Oscars: The Case of Women Talking

Women Talking is the final Case Of post for the Best Picture nominees at the 95th Academy Awards. Will we be talking about Women gathering Oscars come March 12th? Let’s get into it.

The Case for Women Talking:

Sarah Polley’s adaptation of the 2018 Miriam Toews novel generated awards buzz out of the gate when it premiered at Toronto. At the Critics Choice Awards, it had a respectable showing with six mentions including BP and Director with a victory in Adapted Screenplay.

The Case Against Women Talking:

There’s a lot. For starters, its total of two nominations is the lowest of the candidates (it’s rare for a BP contender to have only one other nom). Women was ignored in Director, Original Score, and for any of its performances and it was once thought to be in contention for all. BAFTA totally ignored it. The Golden Globes only put it up in two races (Screenplay and Score) and it lost both. Its SAG count is one category. That was in Ensemble with individual players like Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Ben Whishaw left out. Box office grosses have been subpar.

Other Nominations:

Adapted Screenplay

The Verdict:

Women Talking does stand a chance of becoming the Adapted Screenplay recipient. Perhaps this can cling to the hope that CODA took BP last year and it tied for the least numbers of nominations among the ten. Realistically there is just about zero chance of this becoming Best Picture.

While my Case Of posts for BP have concluded, I will now move to the filmmakers and thespians in Director and the four acting derbies. That will begin with the Daniels and their direction of Everything Everywhere All at Once!

If you missed my Case Of posts for the other BP nominees, you can access them here:

Oscars: The Case of Triangle of Sadness

Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness is the penultimate Case Of post for the ten Best Picture nominees at this year’s Academy Awards.

The Case for Triangle of Sadness:

The Swedish filmmaker’s satire targeting the mega-rich began gathering buzz when it played at Cannes and received the Palme d’Or. That made it just the second feature in the 21st century to receive the top Cannes prize and nab a BP nod. The other is Parasite and it won BP three years ago. Östlund was a surprise nominee in Director which could indicate this is stronger than anticipated.

The Case Against Triangle of Sadness:

It hasn’t exactly cleaned up in the precursors. At Critics Choice, it had a sole mention for Best Comedy. There were two Globe noms for Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Dolly de Leon in Supporting Actress (the Academy left her off). The three BAFTA inclusions (de Leon, Original Screenplay, Casting) don’t include Picture. Furthermore, Triangle has yet to win any of these.

Other Nominations:

Director (Östlund), Original Screenplay

The Verdict:

Despite its maker unexpectedly making the directorial quintet, Triangle appears on course for an 0 for 3 performance on Oscar night.

My Case Of posts will continue with Women Talking!

Previous write-ups for the BP hopefuls can be accessed here:

Knock at the Cabin Review

Sunshine causes lingering pain and brief moments of delight in M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin, a dark and grim adaptation of Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel. The filmmaker’s weakest tendencies are present but don’t arise as often in the mostly one space setting. Clunky dialogue and bizarre character choices associated with Shyamalan are kept to a minimum. There’s no rapper bafflingly named Mid-Sized Sedan like in his predecessor Old. The apocalyptic theme is hardly new though it generates a respectable amount of tension.

It also gets to the point in scene one. Leonard (Dave Bautista) may look like a bouncer, but he teaches second grade. We learn this as he introduces himself to seven-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) while she’s catching grasshoppers outside a vacation property in remote Pennsylvania. Wen is the adopted daughter of her two Dads Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). Leonard insists on forcefully entering the cabin with three associates all sporting old school weapons. They’re not your typical home invaders: nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) have kind demeanors like Leonard. Only ill-tempered Redmond (Rupert Grint, all grown up from Harry Potter Weasley fame) seems comfortable breaking and entering.

Dad and Dad don’t welcome their presence and they’re tied up. Eric becomes concussed in the process (hence the sunlight hurting him). The quartet explains that the trio face a gut wrenching choice. They must sacrifice a family member in a short period of time. If they don’t, the world’s population will end in a series of catastrophes. Eric, Andrew, and Wen will survive and everyone else will perish. The hostages are understandably skeptical. Their detainers (who claim they’ve all experienced similar visions of devastation) aren’t afraid to display how serious they are. This includes news footage that shows they might be onto something.

The bulk of Cabin is reserved for us deciding whether Leonard and company are telling the truth. We do get flashbacks of Eric and Andrew’s relationship before and after they bring Wen into their lives. They feel somewhat superfluous yet they are fleeting interludes in the appreciatively brisk 100 minutes. Bautista is playing against type. You would think of him as a teacher in a silly comedy where he displays his bulk. This is far from that and his work is restrained in a positive way. All the performance are adequate. Shyamalan’s track record is spotty with child performances. He is responsible for guiding some great ones (think Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense or Spencer Treat Clark in Unbreakable). Cui’s is on the plus side.

I was a captive audience member for much of the stay. As it continued, I found this surprisingly anticlimactic (especially for something about the Earth maybe ending). Shyamalan has resurrected his career by self-financing his pictures and turning a tidy profit. While that’s admirable, he seems limited by the budget considering all that’s occurring outside the cabin. Like a mid-sized sedan, it’s dependable for awhile until it isn’t.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscars – The Case of Top Gun: Maverick

Will Academy voters feel the need? The need for recognizing the year’s biggest domestic grosser in the Best Picture race at the 95th Academy Awards? It’s the eighth film up for consideration in my Case Of posts.

The Case for Top Gun: Maverick:

This would represent the People’s Choice. Tom Cruise’s summer sequel rode a wave of sizzling buzz to towering business ($718 million stateside) while critics raved (96% on Rotten Tomatoes). It nabbed six nominations including some key ones for a BP victory like Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing.

The Case Against Top Gun: Maverick:

It also missed in some important precursors. Despite a DGA spot, director Joseph Kosinski was omitted from the Oscar five. Maverick was considered a threat to take Cinematography gold (as it did at the Globes), but was snubbed. Mega-blockbusters don’t usually take the grand prize (it’s been almost 20 years since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King rose above its competitors).

Other Nominations:

Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Song, Sound, Visual Effects

The Verdict:

The sound of a Maverick win may be likeliest in Sound. The preferential ballot could lend itself to an upset in BP. It has a better shot than the other sequel in contention Avatar: The Way of Water. However, the odds are slightly against it.

My Case Of posts will continue with Triangle of Sadness!

If you didn’t catch my previous write-ups on BP contenders, click here:

Oscars: The Case of Tár

Todd Field’s Tár is next up in my Case Of posts for the ten Best Picture nominees. Time to weigh the pros and cons…

The Case for Tár:

Auteur Field has a knack for attracting the Academy’s attention with his trilogy of pictures. In 2001, In the Bedroom received five nods (including BP and Field’s Adapted Screenplay). Five years later, Little Children nabbed three and that once again included its maker’s adapted screenplay. Tár, with a towering lead performance from Globes and Critics Choice victor Cate Blanchett, saw him emerge from a long break and it received six Oscar mentions (including directing and original screenplay for Field).

The Case Against Tár:

Despite Blanchett being at least a co-frontrunner in Actress, she marked the only Globes win. At Critics Choice, its additional award was for Original Score. While this is a critical darling that generated some regional groups victories, the box office office was quiet at $10 million. Both Bedroom and Children went home empty-handed on Oscar night.

Other Nominations:

Director (Field), Actress (Blanchett), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing

The Verdict:

As with the aforementioned precursors, Tár‘s strongest shot at gold is with Blanchett and not Best Picture.

My Case Of posts will continue with Top Gun: Maverick!

To access my previous Case Of posts, click here:

Oscars: The Case of The Fabelmans

My Case Of posts will for the ten Best Picture hopefuls is past the halfway point as we consider the pros and cons of our sixth competitor The Fabelmans.

The Case for The Fabelmans:

Steven Spielberg’s 13th movie to be nominated for BP (only Schindler’s List won) is his most personal as arguably today’s most iconic director gets autobiographical. It was first seen at the Toronto Film Festival where it took the People’s Choice Award. That’s a prize shared by later Oscar winners such as The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, Green Book, and Nomadland. At the Golden Globes, it had a big night as it was bestowed Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Spielberg nabbed the directorial trophy. A victory here could be seen as a genuine thank you for its maker’s cinematic contributions.

The Case Against The Fabelmans:

That genuine thank you could just as easily come with Spielberg being Best Director and BP going to something else. Despite the Globes love, BAFTA was shockingly dismissive as its sole nomination is for screenplay. At Critics Choice, it went a mere 1/11 with Gabriel LaBelle as Best Young Actor (a non-existent Academy race). While the seven nominations are decent, there were notable omissions including Film Editing and Cinematography. It’s also undeniably a box office dud with $16 million at press time.

Other Nominations:

Director (Spielberg), Actress (Michelle Williams), Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Production Design

The Verdict:

There is a universe in which The Fabelmans gets BP and Director, but I would put it behind Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Banshees of Inisherin right now. An Ensemble win at SAG could help momentum. It may be behind the aforementioned at that ceremony too.

My Case Of posts will continue with Tár!

If you missed my previous posts in the series, you can access them here:

Titanic 25th Anniversary Box Office Prediction

On February 10th, we will see if audiences are ready to go back to Titanic. The James Cameron romance pic/disaster flick is being re-released on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. This is just as Avatar: The Way of Water wraps up its seven-week #1 domestic stand with $2 billion+ worldwide run at multiplexes.

The movie that made Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet icons currently stands as the 8th largest stateside earner in history. At the time of its release, it vaulted to first place. With $659 million overall (and that includes some previous re-releases), it could jump a spot over Avengers: Infinity War ($678 million). Worldwide it is #3 ($2.2 billion) with Water ($2.1 billion) hot on its heels. And, yes, Cameron does now have three of the four all-time global grossers with Avatar ($2.8 billion) atop that chart.

Speaking of the original Avatar, it was put back in theaters last September a few months before the sequel was unleashed. It made $10.5 million in its first frame of re-issuance. I could see Titanic matching or maybe slightly exceeding that figure.

Titanic 25th Anniversary opening weekend prediction: $11.6 million

For my Magic Mike’s Last Dance prediction, click here:

Magic Mike’s Last Dance Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Update (02/03): There are reports that the film is only releasing on around 1500 screens. Therefore I am revising my estimate down significantly from $17.7M to $10.7M. If the theater count changes, I will update accordingly.

A decade after they turned a meagerly budgeted $7 million dramedy into a $100M+ hit, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the third iteration (or gyration) of Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum’s franchise. The former returns to direct after sitting out 2015’s sequel Magic Mike XXL after helming the 2012 original. The latter is back in the role that turned him into a superstar. His costars from the first two are MIA, but Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, and Caitlin Gerard join the fun.

After being absent onscreen for several years, Tatum returned to multiplexes in 2022 with his directorial debut Dog ($61 million domestic gross) and The Lost City alongside Sandra Bullock ($105 million stateside). Last Dance was originally slated for an HBO Max premiere before Warner Bros opted for the theatrical output.

It’s worth noting that Magic Mike XXL couldn’t match part 1. The 2012 model made $113 million. XXL generated half of that with $66 million. The diminishing returns could continue unless female moviegoers are feeling especially nostalgic. That’s possible, but I’m skeptical. Some of that demographic may opt for the Titanic re-release instead. Low teens is probably the floor and I don’t believe this surpasses $20 million out of the gate.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance opening weekend prediction: $10.7 million

For my Titanic 25th Anniversary prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions: Knock at the Cabin

Nearly a quarter century ago, M. Night Shyamalan’s phenom The Sixth Sense scared up six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Director. It didn’t win any, but it established the filmmaker as a force at the box office. His fortunes have certainly ebbed and flowed in the 21st century with financial hits and misses. As far as awards attention, only 2004’s The Village achieved another Academy nod for its score.

Shyamalan’s latest is the apocalyptic thriller Knock at the Cabin with Dave Bautista headlining the cast. Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel, Knock‘s embargo is up today ahead of its Friday release. The results are pretty encouraging with a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the low point in his filmography, he had a string of flops and critical bombs (Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth) that racked up plenty of Golden Raspberry mentions.

Cabin is ahead of Shyamalan’s two predecessors Glass and Old as far as the RT meter. It isn’t as high (77%) as comeback vehicle Split from 2017. While Bautista is being complimented for his performance, I don’t see this being welcomed in any of the Academy races a year from now. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscars: The Case of Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once is fifth on the docket in my Case Of posts for the 10 Best Picture nominees. Let’s plead the case for and against it!

The Case for Everything Everywhere All at Once:

The sophomore feature from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as the Daniels) debuted at South by Southwest on March 11th and will have been a legit contender for over a year when the Oscars air March 12th. A critical darling with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it has been nominated in every major precursor. This includes 10 BAFTA nominations, 14 Critics Choice mentions with 5 wins (including Picture, Director and Screenplay), 6 Golden Globe nods with two wins for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, and 5 pending SAG noms. While some have griped that recent BP recipients didn’t break through with mass audiences, Everything was a box office success with $71 million domestically. Its 11 Academy nods are the most of any picture and that includes four for its ensemble (Yeoh, Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu).

The Case Against Everything Everywhere All at Once:

In the last 10 ceremonies, only two films that led or tied in total nominations (Birdman and The Shape of Water) ended up winning BP. One could argue Everything is the frontrunner. In recent years, ask how that worked out for La La Land, Roma, and 1917. The Academy could follow the Globes suit and skew toward The Banshees of Inisherin. There are some prognosticators who feel it’s too strange for the Academy.

Other Nominations:

Director (the Daniels), Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Supporting Actress (Stephanie Hsu), Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song

The Verdict:

I’ve never bought the “too weird for the Academy” or not traditional enough argument. You could say the same for Birdman or The Shape of Water and Everything is looking to model them on the road to victory. It is risky to be out front, but I do feel this is the odds on favorite. A SAG Ensemble loss on February 26th (especially if it’s to Banshees or The Fabelmans) could cause more intrigue. If it wins, look for this to enter March 12th as even more of a probable BP.

My Case Of posts will continue with The Fabelmans!

If you missed my previous posts in this series, you can find them here: