2018 Oscar Season Preview: December

Here we look at the upcoming month’s offerings.

December 7, 2018

Ben Is Back (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “Follows the charming yet troubled Ben Burns (Hedges), who returns home to his unsuspecting family one fateful Christmas Eve. Ben’s wary mother Holly Burns (Roberts) welcomes her beloved son’s return, but soon learns he is still very much in harm’s way. During the 24 hours that may change their lives forever, Holly must do everything in her power to avoid the family’s downfall.”
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Mary Queen of Scots (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “Mary Stuart’s attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution.”
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Vox Lux (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.”
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 14, 2018

Mortal Engines

Premise: From IMDb: “Many years after the “Sixty Minute War,” cities survive a now desolate Earth by moving around on giant wheels attacking and devouring smaller towns to replenish their resources.”
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: Weak. While the film looks visually stunning, these types of young adult-targeted dystopian dramas never result in Oscar nominations.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

The Mule

Premise: From IMDb: “A 90-year-old horticulturist and WWII veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel.”
Box Office Prospects: $80 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Premise: From IMDb: “Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask.”
Box Office Prospects: $75 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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).
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 21, 2018

Aquaman

Premise: From IMDb: “Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and to be a hero to the world.”
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Bumblebee

Premise: From IMDb: “On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.”
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Deadpool 2 (PG-13 Version)

Premise: From IMDb: “After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry’s hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor – finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best Lover.”
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: Not Applicable. This is a re-cut/re-release, so it doesn’t by that nature contend for Oscars.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Mary Poppins Returns (on Wed.)

Premise: From IMDb: “In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.”
Box Office Prospects: $250 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Welcome to Marwen

Premise: From IMDb: “A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process.”
Box Office Prospects: $100 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 25, 2018

Holmes & Watson

Premise: From IMDb: “A humorous take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.”
Box Office Prospects: $105 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: Poor. While the film sports some period production and costume design, the Academy doesn’t tend to recognize comedies.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Vice

Premise: From IMDb: “The story of Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in history, and how his policies changed the world as we know it.”
Box Office Prospects: $65 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

Destroyer (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “A police detective reconnects with people from an undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace.”
Box Office Prospects: $1.5 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

On the Basis of Sex (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

December 28, 2018

Stan & Ollie (Limited)

Premise: From IMDb: “Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a grueling theatre tour of post-war Britain.”
Box Office Prospects: $20 M
Expectations: 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.
Oscar Prospects: 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.
Cinema Sight Preview: See my preview of this title here.

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