There are no two bigger months at theaters. While the Summer may provide box office swing, both box office and Oscars dominate the final two months of the year with November likely the biggest of them all. This year, a number of top notch films will compete for audience dollars and critics' appreciation going into the final weeks of pre-Oscar wrangling. This November features one of the most impressive line-ups Oscar has seen in some time, with many of them strong contenders for one or multiple nominations.
November 2, 2012
Premise: From IMDb: "An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling."
Box Office Prospects: $85 M
Expectations: Solid. Denzel Washington is one of the more important names at the box office these days. Many of his films, even ones that critics don't adore, have been hits with audiences. This nailbiter should have little problem pleasing a finnicky electorate looking for some pre-election frivolity.
Oscar Prospects: When I first saw the film's trailer, I dismissed it as a superfluous drama. Word out of the New York Film Festival is that it's director Robert Zemeckis' best bet at Oscar consideration in over a decade. The film is sure to feature prominently in the Oscar race for Best Actor with Washington receiving excellent reviews. The film could also be bolstered by its premise into snagging a coveted Best Picture berth, though I'm not sure Zemeckis will be on the ballot for Best Director.
The Man with the Iron Fists
Premise: From IMDb: "In feudal China, a blacksmith who makes weapons for a small village is put in the position where he must defend himself and his fellow villagers."
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: Underwhelming: Attempts to find the newest martial arts film to make waves overseas continues with this feature that doesn't look particularly engaging. There are some noted names in the case, which could bolster attendance, but against both Flight and Wreck-It Ralph, the film will struggle in its initial outing and be deluged by everything that releases after it.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Premise: From IMDb: "A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives."
Box Office Prospects: $300 M
Expectations: Strong: The video game premise, mixed with Disney's re-emergence as a strong voice outside of Pixar's brand recognition, should make this one a hit.
Oscar Prospects: The film seems a lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination and after critics were laudatory, but minimally so, of the new Pixar film, it could emerge as one of the year's stronger contenders in that category.
A Late Quartet
Premise: From IMDb: "Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust."
Box Office Prospects: $5 M
Expectations: Mediocre: An independent film starring actors most audiences wouldn't rush out to see should play well in limited release, but will need Oscar support to strike out beyond typical indie Oscar season fare.
Oscar Prospects: You don't put three Oscar-nominated and -winning actors in a small ensemble drama and not expect it to be considered. The trailer looks interesting, but not revelatory, which will likely push this feature aside for other stronger contenders.
November 9, 2011
Premise: From IMDb: "Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her."
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Expectations: Excellent: In spite of the mediocre reviews the last Bond film received, it still managed the highest non-adjusted box office total in history. This third Daniel Craig version has been bowling over critics and could excite audiences as well. They'll go to see Bond regardless of what it's about, but if it's good enough, they'll keep coming back and could make this one of the most popular in the series.
Oscar Prospects: James Bond doesn't do well with Oscar, yet taking on singer-songwriter Adele to pen your legendary title track will bolster its chances tremendously. With its classic Bond stylings, Adele's song is undoubtedly the frontrunner to take home the Original Song Oscar, something none of the prior Bond films have managed (and few have even merited nomination). The film itself could appear in a number of tech categories, but will otherwise be absent from the Oscar race.
Premise: From IMDb: "As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves."
Box Office Prospects: $150 M
Expectations: Solid. Steven Spielberg hasn't had a major box office hit in some time. His recent output has largely been targeted at Oscar voters. This time, though, the film is receiving solid responses from critics and audiences love expansive dramas. This should be a decent hit in America.
Oscar Prospects: Spielberg is in the Oscar conversation anytime he makes a movie. Even after the lukewarm reviews of War Horse, he rode out the bad press and secured an Oscar nomination anyway. This time though, if critics seem to line up for the film, he could be positioning his biggest Oscar contender in more than a decade (Saving Private Ryan was his last). Scores of nominations in the creative categories should help secure the film's position in the Best Picture race with a number of acting nominations possible, which should also result in a Best Director nomination for Spielberg.
November 16, 2012
Breaking Dawn, Part 2
Premise: From IMDb: "After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi."
Box Office Prospects: $400 M
Expectations: Excellent: It's the final film in the series and should prove the box office behemoth that the other films have, with the added benefit of being the last movie.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Premise: From IMDb: "Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky."
Box Office Prospects: $70 M
Expectations: Unknown. This is the kind of movie that could be a hit with audiences, but it has to be marketed correctly. If they can do that, this could be a modest hit (what I'm currently predicting). If not, it will likely make only around $20 or $30 million.
Oscar Prospects: The prospects of the film are confusing. It would seem the perfect recipe for Oscar contention, but reviews weren't exactly rapturous. The creative categories are virtually assured, but director Joe Wright's Oscar history has been weak since his Atonement made the Best Picture slate. This is more in the tradition of Atonement than his later failures The Soloist and Hanna, so we'll see how Oscar voters react.
November 21, 2012
Life of Pi
Premise: From IMDb: "The story of an Indian boy named Pi, a zookeeper's son who finds himself in the company of a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean."
Box Office Prospects: $80 M
Expectations: Decent. The most recent comparison to this style of movie is Martin Scorsese's Hugo, which made a modest $73 million at the box office. With no big names and a premise that is only familiar to those who are familiar with the book, it will be an extremely tough sell. Only critic and Oscar recognition will likely bolster its tally.
Oscar Prospects: Many of the people I talk with say this one is a surefire nominee for Best Picture, but I cannot get past its lackluster trailer. I've never read the book, nor did I know about the book before it came out. Ang Lee's a terrific filmmaker and he could earn the film a few nominations, but unless critics are absolutely blown away and it becomes a decent box office hit, I will remain dubious about its chances outside of the creative categories.
Premise: From IMDb: "A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers."
Box Office Prospects: $60 M
Expectations: Modest. This is a huge gamble. A Battleship-level gamble at that. The original '80's piece was a hit, grossing nearly just north of $90 million in 2012 dollars. The problem is the Cold War was still in full swing in 1984. North Korea isn't much in the news lately and no one would suggest there's even remotely the same level of fear or hype surrounding their activities. The key to selling the film has been targeting young audiences and while it could be a success, it's releasing against a number of other films that will be dominating that demographic. If it catches on, it could have a modest final tally, otherwise, it will be a bomb.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Rise of the Guardians
Premise: From IMDb: "When the evil spirit Pitch launches an assault on Earth, the Immortal Guardians team up to protect the innocence of children all around the world."
Box Office Prospects: $450 M
Expectations: This is DreamWorks' ace in the hole. Early word is the film is phenomenal and the marketing is doing an admirable job pushing the film. With the holiday theme and family audiences needing something to attend other than Life of Pi and the wake of Wreck-It Ralph having almost subsided, Rise of the Guardians will likely be the top animated film of the year.
Oscar Prospects: This is the film people are discussing as being the year's winner even before many have seen it. DreamWorks Animation has proven they are willing to work at improving story and concept to compete with Pixar and their efforts may finally be paying off. With very little else sitting atop critics' minds as the definitive best animated feature of the year, if the buzz is real, this should sweep the year-end awards leading towards an easy victory at the Oscars.
The Silver Linings Playbook
Premise: From IMDb: "After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own."
Box Office Prospects: $145 M
Expectations: Solid. If there's one thing Harvey Weinstein is good at besides winning Oscars, its selling his films to mass audiences. A film like The King's Speech never would have been the $138 million success it was. With two appealing, box office-drawing stars in front of the camera, an audience award from Toronto and the prospects of big business with the Oscars, this should easily eclipse the period drama King's Speech.
Oscar Prospects: This is one of the top contenders this year. Apart from its audience award from Toronto, Harvey Weinstein is the definitive campaigner, having netted the Best Picture prize two years running, he is the odds-on favorite to carry the torch to a third year. Films that appeal to multiple demographics and have feel-good emotions play well with Academy members, but this could be Weinstein's toughest sell in awhile. A raft of nominations is assured.
Premise: From IMDb: "A love story between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959."
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: Niche. Film enthusiasts will flock to the film, but this ain't your typical box office phenom. While Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson have name recognition, their names alone aren't likely to pull people to the film. I will be surprised if it's a hit, but I won't be upset.
Oscar Prospects: Strong. The film was apparently good enough to be pushed directly into the 2012 Oscar race. Talk has surrounded mostly Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins as nominees, but the movie will likely score mentions in Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup if nowhere else. The film, if it impresses critics and audiences alike, could even turn those few nominations into a Best Picture mention.
Rust and Bone
Premise: From IMDb: "Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident."
Box Office Prospects: $5 M
Expectations: Weak. A French foreign Language film may play well to a small market of audiences, but even a Best Actress nomination for star Marion Cotillard isn't likely to give the film much boost.
Oscar Prospects: The only real talk I've heard about the film is for Cotillard as Best Actress. This would be her first appearance since she won the Oscar, but the Academy hasn't shown its appreciation for foreign actresses. Her continual presence in American films may boost her support, since it appears she's no one-trick pony. We'll see if it materializes into a Best Actress nomination. There is no dearth of competition this year.
November 30, 2012
Killing Them Softly
Premise: From IMDb: "Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game."
Box Office Prospects: $55 M
Expectations: Unknown. Brad Pitt needs a hit. This genre thriller might be the right mixture for audiences rebounding from Thanksgiving festivities. The problem is, films that release on the weekend after Thanksgiving tend to be dumped there for a reason. The film could be a dud with the Thanksgiving releases walking all over it.
Oscar Prospects: This was to be an Oscar contender, but the release window and limited talk about the film suggests its hopes are going to be dashed and with the heavy Best Actor slate working against Pitt, I doubt he'll be very successful.