Sunday, December 11, 2011

Calling My Shot

I had been hearing gripes this year about how tough predicting the Oscars has been because there's nothing even resembling a clear frontrunner. I just chalked it up to the usual griping from people who don't happen to like the frontrunner and are simply in denial.

Then I started planning this column in my head. 

They're right. 

I am speaking honestly when I say that a few paragraphs below this sentence is my prediction for what will win Best Picture and as I am typing this sentence, I have no idea what that movie is going to be. In fact, there's very few categories at all that have a clear cut favorite. The Golden Globe nominations come out this week, but in wide open years like this one, they tend not to indicate where the Academy will go. In fact, I would wager that the Academy voters aren't totally sure yet who they'll vote for. 

And now, I'm just droning on because I'm hoping I'll come across some movie I've forgotten that will make me say, "Oh yeah! That's the one that will win." It's not happening. So here it goes. I got 10 right last year. I doubt I'll do that well this year.

Best Picture: 
Ummm...let me get back to this one. 

Director: Terrence Malick, Tree of Life
I have a feeling this will be one of several instances of people being awarded for their careers over the job they did on the movie. This will be Malick's third nomination over a career that's spanned four decades and yet, has only seen 5 movies. Still, Tree of Life is a "director's movie" if there ever was one. It doesn't deserve Best Picture, but this is an award it does.

Actor: Brad Pitt, Moneyball
I think this category will be a 3-way street fight among Pitt, Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Ryan Gosling (Drive). Gosling would have been a shoo-in had The Ides of March been better received. But he was good in 3 movies this year. Fassbender has been getting rave reviews for Shame, but it's perhaps TOO daring. Similar to Gosling, Fassbender would have been a strong favorite had A Dangerous Method gotten better notices. So, that leaves us with Brad Pitt, who I'm sure many feel is overdue for an Oscar anyway and was nomination-worthy in two films this year. George Clooney will also be nominated for The Descendants, but he's won recently and given Pitt's rumored, impending retirement, I think they'll want to award him now rather than risk missing the chance later.

Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep has LOST more times than any person, except Katherine Hepburn, has been nominated. If she loses here, than she will have lost more times than anyone has been nominated. Period. That's a ridiculous statistic. And it's been almost 20 years since she last won. Come on. Let's throw the woman a bone to give her a reason to keep showing up year after year. 

Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Among the 8 major categories, the supporting acting categories are the closest to being a lock. Brooks is well-liked in this industry for decades. He's playing against type. He's been nominated in this category before. There's a lot of things going for him. He didn't get a nomination for SAG awards, but I think it will still happen.

Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life
She is simply having one of the single greatest years of any actor in movie history. In any year, she could win for "Tree of Life". The funny thing is that she might get nominated for another movie. She may also win for "The Help". The only thing that might stop her is marrying a George Clooney or Ryan Gosling between now and then.

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Unless there's a sweep by the "The Artist", I don't see Woody losing here. This was a prediction I made when the movie came out and I'm sticking to it.

Adapted Screenplay: Moneyball
This category could go a lot of ways. If the writers' branch embraces films like "War Horse", "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", or "Hugo". Based on how things look this second, I'm sticking with Sorkin.

Editing: War Horse
Just as a general rule, the Academy should really give Michael Kahn an Oscar at least once a decade. He's a three-time winner, all for Spielberg movies involving people fighting against Germans. How can he lose?

Cinematography: Tree of Life
"Tree of Life" is more of a painting than a film. This will be a deserving win.

Art Direction: Hugo
I think there's a strong possibility that "Hugo" can be the winner in a lot of the categories above. Momentum changes a lot during the Oscar race. But where things stand now, I think this is the biggest award it will take. When the stories come out about the kind of financial disaster this film is (including marketing costs, it will lose close to $250 million), a lot of people will shy away from this one.

Costume Design: The Artist
Sure looks like there's a lot of costumes in this movie. And the Academy tends to vote volume over substance. More thought about costumes goes into a movie like The Descendants than films like The Artist, J. Edgar, or A Dangerous Method (all likely nominees). But they'll pick one of the latter because, well, look! There's so many costumes!

Sound Mixing: Hugo 
Just taking a stab in the dark here.

Sound Editing: War Horse
Same here.

Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I can't imagine any film this year more deserving. And the Academy loves giving it to CGI monkeys. 

Makeup: The Iron Lady
I'd rather see a stunts category than the almost annually flip of the coin this category is.

Song: The Muppets, "Man or Muppet"
When in doubt, go with the song people probably heard latest in the year.

Score:  The Artist
Since no silent film has won in over 80 years, it's hard to say there's a standard to award a movie that's ALL score. I just think it's a safe bet.

Animated Feature: Rango
It's been a while since there's been such a disappointing year for animated films. Particularly after a year that saw "Toy Story 3", "How to Train Your Dragon", "Despicable Me", "The Illusionist", etc. This year was so weak, I think "Winnie the Pooh" will contend. Even mediocre films like "Rio" and "Arthur Christmas" has a shot at nominations. Thankfully, even in a strong year, the brilliant "Rango" would probably win.

Documentary Feature: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
It's the only one I've seen this year. So let's go with that.

The Golden Globe nominations come out tomorrow, so I'm sure several of these choices will be proven destined to be wrong within 24 hours, but that's the fun, isn't it?

Oh yeah. I still need to pick Best Picture, don't I?

Best Picture: The Help

How's THAT for guts?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Oscar Race: Lap 2

The National Board of Review:

Yes. The critics group to which no actual critics belong. Who are these people? Why do the Oscar-obsessed care? Because they are as accurate an indicator of what the Oscars will look like as the Golden Globes. Since 2000, every single one of the Best Pictures has at least gone on to be nominated at the Oscars. Lately, they've tended to not choose the same Best Picture as the Academy, but they at least got a nominee correct.

Here are their choices:

Best Film: Hugo

The rest of their Top 10:
The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk about Kevin
Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants 
Original Screenplay: 50/50
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Foreign Film: A Separation

So, a VERY different group of picks than we saw with the New York Film Critics. In fact, the only category that matched is Foreign Film. I wasn't familiar with A Separation, but now I'm intrigued. Not just because of the picks, but what I've been reading about it. Many people calling it the best film they've ever seen! I always find that to be a stretch, but it's more rare than you'd think to hear people say that. 

Beyond that, it was a very strong showing for Hugo, obviously. It really needs it too. Hugo is on its way to becoming a box office disaster of epic proportions. If it ONLY loses $100 million, the studio will be lucky. Winning these pre-awards should help in its advertising.

Also a strong showing for The Descendants, which many had expected to do much better with the NYFCC, but didn't win a single prize. There are some notable films missing from that Top 10 list. The Help was expected to be there. Moneyball is missing as well. Also, Midnight in Paris, which was not only considered a shoo-in for these kind of awards, but is being looked at as a serious contender for Best Picture.

A small break in the awards for the next week or so. Nothing until December 11, when the Boston and Los Angeles Film Critics announce their awards. Boston, in particular, is a good Oscar predictor, having voted for the same Best Picture as the Academy 4 of the last 5 years. The lone exception was that last year they chose The Social Network. The Los Angeles Critics usually choose an eventual nominee, but their choice rarely wins Best Picture.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Studios, Start Your Engines!

With all the rules changes with the Oscars, it seems fitting that Oscar season would start completely differently this year. Traditionally speaking, it has always started with the announcements of the National Board of Review, which always seemed strange because A. no one in Hollywood (or anywhere) seems to have a clue who these people are and B. they always managed to pick, at the very least, a Best Picture nomineee, if not the Best Picture winner.

That all changed this year with the New York Film Critics' Circle moving their big day to be first. It's a good move, actually. As mentioned above, no one has a CLUE who the National Board of Review is. It's actually a running joke. At least with the NYFCC, we know who the voters are and probably read/watch their work. One other interesting factoid: The NYFCC live tweeted their awards. This was kind of cool. It's not like the Oscars where voters get ballots in the mail, fill them out, send them back, get new ballots after the nominations, fill THOSE out, send THOSE back in, and PriceWaterhouseCooper counts the votes and the winners are known ahead of time. These critics groups all meet in a room and hash out the winners. There have been years where fights broke out and no winner was declared until the 7th or 8th vote. So, it was interesting to follow the thing on Twitter today as some winners were announced seemingly back to back, while other categories (Best Actor and Best Director especially) seemed to take a while. I'll have to go back and look, but I think Best Actor took close to 40 minutes, while most categories took about 10. Here are the results:

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Brad Pitt, Moneyball/Tree of Life
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life/The Help/Take Shelter
Best Screenplay: Moneyball
Best Cinematography: Tree of Life
Best Foreign Film: A Separation
Best Nonfiction Film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Best First Feature: Margin Call

So, some interesting, although not all that surprising, choices. The Best Picture win for The Artist could come back and bite it in the ass. It seems like a trend recently that the first movie to start collecting awards petered out by the time to Oscar voters started filling out their ballots. But, it is the Weinstein Brothers doing the pushing for it and they somehow managed to get The King's Speech past The Social Network juggernaut last year. Maybe they've found a way to keep their films winning.

Still, if the list above turned out to match the Oscar winners, it wouldn't be a shock. I like The Artist's chances. For both Picture and Director. Brad Pitt? Strong possibility. He's one of those "long overdue" actors and his main competition will likely be George Clooney (who has already won) and Ryan Gosling (who suffers from the Kate Winslet curse of he's "so good, he'll win plenty in the future").

Meryl Streep has lost at the Oscars 14 times! Think about that. She's LOST 14 times. Do you know how many actors have even been NOMINATED 14 times? 1. Katherine Hepburn. And she won 4 times. Other factors in Streep's favor? She hasn't won since Sophie's Choice! That was 30 years ago!!! You want to talk about LONG overdue. She was 32 years old when she won. She's been nominated 12 times SINCE she last won. Now she's almost retirement age. Not to mention that the early reviews say she turns in the kind of mind-blowing performance that made Helen Mirren a lock in The Queen a few years back.

I love the idea of Albert Brooks winning. I don't think it will happen. But I love that he's even contending. For one, it's not his normal type of role. Albert Brooks is kinda like Woody Allen as far as type-casting. That someone took a chance and cast this smart-ass, nerdy persona as the bad ass mob boss is pure guts. And it worked. There's no reason why he couldn't win. I just don't think he will.

It's funny. This was supposed to be Jessica Chastain's year. It was thought that she was going to be the biggest star on the planet after this year. She's in SEVEN movies this year. Co-starring with huge box office stars and Oscar winners. And in such a wide range of roles too. And that's part of the problem. People might not realize that it was her in Tree of Life, The Help, Take Shelter, plus The Debt, Coriolanus, Wilde Salome or The Texas Killing Fields. OR, it might be that, with exception to The Help, everyone skipped on seeing those films. That said, it's going to be interesting to see how or if she gets nominated. Let's focus on the first four I listed. Tree of Life: She was terrific as the strong, loving mom who flies in the face of Brad Pitt's tyrannical dad. I haven't seen The Help, but I hear she plays a bitch. Take Shelter, she plays the suffering wife of a man who is having apocalyptic visions. The Debt: She plays a cold-blooded assassin. But if that weren't enough, she has to play the younger version of the same character Helen Mirren is playing. In other words, she has to be as good as one of the most respected thespians on the whole freaking planet! And she apparently pulled it off. Here's where it gets tough: Which movie do you nominate her for? I say rule out The Help, because there's plenty of other support there. But the other three? Good luck.

I found Moneyball to be an interesting choice. Interesting because it could very well win Adapted Screenplay, but also because it is RARE for writers to repeat at the Oscars. I know a lot of Oscar trivia and I'm thinking you probably have to go back to the late 1940s-early 1950s when Joseph L. Mankiewicz won in consecutive years (I think). Writers often don't win twice, period. Much less back-to-back. But, if there is a screenwriter out there who deserves it. It's Aaron Sorkin.

The National Board of Review announces their winners on Thursday. Until then....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Will Be #500? UPDATE

UPDATE Bad Teacher crossed the $100 million threshold 99 days after opening in theaters. Next film to make $100 million will be #500.

My rare foray into box office prognostication had some hits and misses. Now that we are at 498 films breaking the $100 million barrier, I thought I'd break down how I did on my predictions.

Since I posted my predix, 11 movies broke that barrier. X-Men: First Class broke $100 million the day of the post, as expected. Proudly, I did correctly predict that, at this time, mid-September, we would be 2 movies away from 500. But how close was I to predicting WHICH 9 movies would make $100+? Let's see:

Prediction #1: Super 8. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $126,869,833.

Prediction #2: Green Lantern. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $116,551,122.

Prediction #3: Cars 2. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $189,679,088.

Prediction #4: Transformers: Dark of the Moon. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $351,331,987.

Prediction #5: Zookeeper. WRONG!
Total Gross: $79,234,201. NOTE: The Jason Bateman film Horrible Bosses was one I felt would do Zookeeper-type numbers and wound up making over $115 million. So technically, I missed on 2 movies that weekend.

Prediction #6: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $378,180,621.

Prediction #7: Captain America. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $174,301,520.

Prediction #8: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. CORRECT!
Total Gross: $171,651,537.

Prediction #9: Apollo 18. WRONG!
Total Gross: $16,885,842.

I was also wrong the other way on The Help, which wasn't on anyone's radar and went on to gross almost $150 million.

One other side note: When I was going over what was still to come out this summer, somehow, I skipped over the last weekend in July, otherwise, I certainly would have put Cowboys & Aliens on the list and been wrong there too. It JUST missed, having grossed $98.8 million.

Predictions still pending:

Prediction #10: Paranormal Activity 3 or Real Steel.
At this point, I really don't think either will do it. I know a lot of people were disappointed by Paranormal Activity 2, myself included. Real Steel is basically a film version of Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots. It might just be so stupid that it does well. Like Transformers.

Prediction #11: Puss 'n Boots
I still stand by this one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Does It Pay to Sequelize Anymore?

A few years ago, I had made the argument that putting name stars in movies didn't mean what it used to. Avatar became the biggest grossing film of all-time with an actor no one had heard of in the lead. And it beat a film, Titanic, whose "stars" weren't stars at the time. Sure, they both already had Oscar nominations on their resume, but they weren't actors you relied on for huge box office.

Since then, Hollywood apparently saw what I did and now you see relative unknowns put in tent-pole films more frequently. Most people had never heard of Chris Helmsworth before Thor. And most people have never seen a Chris Evans film, but he landed Captain America anyway. The logic, simply, is this: if you're going to spend a couple hundred million making a film, why spend an extra $10 million on an actor whose name will only bring you another $10 million at the box office. It's a wash. Instead, you cast someone who's RIGHT for the part instead, i.e., Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man; Heath Ledger as the Joker; etc.

Unfortunately, once Hollywood realized that it wasn't the names of the actors that brought in the big bucks, they began to rely on the names of the movies. The Sequel Syndrome seems worse now than it ever was. But the question is: How well does it even work anymore? Let's take a look at this year's sequels, starting at the bottom:

Hoodwinked Too!

Now, most people barely remember the first one. It wasn't exactly a huge box office hit ($51 million domestic), but someone at Weinstein Brothers obviously thought a sequel was easy money. I'm sure they weren't expecting a whopping 80% drop-off. Ouch! Kiss this franchise goodbye.

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

This one might fall under a special category of a studio banking on a sequel AND a star at the same time. Although, despite it's drop from the previous movies' numbers, this one will still likely break even. The first Big Momma movie grossed $117 million; The second, $70 million; and the latest, a paltry $37 million, barely above 50% what the previous entry made and likely the end of this franchise.

Scream 4

Another case where the sequel made just enough to not cost anyone their jobs. The first three Scream movies made, in millions, $103, $101 and $89, respectively. That's the kind of consistency a studio looks for in a franchise. And, it seems, they saw the writing on the wall after the drop in the third film to walk away for a while. 11 years to be exact and the fourth film could only bring in $38 million. It looks like the Scream franchise has been silenced.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

I have a soft spot for this series. Most people just ignore it. And this is one of the cases where it seems the studio doesn't really care. On average, they cost about $18 million to make and, on average, they bring in almost $60 million at the box office. It's a smart investment. The downside is that those are the AVERAGES. The first Wimpy Kid film made about 20% more at the box office and cost about 20% less to make. (Although, worldwide, they grossed about the same.) That said, if they want to keep using the same kids, the studio could pump out more sequels based on the book series and not worry too much about losing their shirt.

X-Men: First Class

This was a solid film and an improvement, I felt, over Wolverine. I like superhero films, but the X-Men never really did it for me. I thought the first one was okay. The second one is overrated and not much better than the first. The third one is underrated and about the same as the first two. And Wolverine was just okay. First Class was at least an attempt to try something different. But that didn't help at the box office. It's the lowest grossing entry in the series. But when the previous lowest grossing entry was the first film in the series, it's hard to argue that other sequels won't do better. And, since it's already been announced that there is another Wolverine movie coming down the chute AND a Magneto film as well, we will soon see if this one can find its magic again.

Kung Fu Panda 2

This one I find interesting. The domestic gross for Panda is down $55 million from the first film, but the foreign gross is actually higher. Just not enough to justify making another sequel. Spending $150 million to make a film that brings in $160 just isn't good business. I would be surprised to see this one come back.

Cars 2

Okay. Cars 2 is still in theaters, yes. But its run is just about over and it won't make much more than it already has. Right now, it's made close to $80 million less than the first Cars. And what's worse, it cost $80 million MORE to make. In fact, it's going to be the first Pixar movie to not make its money back domestically. It took nearly 4 weeks for it to pass A Bug's Life at the box office, Pixar's all-time lowest grossing film. And it likely will not pass the first Toy Story. One can only wonder just how bad Cars 2 would have done if it weren't for the extra money paid to see it in 3-D.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

This JUST opened, but considering all the records it broke this weekend, I think Warner Brothers should continue making more Potter movies. If only....(sigh).

Fast Five

This is a franchise that continues to shock me. The first one was entertaining. The second felt like a money grab. It went away for 3 years, only to come back with Tokyo Drift which seemed REALLY desperate. Another 3 years go by and BOOM! The fourth film becomes the highest grossing entry in the series. Until the FIFTH one! And the 5th beat the 4th by over $50 million dollars! At this point, there's just no reason to stop. People still want to see this. Just keep going.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

This is another strange one. When this film leaves theaters, it will likely be the fourth highest grossing film of all-time worldwide. The only films that will have grossed more are Avatar, Titanic and the final Lord of the Rings. Why is this strange? Because domestically, it BOMBED! While $237 million is a whole lotta money, when you consider that no previous POTC movie made less than $300 million in the U.S., that's a HUGE drop off. But, when a movie makes over $800 million outside of the U.S., it's pretty hard to argue that a franchise is over. Expect to see more of Jack Sparrow.

The Hangover Part II

This one is another tough argument. This sequel is so far in the black, how can you NOT make another sequel? So what if the general consensus is that it pales in comparison to the first? So what if it cost more than TWICE as much to make? When your worldwide profit is nearly a half billion dollars, you're going to do another sequel. Enjoy.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

This series is done. While they managed to reel the budget in a bit with the third one, it's currently $100 million behind the gross of the second one. And I'm sure Megan Fox somehow thinks it has something to do with her not being in it. These movies are staggeringly expensive (though less than POTC) and I think the market is closing on it.

So how are the NON-SEQUEL movies doing this summer worldwide?

Thor nearly tripled its budget.

Bridesmaids cost $32 million to make. Has made over $200 million.

Super 8 cost $50 million. Approaching $200 million.

Bad Teacher has made its budget back SIX TIMES over.

Horrible Bosses has almost doubled its budget and only in the U.S.

Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's highest grossing movie ever.

In fact, pretty much the only significant non-sequel bomb of the summer is Green Lantern. But hey, if it makes another $250 million before it leaves theaters, it should break even. The only problem is that it's already leaving theaters. Yeah. Someone will lose their job over that one.

The bottom line is this: Who knows? It seems that the right sequel can bring in big bucks (Fast Five, Harry Potter 8). The wrong one won't. (Cars 2, Scream 4). And then some make money regardless of demand or quality (POTC 4, Hangover 2).

But, in general, the right movie is going to make money if there's a number at the end or not. What IS interesting is that, with exception to The Hangover Part II, a bigger budget sequel isn't better. Just bigger.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What will be #500?

At the time this is being posted, there are officially 487 movies that have broken the once important $100 million barrier at the box office. As film budgets increase, the significance of making $100 million at the domestic box office decreases. And, with the meteoric rise in ticket prices, $100 million is much easier to achieve than it was when the average ticket price was around $3. When you see that films that were considered disappointments at the box office (Yogi Bear, Evan Almighty, Gone in 60 Seconds) still managed to break the $100 million mark, it's hard to get excited about that number.

Even the $200 million mark was surpassed for the 100th time last year. In fact, that plateau was passed by NINE movies that came out in 2010. Remember when people talked about what a disappointment the numbers were for Disney's Tangled? It cracked $200 million, albeit, just recently.

What about $300 million? That's a huge number, right? It used to be. Prior to 2000, only 9 movies had ever reached it. Since 2000, 27 more movies joined that once exclusive club.

And $400 million? It's still somewhat rare. Only 11 movies so far. And 2 of them, Star Wars and E.T., only reached that level after being re-released. Prior to 2000, only 2 movies made that much on their initial release: Titanic and Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Since 2000, it's been passed by the first Spider-Man, the third Toy Story, the second Pirates of the Caribbean, the second Shrek, The Dark Knight (part 2 of the Batman reboot) and Avatar. Basically, James Cameron is the only person who can seem to reach such heights without using a built-in audience.

$500 million? Just 3 movies. Avatar, Titanic and The Dark Knight. Drop Batman and you have the $600 million club. And Avatar is all alone for $700 million. Which makes $100 million seem so much more insignificant. That one movie about blue aliens outgrossed #'s 481-487 of the all time biggest hits combined shows how small that number seems these days.

Adding to that, the 500th movie to make $100 million domestic could possibly do it this summer and we're still 13 movies away from getting there. And by the end of today, June 13, 2011, that number will likely be 12 since X-Men: First Class finished yesterday at $98.8 million. It will most certainly break $100 million by dinner. Another possibility is the animated film, Gnomeo and Juliet. It was just released on DVD, but it's still in about 80 theaters. This matters because, as of June 9th, it was only $250,000 away from $100 million. Whether it was pulled from theaters remains to be seen.

So let's look ahead at what could be #500?

J.J. Abram's Super 8 opened this weekend with about $38 million. A little disappointing to some I'm sure, but considering that Kyle Chandler is the biggest name in the film and it only cost $50 million to make, I'm certain they're pleased with that number. Can it break $100 million though? Possibly, but it may take a few weeks, which makes it a contender to be #500.

Opening this week, we have The Green Lantern and Mr. Popper's Penguins. The Green Lantern will make $100 million fairly quickly, bringing the countdown to 11. Mr. Popper's Penguins didn't look THAT interesting in the earlier trailers, but I saw one before Super 8 this past weekend that made me want to see it. If it has a $40 million opening weekend, I think it will have the legs to bring us down to 10.

The following weekend is certain to bring us to 9. Cars 2 would have to be the lowest grossing Pixar movie ever if it only made $150 million, much less $100 million. The other release is Bad Teacher. Looks entertaining enough, but I don't see it making much more than $60 million or so.

Then comes the 4th of July weekend. Transformers: Dark of the Moon will undoubtedly make $100 million in its first weekend. 8 slots remaining. But 4th of July weekend brings us another question mark in Larry Crowne. Most Tom Hanks movies make at least $100 million. In fact, he's only starred in FOUR movies in the last 20 years that DIDN'T make $100 million. And, it's got Julia Roberts to boot. It's light-hearted, adult fare, which you don't get a lot of during these summer months (except for the exceptional Midnight in Paris, if you can find it playing near you). BUT, one of the four movies that DIDN'T make $100 million was one that he also wrote and directed, like Larry Crowne. We will see, but I'm going to leave it off the list at the moment.

Post 4th of July brings us Horrible Bosses and The Zoo Keeper. Jason Bateman doesn't have a strong history at the box office, so let's ignore that one. Kevin James, however, has had a surprisingly good run of hits. Paul Blart, Mall Cop grossed $146 million in a January slot. That's almost unheard of. It's the second highest grossing January release ever. The Zoo Keeper seems like Paul Blart meets A Night at the Museum meets Madagascar. After everyone's taken their kids to see Cars 2, they'll need another family comedy to go see and, let's face it, Bad Teacher and Horrible Bosses aren't it. 7 slots left.

The weekend of July 15th brings us the final Harry Potter. In 3-D, no less. The AVERAGE gross for a Harry Potter movie is $286 million. And this is the last one. If this one doesn't come close to topping The Dark Knight for the opening weekend record, I will be shocked. Winnie the Pooh also opens this weekend, because someone at Disney is asleep at the wheel. Poor Pooh will get buried. The genius who chose this weekend to release Pooh is probably the same idiot who thought Real Steel is a good idea. 6 slots left.

The next slot will certainly be filled by Captain America: The First Avenger. The only reason it might not is if audiences are just tired of super heroes. But, since this one ties into the Iron Man's, Hulk, Thor and next year's The Avengers, I'm sure people will give this one a shot. 5 left.

August is where things might get a little tricky. Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks like it could re-ignite that franchise, or at least make us forget about Tim Burton's take on it. (Side note: Can we just ban Tim Burton from doing remakes or franchise movies?) But if Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn't do it, I will have probably missed on one of the others, so let's say 4 left. Actually 3, since Super 8 will cross $100 million around this time.

September is not usually a month for boffo box office, but I think Labor Day weekend offers some promise this year with Apollo 18. The success of Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 shows that people aren't yet tired of the "found footage" movies, especially when there's a lot of hype behind it. Apollo 18 has hype to spare. I have a good feeling that one will take off, even if only a handful of movies have made $100 million plus in September. 2 left.

October brings us another Paranormal Activity, as well as the previously mentioned, already over-hyped Real Steel. One or the other will do $100 million, but I'm thinking it probably won't be both. So, it's quite possible, we will head into November with 499 movies having broken the $100 million barrier.

So, assuming I've been at all accurate, which will be the first to do it in November? That's VERY easy. The first weekend of November brings us the fifth entry in the Shrek universe, Puss in Boots. And, if I overshot on what will make $100 million, November also will have Happy Feet 2.

If you have any thoughts as to what will be number 500, please feel free to comment.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Post Oscar Bliss 2011

Another year, Another Oscars

Here's to hoping they return to using comedians to host the show instead of using movie stars. It worked with Hugh Jackman. Alec Baldwin had Steve Martin with him. James Franco and Anne Hathaway? It didn't work. Although, it might have. Anne Hathaway alone would have worked better in my opinion. I like James Franco, but they didn't use what he's best at. And one would think Seth Rogen would have popped up somewhere in a bit. Hathaway was charming and funny, but yelled "Wooooo!!!" FAR too often. All in all, it was still an entertaining 3 hours.

I can't really complain about my #3 movie of 2010 winning Best Picture, although it did end my streak of having my #1 and Best Picture syncing up. (If you can call 2 years in a row a streak). The King's Speech is a fine film. But I think The Social Network will be considered a classic. Several Oscar pundits compared a King's Speech victory over Social Network to How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane. In yesterday's blog, I compared it to Rocky beating Network, but I would say now it's more akin to No Country for Old Men beating There Will Be Blood. Both highly respectable movies, but the latter simply expected to be more memorable as time passes. I mean, I doubt anyone in 1941 thought Citizen Kane would be regarded as the greatest movie ever made, so you can't really fault the Academy for not getting it right at the time. I would have liked The Social Network to have won, but The King's Speech isn't exactly an embarrassing choice.

I have to admit though, early on in the night, I was thinking King's Speech might not win. Art Direction and Cinematography were two categories where it was a strong contender. Alice in Wonderland winning was not as big a surprise as Inception taking Cinematography. In fact, at that point, I was anxiously awaiting Original Screenplay. If King's Speech lost there to Inception, there might be an upset of epic proportions, i.e. Inception as Best Picture. But it didn't happen.

5 biggest surprises of the night:

1. David Fincher losing Best Director. It shouldn't be a surprise since Tom Hooper did win the DGA, but to me, it was a surprise. I did learn that Hooper directed half the HBO miniseries John Adams, so maybe he's not some noob who just got lucky and we'll never like anything else he ever does. (I'm looking at YOU, John Madden!)

2. Randy Newman gets a 2nd Oscar for a song that sounds like it could be about stalking. He won for "We Belong Together". His first win was for "If I Didn't Have You".

3. A rock star wins Best Score. It's rare when rock stars are nominated, period. Daft Punk got snubbed this year. Danny Elfman and Clint Mansell have been snubbed repeatedly. Oscar geeks still gripe about the There Will Be Blood snub. So, it was nice to see the Academy give a non-traditional score recognition, especially to a very non-traditional rock star.

4. True Grit goes 0 for 10. I would have gotten 15 right if I avoided True Grit. It should also be mentioned that this is the second year in a row that the Coen Brothers got a Best Picture nomination and didn't win a single award. Although, A Serious Man going 0 for 2 was not as surprising.

5. Almost HALF of the 10 Best Picture nominees went home empty handed. Four to be exact. Last year was the first year of the experiment of returning to 10 nominees. How many went home empty handed last year? 4. I'm detecting a trend.

And now, for the most popular segment of my annual Post Oscar Bliss, your nominees for Best Picture at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.

Before I get to that though (channeling Kirk Douglas here), here are the films I picked to be nominated for last night:

How Do You Know
Tree of Life
Love and Other Drugs
The Social Network
The American
Eat, Pray, Love
The Debt

So 2 of them were actually nominated for Best Picture. (The Social Network and Inception. Yay me!) Hereafter got a single nomination. Secretariat had its supporters, namely Roger Ebert. The American and Eat Pray Love failed to live up to expectations. 2 got pushed back to Summer 2011 (Tree of Life and The Debt). How Do You Know and Love and Other Drugs were outright bombs.

So, you're 2011 Best Picture nominees will be:

1. Tree of Life - Rather than rehash what I said last year, here's the trailer:

2. The War Horse - Steven Spielberg seems like a shoo-in most any year. Particularly in years where he puts out 2 films: A serious picture and an audience pleaser. It worked in 1993 (Jurassic Park/Schindler's List) and 2005 (War of the Worlds/Munich), but not in 1997 (Lost World/Amistad) or 2002 (Minority Report/Catch Me If You Can), but it can easily be argued that in a 10 picture year, Amistad and Catch would have made the cut. Usually, however, it's been one film released in the summer and one at Christmas. Right now, and I can only assume this will change, The War Horse is scheduled to be released on December 28. Spielberg's other film, The Adventures of Tintin is scheduled for release on December 23. Peculiar.

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - The first in the Millennium trilogy being directed by David Fincher has a lot of things going for it. For one, the Swedish version of the film did well at the box office. Two, the novels are still pretty popular. Three, it's a unique story in that it is a classic, Hollywood-style mystery told in a very, non-traditional way. And after The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Academy will be itching to give some love to Fincher.

4. Hugo Cabret - Speaking of mysteries, here's another one that I think could get some play. It's about a young boy who lives in a train station. He's very resourceful and solves mysteries with the help of a young girl. You're probably wondering what the hell I'm thinking even including such a childish movie on this list. It doesn't sound like an Oscar contender at all. Until you read who's behind it. John Logan, who wrote the screenplays for Gladiator, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd. How can it not, right? Oh. Did I fail to mention it's directed by Martin Scorsese? Yeah. I think I left that part out. :)

5. Anonymous - Sometimes, it's fun to throw one of these out there even though you know it sounds like it could be a spectacularly bad film. Choosing a film starring Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis and Vanessa Redgrave isn't exactly a huge gamble. All are respected actors. A fictionalized costume drama set in the Elizabethan era involving politics, greed and Shakespeare certainly has some Academy appeal, I'm sure. But, unlike Hugo Cabret, which gets on this list because of its director, Anonymous is a shocking addition to this list because of who is helming it. The reigning king of disaster movies, Roland Emmerich. God, I hope this makes it.

6. The Whistleblower - Academy award winning actors Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave. Academy Award nominee David Straithairn. Political film involving the UN cover up of sex trafficking in Bosnia. And it's a comedy? Okay. I'm kidding about the last part. But this does sound like Oscar bait to me.

7. We Bought a Zoo - Matt Damon, Scarlett Johannson and Thomas Haden Church in a film about a guy who buys a zoo and deals with his wife dying of brain cancer. Hey. It's the latest from Cameron Crowe. Why not?

8. Larry Crowne - Nia Vardalos, who's only known for My Big Fat Greek Wedding at this point, and Tom Hanks got together and did a script about a guy who reinvents his life after getting downsized out of job. Hanks co-wrote, directs and stars in this one. Julia Roberts is along for the ride. Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston seems like a perfect partner in crime for Hanks. Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson is in it as well. But so is Cedric the Entertainer. I guess it all depends on how much balance there is between the comedy and the drama.

9. Water for Elephants - This one only makes it if it connects with audiences (Yes, some movies get nominated that make no connection with audiences). The bestselling book did. But a sweeping epic romance set in a circus and the guy they get to direct it is the guy who made I Am Legend? It's a high wire act of a story (Honest, no pun was intended) but the job of writing the script is in the more than capable hands of Richard LaGravanese who's made a career out of making these stories work. Reese Witherspoon is a fine actress in the right roles and looks good in the trailers. The wild card here is Robert Pattinson. Sink or swim time, vampire boy. Fail here and your non-bloodsucker career is probably over. You do have to appreciate the irony that both Witherspoon and Pattinson made movies called Twilight early in their careers. Witherspoon got naked in hers. Pattinson, thankfully, did not.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part II - I really hope this makes the list. It's rare enough when a non-horror film series lasts 8 movies. Even rarer when they maintain the quality that the Harry Potter series has achieved over the last 10 years. Simply as recognition of a job very well done, this one should be given a place on the list. It's kept a LOT of British actors from starving.

Until next year.... Cheers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Final Go....

I'm not sure if it's the increase from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10, but this is the second year in a row where, the day of the Oscars, it almost feels like a toss up. In 2010, while I was pretty certain The Hurt Locker would prevail, I was far from 100% sure of it. This year, while it feels like The King's Speech will take the top prize, it sure doesn't feel like a lock. In fact, it seems the buzz when the final votes were submitted, The Social Network got the support it had the first half of the awards season. What's more shocking to me is how many categories are toss-ups. It's tough to say whether it's because so many excelled in different areas or no movie was particularly outstanding. (See nominees for Best Makeup) It's a tough year for guessing and I won't be surprised if I miss half the winners this year. Here's my final guesses.

Best Picture:

Who Will Win: The King's Speech
Who Should Win: The Social Network

Several pundits have compared a King's Speech victory over Social Network to How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane. What they mean is that the film that seems tailor made for winning awards prevailed over a truly brilliant and unique film. The difference with this year is that The King's Speech is a terrific, well made film on its own and more unique than the die hard Social Network fans would like you to believe. That said, it's still no Social Network. No, I would say a King's Speech victory is more akin to Rocky defeating...well...everything else it was up against. Rocky didn't challenge audience the way Taxi Driver or Network did, but it was still a respectable choice.

Best Director:
Who Will Win: David Fincher
Who Should Win: David Fincher

And this is how the Academy will rectify its choice of King's Speech.

Best Actor:
Who Will Win: Colin Firth
Who Should Win: James Franco

Colin Firth gives an amazing performance, with a speech impediment, which voters like. James Franco IS 127 Hours. Everything about the film could be perfect (and it almost is) and the movie would be a disaster if the actor playing Ralston failed. 127 Hours is not up for Best Picture if it weren't for Franco.

Best Actress:
Who Will Win: Natalie Portman
Who Should Win: Natalie Portman

This one is a gimme.

Best Supporting Actor:
Who Will Win: Christian Bale
Who Should Win: Christian Bale

Because Batman should have an Oscar in his utility belt.

Best Supporting Actress:
Who Will Win: No Idea
Who Should Win: Jacki Weaver

My paper ballot right now is empty. Melissa Leo seems like a good choice. But her Oscar campaign has been an embarrassment to the Academy. Hailee Steinfeld shouldn't even be in this category. She may lose because it's a lead role. On the flip side, the amount of screen time, the most fully formed character of the choices and that all of the non-adult actors who've won, won here gives her a good shot. Bonham Carter could win just for a strong quarter century of performances. Jacki Weaver doesn't stand a chance. But her performance in Animal Kingdom is akin to Joe Pesci's in Goodfellas. And the scene in the grocery store is worth an award by itself.

Best Original Screenplay:
Who Will Win: The King's Speech
Who Should Win: Inception

If for no other reason because The King's Speech should have been in violation of Academy rules for what is considered "original". While never produced as a play, the script was discovered at a play reading. But it's a technicality.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Who Will Win: The Social Network
Who Should Win: The Social Network

As big a lock as you'll ever see at the Oscars.

Best Animated Feature Film:
Who Will Win: Toy Story 3
Who Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon

Just part of my own personal bias against awarding sequels. Toy Story 3 is not as good as its predecessors and a little too self-referential. It's here because of the last 20 minutes, which, again, has as much to do with parts 1 & 2, as the third. And I'll say the same thing when HTTYD parts 2 & 3 are released.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 21, 2011

And the Nominees Will Be....And Now Are.....

Oscar nominations finally come out next week. Here's my predix. Sorry for the lack of commentary. Doing this in a rush.

By request, I removed the "other possibilities." What was once merely an informative posting is now a test of my psychic abilities. And if I get them all right, you must buy me a car.

Best Picture:
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Total Correct: 10/10. Not a difficult year.

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan, Inception

Total Correct: 3/5. Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit") and David O. Russell ("The Fighter") over Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle?! Bad call, Academy. Bad call

Best Actor:
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Total Correct: 5/5. I haven't seen Biutiful yet, but I like the other choices.

Best Actress:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Total Correct: 3/5. I think The Kids Are All Right is pretty overrated anyway, so I don't mind the Moore snub. But Hailee Steinfeld is nominated in the wrong category. Nicole Kidman ("Rabbit Hole") and Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine") are good choices.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Pete Postelthwaite, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Total Correct: 3/5: Missed on Garfield and Postelthwaite. Perfectly fine with the noms going to John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone") and Jeremy Renner ("The Town")

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jackie Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Total Correct: 4/5. I missed on Barbara Hershey because the Academy apparently thinks that a child is incapable of being a lead role.

Best Original Screenplay:
Another Year
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Total Correct: 4/5. "The Fighter" over "Black Swan"? Are you kidding?! Hey Academy!!! What is all that original about "The Fighter"? It's a recent and apparently well-documented true story. How much creativity even went into this script?

Best Adapted Screenplay:
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Total Correct: 5/5. And the right ones were chosen.

Best Film Editing:
127 Hours
Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Total Correct: 4/5. The Academy must really love "The Fighter". If you'd asked me which of these I might be wrong on, the LAST one I would've picked is "Inception". Stunning.

Best Cinematography:
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
True Grit

Total Correct: 4/5. "The King's Speech" over "127 Hours"? I'm good with that. I hadn't seen "The King's Speech" yet when I made this list. Now that I've seen it, it's a good choice.

Best Art Direction:
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
The King's Speech
True Grit

Total Correct: 4/5. You know, I almost put "Harry Potter" on here instead of "True Grit". Definitely did not think "Black Swan" would be the one I got wrong.

Best Sound Mixing:
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Total Correct: 3/5. Hmmm. I really thought "127 Hours" would be nominated. And the Pixar films usually get a nod here. Instead, they went with "Salt" (Underrated film) and "The King's Speech", which, again, I had not seen when I made the list. It's a good call.

Best Sound Editing:
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Total Correct: 3/5. And I'm sure you can see why. I thought they only nominated 3 films here. Whoops. "Tron: Legacy" and "Unstoppable" were the other nominations.

Best Costume Design:
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
Made in Dagenham
The King's Speech
True Grit

Total Correct: 3/5. I didn't even know "The Tempest" had been released. Go figure. And I had no idea "I Am Love" was even contending. Still, another category where "Black Swan" got dissed.

Best Original Score:
127 Hours
How to Train Your Dragon
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Total Correct: 5/5. And I thought I might be going out on a limb with "How to Train Your Dragon".

Best Animated Feature:
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Total Correct: 3/3. One of the easier categories of the year.

Best Makeup:
Alice in Wonderland
The Fighter
The Wolfman

Total Correct: 1/3. I'm lucky if I even get one right in this category. Thankfully, the Academy LOVES to nominated Rick Baker, so "The Wolfman" was an obvious choice. "Barney's Version" and "The Way Back"? Whatever.