I just got back from The Wright Stuff at the New Beverly. They showed American Graffiti and Animal House. John Landis was in the house and talked for about two hours. Great stuff. But I’m tired.

NATALIE PORTMAN

There’s one movie going over 1,000 screens this week (sorry, new Peter Weir), and it stars Natalie Portman. You might remember her from Black Swan. 2011 is the year of Portman, as she’s a lock to be nominated for best actress, a likely winner, she’s also got No Strings Attached coming out today, and then Your Highness and then Thor. There could also be another film out with her starring by the end of the year.

Portman starred in three of the most successful films of all time with the prequel trilogy, but until this year I don’t think she’s been much of a draw. People like her, find her attractive, whatever, but she’s never had that appeal of someone like Julia Roberts. I think party because she’s undefined. This is her first adult turn in a romantic comedy, if Garden State doesn’t count. But that was a semi-indie; this is part of the studio system.

Some were worried No Strings would hurt her Oscar chances. I think the main thing No Strings does is negatively affect both its and Black Swan‘s box office. I’m not saying they’re the same audience, but she’s exceptionally (and perhaps over) exposed, and we’ll see if some sort of backlash kicks in with Highness or Thor.  It’s possible, because if she wins the Oscar, that means Black Swan will be in theaters for the next two months, and romantic comedies can have slightly longer plays. But the thing that’s nice about these two out now is that they are her movies. With the other two she will be playing female support – knowingly with Highness and classically with Thor. If anything ruins her Oscar chances (but she’s pregnant!) it will be a sense that she’s everywhere, and a backlash could kick in.

Portman seems to have aspirations of being an actor/star, but this year may define her on-screen presence. We kind of know her, but she still has some baggage from films like The Professional, which even playing a stripper (who doesn’t take off her clothes) in Closer didn’t shake – in fact the film played on her youth. With Black Swan – where she plays a woman/child – we may see her planting her flag for a more Jodie Foster-ish career. But the rest of this year works against that. What she said about No Strings is that it had been in development for quite some time, and other than post-conversion it can takes months to years for there to be a career shift. People who thought Michael Cera being in Pilgrim was problematic because he was overexposed/played out rarely understand that he was hired shortly after Superbad and Juno came out – his overexposure (if it was that) hadn’t happened yet.  By the time Portman can react to be an academy award winner, she will have a handful of films under her belt. But this weekend she’s the big winner, regardless of how the year shakes out.

I’VE GOT TWO TURNTABLES AND A PREDICTION

One major film, slow weekend. Green Hornet needs to hold well to get to $100. It might yet. Everything else is Oscar or the walking dead.

1. No Strings Attached - $19.5 Million

2. The Green Hornet – $15.5 Million

3. The Dilemma – $9 Million

4. True Grit – $8.7 Million

5. The King’s Speech - $7.5 Million

And then Sunday, I’ll be doing drills.