Oscar Watch: A Midyear 2020 Report

It might be hard to fathom, but we are at the midpoint of this experience we call 2020. As COVID-19 and social issues dominate the landscape, the cinematic world has necessarily taken a backseat to the times. The Academy recently announced that the Oscars will be delayed until April 2021 and that movies premiering in January and February of that year will be eligible for consideration. This is in addition to previous notice that streaming pictures that forgo a theatrical release will also be able to nab nominations at that ceremony.

Since theaters have essentially been shuttered since March and with several festivals (the normal breeding grounds for awards hopefuls) either canceled or significantly modified, a midyear report on Oscar contenders is, to put it mildly, challenging.

Yet… here goes! As awards followers already know, the bulk of serious contenders aren’t  typically released until fall anyway. In fact, the earliest release of the nine Best Picture nominees last year was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came out in late July. The remaining 8 had autumn and winter dates.

The Sundance Film Festival from January did give us some potential contenders. Florian Zeller’s The Father was acclaimed and it could score nods for previous winners Anthony Hopkins in lead actor and Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress. The biographical tale of feminist icon Gloria Steinem finds several actresses playing her at different ages. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander (they also both have gold statues) are among them and could be potential nominees. Previous nominee Carey Mulligan garnered solid reviews for Promising Young Woman. 

And there’s Minari. The South Korean family drama starring Steven Yeun won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. I wouldn’t sleep on its chances with the right marketing push from its studio A24. That same studio has the 19th century set indie First Cow, which also has its ardent admirers. They would need to make a major push in order for Oscar to notice it.

For movies that have actually come out, the Jane Austen inspired Emma saw positive notices for lead Anya-Taylor Joy. Ben Affleck got some of the best reviews of his career with the basketball drama The Way Back. Pete Davidson’s starring debut in The King of Staten Island drew mostly praise. And Elisabeth Moss starred in the hit The Invisible Man and it’s a possibility she could be recognized even though acting nominations in horror flicks are rare. Neither Toni Collette (Hereditary) in 2018 or Lupita Nyong’o (Us) last year could pull it off. Moss could also be recognized for Shirley, a drama that debuted at Sundance and is already available via streaming.

Then there’s Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee. The director saw his last picture, BlacKkKlansman, receive numerous nominations and win Adapted Screenplay. I would posit that Bloods stands the best chance at multiple nods including possibly Picture and Director. Delroy Lindo (though it’s not clear whether he’d be campaigned for in lead or supporting) seems highly likely to be recognized. And if he’s campaigned for in Best Actor (which he probably should be), it could open the door for Clarke Peters or Jonathan Majors to make the cut in supporting.

In other races – Pixar’s Onward could compete in Animated Feature, though Disney could save their muscle for the upcoming Soul. Look for Emma to nab a Costume Design nod.

And we shall leave it there for now, folks! As readers of the blog know, expect more Oscar Watch posts to come your way as titles screen. Typically it’s late August when I start my weekly predictions and hopefully that’s a tradition that can be kept in this crazy thing we call 2020…

The Invisible Man Movie Review

Finding its source material from the H.G. Wells novel that spawned a classic from the heyday of the Universal Monsters movies, Leigh Whannell’s take on the subject matter spins a 21st century play to the mix. While the title character wreaks his havoc, it’s the central woman in the story who is truly invisible. This is a horror tale in the #MeToo era and an often potent one at that.

We open with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) trying to escape her abusive marriage in the middle of the night without being seen. Her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), we discover later, is a controlling and dangerous figure. He’s also a mega rich tech genius (think Tony Stark with far more personal demons). Cecilia manages to flee and stay with an old friend who’s also a detective (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter (Storm Reid). Afraid to even walk outside, her fears subside when Adrian is found dead of apparent suicide. The relief is short-lived when an unseen force starts stalking Cecilia yet again and all signs point to the apparently departed husband.

Whannell has been an integral player in the scares genre with his involvement in the Saw and Insidious franchises. He is a stylish filmmaker who knows how to construct a suspenseful setup. We have grown rather wearily accustomed to the jump scares that permeate these genre exercises. They are here, but I will say a couple of them really land the jab. There’s a scene in an upscale restaurant where still or sparkling water becomes an afterthought due to a genuinely surprising moment.

That scene and many others are tremendously assisted by the convincing and freaked out to the max performance of Moss. She conveys her fear of Adrian with wide eyed terror and, eventually, a resolve to change the power dynamic. The screenplay (from the director) smartly doesn’t employ flashback sequences to show her cycle of abuse. Her fear says enough. The two-hour running time is a bit out of the ordinary for this type of material and the final third is somewhat of a letdown when the plot becomes more literal with its explanations. However, with Moss’s work fully in control of her out of control situation, The Invisible Man is a creative modern rendering of a familiar monster.

*** (out of four)

A Quiet Place Part II Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (03/12): In what is becoming a new reality due to the COVID-19, the release of this film has been delayed indefinitely from its 03/20 opening. I’ll keep the prediction up, but certainly revisions are likely to be made once a future release date is secured.

Arriving two years after its predecessor made serious noise at the box office, A Quiet Place Part II hits theaters next weekend. The horror sequel to the acclaimed 2018 blockbuster sees John Krasinski returning as writer/director with his spouse Emily Blunt headlining. Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are back as her children. New cast members include Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.

The original struck a loud chord with audiences and critics with a $50 million opening. Part one legged out impressively for its genre with an eventual $188 million overall domestic haul. It even earned some awards attention with Blunt winning a Supporting Actress SAG trophy.

All horror titles not named The Invisible Man have faced a tough road at multiplexes in 2020. However, with the first feature fresh in their minds, audiences should turn out for this follow-up. The X factor is, of course, worldwide events and this is likely to be a recurring theme in my projections for the foreseeable future. The impact of the Coronavirus on the moviegoing public is playing out in real time. At present, I will say Part II makes a few million under what the first accomplished.

A Quiet Place Part II opening weekend prediction: $42.5 million

March 13-15 Box Office Predictions

Uncertainty at the box office persists this weekend as three new titles open in wide release: the faith-based drama I Still Believe, comic book based Vin Diesel action pic Bloodshot, and Blumhouse thriller The Hunt. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the trio here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/03/i-still-believe-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/04/bloodshot-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/05/the-hunt-box-office-prediction/

Pixar’s Onward should manage a second frame atop the charts. However, a drop of close to 50% could occur and that would mean high teens or low 20s. Of the newcomers, I Still Believe looks poised for runner-up status as its core Christian audience should turn out (similar to 2018’s I Can Only Imagine).

As for Bloodshot and The Hunt, I question whether they can reach double digits and there could be a battle in the 3-5 slots between them and holdover The Invisible Man. The uncertainty I speak of is, of course, due to current events. The Coronavirus impact on the moviegoing public is playing out as we speak and is certainly a factor to consider with estimates.

And with that, my top 5 take:

1. Onward

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

2. I Still Believe

Predicted Gross: $14.6 million

3. Bloodshot

Predicted Gross: $9.6 million

4. The Invisible Man

Predicted Gross: $8 million

5. The Hunt

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million

Box Office Results (March 6-8)

One doesn’t expect Pixar to have an underwhelming start at multiplexes, but that’s precisely what happened with Onward. Its $39.1 million premiere marks the weakest wide rollout in the studio’s modern era. It’s well under my $54.3 million estimate. Reviews that weren’t as gushing as their other titles may have contributed, in addition to previously mentioned outside factors.

The Invisible Man dropped to second with $15.1 million, a bit under my $17.2 million projection. The two-week total is $52 million against the minor $7 million budget.

Sports drama The Way Back with Ben Affleck opened in third and right in line with expectations with $8.1 million (I said $8.3 million).

Family fare filled the rest of the top 5 as Sonic the Hedgehog was fourth at $7.7 million compared to my $9 million take for $140 million overall. The Call of the Wild was fifth with $6.7 million (I said $7.1 million) for $57 million at press time.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

March 6-8 Box Office Predictions

March ushers in two new releases with Pixar’s Onward featuring the vocal stylings of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and the sports drama The Way Back with Ben Affleck. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the pair here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/27/onward-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/27/the-way-back-box-office-prediction/

The latest Pixar adventure is the first to be released outside of the summer or winter frames. This lends to some uncertainty about the opening range. Reviews are sturdy, but with many critics saying it’s not quite up to the level of their classics. Onward isn’t anticipated to hit the highest levels of the studio’s debuts either, but upwards of $50 million is still likely.

The Way Back could struggle to find an audience. I will say there’s a chance this could over perform with adult audiences and sports fans as Mr. Affleck has been making the rounds on ESPN and similar platforms. However, the probable scenario is a gross under double digits.

As for holdovers, The Invisible Man finally broke the 2020 horror glut and was quite visible with genre fans (more on that below). With solid word-of-mouth, this could avoid the hefty sophomore drop-offs that many scary pics experience (especially with no real competition for its audience). I’m predicting a slide of only around 40% and an easy runner-up showing.

Sonic the Hedgehog and The Call of the Wild should each dip in the mid 40s with the newly arrived Pixar competition. And with that, my top 5 take:

1. Onward

Predicted Gross: $54.3 million

2. The Invisible Man

Predicted Gross: $17.2 million

3. Sonic the Hedgehog

Predicted Gross: $9 million

4. The Way Back

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

5. The Call of the Wild

Predicted Gross: $7.1 million

Box Office Results (February 28-March 1)

As mentioned, we have seen a string of horror genre disappointments this year. Blumhouse changed that dynamic as The Invisible Man, coming off fine reviews, took in $28.2 million. While that didn’t match my $33.8 million estimate, the start quadruples its measly $7 million budget and I expect a healthy run ahead.

Sonic the Hedgehog was second with $16.2 million, a bit above my $14.9 million projection. In three weeks, the Sega based hit stands at $128 million.

The Call of the Wild placed third in its second outing with $13.3 million, a tad under my $14.5 million forecast. Tally is $46 million.

The anime superhero flick My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising expanded wide and was fourth with $5.7 million ($9.1 million overall). I incorrectly had it outside the top five.

The five spot belonged to Bad Boys for Life at $4.3 million (I said $3.6 million) as the sequel nears the double century mark with $197 million.

Birds of Prey was sixth with $4.1 million compared to my $3.2 million take. It’s made $78 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, updating the H.G. Wells novel and classic 1933 film, debuts Friday. With 90% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the word-of-mouth should propel the pic to quite visible box office numbers. In doing so, Invisible should break a streak of underperforming horror titles in recent months.

Much of the praise from reviewers is centered on its lead Elisabeth Moss. The Emmy winner for The Handmaid’s Tale garnered a small amount of Oscar buzz in 2019 for Her Smell that never came to fruition. I look for this to be the third year in a row where an actress garners buzz for a scary movie. In 2018, it was Toni Collette in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. In 2019 – Lupita Nyong’o for Jordan Peele’s Us. Both performers received a few wins from the critics groups. They both failed to get nods come Academy time.

This will likely be the case for Moss as well, but expect lots of speculation that she could make the cut before she doesn’t. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

February 28-March 1 Box Office Predictions

As February ends and March begins at the box office, we have one new wide release out this weekend. Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss hopes to reverse the 2020 trend of horror pics posting unimpressive grosses. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/19/the-invisible-man-box-office-prediction/

With impressive early word-of-mouth, I’m estimating that Invisible will be quite visible to genre fans and easily top the charts with a low to mid 30s haul. If that occurs, it will more than quadruple its measly $7 million budget out of the gate.

The battle for #2 should be closer with holdovers Sonic the Hedgehog and The Call of the Wild, which exceeded expectations in its start (more on that below). I’ll give Sonic a slight edge. The rest of the top five should consist of returnees Bad Boys for Life and Birds of Prey. And with that, my take on the frame ahead:

1. The Invisible Man

Predicted Gross: $33.8 million

2. Sonic the Hedgehog

Predicted Gross: $14.9 million

3. The Call of the Wild

Predicted Gross: $14.5 million

4. Bad Boys for Life

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

5. Birds of Prey

Predicted Gross: $3.2 million

Box Office Results (February 21-23)

Sonic the Hedgehog was expected to easily repeat at #1 in its sophomore outing. However, the Sega based action comedy just held onto the top spot at $26.1 million (a bit under my $30.2 million projection). The film has still outperformed estimates as it stands at $106 million after ten days.

The close call came at the hands of The Call of the Wild. Harrison Ford and his CGI hound was second and debuted well at the top of its range with $24.7 million. I was much lower at $14.6 million. The downside? Call has a reported budget of $125 million.

Birds of Prey was third with $6.8 million compared to my $7.9 million estimate. In three weeks, the disappointing DC flick is at $72 million.

Bad Boys for Life was fourth at $5.8 million (I said $6.5 million) as it nears the double century mark with $191 million.

Finally, Brahms: The Boy II was fifth and also made $5.8 million. The sequel is another example of horror fans tuning out this year. My forecast of $5.5 million was on target.

And that does it for now folks! Until next time…

The Invisible Man Box Office Prediction

Horror pics have faced a tough road so far in 2020 as The Grudge, The Turning, Gretel & Hansel, and Fantasy Island have all posted lackluster debuts. This weekend, I don’t see the trend stopping with Brahms: The Boy II. do see it changing next Friday with The Invisible Man. From director Leigh Whannell (who recently made Insidious: Chapter 3 and Upgrade), this is an update of the H.G. Wells novel that was turned into a classic 1933 James Whale tale. Elisabeth Moss (who co-starred in last year’s Us) headlines a cast that includes Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Harriet Dyer.

This project was originally intended as a vehicle for Johnny Depp as part of Universal’s plans for a franchise that began with 2017’s The Mummy. When that pic brought in less than expected returns, the monster series was scrapped. The Invisible Man has undergone a significant transformation with Blumhouse co-producing. Per usual with that production company, the budget is tiny (a reported $7 million).

Early word-of-mouth is strong with screening members reporting a tense and effective crowd pleaser. Whannell appears to be a filmmaker on the upswing and Moss certainly has her fans from The Handmaid’s Tale and more.

I believe Invisible will be quite visible on the radar screens of genre moviegoers and break the streak of scary disappointments over the past few weeks. A gross of over $30 million might be the result.

The Invisible Man opening weekend prediction: $33.8 million

Brahms: The Boy II Box Office Prediction

Released four years ago, horror pic The Boy managed to gross its budget in the first three days of release. Even though audiences and critics were generally unimpressed, we now have the sequel Brahms: The Boy II out next weekend. William Brent Bell is back in the director’s chair with Katie Holmes in the lead. Costars include Ralph Ineson and Owain Yeoman.

Originally slated for last summer and then December, Brahms looks to cater to fright fest fans who have shunned their offerings thus far in 2020. The Grudge opened to $11.4 million and that middling number was a high point. The Turning followed with $6.9 million and then Gretel & Hansel with $6.1 million.

The Boy made $10.8 million for its start in January 2016 with an eventual $35 million domestic gross. I just don’t see much anticipation for the follow-up and will predict it begins with just over half of its predecessor’s number. For horror enthusiasts, it looks like the following weekend’s The Invisible Man will be the first genre success of the year. Don’t count on Brahms to be much of one.

Brahms: The Boy II opening weekend prediction: $5.5 million

For my The Call of the Wild prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/12/the-call-of-the-wild-box-office-prediction/