2017 Oscar Season Preview: December

Here we look at the upcoming month’s offerings.

December 1, 2017

The Disaster Artist (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003).”
Box Office Prospects: $2 M
Expectations: Weak. There is no more specialized an audience than for this film. Although the film has earned solid reviews, unless you’re familiar with The Room, it likely won’t appeal to you.
Oscar Prospects: Doubtful. There’s some chatter about James Franco being nominated for this, but other than at the Golden Globes, I don’t see it happening.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

The Shape of Water (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forver when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.”
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Expectations: Good. Although Guillermo del Toro hasn’t exactly had a great box office track record, the film feels more accessible than his films like Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. With excellent reviews, it could be a big holiday hit.
Oscar Prospects: Excellent. Reviews out of Toronto were so good that it would be shocking for this film not to be a major Oscar player in possibly double-digit categories.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Wonder Wheel (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “On Coney Island in the 1950s, a lifeguard tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife.”
Box Office Prospects: $12 M
Expectations: Poor. Acclaimed Woody Allen tends to make decent month, usually above $20 million. Mediocre Woody films tend to perform far worse. I suspect this will fall on mediocre side of things.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. There was some early buzz for Kate Winslet, but reviews haven’t been great for the film and Winslet’s performance, thouigh well received, hasn’t been igniting chatter as much as it once did. She could still be nominated, but her chances are much weaker now than they were a couple of months ago.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 8, 2017

Just Getting Started

Premise: From IMDb: “A two-hander action comedy in the vein of Midnight Run about an ex-FBI agent (Jones) and an ex-mob lawyer in the witness protection program (Freeman) having to put aside their petty rivalry on the golf course to fend off a mob hit.”
Box Office Prospects: $55 M
Expectations: Decent. Morgan Freeman largely makes comedies these days and most of them are modest successes. Looking at the likes of Going in Style, Last Vegas, and RED, solid box office is expected.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

I, Tonya (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises among the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the sport is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.”
Box Office Prospects: $15 M
Expectations: Uncertain. Tonya Harding was a big part of the cultural zeitgeist once upon a time, but most people think of her mostly as a footnote these days. The film has gotten strong reviews, which might bolster its chances, but even with the expected Oscar nominations, this period drama doesn’t sound like it will be that big.
Oscar Prospects: Good. While Margot Robbie has her fair share of talk about a Best Actress nomination, the film’s best chances lie with supporting actress Allison Janney. The script could also get recognized. Robbie is the next most likely nominee, but beyond that I doubt it has much chance.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 15, 2017

Ferdinand

Premise: From IMDb: “After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.”
Box Office Prospects: $120 M
Expectations: Good. Although the reviews are sure to be lowsy, the film will be a big hit. There isn’t much else out there and the trailer is modestly funny. If reviews actually end up being strong, it could go much higher.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. Now that much of this year’s animated crop have been seen, strong reviews could bolster the film’s chances with Oscar. However, if it receives largely negative reviews, that could make its chances for a Best Animated Feature nomination vanish.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Premise: From IMDb: “Having taken her first steps into a larger world in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), Rey continues her epic journey with Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker in the next chapter of the saga.”
Box Office Prospects: $850 M
Expectations: Excellent. There has never been anything quite like the Star Wars saga in terms of box office potency. While the stand alone Rogue One only made a paltry $532 million, Episode VII, which preceded this one, made nearly a billion just in the U.S. While I think the second film will probably take a bit of a dip now that the excitement of the first new Star Wars movie in over a decade has subsided. It will still do incredibly well, just not as well as The Force Awakens.
Oscar Prospects: Good. While the film is not likely to compete in Best Picture or any of the above-the-line categories, all of the tech categories are in play from Original Score down to Visual Effects. I would expect the film to ultimately pick up anywhere from 3 to 5 nominations in total.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 20, 2017

The Greatest Showman

Premise: From IMDb: “Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. ”
Box Office Prospects: $150 M
Expectations: Good. Blockbuster musicals have a natural affinity for strong box office numbers. While this hasn’t been advertised much as a musical so far, it should still do quite well. Strong reviews could add lots more to these numbers. It will probably be the second biggest hit over the Christmas holiday.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. While the movie is sure to figure in several below-the-line categories, the big question is how well it will do in the top categories. No one has seen the film yet and if critics hate it, it’s sure to collapse under its own weight. If they love it or even modestly praise it, it could be a major player in all of the top categories.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Premise: From IMDb: “In a brand new Jumanji adventure, four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves – or they’ll be stuck in the game forever.”
Box Office Prospects: $125 M
Expectations: Good. The original film, starring Robin Williams, barely squeaked past $100 million. Today, it would have made $200 million. This indirect sequel has all the makings of another $100 million-plus hit, but whether it can eclipse its predecessor remains to be seen.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

All the Money in the World (on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “A left-wing paramilitary organization in Italy hatches a massive kidnapping plot in the 1970s.”
Box Office Prospects: $15 M
Expectations: Weak. Even before the allegations against supporting actor Kevin Spacey, the film had weak prospects at the box office. Although he has now been replaced by Christopher Plummer with re-shoots destined to be edited in before its expected December release, curiosity seekers might be its only demographic. Ridley Scott’s serious dramas don’t tend to do excessive business at the box office, so its chances were already meager. Still, if the film is well reviewed, it could do much more business. However, I suspect that since the film hasn’t really been seen, the delay itself suggests it might not have been worth the time.
Oscar Prospects: Poor. With Kevin Spacey being edited out and replaced with Christopher Plummer on short notice, it’s probably that the film doesn’t feel whole. It may also have been tainted enough by Spacey’s presence to not be of much concern to Oscar voters. Not that it was much of a contender before the whole Spacey affair.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Downsizing (on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.”
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Expectations: Good. While his last film, Nebraska, only made $17 million, there wasn’t much about it that screamed box office hit. Prior to that, director Alexander Payne’s films were all solid performers with The Descendants doing the best. What works in this film’s favor is not just how well Payne can get his movies seen and loved on a wider scale, but the appearance of star Matt Damon and a premise that is sure to bring curious folks to the theater, could be a good sign. I suspect it might be Payne’s first $100 million picture.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. The film wasn’t as well received as past Payne films, which could be a harbinger of things to come. Still, even without the boost of major critical praise, the film is certain to be in competition and Payne has often been dismissed as a potential Oscar player, but all of his films have been nominated to date and everything after Election has been nominated for multiple awards.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Father Figures (on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him.”
Box Office Prospects: $60 M
Expectations: Uncertain. Competition over Christmas is fierce and a comedy like this is sure to get lost in the shuffle. That it has no holiday theme and two stars who haven’t exactly sold their movies at the box office could mean the film does decently, but not overly so.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Pitch Perfect 3 (on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.”
Box Office Prospects: $150 M
Expectations: Good. The first flm made a simple $65 million, but it built up such a strong fanbase on home video that the sequel made more than $184 million, almost tripling its predecessor. The third, and supposedly final, film isn’t likely to perform that well, but anything is possible with these pitches.
Oscar Prospects: None.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Hostiles (Limited, on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.”
Box Office Prospects: $10 M
Expectations: Uncertain. I don’t think anyone is particularly clamoring for a film like this, so outside of the specialty box office, I’m not sure the film can perform much better than the abortive The Promise last year.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. Originally, there was talk of Christian Bale and the film being in play for Oscar consideration, but that chatter hasn’t been as strong lately as it once was. While Bale is still in the mix, his chances aren’t great at the moment. A Golden Globe nomination might bolster his chances.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

The Post (Limited, on 12/22/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.”
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Expectations: Decent. Spielberg’s weakest box office performers are always his dramas, especially historical ones. Although there are a few that have supplanted expectations, this one isn’t likely to be one, especially considering its heavily political overtones.
Oscar Prospects: Excellent. Sight unseen, this is sure to be a major Oscar contender. Once reviews trickle in, we’ll know more, but considering the poorly reviewed War Horse still managed six Oscar nominations, don’t expect fewer for this film, especially in the acting department.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 29, 2017

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady.”
Box Office Prospects: $5 M
Expectations: Weak. It would be a shock if this film became an outsized hit. Looking only at Annette Bening films of the last decade and few, if any of them, made more than $10 million and most were around $5 to $7 million or less. That this is geared mostly toward Oscar nominations at this point, it seems unlikely to do much better than her last film, 20th Century Women.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. The film hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because most critics really haven’t gotten to review it yet, but those who have have been universally positive. That means Bening is sure to be a Best Actress contender and the film could show up in a few other categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
Cinema Sight Preview: No preview currently available.

Molly’s Game (Limited, on 12/27/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “The true story of an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. Her players included movie stars, business titans and unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob.”
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Expectations: Uncertain. If you look solely at Jessica Chastain’s box office trajectory, you’ll that films in which she’s the lead generally underperform those where she’s co-lead or supporting (there are, of course, exceptions). Paired with Aaron Sorkin, though, the dynamic shifts. Films for which Sorkin wrote the screenplay have performed fairly well with Steve Jobs as the biggest exception. With the high stakes element of the film, it could do quite well, but the talky nature of Sorkin’s screenplays may keep the grosses modest.
Oscar Prospects: Uncertain. Sorkin’s screenplay will contend and Jessica Chastain will contend in Best Actress, but the film’s chances elsewhere are modest or non-existent, so while the film is sure to compete, actual nominations may be few.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Phantom Thread (Limited, on 12/27/17)

Premise: From IMDb: “Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.”
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Expectations: Uncertain. Apart from his Best Picture success There Will Be Blood, all of his films have performed in the $10 to $30 million range suggesting he has a finite fanbase. That said, this would still be a solid set of numbers, even for a specialty box office Oscar contender.
Oscar Prospects: Good. This is said to be star Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film, which should get him nominated for Best Actor and possibly poised for a male record of a fourth Oscar. That said, Anderson’s films have all been major Oscar players with only Punch-Drunk Love and Inherent Vice stumbling. That means it will be a contender in Best Picture, Best DIrector and several other above-the-line categories and possibley Film Editing and Costume Design below the line.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

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  1. “War Horse” was not ‘poorly reviewed,’ actually. (RT: 76% “Certified Fresh” approval rating from critics with an average score of 7/10; Metacritic: 72)

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