Oscar Watch: No Sudden Move

The wildly eclectic filmography of Steven Soderbergh peaked with awards voters in 2000 when two of his pictures (Erin Brockovich and Traffic) represented 40% of that year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees. While Gladiator took the big prize, Soderbergh took gold for his direction of the latter. Half of the 2000 acting contenders came from his work with Julia Roberts as Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro in Supporting Actor with Traffic.

Since then, the Academy has failed to nominate any of Soderbergh’s many efforts that followed. This weekend, No Sudden Move premiered on HBO Max. The 1950s crime thriller, in addition to costarring del Toro, features a large cast including Don Cheadle, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Julia Fox, Ray Liotta, and Bill Duke.

Reviews are solid as this sits at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet this appears to be another genre flick that is unlikely to make an impression with the Academy. Bottom line: it’s been over two decades since Soderbergh was in the Oscar mix and don’t look for Move to suddenly change that. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hubie Halloween Movie Review

Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems. 

Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).

As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.

Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.

The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.

** (out of four)

Marriage Story Movie Review

If there’s one message that’s abundantly clear throughout Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, it’s that divorce is awful. Not only due to the wrenching emotions involved (though they’re clearly on display here), but for the process itself. The separating parties here play Monopoly on a regular basis with their son. And the lawyers involved here often treat the dissolution of Charlie and Nicole’s union as a similar game of take and take. It’s so personal, but it’s also business.

Adam Driver’s Charlie is an acclaimed NYC playwright married to Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole, a former teen actress who turned feature player in his theater productions. We meet them as they’ve already decided to divorce. They talk as if they want the procedure to go as smoothly as possible, but soon discover that’s impossible. The problems include custody disputes with their boy Henry (Azhy Robertson), a bicoastal disagreement as Nicole moves back to L.A. to go into TV, and their attorneys always trying to get an edge. Laura Dern’s high-priced Nora represents Nicole while Alan Alda’s weary Bert and Ray Liotta’s unrelenting Jay take turns with Charlie.

Apparently based somewhat on Baumbach’s own experiences, the writer and director is careful not to take sides. Marriage Story doesn’t have heroes or villains and even the counselors are doing their job. It’s the system that’s created them and Baumbach spares no witty anger in condemning it.

This subject matter is nothing new to big screen and it was 40 years ago that Kramer vs. Kramer also took on the divorce industry and won Best Picture for it. We are fortunate that Baumbach spends the time developing Charlie and Nicole into fully formed beings. You’ll root for them and against them. You may hope for a reconciliation, but with a knowing that this incompatibility is legitimate. Lesser films might attempt to find the easy way out.

Marriage Story has a stagey feel to it. There’s long monologues and lengthy scenes of actors discussing their game plan. We even have a couple unexpected musical interludes from the divorcees. Driver and Johansson are certainly up to the task with particularly solid supporting turns from Dern and Alda. The former may have the flashier part, but Alda’s character is equally intergral. When Charlie points out that these proceedings are unnecessarily complex and often contradictory, Bert can’t even muster the energy to counter these points. And while the auteur’s latest doesn’t exactly break new ground, it is often absorbing and exceedingly well performed.

*** (out of four)

The Irishman Movie Review

There are the types of characters we have met before in Martin Scorsese’s gangster genre works, but never quite like this. There are characters we never really meet here, but we’re introduced to the way they die. There are characters that never speak, but we’re aware of their thought process. And it’s that time consuming process that the filmmaker goes through here that makes The Irishman feel both invigorating and melancholy.

The thought of reuniting this director, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and anything involving the Mob is enough to get many running to the theater or, in this case for most, Netflix. Add Al Pacino to the mix (working with Scorsese somehow for the first time) and there’s more incentive. Yet this is far from a rehash of previous material. It’s an often stunning work that stands on its own merits. There is no coasting happening with De Niro or Pacino and that’s something they can rightfully be accused of in the past quarter century or so. The pair (who shared just a couple of scenes in Michael Mann’s masterful Heat and greater screen time in the unfortunate Righteous Kill) contribute some of their finest work in years. For Pesci, he hasn’t worked in years and his return finds him playing a Mafia boss but in a way you won’t expect.

The unexpected is key here and welcome. Just as GoodFellas gave audiences a final act kinetically viewed from Ray Liotta’s coked out perspective, the last segment of The Irishman is made from a considerably lower dosage. As De Niro’s character enters his final act, we witness him finally pause to consider his existence. And it’s not of a glorified nature.

In this tale based on certain truths and possible myths, De Niro is Frank Sheeran. He’s a World War II vet and truck driver residing in Philadelphia. Frank saw plenty of combat overseas and he’s willing to have a career of killing back stateside. His employer becomes Russell Bufalino (Pesci), the area crime boss and confidante of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Frank soon becomes Hoffa’s body man, enforcer, and trusted friend. Whether on assignment from Bufalino or Jimmy, Frank’s speciality is to “paint houses” (code for taking out whomever he’s ordered to). He’s skilled at it and the screenplay from Steven Zaillian gets into the occasional minutia and necessary strategy of carrying out such tasks.

Hoffa’s bigger than life personality (something Pacino is perfect to portray) often conflicts with the more buttoned down approach of Bufalino (something Pesci is more surprisingly adept at). This frequently leaves Frank in the position of mediator of murder or no murder. There’s plenty of it here, but The Irishman is noticeably less bloody than GoodFellas or Casino. 

De Niro has by far the most screen time and his work is perhaps the most impressive in a picture loaded with two other heavyweights in excellent form. It’s ultimately his film to carry and he does so with an ability he hasn’t shown in a long while. There’s plenty of other familiar faces from Harvey Keitel as another boss to Ray Romano as the group’s very busy attorney. Frank’s family is given the short shrift, but that’s no accident as he doesn’t have much time for them. His relationship with one daughter played by Anna Paquin is a constant thread and it’s a quiet and powerful one.

The Irishman transpires over several decades and Scorsese made the choice not to use younger actors to play the main roles in their 30s and beyond. This is done through de-aging visual effects that, while certainly not perfect, are the best I’ve seen yet. Most importantly, I didn’t find it as a distraction after a couple of minutes.

Just as Hoffa is obsessed with punctuality, The Irishman is about time. In this world of criminals and betrayal and violence, time moves fast. The film itself doesn’t at three and a half hours. That didn’t feel overly padded to me. This is good company. However, as this draws to a close, time slows down for some characters as well. And as Scorsese and three legendary actors expertly show for 209 minutes, some doors for reflection are slammed shut with a bang. Others are left slightly open for it.

**** (out of four)

2019 Oscar Predictions: September 5th Edition

A lot can change in a week and that’s certainly the case in my second edition of weekly Oscar predictions for 2019. That’s because the Venice and Telluride festivals have happened and numerous contenders have emerged. Some have seen their fortunes dwindle (like Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat or Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn). Other films and performances have received a serious boost like Ford v Ferrari, Waves (not even on my radar last week), The Two Popes, and Renee Zellweger in Judy.

While last Thursday provided my pre festival rankings, there’s plenty of movement that’s occurred since then. And by next Thursday… the picture will begin more clear with the Toronto Film Festival beginning today and where several other high profile hopefuls will screen.

Let’s get to it, shall we?


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Marriage Story (PR: 2)

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

4. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 11)

5. Parasite (PR: 7)

6. 1917 (PR: 4)

7. Little Women (PR: 5)

8. Jojo Rabbit (PR, 10)

9. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

10. The Report (PR: 9)

11. The Farewell (PR: 6)

12. Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Pain and Glory (PR: 16)

14. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 12)

15. Joker (PR: 15)

16. A Hidden Life (PR: 19)

17. Dark Waters (PR: 17)

18. Bombshell (PR: 13)

19. The Lighthouse (PR: 21)

20. Harriet (PR: 14)

21. Just Mercy (PR: 20)

22. Rocketman (PR: 22)

23. Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

24. The Laundromat (PR: 8)

25. Ad Astra (PR: 23)

Dropped Out:


Avengers: Endgame

The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 4)

4. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 5)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 12)

7. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 8)

8. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 6)

9. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 10)

11. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 13)

13. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 11)

14. Todd Haynes, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

15. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Steven Soderbergh, The Laundromat

Kasi Lemmons, Harriet


Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 5)

3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 3)

4. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 2)

5. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 4)

7. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 6)

8. Natalie Portman, Lucy in the Sky (PR: 12)

9. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 8)

10. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 9)

11. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 10)

12. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 15)

13. Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 13)

15. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart


Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 3)

4. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 8)

7. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 4)

8. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 5)

9. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 7)

10. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 12)

11. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 13)

12. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 14)

13. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim (PR: 15)

14. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Adam Driver, The Report


Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

2. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 1)

3. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

4. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 3)

5. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat (PR: 5)

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 7)

8. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Janelle Monae, Harriet (PR: 10)

10. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 11)

11. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 9)

12. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 13)

13. Anna Paquin, The Irishman (PR: 12)

14. Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters (PR: 6)

15. Taylor Russell, Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Catherine Deneuve, The Truth

Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 2)

3. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 4)

4. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

5. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 6)

7. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 7)

9. Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Waves (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Jamie Bell, Rocketman (PR: 10)

11. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 5)

12. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 9)

13. Gary Oldman, The Laundromat (PR: 3)

14. Matt Damon, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Ray Liotta, Marriage Story

Matthew Rhys, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

Leslie Odom, Jr., Harriet

Timothee Chalamet, Little Women


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 4)

3. Little Women (PR: 3)

4. Dark Waters (PR: 5)

5. The Laundromat (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 6)

7. Joker (PR: 7)

8. Just Mercy (PR: 9)

9. The Goldfinch (PR: 11)

10. The Good Liar (PR: 12)

11. Toy Story 4 (PR: 8)

12. Motherless Brooklyn (PR: 14)

13. The King (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Downton Abbey (Not Ranked)

15. Judy (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Ford v Ferrari (moved to Original)

Avengers: Endgame


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked)

4. Parasite (PR: 5)

5. The Report (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Farewell (PR: 3)

7. Pain and Glory (PR: 7)

8. Waves (Not Ranked)

9. Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Adapted)

10. Booksmart (PR: 6)

11. The Lighthouse (PR: 12)

12. Bombshell (PR: 9)

13. Harriet (PR: 11)

14. 1917 (PR: 8)

15.  Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Ad Astra


Queen and Slim

Expect more changes next week when much of the Toronto happenings will have transpired! Until then…

2019 Oscar Predictions: August 29th Edition

Welcome to my first edition of my weekly Oscar predictions where I’ll be ranking my top 25 Best Picture possibilities and 15 contenders in the directing, acting, and screenplay categories!

The dawn of my rankings coincides with the start of film festival season as Venice is in full swing with Telluride and Toronto on deck. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story has already screened in Italy and solidified its status as a serious contender in numerous races. There’s a whole bunch of movies premiering in the coming days so expect the picture to become a wee bit clearer. That said, I’ve learned a lot of things from years of past predicting when it comes to this time of the year:

  • Movies thought to be contenders will fail to live up to their buzz
  • Movies will be pushed back to 2020 and render them ineligible
  • Leading actor and actress candidates will be moved to supporting and vice versa
  • Screenplays considered Adapted will become Original and vice versa
  • Sleepers not currently on the radar will rise up… think last year’s Best Picture winner Green Book

With all those caveats, let’s get to it! And expect updates every Thursday on the blog…


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman

2. Marriage Story

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

4. 1917

5. Little Women

6. The Farewell

7. Parasite

8. The Laundromat

9. The Report

Other Possibilities:

10. Jojo Rabbit

11. Ford v Ferrari

12. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

13. Bombshell

14. Harriet

15. Joker

16. Pain and Glory

17. Dark Waters

18. Booksmart

19. A Hidden Life

20. Just Mercy

21. The Lighthouse

22. Rocketman

23. Ad Astra

24. Avengers: Endgame

25. The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. Sam Mendes, 1917

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

5. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Other Possibilities:

6. Greta Gerwig, Little Women

7. Steven Soderbergh, The Laundromat

8. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory

9. Lulu Wang, The Farewell

10. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life

12. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari

13. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

14. Todd Haynes, Dark Waters

15. Kasi Lemmons, Harriet


Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

4. Robert DeNiro, The Irishman

5. Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Other Possibilities:

6. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

7. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

8. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

9. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

10. Adam Driver, The Report

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar

14. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems

15. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim


Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

2. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

4. Awkwafina, The Farewell

5. Renee Zellweger, Judy

Other Possibilities:

6. Charlize Theron, Bombshell

7. Alfre Woodard, Clemency

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim

11. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell

12. Natalie Portman, Lucy in the Sky

13. Felicity Jones, Aeronauts

14. Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart

15. Kristen Stewart, Seberg


Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

3. Gary Oldman, The Laundromat

4. Al Pacino, The Irishman

5. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Other Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Joe Pesci, The Irishman

8. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

9. John Lithgow, Bombshell

10. Jamie Bell, Rocketman

11. Ray Liotta, Marriage Story

12. Matthew Rhys, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

13. Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

14. Leslie Odom, Jr., Harriet

15. Timothee Chalamet, Little Women


Predicted Nominees:

1. Annette Bening, The Report

2. Laura Dern, Marriage Story

3. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell

4. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

5. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat

Other Possibilities:

6. Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women

8. Florence Pugh, Little Women

9. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

10. Janelle Monae, Harriet

11. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

12. Anna Paquin, The Irishman

13. Jennifer Hudson, Cats

14. Catherine Deneuve, The Truth

15. Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman

2. The Laundromat

3. Little Women

4. Jojo Rabbit

5. Dark Waters

Other Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Joker

8. Toy Story 4

9. Just Mercy

10. Ford v Ferrari

11. The Goldfinch

12. The Good Liar

13. Judy

14. Motherless Brooklyn

15. Avengers: Endgame


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. The Farewell

4. The Report

5. Parasite

Other Possibilities:

6. Booksmart

7. Pain and Glory

8. 1917

9. Bombshell

10. Dolemite Is My Name

11. Harriet

12.  The Lighthouse

13. Ad Astra

14. Us

15. Queen and Slim

And that does it for my inaugural ranked predictions! Keep an eye on the blog daily for ongoing developments…

Oscar Watch: Marriage Story

One of the most eagerly awaited Oscar contenders premiered today at the Venice Film Festival and it seems to have only elevated its status. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is receiving rave reviews as it explores the dissolution of the union between Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s characters. It currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Baumbach’s sole Academy nod came for his Original Screenplay for The Squid and the Whale in 2005. A second recognition in that race seems assured. The auteur, who based the script on his own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, also stands an excellent shot at his first directing nomination and the picture itself is likely to make the cut among the 5-10 nominees in the biggest race of all.

As for the performers, Marriage is the rare film that could see nods in all four acting categories. Johansson has remarkably never the beneficiary of an Academy nomination, despite four Golden Globe calls for her work. Expect that to change in what’s being called a career best. Driver appears in line for his second Oscar nod in a row after last year’s supporting turn in BlacKkKlansman. In the supporting races, look for Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. As for Supporting Actor, both Ray Liotta and Alan Alda are possibilities and it will be interesting to see which one of them grabs momentum.

Bottom line: look for this Marriage to be a storyline throughout awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 1997: The Top 10 Hits and More

Put on your nostalgia goggles (or maybe the sunglasses that make you forget stuff if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones flash a light at you) because I’m recounting the summer of 1997 on the blog today!

This has become a seasonal tradition around here and I gave you the top 10 summer hits of 1987 and more earlier this week. If you missed that post, you can find it here:


This time around, we’re going back 20 years when Nicolas Cage accounted for 25% of the top 8 moneymakers and Batman crashed and burned.

We’ll begin with the top ten and then get to some other notable pics and flops:

10. Hercules

Domestic Gross: $99 million

Disney’s ‘toon couldn’t reach the century mark and that was considered a disappointment after early and mid 90s smashes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. 

9. Contact

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Forrest Gump (which ruled summer 1994) was a well-regarded science fiction drama with Jodie Foster and an emerging Matthew McConaughey.

8. Con Air

Domestic Gross: $101 million

This action thriller from the Bruckheimer factory is our first to feature Mr. Nicolas Cage (who was coming off a recent Oscar win), along with an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames.

7. George of the Jungle

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Disney probably didn’t anticipate this remake of the  cartoon starring Brendan Fraser would manage to out perform Hercules, but that it did.

6. Batman and Robin

Domestic Gross: $107 million

This may have placed sixth for the summer, but Batman and Robin came in well below its three predecessors and director Joel Schumacher and new Caped Crusader George Clooney have been apologizing about it for the last 20 years. We’re still trying to block out those Arnold/Mr. Freeze bad puns.

5. Face/Off

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Mr. Cage teamed up for Mr. John Travolta for John Woo’s entertainingly over-the-top sci-fi and action mash-up.

4. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Domestic Gross: $127 million

Julia Roberts made a return to box office dominance in this rom com which featured stolen scenes from costar Rupert Everett.

3. Air Force One

Domestic Gross: $172 million

“Get off my plane!” became one of the season’s catchphrases with Harrison Ford as the butt kicking POTUS battling Russian terrorist Gary Oldman in the skies.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $229 million

Steven Spielberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1993’s Jurassic Park kicked off with the biggest opening weekend of all time (at that time). However, in the end, it couldn’t manage to top the gross of its predecessor. If you’d polled probably any box office analyst at the beginning of the year, they likely would have said it’d be #1 for the summer. Yet that honor ended up belonging to…

1. Men in Black

Domestic Gross: $250 million

A franchise was born and Will Smith made it two summers in a row with the top grossing picture (the previous year being Independence Day) with Barry Sonnenfeld’s megahit sci-fi action comedy.

And now for some other notable pics:

The Fifth Element

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Luc Besson’s visual feast featuring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. Sound familiar? Same thing is happening 20 years later with Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The Mike Myers 007 spoof performed well, but it wasn’t until home video that Powers turned into a genuine phenomenon spawning countless catchphrases. Its sequel two summers later would earn more in its opening weekend that part 1 did in its domestic total.

The Full Monty

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This British import about unconventional male strippers was the summer’s true sleeper and went on to earn a host of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Monty would earn over $250 million worldwide compared to its tiny $3.5 million budget.

Cop Land

Domestic Gross: $44 million

After appearing in a string of high-octane action flicks, Sylvester Stallone changed it up with this crime drama featuring an impressive supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Harvey Keitel.

And now for some of the season’s large belly flops:

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Domestic Gross: $48 million

Keanu Reeves didn’t want to touch it, but Sandra Bullock came back for this ridiculed sequel where Jason Patric was the new lead. Considered by many to be one of the worst follow-ups of all time.

Out to Sea

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau created comedic gold with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple and reunited years later to box office fortune with the Grumpy Old Men movies. This one? Not so much.

Father’s Day

Domestic Gross: $28 million

Ivan Reitman directing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a high-profile comedy? Sounds like a good recipe, but the product was mediocre at best and audiences didn’t turn out.

Excess Baggage

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Two summers earlier, Alicia Silverstone had broken out with Clueless. The summer of 1997 was a breakdown. In addition to appearing as Batgirl in the already discussed Batman and Robin, this action comedy with Benicio del Toro bombed big time.


Domestic Gross: $1.7 million

People may have wanted to watch Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, but they had zero interest in watching him as the title superhero in this disaster.

And that does it for now, folks, but I’ll be back soon recounting 2007!

The Identical Box Office Prediction

The weekend after Labor Day is often the slowest box office frame of the entire year and 2014 stands an excellent chance at keeping that tradition going. There is only one new release opening wide Friday and it’s not a very high profile one – The Identical, a musical drama that will attempt to bring in faith-based audiences. I’m highly skeptical that it will. The decades spanning period piece imagines that Elvis Presley’s identical twin does not die during childbirth and grows up unaware of his famous lineage while struggling to forge his own music career.

The Identical has some recognizable faces in supporting roles, including Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pantoliano. Real life Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne is in the title role. Marketing for the pic has seemed minimal and it opens on a low numbers of screens (approximately 1450). Being the only newbie in town next weekend, it seems destined for a bad opening well behind holdovers Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Identical opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Box Office Prediction

Nearly ten years after its predecessor performed solidly at the box office, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For makes it theatrical debut Friday. Original directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are back behind the camera, based on Miller’s work from his acclaimed graphic novel. Several stars of the 2005 pic return – including Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Powers Boothe and Jaime King. Newcomers to the sequel include Joseph Gordon Levitt, Josh Brolin, Lady Gaga, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Lloyd, Ray Liotta, and Jeremy Piven.

It was the spring of 2005 when Sin City did great business of the gate domestically with $29 million. However, it would suffer large declines in subsequent weekends and its final gross was a respectable $74 million. The big question is whether too much time has passed for audiences to really be clamoring for a sequel?

I have my doubts. The original was mostly well-received and there will be some who are excited to see it (myself included). However, the near decade long wait makes it unlikely that Dame will approach the performance of the first. I would be surprised if it exceeds $25 million in its debut and believe a high teens to low 20s debut is more likely.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For opening weekend prediction: $20.8 million

For my If I Stay prediction, click here:


For my When the Game Stands Tall prediction, click here: