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Box Office Rap: Kick-Ass 2 and the Hollywood Reporter Snafu

The oddity of Nikki Finke’s argument here is troubling; the suggestion that such a separation exists in greater numbers now than before is patently false.

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Kick Ass 2

Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium topped the box office this past weekend, though its lead over the competition ended up being less than anticipated. However, if one were following The Hollywood Reporter’s coverage on Friday, that margin was said to be even less, as writer Pamela McClintock claimed that “strong matinee business” suggested Planes was headed for a $30 million weekend, which was set to match that of the Matt Damon actioner. The actual for Planes ended up in third place with $22.2 million, over 25% less than initially reported. More troubling than the inaccurate figures, which are understandable given the unpredictability of internal weekend multipliers and whatnot, is the article’s headline, which claims that Planes’s performance is “breaking [the] animation curse,” allegedly created from underwhelming box-office openings by Turbo and The Smurfs 2. An animation curse? It’s hard to argue for any curse, given the almost $640 million made worldwide by Monsters University and the $745 million made worldwide by Despicable Me 2, the latter of which is second to only Iron Man 3 as the highest-grossing domestic release of 2013.

Now, while the headline isn’t exactly “Dewey Defeats Truman,” it’s precisely this sort of falsified reporting that calls into question motivations behind what should be a more objective reporting/analysis. If the phrase “animation curse” appeared in the article as a quote from a studio affiliate, then its usage is fair game. Since it doesn’t, the rhetoric is clearly intended to associate financial success with Planes, whether or not that success is genuine. With a second Planes film already in the pipeline, the immediacy with which The Hollywood Reporter claimed financial triumph given such a lack of data only reinforces what Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh have recently said about the potentially destructive nature that box-office obsessions wreak on the kinds of films that get made in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Nikki Finke began constructing an odd argument at Deadline.com this weekend, which suggests that there has been an “interesting development” over the summer months, where “a big schism [separates] audiences and critics…CinemaScores are coming in higher and higher for pics that Rotten Tomatoes is rating lower and lower. Who’s out of touch?” Finke is a controversial figure with regard to her notoriously early and often incorrect box-office estimates, though her status as reigning judge of box-office trends remains mostly intact. Yet, the oddity of her argument here is troubling; the suggestion that such a separation exists in greater numbers now than before is patently false.

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Let’s consult some figures: Of the top 10 grossing films of the year so far, only two have a rotten score (Man of Steel and Oz the Great and Powerful). In 2012, one film from the top 10 was rotten. But in 2011, five of the top 10 had rotten scores. In both 2009 and 2010, there were three. In 2008, there were two. Yet in 2007, there were five. As demonstrated by the past six years, 2013 appears on course for three or four rotten films in the yearly box-office top 10; in other words, an average year. So what’s Finke getting at? Her line of thinking also reads disingenuous if one were to discuss titles like The Conjuring, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Fast and Furious 6 along these lines, where critics and audiences not only agree, but share a rabid enthusiasm for the films. All of this amounts to the clear evidence that critics and audiences are, and have been, on the same page for more than 50% of the time, though critics and Hollywood pundits consistently like to claim otherwise and act as if there’s a comprehensive divide along lines of taste and cultural preference. None of these results should be surprising, however, when “top critics” like Richard Roeper still get to weigh in. Roeper’s three-and-a-half-star “review” of Fast and Furious 6 features passages such as “Gina Carano is BIG fun to watch. The former mixed martial arts sensation and star of Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is still a bit stilted with her line readings, but her two fight scenes with Michelle Rodriguez in FF6 are just epic” and “These cars not only defy gravity, they take on—well, I don’t want to give it away. But it’s craaaaaazy.” Your honor, I rest my case.

Box Office Weekend Predictions

1. Kick-Ass 2: $23.5 (NEW)

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2. Lee Daniels’s The Butler: $20.2 (NEW)

3. We’re the Millers: $17.4 -34%

4. Elysium: $13.4 -55%

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5. Planes: $13.3 -40%

6. Paranoia: $11.1 (NEW)

7. Jobs: $6.9 (NEW)

8. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters: $6.6 -54%

9. The Smurfs 2: $5.5 -41%

10. 2 Guns: $5.2 -53%

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.

On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)

Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.

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As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.

Will Win: Green Book

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Could Win: The Favourite

Should Win: First Reformed

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Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer

Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.

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A24
Photo: A24

British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:

A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

And below is the film’s first trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Al2nC0vzY

A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.

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20th Century Fox
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.

Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Could Win: A Star Is Born

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Should Win: First Man

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