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2012 Oscar Season Preview: September

As the Summer draws to a close, the blockbuster wasteland of August gives way to the Oscar wasteland of September. While plenty of blockbusters will be dumped outside of the Summer frame to try and keep business perky after school starts, the Oscar season begins with studio cast-offs that they made for Oscar attention, but which don't seem to have much hope as they once did. This gives studios an opportunity to sell the film to audiences outside of the Horror (October)/Thanksgiving (November)/Christmas (December) corridor and thus build buzz where it wasn't already generated. That seems typical of September 2012, but a couple of prime Oscar contenders still release this month and could prove strong contenders if they can get audiences to agree.

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

The Words

Premise: From IMDb: "A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man's work."
Box Office Prospects: $45 M
Expectations: Bradley Cooper hasn't been much of a box office draw as yet, but like his romcom contemporaries, studios keep trying to sell him as a romantic lead. While the film might seem on the surface an excellent way for him to satnd out,
Oscar Prospects: Unlikely. Releasing in early September, especially around Labor Day isn't a good sign for an Oscar contender. The advertising for the film seems to suggest that it's a light romantic drama more likely designed to appeal to audiences than Oscar voters.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012


Finding Nemo 3D

Premise: From IMDb: "After his son is captured in the Great Barrier Reef and taken to Sydney, a timid clownfish sets out on a journey to bring him home."
Box Office Prospects: $50 M
Expectations: After the weak showings for two 3D re-releases this year (Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars: Episode I), it's become clear that not every such film can be a hit like The Lion King, the first film in this recent trend. Was it a success because it was in 3D or because it was the first time in almost two decades it had been in the theater. My guess is the latter, though why Star Wars didn't also do well is more because of the estimated quality of the origina film. Finding Nemo was well received critically and was a huge hit with audiences. However, I don't think they are that willing to put down the extra up-charge to watch a film that has been easily available on DVD for years.

Resident Evil: Retribution

Premise: From IMDb: "Alice fights alongside a resistance movement in the continuing battle against the Umbrella Corporation and the undead."
Box Office Prospects: $60 M
Expectations: This is another horror-sci-fi franchise that has been doing excellent business in spite of finding itself on the wrong side of critics. If the latest Underworld could still garner strong attention after numerous previous outings, I see little reason why Resident Evil can't do the same.
Oscar Prospects: None.

The Master

Premise: From IMDb: "A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as "the Master" whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man."
Box Office Prospects: $30 M
Expectations: The only thing that has helped Paul Thomas Anderson's films do well at the box office is the regular awards attention. When a film he's made isn't impressing critics, it isn't impressing the box office either. Since this looks to be another in a long line of critical successes, the box office should match-up...for an indie.
Oscar Prospects: Strong. Paul Thomas Anderson has been an awards magnet each time he releases a film and while the subject doesn't seem like segments of the Hollywood community would support, the lack of strong critically acclaimed directors in the 2012 landscape may prompt it to enter the race with favorable headwinds. Look for consideration in Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing and Cinematography. Other categories it could get nominated in, but likely won't are Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Also Releasing this weekend: Liberal Arts, From IMDb: "When thirty-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a young 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them."; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, From IMDb: "An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world."

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

Dredd

Premise: From IMDb: "In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO."
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: First there was Jonah Hex (technically, Battlefield: Earth, but who really remembers that one) then Cowboys & Aliens and Priest and any number of other genre-heavy critic-anemic messes. This newest in a long list of unnecessary remakes isn't likely to perform well at the box office. Apart from being a poorly attended original, the lack of notable big name talent at the head of the cast list, should doom it to a rather miserable box office tally.
Oscar Prospects: None.

End of Watch

Premise: From IMDb: "Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop."
Box Office Prospects: $60 M
Expectations: This could easily be one of the surprises of September. Although the film looks fairly generic, a lack of quality product during the month could push people to a film they won't probably care about. While it doesn't have the cachet of Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, Safe House may be a decent comparison, even if this one makes quite a bit less.
Oscar Prospects: None.

House at the End of the Street

Premise: From IMDb: "A mother and daughter move to a new town and find themselves living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When the daughter befriends the surviving son, she learns the story is far from over."
Box Office Prospects: $50 M
Expectations: Jennifer Lawrence isn't quite a household name, but she's easily recognizable. Although the people who are most familiar with her won't be going to see this horror film (I'm talking about fans of The Hunger Games), the fact that it's the first such film in the September-October pre-Halloween window should give it sizable genre legs.
Oscar Prospects: None.

Trouble With the Curve

Premise: From IMDb: "An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip."
Box Office Prospects: $60 M
Expectations: Baseball films aren't the successes that football films are, so the only thing giving this a chance at box office glory is Eastwood's presence. Gran Turino proved popular with audiences, so it wouldn't be inconceivable that Eastwood could still open a movie decently, but I'm betting on a slightly depressed turnout for this one.
Oscar Prospects: Weak. Some will be pushing its stars for Oscar consideration, but the September release isn't doing it any wonders. I see SAG perhaps picking out Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams for nomination, but the Academy will likely pass over both, though the temptation to career-honor Eastwood's acting career might mean he sneaks in.

Also Releasing this weekend: War of the Buttons, From IMDb: "In occupied France, Lebrac leads a play war between two rival kid gangs, but his feelings for Violette, a Jewish girl in danger of being discovered by the Nazis, encourage Lebrac to face the reality of what's happening around him.".

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

Hotel Transylvania

Premise: From IMDb: "Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter."
Box Office Prospects: $150 M
Expectations: While the animation market isn't exactly saturated, fans of the genre have proven to be rather picky when it comes to films they support. A movie like Megamind appeared to be the kind of animated feature that does boffo business at the box office. Yet, it only managed a total just south of $150 million. With Adam Sandler's weak track record and the rather childish previews, I'm predicting about the Megamind performance-level, but wouldn't be surprised if it's much less.
Oscar Prospects: The Megamind comparison seems apt to this discussion as well since that film didn't even come close to Oscar consideration. I'd say the same fate awaits this film.

Looper

Premise: From IMDb: "In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self. "
Box Office Prospects: $70 M
Expectations: A director with no major blockbuster recognition and an actor whose yet to prove himself a box office draw outside of being an ensemble player in bigger films. It doesn't sound like much of a winning formula. However, the advertising seems to be working and the novelty of the premise could be enough to bring the curious to the theaters and eke out a smal victory.
Oscar Prospects: Everyone involved will have to wait for another project to get Oscar interested.

Won't Back Down

Premise: From IMDb: "Two determined mothers­, one a teacher, look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children."
Box Office Prospects: $40 M
Expectations: Apart from its interest as an Oscar vehcile for Viola Davis, there hasn't been much advertising and other than a niche market, I'm not sure anyone's going to rush right out to see it.
Oscar Prospects: Hot off her narrow loss to Meryl Streep last year, Davis is a leading contender for Oscar recognition and this could be her ticket. The rest of the film doesn't seem much like Oscar bait, but there could be light chatter for the film's other thespians Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter, Rosie Perez and Ving Rhames.

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