Oscars 2020: The Case of Chloe Zhao

My Case Of posts in the Best Director category reaches its fifth and final hopeful with Chloe Zhao for Nomadland. If you missed the previous four, you can find them here:





The Case for Chloe Zhao

Nomadland is absolutely the frontrunner to win Best Picture and oftentimes it matches with director (though not quite as much in recent years). Even if something upsets Nomadland in the big race, Zhao has made it a clean sweep at the precursors and that includes BAFTA, DGA, Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and many other regional critics group awards. Zhao (who will next take on the MCU’s Eternals) will also make some history by becoming the second female to take the gold after Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) in 2009.

The Case Against Chloe Zhao

To be blunt – there really isn’t one. I suppose only if the Academy doesn’t embrace Nomadland like other awards bodies have and that appears unlikely.

The Verdict

Some of the major categories have some suspense around them. This one doesn’t. Zhao appears primed for victory.

My Case Of posts will continue with Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman…

DGA: The Zhaomentum Continues

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is a pretty darn accurate predictor of who will win at the Academy Awards. In the past 20 years, the DGA and Oscar winners for Best Director have matched 17 times. It is worth noting that one of the 3 non matches was last year as Sam Mendes (1917) took DGA while Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) took the Academy’s gold.

Tonight the DGA held their ceremony and it went as expected with Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) emerging victorious. This goes along with her numerous critics groups prizes and the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. Anyone else being named this evening would have been a surprise and it’s further evidence that Zhao is the strong favorite for Oscar. If so, she will become the second female to do so after Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s The Hurt Locker.

This is also more evidence that Nomadland itself is in the driver’s seat for Best Picture as the Academy’s ceremony is just 15 days away. Bottom line: the Zhaomentum continues and none of the other nominees appear capable of interrupting it.

2020 Oscar Predictions: December 28th Edition

My final Oscars forecast for 2020 sees no changes in my nine Best Picture nominees (which has remained consistent for weeks), but some movement in other key races.

In Best Director, I have had David Fincher (Mank) listed at #1 for months, but that switches today as he falls to second with Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) taking the top spot. If she manages to take gold in April, Zhao would be just the second female to win the award behind Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009. Additionally, Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) is in my final five for the first time, replacing Regina King for One Night in Miami.

While there are no changes in the lead acting competitions, the supporting players are a different story. Youn Yuh-jung in Minari sees her first appearance in my five Supporting Actress hopefuls and that takes out Helena Zengel in News of the World. Same goes for Paul Raci in Supporting Actor for Sound of Metal and that’s to the detriment of Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7.

You can peruse all the rest of the activity below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. Mank (PR: 3)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

5. Minari (PR: 7)

6. The Father (PR: 5)

7. One Night in Miami (PR: 6)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 9)

9. News of the World (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

10. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 12)

11. Promising Young Woman (PR: 13)

12. Sound of Metal (PR: 10)

13. Soul (PR: 11)

14. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 14)

15. First Cow (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Mauritanian

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland (PR: 2)

2. David Fincher, Mank (PR: 1)

3. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 3)

4. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari (PR: 7)

5. Florian Zeller, The Father (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Regina King, One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

8. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 8)

9. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Darius Marder, Sound of Metal

Paul Greengrass, News of the World 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Frances McDormand, Nomadland (PR: 3)

3. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (PR: 4)

4. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 2)

5. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit (PR: 6)

7. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 7)

8. Kate Winslet, Ammonite (PR: 10)

9. Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead (PR: 9)

10. Robin Wright, Land (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Meryl Streep, The Prom

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Anthony Hopkins, The Father (PR: 2)

3. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (PR: 3)

4. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

5. Gary Oldman, Mank (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami (PR: 7)

7. Steven Yeun, Minari (PR: 6)

8. Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round (PR: 8)

9. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 10)

10. Tom Hanks, News of the World (PR: 9)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 1)

2. Amanda Seyfried, Mank (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Father (PR: 3)

4. Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman (PR: 4)

5. Youn Yuh-jung, Minari (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Helena Zengel, News of the World (PR: 5)

7. Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (PR: 7)

8. Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian (PR: 9)

9. Olivia Cooke, Sound of Metal (PR: 8)

10. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite (PR: 10)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 1)

2. Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami (PR: 2)

3. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 3)

4. Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

5. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 5)

7. Bill Murray, On the Rocks (PR: 7)

8. Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: Not Ranked)

9. David Strathairn, Nomadland (PR: 9)

10. Stanley Tucci, Supernova (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Frank Langella, The Trial of the Chicago 7 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 1)

2. Mank (PR: 2)

3. Minari (PR: 3)

4. Promising Young Woman (PR: 4)

5. Soul (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 6)

7. Sound of Metal (PR: 7)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 8)

9. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (PR: 9)

10. The Forty-Year-Old Version (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

On the Rocks

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Nomadland (PR: 1)

2. The Father (PR: 3)

3. One Night in Miami (PR: 2)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

5. First Cow (PR: 5)

Predicted Nominees:

6. News of the World (PR: 7)

7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PR: 6)

8. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 8)

9. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 9)

10. The Mauritanian (PR: 10)

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soul (PR: 1)

2. Wolfwalkers (PR: 2)

3. Over the Moon (PR: 3)

4. Onward (PR: 4)

5. Earwig and the Witch (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Willoughbys (PR: 7)

7. The Croods: A New Age (PR: 6)

8. Connected (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Demon Slayer (PR: 9)

10. Bombay Rose (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Trolls World Tour

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Totally Under Control (PR: 1)

2. Time (PR: 2)

3. Dick Johnson Is Dead (PR: 3)

4. The Dissident (PR: 4)

5. Boys State (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. All In: The Fight for Democracy (PR: 8)

7. Crip Camp (PR: 6)

8. Collective (PR: 7)

9. Welcome to Chechnya (PR: 10)

10. The Truffle Hunters (PR: 9)

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. Another Round (PR: 1)

2. Quo Vadis, Aida? (PR: 2)

3. I’m No Longer Here (PR: 3)

4. My Little Sister (PR: 4)

5. Collective (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

6. Night of the Kings (PR: 5)

7. Dear Comrades! (PR: 7)

8. Never Gonna Snow Again (PR: 6)

9. A Sun (PR: 8)

10. Notturno (PR: 10)

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. Nomadland (PR: 2)

3. News of the World (PR: 3)

4. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 4)

5. Tenet (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Minari (PR: 5)

7. The Midnight Sky (PR: 7)

8. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: 9)

9. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 8)

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 10)

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Mank (PR: 2)

3. Emma (PR: 3)

4. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 5)

5. Mulan (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. News of the World (PR: 6)

7. The Prom (PR: 7)

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 10)

9. The Personal History of David Copperfield (PR: 8)

10. Ammonite (PR: 9)

Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 1)

2. Mank (PR: 2)

3. The Father (PR: 3)

4. Nomadland (PR: 4)

5. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 7)

7. One Night in Miami (PR: 5)

8. News of the World (PR: 6)

9. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Tenet (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


Promising Young Woman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 2)

3. Birds of Prey (PR: 3)

4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (PR: 5)

5. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Mank (PR: 4)

7. Mulan (PR: 7)

8. Pinocchio (PR: 8)

9. Emma (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The Prom (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

News of the World

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soul (PR: 3)

2. Mank (PR: 1)

3. Hillbilly Elegy (PR: 5)

4. News of the World (PR: 4)

5. Minari (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Midnight Sky (PR: 2)

7. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 9)

8. Tenet (PR: 7)

9. One Night in Miami (PR: 10)

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 8)

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami (PR: 1)

2. “Rocket to the Moon” from Over the Moon (PR: 3)

3. “Seen” from The Life Ahead (PR: 2)

4. “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 4)

5. “Turntables” from All In: The Fight for Democracy

Other Possibilities:

6. “Only the Young” from Miss Americana (PR: 6)

7. “Poverty Porn” from The Forty-Year-Old Version (PR: 8)

8. “Wear Your Crown” from The Prom (PR: 9)

9. “Free” from The One and Only Ivan (PR: Not Ranked)

10. “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

“(If Only You Could) Save Me” from Mank

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Mank (PR: 1)

2. Mulan (PR: 2)

3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 4)

4. The Personal History of David Copperfield (PR: 3)

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Emma (PR: 10)

7. The Midnight Sky (PR: 5)

8. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (PR: 7)

9. News of the World (PR: 6)

10. Judas and the Black Messiah (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Prom

Best Sound

Predicted Nominees:

1. Sound of Metal (PR: 1)

2. Mank (PR: 3)

3. Tenet (PR: 2)

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (PR: 6)

5. News of the World (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Midnight Sky (PR: 4)

7. Soul (PR: 7)

8. Da 5 Bloods (PR: 10)

9. The Prom (PR: 9)

10. Mulan (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. Tenet (PR: 1)

2. The Midnight Sky (PR: 2)

3. The Invisible Man (PR: 3)

4. Mulan (PR: 6)

5. Birds of Prey (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Wonder Woman 1984 (PR: 5)

7. Sonic the Hedgehog (PR: 8)

8. Mank (PR: 7)

9. Greyhound (PR: 9)

10. The Call of the Wild (PR: 10)

And that equates to these pictures nabbing the following numbers in terms of nominations:

11 Nominations


8 Nominations

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

7 Nominations

The Trial of the Chicago 7

6 Nominations

The Father, Nomadland

5 Nominations

Da 5 Bloods, Minari

4 Nominations

News of the World, One Night in Miami

3 Nominations

Hillbilly Elegy, Sound of Metal, Mulan, Soul, Tenet, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

2 Nominations

Birds of Prey, Over the Moon, Pieces of a Woman, Promising Young Woman

1 Nomination

All In: The Fight for Democracy, Another Round, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Boys State, Collective, Dick Johnson Is Dead, The Dissident, Earwig and the Witch, Emma, First Cow, I’m No Longer Here, The Invisible Man, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Life Ahead, The Midnight Sky, My Little Sister, Onward, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Time, Totally Under Control, Wolfwalkers

See y’all in 2021!

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Actor

I was rewatching Avengers: Endgame over the weekend and it once again struck me how many famous actors are in that thing. I mean… seriously. It’s rather amazing. This got me thinking and yes, current world events may have given me an opportunity to do so:

Just how many performers that have been in Marvel Cinematic Universe entries have won Oscars or been nominated for Oscars? I knew the number would be high, but the answer still astonished me. In fact, you have to back to 1981 for a year where no actor that eventually appeared in the MCU didn’t receive a nomination.

If you count Marvel’s next two pictures (Black Widow, The Eternals) and then count the 23 movies prior that started in 2008 with Iron Man, it encapsulates 110 acting nominations and 20 wins! I am not yet putting Christian Bale in there though he’s rumored to be playing the villain in the fourth Thor flick. I’ll wait for confirmation on that. If you did count Bale, the numbers go to 114 nods and 21 Academy victories.

Due to this research, I’m writing 4 blog posts dedicated to each acting race and we begin with Best Actor:

The leading man category makes up 33 out of the 110 nominations with 6 wins. The victorious gentlemen are as follows:

Jeff Bridges, the main baddie in Iron Man, won in 2009 for Crazy Heart

William Hurt, who appeared in The Incredible Hulk and other MCU titles, took Best Actor in 1985 for Kiss of the Spider Woman

Anthony Hopkins, aka Thor’s Dad, was stage bound in 1991 for his iconic role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Ben Kingsley, who sparred with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, is a 1982 recipient in the title role of Gandhi

Michael Douglas, who appeared in both Ant-Man pics, was Best Actor in 1987 for Wall Street

Forest Whitaker, who costarred in Black Panther, took gold in 2006 for The Last King of Scotland

Aside from the winners, here are the other 27 Actor nods:

Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., for 1992’s Chaplin

Terrence Howard, who was in the first Iron Man, for 2005’s Hustle & Flow

Jeff Bridges scored two additional nominations for 1984’s Starman and 2010’s True Grit

Edward Norton, who was Hulk before Mark Ruffalo, for 1998’s American History X

William Hurt, like fellow winner Bridges, also landed two other nods for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God and 1987’s Broadcast News

Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2 and more, for 2004’s Hotel Rwanda

Mickey Rourke, the villain in Iron Man 2, for 2008’s The Wrestler

Anthony Hopkins, following his Lambs victory, was nominated twice more for 1993’s The Remains of the Day and 1995’s Nixon

Tommy Lee Jones, from Captain America: First Avenger, for 2007’s In the Valley of Elah

Jeremy Renner, aka Hawkeye, for his breakthrough role in 2009’s The Hurt Locker

Robert Redford, who was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, surprisingly only has one acting nod for 1973’s The Sting. He is, however, a twice nominated director and won in 1980 for Ordinary People 

Bradley Cooper, Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, has been nominated thrice with no wins: 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, 2014’s American Sniper, and 2018’s A Star Is Born

Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Doctor Strange, for 2014’s The Imitation Game

Chiwetel Ejiofor, also in Doctor Strange, for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Sylvester Stallone, who popped up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, for his signature role in 1976’s Rocky

Michael Keaton, the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming, for 2014’s Birdman

Matt Damon, who had a memorable cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, is twice nominated for 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2015’s The Martian

Daniel Kaluuya, Black Panther costar, for 2017’s Get Out

Laurence Fishburne, supporting player in Ant-Man and the Wasp, as Ike Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It

Jude Law, from Captain Marvel, for 2003’s Cold Mountain 

Whew. And there you have it. I’ll be back at it shortly with the Best Actress nominees who got their Marvel on!

The Irishman Takes New York

The awards precursors keep coming as the New York Film Critics Circle named their best of 2019 today. Yesterday’s discussion focused on the National Board of Review winners. I explained how a victory with them often doesn’t equate to Oscar glory. And the same holds true for the film reviewers in the Big Apple.

That said, it’s the second day in a row where The Irishman has been named Best Film. Yet the last NYFCC recipient to take Best Picture was back in 2011 with The Artist. It’s the only one of this decade and in the 2000s, there were only three matches: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker. 

One might think that these critics in particular might name Martin Scorsese as Best Director. You would be wrong. It is Ben and Josh Safdie for Uncut Gems. This Adam Sandler crime pic is picking up steam at the right moment, but it could be a reach for them to be included in Director with the Academy.

While Mr. Sandler picked up Best Actor with the NBR trophy yesterday, the New York bunch went with Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory. He’s an on the bubble candidate in an ultra crowded Oscar derby. If Banderas continues to rack up critical kudos, it could certainly help him make the final five.

For the second year in a row, the NYFCC had a surprise victor in Actress. Last year, they went quite outside the box with Regina Hall in Support the Girls. Today it’s Lupita Nyong’o in Us. While this isn’t as much of a shocker, she’s generally been seen as an unlikely candidate for Oscar attention. However, this category isn’t as packed as Actor and she could factor into the mix.

More Irishman love came in Supporting Actor and not for Al Pacino. No, it was Joe Pesci taking the prize and I’m becoming more and more convinced he gets the Academy nod along with his co-star Pacino. Interestingly, this leads me to think voice splitting could occur and that may help Brad Pitt’s chances even more for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Supporting Actress is perhaps the only category where New York seems to match the Oscar front-runner with Laura Dern. NYFCC threw in a caveat, though, by naming her for both Marriage Story and Little Women. Oscar voters are nearly certain to only notice her in the former.

This critics do not divide original and adapted written works and it was Quentin Tarantino taking Screenplay for Hollywood. When it comes to the big show in Original Screenplay, he appears to have an edge over competitors like Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Bottom line: New York spread the love around with their news today, but it’s another solid showing for The Irishman. 

Summer 2009: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today we continue with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. I’ve already covered 1989 and 1999 and if you missed them, you can find them right here:



Looking over the 2009 list, it’s a reminder of how one thing in particular has changed in just a decade. In the summer of 2008, Iron Man came out and kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two seasons later, Iron Man 2 followed. In every summer since, there’s been a massive MCU title often ruling the charts. 2009 is the last year not to feature one.

Instead, one of the most indelible images from 10 years past is Mike Tyson belting out a Phil Collins classic.

As I’ve done with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits along with some other notable pics and flops. Let’s get to it!

10. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Domestic Gross: $150 million

Hasbro was kind of the MCU of this summer by bookending the top 10. Based on their popular set of action figures, Cobra spawned a sequel and introduced many moviegoers to Channing Tatum.

9. The Proposal

Domestic Gross: $163 million

What a year for Sandra Bullock. First she has this huge rom com with Ryan Reynolds and months later gets her Oscar winning turn in The Blind Side. Not to mention Betty White is in this!


8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Domestic Gross: $177 million

While it couldn’t match the $250 million earned by its 2006 predecessor, the Ben Stiller led  family adventure sequel still did enough for a part 3 to eventually follow.

7. XMen Origins: Wolverine

Domestic Gross: $179 million

The first of three spinoffs for Hugh Jackman’s iconic clawed character, this is generally considered the worst of them. It still made a pretty penny and gave us a first glimpse at Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool.


6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Domestic Gross: $196 million

The third of these five animated tales, Dinosaurs stands at the largest grosser by a mere $1 million over 2006 predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown.

5. Star Trek

Domestic Gross: $257 million

J.J. Abrams was able to bring this long running film and TV milestone to the next generation in a critically acclaimed way. His reboot remains the highest grossing entry in the canon of Trek. Two sequels so far have followed.

4. The Hangover

Domestic Gross: $277 million

The breakout comedy of the summer made stars out of Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis in particular and had the aforementioned Mike Tyson musical moment of glory. Two lesser regarded sequels followed.

3. Up

Domestic Gross: $293 million

Pixar had another smash hit with this tale of aging and wonder that contains my personal favorite sequence of any of their titles. The opening montage of a couple’s journey through life is simultaneously beautiful and devastating.

2. Harry Potter and the HalfBlood Prince

Domestic Gross: $301 million

This sixth Potter pic set up the two part franchise finale and it stands at the third biggest grosser behind the eighth and final entry and the first film in 2001.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Domestic Gross: $402 million

The follow-up to the 2007 original, Michael Bay’s metallic action extravaganza is the high point in terms of box office dollars overall and largest opening, even though critics mercilessly crucified it.

And now for some other notable flicks from the summer that was 10 years ago:

Angels & Demons

Domestic Gross: $133 million

The sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the return of Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon performed decently, but nowhere near the $217 million achieved by its predecessor. The next sequel Inferno bombed.

Inglourious Basterds

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist World War II saga become his best earning pic at the time and earned a slew of Oscar nods, including a win for scene stealer Christoph Waltz.

District 9

Domestic Gross: $115 million

Made for a mere $30 million, Neill Blomkamp announced himself a serious force of sci-fi nature with heralded work that nabbed a Best Picture nod.

Public Enemies

Domestic Gross: $97 million

This gangster tale from Michael Mann was headlined by Johnny Depp and Christian Bale as they took a break between their respective pirate and bat franchises. It was a slight box office disappointment as it couldn’t quite match its $100 million budget back domestically.

Julie & Julia

Domestic Gross: $94 million

Meryl Streep got her umpteenth Oscar nod playing famed chef Julia Child in this Nora Ephron dramedy that proved to be a nice August hit.


Domestic Gross: $60 million

There was enough goodwill left over from Sacha Baron Cohen’s smash Borat to propel this satire about a fashion journalist to a $30 million opening weekend. It fell off quickly after that impressive start.

Drag Me to Hell

Domestic Gross: $42 million

Following on the heels of his SpiderMan trilogy, this horror comedy brought Sam Raimi back to his Evil Dead roots. Box office dollars were just ok, but critics appreciated it.

(500) Days of Summer

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Made for a tiny $7.5 million, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel charmed audiences with this rom com from Marc Webb. He would take over the Spidey franchise from Raimi shortly thereafter.

The Hurt Locker

Domestic Gross: $17 million

Kathryn Bigelow’s intense tale of bomb technicians in Iraq made a name for Jeremy Renner. While its box office earnings weren’t that potent, the real reward came later when it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Bigelow became the first female to be awarded Best Director.

We move to pictures that failed to meet expectations or were outright flops.

Terminator Salvation

Domestic Gross: $125 million

The Governor of California sat this one out and this McG directed franchise entry couldn’t match the opening of part 3 from six years prior. Today it’s perhaps best known for a secretly recorded onset argument between McG and star Christian Bale.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Domestic Gross: $65 million

A remake of a 1974 Walter Matthau action flick about hijacked subway cars, Tony Scott’s collaboration starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta fell short of anticipated blockbuster status.


Funny People

Domestic Gross: $51 million

Judd Apatow had made two huge comedies with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. This one centered on the world of stand-up with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. It was more personal and divided critics and crowds alike.

Land of the Lost

Domestic Gross: $49 million

Based on a loopy 1970s TV series, Will Ferrell had a rare bomb with this critically derided prehistoric pic. It didn’t earn half of its $100 million price tag back stateside.

Year One

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Yet another prehistoric comedic failure, the talents of director Harold Ramis and Jack Black and Michael Cena couldn’t get reviewers or audiences on its side.

Imagine That

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Families ignored this particular Eddie Murphy headliner that stands as one of his lowest grossing efforts.

And that does it for my seasonal summer recaps! A year from now… look for 1990, 2000, and 2010 coming your way.

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:





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.

Oscar Watch: The Other Side of the Wind

Could a film made over four decades ago find itself in the Oscar mix in 2018? That’s the question that the Venice Film Festival is helping answer with the long-awaited release of The Other Side of the Wind. Shot from 1970 to 1976, Wind was directed by the legendary Orson Welles with a cast led by another legendary filmmaker, John Huston. The satirical take on Hollywood never reached completed status and its long production and eventual restoration will have a feature-length documentary accompany it upon its Netflix release.

Reactions are out and many suggest the picture is well worth seeking out. Hardcore movie buffs certainly have its release circled on their autumn calendars. That said, I’m skeptical that Oscar voters will recognize it in any significant way. Famously, Welles didn’t even pick up any Academy Awards for his magnum opus Citizen Kane.

If this stands any legitimate chance at a nomination, it could be in the Editing category. That’s where Bob Murawski, who won a statue for editing 2009’s The Hurt Locker, was tasked with assembling hours of footage from the 1970s into what festival goers are witnessing today. Even that, however, could be a remote possibility.

The Other Side of the Wind (along with its accompanying doc) makes it to Netflix on November 2. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:


Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.


The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air


The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit


The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris


The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook


The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street


The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game


The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant


The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea


The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Detroit Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/03): My estimate has been revised down just a bit to $11.6M on eve of release.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal team up for the third time next weekend with Detroit. Their first collaboration resulted in a Best Picture win and Bigelow being the first female to win a gold statue for direction with 2009’s The Hurt Locker, focused on the Iraq War. 2012 follow-up Zero Dark Thirty also received a Best Pic nod, among other nominations, as it zeroed in on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Their third feature goes back 50 years in history to the Algiers Hotel Incident and race riots in the title city. John Boyega of Star Wars fame stars alongside Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski, and Anthony Mackie. Early critical reaction has been strong – it stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes currently. Oscar attention could potentially come its way as well.

Detroit seems like the kind of title where solid word of mouth could allow it to play well throughout the month of August , where competition isn’t overly fierce. The strong reviews could propel it to a high teens gross under a best scenario out of the gate. However, I think it’s more likely it will debut in the low double digits to low teens with hopes of smaller drop-offs in follow-up weekends.

Detroit opening weekend prediction: $11.6 million

For my The Dark Tower prediction, click here:


For my Kidnap prediction, click here: