Something small but notable happened at the box office last weekend. No, it wasn’t “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” beating out studio prestige pics like “Black Mass” and “Everest,” though that did happen. Rather, Pixar’s “Inside Out” moved up a notch to #3 on the year’s domestic chart, passing “Furious 7” and settling in behind “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” with just over $352 million in receipts. It also moved past $750 million globally.
The film, still easily one of the year’s best, is looking stronger and stronger for a best picture nomination. It would be the first for an animated film since 2010’s “Toy Story 3,” also from the Pixar factory. What’s more, if it does claim a spot, it’s likely it would remain the highest grossing nominee in the category. I can’t imagine any of the other contenders coming close, really.
Meanwhile, a few of the season’s expected heavies are coming up just a little soft. “Black Mass” and “The Danish Girl,” while mostly well-received, have taken their share of critical knocks. The two strongest players coming out of the early fall festival frame — Toronto People’s Choice Award winner “Room” with Brie Larson and Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” with Michael Keaton — might even be seen as surprising, given that they come from indie distributors looking for first-ever best picture nominations.
“Steve Jobs” was a hit in Telluride, but its success (perhaps mercifully, given the season’s propensity for over-hype) was contained to that bubble as it prepares for a New York Film Festival centerpiece screening next month and a theatrical release soon after.
Considerations are also starting to shift to populist favorites, like Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” with Matt Damon, or F. Gary Gray’s “Straight Outta Compton.” There’s just an overall (exciting, I might add) sense of uncertainty as things continue to unfold this year. That protean quality keeps earlier home runs like “Inside Out” front of mind.
However, I’d like to add — as I have elsewhere — that Pete Docter absolutely deserves to be in the best director conversation as well. It’s sort of ridiculous that we can often talk about animated contenders in the expanded best picture paradigm, but the filmmakers behind them remain second-class citizens in the discussion. This is expert craft and storytelling, full stop. So here’s hoping members of the directors’ branch of the Academy see it the same way.