Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

The good news? Harley Quinn has the box office all to herself in terms of new releases. The bad news? Expectations for "Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" (I have limited space so I'll be calling it "Birds of Prey" from this point forward) are high so she'll have to deliver roughly a $50m opening to justify a hefty price tag. Is Ms. Quinn up to the task?

Back in 2016 "Suicide Squad" fell into the category of "seen by many, loved by few." It had a $133.7m opening weekend, grossed $325.1m domestically and $746.1m worldwide. However, aside from ardent D.C. comics defenders/trolls, I've never met a single person who genuinely enjoyed it. But the one thing that nearly everybody could agree upon was that Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn was the highlight of the movie. Warner Bros. felt strongly enough to give Robbie her own movie and completely reboot the rest of the "Suicide Squad" crew (tentatively set for release in August 2021).

"Suicide Squad" had the Joker, Will Smith and an accessible PG-13 rating in its corner. "Birds of Prey" has no Joker, Ewan McGregor (coming off the disappointing "Doctor Sleep") and a more restrictive R-rating. Plus Robbie is untested carrying a movie on her own. Although she's had supporting roles in a lot of big movies ("The Wolf of Wall Street," "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," "The Legend of Tarzan," etc.) the only time she's really been front and center was the modestly successful "I, Tonya" ($30m domestic gross).

I think all of these factors will keep "Birds of Prey" from reaching the heights of previous D.C. flicks:

2016 - Batman v Superman ($116.6m opening)
2017 - Wonder Woman ($103.3m opening)
2017 - Justice League ($93.8m opening)
2018 - Aquaman ($67.9m opening)

But that's perfectly okay. "Birds of Prey" cost a fraction of those aforementioned D.C. movies so it doesn't have to reach those kinds of numbers to be successful. I think "Birds of Prey" will end up more in the "Shazam!" range ($53.5m opening last year). It's pricey at FB$666 but I think the floor is pretty safe. And as of right now 79% of Fantasy Movie League players have it in their Cineplex this weekend. So even if it stumbles the vast majority of fellow FML-ers will be in the same boat. And much like "Suicide Squad" before it, "Birds of Prey" has a high ceiling. If it over-performs you won't want to be one of the 20% left behind so I think "Birds of Prey" is a low-risk, high-reward lineup anchor.

Last but not least it's Oscar weekend so it's time for my annual take of what I think will win and what I would vote for if I actually had a ballot. And for the record I've seen nearly all of the nominees (including documentaries and short films) so I'm not treating this like a middle school election/popularity contest. I'll keep my predictions here to the eight major categories. Hit me up on twitter (@TheBoxOfficeGuy) if you're dying to hear my take on the down ballot categories like Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.

Best Picture

Will Win: "1917"
Sam Mendes' World War I epic feels like it has all the momentum and is the film to beat. It's not a lock but PGA and BAFTA wins means it will be tough to beat. Plus it has widespread support across all the technical disciplines. Oh yeah, it's also a really good movie.

My Vote: "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
My favorite film of the year and the one that stuck with me the longest after leaving the theater. I think it's one of three films with a legit path to victory (along with "1917" and "Parasite") but I think it's going to come up short.

Best Director

Will Win: Sam Mendes, "1917"
The film is a technical marvel and I think Mendes will edge out Bong Joon-Ho to win his second Best Director Oscar.

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino
He's never won an Oscar for Best Director and this might be his last shot (if he's really serious about his next film being his last). But I think he going to fall short once again. Which is okay. We live in a world where Kevin Costner has more best directing Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, David Fincher & Christopher Nolan COMBINED. Losing out once again won't diminish Tarantino's body of work at all.

Best Actor

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker"
I think this is the second biggest lock of the night.

My Vote: Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker"
A strong category (particularly Adam Driver and Antonio Banderas). However, I can't make a strong enough case for any of them over Phoenix. If Phoenix weren't great here the entire movie wouldn't have worked. He completely elevated the material and created something memorable.

Best Actress

Will Win: Renee Zellweger, "Judy"
She's almost as big of a lock as Phoenix. In addition to Zellweger giving a good performance the voting body of the Academy is still largely old and white (i.e. they actually remember Judy Garland) which means Zellweger should coast to her second Oscar.

My Vote: Renee Zellweger, "Judy"
I gave Scarlett Johansson and Saoirse Ronan a lot of consideration here. But Zellweger completely nailed this, especially the final scene which is bound to stick with voters as well. It's a great performance in an average movie and sometimes that's enough to win.

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Brad Pitt, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
The biggest lock of the night. The only thing that would make my jaw drop on Sunday night is if Regina King read anyone else's name besides ‘Brad Pitt.'

My Vote: Brad Pitt, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
My only complaint about this movie and Pitt's performance? It made me sad that I don't have a Cliff Booth in my life.

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Laura Dern, "Marriage Story"
It's not a particularly strong category this year and Dern's been winning every award in sight.

My Vote: Scarlett Johansson, "Jojo Rabbit"
Dern is fine but I feel like I've seen her give that performance before. I think Johansson had a much higher degree of difficulty and gave one of the best portrayals of motherhood that I've seen in years.

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Bong Joon-Ho & Jin Won Han, "Parasite"
It feels like Best Picture and Best Director is headed to "1917" so this is the Academy's way of honoring "Parasite" outside of the Best International Film award (where it's damn near a lock). And it's worthy of winning here (it was probably my second favorite film of the year).

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
Most other years I'd vote for "Parasite" but as mentioned this was my favorite film of the year. Tarantino could win but the fact that he was won twice before in this category may hurt his chances.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Greta Gerwig, "Little Women"
There is a sentiment out there that Gerwig was robbed of a Best Director nomination (I completely disagree with this) and those who disagree should be punished. This sentiment combined with the fact that Gerwig put a fresh spin on old material should give her a slight edge over Waititi.

My Vote: Taika Waititi, "Jojo Rabbit"
I give a lot of weight to degree of difficulty in this category. To take a non-satirical novel and turn it into a satire where a child navigates Nazi Germany with the guidance of an imaginary (and buffoonish) Adolph Hitler? And for it to not be terrible? Bravo Taika! Nobody walked a tightrope like you did this past year.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

  1. Birds of Prey (FB$666)
  2. Bad Boys For Life (FB$172)
  3. 1917 (FB$146)
  4. Jumanji: The Next Level (FB$65)
  5. Dolittle (FB$70)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Birds of Prey" (FB$666) It's expensive but I wouldn't be shocked if it significantly exceed its projections in the $45m-$50m range. With no other new releases and no obvious bonus picks amongst the holdovers I think "Birds of Prey" has an excellent shot at the bonus this weekend.

Coming Attractions

Whereas Harley Quinn had this weekend to herself, the long Presidents Day weekend is going to be crowded. Will Ferrell and Julia Louis Dreyfus sort through marital issues in the dark comedy "Downhill," LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae lead an impressive ensemble in the romantic drama "The Photograph," Mr. Roarke (sans Tattoo) gives us a very different take on the old TV drama "Fantasy Island" and for some reason we're getting a "Sonic The Hedgehog" movie a few decades too late.

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