Summer 2012: The Top 10 Hits and More

My look back at the cinematic summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago culminates with 2012. A decade ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe went from a successful franchise to the phenomenal juggernaut that it remains today. That’s due to the release of a little something called The Avengers. On a side note, it’s worth mentioning that the biggest grosser 30 years ago (Batman Returns), two decades ago (Spider-Man), and in this post all share comic book roots.

Before we get to Iron Man and company, I’ll recount the other features in the top ten moneymakers before covering additional notable titles and some flops. If you missed my write-ups about the seasons of 1992 and 2002, you can find them here:

Summer 1992: The Top 10 Hits and More

Summer 2002: The Top 10 Hits and More

10. Prometheus

Domestic Gross: $126 million

Some three decades after Alien terrified audiences, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise. However, this was more of a mixed bag in terms of critical and audience reaction. The production design and Michael Fassbender’s performance were praised while the script drew its share of critics. Nevertheless Scott would be back in the mix five years later with Alien: Covenant. 

9. Snow White and the Huntsman 

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Hot off the Twilight franchise and hot off playing Thor in The Avengers, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth battled Prometheus costar Charlize Theron’s evil stepmom in this fantasy adventure. Reviews were so-so but it performed well enough to warrant a less appreciated prequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War in 2016.

8. Ice Age: Continental Drift 

Domestic Gross: $161 million

The fourth entry in the animated franchise featuring the vocal stylings of Ray Romano and John Leguizamo kept the grosses hot. Sequel Collision Course would follow four years later.

7. Men in Black 3

Domestic Gross: $179 million

The third teaming of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (with Josh Brolin playing a convincing younger version of him) earned $11 million less than 2002’s part II. That sequel made less than the 1997 original. The series was revamped in 2019 with Men in Black: International with none other than Chris Hemsworth, but audiences tuned out.

6. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Ben Stiller and Chris Rock returned for the third time voicing their respective lion and zebra. Spin-off Penguins of Madagascar came out two years later while a proper fourth entry never materialized from DreamWorks.

5. Ted

Domestic Gross: $218 million

Moving from Fox’s hugely successful animated sitcom Family Guy the big screen, Seth MacFarlane’s story of Mark Wahlberg and his crude talking bear Ted was the breakout comedy of the season. Follow-ups A Million Ways to Die in the West and the Ted sequel were not as well received.

4. Brave

Domestic Gross: $237 million

The first Pixar film led by a female hero is also the inaugural studio entry (co)directed by a woman. It would go on to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man

Domestic Gross: $262 million

After not moving forward with a fourth title directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, the Spidey franchise was rebooted with Marc Webb behind the camera and Andrew Garfield donning the red. The dollars followed although reviews were mixed and a 2014 sequel was widely considered a disappointment.

2. The Dark Knight Rises

Domestic Gross: $448 million

While perhaps not quite reaching the heights of 2008’s The Dark Knight, the culmination to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy sent Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader off in stirring fashion and with hugely profitable earnings.

1. The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $623 million

Setting record after record upon release, the melding of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye transfixed filmgoers. It’s been Marvel’s world and we’ve been living in it ever since.

And now for some other pics worthy of discussion:

Magic Mike

Domestic Gross: $113 million

Steven Soderbergh’s saga of male exotic dancers was based loosely on Channing Tatum’s real life experiences. It turned him into a superstar while giving Matthew McConaughey a memorable showcase. The micro budgeted pic (a reported $7 million) spawned a 2015 sequel and there’s a third scheduled to hit HBO Max next year.

The Bourne Legacy

Domestic Gross: $113 million

Audiences weren’t clamoring for Jeremy Renner to replace Matt Damon in this franchise, but the stateside and overseas grosses were still pretty acceptable. That said, Renner’s tenure lasted this pic and this pic only.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Domestic Gross: $46 million

While it performed even better overseas, this British import with Judi Dench  was a sleeper hit stateside that begat a 2015 sequel.

Moonrise Kingdom 

Domestic Gross: $45 million

Wes Anderson scored with critics and crowds with this coming-of-age dramedy that premiered at Cannes and then found an audience in the weeks that followed.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Domestic Gross: $12 million

This indie drama from Benh Zeitlin was truly a little movie that could. Shot for under $2 million, it eventually nabbed Oscar nods for Picture, Director, Actress (Quvanzhane Wallis at age 9), and Adapted Screenplay.

They’re not all winners so let’s get into some critical and/or commercial failures from the period:

Dark Shadows

Domestic Gross: $79 million

Johnny Depp’s box office happy days were beginning to fade as his 8th collaboration with Tim Burton was perhaps the least memorable. This horror comedy failed to enlighten viewers.

Battleship

Domestic Gross: $65 million

Action fans weren’t taken with this Peter Berg directed board game adaptation starring Liam Neeson and Rihanna with a bloated budget of over $200 million.

Total Recall

Domestic Gross: $58 million

And your action sci-fi fans weren’t signing up for Colin Farrell taking over for Arnold Schwarzenegger in this unneeded remake.

Rock of Ages

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Based on the Broadway musical, there was a deaf ear turned to this adaptation despite Tom Cruise getting solid notices for his performance. Lucky for him, he’d rule this current summer with Top Gun: Maverick. 

That’s My Boy

Domestic Gross: $36 million

Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg’s comedic partnership drew a 20% Tomatoes meter and ambivalence from usually devoted Sandler fans.

The Watch

Domestic Gross: $35 million

That wasn’t the only high-profile comedic flop as this sci-fi mashup with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill fared even worse in numbers and rotten reviews (17% RT).

And that’ll close it out, ladies and gents! It’s been a pleasure revising these cinematic seasons of days past.

Spencer Review

Approximately a decade into their marriage, the union of Diana and Charles is as decayed as the floorboards in her abandoned childhood home and there seems to be nowhere to go but down. That early 90s mindset is where we find Kristen Stewart as the People’s Princess in Spencer from Pablo Larrain. Set at Christmas, it’s an unexpectedly claustrophobic mood piece punctuated by jazz beats and occasional moments of joy (mostly courtesy of young William and Harry). They’re weighed down by Diana’s loveless connection to her husband and in-laws.

Focused on someone who strained to follow royal patterns, it seems appropriate that Spencer refuses to follow ones in the biopic genre. That makes it unique and sometimes haunting – a bit like the title character. In 1991, Diana is well aware of the Prince’s other relationship. So are the paparazzi and they force curtains to be sewn shut as the Royals holiday at their Norfolk estate. Sewing the Princess’s garments are Maggie (Sally Hawkins), one of the few subjects that Diana can talk to. The same cannot be said for Major Gregory (Timothy Spall), who runs the home with the same military precision as the cooks preparing their meals.

In her room that she appears not to share with Charles, the reading list is suggestive. A novel about Anne Boleyn (a 16th century Queen executed by her King) leads to Diana having strange visions of the long beheaded branch of the complicated family tree.

Spencer is not concerned with historical accuracy as much as how history affected the former Miss Spencer’s psyche. She longs to break free as evidenced by an excursion to her former residence. The dialogue between her and Charles (Jack Farthing) or the Queen (Stella Gonet) is curt and strained. There are no pearls of wisdom found in their interactions.

With a stirring score from Jonny Greenwood and masterful cinematography by Claire Mathon, this is a gorgeously rendered production. Stewart has shown her considerable talents post Twilight before – particularly in Personal Shopper. While she may not closely resemble Diana, her mannerisms do and her vulnerability is often something to marvel at. Those looking for a traditional experience may not gel with Spencer. I found myself not being able to look away.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscars 2021: The Case of Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart’s role as Princess Diana in Spencer is the fifth and final Case Of post for the Best Actress contenders. The first four can be accessed here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Jessica Chastain

Oscars 2021: The Case of Olivia Colman

Oscars 2021: The Case of Penelope Cruz

Oscars 2021: The Case of Nicole Kidman

The Case for Kristen Stewart:

Awards attention for the Twilight star has been building for some time. After acclaimed performances in indie fare like Clouds of Sils Maria, Certain Women, and Personal Shopper, this high-profile role has been considered a potential frontrunner performance since it debuted at the Venice Film Festival.

The Case Against Kristen Stewart:

That frontrunner status hit massive speed bumps. While Stewart nabbed Golden Globe and Critics Choice nods, she was snubbed at SAG and BAFTA. She lost the Globe to Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) and SAG went to Jessica Chastain. She’s yet to take a significant precursor (a Critics Choice Award this weekend could help). Furthermore, Spencer drew mixed reaction from critics and audiences and Stewart holds the sole Oscar nod for it.

Previous Nominations:

None

The Verdict:

It’s a guessing game in Best Actress. Despite Stewart’s setbacks, she’s still in the running in this wide open derby. Her exclusion in SAG could even cause Academy voters to grant her retribution. That said, she’s probably behind Chastain and Kidman at the moment.

My Case Of posts will continue with our last Best Actor player – Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

The Oscar race for Best Actress takes center stage in my latest rundown of where the major competitions stand in early November. If you missed my posts covering lead actor and the supporting categories, they can accessed right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

As I have with the others, let’s start with my track record during the same time period from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I somehow had all five nominated actresses forecasted correctly with two months to go: winner Renee Zellweger as Judy in addition to Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). For 2020, it was three: gold recipient Frances McDormand for Nomadland and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). Both Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were listed in Other Possibilities.

In 2021, we already have a strong frontrunner and that’s Kristin Stewart in Spencer. Playing the high profile role of Princess Diana, Ms. Stewart is practically guaranteed to nab her first nod after plenty of critically appreciated post Twilight turns. She’s a serious threat to win and Stewart has been atop my chart ever since the picture screened back in September at the Venice Film Festival.

Her biggest competition could come from an as yet unseen performance – Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Judging from the trailers alone, her part seems like the kind of bait that would cause Academy voters to bite. If so, the pop superstar would receive her second nomination three years after her breakout cinematic role with A Star Is Born. 

After that, there’s a lengthy list of hopefuls for the three remaining slots. When The Eyes of Tammy Faye premiered on the festival circuit, it was a given that Jessica Chastain would make the cut. I still think she will, but the pic’s barely existent box office numbers are reason for some uncertainty.

Screenings were also kind to Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter and that momentum could result in her third inclusion in the last four years after a 2018 Actress victory for The Favourite and a supporting nod for last year’s The Father. 

Colman isn’t the only actress from a Netflix offering eyeing the prize. There’s Tessa Thompson in Passing, Jennifer Lawrence in Don’t Look Up, Sandra Bullock for The Unforgivable, and Halle Berry with Bruised. All could factor in. Other than Thompson (her costar Ruth Negga stands a greater chance in supporting), the three others have yet to be unveiled. The streamer may have to pick and choose whose campaigns they go all in with.

There’s other possibilities in the unseen column where the buzz will shortly materialize: Cate Blanchett for Nightmare Alley, Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza, Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball with Being the Ricardos, and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story). At press time, I only have Kidman in the top ten but that could change as soon as reviews start posting.

As for pictures that have been available for awhile, I feel Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur’s supporting parts in CODA are more likely to be recognized than lead Emilia Jones. Renate Reinsve will have her share of supporters for The Worst Person in the World, but its best chance lies with an International Feature Film nomination. Bad financial returns could negatively impact Jodie Comer for The Last Duel, though I will note that a number of prognosticators have her in.

For the fifth spot, I currently see three performances with roughly equal chances. Frances McDormand took the prize last year and that might make the Academy think twice about putting her up again for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Penelope Cruz is just on the outside looking in for Parallel Mothers. That leaves me with Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect. Even though the film received mixed reviews and so-so box office, praise for the Supporting Actress winner in 2006’s Dreamgirls was universal. Voters may have to think all the way back to summer to include her but I do believe it’s feasible.

And with that, here’s my standings:

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 3)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 2)

4. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 4)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 7)

7. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

8. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8)

9. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

10. Tessa Thompson, Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

Now that the acting derbies are wrapped, I’ll have Best Director up next!

Oscar Predictions: Spencer

The screenings at Venice and Telluride are rolling in at a furious level (expect lots of posts up this evening). From Italy, one of the most eagerly awaited was Spencer, Pablo Larrain’s biopic of Princess Diana starring Kristen Stewart. The director is no stranger to real life tales of political figures and their tragic circumstances. In 2016, Larrain made Jackie and it resulted in a Best Actress nomination for Natalie Portman.

Word-of-mouth indicates that Spencer could be a serious Oscar player (it’s out November 5). This is particularly true for Stewart. The actress’s post Twilight career includes praised performances for Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper, but she’s yet to garner any attention from the Academy.

It’s always risky to be too declarative at this stage of prognosticating and with so many pictures left to screen, but it feels warranted here. So here goes: Kristen Stewart is going to be one of the five names for Best Actress. You can write it in ink. I will probably have her listed at #1 when I do updated predictions (which will come on Monday).

Other nominations are less certain, but totally feasible. This includes Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Score. I don’t foresee nods for the supporting cast which includes Sally Hawkins, Jack Farthing, Timothy Spall, and Sean Harris.

Bottom line: a gold statue could be in Stewart’s future and Spencer could factor into several other categories. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

Oscar Watch: Blue Bayou

Justin Chon is known to many moviegoers as Eric Yorkie from the Twilight franchise, but he’s also a burgeoning director who’s debuted his latest feature at the Cannes Film Festival. Blue Bayou is Chon’s third effort behind the camera. The immigration drama stars the filmmaker as a Korean-American facing deportation with Alicia Vikander (2015’s Supporting Actress winner for The Danish Girl) portraying his wife. Costars include Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Emory Cohen.

Reviews coming from France aren’t all completely laudatory. It stands at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet plenty are quite positive. Focus Features could be able to mine the urgent subject matter for awards consideration when it premieres stateside in September. This includes top line races such as Original Screenplay (Chon wrote the script) and his own lead performance as well as Vikander’s.

Could Best Picture be in the mix? It’s possible. The film is said to be an effective tearjerker and that never hurts. This season has a ways to go to determine whether Bayou could be 2021’s Minari in terms of contention, but it’s in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Happiest Season

Hulu looks to have a holiday hit on their hands when Happiest Season holds its streaming debut on November 25th. The rom com stars Kristen Stewart as her character embarks on a holiday outing with the family of her girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis). Problem is, said girlfriend hasn’t yet come out to said family. Clea DuVall directs with a supporting cast including Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, and Mary Steenburgen.

The review embargo lifted today and the results indicate a winner. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at 93%. Particular praise has gone to a trio of performances: Stewart, Plaza, and Levy (who’s having quite a year with his multiple Emmys for Schitt’s Creek). When it comes to Oscar, however, I am skeptical that Season has any impact (potentially similar to another acclaimed Hulu comedy Palm Springs).

The Golden Globes, on the other hand, could be a different story. The pic could contend in the Musical/Comedy race, but I especially think Stewart could be recognized in Best Actress. Ms. Stewart has had a number of critically appreciated roles in her post Twilight years. A nod in the Musical/Comedy category would mark her first Globes mention. Oscar may have to wait for another season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Devil All the Time

The Gothic thriller The Devil All the Time, based on the 2011 bestseller by Donald Ray Pollock, is in theater this weekend in limited fashion before a Netflix release this coming Wednesday. Directed by Antonio Campos, the pic boasts an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson (who’s everywhere at the moment with Tenet and The Batman trailer out).

Reviews out are of the mixed variety as Devil holds a 64% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some critics have gone out of their way to praise the performances of Holland and Pattinson. The latter, in particular, seems likely to find an awards friendly role sooner than later with his impressive post Twilight output.

However, this is highly unlikely to be it. In addition to the several negative reviews, Netflix is simply too busy this season to make this film a priority. The streamer looks to have several legitimate contenders on their hands in the near future with Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Hillbilly Elegy – all of which have actors that they’ll campaign for. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Seberg

Kristen Stewart seems to have found another acclaimed indie role with the premiere of Seberg today at the Venice Film Festival. From director Benedict Andrews (best known for Una), the pic casts Stewart as actress Jean Seberg (best known for 1960’s Breathless), whose career was put in jeopardy by her association with an African-American activist played by Anthony Mackie. Costars include Jack O’Connel, Margaret Qualley, and Vince Vaughn.

Reviews for the film itself are a bit shaky. Yet it’s Stewart once again being singled out for her strong work. The Twilight performer has had a run of applauded roles in titles such as Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. The Academy has yet to take notice and I’m skeptical they will here considering competitors in higher profile material. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…