Oscar Watch: Belle

Three years ago, Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai scored a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars (ultimately losing to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). The Japanese director has unveiled his follow-up effort Belle at the Cannes Film Festival (receiving a 14 minute standing ovation) and this looks to be another contender in an already bustling 2021 field.

Critics are praising the visuals of Hosoda’s latest creation and it’s even drawing references to The Matrix for its style. It opens in Japan today with North American distribution anticipated for the fall. As mentioned, we have already seen a handful of serious hopefuls for the Academy to consider. This includes Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, and another Cannes selection with Where Is Anne Frank. The Mouse Factory also has Encanto later in 2021 while Netflix has Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 on deck.

Bottom line: add Belle as one more legit contestant for inclusion. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Where Is Anne Frank

In 2008, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman received heaps of acclaim for his animated war docudrama Waltz with Bashir. It took home the Best Foreign Language prize from the Golden Globes in addition to winning the Annie Award. Bashir was in the Academy’s five nominees in their international feature competition. His 2013 follow-up The Congress did not match the bonafides of its predecessor as far as awards chatter.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Folman’s latest drawn feature Where Is Anne Frank has screened. As you can tell from the name, this is another title dealing with serious subject matter. Frank is told from the perspective of Kitty, the imaginary girl whom the title character addressed her letters.

While some early reviews are positive, the current 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating puts in the same realm as The Congress. That causes me to doubt whether this makes the cut in what is shaping up to be a competitive Animated Feature Oscar race in 2021. Disney already has a trifecta of hopefuls with the already released Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca and the forthcoming Encanto. Netflix has a strong contender with The Mitchells vs. the Machines and could have another in Wendell and Wild. And there’s already a checked box with animated fare showcasing more dramatic themes in Flee (which screened at Sundance earlier this year).

Bottom line: I wouldn’t completely count this out and we’ll see if it picks up any steam. Yet this could certainly be on the outside looking in come nomination morning.

2021 Oscars: A Mid-Year Report

We have somehow reached the midpoint of 2021 and that means it is time to take stock in the Oscar contenders that have been released or screened so far. In short, we are talking about fairly slim pickings.

That is not rare. The bulk of the Best Picture nominees are typically unveiled between September-December of a given year (or in the case of 2020 – January or February of 2021 as well). For the previous Academy Awards, not one of the 8 BP contenders were distributed in the first half of the year. However, 3 of them (The Father, Sound of Metal, Promising Young Woman) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. Another (Sound of Metal) was screened all the way back in September 2019 during Toronto’s festival.

As a reminder, Oscar rules were altered moving forward starting with next year’s ceremony. There will be a fixed number of 10 BP nominees (thank goodness). As I see it, the 2021 Sundance Fest gave us three potential hopefuls in the big race: Sian Heder’s Coda, Rebecca Hall’s Passing, and Fran Kranz’s Mass. 

Coda and Mass, in particular, seem like real possibilities. The former, in addition to a Picture nod, could see itself as a contender for Emilia Jones in Actress and Marlee Matlin in Supporting Actress. The latter sports a quarter of performers (Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney) that could find themselves in the mix. Passing, while more of a long shot for BP, features Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga and they will likely be campaigning.

How about movies that didn’t go the Sundance route? The obvious one is In the Heights from Jon M. Chu. The musical garnered glowing reviews when it premiered in theaters and on HBO Max last month. However, its surprisingly lackluster box office grosses may hinder its chances. Time will tell.

There are already three released animated features that could make the final five: The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Luca, and Raya and the Last Dragon. I think the first two have strong chances while Raya is more of a question mark. Flee, which screened at Sundance, was critically hailed and it could find itself competing here and in Documentary Feature.

As for other docs, keep an eye out for Summer of Saul (which actually releases tomorrow) and Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.

And when we look at below the line categories, there’s Cruella. Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling are two derbies where it could not only be nominated, but prevail. I also wouldn’t completely count out Coming 2 America for the same categories. The Sound race is open for A Quiet Place Part II. Godzilla vs. Kong is a hopeful in Visual Effects.

Bottom line: expect nearly all of 2021’s Best Picture players to see their release dates in the next six months. At least two could come from Sundance with Heights hoping its box office fall doesn’t sink its chances.

Oscar Watch: Luca

Two days ahead of its streaming debut on Disney Plus, Pixar’s latest comedic fantasy Luca has seen its review embargo lifted. It marks the feature-length directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa (who’s done story artist work on some of the studio’s pics) and has a cast voice cast that includes Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan.

Set in the Italian Riviera, the coming-of-age tale is taking the same distribution route as last year’s Soul by passing multiplexes for home viewing. In 2020, Soul was seen as the sturdy frontrunner for Best Animated Feature and that narrative never changed. That Pixar effort sported a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score and ended up winning gold at the Oscars. The path for Luca could be trickier.

Its Tomato meter currently sits at 89% and while that’s quite good, many critics are saying Luca is not in the upper echelon of Pixar fare. I would say the question is not whether Luca gets nominated (it will), but whether it wins. The score by Dan Romer also has a shot in that race. Disney already has another entry from this spring that could make the final five in Animated Feature (Raya and the Last Dragon), but Luca would have an edge. However, there’s also The Mitchells vs. the Machines from Netflix and it should serve as major competition for the top prize. This is in addition to films slated for the second half of 2021 (remember the names Flee and the Mouse Factory’s own Encanto).

Bottom line: You can never count out Pixar. Luca will likely hear its name included when the Animated Features contenders are named. Its victory presents a more challenging path than Soul experienced. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

June 11-13 Box Office Predictions

The two week spell of horror sequels topping the box office charts should be broken this weekend with the release of the musical adaptation for In the Heights and kiddie follow-up Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/02/in-the-heights-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/05/peter-rabbit-2-the-runaway-box-office-prediction/

I look for multiplexes playing Heights to not be a quiet place and I’m projecting a mid 20s rollout for what should be a #1 opening. This is despite Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-creation also playing on HBO Max as the pic is the first real Oscar buzz contender of 2021. I anticipate a healthy female and Latino turnout.

The Rabbit sequel may not match the $25 million achieved by its 2018 predecessor, but I do think it’ll conjure up a mid to high teens posting for what should easily be a second place debut.

As for those horror sequels, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It premiered on the higher end of expectations (more on that below). The previous direct predecessor, 2016’s The Conjuring 2, fell a precipitous 63% in its sophomore outing. Devil will probably suffer a similar decline and that could put it in a third place showdown with the third frame of A Quiet Place Part II. I actually believe Place could edge out Devil for that slot, but it should be awfully close. Disney’s Cruella will round out the top five.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. In the Heights

Predicted Gross: $26.8 million

2. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Predicted Gross: $15.9 million

3. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $9.4 million

4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $8.7 million

5. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $6.3 million

Box Office Results (June 11-13)

I was too generous to the holdovers and too miserly with the newcomers this past weekend as The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opened at #1 with $24 million. My prediction of $19.8 million was off the mark and I had it placing second to A Quiet Place Part II. Oops. The return of the Warrens and their supernatural investigations premiered on the higher end of expectations, but well below the $40 million plus starts of its two predecessors. That said, considering it’s also on HBO Max, it’s a solid haul.

A Quiet Place Part II slipped to second with a 59% decline and $19.2 million. I was far more optimistic at $28.4 million. While I was off, Paramount has to be pleased. The sequel has generated $88 million in ten days.

Cruella was third in its sophomore outing at $11 million (I projected more with $13 million). The Disney live-action remake stands at $43 million.

DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed was fourth with $6.1 million, galloping past my $4.4 million forecast. While I was more skeptical, this is about where it was anticipated to land.

Raya and the Last Dragon was fifth with $1.2 million (I said $1.6 million) and it’s up to $53 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Spirit Untamed

In 2002, the horse drawn animated adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron managed a Best Animated Feature nomination (ultimately losing to Spirited Away). Nearly two decades ago, the pic received mostly positive reviews with a 70% Rotten Tomatoes rating and decent box office. Since then, a Netflix series focused on the main character led to Spirit Untamed, which opens in theaters today. It features the voices of some familiar faces like Jake Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore

So how are its odds to race to awards voters ballots? Not good. Untamed has mostly stalled with critics and its Tomato meter is a mere 44%. We already have solid contenders to make the final cut (Raya and the Last Dragon and The Mitchells vs. The Machines) and there’s plenty more on deck for the second half of the year including the soon to be released Luca from Pixar.

Bottom line: I can’t imagine Dreamworks Animation will mount a spirited campaign for this one. Gyllenhaal’s only equestrian related Oscar contender should remain Brokeback Mountain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

June 4-6 Box Office Predictions

The first box office frame of June brings a battle of horror sequels as Hollywood basks in the glow of a profitable holiday weekend. With A Quiet Place Part II surpassing expectations, it should be poised for a loud sophomore frame. The competition comes from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the eighth picture in the billion dollar franchise’s cinematic universe. We also have DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed, a spinoff of the Netflix series and kinda sorta sequel to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newcomers here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/26/the-conjuring-the-devil-made-me-do-it-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/27/spirit-untamed-box-office-prediction/

It feels a bit strange to predict Devil will experience the lowest overall opening of the entire series, but that’s where I’ve landed. I can’t help but wonder if Warner Bros would want a little more daylight between its debut and the sophomore frame of Quiet if they had a do-over. My forecast of just under $20 million should put it in second place unless Cruella has a remarkable hold.

As for Emily Blunt and company, it’s worth noting that the original Quiet Place fell only 34% in its follow-up outing. The sequel may dip a tad further, but a gross in the mid 20s to even low 30s is on the table. Cruella should be #3 in the lower teens range. I don’t have much faith in Spirit and my meager estimate has it in fourth. Raya and the Last Dragon should round out the top five.

So it’s horror sequels and family entertainment and different kinds of spirits in the top five this weekend and here’s how I see it all transpiring:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

3. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $13 million

4. Spirt Untamed

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 28-31)

Originally slated for March 2020, moviegoers proved they were willing to wait for A Quiet Place Part II. John Krasinski’s critically heralded sequel posted a COVID era best Memorial Day weekend debut of $57 million. That easily outshines my $43.6 million projection. Studios must be rejoicing in this encouraging sign for the summer season ahead.

Disney’s Cruella with Emma Stone also opened to pleasing numbers with $26.5 million (ahead of my $22.7 million estimate). Despite being on Disney Plus as well for a premium price, parents and kids turned out for the Mouse Factory’s latest live-action update of an animated classic.

Holdovers populated the 3-5 slots and it was close. Raya and the Last Dragon was third at $2.8 million (I went lower at $1.6 million). Its total is $51 million. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man took fourth with $2.7 million (I said $2.4 million) for $22 million overall. Spiral was fifth after two weeks at #1 with $2.6 million (under my $3.2 million prediction) for a $20 million tally.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

May 28-31 Box Office Predictions

In what is bound is to be the biggest box office weekend so far in the COVID-19 era, the Memorial Day frame marks the unofficial kickoff of the summer season at multiplexes. There are two genuinely high-profile debuts with John Krasinski’s horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II with Emily Blunt and Disney’s live-action remake Cruella with Emma Stone in the title role. My detailed prediction posts on the pair can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/11/a-quiet-place-part-ii-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/19/cruella-box-office-prediction/

As I have said a lot recently, we are in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time in a long time where we have two major releases out in the same holiday weekend. Just as entities are opening up everywhere, the same can be said for theaters. I believe AQPII can top $40 million over its four day premiere with Cruella managing low to mid 20s. There is the lingering suspicion that either or both can outdo my estimates.

The rest of the top five will be filled with holdovers and they may experience smallish declines given the holiday. And with that, my top 5 projections from Friday to Monday for a weekend that Hollywood has been eagerly anticipating:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $43.6 million

2. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $22.7 million

3. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $3.2 million

4. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $2.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 14-16)

As anticipated, it was the calm before the potential storming back of big grosses over this past frame. Spiral repeated at #1 in its sophomore outing with $4.5 million. It held up rather well for its genre ahead of my $4 million prediction. The overall gross for the gross out Saw sequel is $15 million.

Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man remained in second with $2.9 million. My estimate? $2.9 million! Total is $18 million.

Third place belonged to Angelina Jolie’s Those Who Wish Me Dead at $1.9 million compared to my $1.7 million take. The two week tally is $5 million.

Raya and the Last Dragon was fourth with $1.6 million, just under my projection of $1.7 million for $48 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong rounded out the top five with $1.4 million. I incorrectly had it outside my top five. At $96 million, the monster mash is inching ever so close to becoming the first $100 million domestic earner in the COVID era.

Finally, Demon Slayer was sixth at $1.3 million (which was my estimate) and it’s at $43 million overall.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Cruella Box Office Prediction

Disney’s Cruella will try to scare up some box office business over the Memorial Day weekend after being delayed from its original December 2020 release date. The pic casts Emma Stone in the title role of the villainess as seen in the studio’s 1961 animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians and in the form of Glenn Close for two live-action flicks in the late 90s and early 00s. Craig Gillespie directs with a supporting cast including Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong.

With a massive reported price tag of $200 million, Cruella hits theaters and Disney Plus premium on the same day. Home viewers will need to shell out $30 for couch watching, similar to Raya and the Last Dragon and the upcoming Jungle Cruise and Black Widow. It’s worth noting that Raya opened to $8.5 million in March under this platform. However, the holiday weekend and the fact that theaters are increasing capacity have set an understandably higher bar for Cruella.

Disney has had major success with their recent live-action remakes of animated classics, from The Lion King to Aladdin to The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast and more. Even the lower earners, like Dumbo, started out in the mid 40s. Obviously the dynamic has changed under COVID times. Some families may realize it’s more economical to pay the $30 compared to the cost of hauling the entire brood to the multiplex.

Early word of mouth is quite positive and that should help. I could easily foresee a low to mid 20s rollout for Ms. Stone, her likely to be Oscar nominated costumes, and company.

Cruella opening weekend prediction: $23.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my A Quiet Place Part II prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/11/a-quiet-place-part-ii-box-office-prediction/

May 21-23 Box Office Predictions

The Memorial Day weekend of 2021 could well be a return to impressive box office grosses with the high profile unveilings of A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella. However, this preceding frame will not be memorable at all. There are no wide premieres on the slate and that means no picture is likely to even top $5 million (or even four).

Spiral, the continuation of the Saw franchise, surprisingly failed to generate much heat in its debut (more on that below). A drop of over 50% should be anticipated considering the genre, but it should manage to stay atop the charts for a second weekend in a row.

Holdovers will dominate the rest of the top five. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon could shoot up from #5 to #3 depending on the dips for Those Who Wish Me Dead and Demon Slayer. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man should hold tight in the runner-up position.

And with that, my top 5 take on a weekend where theaters will be a quiet place:

1. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $4 million

2. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

3. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.7 million

4. Those Who Wish Me Dead

Predicted Gross: $1.7 million

5. Demon Slayer

Predicted Gross: $1.3 million

Box Office Results (May 14-16)

I was misguided in my belief that Spiral, which brings Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson into Jigsaw’s cinematic universe, would enjoy a more significant cut at multiplexes. The ninth entry in the horror franchise disappointed with $8.7 million, well below my generous $16.1 million projection. Moviegoers clearly weren’t all that interested in a return to this bloody series. A horror sequel that should gets genre fans back in their seats awaits.

Wrath of Man dropped to second with $3.7 million in its sophomore frame (I was close at $3.9 million). The action thriller stands at $14 million.

The Angelina Jolie thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, which is simultaneously streaming on HBO Max, debuted in third with a dull $2.8 million. I was higher at $3.8 million.

Fourth place belonged to Demon Slayer at $1.8 million compared to my $1.3 million forecast. Overall tally is a sturdy $42 million.

Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top five with $1.7 million (I was lower at $1.4 million). Total is $46 million.

Lastly, another new thriller Profile couldn’t cut it as it earned a tiny $730,000 for a ninth place start. I said $1.2 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…