Oscar Watch: Passengers

A week ago, the prospect of this Wednesday’s Passengers receiving some Oscar attention didn’t seem totally far fetched. After all, the Academy has shown some love to the science fiction space pic genre three years ago with Gravity and last year with The Martian as they both received Best Picture nods. In addition, their respective leads Sandra Bullock and Matt Damon were nominated in the lead acting races.

Passengers is director Morten Tyldum’s follow-up to The Imitation Game, which was in the Picture race two years ago and for which he received a directing nod. And this space opera boasts Jennifer Lawrence, who’s been nominated four times since 2010 and won in 2012 for Silver Linings Playbook. So, again, not so far fetched.

And then reviews happened late this week for the sci fi romantic thriller which costars Chris Pratt. The verdict? A rather troubling 32% on Rotten Tomatoes and its Oscar chances evaporating. Passengers still has a remote shot at Visual Effects, but in all likelihood the pic will be sitting on the awards sideline.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (10-6)

We have now reached Top Ten of the Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses in box office history.

And now, numbers 10-6 before we reach our finale tomorrow…

10. Jennifer Lawrence

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games, X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 9 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle)

Lowest Grosser: Garden Party (2008) – $10,000

Overall Rank: 57

9. Anne Hathaway

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Princess Diaries, Rio, Alice in Wonderland

Highest Grossing Picture: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $448 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Get Smart, Valentine’s Day, Alice in Wonderland, Rio, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, Rio 2, Interstellar)

Lowest Grosser: Song One (2015) – $32,000

Overall Rank: 52

8. Sandra Bullock

Career Earnings: $2.4 billion

Franchises: Speed, Miss Congeniality

Highest Grossing Picture: Minions (2015) – $336 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (Minions, Gravity, The Blind Side, The Proposal, The Heat, Speed, A Time to Kill, Miss Congeniality)

Lowest Grosser: Who Shot Patakango? (1992) – $2,000

Overall Rank: 47

7. Emma Watson

Career Earnings: $2.6 billion

Franchises: Harry Potter

Highest Grossing Picture: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $381 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, This is the End, Noah)

Lowest Grosser: Colonia (2016) – $15,000

Overall Rank: 32

6. Elizabeth Banks

Career Earnings: $2.7 billion

Franchises: Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect 2, Seabiscuit, The 40 Yr. Old Virgin

Lowest Grosser: Ordinary Sinner (2003) – $4,000

Top 5 manana!


Top 25 Best Movies (1990-2015): Nos. 15-11

Onto part three of my personal top 25 motion pictures of the past 25 years and we’re at numbers 15-11. Here they are:

15. Fargo (1996)

The Coen Brothers have been responsible for so many fabulous movies over the last 30 plus years. This violent charcoal black comedy that earned highly deserved Oscars for Frances McDormand and its screenplay is the best one of the bunch.

14. The Fugitive (1993)

There’s been a whole lot of action thrillers based on old TV series, but nothing like this one. Andrew Davis’s thrilling adaptation of the 1960s show with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones is a perfect example of this genre at its absolute peak.

13. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

David O. Russell has arguably been putting out the finest films of this ongoing decade and Playbook is the highlight with grade A performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro in a career resurgent part. The last scene of the movie is perfect.

12. Nixon (1995)

Whether or not it’s historically accurate is a legit argument. What’s not is that Oliver Stone’s take on the Nixon life and presidency is a brilliantly made story of the corruption of power. It tackles the subject on a level close to that of Citizen Kane and Anthony Hopkins is marvelous as the 37th POTUS.

11. Heat (1995)

Michael Mann teaming with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino for a sprawling L.A. based crime thriller. It’s even better than it sounds and the coffee shop scene that pits its generation’s two signature actors together for the first time is movie lover heaven.

And there you have it… we’ll enter the Top Ten tomorrow folks!

2013: The Year of Jennifer Lawrence

This evening, I begin a six-part series focusing on six performers – three actors, three actresses – who had major impacts in the world of film in 2013. As you may have noticed, the year is winding down and soon enough we’ll have a bevy of Top Ten movie lists from critics and awards nominations being released.

So which actors shined the most this year and had significant impacts either at the box office or for awards consideration (or both)? We start with what I believe is the obvious choice – Jennifer Lawrence.

The actress began the calendar year with David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook expanding nationwide (it was released in late 2012). The film captured the hearts of moviegoers to the tune of a truly impressive $132 domestic box office take. It also garnered the attention of Oscar voters – so much so that its actors (Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver) were nominated in all four acting categories at the ceremony.

However, it was only Lawrence that was victorious as she claimed the Best Actress trophy. This was only two years after her first nomination for the indie favorite Winter’s Bone in 2010. At age 22, she had received two Best Actress nominations and one win.

Lawrence’s 2012 (with that Silver Linings performance) was equally impressive. She starred in a little something called The Hunger Games as Katniss Everdeen which opened in March 2012 and grossed an astonishing $408 million. In fall of ’12, even her critically panned horror flick House at the End of the Street took in a respectable $42 million, more than six times the cost of its meager budget.

If 2012 seemed impossible for Lawrence to improve upon, she somehow has managed to do it. First – the aforementioned Oscar win. And now – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the eagerly awaited sequel that opened two weeks ago and looks on its way to becoming the year’s top domestic grosser (it should eventually surpass Iron Man 3). As if its spectacular box office performance wasn’t enough, Catching Fire has been regarded by critics and audiences as an upgrade over the original.

And now there’s American Hustle. The actress has reteamed with Silver Linings director Russell along with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner. The late 70s/early 80s crime drama isn’t out until December 18th, but already Lawrence’s work is being singled out as a highlight. An Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress seems a lock and it’s quite possible that she’ll win her second Academy Award in consecutive years. This is a feat not often accomplished (the last to do it was Tom Hanks in 1993/1994).

If that doesn’t constitute an amazing year in film, I dunno what does. Amazingly, Lawrence’s 2014 looks just as bright. She could collect another Oscar in the spring, she’ll return as Mystique in May’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and headline the third installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part I, in November. She’s also filmed the Depression era drama Serena with her Silver Linings costar Bradley Cooper. It has yet to receive a release date, but expect it in 2014 as well.

My series on performers who had an excellent 2013 will continue tomorrow with one of America’s most trusted actors who returned to form this year as a Captain and a world famous studio head.

You Could See That Pierre Did Truly Love The Mademoiselle: My Blog Turns 1 Years Old!

It was a Thursday autumn evening one year ago when I was sitting at my computer and on a snap decision, I said to myself, “Screw it – I’m starting a movie blog. Right now.”

I had thought about it before, but obviously never acted on the notion. I knew two things: I seriously love movies. And I seriously love writing about them. That’s all I knew. I had no clue – none – on that Thursday night what the blog would be… other than it would be about movies. I wrote my inaugural post quickly and titled it My Love of Movies. This is what I wrote moments after that snap decision entered my head:


That same night, I wrote my second post, which was my first entry in my Movie Perfection series. This one is about 1995’s Seven. I have said before that the Movie Perfection posts are my very favorite to write:


Since then my examples of Movie Perfection has expanded to a Raquel Welch poster leading Tim Robbins to glorious freedom in The Shawshank Redemption. The brilliantly edited sequence in Moneyball where we hear the crack of a baseball bat that signals validation for Brad Pitt’s character. Christian Bale hilariously turning into a music critic as he extols the virtues of Genesis, Huey Lewis, and Whitney Houston in American Psycho. A vehicle full of rockers and groupies coming together to the sound of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous. The birth of Melissa McCarthy’s movie stardom as she tells Kristin Wiig to stop blaming the world for her problems in Bridesmaids. A letter written by Bradley Cooper to Jennifer Lawrence expressing his love for her in Silver Linings Playbook. An absolutely stunningly beautiful and emotional animated montage that chronicles a couple’s life together in Pixar’s Up.

One year ago, it’s hard to describe how terrific that evening was as I began the blog. Those who know me know my passion for film and writing. The fact that it took so long to bring that passion to a blog confounds me now. What took so damn long? Oh well – the point is, it exists now. And truth be told – I cannot imagine it not existing now.

I know it may sound cheesy, but it really does mean a lot to me that this blog has people reading it. Honestly, I can love doing it (and I do), but what’s the point if no one reads the damn thing?

A year ago in that first My Love of Movies post, I described the sense of wonder I experienced when viewing Pulp Fiction on the big screen for the first time. It’s what you hope for every time you go to the theater. Pulp Fiction is filled with moments that reiterate to me why I love movies. One scene is the famous John Travolta/Uma Thurman dance scene set to a rockin Chuck Berry tune. It is yet another example of Movie Perfection, as is nearly everything Quentin Tarantino does. I began this blog discussing the unforgettable title credit sequence set to Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” in Pulp Fiction. A year later, it comes full circle with that fantastic dance scene and Chucky Berry.

As I sit here on another Thursday autumn evening a year later, I am thankful for snap decisions. Mostly, I’m thankful to you for rewarding my snap decision. I started this little blog on a whim and truly wasn’t sure if I would love doing it or not. That is no longer a question in my head. It goes to show you never can tell. There’s a great lyric in that Chucky Berry song where Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace dance and that serves as the title of this anniversary post. “You Could See That Pierre Did Truly Love The Mademoiselle.” In this instance, I’m Pierre. This blog is The Mademoiselle. The readers of this blog are The Mademoiselle, too. Thank you.

Movie Perfection: “I Wrote That A Week Ago.”

SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to see Silver Linings Playbook, two pieces of advice: go watch it right now. After you do, read this post. If you have seen it, read on…

David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is the kind of movie that restores your faith in movies. It is in many ways wholly original while also using time tested film conventions in fantastic ways.

It is filled with great performances. This is not only a showcase for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in her Oscar-winning role, but also for Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, and Chris Tucker, who for far too long only played alongside Jackie Chan in Rush Hour flicks. We need to see more of him.

The film is a triumph of direction by Russell, one of the most exciting filmmakers of his generation. He knows how to bring an electric sense of movie making to a scene. The climactic dance scene between Cooper and Lawrence is one example of many. Russell’s style brings a feeling of true nail-biting suspense… to a mid-level regional dance competition in Philadelphia. Not an easy thing to do.

The picture takes us on a journey bringing together two lost souls, Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence). They both have a vast array of issues, to say the least. Pat is suffering from mental health problems, some of which is due to his broken marriage. Tiffany is still trying to recover from the death of her husband and is failing most of the time.

All the characters in Silver Linings Playbook are flawed. You know, like real people. De Niro plays Pat’s dad. He’s a deeply superstitious football fanatic whose character defects may have contributed to his son’s own issues. Jacki Weaver plays Pat’s mom and she struggles with finding the right balance for how to help her son (and her husband). Chris Tucker was at Pat’s mental health facility that he was committed to. He’s chock full of issues, too. And even the secondary characters like Tiffany’s sister and her husband are stuck in a marriage that seems to be going downhill.

Pat and Tiffany find one another and become connected through agreeing to enter a dance competition together. Their motives are at first self-serving. Tiffany basically blackmails Pat into doing it by promising to give a letter to his estranged wife. You see, there’s a restraining order between them. Tiffany seems to just want the company of Pat and this is her way of achieving it.

When we reach the wonderful climactic dance scene, we are left so happy by their ability to pull it off. Plus it’s pretty damn funny. In a lesser movie, that dance would’ve been some masterpiece of movement that left us floored. Not here. It’s, well, realistic. And that makes it even better.

The big question we’re left with is whether Pat and Tiffany end up together. In a lesser movie, there would be no doubt. In a movie this original and at times unexpected, we really don’t know. We get our answer in an absolutely beautiful scene between them. Without going over every aspect, this scene leaves us as an audience totally satisfied. And when Pat reveals his love for Tiffany, he presents her with a letter that she begins to read aloud and then he finishes it. He knows the letter by heart because as he reveals to her, “I wrote that a week ago.” We realize that Pat has wanted to be with Tiffany for longer than we suspected. Longer than she suspected. And that line and those six words left me with a smile on my face that lasted until after the credits rolled.

Silver Linings Playbook presents us with two flawed and imperfect people whose flaws and imperfections compliment one another’s in a perfect way. What’s more romantic than that? The film is one of the best movies in recent years. And those six words uttered by Pat to Tiffany are another example of Movie Perfection.