudatory reviews and a larger than expected debut, only nabbed a C+ Cinemascore grade and that could mean a 60% range dip is in the cards.

And with that, my top 5 take on the frame ahead:

1. The Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $40.8 million

2. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $15.5 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $3.7 million

4. Old

Predicted Gross: $3.5 million

5. The Green Knight

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

Box Office Results (July 30-August 1)

Disney had reason to celebrate over the weekend as Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt opened at the high end of projections. The theme ride based adventure, sporting mostly positive reviews, landed with $35 million (ahead of my $28.4 million estimate). Additionally, the studio’s streamer Disney Plus reported $30 million in rental action. That’s about as rosy as scenario possible given the continuing complications for theaters.

Old dropped to second with a near 60% plummet at $6.8 million, in line with my $6.6 million take. It’s earned $30 million so far and that’s decent considering the small budget.

The Mouse Factory wasn’t the only studio that exceeded projections as The Green Knight was third with $6.7 million – well beyond my meager $3.4 million guesstimate. As mentioned above, the middling audience reaction could halt its momentum in weekend #2, but that’s certainly a better start than anticipated.

Black Widow was fourth with $6.4 million (I said $5.6 million) to bring its tally to $167 million.

Matt Damon’s Stillwater premiered in fifth with a muted $5.1 million. That’s right in line with my $5.2 million estimate as mostly solid reviews couldn’t bring adult moviegoers out in substantial fashion.

Space Jam: A New Legacy was sixth with $4.2 million (I was close with $4.5 million) for a three week $60 million total.

Lastly, Snake Eyes nosedived in its second outing after a disastrous opening with $4 million (I said $4.7 million). The ill-fated G.I. Joe reboot has amassed just $22 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Stillwater Review

Let me finish this page.

It’s a line uttered in a humorous way early on in Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater to Bill Baker (Matt Damon) by his mother-in-law trying to read her novel. He’s an Oklahoma oil rig worker living a mundane existence punctuated by extraordinary overseas excursions. Bill’s family circumstances are high-profile for such a low-profile man. Daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is in a French prison for the murder of her lover and roommate. Mom is tragically no longer in the picture. Mom-in-law seems to be footing most of the bill for Allison’s defense which appears hopeless after half a decade.

Bill is a stranger in a strange land each time he visits Allison, who steadfastly maintains her innocence. He’s searching for answers to free her and he has very few of them. They’re certainly not in French. Part of the struggle is his unwillingness to learn the language across the pond. Yet he also cannot seem to communicate well with his captive daughter and they both speak perfect English.

Stillwater attempts to be many things in its 140 minutes. It works best as a character study for Bill as he becomes more accustomed to his surroundings. This is especially true when he meets theater actress Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her adorable daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). His relationship with Maya gives him a chance to be the father figure that he wasn’t before.

The screenplay makes a wise decision by presenting Bill as a deeply flawed, but determined seeker of truth. The unwise decisions that strained his relationship with Allison don’t stop in America. This isn’t Liam Neeson pulverizing European henchman on his way to saving the day. The script here has taken a far different route.

Where the picture occasionally struggles is with the thriller aspects. For a solid portion of the runtime, the case of Allison is an interesting enough one. There are obviously shades of the Amanda Knox international trial and imprisonment. Plot contrivances, especially in the third act, arise and they are familiar language for the genre. They serve somewhat as a barrier to Stillwater‘s overall success. Not every little twist and turn feels necessary. Perhaps some pages in this screenplay didn’t need to be finished.

Damon’s sturdy performance as Bill slowly moving towards a meaningful life keep this afloat – even if the procedural aspects of finding the real killers feels almost incidental.

*** (out of four)

July 30-August 1 Box Office Predictions

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s theme ride based Disney adventure Jungle Cruise should have no trouble topping the charts as July rolls to August at the box office. It opens alongside the Matt Damon drama Stillwater and David Lowery’s medieval tale The Green Knight with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on all of them here:

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

After a rather sluggish weekend where no newcomer topped $20 million, Jungle should easily cruise to that and more. Whether it tops $30 million is more of a question mark (especially with the Delta variant complicating matters). I’m putting it just under $30M while no other title should hit $10 million.

The jockeying for slots 2-5 could be interesting. Let’s get The Green Knight out of the way. While Lowery is an acclaimed indie filmmaker, I don’t see this having much initial crossover appeal. I have yet to see a theater count and my estimate of $3.4  million puts it well outside the top 5 (my estimate could change based on number of screens). **Blogger’s Update (07/28): the 2500 estimated screen count has revised my estimate for this up from $2.2M to $3.4M

Stillwater is a bit more of a head scratcher. It has solid reviews yet I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been better positioned for an autumn release. It could certainly open higher than my $5.2 million projection, but I also wouldn’t shocked if it went lower.

The position of Stillwater in the top 5 will be determined by the sophomore drops of Old and Snake Eyes and the fourth weekend performance of Black Widow. 

Widow and Space Jam: A New Legacy have experienced hefty declines in their second frames. With mixed to negative reviews, I see no reason why Old and Snake Eyes won’t suffer the same fate. Both could see their fortunes fall in the mid 50s (that could be best case) or 60% or more. I’m thinking the latter. There’s a chance that Space Jam could stay in the high five if Snake Eyes dips in the mid 60s (I think it’ll be awfully close)

Here’s how I have all the action playing out:

1. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. Old

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

4. Stillwater

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

5. Snake Eyes

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

6. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

Box Office Results (July 23-25)

Considering its low budget, the performance of M. Night Shyamalan’s Old isn’t necessarily bad news for Universal. However, it definitely came in on the low end of expectations with $16.8 million for a gold medal showing. I was more generous at $19.8 million. Word-of-mouth doesn’t seem very encouraging and I anticipate a sophomore drop in the 60% range.

There’s really no way to spin the Snake Eyes gross in a positive way for Paramount with its disappointing silver medal. The hoped for G.I. Joe reboot tanked with just $13.3 million compared to my $17.2 million projection. You could say it was a real American no show with audiences. With a budget in the reported $100 million range, this should easily put this franchise on the skids for some time.

Black Widow took the bronze in weekend #3 with $11.6 million (I went a little higher at $12.9 million). The MCU stand-alone feature has made $154 million thus far and will be one of the lowest performers of the MCU library.

Space Jam: A New Legacy plummeted from its #1 perch to fourth with a near 70 percent fall. The $9.5 million gross was way under my take of $15.8 million and the two-week tally is $51 million. There’s no chance the LeBron and Looney Tunes sequel will make $100 million stateside.

F9 was fifth with $4.8 million (I said $5.1 million) to bring its total to $163 million.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was sixth in its second outing with only $3.5 million (I went with $4.5 million) for $16 million overall.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

Matt Damon is a Midwestern oil worker who treks to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) on trial for murder in the crime drama Stillwater, out July 30th. Tom McCarthy (whose 2015 journalistic expose Spotlight) won Best Picture directs.

The pic recently debuted at the Cannes Film Festival to mostly positive notices. It stands at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some reviews call it one of Damon’s finest performances and there’s even a chance he could garner awards buzz.

As far as box office prospects, I’m skeptical. I’m surprised Focus Features is putting this out in the heat of summer since this looks like more of a fall player. The counterargument could be that adults tired of sequels, sci-fi spectacles, family fare, and reboots will turn up. And certainly Damon’s star power helps.

That said, I suspect the verdict for Stillwater is a subpar start in the mid single digits.

Stillwater opening weekend prediction: $5.2 million

For my Jungle Cruise prediction, click here:

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

For my The Green Knight prediction, click here:

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

My initial 2021 Oscar predictions arrives at Best Actor. If you missed my posts regarding the supporting players, you can find them here:

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

For the 2020 ceremony, my earliest projections in Best Actor yielded two correct picks: winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Gary Oldman (Mank). Steven Yeun (Minari) was listed in other possibilities. I had Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) in the top five for Actor, but he ended up going supporting and won in that race. On the flip side, I had Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) originally projected in supporting and he went lead. The only player in the quintet not mentioned at first was Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal).

Let’s get to it with the first take where all five of my initial nominees are either past nominees (Cumberbatch, Driver, Smith) or winners (Bale, Washington).

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale, Canterbury Glass

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Adam Driver, House of Gucci

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Other Possibilities:

Clifton Collins Jr., Jockey

Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley

Matt Damon, Stillwater

Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

Adam Driver, Annette

Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom

Amir Jadidi, A Hero

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

Best Actress is up next!

Oscar Watch: Stillwater

Matt Damon is a three-time nominee for his acting with leading nods for 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2015’s The Martian and his supporting turn in 2009’s Invictus. He does have himself a gold statue for his cowriting of Hunting. The Cannes Film Festival has debuted his latest effort Stillwater where the Bourne star plays an Oklahoma dad transported to France when his daughter (Abigail Breslin, a nominee 15 years ago as Little Miss Sunshine) is accused of murder. So for those wondering – no, this is not about the fictional band from Almost Famous.

This marks the latest directorial effort from Tom McCarthy, whose 2015 journalistic expose Spotlight won Best Picture. Fun fact: McCarthy has to have one of the most unexpected follow-ups to a Best Pic recipient with the Disney Plus kiddie comedy Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. 

Stillwater looks like more of an awards contender. However, Failure‘s 84% Rotten Tomatoes score currently outshines the 80% held by Damon’s French excursion. That said, early critical reaction is calling this one of the actor’s best performances.

Will that be enough to get Damon to the final five? I’m skeptical. Competition will likely be steep. This reminds me a bit of The Way Back from a year ago. It gave his Hunting writing partner Ben Affleck some of the strongest notices of his filmography and garnered him some buzz. Yet he ended up not making the cut.

Bottom line: Stillwater‘s only chance at Academy recognition seems to be with Damon, but he could face an uphill climb. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Spirit Untamed Box Office Prediction

All the way back in 2002, the animated horse adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron debuted over Memorial Day weekend and performed fairly well. With Matt Damon voicing the title character, the pic galloped to a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod and a $73 million domestic gross. A Netflix spin-off series has aired since 2017 and Spirit Untamed is a joint venture between Universal and DreamWorks to bring the character back to the big screen. Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr. co-direct with a voice cast that includes Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, and Eiza Gonzalez.

I will confess to not knowing how popular the streaming series is, but it seems to me that 19 years is a long break between theatrical releases. That could certainly be a nagging problem as to Spirit‘s potential. Additionally, some family audiences might still be checking out Cruella in its sophomore frame.

Untamed stands no shot at reaching what its predecessor accomplished. I’m even skeptical that it reaches $5 million out of the gate and will go a bit under that.

Spirit Untamed opening weekend prediction: $4.4 million

For my The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/26/the-conjuring-the-devil-made-me-do-it-box-office-prediction/