2019 Midyear Oscar Report

We are officially at the midpoint of this thing called 2019 and that means a midyear Oscar report is before you today on the blog. First things first: as awards watchers already know, the bulk of the eventual nominees will come your way in the second half of the year. It will likely be festivals such as Toronto and Venice that produce their initial screenings.

We have, however, already had Cannes and Sundance producing first looks at some contenders. The most high profile is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is out July 26 but debuted in the French Riviera. The celebrated auteur’s ninth feature immediately became a player in Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor), Brad Pitt (probably Supporting Actor), and Margot Robbie (Supporting Actress), as well as down the line tech races.

Cannes also served as the launching point for two contenders in the newly termed Best International Feature Film. They are Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or. With Glory, expect lots of chatter for its star Antonio Banderas to receive his first nod in Actor.

As for other possibilities in the lead Actor derby, we have Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman. If Rami Malek could take home the gold last year for Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s certainly feasible that Egerton will have his supporters. Cannes also debuted  the horror pic The Lighthouse with raves for Willem Dafoe. And though it’s a reach, there could be a push for Robert Downey Jr. to garner recognition for his decade plus embodiment of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.

When it comes to Endgame, I would anticipate talk for a Picture nod, especially after Black Panther became the first comic book pic to get one last year. At this juncture, I’ll say it gets plenty of chatter and no nomination. Yet that paradigm could shift.

Sundance gave us the true life political drama The Report. That pic features both Adam Driver and Annette Bening in roles that drew acclaim. It’s out stateside in late September and is one to keep an eye on.

2019 has produced numerous female lead performances that could all be classified as dark horse contenders. The list includes Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell), Elle Fanning (Teen Spirit), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose).

Despite its disappointing box office grosses, Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy Booksmart might be considered in Original Screenplay. Same goes for The Farewell ahead of its release in a couple weeks.

For Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 4 looks to be a slam dunk for a nomination and that also holds true for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Already released titles such as Missing Link and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are likely on the outside looking in.

As for documentaries, keep an eye on Apollo 11, The Biggest Little Farm, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese. I would say Apollo is a strong contender for inclusion.

And that’s your report, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for a whole bunch of Oscar speculation in the second half of the year…

Oscar Watch: Midsommar

Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut Hereditary from last year. The filmmaker stays in the horror genre for this tale of two couples visiting a mysterious Swedish festival that only occurs every 90 years. Cult like scares follow.

The pic has screened ahead of its July 5 stateside bow and critics are once again singing Aster’s praises. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while some reviews point out audience reaction could be quite mixed (like his first effort).

This particular genre is usually ignored by Oscar voters. A groundswell of support began to gather in 2018 for Toni Collette’s lead role in Hereditary. The female lead here, Florence Pugh, has also gotten raves for her work. Yet if Collette couldn’t get in, it probably doesn’t bode well for this lead actress. Furthermore, Lupita Nyong’o could garner attention for her work earlier in 2019 for Jordan Peele’s sophomore flick Us.

Bottom line: if Hereditary couldn’t get on the Academy’s radar, don’t expect Midsommar to do so. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Us Movie Review

Any fears of a sophomore slide are quickly dispelled by we the audience in Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his blockbuster cultural milestone Get Out from 2017. That Oscar nominated debut defied genre. Yes, it was sort of a horror flick but it brought in a racial subtext that got crowds talking. I believe Get Out gets better with every viewing and I suspect this will too.

Us, in some respects, is more of a traditional fright fest in comparison to the auteur’s first feature. There’s more jump scares, and more overall freak out moments. Yet there’s a whole lot of allegorical treatment on (yes) race, but also class and the concept of nature vs. nurture. Peele’s second pic furthers the notion that he’s an immensely talented filmmaker with lots to say. Us also leaves more up for interpretation than Get Out. It’s messier and that’s not really a criticism.

Lupita Nyong’o is Adelaide, the matriarch of the Wilson family. She’s married to the slightly goofy Gabe (Winston Duke) with two young children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). We first meet Adelaide in flashback circa 1986 as a little girl accompanying her parents to the beach in Santa Cruz. She wanders into a funhouse where she encounters a hall of mirrors. Instead of only seeing her reflection, she encounters her scary doppelgänger. The event literally leaves her speechless for an extended period of time.

We flash forward to over three decades later with her brood and they’re vacationing at their lake house in the same area. She’s talking now and has tried her best to repress that childhood event. The family meets up with their wealthy, boozy, and snobby friends (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) at the same beach. Soon enough, Adelaide is unable to bury what happened in 1986.

It turns out that doppelgänger (named Red) is back and she brings along sadistic doubles of the whole family to terrorize them. Red (naturally also played by Nyong’o) speaks in a genuinely hair raising whisper. Referred to as The Tethered, the versions of Gabe and the two children are also creepy and with murder on their minds. This is the section of the film where the gory action kicks into overdrive.

Without spoiling the rest, Us goes about answering the questions of why characters have these bloodthirsty counterparts. It’s horror, it’s government conspiracy, it’s very funny at times. The use of music (from the terrific Mike Gioulakis score to inventive spins of classic hip hop hits “I Got 5 On It” and “F*** The Police”) is expertly placed.

Lupita Nyong’o, in her dual role, is terrific. Switching between a mom in protection mode of her rather normal family to a mom orchestrating that normal family’s demise, it’s quite a role to pull off and she certainly does. Actors in this genre rarely get awards attention and the Supporting Actress winner from 12 Years a Slave deserves it. Duke (and Moss and Heidecker) bring the comic relief.

In some respects, I look at Us as the Unbreakable for Peele if Get Out is his The Sixth Sense. Why the M. Night Shyamalan comparison? Sixth Sense was a massive hit that also nabbed a Best Picture nod. Unbreakable was his breathlessly awaited next movie. It was appreciated by some and confounded others by not being as easily accessible. Those same issues apply to Us. However, just as the reputation for Unbreakable grew with time, I suspect that will hold true for Peele’s second turn. I don’t know if I’d say Us quite matches the potency of Get Out, but I think it could on subsequent screenings. For my first viewing, it definitely provided a whole lot to appreciate as this director continues to show he’s a force behind the camera.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Curse of La Llorona Box Office Prediction

Next weekend could provide an interesting answer to a question not posed before – how much can a Conjuring series picture gross if a lot of moviegoers may not be aware it’s actually part of the franchise? I give you The Curse of La Llorona, the sixth entry in this scary supernatural cinematic universe. The 1970s set ghost tale is directed by Michael Chaves in his feature-length debut (he’s slated to be behind the camera for the third official Conjuring flick next year). Linda Cardellini headlines a cast that includes Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Tony Amendola (reprising his Annabelle role), and Sean Patrick Thomas.

Llorona premiered last month at the South by Southwest Festival. Early reviews are mixed to negative with a current 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the time of its unveiling, it was a bit of a surprise that this even existed in the billion dollar worldwide franchise. It’s a legitimate question as to whether the marketing campaign has had enough time to establish that fact.

In my view, that almost certainly means this will experience the lowest debut of the series so far. Horror fans have certainly had options lately with Us and Pet Sematary. That said, it’s a risky group of films to bet against. Just last fall, The Nun unexpectedly set the franchise opening weekend high mark at $53 million. The lowest start belongs to Annabelle: Creation at a still impressive $35 million. That creepy doll, by the way, is back this June with Annabelle Comes Home.

Tracking currently has this at $20 million and that sounds about right.

The Curse of La Llorona opening weekend prediction: $20.1 million

For my Breakthrough prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/09/breakthrough-box-office-prediction/

For my Penguins prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/10/penguins-box-office-prediction/

April 12-14 Box Office Predictions

A quartet of new titles attempt to knock critically acclaimed superhero Shaza! out of the top spot this weekend, but that looks to be a tall order. We have comic book franchise reboot Hellboy, Laika Animation’s Missing Link, Regina Hall comedy Little, and college set romance After. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/03/hellboy-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/05/missing-link-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/06/little-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/07/after-box-office-prediction/

There is a great deal of uncertainty with how the newbies will perform this weekend. It seems highly likely, on the other hand, that DC’s newest crime fighter will retain the top spot. After premiering right in line with expectations, I have Shaza! dipping in the mid to high 40s and comfortably staying first,

Hellboy is a known brand, but it’s been a decade since the character was onscreen. Buzz seems very muted, but I’ll still say a high teens opening should be enough to nab it the runner-up spot. I’m shaky on it though.

Little has breakout potential, but I’m not willing yet to predict high teens. My lower teens estimate puts it in third and that’s just ahead of Missing Link, which I’m projecting will hit the lower debut end of other material from its studio.

After is a real head scratcher. The novel it’s based on has its fans. It opens on the smallest number of screens for the debuts (about 2000). I’m going pretty low with $3.7 million and that’s well outside the top 5. Yet the potential for it to surprise is real.

Pet Sematary could fall from second to fifth in its sophomore frame with about a 50% dip. That’s pretty normal for horror pics.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Shazam!

Predicted Gross: $28.2 million

2. Hellboy

Predicted Gross: $17.4 million

3. Little

Predicted Gross: $14 million

4. Missing Link

Predicted Gross: $11.7 million

5. Pet Sematary

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

Box Office Results (April 57)

As mentioned, DC had a nice weekend as Shazamhit its mark with $53.5 million, just ahead of my $52.5 million take. Sporting solid reviews, it should make a sizable chunk of change before The Avengers roll in at month’s end.

Pet Sematary posted a decent start in second with $24.5 million. It also had critical stamp of approval. The Stephen King adaptation fell quite a bit shy of my generous $34.7 million prediction.

The middling news for Dumbo continued. After a lackluster start, the elephant tale was third in weekend #2 with $18.2 million. My estimate flew higher at $22.3 million. The two-week tally sits at $76 million.

Us was fourth with $13.7 million in its third outing, falling behind my expectation of $16.6 million. However, the $20 million horror pic has amassed $152 million thus far.

Captain Marvel rounded out the top five with $12.4 million (I said $12.2 million) for $373 million overall.

Finally, the civil rights drama The Best of Enemies underwhelmed in sixth with just $4.4 million compared to my $5.9 million forecast.

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

April 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (04/04): On the eve of their premieres, some changes:

Shazam! from $59.5 million to $52.5 million

Pet Sematary from $28.7 million to $34.7 million

April has sprung at the box office and we have three new wide releases hitting multiplexes: critically hailed DC superhero pic Shazam!, Stephen King adapted horror remake Pet Sematary, and civil rights drama The Best of Enemies with Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/27/shazam-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/28/pet-sematary-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/30/the-best-of-enemies-box-office-prediction/

I’m on the higher end of the range with Shazam!, believing it could reach awfully close to $60 million or over and easily bolting into the top spot. Sematary could also exceed my estimate, but I’ll go high 20s for a second place showing. As for Enemies, I’m not as optimistic and my $5.9 million prediction would put it at #6.

Holdovers Dumbo and Us could be in line for drops close to 50% in their second and third respective weekends with Captain Marvel rounding out the top five.

And with that, my view of the frame ahead:

1. Shazam!

Predicted Gross: $52.5 million

2. Pet Sematary

Predicted Gross: $34.7 million

3. Dumbo

Predicted Gross: $22.3 million

4. Us

Predicted Gross: $16.6 million

5. Captain Marvel

Predicted Gross: $12.2 million

Box Office Results (March 2931)

Tim Burton’s live action version of Disney’s Dumbo had no trouble hitting #1, but did so with rather mediocre results. Coming off mixed reviews, the elephant tale managed $45.9 million. That’s quite lower than my $55.6 million projection. That’s far less than other recent Mouse Factory renderings of their animated classics.

Us fell to second with a mid 50s dip to $33.2 million. I forecasted more at $38.4 million. Yet the $20 million budgeted horror flick stands at $127 million in just ten days.

Captain Marvel was third with $20.6 million (I said $20.2 million) for $353 million total and $400 million in its sights.

The success story of the weekend was pro-life Pure Flix drama Unplanned, which easily exceeded expectations in fourth with $6.3 million. I was considerably lower at $2.6 million.

Five Feet Apart was fifth with $6.1 million (I said $5.9 million). Tally is $35 million.

With Unplanned reaching the top five, that put Wonder Park in sixth with $5 million – on target with my $4.9 million prediction. The animated feature has earned $37 million.

Hotel Mumbai expanded to nearly 1000 screens and was eighth with $3.1 million compared to my $3.4 million.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey had yet another box office wipeout as The Beach Bum was tenth with $1.7 million (I said $1.6 million).

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

Pet Sematary Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (04/04): On the eve of its premiere, I’m upping my estimate from $28.7 million to $34.7 million

Arriving in theaters 30 years following the movie it’s remaking, Pet Sematary hopes to bring scary flick fans to the multiplexes next Friday. The horror pic is based on Stephen King’s acclaimed 1983 bestseller. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer co-direct (making their first high-profile release) with a cast including Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow.

It doesn’t hurt that this is the first King adaptation since, well, 2017’s massive success It. That film certainly upped the legendary author’s brand and should help this bring in some cash. To add to that, reviews for the 2019 version are an improvement over the 1989 original (91% vs. 50% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Competition is a factor. While Shazam! is of a different genre, the two features could compete for similar audience members. That superhero tale will almost certainly come out on top and likely double the gross of this. There’s also Us, which will be in its third weekend after a huge debut.

Even with those potential impediments, Pet Sematary could approach $30 million for a healthy start.

Pet Sematary opening weekend prediction: $34.7 million

For my Shazam! prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/27/shazam-box-office-prediction/

For my The Best of Enemies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/30/the-best-of-enemies-box-office-prediction/