He might not be the next Roger Ebert, but that didn’t stop futurist and artificial-intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil from giving Spike Jonze‘s Oscar-nominated and slightly satirical sci-fi dramedy Her a strongly positive review — on cinematic if not all technology grounds. “This is a breakthrough concept in cinematic futurism in the way that The Matrix presented a realistic vision that virtual reality will ultimately be as real as, well, real reality,” Kurzweil writes in a review posted recently on his site KurzweilAI.net. Kurzweil, now Google’s director of engineering, is author of books such as The Singularity Is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines and subject of the documentary Transcendent Man, all of which detail Kurzweil’s vision of a future when computer intelligence becomes self aware and merges more fully with human intelligence.
Specialty Box Office: ‘Her’ Nabs $42K Per-Screen; Bollywood’s ‘Dhoom 3′ Sizzles; ‘The Past’ Coasts In Opening; ‘Llewyn Davis’ Still Faring Well
In its limited debut, Spike Jonze‘s Her opened on 6 screens and tallied $257,815 over 3 days averaging $42,969 per screen. The tech-themed drama-romance starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man in love with his Siri-esque operating system (Scarlett Johansson) jumped to $361,474 over 5 days, averaging $60,246 for WB which has Oscar hopes for Phoenix. And beyond the Hobbits and Ron Burgundy shenanigans it was a Bollywood weekend in the USA (and Canada) this weekend. Bollywood also bows to the franchise machine and it cashed in with Dhoom 3, which Yash Raj Films opened in 236 theaters in North America, grossing over $3.3M and averaging a solid $14K. America and India did not have a good week diplomatically as protests raged in the subcontinent after a diplomat was arrested in NYC. Yash Raj touted some exciting factoids about the release Sunday morning: Dhoom 3 had the highest opening day gross of any Indian movie in North America Highest opening weekend gross of any Indian movie in North America First Bollywood movie to do over $1 million on opening day. Only Bollywood movie to do more than $1 million on 2 consecutive days. “Our biggest strength has been that our audiences are so clued in that technically we just need to announce a date and they will be there for a film like this,” Yash Raj’s VP – Int’l Operations, Avtar Panesar said this week. It will roll out further in the coming weeks.
China also made a grand opening with Feng Xiaogang’s Personal Tailor, launching in 9 locations this weekend. It opened in 9 runs, growing $104K for an $11,555 PSA.
The ever-quirky National Board Of Review has crowned Her as the year’s Best Film and its helmer Spike Jonze as Best Director. It only adds to what is becoming a year without consensus — at least so far, after the New York Film Critics Circle named American Hustle their best film yesterday and the Gotham Awards chose Inside Llewyn Davis. The latter won Best Screenplay from NBR, but there was no mention of Hustle anywhere on its list this morning (see the full list of winners below). Also largely ignored were three films most pundits put at the top of their Oscar frontrunners: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips. The latter was completely dissed and 12 Years and Gravity mentioned only in NBR’s Top Ten list, but NO individual awards other than a technical citation for Gravity’s “creative innovation”.
Unlike last year when NBR and NYFCC agreed on Zero Dark Thirty as Best Pic and Director , this morning’s list was far apart. The groups’ only matches came for The Wind Rises in animation, Stories We Tell in Documentary and Fruitvale Station as best first film. NBR’s acting choices of Bruce Dern and Will Forte in Nebraska, Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks and Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale represented a completely different quartet than the NYFCC picks of Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lawrence. But for those who harbor Oscar hopes, don’t despair. The National Board of Review, which describes itself as “a select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students”, has had a lousy track record in recent years of picking eventual Oscar winners. In the past five years only one of their Best Film picks — Slumdog Millionaire — and just two acting choices — Christopher Plummer and Penelope Cruz — went on to win Academy Awards. They haven’t had a Best Director in common with Oscar since Martin Scorsese for The Departed in 2005 — the same year they chose Letters From Iwo Jima as Best Film. Here is NBR’s full list of winners:
Spike Jonze, HER
Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA
Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS
Best Supporting Actor
Will Forte, NEBRASKA
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, FRUITVALE STATION
Best Original Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Best Adapted Screenplay
Terence Winter, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Best Animated Feature
THE WIND RISES
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has made a deal with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures for international rights on two untitled film projects that will be directed by Spike Jonze and David O Russell, respectively. As she often does with auteur fare, Ellison stepped up to fully fund both films, as she did with the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed The Master, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.