Men is a later than usual addition to my box office predictions as it opens in just two days. This is Alex Garland’s latest feature after his acclaimed sci-fi pics Ex Machina (2015) and Annihilation (2018). More of a horror experience than his usual fare, the A24 distributed tale currently holds an 82% Rotten Tomatoes score. Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear star.
While that’s certainly solid, some critics have predicted that this won’t be an audience favorite. The best hope might be for a decent start as a hefty sophomore weekend drop is likely coming. It sounds as if it’s going quite wide at an estimated 2500 screens (something I wasn’t aware of until this late date). I could see Men debuting in the same range as X from the same studio. It grossed just over $4 million and that sounds about right here.
Men opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million
For my Downton Abbey: A New Era prediction, click here:
In 2015, Alex Garland nabbed an Original Screenplay Oscar nod for his directorial debut Ex Machina. That acclaimed sci-fi tale also surprisingly took the gold in Visual Effects over heavy hitters like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
His 2018 follow-up Annihilation didn’t fare as well at multiplexes or with awards voters. Despite an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating (Machina got a 92%), it failed to generate any nominations.
On February 20th comes Garland’s third behind the camera effort Men. Featuring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, the A24 release sounds like it’s right up the distributor’s dark alley. That means it may score better with critics than crowds. The RT is currently the filmmaker’s lowest at 83% (still pretty darn solid). Like Annihilation, don’t expect it to be in the Academy mix. My Oscar prediction posts will continue…
The five film run of Daniel Craig as perhaps the world’s most famous cinematic character comes to a close in No Time to Die, the 25th feature in the nearly 60-year-old 007 franchise. It began 15 years ago with Casino Royale, which I list at #2 in the canon behind only From Russia with Love (Sean Connery’s second entry).
For those who think the dedicated team behind the series have no time for surprises, be prepared. Like the midsection poker sequence in Royale that stands as one of the finest in Bond history, there’s times where they go all in. There’s also moments that harken back to the Roger Moore days and, in this case, I mean it as a compliment. By the time we reached Craig’s third and deservedly praised Skyfall in 2012, the pics had achieved a level of seriousness that risked becoming too dour.
Despite its considerable flaws, 2015’s follow-up Spectre thankfully remembered that the action and plots in this cinematic universe can be silly. 007’s 25th adventure isn’t afraid to display that. The threat to the world here involves passing a weaponized virus only through that individual’s DNA and those related to them. It’s a little ridiculous and I once again mean that in a good way.
This is not quite the triumph that Casino Royale was. In fact, I’d also rank this a smidge behind Skyfall. The villain is not particularly memorable. Like all Craig films that followed the first, no romantic entanglement will rival the one he had with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yet Die achieves the unlikely feat of bringing those fun Moore elements dashed with Timothy Dalton’s more weighty tone. The result is that Craig’s time as the super spy (the longest in terms of actual time but not volume of titles) is easily the most satisfying since Sean Connery’s.
From the jump, we realize Die is going to be a little different. The pre-title sequence begins with a franchise first: an eerie and gorgeously rendered flashback that sheds light on the childhood of Madeleine Swann. As you may recall, she’s Bond’s love interest from Spectre played by Lea Seydoux. Her connections to that criminal enterprise led by Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is expanded upon. In the present day, James and Madeleine are making a romantic go of it. A visit to Vesper’s tomb disrupts both their safety and Bond’s trust in his current relationship.
This all occurs in the lengthy prologue before we hear Billie Eilish’s title cut. Let’s dispense with that. Ms. Eilish has some quality tunes, but her contribution is forgettable and not the kind of Bond tune you’ll be humming leaving the theater or rushing to download for the ride back.
In the serialized fashion we’ve come to expect from Craig’s tenure (something unique only to his), we jump five years to Bond in retirement. And (gasp) he’s no longer 007. MI6 is still going strong but relations with their U.S. counterparts are strained. It’s not the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) or M (Ralph Fiennes) or even his beloved Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) or Q (Ben Whishaw) that convince Bond to emerge from his Jamaican R&R. Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), along with a new eager associate (Billy Magnussen), recruit him for a mission that involves dismantling SPECTRE. Bond hooks up (not literally as Bond’s libido seems to be catching up with his age) with another agent (Ana de Armas) to do so. This culminates in a wonderfully fabulous and bizarre action set piece in Cuba.
All this activity soon puts James in the same space with Madeline again and with Blofeld. And we soon meet Safin (Rami Malek), the head baddie with his own troubled history with the criminal organization. I won’t wax rhapsodic about Safin as I mentioned he’s a pretty weak villain. On the other hand, No Time to Die is not really focused on his story. This Bond story, more than any other besides Skyfall, is really about Bond. That gives us one more opportunity to soak in Craig’s terrific performance that’s spanned this quintet. One could argue the series goes too far in making it all about him. With Craig in control, you’ll hear few complaints from me (heck even Quantum of Solace had some cool stuff in it).
No Time to Die has Cary Fukunaga taking over directorial duties from Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous two. He presides over some amazing looking chases and battles that rank right at the top of what we’ve seen previously. On a slightly contradictory note, there’s one during the climax that was a little too video game oriented for my taste. The screenwriters (with an assist from Phoebe Waller-Bridge) also remember to bring the humor. As much as Safin isn’t much of a memorable character, he does get a moment with a toddler that left me chuckling for a good minute or two after their interaction. The makers also don’t forget that these pictures can be quite weird in their production design. Safin’s Poison Garden is a glorious example.
Additionally, the team isn’t afraid to bring a rare level of emotion to the proceedings. However, it’s not that out of place for Craig’s service. We witnessed a love story in Casino Royale that went beyond his typical dalliances. His connection to Judi Dench’s M (particularly in Skyfall) went far deeper than the same character giving James his orders in the past. In No Time to Die, Mr. Craig’s mission involves the striking visuals that we’re used to. What’s different is that over the five adventures connected to each other, I felt like these missions developed a familial bond that shook the foundation of a franchise in a stirring fashion.
The 15 year era of Daniel Craig as one of cinema’s most famous characters concludes with No Time to Die. James Bond will return… but not with arguably his best incarnation since Sean Connery. Prior to the October 8 stateside bow, the embargo lifted this evening and the results are encouraging.
007’s 25th adventure stands at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes (with 35 reviews out at press time). Many critics are calling it a surprisingly emotional swan song for Craig’s contribution to the British super spy series. There’s also hints that it resembles more of the Roger Moore era of the canon than one might expect (a direction it seemed to be taking with predecessor Spectre). Ana de Armas is drawing raves for her very short amount of screen time. The consensus on Rami Malek’s main villain seems a bit mixed. There’s some complaints about the length (a Bond high 163 minutes).
Yet no one seems to be arguing that it’s a rather fitting conclusion to Craig’s tenure in the part. So will Oscar take notice? Skyfall, the third pic in the actor’s five appearances, probably came close to a Best Picture nod. It did earn five nominations – winning Sound Editing and Original Song (Adele’s title track) with mentions in Sound Mixing, Score, and Cinematography. 2015’s follow-up Spectre (which had less laudatory reviews) managed a sole nomination in Song with Sam Smith’s “The Writing’s on the Wall” where it scored an upset victory.
I wouldn’t be shocked if an internet campaign is mounted for Craig to get a Best Actor slot (kind of as a tribute to the whole run). It’s highly unlikely to materialize. I do believe Die will make it three in a row for the songs with Billie Eilish’s title tune work. Whether she wins is a question mark (Beyonce has a ditty from King Richard that might serve as its main competition). Cinematography and Sound are two other feasible possibilities.
Bottom line: while I don’t foresee this factoring into the biggest races, tech and musical recognition could be coming its way. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…
***Blogger’s Note Part III (10/06): I have revised my No Time to Die prediction from $104.1 million down to $94.1 million, which would still set a COVID era record.
***Blogger’s Note Part II (10/03): With the news that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has grossed approximately $90 million out of the gate, it’s go big or go home for No Time to Die! I’m re-upping my estimate from $84.1 million to a COVID era best $104.1 million***
**Blogger’s Note (10/01): A week before its stateside premiere, I have decided to significantly increase my prediction (partly due to the apparent over performance of Venom: Let There Be Carnage). I’m going from $72.1 million to $84.1 million**
Ladies and gentlemen, the second frame of October finally marks the weekend for Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007 in No Time to Die. The 25th official entry in the James Bond franchise was gearing up for release in April of 2020 (Billie Eilish’s title track had already dropped) when COVID scuttled the plans. It experienced several more delays before at last settling on October 8. Craig is back for his fifth and final appearance along with series returnees Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, and Christoph Waltz. On the job for the first time are Rami Malek as the main villain, Lashana Lynch, Craig’s Knives Out costar Ana de Armas, and Billy Magnussen.
Anticipation is certainly present with the culmination of Mr. Craig’s service as the British super spy – one rivaled by only Sean Connery. He’s actually had the longest run as the character in terms of time, though not actual volume of pictures. It seems like eons since moviegoers have had their Bond fix. With the frequent pushbacks, the just shy of a six-year wait is the second lengthiest break between 007 adventures (beaten by the sabbatical of 1989’s Licence to Kill and 1995’s Goldeneye at nearly six and a half years).
Fifteen years ago, Craig defied expectations with the critically acclaimed Casino Royale. It made $40 million for its start but legged out very impressively. Sequel (and it was the first true Bond sequel) Quantum of Solace debuted two years later with $67 million. 2012’s Skyfall marked a high point at the box office as it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. The premiere stateside is a series best $88 million. Three years later, Spectre kicked off with $70 million.
So where will this golden era of 007 culminate in terms of opening weekend? There’s certainly a range of possibilities. First things first: it will have no trouble eclipsing what Craig’s first foray achieved a decade and a half ago. I do believe the COVID times will prevent the record setting starting number of Skyfall managed (but you never know). It’s hard to totally factor in the excitement for its star’s last go-round. A video of Craig bidding adieu to his costars and crew has been widely circulated on social media in recent weeks.
My hunch is that a premiere in the range of Quantum and Spectre is most likely stateside (I’m sure its overseas haul will be massive). I’m tempted to say a low to mid 60s gross just under them could occur. However, I’ll err on the side of over performance and project low to mid 70s. (PER ABOVE: I have increased estimate from $72.1M to $84.1M to $104.1 million)
No Time to Die opening weekend prediction: $94.1 million
What a difference a week makes! Last Thursday, I gave you my first initial predictions in the major categories for the Oscars. Since then – we’ve seen a slew of pictures screened at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals.
Films like A Star Is Born, Roma, First Man, and The Favourite solidified their status as contenders. Others like Boy Erased and The Front Runner availed themselves as possibilities, but not slam dunks. Others like Destroyer and The Old Man & The Gun likely took themselves out of the running in Best Picture, but shined a light on their actors that could receive nods.
And here’s the thing… by the time I do my third round of predictions next Thursday, we will have lots more pictures screened at the Toronto Film Festival, which begins today. That includes such high-profile titles as If Beale Street Could Talk, Beautiful Boy, Widows, and more.
Here’s how I have the key races ranked by possibility of nomination at this point in time!
1. If Beale Street Could Talk (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. A Star Is Born (PR: 2)
3. Roma (PR: 4)
4. First Man (PR: 5)
5. Beautiful Boy (PR: 3)
6. The Favourite (PR: 13)
7. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)
8. Boy Erased (PR: 7)
9. Backseat (PR: 8)
10. The Front Runner (PR: 14)
11. Black Panther (PR: 12)
12. Peterloo (PR: 9)
13. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 10)
14. Widows (PR: 11)
15. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 16)
16. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 17)
17. Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 22)
18. Green Book (PR: 21)
19. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 24)
20. Cold War (PR: Not Ranked)
21. At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 23)
22. July 22 (PR: Not Ranked)
23. Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 19)
24. The Sisters Brothers (PR: Not Ranked)
25. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 15)
The Old Man & The Gun
Ben Is Back
1. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 1)
2. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (PR: 2)
3. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 3)
4. Damien Chazelle, First Man (PR: 4)
5. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 5)
6. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (PR: 11)
7. Felix Van Groeningen, Beautiful Boy (PR: 6)
8. Adam McKay, Backseat (PR: 7)
9. Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased (PR: 8)
10. Jason Reitman, The Front Runner (PR: 14)
11. Mike Leigh, Peterloo (PR: 9)
12. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: Not Ranked)
13. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (PR: 13)
14. Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 10)
15. Steve McQueen, Widows (PR: 12)
Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
1. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)
2. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 3)
3. Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy (PR: 2)
4. Christian Bale, Backseat (PR: 6)
5. Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner (PR: 9)
6. Ryan Gosling, First Man (PR: 4)
7. Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 5)
8. Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased (PR: 7)
9. John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 8)
10. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (PR: 13)
11. Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 10)
12. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 12)
13. Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here (PR: 14)
14. John C. Reilly, The Sisters Brothers (PR: Not Ranked)
15. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (PR: 15)
Rory Kinnear, Peterloo
1. Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)
2. Glenn Close, The Wife (PR: 2)
3. Nicole Kidman, Destroyer (PR: 6)
4. Olivia Colman, The Favourite (PR: 9)
5. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 11)
6. Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 5)
7. Toni Collette, Hereditary (PR: 7)
8. Viola Davis, Widows (PR: 3)
9. Natalie Portman, Vox Lux (PR: Not Ranked)
10. Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 4)
11. Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 10)
12. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma (PR: 15)
13. Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 8)
14. Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade (PR: 13)
15. Joanna Kulig, Cold War
Julia Roberts, Ben Is Back
Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
Best Supporting Actor
1. Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (PR: 1)
2. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)
3. Sam Rockwell, Backseat (PR: 3)
4. Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)
5. Russell Crowe, Boy Erased (PR: 4)
6. Oscar Isaac, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 7)
7. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)
8. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (PR: 8)
9. Mahershala Ali, Green Book (PR: 9)
10. Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 13)
11. Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased (PR: 5)
12. Jason Clarke, First Man (PR: 11)
13. David Tennant, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 14)
14. Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick (PR: Not Ranked)
15. J.K. Simmons, The Front Runner (PR: Not Ranked)
Sebastian Stan, Destroyer
Topher Grace, BlacKkKlansman
Best Supporting Actress
1. Claire Foy, First Man (PR: 3)
2. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 2)
3. Amy Adams, Backseat (PR: 5)
4. Vera Farmiga, The Front Runner (PR: 10)
5. Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased (PR: 1)
6. Maura Tierney, Beautiful Boy (PR: 6)
7. Emma Stone, The Favourite (PR: Not Ranked)
8. Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 4)
9. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 12)
10. Amy Ryan, Beautiful Boy (PR: 7)
11. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (PR: 11)
12. Meryl Streep, Mary Poppins Returns (PR: 9)
13. Blythe Danner, What They Had (PR: Not Ranked)
14. Sissy Spacek, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 8)
15. Rachel McAdams, Disobedience (PR: 14)
Tatiana Maslany, Destroyer
Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex
Best Adapted Screenplay
1. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 1)
2. Beautiful Boy (PR: 2)
3. A Star Is Born (PR: 4)
4. Boy Erased (PR: 3)
5. First Man (PR: 6)
6. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 5)
7. The Front Runner (PR: 8)
8. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)
9. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 7)
10. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 9)
11. Disobedience (PR: 13)
12. The Sisters Brothers (PR: 15)
13. Widows (PR: 12)
14. Wildlife (PR: 14)
15. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (PR: Not Ranked)
Arriving nearly 200 years after the English massacre it focuses on, Mike Leigh’s Peterloo has premiered at the Venice Film Festival this weekend. Some of the early reviews are quite strong while others are a bit more mixed. Amazon Studios may have to put in a heavy push for it to get recognized in Best Picture or Director, but it’s certainly possible.
Another scenario, as I see it, is for Peterloo to follow a similar path as Leigh’s previous work. That would be 2014’s Mr. Turner, which picked up nominations for Best Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, and Score. Adding in Makeup and Hairstyling, Peterloo has a legitimate shot at all those down the line categories.
Depending on the strength of competition, Leigh could also find himself recognized in Original Screenplay. If so, it would mark his sixth time at a nod in that race. If he nabs a directing nod, it would be his third after Secrets & Lies and VeraDrake.
Bottom line: it’s uncertain, but Peterloo stands a decent shot at multiple nominations.
The film opens stateside on November 9. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
My weekly ranked Oscar predictions kick off today as the Venice Film Festival is in full swing with Toronto and Telluride on deck!
Each Thursday, I will be bringing you my top 25 possibilities for Best Picture, along with 15 for Best Director, the four acting races, and the screenplay categories.
In November, the rankings will constrict to 15 possibilities for Best Picture and ten for every other race covering feature films (this is when all the tech categories, animated feature, foreign film, documentary will enter the mix).
Before I get to the rankings, some warnings: these will change dramatically as time rolls along. Some features could be pushed back to 2019. Some of them will instantly become non-factors due to poor critical reaction. Others will vault higher.
In the acting races, there is always uncertainty at this juncture about placement in which category. Here’s a few 2018 examples: right now I have Steve Carell listed in lead actor for Beautiful Boy with Timothee Chalamet in supporting. That could switch or both could be campaigned for in lead. Time will tell. Same goes for Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book. Right now, I have Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs for lead, but it could easily be supporting. And it’s uncertain where the women (Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone) of The Favourite will land.
All of this will be sorted out in the coming weeks and months and I’ll be here every Thursday to share with you where I have each category at this snapshot in time.
You can expect a whole bunch of Oscar Watch posts coming your way directly focused on individual films screenings at festivals over the coming days.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. If Beale Street Could Talk
2. A Star Is Born
3. Beautiful Boy
5. First Man
7. Boy Erased
10. Mary Queen of Scots
12. Black Panther
13. The Favourite
14. The Front Runner
15. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
16. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
17. Crazy Rich Asians
18. Old Man & The Gun
19. Bohemian Rhapsody
21. Green Book
22. Mary Poppins Returns
23. At Eternity’s Gate
24. On the Basis of Sex
25. Ben Is Back
1. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
2. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
3. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
4. Damien Chazelle, First Man
5. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
6. Felix Van Groeningen, Beautiful Boy
7. Adam McKay, Backseat
8. Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased
9. Mike Leigh, Peterloo
10. Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots
11. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
12. Steve McQueen, Widows
13. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther
14. Jason Reitman, The Front Runner
15. Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
As mentioned in those posts, these are an early bird snapshot of where I see the races before they come into sharper focus beginning next week. That’s when the film festival kicks off and many of the Oscar bait fall titles will be screened for critics. Starting next Thursday (August 30), I’ll begin posting my weekly ranked predictions in the major film categories.
Tomorrow – look for Best Director and my first take on the new category everyone is talking about – Best Popular Film. Best Picture should be up Sunday!