Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

After the 2008 Oscars, the Academy decided to expand the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. This rule would hold for 2009 and 2010 and then it shifted from anywhere between 5 and 10 (where it was typically 8 or 9). As of 2021, we’re back to a set 10.

Yet what if that had never happened? What if only five nominees from the last decade plus made the cut? My initial writeup where I predicted which five from 2009 would have done so can be found here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Now we move to 2010. It was a year in which Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech led the evening with 11 nominations. It would win four – Director, Colin Firth for Best Actor, Original Screenplay, and the big prize Picture. So there’s 20% of our theoretical lineup.

As for the others, let’s take them one by one and I’ll give my thoughts on whether each would’ve made that other 80% of the quintet.

127 Hours

In 2010, Danny Boyle was coming off 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. That little film that could cleaned up on Oscar night with 8 trophies including Picture. This survival drama with James Franco landed six nods. It won zero, but earned recognition in the Best Pic prerequisites that count like screenplay and editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. This is a tough one. As you’ll see below, there are more than five pics that check important boxes. My hunch is that it would’ve nabbed the fifth slot (though you may feel differently when you read on and I tell you what doesn’t make my cut).

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s intense balletic drama earned Natalie Portman an Actress statue and four other nods: Director, Cinematography, and Film Editing. Certainly the director and editing mentions are notable as is Portman’s victory.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. When Picture and Director were both set at five, they rarely matched. 4 out of 5 directors matching the BP nominations was most common. Here’s an example where I don’t think a match would’ve occurred. The biggest reason? Of the 10 BP nominees, Swan is the only one that didn’t land a screenplay nod. That’s significant.

The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg’s passion project didn’t land him a nod, but it did for three of his costars. Christian Bale took home Supporting Actor while onscreen mother Melissa Leo won Supporting Actress (with Amy Adams also nominated). The direction, screenplay, and editing also were up for a total of 7 nominations.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The wins in the two acting races and the fact that it hit in all the key precursors give the relevant tale of the tape.

Inception

There’s speculation that the reason the Academy switched to 10 nominees is because Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was omitted from the five in 2008. His follow-up two years later did not miss the expanded cut. It won Oscars for half of its 8 nominations – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. The other three nods besides Picture were Original Screenplay, Score, and Art Direction.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. And here’s where some readers may disagree. I’m giving 127 Hours an ever so slight edge over this. Why? The 8 nods don’t mean much to me because the bulk of them are in tech races. By the way, The Dark Knight also received 8 nominations. Its misses are what make me skeptical as Nolan didn’t get in for his direction and it also wasn’t up for editing.

The Kids Are All Right 

The family drama received acting mentions for Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo and for its original screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. Too many heavy hitters this year and it was probably toward the bottom of the ten that got in.

The Social Network

David Fincher’s saga about the founding of Facebook won three of its 8 nods in Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and Score.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes… easily. It was probably #2 behind King’s Speech in terms of winning Picture and Director.

Toy Story 3

The Pixar threequel holds the distinction of being the second animated title to make the BP list after Beauty and the Beast. On Oscar night, it won Animated Feature as well as Original Song and received an Adapted Screenplay nod.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. The Academy probably would’ve been OK with it being a slam dunk Animated Feature winner if only five pics were in contention.

True Grit

The Coen Brothers Western remake was behind only King’s Speech in terms of nominations with 10. Beside Picture – you had Director(s), Actor (Jeff Bridges), Supporting Actress (Hailee Steinfeld), Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. It went 0 for 10.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Despite the batting average, the sheer volume of nods indicates it would have still been included.

Winter’s Bone

This indie drama introduced the Academy and many moviegoers to Jennifer Lawrence. She received a nomination as did her costar John Hawkes in Supporting Actor. Adapted Screenplay was in the mix too.

Does It Make the Final Five? 

No but here is a prime example of a smaller film that received attention due to the broadening of the BP base.

So that means if there had been just five Best Picture nominees in 2010, I believe they would have been:

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Fighter

The Social Network

True Grit

I will be back soon with my final five take on 2011!

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

And now for a new category on my blog that will update itself yearly after 13 initial posts covering 2009-21. It’s a simple concept. In 2009 – the Academy shifted their rules from a set amount of five Best Picture nominees to 10. That lasted for 2 years. In 2011, the number could fluctuate anywhere from 5-10. In most years, the magic number was 8 or 9 (it was never less than 8). Last year, the big race reverted back to a definite 10.

So… what if it hadn’t? What if 5 nominees was never altered? Well, Oscar speculators like yours truly would have to write posts predicting what would’ve been the final five. So that’s what this is all about.

Naturally it begins with 2009. Before that, something from 2008 might’ve contributed to the shift when The Dark Knight famously missed BP even though it was a critical darling and box office smash. A shift to 10 allowed popcorn favorites and smaller titles to make the cut. And they did.

When it comes to whittling down from 10 (or later 8 or 9) to five, there’s plenty of factors in play. What else did the movie get nominated for or win? Some races are more important than others like Director and Editing or the Screenplay derbies.

Yet it’s far from an exact science. This is educated guesswork based on Oscar history. I’ll walk through each title and give an ultimate Yes or No on whether it makes the five. The first is automatic and that’s whatever won. In 2009 that honor belonged to…

The Hurt Locker

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes because it won Best Picture.

The other 9? That’s where it gets interesting. Let’s take them alphabetically, shall we?

Avatar

When Oscar nominations rolled out near the beginning of 2010, James Cameron’s 3D sensation was basking in the glow of becoming the biggest movie ever. That meant he was breaking his own record from 13 years earlier with Titanic. Cameron was nominated for Director – losing to ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for Locker. The film also didn’t manage a Screenplay nod though Cameron is known more for his technical prowess than writing skills. On the tech side it managed 7 nods and won three (Art Direction, Cinematography, Visual Effects). So…

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Though it lost a number of its nods to Locker, the gargantuan grosses would’ve been enough for it to advance.

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock’s crowd pleasing football drama made her an Oscar winner. Yet those are the only two nominations it received as it couldn’t make the Adapted Screenplay shortlist. In fact, Avatar and this are the only two BP nominees not to see their scripts mentioned.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. This is a perfect example of a blockbuster getting in due to the expansion that wouldn’t have with just five.

District 9

Neill Blomkamp’s acclaimed sci-fi tale was a surprise summer hit and he’s yet to replicate its mix of audience and critical appreciation. It was nominated in three other races – Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, and Film Editing. No wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

This one is actually close for me. The screenplay and editing nods certainly make it doable. If it had landed Director, I’d probably say yes. A bit of a coin flip, but I’ll land on No.

An Education

The coming-of-age pic scored Carey Mulligan an Actress nod as well as Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that it could’ve snuck in, but gotta go No. It missed a Golden Globe nod for example and a lot of the focus was on Mulligan’s work.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII opus was his return to significant awards attention 15 years following Pulp Fiction. In addition to the Pic nod, he was nominated for his direction and screenplay (losing both to Locker). Other nominations: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing, and a Supporting Actor victory for Christoph Waltz.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The 8 nominations are enough to indicate as much.

Precious

The breakthrough drama from Lee Daniels scored five other mentions for Directing, Gabourey Sidibe in Actress, Mo’Nique in Supporting Actress (a victory), Adapted Screenplay (another win), and Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The screenplay win puts it over the top.

A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers dark comedy received just one other nod for their screenplay with acclaimed lead Michael Stuhlbarg missing the Best Actor cut.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Even with the love for its brotherly makers – No.

Up

As far as I’m concerned, the Pixar masterpiece’s first few minutes should win Best Picture every year. The tearjerker was a rare animated Best Picture contender and it contended for four others. It obviously won Animated Feature as well as Original Score in addition to mentions in Original Screenplay and Sound Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

I’m saying No, but I’m not sure of that. I’d probably put it sixth.

Up in the Air

Our other Up contender is Jason Reitman’s workplace dramedy which received six nods. The others were Director, Actor (George Clooney), Supporting Actress (both Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), and Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. While it retrieved no statues, I think it would’ve just edged other hopefuls such as Up or District 9.

So that means if 2009 had just five Best Picture nominees, I believe they would’ve been:

The Hurt Locker (winner)

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

Up in the Air 

An important note – the movies here match the five Best Director nominees. That’s rare and that will be rare in subsequent postings on years that follow. From 2000-2008 that only occurred twice (2005 and 2008). So don’t get used to it.

I shall return soon with my rumblings and final five for 2010!

Oscar Predictions: The Batman

You have to go back to 2008’s The Dark Knight to find the last Batfilm to receive an Oscar nomination. It landed the most of them. While famously missing Best Picture (it’s often called the flick that caused the Academy to expand beyond five nominees), it garnered eight nods and won Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Sound Editing. The other nominations were for Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. 1989’s Batman was 1 for 1 in its nominations with Art Direction while follow-up Batman Returns was up for Makeup and Visual Effects and Batman Forever received a mention for Sound Effects Editing. Batman Begins from 2005 made the Cinematography final five. Batman and Robin, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League all failed to show up at the big show.

That history lesson is, of course, given to you because reboot The Batman  with Robert Pattinson opens Friday and the review embargo lifted today. Early critical reaction has resulted in an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some write-ups are calling it masterful. Others are more mixed in the praise with some complaints of over length in particular.

So what are its Oscar prospects? As I see it, pretty strong in many of the races mentioned above. That includes Sound (now just one competition), Visual Effects, Production Design (what was Art Direction), Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematography, and even Original Score (from Michael Giacchino). Director Matt Reeves, taking over the franchise, has experience in the VE derby with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. 

Those down the line nods could be plentiful for The Batman. However, I don’t see it getting Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, or nominations for its actors. It won’t be for lack of social media chatter. We have seen numerous comic book adaptations receive fervent support online (from The Dark Knight to Deadpool to Avengers: Endgame to Spider-Man: No Way Home). Only Black Panther and Joker have made the BP cut. I don’t envision The Batman being the third, but tech nods should happen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Batman Box Office Prediction

Another chapter for the Caped Crusader flies into theaters March 4th with The Batman. The franchise reboot comes with high expectations and pent up anticipation as Robert Pattinson takes over the title role. Matt Reeves, best known for Cloverfield and the last two Planet of the Apes pics, directs. The supporting cast includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as the Penguin. Originally slated for summer 2021, it looks to rule the month of March after its COVID delay.

There is little competition in its way and its event picture status should propel it to huge numbers. How big? The Batman could be in line for a larger opening weekend than 2008’s The Dark Knight ($158 million) and 2012 follow-up The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million). And you may have forgotten that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actually holds the highest Bat premiere at $166 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home showed that moviegoers were more than ready to turn out in force with the right product. Early IMAX offerings have already sold out for opening day. Estimates are wide. It could be as low as $100 million or approach $200 million. I’m thinking $145-$165 million is the likeliest range.

The Batman opening weekend prediction: $155.2 million

Tenet Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my estimate from $31.9 million to $36.9 million. Those adjustments are reflected in the numbers below.

Let’s start here – Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is maybe the most challenging box office prediction I’ve ever had to write. This is, of course, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet this isn’t the only reason.

After a series of coronavirus related delays that altered its planned July premiere, the epic spy thriller is set for an extended Labor Day weekend premiere. It marks the latest mega budget (north of $200 million) feature from one of the few directors whose name is the main attraction. The recognizable actors in front of the camera include John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is out tomorrow (August 26) in numerous territories including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The international rollout could provide clues as to how it will perform stateside. That occurs on Thursday, September 3rd and runs through the holiday weekend. Speaking of Labor Day, this is traditionally considered a slow weekend at the box office as the summer season draws to a close. Like everything else this year, 2020 is far different.

While Unhinged and this weekend’s The New Mutants are the first two wide releases post COVID, Tenet is by far the most eagerly awaited and high profile. There was never any doubt that this would open theatrically and on some IMAX venues. The VOD route was never explored. While a screen count is not yet available, I’m currently assuming it’ll be around 2500. If that changes, my prediction might too.

Reviews are mostly solid with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82%. That said, some critical reaction is a bit on the mixed side. Unlike 2017’s Dunkirk, this follow-up is not generating immediate awards buzz. As mentioned, Nolan is a bankable commodity with or without Oscar chatter. You have to go back to 2006’s The Prestige to find the last entry in his filmography to gross under $100 million domestically. Both Dunkirk and its predecessor Interstellar grossed close to $200 million overall in the States. His Batman trilogy and Inception all took in north of $200 million or far more.

So where does that leaves us? Looking at Interstellar and Dunkirk, both titles achieved per theater averages of just over $13,000 for respective starts of $47 million and $50 million. The difference is that Interstellar began on 3500+ plus screens and Dunkirk at 3700+.

Due to the lower availability of venues (especially in major markets like NYC and LA) and the ongoing uncertainty of major audience turnout, giving Tenet a $10,000 per screen average would equate to around $25 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of its five-day start. I’m choosing to ratchet that up to $25.7 million. Adding Thursday and Labor Day in, I’ll kick in another $11.2 million.

Let’s end here – I am still in severe guesstimating mode and Tenet is undoubtedly the first giant test case in this new cinematic reality. Over the next few days, it’s certainly feasible that I will update this estimate. We shall see, but here’s where I stand as of now.

Tenet opening weekend prediction (Thursday, September 3-Monday, September 7): $36.9 million

Oscar Watch: Tenet

If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.

Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.

So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.

When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.

In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.

However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.

Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 2010: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today on the blog, we come to the third and final replay of the cinematic summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts covering 1990 and 2000, you may find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/18/summer-1990-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/25/summer-2000-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.

As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!

10. The Other Guys

Domestic Gross: $119 million

The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.

9. The Last Airbender

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.

8. Grown Ups

Domestic Gross: $162 million

Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.

7. The Karate Kid

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.

6. Shrek Forever After

Domestic Gross: $238 million

Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.

5. Despicable Me

Domestic Gross: $251 million

At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.

4. Inception

Domestic Gross: $292 million

Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.

3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Domestic Gross: $300 million

2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.

2. Iron Man 2

Domestic Gross: $312 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.

1. Toy Story 3

Domestic Gross: $415 million

Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.

And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:

Salt

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.

The Expendables

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.

Eat Pray Love

Domestic Gross: $80 million

This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.

Dinner for Schmucks

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Domestic Gross: $31 million

There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.

The Kids Are All Right

Domestic Gross: $20 million

This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.

MacGruber

Domestic Gross: $8 million

Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.

Winter’s Bone

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook. 

And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:

Robin Hood

Domestic Gross: $105 million

With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.

Sex and the City 2

Domestic Gross: $95 million

The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Domestic Gross: $90 million

A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.

The A-Team

Domestic Gross: $77 million

A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.

Knight and Day

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.

Jonah Hex

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…

X-Men at 20: A Look Back

Twenty years ago today, Bryan Singer’s X-Men arrived in theaters and it’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most influential pictures of the 21st century. The 20th Century Fox release found the comic book genre at a rather low point at the end of that said century. While Blade was a nice size hit in 1998, the years prior found at a lot to be desired with the quality of the genre. 1995 brought us Judge Dredd and 1997 saw the release of Batman and Robin, which found the Caped Crusader with Bat nipples and bad reviews.

X-Men, though it’s hard to remember now, was released at a time where the idea of superhero tales was an uncertain box office prospect. This is two years before Spider-Man broke all kinds of financial records. This is five years prior to Christopher Nolan reinvigorating the Bat franchise with his Dark Knight trilogy. And this was eight years before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man, officially kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In the summer of 2000, X-Men was by no means a guaranteed hit. It did, however, have credibility with the behind the scenes talent and cast. Bryan Singer was known for his heralded The Usual Suspects. Acclaimed actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen (fresh off an Oscar nod for Gods and Monsters), Anna Paquin, and Halle Berry were among the onscreen players. And it was another casting decision that provided its most enduring legacy. Russell Crowe, who headlined that summer’s Oscar winner Gladiator, originally turned down the part of Wolverine. Dougray Scott was then cast in the role, but had to drop out when his role as the villain in Mission: Impossible II (also out that summer) prevented him from filming. So it was the unknown Hugh Jackman who donned the claws. He would go on to make it his signature role as he played Logan/Wolverine in numerous sequels and spin-offs (including three stand-alone projects of wildly divergent qualities).

Let’s back up. Before the 2000 release, X-Men was in development for over a decade and a half. At one point, James Cameron was slated to produce with his then wife Kathryn Bigelow attached to direct. Later on, Robert Rodriguez turned the project down. A gander at the pic’s Wikipedia page is an entertaining read (Mariah Carey was in the mix for Storm at one juncture and Angela Bassett was first choice). X-Men was rushed to make its summer release date 20 years ago today after it was originally intended for Christmas 2000.

That rushed feeling does show on up on screen a little, but the overall end result speaks for itself. What occurred two decades ago is a major mark in the comic book movie renaissance that continues to this day. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. X2: X-Men United was the first sequel in 2003 and it is generally considered a high point. Three years later, Brett Ratner took over directorial reigns with The Last Stand and (while a huge hit) the quality took a dip. Matthew Vaughn would reestablish critical kudos in rebooting the series in 2011 with First Class (bringing Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence to the screen playing younger counterparts to key characters). Jackman’s first spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine faced deserved backlash while 2017’s Logan was lauded and landed an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. And a cheeky and R rated offshoot called Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds would dazzle audiences and critics alike. Last summer’s Dark Phoenix didn’t do any dazzling and was another low ebb in the series. Spin-off The New Mutants has seen release date changes that began in 2018 and it’s pretty much a running joke as to whether it will ever come out.

That long road began in 2000 and has shaped the cinematic universe since. And if you had to mark a spot for the comic book landscape today as it stands now on the screen, it started that day.

Batman Forever Ago: A Quarter Century Box Office Report

Earlier this week (on Tuesday), Batman Forever celebrated its 25th anniversary of release. For those who may not recall, this was when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise from Tim Burton and Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. Tommy Lee Jones (coming off an Oscar for The Fugitive) and Jim Carrey (the hottest comedic star in America after the one-two-three punch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber) costarred as villains Two-Face and The Riddler, respectively. Nicole Kidman was in the mix as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s love interest and Chris O’Donnell was introduced as Robin. Sounds like a recipe for a box office bonanza right? Indeed it was.

In mid June 1995, Forever scored the best opening weekend of all time and was the first feature to make over $50 million in its first three days. The $52.7 million tally topped the previous record holder from two summers before (a little something called Jurassic Park). Forever would hold the title for two years before being toppled by… The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 

The all-time premiere record has since changed 11 times, including in 2008 with another Batflick The Dark Knight at $158 million. The current holder is Avengers: Endgame at $357 million. And that right there shows how much times have changed. In a quarter century, the first frame of Endgame made 7x that of Forever. Higher ticket prices are certainly a factor. Yet in 25 years, Val Kilmer’s grapples with Jim Carrey went from a highest ever start to now 225th. By the way, 224th place belongs to… The Lego Batman Movie! And now, Forever lags behind such forgettable material as The Nun, The Karate Kid remake, Valentine’s Day, and DC’s own hugely disappointing Green Lantern.

Speaking of disappointing, I’m certainly of the opinion that Forever was just that as far as quality. It’s not nearly as bad at what followed with Schumacher’s sequel Batman & Robin. However, it was a big letdown from what Burton accomplished before and what Christopher Nolan achieved a decade later with the start of The Dark Knight trilogy. What remains is an interesting snapshot in time when a $50 million debut was new territory and it took the Bat Signal (even a rather mediocre one) to get there.

Oscars 2019: The Case of Joaquin Phoenix

The Case of posts for performers up for Academy Awards on February 9th arrived at Joaquin Phoenix as Joker in the Todd Phillips directed blockbuster:

The Case for Joaquin Phoenix

After three previous nominations for Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master, all signs are pointing to Phoenix finally getting the gold. For this particular comic book pic, Joker defied all expectations with a worldwide gross of over a billion dollars. Much of the focus was on Phoenix’s intense performance and he’s been rewarded with Golden Globe and SAG victories already. The film itself leads the Oscars with 11 total nominations.

The Case Against Joaquin Phoenix

The release of Joker was met with some controversy about its themes and overall message. There could be enough of a backlash that it could prevent Phoenix rising up to the podium.

The Verdict

Simply put, he is a massive front runner for his first Academy Award. If Phoenix does so, he would make a bit of Oscar history. There’s only been one combination of actors winning for playing the same fictional character: Marlon Brando and Joaquin’s Joker costar Robert De Niro as Michael Corleone in the first two Godfather epics. In 2008, Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded Supporting Actor as Joker in The Dark Knight. Expect there to be a second instance of that occurring.

My Case of posts will focus next on Charlize Theron for Bombshell!