Oscar Watch – The Croods: A New Age

Seven and a half years after DreamWorks Animation had a prehistoric animated comedic hit on their hands with the original, The Croods: A New Age hits theaters this Wednesday. It will surely be a different box office story in these COVID times as part 2 will follow with its PVOD unveiling in time for Christmas. The toon is directed by Joel Crawford and returns the vocal stylings of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, and Cloris Leachman. New faces behind the mics include Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran.

The review embargo ended today and the results are mostly positive with a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s in line with the 72% achieved by its predecessor. In 2013, part 1 managed a Best Animated Feature nod. It was defeated by a massive Pixar front runner by the name of Frozen. 

2020 could see history repeat itself with the caveman family. One could argue that it’s easier to slide into the final five this year and A New Age looks to do so. Yet there is once again a heavy favorite to win the prize and that is Soul from (you guessed it) Pixar. Other acclaimed titles such as Wolfwalkers and Over the Moon appear to be likely nominees and Pixar has another hopeful with Onward (though after the snub of Frozen II from last year, it’s not a guarantee that one makes it in).

Croods could easily fill the fourth or fifth slot come nomination time, but I wouldn’t chisel its inclusion in pen just yet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Soul

Disney/Pixar’s second 2020 release Soul has long been seen as their most viable Oscar contender over this spring’s Onward. Today’s buzz after it held the first screening at the London Film Festival confirms that. The jazz infused tale from Pete Docter and Kemp Powers is being called two familiar adjectives in the studio’s lexicon – heartfelt and crowd pleasing. Soul, after experiencing delays due to the COVID pandemic, is slated for a Disney+ debut on Christmas Day.

Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett, several reviews are already claiming it’s in the upper echelon of Pixar pics. Docter is no stranger to Academy love. All three of his directorial efforts – Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out – were nominated for Best Animated Feature. The latter two emerged victorious and Up is one of three animated flicks to achieve a Best Picture nomination.

The question is not whether Soul will make the final cut in Animated Feature. It absolutely will and it’s absolutely the strong front runner to win. A better debate is whether this is the fourth animated effort to contend for the big prize. I don’t believe that’s automatic. Inside Out also garnered sterling critical reaction in 2015 and fell short of that achievement. However, Soul has solidified its position as a legit hopeful.

Additionally, expect Best Sound and the Original Score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to be in the mix. Bottom line: Soul helped it cause to play beyond Animated Feature. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Over the Moon

Glen Keane is a bit of a Disney legend having served as a character animator for classic titles including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. He’s also no stranger to Academy attention. Three years ago, he won an Oscar alongside collaborator Kobe Bryant for the short film Dear Basketball. On October 23, Netflix debuts his feature length directorial debut Over the Moon. The computer drawn musical features the voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, and Sandra Oh.

Early reviews are pretty encouraging. That said, Keane’s most notable competition comes from his former employer. Disney/Pixar’s Soul (which just announced a Disney+ streaming bow on Christmas Day) is rumored to be special and it’s been the strong front runner for Animated Feature for some time. That hasn’t changed and the real question is what’s the current runner-up.

Over the Moon could be it, but I’m beginning to believe Wolfwalkers might be in second position based on its fantastic critical reaction. Bottom line: expect Moon to be in the final five for animated fare. A win is far less likely. Also look for its Original Song titled “Rocket to the Moon” to get some attention in that category. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2020 Oscar Predictions: October 1st Edition

As October begins, my weekly Oscar predictions get a major expansion as I am now including all categories covering feature length films! Additionally, I’m dwindling the listed prospects in all the top races. For Best Picture, it goes from 25 to 15. The directing, acting, and screenplay contests drop from 15 to 10. This is why you’ll see so many movies dropping out of contention.

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch is rumored to be moving from the 2020 window. While this has yet to be confirmed, I have taken it out of the running at this time. Obviously once its release date is announced, I’ll adjust accordingly.

For the tech races and Animated Feature, International Film, and Documentary Feature – I’ve definitely learned that these estimates will be fluid over the next months. This is just a first glimpse at where my head’s at.

As for developments in the significant categories:

  • Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari makes it debut in my nine predicted Picture nominees and that takes out Pixar’s Soul (which is listed #1 in Animated Feature). The directing players remain the same.
  • I have switched Kingsley Ben-Adir’s performance in One Night in Miami from Supporting Actor to lead. He makes the five and that drops Tom Hanks in News of the World. The Best Actress estimates remain.
  • The Supporting Actress nominees also stay intact. However, Ben-Adir’s shift in Supporting Actor means I am now including three actors from The Trial of the Chicago 7: Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Sacha Baron Cohen. I’m not at all confident this happens, but it’s where I am at the moment. I now have Leslie Odom, Jr. as the representative from One Night in Miami in the race. Lakeith Stanfield moves away from the top five.
  • There are no changes in the screenplay predictions.

As a bonus, I am including how many nominees from my initial full predictions in 2019 ended up getting nominated in each race to give you an idea of historical accuracy. I will note that I didn’t expand my estimates last year until October 17th, so I did have a bit more to go on.

And with all that, let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. News of the World (PR: 4)

5. One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 8)

7. The Father (PR: 6)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 7)

9. Minari (PR: 12)

Other Possibilities:

10. Soul (PR: 9)

11. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 11)

12. Dune (PR: 10)

13. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 13)

14. Ammonite (PR: 16)

15. The White Tiger (PR: 14)


Dropped Out:

The French Dispatch


The United States vs. Billie Holiday


The Midnight Sky


Next Goal Wins

Red, White and Water

C’Mon C’Mon

French Exit 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Paul Greengrass, News of the World (PR: 3)

4. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

5. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 6)

7. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 8)

8. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari (PR: 11)

9. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 7)

10. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy 

Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater


Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 1)

3. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 3)

4. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 4)

5. Michele Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 7)

8. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 8)

9. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 11)

10. Meryl Streep, The Prom (PR: 9)


Dropped Out:

Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

Jennifer Lawrence, Red, White and Water

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Rachel Brosnahan, I’m Your Woman

Marion Cotillard, Annette

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 1)

2. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR 2)

3. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 3)

4. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: Not Ranked)

5. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 5)

7. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 8)

8. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: 12)

9. Matt Damon, Stillwater (PR: 6)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 7)


Dropped Out:

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Courier

Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

Adam Driver, Annette

Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Ben Affleck, The Way Back

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 1)

2. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 2)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 3)

4. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 5)

5. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 6)

7. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 7)

8. Lily Collins, Mank (PR: 14)

9. Natasha Lyonne, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 9)

10. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater (PR: 8)


Dropped Out:

Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans

Mary J. Blige, Respect

Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

3. Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami (PR: 7)

4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 6)

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 8)

7. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 5)

8. Tom Pelphrey, Mank (PR: 9)

9. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 12)

10. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 11)


Dropped Out:

Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (moved to Lead Actor)

Frank Langella, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Richard Jenkins, The Humans

Tom Burke, Mank

Charles Dance, Mank 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 2)

3. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

4. Soul (PR: 3)

5. Minari (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. On the Rocks (PR: 11)

7. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 6)

8. Ammonite (PR: 9)

9. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 10)

10. Stillwater (PR: 8)


Dropped Out:

The French Dispatch


Pieces of a Woman

Red, White and Water

Never Rarely Sometimes Always 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. One Night in Miami (PR: 2)

3. The Father (PR: 3)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 5)

5. News of the World (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 6)

7. Dune (PR: 8)

8. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 7)

9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 9)

10. French Exit (PR: 10)


Dropped Out:

The White Tiger

Next Goal Wins

The Humans

First Cow

The Midnight Sky

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soul 

2. Over the Moon

3. Wolfwalkers

4. Onward

5. The Croods: A New Age

Other Possibilities:

6. The Willoughbys

7. Connected

8. Rumble

9. Trolls World Tour

10. Ride Your Wave


Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Crip Camp

2. Boys State

3. All In: The Fight for Democracy

4. Dick Johnson is Dead

5. Spaceship Earth

Other Possibilities:

6. John Lewis: Good Trouble


8. The Truffle Hunters

9. Miss Americana

10. On the Record


Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. Quo Vadis, Aida?

2. The Disciple

3. Night of the Kings

4. Ema

5. Atlantis

Other Possibilities:

6. Another Round

7. The Life Ahead

8. Young Ahmed

9. A Sun

10. Memory House 


Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Nomadland

3. News of the World

4. Dune

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Da 5 Bloods

7. One Night in Miami

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

9. Ammonite

10. Tenet


Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank 

2. The Trial of the Chicago 7

3. Emma

4. Dune

5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Other Possibilities:

6. Coming 2 America

7. Ammonite

8. News of the World

9. Mulan

10. The Personal History of David Copperfield


Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7

2. Mank

3. News of the World

4. Nomadland

5. Dune

Other Possibilities:

6. Da 5 Bloods

7. One Night in Miami

8. Tenet

9. Judas and the Black Messiah

10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Dune

3. Birds of Prey

4. Coming 2 America

5. Mulan

Other Possibilities:

6. The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. No Time to Die

8. Emma

9. Wonder Woman 1984

10. Ammonite


Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Soul

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. Dune

Other Possibilities:

6. News of the World

7. The Midnight Sky

8. One Night in Miami

9. Over the Moon

10. Tenet


Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

2. “Free” from The One and Only Ivan

3. “Only the Young” from Miss Americana

4. “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7

5. “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami

Other Possibilities:

6. “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

7. “Rocket to the Moon” from Over the Moon

8. “Carried Me with You” from Onward

9. “Never Break” from Giving Voice

10. “See What You’ve Done” from Belly of the Beast


Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank

2. Dune

3. News of the World

4. Mulan

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Other Possibilities:

6. Ammonite

7. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

8. One Night in Miami

9. Tenet

10. Judas and the Black Messiah


Best Sound

Predicted Nominees:

1. Tenet

2. Dune

3. Soul

4. Sound of Metal

5. Respect

Other Possibilities:

6. The Invisible Man

7. News of the World

8. No Time to Die

9. The Trial of the Chicago 7

10. Wonder Woman 1984



Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune

2. Tenet

3. Greyhound

4. Wonder Woman 1984

5. The Invisible Man

Other Possibilities:

6. Mulan

7. The Call of the Wild

8. No Time to Die

9. Free Guy

10. Birds of Prey


And that gives us our first breakdown of how many nominations I believe we will see for each picture:

12 Nominations

The Trial of the Chicago 7

10 Nominations


8 Nominations


7 Nominations

News of the World

6 Nominations

Nomadland, One Night in Miami

5 Nominations

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

4 Nominations

Da 5 Bloods, The Father, Soul

2 Nominations

Ammonite, Minari, Mulan, Pieces of a Woman, Tenet

1 Nomination

All In: The Fight for Democracy, Atlantis, Birds of Prey, Boys State, Coming 2 America, Crip Camp, The Croods: A New Age, Dick Johnson is Dead, The Disciple, Ema, Emma, French Exit, Greyhound, Hillbilly Elegy, The Invisible Man, Judas and the Black Messiah, Miss Americana, Night of the Kings, No Time to Die, The One and Only Ivan, Onward, Over the Moon, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Respect, Sound of Metal, Spaceship Earth, Wolfwalkers, Wonder Woman 1984

Back at it next week, folks!

Oscar Watch: Wolfwalkers

Disney/Pixar isn’t the only entity with a sterling track record in the Best Animated Feature race at the Oscars. Irish outlet Cartoon Saloon has seen all three of their features nominated in the category. In all these instances, their product lost to a film with Disney and Pixar stamped on the credits.

Saloon’s fourth title is the environmentally conscious adventure Wolfwalkers, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. It is Saloon’s third collaboration with filmmaker Tomm Moore (who co-directs alongside Ross Stewart). His 2009 effort The Secret of Kelis scored a nod and lost to Up. Follow-up Song of the Sea fell short to Big Hero 6. The studio’s third feature – 2017’s The Breadwinner – made the final five with Coco emerging as the victor.

Early reviews from Toronto indicate that Wolfwalkers is another winner and it seems bound for nomination #4 for the Saloon. The pic is slated for stateside distribution later this year via Apple TV. Yet Pixar awaits with the impending release of Soul, which is currently seen as the favorite to take the gold.

Bottom line: Cartoon Saloon should make it 4 for 4 in Best Animated Feature. Beating the Mouse Factory looks to be its ongoing challenge. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 2010: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today on the blog, we come to the third and final replay of the cinematic summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts covering 1990 and 2000, you may find them right here:



This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.

As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!

10. The Other Guys

Domestic Gross: $119 million

The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.

9. The Last Airbender

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.

8. Grown Ups

Domestic Gross: $162 million

Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.

7. The Karate Kid

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.

6. Shrek Forever After

Domestic Gross: $238 million

Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.

5. Despicable Me

Domestic Gross: $251 million

At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.

4. Inception

Domestic Gross: $292 million

Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.

3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Domestic Gross: $300 million

2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.

2. Iron Man 2

Domestic Gross: $312 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.

1. Toy Story 3

Domestic Gross: $415 million

Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.

And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:


Domestic Gross: $118 million

Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.

The Expendables

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.

Eat Pray Love

Domestic Gross: $80 million

This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.

Dinner for Schmucks

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Domestic Gross: $31 million

There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.

The Kids Are All Right

Domestic Gross: $20 million

This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.


Domestic Gross: $8 million

Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.

Winter’s Bone

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook. 

And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:

Robin Hood

Domestic Gross: $105 million

With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.

Sex and the City 2

Domestic Gross: $95 million

The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Domestic Gross: $90 million

A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.

The A-Team

Domestic Gross: $77 million

A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.

Knight and Day

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.

Jonah Hex

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…

Tenet Falls Back

As I’ve stated in any COVID-19 related post on this blog, the release of movies in theaters is far from the most pressing concern as it relates to the pandemic. However, this site covers the world of film and a significant development occurred today when it comes to that future.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has long been seen as the first real test of financial viability for theaters. For several months now, it has been the tentpole release pegged to be out of the gate before all others. With its $200 million budget and with one of the few directors behind it that guarantees an audience, a direct to streaming output has never been an option. Many other smaller budget features have already gone that route and it’s been covered here. Tenet was originally scheduled for a global bow last Friday (July 17) before shifting to July 31 and then August 12. Hours ago, Warner Bros. made an announcement that many have been anticipating. The thriller starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson has now moved to a familiar release date… TBD.

The studio’s press release still indicates a desire for a 2020 rollout. The announcement goes on to say that Tenet may not receive a traditional release. Reading between the lines – this means it could be out in foreign markets before it hits screens stateside. This is in no doubt related to the recent surge of COVID cases in North America vs. other parts of the world.

Why is this announcement on one movie so big? Because a domino effect is sure to follow and it has already started. Rom com The Broken Hearts Gallery from Sony Pictures shifted its August 7th date to TBD shortly after. The Russell Crowe pic Unhinged is still slated to open next weekend (July 31). We will see if that holds (it could be a prime candidate for streaming).

Disney’s Mulan is currently scheduled for August 21. I would not be surprised if this changes and quickly. You may recall that it was originally supposed to come out in March when the pandemic began shutting down sectors of the economy.

Warner Bros. also revealed that The Conjuring 3 (part of their flagship horror franchise) is now moved to summer of 2021. One must wonder what other studios will do with some of their high profile product scheduled for September and October (August is pretty much wiped out at this juncture save for Mulan at the moment). That list includes A Quiet Place II (already delayed from spring) and Wonder Woman 1984 (already delayed from summer).

Bottom line: the fall back of Tenet greatly increases the probability of November being the real start of major product in the multiplexes. That’s when already delayed projects like Black Widow, No Time to Die, and Soul are scheduled. And that is, of course, tentative as well in this new cinematic reality.

Oscar Watch: A Midyear 2020 Report

It might be hard to fathom, but we are at the midpoint of this experience we call 2020. As COVID-19 and social issues dominate the landscape, the cinematic world has necessarily taken a backseat to the times. The Academy recently announced that the Oscars will be delayed until April 2021 and that movies premiering in January and February of that year will be eligible for consideration. This is in addition to previous notice that streaming pictures that forgo a theatrical release will also be able to nab nominations at that ceremony.

Since theaters have essentially been shuttered since March and with several festivals (the normal breeding grounds for awards hopefuls) either canceled or significantly modified, a midyear report on Oscar contenders is, to put it mildly, challenging.

Yet… here goes! As awards followers already know, the bulk of serious contenders aren’t  typically released until fall anyway. In fact, the earliest release of the nine Best Picture nominees last year was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came out in late July. The remaining 8 had autumn and winter dates.

The Sundance Film Festival from January did give us some potential contenders. Florian Zeller’s The Father was acclaimed and it could score nods for previous winners Anthony Hopkins in lead actor and Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress. The biographical tale of feminist icon Gloria Steinem finds several actresses playing her at different ages. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander (they also both have gold statues) are among them and could be potential nominees. Previous nominee Carey Mulligan garnered solid reviews for Promising Young Woman. 

And there’s Minari. The South Korean family drama starring Steven Yeun won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. I wouldn’t sleep on its chances with the right marketing push from its studio A24. That same studio has the 19th century set indie First Cow, which also has its ardent admirers. They would need to make a major push in order for Oscar to notice it.

For movies that have actually come out, the Jane Austen inspired Emma saw positive notices for lead Anya-Taylor Joy. Ben Affleck got some of the best reviews of his career with the basketball drama The Way Back. Pete Davidson’s starring debut in The King of Staten Island drew mostly praise. And Elisabeth Moss starred in the hit The Invisible Man and it’s a possibility she could be recognized even though acting nominations in horror flicks are rare. Neither Toni Collette (Hereditary) in 2018 or Lupita Nyong’o (Us) last year could pull it off. Moss could also be recognized for Shirley, a drama that debuted at Sundance and is already available via streaming.

Then there’s Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee. The director saw his last picture, BlacKkKlansman, receive numerous nominations and win Adapted Screenplay. I would posit that Bloods stands the best chance at multiple nods including possibly Picture and Director. Delroy Lindo (though it’s not clear whether he’d be campaigned for in lead or supporting) seems highly likely to be recognized. And if he’s campaigned for in Best Actor (which he probably should be), it could open the door for Clarke Peters or Jonathan Majors to make the cut in supporting.

In other races – Pixar’s Onward could compete in Animated Feature, though Disney could save their muscle for the upcoming Soul. Look for Emma to nab a Costume Design nod.

And we shall leave it there for now, folks! As readers of the blog know, expect more Oscar Watch posts to come your way as titles screen. Typically it’s late August when I start my weekly predictions and hopefully that’s a tradition that can be kept in this crazy thing we call 2020…

Cannes Do Spirit

The Cannes Film Festival, originally scheduled for May in the French Riviera, was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, an announcement today confirmed that the long running fest will exist in some form. And like everything in 2020… it’s a little confusing. A lineup announcement of 56 pictures was put out as being in the Cannes fold. However, these titles will premiere at various other events scheduled later in the year such as the Toronto and Telluride festivals, among others.

Awards watchers know that Cannes is a fertile breeding ground for Oscar hopefuls. Just last year, Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite won top Cannes prize the Palme d’or and eventually won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Some other titles (among many) that premiered at Cannes and got Oscar attention include Apocalypse Now, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, and The Pianist. 

So what are some significant 2020 Cannes contenders that could vie for Oscar gold? I’ll give you a quintet and we start with Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. The latest effort from the acclaimed filmmaker is his live-action follow-up to 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel which nabbed a leading nine nominations at that year’s Oscars. The cast is filled with familiar faces and many Anderson regulars including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, and Anjelica Huston. It is obviously high on the list for potential players throughout awards season.

Ronan also costars in Ammonite, a period drama from director Francis Lee. Her costar is Kate Winslet and between the two of them they have 11 Academy nominations. Expect plenty of chatter as to their viability in the performance races.

Steve McQueen is premiering not one, but two pictures with the Cannes label – Lovers Rock and Mangrove. The director saw his 2013 pic 12 Years a Slave awarded Best Picture. Both of his new titles focus on race relations in the United Kingdom.

Finally, Pixar is in the mix with Soul. Originally scheduled for summer, it was pushed back to November and is rightfully seen as a top tier contender in the Animated Feature derby. Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, Soul is directed by Pete Docter. He’s responsible for two of the studio’s most acclaimed entries and Oscar winners – 2009’s Up and 2015’s Inside Out.

I would suspect that the 51 other Cannes selections could wind up in the mix as well (especially in the International Feature Film race). Time will tell, but the Cannes label will carry on in 2020 (albeit under unforeseen and unique circumstances).

Onward Box Office Prediction

The 22nd Pixar pic in the past quarter century debuts next weekend with Onward. The fantasy flick comes from director Dan Scanlon, who also made the sequel Monsters University in 2013. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lead a voice cast that includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, Mel Rodriguez, Wilmer Valderrama, Tracey Ullman, Dave Foley, and John Ratzenberger.

Per usual for Pixar, reviews are strong with a current 85% Rotten Tomatoes score. Some critics have said this isn’t quite in the league of their classics. Interestingly, this is the first selection from the studio not to open in either summer or fall (with the vast majority having premiered in June or November).

That could have the effect of making Onward not seem like the event debut that most Pixar offerings are. There is also some family competition from holdovers Sonic the Hedgehog and The Call of the Wild. Still, Disney knows how to market their product. Only three of the Pixar titles that had wide releases have made under $50 million out of the gate. I expect this will top that, but $60 million could be a slight reach. I’ll say mid 50s is the likely scenario – on par with non-Pixar Mouse Factory pictures such as Big Hero 6 and Ralph Breaks the Internet. 

Onward opening weekend prediction: $54.3 million

For my The Way Back prediction, click here: