Oscars 2021: The Case of Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s direction of West Side Story closes out my five Case Of posts for the nominees in the race. If you didn’t catch the previous four, you can get ’em here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Paul Thomas Anderson

Oscars 2021: The Case of Kenneth Branagh

Oscars 2021: The Case of Jane Campion

Oscars 2021: The Case of Ryusuke Hamaguchi

The Case for Steven Spielberg:

He’s Steven Spielberg – the most famous and beloved director in the world. Garnering an 8th nomination for his behind the camera work, he could follow in the footsteps of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. They won 60 years ago for their direction of the 1961 original.

The Case Against Steven Spielberg:

Spielberg’s two previous victories were for Best Picture frontrunners Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan (which ended up getting upset by Shakespeare in Love). West Side Story is not expected to take the big prize and it was also a high-profile box office disappointment.

Previous Nominations: 7 (for Directing only)

Close Encounters of Third Kind (1977); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Schindler’s List (1993 – WON); Saving Private Ryan (1998 – WON)Munich (2005); Lincoln (2012)

The Verdict:

When Spielberg took gold for Schindler’s 28 years ago, he beat out Jane Campion for The Piano. She was probably runner-up. It appears that dynamic will be reversed as Campion is the odds on favorite.

My Case Of posts will continue with the final Best Actress hopeful – Kristen Stewart for Spencer

Oscar Predictions: West Side Story

Sixty years ago, West Side Story emerged triumphant at the Oscars. The musical romance (adapted from the Broadway show by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and the recently departed Stephen Sondheim) won an astonishing 10 Academy Awards including Picture, Director, and both supporting races for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno.

On December 10th comes the long awaited remake from Steven Spielberg starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Ms. Moreno returning to the project that put the O in her EGOT. While the review embargo is still intact, screenings this evening have lifted the social media one. Early word indicates the new Story could be headed for numerous nods as well.

I’ve had this pegged in my ten Best Picture contenders for quite some time and the buzz gives me no pause to change that. Whether Spielberg makes the cut for his eighth directing nod (he’s won twice for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) is a bit more uncertain though it’s certainly possible. Like the 1961 original, its best shot at acting inclusion lies not with the leads. The studio isn’t even campaigning Elgort (this is likely due to some personal issues that surfaced last year). I wouldn’t completely count out Zegler (and she’s getting raves for her cinematic debut), but the Actress derby is packed with hopefuls. In Supporting Actor, David Alvarez could contend for the role that got Chakiris a statue. So might Mike Faist. The Supporting Actor competition appears wide open and if voters truly fall for the project as a whole, either could be swept in. DeBose in Supporting Actress is the most feasible performer that could make the final five in Supporting Actress (though that race has its share of legit contenders too). If so, she’d be up for the same part that nabbed Moreno her hardware. And it’s also possible that Moreno herself could make a play. Adapted Screenplay is also a question mark as screenplays for musicals sometimes face an uphill battle.

Down the line possibilities are plentiful: Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, and Sound. It could be up for any and all and it’s hard to imagine the last three not being close to shoo-in nominations. If all goes right – Story could match the 10 nominations from six decades ago. The most optimistic projection could put it at more. I’m most comfortable proclaiming Picture and at least three tech nods (and probably DeBose) get in. We’ll see if the chatter (and box office) in the coming days elevates this even more. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

After four posts focusing on the acting races at the 2021 Oscars, it’s time to turn to Best Director. If you missed those entries on the lead and supporting performer derbies, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

With the directing category, I do believe there’s three filmmakers that have likely punched their ticket to a nomination. Before we get there, let’s take a look at how my projections panned out at the same early November time frame in 2019 and 2020.

Two years back, I correctly identified four of the five contenders: winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) as well as Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Todd Phillips (Joker) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. 2020 was more unpredictable with two months left to go and that resulted in only two directors being accurately named: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), who took the gold, and David Fincher (Mank). Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) was in Other Possibilities while neither Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) or surprise nominee Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) were yet listed in my top ten.

Back to 2021 and the three individuals who I believe stand probable shots at making the cut. They are Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Denis Villeneuve (Dune).

It was 28 years ago that Campion was nominated for The Piano. If it hadn’t been for Oscar juggernaut Schindler’s List, she likely would’ve been making a speech. Upon its premiere in Venice, Campion took the Silver Lion (equivalent to this competition) for Dog. I don’t see her being left off the ballot.

Belfast is the current frontrunner for Best Picture and it’s hard to envision  writer/director Branagh not making it in. If so, it would be his first nod in directing since Henry V some 32 years back.

Dune is being heralded for its technical wizardry and it should pick up numerous down the line wins and nominations. Five years after his behind the camera work was recognized for Arrival, Villeneuve should be a factor again.

Interestingly, I don’t feel there’s a clear favorite to win. There are plausible scenarios for any member of this trio to emerge victorious. Campion, Branagh, and Villeneuve constitute my top 3 (in that order), but it’s more of a 1a, 1b, and 1c at press time.

As for the other two slots, there’s a few contenders stemming from unseen product. There’s big names in that bunch: Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley, who won four years ago for The Shape of Water), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza, a two-time nominee for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread), Ridley Scott (for House of Gucci and not The Last Duel), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up, previously nominated for The Big Short), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick, Tick… Boom!), and Steven Spielberg (West Side Story,  a two-time winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).

Any of these gentlemen could bubble up to the surface once their pictures are screened. I’m sticking with the two I’ve had in my five recently: del Toro and Anderson.

King Richard has a chance to win Best Picture, but I’m skeptical its maker Reinaldo Marcus Green makes it here. The sports drama seems destined to be recognized more for its performances, but if the Academy really falls for it, Green could be theoretically be swept in. That holds true for Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Pablo Larrain (Spencer) as well.

Lastly, Thomas Vinterberg’s nod in 2020 for Another Round came out of nowhere. While it was pegged to take International Feature Film (which it did), Round was not nominated in Best Picture. There’s a slew of directors who could fill the “surprise” slot this time around (many from foreign features): Pedro Almodovar (Parallel Mothers), Julia Ducournau (Titane), Asghar Farhari (A Hero), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World). I wouldn’t completely count out Rebecca Hall for Passing. Yet none of these upset selections are in my top ten.

The one that is: Jonas Poher Rasmussen for festival darling Flee. While I don’t have it nabbing a Best Pic nom at the moment, I do foresee the Danish doc contending in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film. That kind of attention could cause the voters to include him.

Here’s how those rankings look at the start of November:

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: 9)

10. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Best Picture is next!

Oscar Watch: Greyhound

Tom Hanks is certainly no stranger to Oscar glory with back to back lead actor victories in the mid 90s for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. He has a lengthy track record on the big and small screen with World War II stories including Saving Private Ryan (for which he received another nomination) and behind the scenes work with HBO’s acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers.

His latest WWII saga is Greyhound, based on a novel by C.S. Forester and with a screenplay penned by Hanks himself. He stars alongside Stephen Graham and Elisabeth Shue in this recounting of the Battle of the Atlantic. The pic was scheduled to hit theaters in June, but its release was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by Aaron Schneider in his first effort since 2009’s critically appreciated Get Low with Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, the reported $50 million production will instead be available on Apple TV beginning Friday.

The review embargo lapsed today and most write-ups are decent. Greyhound holds a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score. That certainly leaves it out of Private Ryan territory and likely leaves it out of contention for Oscar consideration (save for maybe a tech slot or two). So while, on paper, this seems like the type of picture Oscar would go for – its strange journey to the new streaming service probably won’t be an Academy favorite. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscars 2019: The Case of Tom Hanks

The Case of posts for the pictures, directors, and performers nominated for this year’s Oscars brings us to our first Supporting Actor player – Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Let’s look at the pros and cons for the legendary actor:

The Case for Tom Hanks

Well, he’s Tom Hanks. His work as beloved TV host Mister Rogers in Neighborhood brings him his sixth Oscar nod. He famously won back to back for Best Adtor in the 1990s with Philadelphia and Forrest Gimp, in addition to being nominated for Big, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away. Hanks is one of the most recognizable and appreciated movie stars in the world. Voters just witnessed him giving a touching and funny lifetime achievement speech at the Golden Globes.

The Case Against Tom Hanks

You might be surprised to learn that his nomination from the Academy is his first in 19 years. He was bypassed for such performances as Road to Perdition, Charlie Wilson’s War, Captain Phillips (I’m still salty about that snub), Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, Sully, and The Post. In other words, Oscar voters may feel the two gold statues on his mantle are sufficient. As for the picture itself, Hanks’s inclusion in Supporting Actor is the sole nomination as Neighborhood couldn’t break out anywhere else with the Academy. While he snagged Globe and SAG mentions, he lost both to Brad Pitt from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

The Verdict

While it’s good to see Hanks back in the mix, all signs point to this award winding up in Pitt’s neighborhood this year.

Up Next in my Case of posts… Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell!

Midway Box Office Prediction

Known for his mega budget disaster flicks such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, director Roland Emmerich tries his hand at a World War II epic next weekend with Midway. Budgeted at $75 million (pretty low considering the reported $165 million price tag for his 2016 dud sequel Independence Day: Resurgence), the cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson.

I do not expect this to be Emmerich’s Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk. Those WWII efforts had critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. This does not. There will be competition for the adult and action crowd with the debut of Doctor Sleep and second frame for Terminator: Dark Fate.

IMAX elevated pricing could help a bit, but I doubt it. My suspicion is that Midway posts middling to poor numbers in the low teens for an inauspicious start.

Midway opening weekend prediction: $13 million

For my Doctor Sleep prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/29/doctor-sleep-box-office-prediction/

For my Last Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/30/last-christmas-box-office-prediction/

For my Playing with Fire prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/playing-with-fire-box-office-prediction/

Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/04/best-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Jurassic Park Turns 25: A Look Back

A quarter century ago on this day, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was unleashed in theaters and it was indeed a game changer. For those not old enough to remember its release, it’s a bit difficult to describe just how groundbreaking its visuals were at that time in the early 1990s. The idea that realistic dinosaurs could roam the silver screen didn’t seem possible. However, Spielberg’s wizardry and the geniuses at Industrial Light & Magic proved us all wrong.

The scene above had audiences expressing the same reaction as Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Mouths open. Jaws dropped. As we have learned in the 25 years since, amazing visuals aren’t enough to make a film great. That said, if any picture could claim greatness due to its effects, this is the one.

Yet Jurassic Park was special for more reasons than just that. Based on Michael Crichton’s bestseller, the cinematic adaptation tapped into a childhood fascination with Earth’s first dwellers that struck a chord. The concept seems so simple now: mix Steven Spielberg with dinosaurs and what could possibly go wrong? That recipe worked rather flawlessly, but let’s take some stock here.

Just a year and a half earlier, Mr. Spielberg made Hook. And when you think of that concept – America’s most commercially successful director taking on the Peter Pan story? What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty did. Hook has its vocal defenders, but I fall into the camp of deeming it a major disappointment (particularly on subsequent viewings).

Jurassic arrived at a time where it was feasible to question Spielberg’s magic touch. Those queries went away with the first look at the dino creations and the suspenseful and masterfully directed picture that followed.

In terms of box office numbers, some may not know this franchise opener’s relationship to Batman, but there is one. Jurassic Park opened with $47 million dollars. At the time, that stood at the largest domestic debut in history by beating out the $45 million made the summer before by Batman Returns. 

In 1995, it would be Batman Forever that would top the Jurassic record with $52 million.

Two summers after that, Jurassic follow-up The Lost World would snatch the record back with $72 million.

The original Jurassic now stands as the 247th largest opening and was surpassed by all three sequels that followed (and will certainly also be topped by next Friday’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).

The original’s total domestic gross ended up being $357 million. A 2013 3-D re-release for its 20th anniversary added another $45 million to bring the overall haul to $402 million. And that is second only to Jurassic World from 2015 ($652 million).

The Lost World topped out at $229 million with Jurassic Park III at $181 million. When we adjust for inflation, Park tops World by a margin of $839 million to $724 million.

Looking back at 1993, it’s safe to say no director had a single better year in film history than Spielberg before or since. Not only did Jurassic Park set a new standard for visual effects and break every box office record, but he released another picture at the end of the year. That would be Schindler’s List. The Holocaust drama was nominated for twelve Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture and Spielberg’s first statue for directing (he’d win again five years later for Saving Private Ryan).

So as we await the fifth installment of this franchise, it felt worthy to take a moment and acknowledge the seismic happening that occurred 25 years ago today. The unleashing of the dinosaurs. The advent of visual effects in a way we’d never experienced. A year unparalleled for a filmmaker. Welcome to Jurassic Park… 25 years later.