2018 Oscar Season Preview Wrap-Up: December

Below is a wrap-up of the predictions I made several months ago, an exploration of what succeeded and what failed, and how I observe things to have gone.

December 7, 2018

Ben Is Back (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Weak. Roberts is pushing for an Oscar nomination for her role in this and while the dramatics of it certainly play in her favor, the film itself hasn’t built much traction yet, so she could be a background contender.”
Oscar Results: Failure. Brief conversations turned into nothing.
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Julia Roberts used to be a major box office draw and to an extent that’s still partly true. However, her strength at selling dramas is weaker and I suspect this won’t be a huge success for her.”
Box Office Results: $3.7 M
Thoughts: [Flop] The only thing going for this film in terms of potential box office appeal was star Julia Roberts. However, we’ve found that actors who perform outside of their perceived genre tend to be ignored by audiences, or at least find it more difficult to earn box office glory. That was likely a contributing factor to this film’s failure.

Mary Queen of Scots (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. That crowd-pleaser statement came mostly out of prognostication circles suggesting the film isn’t much of an Oscar contender. However, on paper, it sure sounds like a major threat.”
Oscar Results: Success. Perhaps not as big a success as one might have originally though, the film still managed to pull off two Oscar nominations for Makeup and Costume Design.
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Good. There aren’t a lot of good instructive analogs for a film like this, making predictions challenging. That said, early word on the film was that it would be a crowd-pleaser. However, how is that possible for a period film? We’ll soon see.”
Box Office Results: $16.5 M
Thoughts: [Flop] A film that had the potential to be a box office success fumbled with its negative reviews and ultijmately went nowhere.

Vox Lux (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Early response is that Portman is a strong contender for an Oscar nomination and that could be true, but her film isn’t igniting excitement it seems. When a star’s vehicle performs poorly, her chances are diminished and unless this is a surprise player on the critics’ scene, I expect the consideration to come to nothing.”
Oscar Results: Failure. The chatter around Natalie Portman was limited and evaporated quickly.
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Weak. Natalie Portman has had some box office successes, but with her attraction to small indie films, her filmography is more lightly populated with box office weaklings. This film doesn’t sound like a breakthrough for her.”
Box Office Results: $0.727 M
Thoughts: [Flop] Minor Natalie Portman films are usually pretty minor, but this one seems to have been more minor than most.

December 14, 2018

Mortal Engines

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Weak. While the film looks visually stunning, these types of young adult-targeted dystopian dramas never result in Oscar nominations.”
Oscar Results: Failure. It came nowhere near Oscar nominations.
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. This dystopian drama wants to be the next The Hunger Games, but its lack of major advertising, even so close to its release, suggests that reviews and word of mouth might sink it. Still, it looks like something big and bold and that could be attractive with little else like it in the marketplace.”
Box Office Results: $15.9 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] This Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi adaptation is yet another in a long string of YA adaptations that managed to flop in its debut thanks to poor reviews.

The Mule

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Some are saying this is Eastwood’s last hurrah as an actor and thus his chances are much higher. However, I don’t know how much truth is in that. Eastwood has only been nominated twice as an actor, both were in Best Picture-winning vehicles that he directed. The last time he was in a populist film and was talked about as a potential nominee (Gran Torino), he turned up with nothing. That said, he’s approaching 90 and is well loved in Hollywood. This could be his chance, but I wouldn’t count on it just yet.”
Oscar Results: Failure. While the film might have boasted a chance for late-career recognition for Clint Eastwood, the film’s success couldn’t materialize around an Oscar nomination.
Box Office Prospects: $80 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Good. Although he’s focused more on his directing career than his acting career, there’s strong evidence to suggest his more compelling films do better with audiences than expected. This is also a directorial effort for him and that points to a similar result. When he does both, his chances for success increase dramatically.”
Box Office Results: $103.8 M
Thoughts: [Success] Clint Eastwood’s fanbase doesn’t dwindle. Unlike some actors who appear in heavy dramas, Eastwood’s dramas still manage to draw large swaths of fans to them, including this $100 million success.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. It’s a comic book adaptation, which might not help with the Academy’s animation branch. That said, there aren’t a lot of options for the category this year. Further, the film’s animation looks to be one of its biggest selling points, which could help with the voters in the Academy. However, it’s still a comic book adaptation and critics will have to be incredibly supportive for it to overcome the fact that Sony Animation has managed two Animated Feature nominations out of its seventeen films (2 of which were released this year and 4 of which are live-action or hybrid films).”
Oscar Results: Success. Not only did the film sweep up awards at various groups, the Oscar was a slam dunk.
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. All of the Spider-Man films have topped $200 million at the domestic box office. That’s a point in the film’s favor. All of those films were live-action, which a point against it. The highest grossing animated comic book adaptation is Big Hero 6 with $222 million, a point for it. The next highest grossing is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm with $5 million is another negative. Worse yet is that Sony Animation has released only 17 films to date with only seven of those topping $100 million and only 12 topping $50 million.”
Box Office Results: $190.2 M
Thoughts: [Major Success] Proving that even in the guise of an animated film, Marvel movies can still become major successes. It helps that the film was really good. It also gives Sony a nice shot in the arm for their non-MCU potential output.

December 21, 2018

Aquaman

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Like the MCU, the DCEU has struggled with Oscar nominations. That said, it’s the only one of their two franchises that has managed to pick up a win. Having said all that, I think the visual effects in this film are likely to contend even if the rest of the film won’t.”
Oscar Results: Failure. While Visual Effects was its best shot at a nomination, it ultimately earned nothing.
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Decent. With only five films under its belt, the DC Extended Unvierse has been successful, but not wildly so. While the bottom for the series if $229 million at the box office, the top is only $412 million and that was a film that looked wholly different than everything else they’ve so far offered (Wonder Woman) whereas $330 million is the top without it. That puts Aquaman‘s chances of topping $200 million in the likely range, but over performance in the less likely range. Compare that to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where 6 of their 20 films have made less than $229 million while four have topped $412 million and 9 above $330 million. That means the MCU has more flexibility, which won’t do the DCEU any favors.”
Box Office Results: $335.1 M
Thoughts: [Major Success] No matter how good or bad the DC Extended Universe is, the franchise always delivers rock solid numbers and this film proved that even mixed reviews couldn’t dampen the spirits of fans who seem to have loved it.

Bumblebee

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Weak. While the Michael Bay films had been Oscar magnets in the beginning, nominated for seven Oscars across three films, the departure of Shia LaBeouf and the fade-out in box office popularity dried up the series’ attention. Even if this is a success with critics and audiences, there’s no guarantee the Academy will call the series back to the ceremony. That said, the three categories the series has competed in so far, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects are all in play still.”
Oscar Results: Failure. It was a potential Visual Effects contender. It also had chances in the sound categories. Ultimately, the Transformers franchise has fallen out of favor with the Academy.
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. After the utter bomb that was the $130 million performance of Transformers: The Last Knight, and the slow but gradual decline of the franchise, there’s some hope that this film can revitalize it by returning to the series 1980s roots. The trailers have impressed many skeptics and non-Michael Bay fans, but it’s a long road to hit status. Going up against a slightly more consistent franchise might hurt this film more than the other.”
Box Office Results: $127.2 M
Thoughts: [Minor Success] The Transformers films used to be huge, but now they aren’t. In spite of posting its best entry ever, Bumblebee didn’t do as well as it should have. Hopefully, now that audiences see a different path forward for the franchise they’ll turn out to a possible sequel. If one ever happens.

Deadpool 2 (PG-13 Version)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Not Applicable. This is a re-cut/re-release, so it doesn’t by that nature contend for Oscars.”
Oscar Results: Ineligible.
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Weak. With the R rating of the first film, the studio thinks it may have missed some viewers, so they are releasing a PG-13 version of the film in hopes of picking up some more money. However, against two potential juggernauts and the film already having finished out its R-rated run, I don’t expect the film to add much more to its tally with this stunt.”
Box Office Results: $6.1 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] The original was a huge hit, so why as the PG-13 version such a flop? Probably because all the best parts of the film would have been cut or bleeped and thus lose their potency. Maybe this will show Disney that they just aren’t cut out for keeping Deadpool at the lower rating.

Mary Poppins Returns (on Wed.)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. It all depends on how good the film is. While two Original Song nominations seem likely, the original film earned a staggering 13 Oscar nominations, winning 5 including Best Actress for Julie Andrews. This film is unlikely to follow that route, but the tech categories are solid bets with Emily Blunt’s shot at Best Actress remote at best.”
Oscar Results: Success. While a late burst of success netted the film four Oscar nominations, the film didn’t manage to make inroads in any of the major categories.
Box Office Prospects: $250 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. The original Mary Poppins made just over $30 million at the box office, but that inflates to $299 million on today’s dollars ($701 million adjusted for inflation if you count all re-releases). Clearly there’s a love for the Julie Andrews film. However, can Disney turn that film’s sequel into an equally large success? I have my doubts. First, Disney’s attempts have been widely disparate in their success, ranging from $76 million to $504 million. Six of nine have topped $100 million and three have topped $300 million, with one above $370 million (Beauty and the Beast‘s $504 million). The problem is those were all live-action reimaginings/remakes. This is the first real sequel to emerge from that concept and unless Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music tops the originals, there will likely be disappointment. That said, the film has a lot of factors that will boost its total, so I’m going to stick with mid-range performance in my prediction.”
Box Office Results: $171.9 M
Thoughts: [Success] The original made only $102 million in the day. That’s probably the worst comparison you could make as it would suggest the sequel made a lot more. In reality, the original’s inflation-adjusted tally is $705 million. That suggests a dismal performance. Regardless, compared to other films of its stature today, these numbers are good even if a bit on the weaker side.

Welcome to Marwen

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Carell is currently being campaigned for his work in Beautiful Boy, but this film might be a better shot for him if he were to take it. If the film is any good, it could make a surprise play for the Oscars.”
Oscar Results: Failure. Robert Zemeckis’ latest film was yet another train wreck and Oscar voters just didn’t care.
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Steve Carell’s box office potential outside of comedies is incredibly weak. That said, Robert Zemeckis has a better track record. The trailers are unusual enough to be engaging to audiences, but it remains to be seen if the film can contend against three other films that are competing at the box office.”
Box Office Results: $10.8 M
Thoughts: [Flop] There’s nothing Robert Zemeckis can touch anymore that will turn to gold. The concept seemed like something audiences would rush out to see, but the awful reviews kept most of them away. Zemeckis appears to have lost his touch.

December 25, 2018

Holmes & Watson

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Poor. While the film sports some period production and costume design, the Academy doesn’t tend to recognize comedies.”
Oscar Results: Failure. It never had a shot.
Box Office Prospects: $105 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Good. Will Ferrell isn’t always a box office draw, but his comedies tend to perform well, especially when paired with others. That gives this film a good shot at solid box office and my prediction might just be a bit low.”
Box Office Results: $30.6 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] Will Ferrell can’t turn everything to gold and the terrible reviews help sink this banal comedy that no one thought looked like any fun or even a good idea.

Vice

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. After The Big Short became a surprise Oscar contender, it’s hard not to see the same possibility for this film with an all-star cast playing familiar characters. That said, they are still pretty repulsive characters on the whole and a dark political comedy about Dick Cheney just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing Academy members would or should go for.”
Oscar Results: Success. The film took eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, three acting citations, Directing, and others. It only won Makeup, but that was always in the bag.
Box Office Prospects: $65 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Solid. Adam McKay has never directed a film to make below $70 million at the box office. That $70 million mark was for his Oscar-nominated political drama The Big Short three years ago. That film sported a very large cast and built on solid reviews and Oscar consideration into its final tally. That said, this film is about a far more unsavory character and while it does have some fine actors in it, I cannot image it being a huge hit, thus I expect it to underperform Big Short‘s numbers. However, if the Academy digs it and nominates it for Best Picture, the tally could rise.”
Box Office Results: $47.8 M
Thoughts: [Minor Success] Being a political satire isn’t the safest best at the box office, especially when the figure being skewered is a former vice president. That said, with the film’s critical acclaim and solid Oscar haul, it managed to pull in a sizable, if lower than predicted, tally.

Destroyer (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Although the film puts Kidman in a role that heavily obscures her beauty, the Academy hasn’t rewarded one of those performances in awhile. Still, Kidman is relatively revered among Oscar voters and if the performance picks up precursor citations, they could give it a nomination themselves.”
Oscar Results: Failure. Nicole Kidman’s film faltered and never regained traction.
Box Office Prospects: $1.5 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Weak. Nicole Kidman hasn’t been a box office draw in years, especially not with her indie performances. This film looks like another that will probably fall pretty flat with audiences. While it doesn’t look too dissimilar to Jodie Foster’s The Brave One, that film released wide and still only made $36 million. This film is releasing limited, which won’t bolster its chances. That said, if Kidman can score an Oscar nomination, it might add one or two million to the total. If it gets more nods than that, the total could get even bigger.”
Box Office Results: $1.5 M
Thoughts: [Unexceptional] Nicole Kidman’s transformation might not have appealed to a lot of audiences, but without an Oscar nomination, this tally is sufficient even if unimpressive.

On the Basis of Sex (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Weak. The film has all the makings of an Oscar contender, except that it didn’t get very good reviews and has largely disappeared from the conversation.”
Oscar Results: Failure. In spite of its tendency to recognize biopics of dubious quality, this film couldn’t muster enough support for consideration.
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Another film I’ve seen this compared to, Marshall, managed a meager $10 million at the box office. However, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a very popular figure right now and the documentary about her made $14 million at the box office, a huge success for documentaries (it ranks 22 on the list of all-time box office chart for documentaries, 8th on the list of political documentaries). The film looks also to compare favorably to The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, which both proved successful. While I doubt it can reach Imitation levels, Theory of Everything‘s $35 million still seems vaguely manageable. Of course, all of this requires some consideration for Oscar nominations, which don’t seem terribly likely at this point.”
Box Office Results: $24.6 M
Thoughts: [Unexceptional] With the popularity of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this movie should have been a huge success, but the documentary had apparently satiated audiences and the film’s mediocre reviews surely helped doom it.

December 28, 2018

Stan & Ollie (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. The Academy loves to honor itself and what could be more early Hollywood glory than a film about Oliver & Hardy. The problem is that the film has been buzzed about much and is earning a late-year stealth release it seems, suggesting it might not be that good a film. However, if it actually is good and Reilly enters play for his second Oscar nomination, the film could build through awards season and pick up a citation at the Golden Globes making his chances even better. Unfortunately, I suspect the film’s not going to make it very far and will be forgotten shortly after its release.”
Oscar Results: Failure. The film had some potential early on, but apart from som BAFTA citations, the film came nowhere near Oscar.
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Laurel & Hardy were one of the all-time great comedy duos, but their brand of humor hasn’t been at the forefront for years. When The Three Stooges attempted to take the famous comedy trio and make box office gold out of it, the film made $44 million, which was far below expectations. The most famous person in that cast was Sean Hayes, which might explain why it didn’t do great. Here, John C. Reilly plays Oliver Hardy and he is a much bigger name to comedy fans (though his anemic $18 million for Walk Hard isn’t indicative). The film could do surprisingly well, but its opening on limited screens, which will require strong word of mouth and perhaps a bit of Oscar attention.”
Box Office Results: $5.5 M (STILL IN LIMITED RELEASE)
Thoughts: [Unexceptional] A film that couldn’t pick up Oscar support was doomed to minimal expectations, but these are solid numbers all things considered.

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