Oscar 2011: The Buzz And The Biz

Well how about it? Exactly thirty-four days have passed since the Academy has given out the golden statuettes. The box office results of the nine Best Picture nominees also have a lot to say too. Some good, some bad.

Box Office Mojo does it every year. They have charts of the Oscar nominees and winners. They also have a special Best Picture chart where they divide the grosses into Pre-Nom (before the nominations are announced), Post-Nom (after the nominations are announced) and Post-Awards: after the Oscars are decided. Here are the charts of reference:

    2011 Best Picture Nominees

    2011 Nominees: All Categories

This year’s charts shows some interesting stats involving the nominees. Four movies–The Tree of Life, Moneyball, The Help and Midnight In Paris–had already completed their box office runs long before the nominations. Some opened again after the nominations were announced but it attracted modest-size crowds compared to its heydays months earlier. War Horse opened late in the year but it had already neared its total gross just before the nominations were announced and the nominations had very little effect on its gross.

The movies with the biggest boosts of the Oscar nominations were Hugo, The Descendants, The Artist and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Hugo grossed most of its total share before the nominations but the Oscar nominations helped increase its gross an additional $13 million before the Oscars. Oscar wins helped give Hugo an extra $4 million even though it was already on DVD just two days after the Oscars. The Descendants was another movie that was already doing well before the Oscars possibly because of George Clooney’s star power. Nevertheless this film had the biggest post-nominations gross of all nine Best Picture nominees with $31 million including an additional $3.9 million after the Oscars were awarded.

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The Artist were the two Best Picture nominees whose grosses more than doubled after the nominations. Both films did so-so before the Oscar nominations with Extremely Loud grossing just under $12 million and The Artist grossing just over $12 million. The nominations would change lots as Extremely Loud has grossed an additional $20 million since the nominations. The Artist would also gross an additional $19.4 million between the nominations and awards but its Oscar wins including the Best Picture win would help give it an additional $11.4 million to date currently standing at $43.3 million. The Artist is the only Best Picture nominee this year to gross even as much as $5 million after the awards.

The biggest surprise about this year’s set of Best Picture nominees isn’t necessarily because there are nine instead of ten but that only one, The Help, has grossed more than $100 million either before or after the Oscars. Even last year, there were five that would at least have a total gross of more than $100 million. The average gross of this year’s Best Picture nominees of $69.6 million is actually the lowest average since the more-than-five nominees system was reintroduced at the 2009 Oscars and the lowest since the 2006 Oscars fivesome. This year’s hit movies were left out of the cold. There was no Disney/Pixar blockbuster that found itself in that group. There was no movie with a lot of Oscar buzz that caught on in a big way. Even the family-friendly Hugo didn’t hit the $100 million mark. A shame since the movie cost $170 million to make. Even seeing how The Artist hasn’t even hit the $50 million mark tells quite a bit about the box office crowds. Its gross isn’t as low as say the The Hurt Locker was two years ago but it still says a message not just about box office crowds but even the Academy and their voting, how nowadays crowd fanfare doesn’t mean an awful lot in choosing Best Picture.

So there you have it. The rundown of this year’s business involving the Oscar nominees and winners. Each year tells a different story on both the Academy’s voting and the box office outlook. Next year’s should also tell a lot too. Stay tuned.


Movie Review: John Carter

John Carter is not a superhero character invented for a movie. John Carter is actually a protagonist for an 11-volume series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs known as the Barsoom series. The first John Carter movie comes courtesy of Disney. Does it deliver?

The movie starts detailing that Mars is a dying planet with warring civilians. The live-action begins with a nephew of John Carter’s learning he’s dead, or maybe he’s not. He’s buried in a mausoleum that can be unlocked by a secret code.

Impressive beginning that leads to the origin of John Carter which actually comes across as too predictable. We learn that John, a citizen of the Confederate state of Virginia, is seen as an outlaw in New York. The opening shtick which leads John being a rebel in New York to being sent to Mars is all too common and formulaic for superheroes to be first learning of their superpowers.

The developing story of how John Carter learns of the race of four armed Martians and of the warring cities of Helium and Zodanga give promise to more climax. Additional climax is possible by possible cease fire if the princess of Helium being offered to marry the Jeddak of Zodanga. Often the quests that lead to battles and even gladiator matches become too predictable to a point. Even the gladiator-like scene looks like it was added in more for the sake of thrills than for the story.

If there’s one place that is out of the ordinary, it’s the ending. At first the triumph of John Carter at the end appears to be the ending but there is a surprise which leads us back to the framing story of John’s nephew that leads to an unexpected ending. That was one part that did impress me.

The problem with the movie is that it shifts too much. We don’t know if John Carter is supposed to be a superhero character or a gladiator-type character. Even seeing how it appears to have borrowed from too many movies also adds to the problem. John Carter landing on Mars appears like many superhero movies when they first learn of their superhuman trait. The gladiator scene comes across too much like Gladiator. There were even times I thought they borrowed a scene or two from Thor. The movie is good in terms of special effects and especially the costuming but its storyline’s confusing in terms of plot and character development. Even the acting appeared one-dimensional because the characters were mostly the stock type that one would come to expect from a superhero movie. They’re there to put on a show but lack depth. The script was what you’d expect for a superhero movie: stagy events thick on emphasizing the drama in the plot and full of high-climax moments but little depth. There was a bit of comic relief with the Martians calling John Carter “Virginia’ but not much else.

In terms of box office, John Carter is not looking all that good. The movie cost $250 million to make. Its opening weekend only amassed $30.2 million. Currently it sits at $62.4 million. It’s questionable how well it will finish. One thing to take into account is the record for the biggest money-losing movie of all time. It belongs to 2002’s Pluto Nash with a loss of $93 million. I hope John Carter doesn’t break that record. Already there’s talk that the movie will lose an additional $100 million it spent on advertising. Overseas things are looking better as it has so far grossed almost $172 million outside the US, according to Box Office Mojo. So all is not lost. Lots but not all. Nevertheless there’s probably no chance for a sequel. A bit of a shame because the ending looked like it was made to be the set up for the beginning of a sequel. Guess not. It’s even questionable whether this will be the star boost for Taylor Kitsch. Maybe his next big movie.

John Carter is an ambitious attempt from Disney at getting a new movie series off the ground but looks like it fell flat. If you’re going to start a movie series, a lot is expected, and it just didn’t deliver.

The Hunger Games Very Hungry For Hype

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson: stars of the upcoming The Hunger Games.

Have you seen stuff about The Hunger Games? How could you not? The trailer has been showing in theatres these past few months. Magazines have been having cover stories and even special commemorative issues to do about it, even though it doesn’t open until three days from now. Movie shows both on television and Youtube are all abuzz about it. This is the latest movie hypefest, and for good reason.

The Hunger Games is based on a popular young adult novel by Suzanne Collins released in 2008. It has since sold over 1 million copies and has been translated in 26 languages. The first novel has spawned off two more subsequent novels Catching Fire and Mockingjay: all part of what’s known as The Hunger Games trilogy.

The film version of the novel finally hits the big screen this weekend and already boasts an impressive line-up. First up is 21 year-old Jennifer Lawrence who plays Katniss. She is most famous on television for The Bill Engvall Show but her film career has taken off in the past couple of years with roles in Winter’s Bone, which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and for X-Men: First Class. Peeta will be played by 19 year-old Josh Hutcherson who has had an impressive acting career as a child with movies like Zathura and Bridge To Terabithia and has continued success as a young adult in The Kids Are All Right. Gale will be played by22 year-old Liam Hemsworth. He’s best known as the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth but Liam has a resume of his own with television experience in Australia and movie experience in the US with The Last Song.

The movie also has supporting roles played by some well-established adult actors like Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland. The movie is directed by Gary Ross, most notable for directing Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. There’s lots of pressure for this movie to succeed as the success of the first movie should tell a lot about the future of the next two sequels. Hollywood is already expecting this to be the next hit movie series. And let’s face it.  The Harry Potter series is finished. The Lord Of The Rings series is history with one last Hobbit movie to come. Twilight has its last movie to come, hence its own twilight within a year. James Bond movies aren’t exactly one for the young clique. So this Hunger Games is seen as the next big movie series to propel the box office.

So far the hype seems to be paying off. The pre-sale tickets for the opening weekend have been on sale since February 22nd and has already sold almost 2000 shows in advance, a record according to the Huffington Post. Even the first Twilight movie’s pre-sales weren’t that high. The actual opening weekend total is still in question and to be determined this Sunday. Experts run the gamut over predicting the opening weekend to be anywhere from $85 million to $140 million. It could be possible to set an opening weekend record but it would be a bit of a surprise since March isn’t the best month for setting opening weekend records: the summer months are. So far the biggest opening weekend for a March movie is 2010’s Alice In Wonderland with $116.1 million: the tenth-highest opening weekend ever. Anyways for those keeping Box Office score, here are the records to focus on, according to Box Office Mojo:

  • Biggest Opening Weekend (All-Time): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – $169.2 million
  • Biggest Total Gross (All-Time): Avatar – $760.5 million (U.S.)/ $2.782 billion (Worldwide)

So hang tight folks. The Hunger Games open Friday. Let the games–both The Hunger Games and the Box Office Games– begin!

UPDATE: I saw the movie and here’s my review!

2012 Box Office Shows Signs Of Improvement

You might remember I talked about a box office slump that happened over 2011. If there’s one thing looking up, it’s that January and February of 2012 have shown improvements from the previous year.

January started off well as 40 movies were to be released that month as compared to 33 the January before. January 2012 grossed $430.1 million, more than $100 more than January 2011. The highlights of that month were Contraband, Underworld Awakening, The Devil Inside and a 3D re-release of Beauty and The Beast. February 2012 was also significantly higher than that of 2011. This February grossed a total of $708.3 million, more than $120 million more than the previous year. That month’s biggest hits were The Vow, Safe House, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Woman In Black and a 3D re-release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Overall it appears that 2012 is on pace to becoming the highest-grossing movie year. We should keep in mind there are ten more movie months this year. We should also take into fact that this is not the highest combined gross of January and February: 2009 has the highest and 2009 would go on to be the highest grossing movie year ever. March has already started strong with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax grossing more than $70 million last weekend and has the heavily-hyped John Carter opening this weekend. 21 Jump Street is next week’s release with the biggest clout while the following weekend will have the heavily-promoted The Hunger Games opening. Having a fifth weekend in March helps as two movies with big buzz —Wrath of The Titans and Mirror, Mirror— open that weekend.

April also promises to have movies with a lot of buzz. Titanic will be released in 3D. Also vying for the opening weekend is American Reunion and The Cold Light Of Day. The following week will have The Cabin In The Woods and The Three Stooges. Romantic movies, both drama and comedy, dominate the following weekend with The Lucky One and Think Like A Man. The final weekend of April will see the release of The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven and the animated The Pirates! Band Of Misfits.

It still remains in question whether 2012 will break 2009’s box office record. Whatever the situation, 2012 shows that compared to 2011, the box office is picking up steam again.


 “Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2011. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. <http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/&gt;

Movie Review: Monsieur Lazhar

If a Canadian movie has a Best Foreign Language Film nomination, do you think I’m going to go see it? Of course I’m going to go see it. For the second year in a row and for the sixth time ever, a Canadian film was nominated for an Oscar in that category. This year’s nominee is titled Monsieur Lazhar.

The film starts with what is to be a typical day at a Catholic elementary school. A boy named Simon is getting the milk for the day. As he walks into his classroom alone, he discovers his teacher Martine hanging. This is very hard for the students and the school. One of the difficulties is finding a new teacher for the students of the deceased teacher’s class. In walks Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant. They are hesitant at first but they agree to hire him.

Known to few is that Bachir’s immigration status is in question by the courts. A package he receives comes into question. The immigration court asks him why he won’t return since ‘Algeria is back to normal’ but he replies “Nothing is ever really normal in Algeria.” The interrogations eventually get frustrating to the point Bachir admits of the fire in Algiers that killed his wife and children back in the 90’s. That fire was no accident.

The class tries to move on as usual. For some students, it goes fine. For others like Simon and Alice, who witnessed their teacher hanging, it’s difficult and painful. Alice is more vocal about her difficulties. She makes a speech in class about violence and how the hanging has an effect. She also has a softer side and develops a liking for Monsieur Lazhar, even learning about his home city of Algiers. Simon is more reserved and difficult. He’s not the same since the hanging and appears like he has something to let out but can’t. He even resorts to fights with other students. Home life isn’t easy for him because his parents are rarely there. However something has to be done as it’s discovered he has a picture of Martine which he drew angel wings and a noose on.

Dealing with the students is not an easy task to do either. The elementary school is worried about the suicide being brought out into the open. Plus teachers are now under strict limits over what to deal with students’ issue and how to deal with them. The new laws set twenty years ago changed lots to how a teacher can function towards a student. This is hard for Bachir as he wants the students to heal from this trauma. Especially Simon, whom the teachers are considering expelling. We learn shortly before Martine hung herself, Simon was hugged by Martine while he was crying but told his parents she kissed him. The parents came down hard on her.

What happens in the end is one scenario ends on a bright note and another scenario ends on a low note for Bachir. In the end we get a turnaround that’s more valuable than Bachir keeping his job as a teacher. Something that the school board could never give the children.

The role of Monsieur Lazhar was that of a man who would help bring help when it was needed unexpectedly.  Right at the beginning of his teaching he would tell the meaning of his name:  “Lucky” and “Tell the good news,” In the end, he was the lucky one who would give the good news to the children. The students in turn would be the lucky ones as he would help the most troubled of the students heal from the trauma. He would succeed where the school board and the counselor would fail. Even in the end, his impulsive helping of the students would be too much for the school to handle. The ending would show the common belief that no good deed goes unpunished but it’s not without its rewards. Bachir Lazhar would give to the students and he would receive from them as well. His teaching of the students would also help him in terms of his own healing from the loss of his own family.

The best quality of the movie was in its gentle storytelling. We have a situation of a troubled school being taught by a teacher with a troubled past of his own. He faces two pressures of keeping his new-found job, keeping the peace of his classroom since the suicide, maintaining the peace of the school and being able to stay in Canada to avoid persecution back home in Algeria. All of this was told in a gentle manner that would keep the audience intrigued and hoping for the best for Bachir Lazhar and for Simon and Alice. That was its best quality.

The acting overall was excellent and stuck to their parts well without coming across as showy or phony. Mohammed Fellag was excellent playing a teacher with a troubled past thousands of miles away. The children were also good as they played genuine child roles instead of the typical cutesy acting Hollywood normally gives them. Their feelings, traumas and actions were not over-the-top either. The directing and scriptwriting of Phillippe Falardeau was also well-written, although not a standout. Known to few, Monsieur Lazhar is actually an adaptation of a one-man monologue. Falardeau did a very good job in creating and directing a script with a multitude of actors. He did a very smart job in making the story very real.

Intersting how Monsieur Lazhar gives Canadian film a unique achievement. This is the first time Canadian entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category has been nominated for two years in a row. Last year was Incendies. Interestingly two of the three producers of Monsieur Lazhar also produced Incendies. The Oscar nomination isn’t the only acclaim Monsieur Lazhar has received. The film also won the Viewers Choice Award for Best Canadian Film at the Toronto Film Festival, Best Film award at the Valladolid Film Festival and has been nominated for nine Genie Awards, Canada’s national award for filmmaking excellence. Surprisingly, it was not shown at the Vancouver Film Festival. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have seen it if it was out then.

Monsieur Lazhar is a film that starts out on a dark subject but it ends on a bittersweet positive note. The warmth of Monsieur Lazhar reminds us how people can succeed where the system fails. We need more people like Monsieur Lazhar out there.