Oscar Watch: Blackbird

The family drama Blackbird has screened at the Toronto Film Festival to fairly decent critical reaction so far. It’s a remake of the 2014 Danish pic Silent Heart from director Billie August. Roger Michell (he made Notting Hill and directed Peter O’Toole to his final Academy nod in Venus) is behind the camera.

Playing a dying woman who gathers her brood for a weekend gathering, it appears Susan Sarandon has the showcase role here over costars Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neil, and Rainn Wilson. She’s been Oscar nominated five times and her last inclusion was the one year she won all the way back in 1995 for Dead Man Walking.

Blackbird is still seeking stateside 2019 distribution. If it gets that, I’ll predict this flies under the radar for awards voters and that includes Sarandon’s work. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Crimson Peak Movie Review

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is both a gothic romance and a ghost story that finds the director and his team of visual wizards absolutely crushing the production design of the late 19th century era we find ourselves in. I love movies set in this time period. I adore the Victorian look and the giant sets that pay close attention to detail. I especially dig it when horror is injected into this world. It seems to just fit. Think From Hell or Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman remake and so on and so forth.

The issue with Crimson Peak is while my eyeballs were more than satisfied – the gothic romance occurring here isn’t terribly interesting and the ghost stuff isn’t too scary. We have intermittent outbursts of gory happenings that sometimes jolt us, but they’re found late in the proceedings. This is after I’d determined that there’s more to meet the eye than the substance of what’s filling the sumptuous sets.

Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing of Buffalo, New York, daughter of an aristocratic businessman (Jim Beaver) and aspiring writer of ghoulish tales. She’s got a bit of experience with her musings as she’s been visited by the CG rendering of her late mother. Ghost Mom has one key message to impart – “beware of Crimson Peak”. Edith’s path soon crosses with Englishman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who’s trying to hawk an invention to her father. He’s not buying what Sharpe is selling, but Edith is quite taken with him.

A confluence of circumstances – some of which involves a bit of ultra violence – sends Edith with Thomas to his family home in England. Thomas’s creepy sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) makes up the rest of the trio at Allerdale Hall, the run down manor that is the aforementioned triumph of the designers behind it. This massive and beautifully rendered estate has another name. I’ll give you a guess.

The screenplay by del Toro and Matthew Robbins doesn’t exactly keep you guessing as to story developments and we see many coming from a mile away. What did surprise me is how flat a number of the performances are from Wasikowska to Hiddleston (he has moments, but that Loki charm is buried for long stretches) to Charlie Hunnam in the thankless role of Edith’s lifelong friend whose romantic interest in her is not reciprocated. Chastain is a terrific actress and she’s about the only one who sometimes rises above the material in a part that reminded me of Mrs. Danvers from Hitchock’s Rebecca.

Yet I could never shake the feeling that Peak just isn’t as frightening as it should be. Then there’s the feeling that the pic is centered on this connection between Edith and Sharpe and it’s a connection we don’t really feel. All that said, the look of it all is damn near enough to give it a bloody recommendation but not quite.

**1/2 (out of four)

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass Box Office Prediction

Nowadays, moviegoers are accustomed to a yearly live-action remake of a Disney classic in the form of your Malificent‘s, Cinderella‘s, and Jungle Book‘s. Yet it was six years ago that the ball really got rolling when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland opened to a fantastic $116 million on its way to a $334 million domestic haul.

Now the Disney machine (who’s been having a banner 2016) has produced the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass and it brings back Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as the title character, Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen. Sacha Baron Cohen and Rhys Ifans join the party. Tim Burton opted not to return to directorial duties (he executive produces) and James Bobin, who made the Muppets reboot, fills that role.

Competition over Memorial Day weekend is considerable with X-Men: Apocalypse also debuting. The biggest hurdle Alice faces could be the six-year gap that it took to produce this follow-up. The original didn’t receive very positive reviews and the story for Looking Glass is even worse with a current 27% Rotten Tomatoes score. I could actually see this performing closely to what another long gestating sequel accomplished over Memorial Day 2012 when Men in Black 3 earned $54 million for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and $69 million for the four-day holiday frame.

Alice Through the Looking Glass opening weekend prediction: $53.6 million (Friday to Sunday), $67.7 million (Friday to Monday)

For my X-Men Apocalypse prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/x-men-apocalypse-box-office-prediction/

 

Oscar History: 2010

In my ongoing series of Oscar History posts, we arrive at what happened during the year 2010. This was quite a strong year for movies and, unlike other years, I can’t really quibble with the ten pictures that were nominated.

I can, however, differ with what won: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. While this was a very solid and entertaining picture, I would have definitely put at least three of the other nominees above it: Black Swan, Inception, and my favorite of the year, The Social Network. Other nominees were 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. 

Picture/Director matched up as Tom Hooper’s work in King’s Speech would win over Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), and David O. Russell (The Fighter). I may have found a spot for Christopher Nolan’s visually striking work in Inception. 

The love for The King’s Speech continued in Best Actor as Colin Firth was honored for his portrayal as King George VI. He triumphed over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and James Franco (127 Hours). It’s worth noting that Franco co-hosted the Oscars that year with Anne Hathaway. It wasn’t too memorable.

While his supporting players were showered with love, Mark Wahlberg was snubbed for his anchoring performance in The Fighter. Others worthy of mention: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island and Robert Duvall for Get Low.

Natalie Portman was a bit of a no-brainer pick for her tour de force work in Black Swan in the Actress race, beating out Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

I was a little surprised to see Bening’s Kids lead costar Julianne Moore left out. Franco’s co-host Anne Hathaway would’ve been a solid choice for her fine work in Love and Other Drugs. The Oscar voters rarely honor comedy, but they could have here with Emma Stone in her hit Easy A, as well.

Supporting Actor honored Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother in The Fighter. The other nominees were John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech).

I might have found room for either Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And keeping the snubbed comedy theme going, here’s an outside the box mention: Rob Corddry for his hilarious work in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Fighter also won in Supporting Actress with Melissa Leo, who edged out her co-star Amy Adams. The other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. The voters could have certainly nominated either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for their roles in Black Swan.

And that’s your Oscar History of 2010, my friends. We’ll get to 2011 soon…

Crimson Peak Box Office Prediction

Guillermo del Toro has earned his reputation as one of the most visionary directors working today with credits including the Hellboy pics, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim. Next weekend comes his latest effort: the gothic horror tale Crimson Peak, which features Alice in Wonderland star Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam.

The $55 million dollar production isn’t expected to reach the box office numbers of the Hellboy movies or Pacific Rim. It doesn’t help that competition is rather fierce with Bridge of Spies and Goosebumps opening the same day with The Martian in its third weekend. Crimson Peak could get somewhat lost in the shuffle for film goers that aren’t del Toro or horror aficionados. Strong reviews could help (they haven’t yet been released but I wouldn’t be surprised if it earns solid notices), but I still will predict this peaks at mid to high teens for its debut.

Crimson Peak opening weekend prediction: $15.8 million

For my Bridge of Spies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/10/08/bridge-of-spies-box-office-prediction/

For my Goosebumps prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/10/08/goosebumps-box-office-prediction/

For my Woodlawn prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/10/12/woodlawn-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s Early Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Today we’ve arrived at day 3 of my first round of Oscar predictions and that means Best Actress is on deck. If you missed my early calls for the Supporting categories, you can read them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/08/30/todds-early-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/08/29/todds-early-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

We’ll get to Actor, Director, and Picture soon enough – but for now, here’s my list of my current Actress predictions with other possibilities also listed. In my original Actress predictions in 2013, I yielded four of the five eventual nominees, so we’ll see if that holds true here, too!

Let’s get to it!

Todd’s Early Predictions for Best Actress

Amy Adams, Big Eyes

Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

 

Other Possibilities:

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Julianne Moore, Map to the Stars

Hilary Swank, The Homesman

Mia Wasikowska, Tracks

Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars

Best Actor will be up tomorrow!