2023 Oscar Predictions: May 29th Edition

As the month of May closes out, we arrive at my post Cannes forecast for the 96th Academy Awards! There were heavy hitters premiering in the south of France and buzz to discuss for several of them.

One year ago, Triangle of Sadness took the Palme d’Or (the fest’s top prize) and it eventually became a Best Picture contender at the Oscars. Ruben Östlund, Triangle‘s director who served as this year’s jury president, was also nominated for his behind the camera work.. In 2023, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall won the biggest honor. The French courtroom drama established itself as a major factor in International Feature Film and it is feasible that it could nab a slot in the eventual BP ten.

Other films that solidified their statuses as Academy bait? We start with Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. The three and a half hour epic maintains its #1 position in Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Lily Gladstone), and Supporting Actor after many raves at Cannes. However, the Supporting Actor in first is Robert De Niro and not Jesse Plemons, who was perched there two weeks ago. Reviews indicate it’s De Niro who should have the better shot.

Let’s be clear. My rankings right now reflect who I believe will be nominated and not necessarily who I think will win (it’s simply too early for that). Killers looks to be in a fantastic position for multiples nods after its unveiling.

Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is right behind Moon as far as significant chatter out of the festival. The Holocaust drama could contend in Pic and Director. So could lead actress Sandra Hüller. Yet she might have an even stronger chance for her performance in Anatomy of a Fall.

For May December from Todd Haynes, reviews were quite solid. Its best chances at inclusion could be for its trio of actors Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton. We’re still not sure if Portman and Moore will be co-campaigned for lead. For now I’m slotting the former in Actress and the latter in supporting.

Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City drew plaudits though mixed reaction elsewhere. I’m skeptical of its chances (though it could play in down-the-line races like Production Design and Score).

Then there’s the features that dropped out of contention. Pixar’s Elemental won’t be the first studio title to vie for BP since Toy Story 3. It might be lucky to get an Animated Feature mention after some lackluster reaction. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will not be a Top Gun: Maverick style hopeful for Oscars. And the fest’s opener Jeanne du Barry with Johnny Depp might get a Costume Design nod and that’s all.

In 2022, I made predictions for the 95th Academy Awards on this same day. It yielded 3 of the eventual 10 BP nominees with eventual winner Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, and Women Talking. Four others (Avatar: The Way of Water, Elvis, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick) were named in Other Possibilities. I wasn’t ready to anoint Triangle of Sadness despite its Cannes hardware. In Director – I correctly named the victorious Daniels for Everything Everywhere and Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans. With Best Actress, I had Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere) who would take the gold. Cate Blanchett (Tár) and Ana de Armas (Blonde) were Other Possibilities. I will note that I had Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans) listed in supporting and she was nominated in lead. For Actor, winner Brendan Fraser (The Whale) were correctly called with Austin Butler (Elvis) listed. Both Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Paul Mescal (Aftersun) were Other Possibilities. None of the five contenders in Supporting Actress were rightly placed. I did have winner Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere), her costar Stephanie Hsu, and Hong Chau (The Whale) in Other Possibilities. Finally, Ke Huy Quan (who took the statue) for Everything Everywhere was the only correctly tagged performer in Supporting Actor.

OK… deep breath. With all that context, let’s see where everything and everyone ranks…

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Killers of the Flower Moon (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. The Color Purple (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Past Lives (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Dune: Part Two (PR: 4) (E)

5. Oppenheimer (PR: 5) (E)

6. Saltburn (PR: 7) (+1)

7. The Zone of Interest (PR: 15) (+8)

8. The Holdovers (PR: 8) (E)

9. Air (PR: 9) (E)

10. Poor Things (PR: 6) (-4)

Other Possibilities:

11. May December (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Maestro (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Anatomy of a Fall (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Challengers (PR: 14) (E)

15. Blitz (PR: 13) (-2)

16. Barbie (PR: 12) (-4)

17. Napoleon (PR: 18) (+1)

18. Rustin (PR: 20) (+2)

19. Flint Strong (PR: 17) (-2)

20. Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 16) (-4)

21. The Nickel Boys (PR: 21) (E)

22. The Book of Clarence (PR: 22) (E)

23. The Killer (PR: 19) (-4)

24. Asteroid City (PR: 25) (+1)

25. Ferrari (PR: 23) (-2)

Dropped Out:

Strangers

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part Two (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Blitz Bazawule, The Color Purple (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Celine Song, Past Lives (PR: 2) (-2)

5. Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest (PR: 14) (+9)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer (PR: 6) (E)

7. Emerald Fennell, Saltburn (PR: 7) (E)

8. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 5) (-3)

9. Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Alexander Payne, The Holdovers (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Bradley Cooper, Maestro (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Ben Affleck, Air (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Ridley Scott, Napoleon (PR: 15) (+2)

14. Greta Gerwig, Barbie (PR: 10) (-4)

15. Steve McQueen, Blitz (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Todd Haynes, May December

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Fantasia Barrino, The Color Purple (PR: 1) (E)

2. Greta Lee, Past Lives (PR: 2) (E)

3. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 3) (E)

4. Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall (PR: Not Ranked)

5. Natalie Portman, May December (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Carey Mulligan, Maestro (PR: 7) (E)

8. Zendaya, Challengers (PR: 8) (E)

9. Margot Robbie, Barbie (PR: 6) (-3)

10. Saoirse Ronan, Blitz (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Kate Winslet, Lee (PR: 11) (E)

12. Annette Bening, Nyad (PR: 12) (E)

13. Sandra Hüller, The Zone of Interest (PR: 13) (E)

14. Ryan Destiny, Flint Strong (PR: 14) (E)

15. Jane Levy, A Little Prayer (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Regina King, Shirley

Amy Adams, Nightbitch

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 1) (E)

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (E)

3. Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Barry Keoghan, Saltburn (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Kingsley Ben-Adir, Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 8) (+3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bradley Cooper, Maestro (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Teo Yoo, Past Lives (PR: 7) (E)

8. Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer (PR: 6) (-2)

9. Anthony Hopkins, Freud’s Last Session (PR: 11) (+2)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, Napoleon (PR: 10) (E)

11. David Strathairn, A Little Prayer (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Matt Damon, Air (PR: 9) (-3)

13. Ed Harris, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: 13) (E)

14. Mike Faist, Challengers (PR: 12) (-2)

15. John David Washington, The Piano Lesson (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Andrew Scott, Strangers

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple (PR: 2) (E)

3. Taraji P. Henson, The Color Purple (PR: 3) (E)

4. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers (PR: 4) (E)

5. Julianne Moore, May December (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Viola Davis, Air (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Rosamund Pike, Saltburn (PR: 7) (E)

8. Lashana Lynch, Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Halle Bailey, The Color Purple (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Aunjanue Ellis, The Nickel Boys (PR: 11) (E)

12. Tilda Swinton, The Killer (PR: 10) (-2)

13. Danielle Deadwyler, The Piano Lesson (PR: 13) (E)

14. Jodie Foster, Nyad (PR: 14) (E)

15. Vanessa Kirby, Napoleon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Claire Foy, Strangers

Rebecca Ferguson, Dune: Part Two

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 4) (+3)

2. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 2) (E)

3. Colman Domingo, The Color Purple (PR: 10) (+7)

4. Charles Melton, May December (PR: 8) (+4)

5. John Magaro, Past Lives (PR: 3) (-2)

Other Possibilties:

6. Samuel L. Jackson, The Piano Lesson (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Ryan Gosling, Barbie (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Richard E. Grant, Saltburn (PR: 11) (+3)

9. Ben Affleck, Air (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (-9)

11. Brian Tyree Henry, Flint Strong (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 9) (-3)

13. Corey Hawkins, The Color Purple (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Ben Foster, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Jeremy Strong, Maestro

Oscar Predictions: Asteroid City

Wes Anderson is no stranger to Cannes or Oscar nominations as Focus Features hopes the debut of Asteroid City at the former leads to the latter. A mix of comedy, drama, romance, and sci-fi, it features the auteur’s typical sprawling cast (many of whom have worked with him on multiple occasions). This includes (deep breath) Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, and Jeff Goldblum. Exhale.

Out stateside on June 23rd, City premiered in the south of France just like Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The French Dispatch. Four of his last five works have generated the Academy’s attention. 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was up for Animated Feature and Original Score (from frequent collaborator Alexandre Desplat). 2012’s Kingdom was in the Original Screenplay derby (with Anderson’s cowriter Roman Coppola). Two years later, The Grand Budapest Hotel was the massive awards breakthrough with nine Oscar nods and four victories in Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, and Production Design. It is Anderson’s sole BP nominee. 2018’s Isle of Dogs nabbed Animated Feature and Score mentions. In 2021, I had The French Dispatch predicted for Score and Production Design. It was surprisingly blanked on the morning of nominations.

Critics indicate this is an Anderson effort through and through and most reviews are of the thumbs up variety. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 84%. Like Dispatch and pics before it, Score (by Desplat of course) and Production Design are possibilities. So is the screenplay from Anderson and Coppola. Yet the overseas reaction is not to the level of Hotel and City could come up short like Dispatch did. A Best Picture nod probably won’t occur though perhaps the Golden Globes could slot it in Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy).

Finally, despite the sheer volume of familiar faces appearing in his filmography, no actors have received recognition in one of Anderson’s pics from the Academy. Bill Murray in Rushmore and Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums likely came close. I do not anticipate that streak being broken here. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2023 Oscar Predictions: May 14th Edition

My second round of ranked predictions in the six major categories for the 96th Academy Awards comes two days before the 76th Annual Cannes Film Festival gets underway in the south of France. It will conclude on May 27th and you can expect my third round of forecasts shortly thereafter.

At Cannes, we will receive our first reviews and buzz for numerous heavy hitters. Those pictures include Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, May December from Todd Haynes, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, Monster from Hirokazu Kore-eda, Firebrand with Alicia Vikander, Pixar’s Elemental, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Here is my pre-Cannes outlook on Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies and let’s see how this gets shook up in a couple of weeks!

BEST PICTURE

Predicted Nominees:

1. Killers of the Flower Moon (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Past Lives (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Color Purple (PR: 3) (E)

4. Dune: Part Two (PR: 4) (E)

5. Oppenheimer (PR: 5) (E)

6. Poor Things (PR: 6) (E)

7. Saltburn (PR: 7) (E)

8. The Holdovers (PR: 12) (+4)

9. Air (PR: 9) (E)

10. May December (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities:

11. Maestro (PR: 11) (E)

12. Barbie (PR: 14) (+2)

13. Blitz (PR: 13) (E)

14. Challengers (PR: 8) (-6)

15. The Zone of Interest (PR: Not Ranked)

16. Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 15) (-1)

17. Flint Strong (PR: 19) (+2)

18. Napoleon (PR: 16) (-2)

19. The Killer (PR: 21) (+2)

20. Rustin (PR: 20) (E)

21. The Nickel Boys (PR: 24) (+3)

22. The Book of Clarence (PR: 17) (-5)

23. Ferrari (PR: 23) (E)

24. Strangers (PR: 18) (-6)

25. Asteroid City (PR: 22) (-3)

Dropped Out:

The Bikeriders

BEST DIRECTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Celine Song, Past Lives (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part Two (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Blitz Bazawule, The Color Purple (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Emerald Fennell, Saltburn (PR: 7) (E)

8. Todd Haynes, May December (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Alexander Payne, The Holdovers (PR: 13) (+4)

10. Greta Gerwig, Barbie (PR: 10) (E)

11. Ben Affleck, Air (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Steve McQueen, Blitz (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Bradley Cooper, Maestro (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Ridley Scott, Napoleon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Luca Guadagnino, Challengers

David Fincher, The Killer

BEST ACTRESS

Predicted Nominees:

1. Fantasia Barrino, The Color Purple (PR: 1) (E)

2. Greta Lee, Past Lives (PR: 2) (E)

3. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: 7) (+3)

5. Natalie Portman, May December (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Margot Robbie, Barbie (PR: 6) (E)

7. Carey Mulligan, Maestro (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Zendaya, Challengers (PR: 3) (-5)

9. Saoirse Ronan, Blitz (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Kate Winslet, Lee (PR: 15) (+4)

12. Annette Bening, Nyad (PR: 12) (E)

13. Sandra Hüller, The Zone of Interest (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Ryan Destiny, Flint Strong (PR: 14) (E)

15. Amy Adams, Nightbitch (PR: 10) (-5)

Dropped Out:

Aunjanue Ellis, The Nickel Boys (moved to Supporting)

BEST ACTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1 . Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 1) (E)

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (E)

3. Barry Keoghan, Saltburn (PR: 3) (E)

4. Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers (PR: 9) (+5)

5. Bradley Cooper, Maestro (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Teo Yoo, Past Lives (PR: 4) (-3)

8. Kingsley Ben-Adir, Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 8) (E)

9. Matt Damon, Air (PR: 14) (+5)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, Napoleon (PR: 10) (E)

11. Anthony Hopkins, Freud’s Last Session (PR: 11) (E)

12. Mike Faist, Challengers (PR: 5) (-7)

13. Ed Harris, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: Not Ranked)

14. John David Washington, The Piano Lesson (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Andrew Scott, Strangers (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Andre Holland, The Actor

Paul Mescal, Strangers (moved to Supporting)

Adam Driver, Ferrari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple (PR: 2) (E)

3. Taraji P. Henson, The Color Purple (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers (PR: 7) (+3)

5. Viola Davis, Air (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Julianne Moore, May December (PR: 3) (-3)

7. Rosamund Pike, Saltburn (PR: 5) (-2)

8. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 8) (E)

9. Lashana Lynch, Bob Marley: One Love (PR: 9) (E)

10. Tilda Swinton, The Killer (PR: 13) (+3)

11. Aunjanue Ellis, The Nickel Boys (PR: Not Ranked, moved from lead)

12. Claire Foy, Strangers (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Danielle Deadwyler, The Piano Lesson (PR: 10) (-3)

14. Jodie Foster, Nyad (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune: Part Two (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jodie Comer, The Bikeriders

Moon Seung-ah, Past Lives

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 2) (E)

3. John Magaro, Past Lives (PR: 5) (+2)

4. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Samuel L. Jackson, The Piano Lesson (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Ryan Gosling, Barbie (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Ben Affleck, Air (PR: 12) (+5)

8. Charles Melton, May December (PR: 6) (-2)

9. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 11) (+2)

10. Colman Domingo, The Color Purple (PR: Not Ranked)

11. Richard E. Grant, Saltburn (PR: 8) (-3)

12. Jeremy Strong, Maestro (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Brian Tyree Henry, Flint Strong (PR: 10) (-3)

14. Ben Foster, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Corey Hawkins, The Color Purple

Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Paul Dano, Dumb Money

Oscar Predictions: Paint

Owen Wilson’s character in Paint might be named Carl Nargle, but he’s obviously based on the late coater of happy little trees PBS host Bob Ross. The comedy is written and directed by Brit McAdams and debuts in limited release this Friday. Costars include Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ciara Renée, and Stephen Root.

The review embargo has lapsed and most critics are hardly deeming it a valuable work of art. It has just a 31% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Wilson actually received an Oscar nomination over 20 years ago for co-scripting The Royal Tenenbaums with Wes Anderson.

This won’t grant him a second. Based on the mostly negative reaction, it will be easy for voters to brush this one off. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2023 Oscar Predictions: March Edition (Best Director)

This blogger’s first take on the 96th Academy Awards arrives at Best Director. If you didn’t catch my early glimpses for the acting races, you can find them linked at the bottom.

When I made my initial projections for the recently aired 95th Oscars back in April 2022, it correctly identified one of the eventual nominees: Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans. The eventual winners – the Daniels for Everything Everywhere All at Once – were mentioned in Other Possibilities.

I’ll have Best Picture up later this evening!

TODD’S MARCH 2023 OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

Blitz Bazawule, The Color Purple

Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

Celine Song, Past Lives

Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part Two

Other Possibilities:

Ben Affleck, Air

Wes Anderson, Asteroid City

Bradley Cooper, Maestro

Emerald Fennell, Saltburn

Greta Gerwig, Barbie

Luca Guadagnino, Challengers

Todd Haynes, May December

Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

Steve McQueen, Blitz

Jeymes Samuel, The Book of Clarence

2022: The Year of Hong Chau

My Year Of posts focused on six performers who gave audiences a memorable 2022 culminates with what I’ll consider the Utility Player prize. This goes to a character actor who improves the viewing experience of the projects they’re in. We could coin it the Patricia Clarkson or J.T. Walsh Award.

This year, I’m giving it to Hong Chau. Five years ago, she received Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for her supporting part in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing. An Oscar nod was expected to follow, but didn’t materialize.

In the half decade since, she’s been seen more in small screen material. That changed in ’22 with two critically heralded roles in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale and Mark Mylod’s The Menu. For the former, her Liz (caretaker and confidant to Brendan Fraser’s lead) could mark Chau’s first Academy recognition. For the latter, her Elsa (second in command to the sadistic chef played by Ralph Fiennes) was a highlight in a terrific cast.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, another Chau performance received acclaim. Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up features her with Michelle Williams in a dramedy that sports a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score. It’ll be released stateside in 2023. So will Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City where she’ll be part of his typical impressive ensemble that includes Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Margot Robbie, Edward Norton, and many more. Chau is also cast in Yorgos Lanthimos’s And with Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, and Margaret Qualley.

Among all those well-known filmmakers and stars, Chau stands out and earns a final slot in the Year Of write-ups.

Amsterdam Review

David O. Russell’s Amsterdam exasperates more than it fascinates. Opening with the tagline “A lot of this actually happened”, the brief explorations of American history between the World Wars hint at a compelling narrative. Wanting to go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole afterwards doesn’t necessarily make for a gratifying experience.

Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) is a member of New York high society through marriage. His snooty in-laws and high maintenance wife (Andrea Riseborough) ship him off to what will become World War I in 1918. Under the command of the kindly Bill Meekins (Ed Begley Jr.), the good doc practices his skills for an all black regiment. They must wear French uniforms since the American forces aren’t integrated. That’s a part that actually happened. Burt makes fast friends with Harold Woodsman (John David Washington). They fight together and are seriously wounded together. Burt is given a glass eye that’s often used for screwball comedy effect. Their injuries introduce them to peculiar nurse Valerie (Margot Robbie), who takes the soldier’s battle scars (such as the metal embedded in their flesh) and turns it into surrealistic art. Burt, Harold, and Valerie form a close bond including the romantic sort for the latter two. The trio live a joyous existence in the title city until Burt returns to the Big Apple. Harold eventually follows suit to become an attorney. The men stay friends and colleagues while Valerie’s whereabouts are unknown.

Fifteen years later, the U.S. is in a depression. Our two New Yorkers have an even more pressing issue. Former war commander Meekins (now a Senator) turns up dead and mysteriously so. His daughter Elizabeth (Taylor Swift, in a performance that will surely generate memes) enlists dad’s former soldiers to investigate. This snooping leads to a vast government conspiracy – some of which falls under the actually happened headline. The case additionally leads them back to Valerie and an all-star cast beyond Bale, Washington, and Robbie.

Chris Rock is a member of the French uniformed clad force. Michael Shannon and Mike Myers are intelligence officers amusingly masquerading as bird experts. Zoe Saldana, in the picture’s most underdeveloped role, helps perform autopsy work and is a potential love interest for Burt. The most intriguing character is General Gill Dillenbeck (Robert De Niro), a combat hero being recruited for fascist propagandist purposes. Russell’s screenplay gives De Niro a noteworthy role to play with (this is the fourth collaboration between them). The legendary actor has done some of his finest 21st century work with the filmmaker.

The political potboiler aspects kick into gear when Dillenbeck pops up for the second half. That’s when Amsterdam improves. The first half feels like Russell’s attempt to do a Wes Anderson or Coen Bros type whimsical comedy and he fails the test. There’s a lot of characters crowding the scene. Rami Malek is an affluent textile magnet with connections to Valerie. Anya Taylor-Joy is his wife, who has a funny fangirl crush on Dillenbeck. Alessandro Nivola and Matthias Schoenaerts are detectives assigned to track the lead trio.

Once Russell gets to what Amsterdam is really about (with some unmistakable current events overtones), I realized lots of these famous faces and subplots could’ve been jettisoned for a more focused approach. Of all the names, Bale (always committed) and De Niro come out best. The director’s eye for the solid material keeps getting dislodged – like Burt’s fake one. This makes it questionable as to whether it’s worth seeing. More of the stuff that actually happened and not the forced whimsy would have been a reasonable start.

**1/2 (out of four)

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.

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 12-14

The eyes of box office prognosticators will be focused on the second frame for Marvel’s Eternals. It should have no trouble repeating in the top spot, but its drop could be significant following mixed audience and critical reactions. We do have some newcomers: Clifford the Big Red Dog and potential Oscar favorite Belfast from Kenneth Branagh (debuting on roughly 600 screens). You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Clifford the Big Red Dog Box Office Prediction

Belfast Box Office Prediction

Clifford is getting a jump on the weekend by opening Wednesday (with early previews Tuesday). That could be a shrewd move considering kiddos are off on Thursday for Veterans Day. It should firmly plant itself in the #2 spot after Eternals. 

As for Belfast, the awards chatter should help it achieve a decent per theater average. It will look to play steadily for weeks over the Oscar season. My $2.3 million estimate leaves it outside the top five.

Back to Eternals. The B Cinemascore grade is rather troubling for its sophomore outing (most MCU titles get an A). With audiences clearly not digging it in the way they typically greet the studio’s material, a drop in the low to even high 60s seems where this is headed.

Holdovers Dune, No Time to Die, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage should fill the rest of the top five and here’s how I see it going down:

1. Eternals

Predicted Gross: $23.2 million

2. Clifford the Big Red Dog

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $17.6 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. Dune

Predicted Gross: $4.9 million

4. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million

5. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $3.4 million

Box Office Results (November 5-7)

The shaky WOM for Eternals undoubtedly impacted its earnings as the Chloe Zhao effort took in $71.2 million, under my $77.8 million projection. That would be a fantastic debut for almost anything not MCU related. However, Eternals premiere is the smallest for Marvel since 2015’s Ant-Man. As mentioned, it could be headed for a precipitous drop in weekend #2.

Dune slipped to second after two weeks on top with $7.7 million (I said $7.2 million). The sci-fi epic has amassed $84 million in three weeks.

No Time to Die held up very well for third in its fifth go-round at $6 million – higher than my $4.8 million take. Total is $143 million.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage hit the four spot at $4.4 million compared to my $3.8 million projection. It’s nearing the double century mark with $197 million.

Ron’s Gone Wrong, which I was wrong about staying in the top five, was fifth at $3.5 million for a two-week total of $17 million.

The French Dispatch from Wes Anderson expanded its screen count and made $2.5 million for sixth place with $8 million overall.

Halloween Kills fell hard with its namesake holiday having passed. The $2.3 million gross for seventh (I was more generous at $3 million) brought the earnings to $84 million.

Finally, the Princess Diana biopic Spencer with Kristen Stewart couldn’t reach my prognosis. Starting out in nearly 1000 venues, the $2.1 million haul was just over half of my $4.1 million prediction. It will hope that Oscar buzz for its lead will contribute to small declines in coming days.

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

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Picture Race

I’m closing out my deep dives of the major Oscar races with the granddaddy of them all – Best Picture. If you missed my posts covering Best Director and the four acting categories, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

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

Unlike the previous several years where the Picture nominees could fluctuate between 5-10 (though 8 and 9 were the magic numbers), 2021 brings fluidity with a set 10 films being honored (I’d like to thank the Academy for that).

As I’ve done with the others, let’s take a look back at how I was performing in the early November time frame from 2019 and 2020. Two years ago, I had 8 of the eventual 9 movies pegged: winner Parasite, 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The other – Joker – was mentioned in Other Possibilities.

2020 was trickier at this stage, but I identified 5 of the 8 hopefuls: winner Nomadland along with The Father, Mank, Minari, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Judas and the Black Messiah was named as a possibility while I didn’t have Promising Young Woman or Sound of Metal yet in the 15 selections.

For 2021 – I feel confident that four already screened entries will make the dance. We begin with Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, the 1960s set coming-of-age drama that could be looked at as the soft frontrunner. It’s been listed at #1 in my estimates for several weeks.

Belfast displaced The Power of the Dog from Jane Campion in that spot, but I still see the Netflix title having no trouble securing its placement among the contenders.

King Richard should find its way as the inspirational sports flick that will have audiences on its side. Furthermore, Will Smith appears in position to possibly win Best Actor. You have to go back to Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) twelve years ago where the Oscar winning actor didn’t see his movie recognized in Picture.

Then there’s Dune. The sci-fi epic from Denis Villeneuve got the box office and critical kudos it needed to storm the competition. The filmmaker could make a victory play for his direction while the picture itself seems destined for a nod here and tech wins elsewhere.

In past years, the bulk of nominees in Picture were screened at festivals. In 2021, that dynamic could shift as there’s a slew of unscreened material that seems like Oscar bait. That list includes Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. 

The first four of the six are ones I’ve had in my ten for a bit and I’m not changing it today. That said, this could be altered quickly once their official reviews are up (and that will be soon). Some prognosticators are more confident with Don’t Look Up. I’ll believe it when I see it.

With the pics that have been seen, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer is sure looking like it will garner Kristen Stewart her first ever nod with a solid chance at a victory. I do believe the Princess Diana tale will manage to make the cut, but it could go either way.

This also holds true for Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, which should also manage some tech recognition and for its lead Denzel Washington and maybe Frances McDormand.

I will admit that it seems strange to leave off any titles that screened early at Sundance. After all, last year there were 3 pics from the fest (The Father, Minari, Promising Young Woman) that got in. There’s a trio that could do the same in 2021 and they’re all listed in Other Possibilities: CODA, Flee, and Mass. Of that group, Flee (which I do have predicted in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film) may have the strongest chance.

Foreign flicks could factor in and they include A Hero, The Hand of God, Parallel Mothers, and The Worst Person in the World. I wouldn’t completely discount Netflix hopefuls such as The Lost Daughter and Passing. 

Then there’s high profile fare where the luster has been lost either to mixed reviews or poor box office. That list includes Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, and certainly Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. 

The bottom line is this – in 2021, with two months left to go in the calendar, there’s a lot yet to be determined. Here’s my take for now:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Dune (PR: 4)

5. Licorice Pizza (PR: 6)

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 5)

7. West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. House of Gucci (PR: 8)

9. Spencer (PR: 9)

10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

11. Flee (PR: 13)

12. Don’t Look Up (PR: 11)

13. Mass (PR: 12)

14. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 15)

15. CODA (PR: 14)

And that wraps the detailed looks, folks! Next weekend I’ll be back with updated estimates…