Category: Oscar Preview

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 11-13, 2017

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 4-6, 2017

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 28-30, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.


Before The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow was barely known as a filmmaker. She was, at the time, little more than James Cameron’s ex-wife. Now, she’s a bona fide Hollywood legend having become the first woman to ever win an Oscar for Best Director. However underwhelming her film was and undeserving her victory, the glass ceiling that broke at that moment was something to be celebrated. She followed that film up with Zero Dark Thirty, another Best Picture Oscar nominee starring Jessica Chastain. She did not, despite plenty of speculation, manage a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

To date, no woman has secured two nods from the directors branch, but Detroit hopes to buck that trend. With a solid 85% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (8/10 average rating), it would seem to be a strong critical success. The film, which centers around an incident at the Algiers Motel in 1967 during the 12th Street Riot, has all the makings of a Best Picture contender. The subject matter is highly charged and well-timed to correlate with myriad modern events. Further, it could be the first film to benefit from the diversification of the Academy’s membership.

The problem here is that the film is opening in the shadow of blockbuster Dunkirk, which is certain to bring Christopher Nolan his long-awaited first Best Director nomination and possibly even the Oscar. That’s a mighty big shadow and although the film is attempting a platform release, the release is positioning it into the August doldrums, a box office period where hit are few and failure means the film is forgotten. Even Oscar contenders have trouble making much impact with an August release. Likely, the producers are hoping to take advantage of the dearth of major box office contenders in August to give it a stronger shot at making a tidy buck. It’s certainly possible and with plenty of critical support, it could definitely still be a player, but a lot depends on the box office and what else comes down the pike that tickles the same fancies as this film would.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 21-23, 2017

We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.


From an Oscar perspective, few directors will earn Oscar nominations at nearly every outing. Of his nine previous theatrical releases, Christopher Nolan has delivered six Oscar nominees. His first experience with the Oscars was with his breakthrough film Memento. Released in 2000, the film earned critical acclaim alongside two Oscar nominations for editing and writing. The film went home empty-handed, but Nolan’s film was enshrined in the lexicon.

His third film, Insomnia, was ignored, but he returned to the Oscars with his fourth picture, Batman Begins. The next three films he directed were all Oscar nominees with The Prestige being the last film he got nominated that didn’t also take home Oscars. 2008’s The Dark Knight captured two, including a posthumous award for Heath Ledger’s supporting performance as The Joker. That was followed by Inception, which became his first Best Picture nominee along with securing four trophies. His eighth film, the final one in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was an Oscar miss in spite of its technical proficiencies.


Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 14-16, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

War for the Planet of the Apes

In 2011, the first film in the series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes brought an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. Many thought it would win, but it went home empty-handed. Three years later, the second film did the same. It picked up a Best Visual Effects nomination and then won nothing. Sadly, that is where the third film is headed.

One of the most praised elements of the series has been its use of motion capture technology to film real actors performing as these simian characters and then turning them into chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and other apes. While the technology has no doubt improved, the Academy’s willful ignorance of it has not. The Lord of the Rings series set the medium on its current path and since then, it has blossomed enormously. Yet, the Academy hasn’t been very forthcoming with nominations.

What might have helped the second film isn’t likely to help War for the Planet of the Apes. In 2002, Spider-Man went up against the juggernaut of The Lord of the Rings, and understandably went home without a win. Two years later, without competition, the sequel won the Oscar. Similarly, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was nominated against the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and subsequently lost. Three years later, the sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest pulled out a win. Ostensibly both of those two winners were more effects heavy than their predecessors, but that should have helped Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated against Best Picture nominee Hugo, which pulled off a surprising upset win over Apes. Then, in 2014, Dawn had the unfortunate burden of competing against Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, a less favorably received film, but it ended up losing. That puts War for the Planet of the Apes in a bit of a bind. Third films in series rarely break molds and this year, War is not only up against Christopher Nolan again (Dunkirk), but also the beloved and frequently honored Star Wars franchise. It could still pull of a shock victory because it is the series’ final entry. That might not mean a lot to the Academy and they tend to prefer Best Picture nominees over non-nominees these days, so its chances aren’t great. However, the film could be the first in the series to pick up nods outside of Best Visual Effects. The sound mix and editing jobs were quite good this time around, so it could get nominated there as well.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of July 7-9, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

When the first Spider-Man came out in 2002, it was a box office hit, which enabled the Academy to throw it a couple of honors. Nominated for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects, that first film went home empty handed thanks to go up against the visual effects juggernaut that was The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Two years later, the critically acclaimed follow-up did its predecessor one better picking up a separate nomination for Best Sound Editing. Some voters felt the film was owed for its loss two years earlier, but many simply found the wonderful effects praise worthy and gave it the Oscar. That was the end for the Spider-Man series. Three more films followed, one capper to the original trilogy and two rebooted versions, none of which won Oscars.

While the Spider-Men once had Oscar success, those times are long past. Looking to films that fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a slight bit of hope. Through the first Avengers movie, each film that featured Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) as a main character (his three solo films and that combined feature) saw Oscar nominations. None of them won an award, but they were all nominated. That would seem like a boon for Spider-Man: Homecoming since Tony Stark/Iron Man is a prominent character in the film, even if he spends large parts of it off-screen. The problem is that even the MCU has faded in voter estimations. None of the subsequent two films that featured Downey Jr. managed Oscar nominations. That suggests that voters are tired of the series and aren’t particularly interested in recognizing it anymore. Either that or there’s just too much competition.

That will be what does Homecoming in more than anything. Apart from there being a glut of superhero films at the box office, there are tons of movies competing for the same categories this film might feature in: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects. The latter is the only one that really seems like it could have a chance this year. However, with films like War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, and other films that haven’t yet been seen, but will seem more “prestigious” than a superhero film, it would seem Spider-Man: Homecoming is likely to be ignored.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 30-Jul. 2, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Despicable Me 3

While Disney/Pixar has trouble getting sequels and prequels nominated, Illumination has trouble getting its originals nominated. With only eight films now on their production release list, Illumination hasn’t provided enough data to form definitive opinions, but current data is striking.

Built in 2010 with the release of Despicable Me, Illumination put itself on the map as a strong generator of box office numbers. Yet, Oscar was fleeting. They completely ignored the $251 million release. This was followed in subsequent years by Hop and The Lorax, both of which did well to great at the box office, but were similarly ignored by the Academy. In 2013, Illumination released its first sequel, Despicable Me 2. That film not only scored the studio’s first Best Animated Feature nomination, it picked up two nominations that year to boot, the other for Original Song. It won neither, but the animation ceiling had been broken. Two years later, their spin-off of the Despicable universe starring the popular, though grating Minions did superb box office, but was ignored by the Academy, likely because it was harmless kid fluff.

Last year, they had two more releases, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. Both were strong box office performers, but the Academy ignored both. That puts Illumination at 1 of 7. It isn’t a great stat, but it’s better than the complete 1-in-11 competitor Blue Sky has managed (the original Ice Age was Animated Feature nominated, but its only other Oscar nominee, Rio, was only for Best Original Song). Still, it seems that Illumination can’t get its first films nominated, but did get Despicable Me 2 nominated. That’s a good sign for Despicable Me 3 in general; however, with no data on sequels to the other original titles they’ve released, it’s impossible to know if we have a trend or an anomaly. Despicable Me 3 will test that theory.

Then we’ll have more or less evidence in the future when Secret Life of Pets, Minions, and Sing each get follow-ups. For now, other evidence may point to Oscar failure this year as Despicable Me 3 has gotten generally positive reviews, but they have not been overwhelmingly positive: a 63% at Rotten Tomatoes (only 5.7 average rating from those critics) and a mediocre 48 at MetaCritic. Without critics in its corner, there won’t be a lot of options for the film except an utter collapse of its competitors, which might not be as big a stretch as it may seem. Of the eight animated films released so far this year, Cars 3, Captain Underpants, and The Lego Batman Movie are the only films to receive better reviews than Despicable Me 3 and at least one of those isn’t Oscar fodder. Plus, considering what’s left to release this year in terms of wide productions (The Emoji Movie, Leap!, and Coco), it’s prospects look up, but only slightly.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 23-25, 2017

We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Transformers: The Last Knight

In 2007, Michael Bay brought the world the first in a series of movies based on the popular 1980’s cartoon series Transformers. His first film was a box office behemoth, which spawned the series entire. Bay then worked almost exclusively on the Transformers franchise, pausing only twice for the comedy heist film Pain & Gain and the conspiracy theory film 13 Hours, neither of which lit up the box office. Prior to Transformers, Bay had carved out a successful career of action thrillers like Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, and The Island. Before that, he worked as a music video director.


Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 16-17, 2017

We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Cars 3

Returning to the world of Cars, 11 years after narrowly losing Best Animated Feature to the now-largely-forgotten Happy Feet, Pixar is hoping to return to the Oscar race with only the second film they’ve made more than one sequel to. The other, Toy Story 3 was an industry darling, handily winning the Best Animated Feature Award, possibly because the first two films came out before the category existed.

The problem is that in 2011, Cars 2 set a precedent that Pixar hasn’t been able to escape since. After that picture, no sequel or prequel to a Pixar feature has scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Not Cars 2, not Monsters University, not Finding Dory. That kind of history is hard to ignore and may hinder Cars 3‘s chances.


Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 9-11, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.


Tom Cruise films have an uneven history at the Oscars, or to be more precise, almost none. Apart from his own Oscar nominations, most of his action films have been instantly forgotten by the Academy. The Mummy, upon first glance, looks like precisely the kind of film that could have had an in-road with the Oscars, if it weren’t for two damning problems.

The first is the reviews. Films live and die by reviews, but they have more of an impact on the Oscars than on the box office. Although they have made exceptions, the films of Michael Bay being an example, more often than not, they go for the films that have been well received over those that haven’t, making it difficult for Mummy. The Mummy has been received terribly, becoming one of the year’s worst reviewed films, which creates the first problem.

The other is box office. The bigger the box office, the better the Oscar chances. They love big hits, especially technically proficient big hits. What’s assured now is that Mummy won’t be a big hit. Pulling in an incredibly weak $32 million and coming in a distant second shows the film won’t be able to become the type of hit the Academy loves. The Mummy‘s second problem is this.

Combine the two and its chances at the Oscars have become virtually nil. If it were to overcome both to earn Oscar nominations, the only place it’s likely to appear is Best Visual Effects as Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing are a tougher sell.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 2-4, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Wonder Woman

When looking at the DC Extended Universe and the Oscars, it’s instructive to compare to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the MCU now has 15 films in its canon and DCEU only has four, the MCU has yet to win a single Oscar where as the DCEU picked up its first last year for the makeup for Suicide Squad.

Over in the MCU, of the fourteen films that have already competed at the Oscars, the franchise has nine Oscar nominations. The first two came with Iron Man in 2008. Iron Man 2 brought the third in 2010 followed by one in 2012 for The Avengers, one in 2013 for Iron Man 3, one in 2014 for Captain America: The Winter Soldier (the first in the MCU to go to a film not starring Robert Downey Jr.), 2 more in 2014 for Guardians of the Galaxy, and one last year for Doctor Strange. What’s notable is that until Winter Soldier, only films starring Downey were nominated the Oscars, which meant none of the other four films to that point had made Oscar appearances. After that dam broke, the two featuring Downey failed to score, while three of the other four got them. So, the franchise, in fourteen films, had 50% of the films picking up Oscar nominations.

Of the three films released prior to Wonder Woman, only one-third of them have Oscar nominations and that one, Suicide Squad, has the only Oscar win of any “universe” films. So where does this put Wonder Woman? Nowhere really, but it’s instructive to see the hot-and-cold nature of Oscar palates. They are fickle and what works for them for a time, stops working after awhile when they discover better options. That could be a boon to Wonder Woman. Until now, the DCEU has been very dark with somber color palettes, grim action, and lots of angst. Wonder Woman is looking more akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, brighter, frothier, and lighter. That it’s also set in World War I could help net it some consideration in categories the MCU hasn’t been able to crack.

That said, Captain America: The First Avenger may be the best comparison to Wonder Woman. Both were origin stories set in the past. Captain America took place in World War II while Wonder Woman is set during the Great War thirty years before. That’s about where the comparisons end. Although The First Avenger had solid reviews, they are nothing compared to the glowing notices Wonder Woman has received. Matter of fact, it is one of the best reviewed superhero films ever. That will give it some traction with Oscar voters. That it is the first mainstream superhero film directed by a woman and only the fourth featuring a female superhero in the lead (not to mention the easily best reviewed of those four), recognizing the film could be quite empowering. Although I doubt it will lead to above the line citations, Production Design, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects will all easily be in play.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of May 26-28, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Historically Disney’s franchise films have been solid performers at the Oscars. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales should be no exception, but things may be different this time around.

When Pirates of the Caribbean was first released in 2003, it was a novel adventure, a high seas adventure based off a popular attraction at Walt Disney World. No one thought it would succeed, but thanks to a stellar lead performance by Johnny Depp, the film sailed into the record books and took home boatloads of money. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, all in creative categories except one: Depp was nominated for Best Actor. While not entirely a surprise, it was a selection the Academy rarely makes. Although it went home empty-handed, its loss in Best Visual Effects to juggernaut The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would put the film squarely in the sights of Academy voters in the future.

Four years later, the first sequel, Dead Man’s Chest was also a box office strongman and the film pulled in four Oscar nominations, finally winning Best Visual Effects as recompense for its previous loss. The next year, the second film made tons of money and At World’s End showed up at the Oscars once again. This time, however, the film only managed two nominations, a sure sign of the future.

Another four years went by before the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, pulled in plenty of cash, though its tally was far below any of its predecessors. It also lagged behind at the Oscars, picking up no nominations. We are now 14 years beyond the original film’s release and the box office doesn’t appear to be playing into the film’s hands. While it will be an international hit, U.S. audiences have soured on the series. The $62 million opening is far below the previous three outings. While the film is performing on par with critics as the fourth entry did, the opening suggests the film will underperform and without support from audiences, the film’s chances of scoring with the Academy are virtually nil.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of May 19-21, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Alien: Covenant

Science fiction and horror are two genres the Academy is typically averse to. While there are notable exceptions, they seem to be fewer and farther between than they once were. That doesn’t mean recognition is non-existent. One franchise that has been tremendously successful with Oscar voters is the Alien series, with films that have consistently been recognized and occasionally rewarded by the Academy.

When the first film opened in June of 1979, Ridley Scott’s Alien was a big success. Adjusted for inflation, the first film made more than $275 million at the box office. This was a staggering amount for the time, especially for a sci-fi/horror hybride. That box office strength and critical acclaim may have bolstered the film’s Oscar prospects as it secured two Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects. It won the latter of these awards.


Oscar Preview: Weekend of May 12-14, 2017

We had no films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Oscar Preview: Weekend of May 5-7, 2017

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Guardians of the Galaxy

When the original was released in 2014, it became a major Oscar contender, figuring in several precursor contests. It was thought to be a major player in several categories, including Best Production Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects. In the end, the dominoes weren’t spaced properly and they fell to only two categories: Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects. Although Visual Effects was always going to be a tough sell, most felt that Makeup & Hairstyling was a done deal. It went home empty-handed.

This time out, the same categories are surely going to be discussed, but considering how little support the Academy has given to the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, I suspect that Makeup & Hairstyling and Visual Effects will again be its only potential nominations. This time around, though, I suspect the failure of the original to win and the recent victory of Suicide Squad in the category suggests that it could be in it to win it. However, considering the MCU’s frequent Oscar failures, I wouldn’t expect too much.

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