Posts Tagged ‘Toy Story 3’

Gurus o’ Gold – What Would The Oscars Look Like As Of Today?

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

There still may be some changes. Just adding in the last few late votes, for instance, pushed Melissa Leo back into the top Gurus slot in Supporting Actress.

But if The Gurus are right, just 3 days before balloting closes, the scoresheet the next morning will look like this…

The King’s Speech – 4 Oscars – Picture, Actor, Original Screenplay, Score
Inception – 4 Oscars – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Art Direction
The Social Network – 3 Oscars – Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing
The Fighter – 2 Oscars – Supp Actor, Supp Actress
Toy Story 3 – 2 Oscars- Song, Animated Feature

And getting 1 Oscar each….

Black Swan – Actress
Inside Job – Documentary
In A Better World – Foreign Language
The Wolfman – Make-Up
Day & Night – Animated Short
Wish 143 – Live Action Short
Alice In Wonderland – Costume
True Grit – Cinematography

And with half an Oscar each (the Gurus have them tied for the lead)…

Strangers No More/The Warriors of Qiuang – Short Doc

I’d Like to Thank the Academy …

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

… for announcing its nominations at such a ridiculously early hour during Sundance every year. Everyone in the business who’s already hitting their exhaustion point at the fest really appreciates getting to wake super early so we can hear nominations that rarely offer any huge surprises. But we’ll see.

… Okay, there were a few surprises, pleasant and otherwise:

I’m happy to see Dogtooth get a nomination for Best Foreign; we’ve been talking about that film since Toronto 2009, so it’s nice to see it get some love. But I’ll be rooting for my #1 film of the year, Biutiful, to win the category.

Speaking of Biutiful, how great is it that Javier Bardem got that well-deserved Best Actor nomination? In a perfect world, he would win it, but all things being what they are in Hollywood, you can give the performance of your career as he does here and still be the underdog.

No Ryan Gosling, though, which is too bad. Not sure which Best Actor nominee I would have bumped to make room for him. Bridges, maybe.

And also good to see John Hawkes get the Supporting Actor nom for Winter’s Bone. He’s my pick to win it. Fingers crossed.

On the chick side of things, I’m not unhappy to see any of the actresses who were nominated for Best Actress. It would be easy to get excited about the nominees all being from films with small budgets. Not that there’s anyone from a bigger film I would have liked to have seen nominated, but still.

As for the Supporting Actress noms, nothing shocking there, though it’s probably Hailee Steinfeld’s to lose. Here’s hoping her career survives the dreaded “child nominee” backlash, and that she has someone smart guiding her script choices post-True Grit.

Aronofsky and the Coens got well-deserved director nods. I wish Debra Granik’s name was on that list as well, but at least they tossed her a bone for screenplay. And what? No Christopher Nolan?

Nothing terribly shocking in the docs nominations. Once Exit Through the Gift Shop made the short list, it seemed likely to make the final cut. I hope it wins. And I guess I am going to have to get off my ass and force myself to watch Restrepo.

Good for The Illusionist for at least getting a nomination … maybe that will interest more parents in watching it with their kids. Okay, probably not, but a girl can dare to dream. If it actually beat out Toy Story 3 that would be probably the biggest shocker of the Oscars this year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen.

And yay for the Roadside Attractions team for scoring noms for two films, Winter’s Bone and Biutiful. It’s been interesting to watch as Roadside has stepped up into the awards game with some smart acquisitions. Nice guys all around, and I’m happy for them almost as much as for the films, both of which I loved.

Okay, thanks Academy. Back to Sundance.

Sundance, Top Tens and Critics Groups. Oh. My.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

2010 is a wrap, 2011 is here, but for most of us who write in this industry, until we get past February it’s all about Sundance and Oscar. The publicist letters about Sundance slates start hitting inboxes during the Winter Break (I send them straight to the “Sundance” file until after the new year, because I am getting old and grumpy and more hardcore about guarding family time these days) and don’t stop coming until about midway through the fest.

And of course, because the Academy has a twisted sense of humor, Oscar nominees are announced at the asscrack of dawn during Sundance, when everyone is running around Park City trying not to slip on the ice and break anything or freeze to death at a shuttle stop. Or both.

Wilmington: The Ten Best of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010

So here’s my list of The Ten Best Movies of 2010, plus Honorable Mentions and a separate list of documentaries. I know it’s customary at this time to write about how awful a year it was, and how I had to struggle to find ten movies worthy of recognition, and how Hollywood is so bankrupt artistically and so bereft intellectually that the mere act of compiling a ten best list has become supremely dubious and morally questionable. But actually, I thought the moves were one of the few good things about 2010. (They’re certainly better than the last election.) And if you couldn’t find ten good ones, you weren’t trying.

Weekend Box Office Report — December 19

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Da Doo Tron Tron

TRON: Legacy commanded the multiplex with an opening salvo estimated at $43.4 million. The movie stocking was stuffed with two other new releases plus a couple of platform films that went wide to significant response.

Yogi Bear filched $16.6 million to rank second in the marketplace while the star-laden romantic comedy How Do You Know struggled to position eight with $7.5 million.

The Fighter proved itself a contender with a $12.1 gross and Black Swan spread its wings with an impressive $7.9 million. Meanwhile there were two freshmen titles tossing their hat into the ring for award season. The starkly dramatic Rabbit Hole had an encouraging $51,700 from five venues while Casino Jack failed to beat bank with $32,100 at seven tables. In Quebec, local action comedy L’Appat had a soft debut of close to $170,000.

Overall weekend revenues saw a significant boost from the early December doldrums, but couldn’t quite overtake 2009 box office when Avatar arrived at the multiplex. Friday domestic box office inched past $10 billion (4 days faster than last year) and through the weekend it stands just 1% better than at this point last year.

The current session promised an even better result than transpired with new entries appealing to different demographics. Only TRON: Legacy conformed to tracking that predicted a result between $40 million and $45 million. The 28-year hiatus from the original has allowed the 1982 movie to accrue a cult status and brought out an avid young male audience. Stereoscopic engagements accounted for an unusually strong 80% plus, though their numbers accounted for 55% of its screen count. Its ultimate potency will be determined by building a wider audience.

The animated-live action Yogi Bear was expected to gross in the low $20 million but came up short several pic-a-nic baskets. It won’t expand beyond the family market and should limp through the holiday season. How Do You Know is already hobbled and while there were low expectations of $10 million to $12 million it failed to meet an already low bar.

The session generated roughly $135 million for a 47% bump from the prior weekend but dipped 4% from 2009. Last year’s Avatar bow of $77 million led the frame with The Princess and the Frog trailing behind with $12.2 million and Did You Hear About the Morgans? limping into theaters with $6.6 million.

Black Swan shows early signs of becoming the season’s adult hit. Though the film has divided critics and the public, it has generated fierce debate that’s translated into sales … an asset in short supply for the likes of such films as 127 Hours and Fair Game. The Fighter, while not a knockout, looks likely to get traction from awards season recognition in a race that seems — despite already announced critics awards and the Golden Globe announcement — a bit amorphous.


Weekend Estimates – December 17-19, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tron: Legacy BV 43.4 (12,580) NEW 3451 43.4
Yogi Bear WB 16.6 (4,710) NEW 3515 16.6
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fox 12.5 (3,530) -48% 3555 42.9
The Fighter Par 12.1 (4,850) 2503 12.6
Tangled BV 8.7 (2,720) -39% 3201 127.9
The Tourist Sony 8.4 (3,040) -49% 2756 30.5
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 7.9 (8,260) 140% 959 15.3
How Do You Know Sony 7.5 (3,030) NEW 2483 7.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 4.8 (1,690) -43% 2860 265.5
Unstoppable Fox 1.8 (980) -51% 1874 77.4
Burlesque Sony 1.3 (880) -58% 1510 35.4
Due Date WB 1.2 (1,060) -52% 1157 97.3
Love and Other Drugs Fox 1.1 (970) -64% 1093 30.2
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 1.1 (24,880) 81% 43 2.9
Megamind Par .69 (680) -73% 1025 141.6
127 Hours Fox Searchlight .51 (1,660) -49% 307 9.3
Faster CBS .41 (620) -76% 660 22.5
Red Summit .31 (710) -28% 439 88.4
The Social Network Sony .29 (1,270) 2% 228 91.9
Fair Game Summit .23 (860) -59% 268 8.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $129.60
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) 47%
Also debuting/expanding
L’Appat Alliance .17 (2,350) 72 0.17
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .14 (2,830) -10% 49 0.51
The Tempest Miramax/Maple 52,400 (2,490) 22% 21 0.12
Rabbit Hole Lionsgate 51,700 (10,320) 5 0.05
Casino Jack IDP 32,100 (4,440) 7 0.03
La Rafle Seville 28,200 (2,170) 13 0.03

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (29) 1837.8 18.40%
Paramount (19) 1622.6 16.20%
Fox (19) 1427.1 14.30%
Buena Vista (16) 1296.2 13.00%
Sony (25) 1221.2 12.20%
Universal (18) 798.5 8.00%
Summit (11) 521.7 5.20%
Lionsgate (15) 518.9 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (8) 96.1 1.00%
Overture (8) 87.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.70%
CBS (3) 72.1 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 64.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (22) 59.4 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (315) 251.4 2.50%
10000.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,899,300
Toy Story 3 BV 415,071,937
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 292,485,544
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 260,701,257
Despicable Me Uni 250,322,315
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,171,789
Megamind Par 140,950,962
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,534,389
Tangled BV 119,142,932
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 116,857,736
* does not include 2009 box office

New York Online Crix Make Their Picks

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

New York Film Critics Online, composed of thirty critics whose outlets are exclusively online and two who are print journalists with a strong online presence, met at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre on December 12th and bestowed these awards at its 11th annual meeting:

The Complete List:

The Social Network

David Fincher – The Social Network

James Franco – 127 hours

Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Christian Bale – The Fighter

Melissa Leo – The Fighter

Matthew Libatique – Black Swan

Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

I Am Love

Exit through the Gift Shop

Toy Story 3

Clint Mansell – Black Swan

Noomi Rapace – The Millennium Trilogy

John Wells – The Company Men

The Kids Are All Right

TOP 10 PICTURES (Alphabetical)

127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
Another Year (Sony Pictures Classics)
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Company)
The Ghost Writer
(Summit Entertainment)
Inception (Warner Bros.)
The Kids Are All Right
(Universal Pictures)
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal Pictures)
The Social Network (Columbia Pictures)

Weekend Box Office Report — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Warrior’s Weigh

The first weekend of December has the ignominious tradition of being one of the lowest moviegoing periods of the year. This year is no exception with but a single new wide release and holdover titles generally experiencing declines of more than 50%.

The newcomer arrived from the re-constituted Relativity Media with the martial arts actioner The Warrior’s Way. It barely squeaked into the top 10 with an estimated $3 million. Industry trackers hadn’t expected much for the picture but even their estimates were pegged significantly higher at roughly $5 million.

The frame leader was the animated Tangled with an estimated $21.5 million with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 taking the consolation prize with $16.9 million. The rest of the holdovers were indeed the deathly hallows.

However, there were a couple of spectacular exclusive debuts. The controversial and intense drama Black Swan bowed to $1.4 million, which translated into a jaw dropping per engagement average of $76,670. And the left-for-dead black comedy I Love You Phillip Morris hit the target with $109,000 from six locations and an $18,200 average. Also encouraging was the two-screen bow of the ironically titled All Good Things with $37,500.

The rest of the new niche crowd ranged from fair to poor including several new films on the Indian circuit, the independent Night Catches Us and the documentary Bhutto.

All added up, revenues amounted to about $86 million and a 54% drop from the weekend slice of Thanksgiving. It was also off 15% from the 2009 edition when the top new entry was third-ranked Brothers with $9.5 million. The 2009 leader with $20 million was The Blind Side.

Domestic box office should push past $10 billion next weekend and register a slight gain for the year when the dust settles in 26 days. It also unquestionably marks another year of theatrical admission declines; likely between 5% and 7%.

As to award’s contenders, it remains anyone’s game and last week’s announcement of honors from the National Board of Review provided scant indication of what’s to follow from major critical groups or the Hollywood Foreign Press. Apart from James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, the anticipated upcoming releases have been seen and left prognosticators fumbling to identify leaders in any of the talent categories.


Weekend Estimates – December 3-5, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tangled BV 21.5 (5,970) -56% 3603 96.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 16.9 (4,090) -66% 4125 244.4
Burlesque Sony 6.1 (2,020) -49% 3037 27
Unstoppable Fox 6.1 (1,930) -47% 3152 68.9
Love and Other Drugs Fox 5.7 (2,310) -42% 2458 22.6
Megamind Par 4.9 (1,550) -61% 3173 136.6
Due Date WB 4.2 (1,720) -41% 2450 91
Faster CBS 3.8 (1,550) -55% 2470 18.1
The Warrior’s Way Relativity 3.0 (1,870) NEW 1622 3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 2.6 (1,150) -45% 2236 18.3
Morning Glory Par 1.7 (760) -56% 2263 29.1
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.6 (3,790) -4% 433 6.6
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.4 (76,670) NEW 18 1.4
Fair Game Summit 1.0 (2,320) -27% 436 7.3
Red Summit .75 (960) -45% 779 87.2
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate .45 (930) -67% 485 37.3
Lance et compte Seville .43 (4,480) -31% 96 1.3
Skyline Uni/Alliance .42 (730) -63% 578 20.9
The Social Network Sony .41 (1,580) -42% 260 91
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .32 (53,000) -10% 6 0.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $81.25
% Change (Last Year) -15%
% Change (Last Week) -54%
Also debuting/expanding
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .11 (18,200) 6 0.11
Raktacharitra 2 Viva/Happy 94,200 (4,100) 23 0.09
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey Viva 65,300 (960) 68 0.07
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 45,700 (1,040) -31% 44 0.14
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,600 (3,600) -37% 11 0.18
All Good Things Magnolia 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Dead Awake New Film 31,400 (570) 55 0.03
Mar Jawan Gur Khake Punjabi 18,800 (6,270) 3 0.02
Night Catches Us Magnolia 12,100 (3,020) 4 0.01
Bhutto First Run 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1792.9 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1609.2 16.50%
Fox (18) 1371.7 14.00%
Buena Vista (16) 1252.3 12.80%
Sony (24) 1185.4 12.10%
Universal (18) 797.2 8.20%
Summit (11) 517.9 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 512.4 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (7) 84.7 0.90%
Overture (7) 81.9 0.80%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 64.2 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 58.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (301) 246.6 2.50%
9763.8 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,955,694,414
Toy Story 3 BV 1,065,128,004
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Inception WB 840,550,911
Shrek Forever After Par 738,351,966
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 699,325,617
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 634,033,738
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,600
Despicable Me Uni 534,415,944
How to Train Your Dragon Par 495,921,283
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
The Karate Kid Sony 359,429,551
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,816,141
The Last Airbender Par 319,062,129
Robin Hood Uni 312,207,159
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 293,955,694
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 292,972,689
The Expendables Lionsgate 272,550,235
Grown Ups Sony 271,417,359
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Knight and Day Fox 261,206,060
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,298
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry and the Deathly Swallows … Gulp!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ascended to an estimated $126.2 million and corralled more than 60% of weekend ticket sales. Comparatively speaking the remaining films in the multiplex had to settle for chump change, including the bow of the thriller The Next Three Days which slotted fifth with $6.7 million.

The session also included the new Bollywood release Guzaarish, which garnered a better than respectable $423,000 at 108 venues. Among the few exclusive bows both the British import Made in Dagenham and France’s White Material were just OK with respective openings of $39,300 and $35,800, each playing on three screens.

It was the biggest opening yet for a Harry Potter film but while the juggernaut provided a big box office boost from last weekend it was insufficient to stave off a decline from 2009.

Expectations were high for the first installment of the last chapter of the Potter franchise. Advance sales and online tracking anticipated a $100 million debut and that number expanded following word of advance Thursday midnight screenings estimated at $24 million. Large format engagements were estimated at $12.4 million and if that number holds up it will be a record.

Internationally the early estimates are roughly $205 million from 54 markets. It includes all-time records in the U.K. and Russia and otherwise just sensational debuts elsewhere. The final, final Potter putter is schedule for July 2011.

On a decidedly downbeat note, The Next Three Days came in well below tracking that suggested a $10 million launch. The film also received a drubbing from critics.

Weekend revenues lurched toward $200 million, which translated into a 64% hike from seven days back. It was however 25% behind the 2009 slate led by the second installment of Twilight (New Moon), which bowed bitingly to $142.8 million with the unexpectedly $34.1 million potency of The Blind Side right behind it.

The contender’s roster failed to see any additional dynamos this weekend and the titles already in the marketplace were finding the Darwinian aspect of the exercise unrelenting. Both Fair Game and 127 Hours added a significant number of playdates with the latter continuing to maintain a hefty $8,330 engagement average. The other surprise in the mix is the continuing stamina of the non-fiction Inside Job that’s racked up $2.2 million to date.


Weekend Estimates – November 19-21, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 126.2 (30,600) NEW 4125 126.2
Megamind Par 16.2 (4,280) -45% 3779 109.5
Unstoppable Fox 13.0 (4,060) -43% 3207 41.9
Due Date WB 8.9 (2,760) -42% 3229 72.4
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 6.7 (2,590) NEW 2564 6.7
Morning Glory Par 5.2 (2,050) -43% 2544 19.8
Skyline Uni/Alliance 3.4 (1,170) -71% 2883 17.6
Summit 2.4 (1,190) -51% 2034 83.5
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 2.3 (1,920) -64% 1216 34.5
Fair Game Summit 1.4 (3,730) 41% 386 3.7
Secretariat BV 1.0 (970) -56% 1010 56.4
Paranormal Activity 2 Par .93 (840) -69% 1101 83.6
The Social Network Sony .91 (1,590) -49% 571 89.2
127 Hours Searchlight .90 (8,330) 104% 108 1.9
Saw 3D Lionsgate .82 (1,020) -71% 806 45.3
Jackass 3D Par .72 (1,050) -68% 687 116.1
Life As We Know It WB .52 (930) -50% 558 51.6
Guzaarish UTV .42 (3,910) NEW 108 0.42
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .41 (2,180) -22% 188 3.5
Inside Job Sony Classics .37 (1,770) -22% 211 2.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $191.50
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) 64%
Also debuting/expanding
Today’s Special Reliance 88,400 (1,670) 53 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,300 (13,100) 3 0.04
White Material IFC 35,800 (11,930) 3 0.04
Queen of the Lot Rainbow 16,400 (2,730) 6 0.02
Copacabana Seville 14,100 (2,010) 7 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (18) 1555.1 16.80%
Warner Bros. (26) 1538.8 16.70%
Fox (17) 1320.7 14.30%
Buena Vista (15) 1173.4 12.70%
Sony (23) 1160.3 12.60%
Universal (18) 790.4 8.60%
Summit (11) 508.5 5.50%
Lionsgate (14) 490.6 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.7 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 80.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.1 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.5 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (288) 240.7 2.60%
9236.6 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,883,415
Toy Story 3 BV 414,681,777
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 291,914,445
Despicable Me Uni 248,900,040
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,147,232
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,256,755
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 115,357,091
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
* does not include 2009 box office

The Kids Are All About Oscar Picks

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

David and I were talking about the latest Gurus chart, and I made the (half-joking) observation that we should do kind of an anti-Gurus chart of my kids’ random Oscar picks. In the past when I’ve had them choose Oscar winners with random methods including Magic-8 Ball, Twister, Guitar Hero, and “Pin the Oscar on the Donkey’s Butt” they’ve averaged just about as well as folks paid to pontificate on the politics of Oscar Night. Plus, they’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

It just goes to show you, no one really knows anything, maybe not even the people being paid to know about things.

There have been some occasionally heated discussions here and on The Hot Blog about film critics and what “qualifies” someone to write about film. Generally, for what it’s worth, I think having a broad knowledge of film, a passion for movies, and the ability to write about why you like or don’t like a given film in a coherent way that connects with your readership qualifies someone to write about movies, though this is not necessarily the same thing as more purely academic film criticism.

As to what qualifies someone to be or not to be an Oscar pundit, well, that depends, I think, on what you’re looking for. Random guesses abound on the internet, and once you get it down to a Top Ten or so, pretty much anyone who works in any aspect of this business is entitled to offer a qualified opinion on which films or actors they think should win. Understanding the politics involved behind the scenes may be a little more tricksy, but if you’ve kept up at all with the recent history of Oscar winners it’s not terribly difficult for the average person to make educated guesses that are as accurate as (maybe better than) those of the experts.

In the spirit of “the average folks” versus “the experts,” I asked my kids (plus one friend) to give me their early weigh-in on their Best Picture pick based on the Top Ten on the Gurus chart, based on the titles alone if they didn’t know anything else. (For the record, Neve has seen The Social Network and Inception, and all of them have seen Toy Story 3). I also asked them to weigh in on which film had the worst title.

Their not-so-expert opinions are below. I’ll check in with them closer to Oscars for their picks in the major categories. If you have ideas on how they should make their picks this year, let me know.



BEST PICTURE PICK: I think Toy Story 3 will win because I really like it. It was kind of sad, but some parts were funny, and it had a really good story. And I think they’re gonna make a Toy Story 4.

WORST TITLE: I think 127 Hours is a really bad name for a movie because no one wants to watch a movie that’s that long. That sounds like a really, really, really long movie. And boring.



BEST PICTURE PICK: Toy Story 3, because it was really good and sad and it had great animation and stuff. And great characters like Woody and Buzz.

WORST TITLE: The King’s Speech. Boring. I think it’s about a guy standing there who’s giving a boring speech to try to put everyone to sleep so he can steal the town’s rarest thing.



BEST PICTURE PICK: Toy Story 3, because it had really good animation and also it had a really good story behind it.

WORST TITLE: The King’s Speech sounds like a guy standing on a big platform just speaking for two hours. Boring.



BEST PICTURE PICK: Either True Grit or Inception. Inception because I thought it was very interesting and I liked all the plot twists and how you had to pay attention to every thing or you’d be lost. And True Grit because I loved the trailer and I read the summary and it looks really interesting. No Country for Old Men terrified me, but I appreciated its artistry, so I think this one will be good.

WORST TITLE: The King’s Speech. The title sounds boring, because who wants to see a movie that’s about some guy’s speech? A good title is everything, right? If it’s bad, and people think it sounds boring, no one will come see it. See, this is why I get Veda to help me with my titles for my writing.



BEST PICTURE PICK: The name Inception really grabs me. It sounds very dramatic. I also like the sound of Black Swan. That sounds interesting, too.

WORST TITLE: I concur on The King’s Speech. It just sounds really boring. Maybe it’s not, it might be a really good movie, but that’s how it sounds.

Wilmington on DVDs: Toy Story 3, The Toy Story Trilogy, The Magician, Centurion, Winnebago Man … and more

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010


Toy Story 3 (Four Stars)

U. S.: Lee Unkrich, 2010

Toy Story 3 is just what we’ve come to expect from Pixar: a brilliantly conceived and immaculately animated knockout of a family show: witty and scrumptious, moving and marvelous, and something that parents can enjoy every bit as much as their children undoubtedly will.

Bravo! Again.

Directed and co-written (story) by longtime Pixar hand Lee Unkrich; co-produced and written (story again) by Pixar head John Lasseter, who started it all; with a script by Little Miss Sunshine’s Michael Arndt, another batch of super-nifty songs by Randy Newman, and another great unimprovable cast, this movie deserves every “hurray” and “kai-yai-yippie“ it can field.

Toy Story 3 ties up the tale of youngster Andy’s faithful toys: that beguiling bunch led by indomitable cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks), and stalwart sidekick-spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). It ends the three-part saga in ways that are both powerfully entertaining and eminently, emotionally satisfying. I laughed and smiled all the way through it, and brushed away some tears at the end, and I bid these old friends a fond farewell. Just as the Pixar gang wanted me to

Many of the Toy Story 1 & 2 bunch are back for the farewell party: including courageous cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack), the finicky Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), jolly dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn), frugal piggy bank Hamm (John Ratzenberger), and the resourceful Slinky Dog (Blake Clark). And there are plenty of new arrivals, including a fancy clothes horse of a Ken Doll (Michael Keaton), who’s a patented mate for Andy’s sister’s blond fashionista Barbie Doll (Jodi Benson), as well as a terrific new villain: a pink, squeezable, folksy tyrant, who looks like an ursine Barney, smells of strawberries, and is named Lotso Huggin‘ Bear (voiced with perfect genial scariness by Deliverance’s Ned Beatty). There’s even a terrific enforcer for bad Lotso, the silent, but infinitely menacing Big Baby.

Toy Story 3 shows us what happens to them all (especially the old pals left from 1995‘s Toy Story and 1999’s Toy Story 2) when college-bound Andy finally packs to leave home. Apparently, he’s outgrown his old playroom pals, marking them all (except Woody) for the attic, and by accident, almost throwing them all away (except Woody) in the trash. That catastrophe is eluded by sheer toy pluck, but the near garbage apocalypse alienates all the toy gang (except Woody), and they choose instead to be sent off to a seeming toy paradise nearby, the Sunnyside Daycare Center, a place with plenty of tots anxious to play with new and pliable playthings. (Except Woody.)

Unhappily, the paradise has some snakes. It turns into a living, screaming toy hell, a prison and toy torture chamber run by Beatty‘s Lotso, a homespun dictator who suggests a sadistic variation on Will Geer‘s Grandpa Walton, as grandpa might act with a 44 Magnum in his overalls. Luckily, Woody is still around outside, determined to save them all.

Of course, you can pretty much predict what happens — though you may be a little surprised by the dark psychological roots of Lotso Huggin’ Bear‘s evil, which are rendered in flashback. But so what? Great fairytales or children’s stories are usually a bit predictable, which is part of why they work so well.

The toys are always being saved from impending doom and loss, just as toys sometimes are in real life. And Toy Story 3 one has the most ferocious cliffhanger climax of them all. The gang not only has to escape from Sunnyside, in a jailbreak that irresistibly reminds you, as did Nick Park‘s Chicken Run, of Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough busting out in The Great Escape. They have to survive the hellish, fiery threat of trash compactors and incineration, shown to us in terrifying toy’s-eye views.

I don’t think the movie is too exciting for most kids, but some adults should probably be forewarned: the final action scenes in Toy Story 3 are more exciting than anything in some of the recent hyper-violent action trash like The A-Team or From Paris with Love.

Mostly that’s because we actually care for these little animated toys, which, along with the studio’s consistent technical genius, is the true secret of Pixar. The Toy Story movies use both invented toy characters (Woody, Buzz, Jessie) and real mass-market toys (Ken and Barbie, Slinky), and the mish-mash creates the kind of haphazard play-world with which a real kid might populate his or her fantasy-world. The toys come alive and talk when they’re together and away from their human household. But when Andy appears, they flop down inanimate, and wait to be played with.

It’s Andy who brings them alive and who gave them their personalities, and though they’ve somehow achieved an independence that lets them confab and soar and race all over town without him, it’s Andy (played here in youth by Charlie Knight and, college-age, by John Morris) who probably triggers their stories, which is why the savvier Woody is so faithful to him.

The toys, and not just Andy’s gang, symbolize the crucial elements in all three Toy Story movies: the power of art and dreams, and of empathy. If you can’t empathize with your playthings, and with the stories and dreams they evoke, you may not empathize much with people either. If you can’t weep or at least feel bad for a little, lost, cast-off toy (who was once your faithful friend), you may not be all that concerned about, say, a loyal animal pet, or about other human beings, or even about the whole interconnected, living, breathing planet. The hell with them, you may feel. They’re just plastic too. Toss ‘em out. Burn ‘em. Get new ones. Tough little stud or cookie that you think you are, you may be more worried about clean-up time, and about “grown-up” tea party stuff: taxes and money and the loot that will buy you grown-up toys that probably won’t talk back.

John Lasseter, who conceived the Toy Story movies, and wrote and directed the first one, and worked and was a driving force on the next two, really created a wonderful, heartfelt modern pop myth when he dreamed up Woody and Buzz and all their buddies, which is why audiences responded to it so strongly. In that myth, we get something to treasure. We discover that all our long-ago, long-vanished toys and dreams and friends are not really gone. They still care about us and miss us as well, and, with all their toy-strength, toy-brains and toy-courage, they will try their damnedest to come home and return to us. Like all myths, this one can comfort us and help reclaim a world that is lost.

But, since this is a farewell party, Toy Story 3 says something a little different as well, something about growing up (Andy) and about being part of a community (the toys). I won’t reveal it, of course, but that new twist is what made me brush away that tear.

You see, I had toys as well, small, very inexpensive but infinitely precious playthings that my mother bought me long ago, when I was four or five, before school started, even though she could barely afford any extras or non-essentials. They were a grand company of little play farm animals, and they included three intrepid adventurers named Horsey, Bully and Colty, who went on heroic quests together and had a wicked nemesis, named Mrs. Cow.

I was the enthralled and happy witness to all of this trio’s (or quartet’s) adventures, or at least the ones they had when I was watching. Later, I drew and wrote crayon-colored comic books about them. They’re gone now, of course: accidentally thrown away or left behind long ago. Lost, lost…But I still miss them, even bad old Mrs. Cow. And I’d like to think, for a moment at least, that they’re fighting to come back to me, battling cars and trucks and trash collectors and evil teddy bears and incinerators, to make their way home.

That’s why Woody the cowboy is one of Tom Hanks’ best roles, one of the parts he should be happiest he played. And Buzz is one of Tim Allen’s, and Jessie one of Joan Cusack’s. And ditto for everybody else, especially Ned Beatty, the meanest Goddam teddy bear you‘ll ever see and hear. How much empathy and art does it take to bring all those toys alive — both for the actors and for the expert company of technicians and artists who brought them all home? Lots, I bet. Thank you, Pixar.

Extras: Featurettes, Deleted scenes.



The Magician (Four Stars)

Sweden: Ingmar Bergman, 1958

Ingmar Bergman’s 1958 classic The Magician carries us back to Sweden in the 19th century, a supposedly “enlightened” but dark country, a realm of snobs and mountebanks, of bawdy life and relentless death — a fearful, funny, magical land where science battles superstition, realism clashes with fantasy, ghosts seduce witches, and August Strindberg dances with Hans Christian Andersen.

Through a stark, black and white forest, rides a coachful of traveling players in a traveling show, a troupe starring the dour, silent mesmerist Albert Emmanuel Vogler (Max Von Sydow), his beautiful cross-dressing assistant and wife Manda (Ingrid Thulin), the genial, lusty barker/emcee Tubal (Ake Fridell) and Vogler’s grandmother (Naima Wifstrand), a wise and wizened little old lady who brews potions and may be a witch.

They ride through a dark forest of spiky black trees, where Death lurks: more specifically, where Von Sydow will find Bengt Ekerot — the unforgettable scowling chess-playing Death Max faced in Bergman‘s The Seventh Seal — here playing the dying, threadbare actor Johan Spegel.

Through the softly howling darkness, they are on their way to a town of large houses, splendid furnishings and blazing candles, where the complacent bourgeois rulers who engage them for an evening’s entertainment scoff at magic, and snort at theater and its tricks. There, the players will present a show of levitation, telepathy and communion with spirits from beyond, before that audience of scornful nabobs, critics and rationalists, including the condescending royal medical advisor Dr. Vergerus (played by Gunnar Bjornstrand), the mocking consul Egerman (Erland Josephson), the mean bailiff ( ) and the consul’s more susceptible wife (Gertrud Fridh). In the household, in the kitchen — remember, actors always must use the back entrance and sleep with the help — they will meet a host of lively servants, including another of Bibi Andersson’s sexy Saras.

The troupe has problems. Vogler cannot talk. His wife is disguised as a man. Tubal is a drinker and a rake. The leaders in their audience despise them and want to make fools of them. The wires may break, the mirrors may crack, the levitating bodies may fail to rise and the curtains may fail to fall. And somebody, either in the cast or in the audience, may forget their lines.

But there’s a magic in theater, a spirit raging within the silent magician Vogler. There’s an angel in the wings, and maybe even a demon in the attic, and they can triumph over anything, even a hostile house. Even death itself (played by that distinguished actor Bengt Ekerot).

Bergman was a real man of the theater, probably Sweden’s leading stage director of the last century and one of its great playwrights as well (though he wrote almost all his “plays” for the movies). And this is his ode to the stage, his valentine for his fellow directors and players, and his flip-of-the-bird to the snooty Svenskas and sarcastic world critics and carpers who tried to chasten or silence him, to cut him down to size. It’s a comedy about death, anguish, persecution and humiliation, all those things that a Strindberg or a Hedrik Ibsen turned into drama and tragedy. Drama lurks here and so does tragedy, but they’re both just part of the company. (Take a bow, torment. Laughter, you‘re on next.)

Playing with Bergman is his incredible troupe of Malmo Theater actors, one of the great repertory troupes of all theater or of all movies — including his bewitching then-mistress and matchless ingenue Bibi. (No summer night should be without her smile.) Bravo and encore to them all, especially for the movie’s end…


…when the sun comes mysteriously out, and the brass band plays, and the traveling players take one last bow and travel on to their next engagement…


The Magician (called The Face in Swedish) came near the end of Bergman’s great string of ‘50s films, the pictures that introduced him to the world audience. It was climax of a group of four consecutive masterpieces that included Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. And it’s a movie that has two very obvious and very notable direct descendants in the Bergman fimography/lexicon: Persona, which has another stage Vogler who doesn‘t talk, and Fanny and Alexander, where there’s another stage troupe and another Vergerus who tries to spoil the show. (There’s also another more neglected offspring: Bergman’s 1969 TV film The Rite, in which comedy takes a holiday, and Strindberg and Kafka take over more of the stage.)

The Magician is obviously one of his key works. And playing gloriously for and with Bergman in this picture, is his incredible troupe of Malmo Theater actors, one of the finest repertory troupes of all theater or all movies — including his bewitching then-mistress Bibi. (No summer night should be without her smile.)

But The Magician displeased Bergman’s early admirers at Cahiers du Cinema, and it’s been underrated or neglected by some auteurist critics ever since. Robin Wood, writing about the film in his monograph, virtually became a Vergerus himself. Ah, wrong. The Magician is great stuff, quintessential Bergman. (Read the essays in the accompanying Criterion booklet by Geoff Andrew and French filmmaker Olivier Assayas for more testimonial.) No filmmaker was more of a cinematic auteur, more of a writer, or more a man of the theater than Ingmar Bergman — or more brilliant at all three.

So it’s always made me angry, a little, that some otherwise rational critics, irritated perhaps that Bergman was one of the few filmmakers accepted by so many non film specialists as an artist, tended to underrate him, to try to over-politicize or debunk him, to deny him a place at the table, to be nasty and rationalist and play the Vergerus.

But forget all that. Instead, let’s see The Magician in this beautiful Criterion edition. Ready? The lights are dimming. The audience is quieting, the programs rustling in the dark. The curtain rises. The forest is dark. (Hear the coach!) The players are ready and waiting, slipping on their masks, their faces: Max and Ingrid and Gunnar and Erland and Bibi, forever young. Listen. Watch. Feel. Let Bergman, the mesmerist, weave his magic. (In Swedish, with English subtitles.)

Extras: Video interviews with Bergman, one by Olivier Assayas and Stig Bjorkmen; Visual essay by Peter Cowie; Booklet with essays by Geoff Andrew and Assayas, and an excerpt from Bergman’s book Images.



Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years of Warner Bros. (Blu-ray) (Four Stars)

U.S.: Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel and Other Directors, 1968-2008 (Warner)

From Dirty Harry to Unforgiven. From Where Eagles Dare to Letters from Iwo Jima. From The Gauntlet to Gran Torino.

Go ahead. Make our day.

Includes: (All movies are U.S.) Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968) Three Stars. With CE, Richard Burton and Mary Ure. WW2 shoot-out, a la Alistair MacLean. Kelly‘s Heroes (Brian G. Hutton, 1970) Three Stars. With CE, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas. WW2 as comedy. Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971) Four Stars. With CE, Andy Robinson. Clint’s angry Frisco cop signature role. Magnum Force (Ted Post, 1973) Three and a Half Stars. With CE, Hal Holbrook. The second Dirty Harry movie. The Enforcer (James Fargo, 1976) Three stars. With C. E., Tyne Daly. The third Dirty Harry.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood/(Philip Kaufman), 1976) Four Stars. With CE, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George. Great quest western. The Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood, 1977) Three and a Half Stars. With CE, Locke. Pat Hingle. A hard-drinking cop and a hooker witness run a mob/corrupt police gauntlet. Every Which Way But Loose (James Fargo, 1978) Three stars. With CE, Locke, Ruth Gordon and Clyde the orangutan. First Philo Beddoe movie.

Bronco Billy (Eastwood, 1980) Four Stars. With CE, Locke and Scatman Crothers. Naïve Western hero saves his Wild West Show. One of Clint‘s favorites. Any Which Way You Can (Buddy Van Horn, 1980) Two and a Half Stars. With CE, Locke, Ruth Gordon and Clyde the orangutan. Second Philo Beddoe movie. Honkytonk Man (Eastwood, 1982) Four Stars. With CE and Kyle Eastwood. Neglected gem: Clint as dying C&W singer/picker, on the road to the Grand Ole Opry with nephew. Firefox (Eastwood, 1982) Two Stars. With CE, Freddie Jones and Nigel Hawthorne. Rare Clint clinker: Empty Cold War plane chase thriller.

Sudden Impact (Eastwood, 1983) Four Stars. With CE and Locke. Fourth Dirty Harry. And the second best. City Heat (Richard Benjamin, 1984) Two and a Half Stars. With CE and Burt Reynolds. Unhappy crime comedy misfire, with old TV pal Burt. Written by movie’s original director, Blake Edwards Tightrope (Richard Tuggle/(Eastwood, 1984) Three Stars. With CE and Genevieve Bujold. New Orleans neo-noir, with Clint as tormented cop. Pale Rider (Eastwood, 1985) Three Stars. With CE, Michael Moriarity and Chris Penn. A supernatural twist on Shane. Heartbreak Ridge (Eastwood, 1986) Three Stars. With CE, Marsha Mason and Mario Van Peebles. Clint aces as raspy-voiced, hard-ass U. S. Marine top kick, in so-so gung ho Grenada story.

Bird (Eastwood, 1988) Four Stars. With Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora and Keith David. Great movie bio of bebop jazz sax legend, Charlie Parker. The Dead Pool (Buddy Van Horn, 1988) Two and a half stars. With CE, Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey and Patricia Clarkson. Fourth, and weakest Dirty Harry, despite cast. Pink Cadillac (Buddy Van Horn, 1989) Two and a Half Stars. With Bernadette Peters and Carrey. Okay chase comedy with Clint as bail-bond skip tracer vs. fascist gang. White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood, 1990) Three and a Half Stars. With CE as “John Wilson“ (aka John Huston) in cool adaptation of Peter Viertel‘s backstage African Queen novel. The Rookie (Eastwood, 1990) Two and a Half Stars. With CE, Charlie Sheen, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. Sleazy but sometimes gripping old cop/young cop thriller.

Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992) Four Stars. With CE, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, Morgan Freeman and Frances Fisher. Western masterpiece and big Oscar winner. A Perfect World (Eastwood, 1993) Four Stars. With CE, Kevin Costner and Laura Dern. Engrossing chase thriller, with psychological twists. The Bridges of Madison County (Eastwood, 1995) Four Stars. With CE and Meryl Streep. Poignant romance, with CE in off-type vulnerable/sensitive role as National Geographic photographer who woos married woman (Streep). From Robert James Waller novel, which it improves. Absolute Power (Eastwood, 1997) Three Stars. With CE, Hackman, Ed Harris, and Laura Linney. Dark political thriller.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Eastwood, 1997) Three and a Half Stars. With Kevin Spacey, John Cusack and Lady Chablis. Shot in Savannah: Good true-crime thriller, based on John Berendt’s book. “True Crime” (Eastwood, 1999) Three stars. With “ Space Cowboys” (Eastwood, 2000) Three and a Half Stars. With CE, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland. Aging astronauts show Right Stuff. Great cast clicks. “”Blood Work” (Eastwood, 2002) Three and a Half Stars. With CE and Jeff Daniels. Nifty mystery. “Mystic River” (Eastwood, 2003) Four Stars. With Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden. Great Boston set neo-noir, about murder and the ruinous past, from Dennis Lehane’s novel.

Million Dollar Baby (Eastwood, 2004) Four Stars. With CE, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Modern nourish boxing classic, from F. X. Toole story. Clint’s second big Oscar winner. Letters from Iwo Jima (Eastwood, 2006) Four Stars. With Ken Watanabe. Superb, grim WW2 movie: War is hell, from the Japanese side. Gran Torino (Eastwood, 2008) Four Stars. With CE. Get off my lawn. Clint‘s acting swan song? We hope not .The Eastwood Factor (2010). Three Stars. Fine documentary.

Extras: Documentary, Featurettes; Book.

Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years of Warner Bros. (Blu-ray) (Four Stars)
U.S.: Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel and Other Directors, 1968-2008 (Warner)
See above.)

The Toy Story Trilogy (Blu-Ray DVD) (Ten Discs) (Four Stars)
U.S.: Various Directors, 1995-2010 (Walt Disney)

The best film trilogy of any kind I’ve seen since The Lord of the Rings — which, after all, had the advantage of being adapted from a classic.

The Toy Story movies are all classic American pop-film mixtures. They‘re sentimental family fairytales, but they’re also hip satiric comedies, deeply emotional parables of friendship and community, Randy-dandy musicals, and pulse-racing adventure movies packed with cliffhangers and breathless chases. The toys are always being saved from impending doom and loss, just as toys sometimes are in real life.

Pixar has kept up a commercial/critical double whammy triumph ever since the first. Defying the averages, they manage to keep turning out better and better movies (most recently the animated masterpieces Wall-E and Up). And they‘ve gone on to become one of the major cultural/commercial forces in American movies, if not the foremost of all. The only complaint I have about Pixar is that it frustrates me that this company, supposedly making movies for children (though really for adults too) makes stuff that’s so much smarter and better, and even more adult — than the vast majority of the live-action stuff for more supposedly mature audiences.

Dammit, don’t we adults deserve something as good as this? If Lasseter and company can make these toys come so wondrously alive, why can’t most of the “adult” movies do the same thing, with human beings?

Includes: Toy Story (U.S.; John Lasseter, 1995) Three and a Half Stars

In many ways, the most important American movie release of 1995 was director/co-writer John Lasseter‘s Toy Story, the first animated feature from Pixar — which scored a big audience hit with this bouncy, funny tale of a community of toys who (just as we always expected) all come alive when their boy-owner Andy (John Morris) and his mom (Laurie Metcalf) leave the room. Among the delightfully computer-animated gang: stalwart cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), timid dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn), excitable Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), lovelorn Ms. Bo Peep (Laurie Potts) and the newest arrival, intrepid cosmonaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) — whose arrival creates a surfeit of heroes, a potentially dangerous rivalry between Woody and Buzz.

Toy Story 2 (U.S.; John Lasseter/Ash Brannon/Lee Unkrich, 1999) Four Stars. Toy Story seduced both audiences and critics, and it was rousingly succeeded by Toy Story 2 –in which Buzz and the gang have to save Woody from an evil toy seller Al (Wayne Knight) and a life in the Al’s Toy Barn toy warehouse museum, with yodeling Cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and gabby old coot Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer). It’s one of the rare sequels that is both a totally logical outgrowth of the original, and even better than its predecessor as both art and entertainment. It’s no exaggeration to say that Toy Story 2 is the Godfather 2 of feature cartoons. (Toy Story 3 proved a bit better capper than Godfather 3.)

Both Toy I and Toy II, by the way, boast song scores by that song-writing genius, acid Angeleno, and seeming nemesis of short people and long red lights, Randy Newman. His “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (from “I“) is a great kid anthem. And his abandoned toy ballad “When She Loved Me“ (sung by Sarah McLachlan in II) is a real heart-tugger. (In Newman’s defense, I’d like to point out that all the toys here are quite short. (Satire, people, satire.) The eight-man writing teams on 1 and 2 include Lasseter, Pete Docter (Up), Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) and Joss Whedon.

Toy Story 3 (U.S.: Lee Unkrich, 2010) Four Stars. (See above.)

Extras: Featurettes, Deleted scenes; Animated studio stories.



Centurion (One and a half Stars)

U. K.; Neil Marshall, 2010

Michael Fassbender (no relation to R. W. Fassbinder), as Centurion Quintus Dias, wanders around a pre-Christian, pre-Beatles Britain (Scotland, actually), swallowed in murk and gloom, and echoing with the din of battle axes and random decapitations. You think you’ve got it rough? Also around, trapped in the bloody havoc and the boggy mire, are Andreas Wizniewski as Commander Gratus, Dave Legend as Vortix, Dominic West as General Titus Virilus (these names are not jokes), Lee Ross as Septus, Ian Ickthorpe as Tankus (that was), O’Haffer L’Habidine as the Arm Wrestler, David Morrisey as Bothos and the late Oliver Reed as General Vampires Suckus. (Joke, joke.) Axele Carolyn and Olga Kurylenko provide unusual love interest as a homicidal psychopath and a friendly witch.


Almost all of them except Centurion Quintus and the beautiful witch die horrible deaths or buy out their contracts and flee to the Via Veneto.


Off-screen, director-writer Neil Marshall quashes a suit by the descendants of Thax, Bothos, Gorlachon, Garlicus, Achivir, Matrix and the Arm Wrestler, who claim their ancestors were not incoherent brutes with British accents, guzzling mead, thrusting spears into each other and wallowing in mud. And the Roman Empire falls, immediately after the first screening of this movie.

The only really good thing about Centurion is that it’s not Centurion II. Or Vampires Suck.

Winnebago Man (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Ben Steinbauer, 2009 (Kino)

About two decades ago, on a hot day in Iowa, with flies buzzing and the camera and microphone running, a burly, bell-voiced TV writer-producer-performer-pitchman named Jack Rebney tried to get through a half-hour Winnebago sales film he’d written, while strolling around and inside the camper, speechifying and extolling the vehicle’s many virtues.

But the heat poured down, the flies buzzed in his face, he kept going up on his own lines, and finally he began blowing his top when he blew a line. “Shit! Fuck! Shit!” he yelled, over and over again, and “My mind has turned to shit!” and other words children shouldn‘t hear. He exhorted everyone to calm down, “including me” and then blew a line and blew his top again. “Do me a favor. Do me a kindness,“ he said to his assistant Tony, polite but tense, and later Tony pitched a towel at him. “Shit!“ he roared. The tantrum became serial, epic — and after a while, you sense that Jack is not just spewing, but playing comic relief to himself, exaggerating his own fury to get through the day.

Jack got though the sales film (it’s one of the extras on this DVD) and later the filmmakers that day edited together a video of his various tantrums, and it became a classic and got him millions of watchers and fans, and eventual superstardom on the Internet. It also earned him the nicknames “The Angriest Man in the World” and “Winnebago Man.“

But meanwhile, Jack disappeared. He’d had a long broadcasting and film career, starting on WBBM in Chicago, but suddenly you couldn’t find him anywhere, even on the Internet, except for the “Winnebago Man” video. I don’t know, maybe the Winnebago people saw it and got mad. I have a vision of them watching the Jack outtakes in a conference room and yelling to each other “Shit! Fuck! What the fuck is this guy doing? Shit!” But probably they didn’t do anything, just frowned and had another meeting. It shouldn’t have mattered. Bill O’Reilly has a far nastier candid tantrum (“Do it now! Do it now!“) available on the Internet, and look what happened to him.

Ben Steinbauer is a filmmaker, a film teacher and the director of this movie, and he loved Jack and loved the video. Ben is a gentle-acting, soft-spoken guy here, and you get the idea that he never uses a four-letter word unless it’s absolutely necessary, that he lets guys like Jack do his spewing for him. Steinbauer decided to find the Angriest Man and film him, and he did.

It was a little surprising though: Jack was living alone with his dog Buddha, working as live-in caretaker for a wildlife sanctuary, and he seemed to be happy in his reclusive life, but incommunicado, except for daily calls with his best friend, Keith Gordon, a pilot. What happened? Did he see the video himself and get embarrassed? Jack agreed to be filmed, but he was mostly nice, well-spoken, a sweet guy. A little aggravation; no tantrums. Not much there for a documentary, except for wildlife sanctuary lovers.

Then, a while later, Jack got back in touch. He admitted he’s been putting on an act, playing nice for the camera. He invited Ben back. He agreed to be filmed again. Something had happened though, something sad. As Jack said, “his vision had left him.” He was blind, but still at the sanctuary, still with Buddha. Jack was willing to talk though, even seemingly willing to get angry on camera again — and there was a lot he was angry about, especially Dick Cheney.


Then Ben made a big mistake. He had wanted Jack to spew some, but he asked Jack to stop talking about politics, and talk about something personal instead. Jack didn’t want to talk about himself and his life; he wanted to talk about what an asshole Dick Cheney was.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why Ben wouldn’t let him. If you’ve got Paderewski, you let him play the violin. If you’ve got Rubinstein, you let him play the piano. If you’ve got Louis Armstrong, you hand him a horn. And if you’ve got Jack Rebney, you let him blow his top. Especially about a jerk like Dick Cheney, who pisses me off too, and who deserves it. You know something: Fuck Dick Cheney, and the horse he rode in on. But I’m sure Jack could say it better, with more force and feeling. He is a sweet guy, at least here, but sweet guys can get burned.

So the filming broke up. Too bad, but later Ben got a happy ending of sorts for this movie, by taking Jack and his best buddy Keith (who does the late interviewing, a good pick) to the Found Footage Film festival, where it was a packed house and they watched the Winnebago Man tape (again, I‘m sure for everybody there). Jack talked and they loved him and gave him great gusts of roaring applause and approval. Later, at the end, Ben drops Jack off at his place and Jack tells them all to get lost. But he’s just playing nasty; he watches the camera car and the retreating camera all the way up the road.


There’s another mistake on Ben’s doc. They start with Jack’s classic tape, but they don’t run it all. You can see it — as I did — by going to YouTube or Googling “Jack Rebney,” but you shouldn’t have to. You should be able to see it all in the doc, straight through, and they don‘t even include it as an extra — even though, along with Jack Nicholson blowing up at Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge, this is the “Emperor Concerto“ of temper tantrums.

Anyway, do Jack a kindness and watch him in Ben’s movie. It isn’t perfect, but hell, neither was the Winnebago.

Extras: The complete lost Winnebago Sales Video, starring Jack; Featurette with Jack, Ben and Michael Moore; Trailer.

Henry Miller‘s Tropic of Cancer (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Joseph Strick, 1970 (Olive)

Henry Miller’s classic of unbuttoned hard-core sex confession and four letter word ribaldry and misogyny, with the words and sex acts intact, but somewhat implausibly transferred from ’30’s Paris to late ’60s Paris, probably because there was no money for sets. Director Strick took a lot of heat for his movie adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses and he deserved to. But this movie is somewhat better, if a hard sit for any radical feminists who may mistakenly wander in. (Then again, it may confirm their worst suspicions about men.)

Rip Torn, sporting his shark’s grin, seems to be having a damned good time as “Miller” (who does a brief cameo); Torn also narrates Miller’s unfettered prose well. And Ellen Burstyn, as Miller’s wife June, or “Mona,” makes about as big an impression as you can possibly make in five minutes. Like Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge (see above) she’s absolutely eerie-beautiful.

Jimmy the Gent (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Michael Curtiz, 1934 (Warner Archive)

It’s a Michael Curtiz movie, so it really moves. And it stars the young Jimmy Cagney and Bette Davis, so you know it has charisma and star style to spare. But this snappy romantic comedy about a detective (Cagney), who specializes in finding lost heirs, and his comely ex-employee (Davis), who’s deserted him for his phony-gentleman, tea-serving competitor (Alan Dinehart), is just fast but ordinary Warners stuff, with a fast but so-so script. On the other hand, who can resist a movie with Cagney, Davis and Allen Jenkins? (This movie is manufactured on demand. To order, visit The Warner Brothers Archive Collection at

Toy Story 3’s Unkrich Sez Twitter Is His Grassroots Marketing Tool

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Toy Story 3‘s Unkrich Sez Twitter Is His Grassroots Marketing Tool

Weekend Box Office Report – October 31

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

See … Saw … Ouch!

Saw 3D whipped into cinemas with an estimated $24.3 million to take top spot in weekend movie going. Distributors gave a wide berth to the Halloween frame when traditionally there are sharp drops in attendance; making the Saw finale the sole new national release.

A different sort of ghoul — the Millennium finale The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest — went limited wide to solid returns of $890,000, but otherwise the frame’s new entries were dominated by niche and exclusive launches. The best of the bunch was the Chinese trembler Aftershock with a single screen entry of $17,600. Other newcomers with good but not spectacular returns included indie drama Welcome to the Riley’s, Brit spy spoof Wild Target, Mexican prize winner Nora’s Will, Claude Chabrol’s final effort Bellamy and non-fiction entry Waste Land.

Overall box office saw a sharp fall from last weekend and a slight bump from 2009 results.

The seventh annual edition of the Saw franchise was hoping for an exit with bite with the addition of stereoscopic imagery. But pre-release tracking indicated that with or without gimmicks the mania was fading and its mid-$20 million weekend tally was pretty much in line with pundit’s predictions. The gore crowd would appear to be sated with current splatter fare but the past month has seen every segment of the audience unenthusiastic for the new crop of movies beyond their opening sessions.

The global juggernaut for the Millennium trilogy continued with the U.S. bow of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The first installment, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has racked up $99 million internationally and it and its second chapter are the top grossing foreign-language movies in America post-Pan’s Labyrinth.

Weekend revenues generated about $95 million in sales that translated into a 28% drop from the immediate prior session. It was a modest 6% improvement from 2009 when Michael Jackson: This Is It bowed to $23.2 million followed by Paranormal Activity with $16.4 million.

The fact-based Conviction expanded nationally to fair results and appears to be headed to the same sort of indifferent commercial returns as the rest of the early award season contenders. A sharp drop for last weekend’s Hereafter departs from the sort of holds associated with recent films directed by Clint Eastwood whereas the better than expected stamina of the geezer spies of RED has confounded box office mavens.

But apart from Jackass 3D (which passed a $100 million tally this weekend) such well-reviewed positive word-of-mouth entries as The Social Network and Secretariat have struggled to maintain a presence (forget about momentum) in a marketplace that has all but eliminated the possibility of a second wind.


Weekend Estimates – October 29-31, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Saw 3D Lionsgate 24.3 (8,660) New 2808 24.3
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 16.4 (5,070) -60% 3239 65.6
Red Summit 10.9 (3,250) -28% 3349 59
Jackass 3D Par 8.5 (2,720) -60% 3139 101.7
Hereafter WB 6.4 (2,630) -47% 2424 22.2
Secretariat BV 5.0 (1,610) -28% 3108 44.7
The Social Network Sony 4.7 (1,690) -36% 2767 79.7
Life As We Know It WB 4.1 (1,440) -33% 2860 43.6
The Town WB 2.0 (1,250) -27% 1608 87.7
Conviction Fox Searchlight 1.8 (3,220) 501% 565 2.4
Legend of the Guardians WB 1.8 (880) -46% 2010 52.7
Easy A Sony 1.1(880) -37% 1262 56.3
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .89 (5,830) New 152 0.89
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox .78 (840) -37% 933 51.2
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .52 (1,580) -33% 330 4.6
Devil Uni .51 (800) -21% 635 33.1
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .48 (710) -34% 676 24.1
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .46 (960) -32% 477 5.8
You Again BV .41 (610) -37% 673 24.7
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .33 (1,022) -24% 323 2.4
Toy Story 3 BV .31 (920) -34% 337 413.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $89.70
% Change (Last Year) 6%
% Change (Last Week) -28%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .22 (1,760) -39% 125 1.2
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .13 (840) -62% 153 1
10.50 Alliance 55,800 (4,290) 13 0.06
Welcome to the Riley’s IDP 41,600 (4,160) 10 0.04
Nora’s Will Menemsha 25,300 (4,220) 6 0.03
Wild Target FreeStyle 23,200 (5,800) 4 0.02
Bellamy IFC 19,700 (9,850) 2 0.02
Monsters Magnolia 18,100 (6,030) 3 0.02
Aftershock AMC 17,600 (17,600) 1 0.02
Waste Land Arthouse 10.300 (10,300) 1 0.01
Walkaway IABA 9,400 (360) 26 0.01
Strange Powers Variance 4,800 (4,800) 1 0.01
The Kids Grow Up Shadow 4,600 (4,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Oct. 28, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1436.3 16.40%
Paramount (16) 1389.1 15.90%
Fox (16) 1289.8 14.70%
Buena Vista (15) 1155.5 13.20%
Sony (23) 1142.4 13.10%
Universal (17) 774.3 8.90%
Summit (10) 473.3 5.40%
Lionsgate (12) 412.7 4.70%
Overture (7) 80.6 0.90%
Focus (7) 74.1 0.80%
Fox Searchlight (6) 73.4 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.9 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 54.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (277) 229.7 2.70%
8749 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 28, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 17,246,918
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,270,373
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 8,980,294
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,768,761
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attractions 6,204,696
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 5,342,641
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,256,073
I Am Love Magnolia 4,982,446
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
The Hurt Locker * Summit 4,531,548
Solitary Man Anchor Bay 4,360,548
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report – October 24

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Back to Paranormal

Paranormal Activity 2 exceeded pundit expectation (though not necessarily fans) with an estimated $41.6 million to lead weekend movie ticket sales. The session’s only other national bow was Hereafter, which shot up to $11.9 million following last weekend’s limited opener.

Niche and regional bows included a solid $212,000 (in Hindi and Telegu versions) bow for the Indian crime saga Rakhtcharitra. Fans won’t have to wait long for its second part conclusion that’s scheduled for late November. Meanwhile up in Canada the Toronto fest curtain raiser Score: A Hockey Musical failed to live up to its name with a discordant $143,000 from 127 rinks.

Exclusives included good though unsensational debuts that included non-fiction Boxing Gym with a $6,100 TKO in its solo bout and Taqwacores — the tale of an Islamic rock band — grossing $5,500 also in a single outing.

Though there was a marginal dip from last weekend’s box office, the frame saw its first uptick from 2009 in a month with industry mavens already predicting expanded revenues through the end of the year.

Critical response to sleeper sensation Paranormal Activity 2 was at best tepid with the more negative reviews viewing it as a cynical rehash of its inspiration. Nonetheless avids were cueing up to provide Thursday midnight shows a record preview for an R-rated film. It lost traction as the weekend proceeded but the fast start was sufficient to speed past tracking that suggested an opening salvo of not much more than $30 million.

Exit polls for both Paranormal Activity 2 and Hereafter were disappointing. The latter film pretty much brought in the anticipated older crowd and filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s films have a history of hanging in for longer than typical runs and much higher multiples than is the industry norm. Still, this yarn could well stray from that trend.

Weekend revenues amassed roughly $130 million in torn ducats. It represented a slight 2% dip from seven days back but the unexpected Paranormal Activity 2 and overall strong holdovers translated into a 13% box office boost from 2009. A year ago the first Paranormal Activity (in its initial wide weekend) led with $21.1 million followed by Saw VI and Where the Wild Things Are with respective tallies of $14.1 million and $14 million.

With the exception of Waiting for “Superman” it’s been a brutal season for Oscar hopefuls trying to set an early footprint on the awards landscape. Granted, very few have received a wholehearted critical embrace, but even by niche standards the likes of Nowhere Boy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Jack Goes Boating among others have been comparative under-performers when measured against past films that have employed this tactic.


Weekend Estimates – October 22-24, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 41.6 (12,930) New 3216 41.6
Jackass 3D Par 21.5 (6,920) -57% 3111 87.1
Red Summit 15.1 (4,620) -31% 3273 43.6
Hereafter WB 11.9 (5,450) 2175 12.2
The Social Network Sony 7.2 (2,450) -31% 2921 72.8
Secretariat BV 6.9 (2,210) -26% 3108 37.3
Life As We Know It WB 6.1 (2,010) -32% 3019 37.5
Legend of the Guardians WB 3.1 (1,390) -26% 2236 50.1
The Town WB 2.7 (1,390) -33% 1918 84.6
Easy A Sony 1.7 (1,050) -35% 1632 54.7
Wal Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 1.2 (960) -49% 1255 50
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 1.0 (600) -68% 1689 13.9
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .76 (2,620) 2% 290 3.7
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .71 (980) -14% 727 23.5
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .66 (1,180) -46% 560 5.1
Devil Uni .63 (980) -35% 642 32.4
You Again BV .61 (680) -50% 901 24
N Secure FreeStyle .53 (1,190) -55% 445 1.9
Toy Story 3 BV .42 (1,211) -21% 350 413.4
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .40 (1,060) 46% 381 1.8
Case 39 Par Vantage .38 (530) -69% 721 12.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.90
% Change (Last Year) 13%
% Change (Last Week) -2%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .34 (3,030) 49% 113 0.76
Conviction Fox Searchlight .30 (5,420) 192% 55 0.34
Rakhtcharitra Viva/Happy .21 (6,230) 34 0.21
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .21 (870) -39% 215 0.76
Score: A Hockey Musical Mongrel .14 (1,130) 127 0.14
Jhootha Hi Sahi Viva 64,700 (1,350) 48 0.06
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Fiftyfilms 10,300 (5,150) 2 0.01
Boxing Gym Zipporah 6,100 (6,100) 1 0.01
Taqwacores Rumanni 5,500 (5,500) 1 0.01
Inhale IFC 5,600 (2,800) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1403.9 16.30%
Paramount (15) 1310.6 15.30%
Fox (16) 1287.9 15.00%
Buena Vista (15) 1144.7 13.30%
Sony (23) 1129.9 13.20%
Universal (17) 771.4 9.00%
Summit (10) 453.6 5.30%
Lionsgate (12) 411.5 4.80%
Overture (7) 79.7 0.90%
Focus (7) 73.2 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (6) 72.7 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 53.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (271) 226.9 2.70%
8581.7 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,726,209
Toy Story 3 BV 413,013,123
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,531,751
Inception WB 289,881,124
Despicable Me Uni 247,148,995
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 161,942,598
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 118,236,912
Salt Sony 118,229,865
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
The Expendables Lions Gate 103,068,524
* does not include 2009 box office

Best Picture Chart – 19 Weeks To Go – 10/21/10

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The Ten, If I Had To Pick Today
Dec 25
True Grit
The King’s Speech
Dec 1
Black Swan
Oct 1

The Social Network
Dec 10
The Fighter
O. Russell
Nov 5
127 Hours
Oct 22
June 18
Toy Story 3
July 16

July 9
The Kids Are All Right
The Next Tiers Of Likely
Dec 17
Everything You’ve Got
Nov 24
Love & Other Drugs
Zwick Hathaway
Dec 29
Another Year
June 11 Winter’s Bone
Feb 19
Shutter Island
July 30
Get Low
Sept 15
Never Let Me Go
Sept 17
The Town


Nov 19
Made In Dagenham
Oct 8
Dec 25



Dec 10
The Tempest
Dec 31
Blue Valentine
Dec 29
Dec 29
The Way Home

by David Poland

Previous Chart