Oscar Predictions: Operation Mincemeat

It was released across the pond last month and Operation Mincemeat hits US small screens tomorrow courtesy of Netflix. The World War II drama comes from John Madden, whose Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture just over 23 years ago. Lately he’s been best known for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel. The cast is led by Best Actor recipient for The King’s Speech Colin Firth as well as Matthew McFadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, and Jason Isaacs.

The Rotten Tomatoes score is 92%. Yet many of those positive reviews aren’t quite raves. Perhaps Costume Design or Production Design isn’t completely out of the question and maybe BAFTA voters will take notice of it. However, the likelier scenario is that Netflix will have bigger contenders that they’ll be championing and not this particular operation. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Assistant Movie Review

On Netflix’s popular series Ozark, the words of Julia Garner’s Ruth often speak louder than her actions. Her boisterous character serves as a de facto assistant to Jason Bateman’s beleaguered money launderer and the performance has earned her Emmys. The Assistant, written and directed by Kitty Green, finds Garner in a much different occupation in terms of duties and with her overall demeanor.

Jane works as a film production assistant to a mostly unseen and unheard big shot. She works long hours steeped in tedium as she cleans up the literal and figurative messes of her boss and his minions. From travel arrangements from their New York office to L.A. to making excuses to the whereabouts of her superior to his wife, this is not the dream job that Jane envisioned. Even her hopes that this is leading to something bigger and better seem to be diminishing.

The camera rarely leaves Jane on the Monday that the proceedings occur. Aspiring actresses flow in and a mysterious and very young new assistant is flown in from Idaho and put up in a fancy hotel. Sitting with her fellow junior staffers (Jon Orsini and Noah Robbins), they develop a strained if well-meaning support system.

Yet our title character knows she’s in a hostile work environment. When Jane approaches the company’s HR head (Matthew MacFayden), it’s made chillingly clear that her complaints are falling on deaf ears. We get the idea that if she just keeps quiet, her mundane existence in this drab office will improve. At what cost? Her words and actions don’t matter.

Like that office, The Assistant is not flashy. The Weinstein type figure feet away from Jane’s desk is left to our imagination. All we have to see is her weary but expressive face to know that he’s dangerous. It is Garner’s performance, wildly different from her Ozark persona, that kept my attention. This is essentially a horror film where the scary incidents are usually hinted at or, more sadly, joked about. They develop over Jane’s long day where it seems the next day will be just as long and with no resolution in sight. That’s pretty frightening.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Disney’s expensive rendering of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms dances into theaters on Friday and it does so with mostly negative reviews. It stands at just 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and the studio may have a rare commercial disappointment on their hands (the budget is a reported $130 million).

So why in the world am I doing an Oscar Watch post on it? Well, the one positive aspect most critics point out is its set design and outfits adorning the actors. That could put Nutcracker in a similar situation with the Mouse Factory’s live-action version of Alice in Wonderland in 2010.

That also received middling reviews (though it did very well financially). It was rewarded with nominations in Art Direction (now called Production Design) and Costume Design. Realms could certainly play in both of those categories and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling. Wonderland also won Best Visual Effects, but that race could be a reach with this.

Bottom line: even though word-of-mouth is not strong, Nutcracker has a shot at some down-the-line categories.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Box Office Prediction

Disney is hoping for a sizable family and female audience next weekend when The Nutcracker and the Four Realms dances into theaters. The fantasy adventure is based on both the 1816 E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and Tchaikovsky’s ballet with a cast including Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew MacFadyen, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. Realms shares directing credit between Lasse Hallstrom (who shot most of it) and Joe Johnston (who came in for late re-shoots). In a strange twist of irony, the pic’s directorial drama is shared by Bohemian Rhapsody, which opens on the same day.

Unlike many Mouse Factory properties, The Nutcracker is a big question mark as to its box office viability. Buzz for this doesn’t seem on the level with many of their other productions. While Disney has been churning out one blockbuster after another, we have seen both A Wrinkle in Time and Christopher Robin come in with less than anticipated opening weekends. Both of those features struggled to eventually reach the $100 million mark. While Realms won’t have much family competition its first weekend out, that will change quickly as Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and Ralph Breaks the Internet all debut shortly afterwards.

I believe this could struggle to join the century club like Wrinkle and Robin. It appears poised to come in second to the aforementioned Rhapsody. That said, I don’t want to underestimate the studio’s marketing prowess too much. Yet my gut says a gross in the $20 million range is where this starts and word-of-mouth will decide the rest.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Bohemian Rhapsody prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/23/bohemian-rhapsody-box-office-prediction/

For my Nobody’s Fool prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/24/nobodys-fool-box-office-prediction/