Thoughts In-Season

FilmFan720
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Postby FilmFan720 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:07 pm

I have a question, and please don't shoot me down for it. Might we be overestimating the power of Up? I know that we all think that the opening up of Best Picture will broaden the scope of nominees some (though not as much as the mainstream media seems to think it will), but there has still only ever been one animated film to break into Best Picture. Up has not been picking up the juggernaut steam of Wall-E last year, and is it possible that there is a slant against animated films (especially with them having their own category) that could go deeper than we imagine and keep it off this longer list....

I know that Pixar films have gotten many nods over that past few years, but those have all come in the music, sound and writing categories. Are those three branches enough to keep a film in contention under our new system? Actors, cinematographers, directors and craft guilds have always joked about being weary of animated films taking away their jobs (Billy Crystal mocked it in the 1991 Oscars)...might there be a backlash??
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Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:58 pm

Greg wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:(Pressed today, I'd have Avatar, Basterds, Up in the Air, Precious and Hurt Locker as the slate of five)

My five would have Up in place of Precious, making the siwtch to ten even less necessary.

After LA-winning Wall E's fate last year against crap competition, I don't see how you can make that argument.

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Postby Greg » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:53 pm

Mister Tee wrote:(Pressed today, I'd have Avatar, Basterds, Up in the Air, Precious and Hurt Locker as the slate of five)

My five would have Up in place of Precious, making the siwtch to ten even less necessary.

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Postby dws1982 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:48 pm

But the point Damien made yesterday really can't be ignored: Hurt Locker, especially given its critical push, has been a shocking financial failure...The reason a film fails to connect commercially is generally that significant portions of the audience simply don't respond to it

Low grosses could also mean that most of the country was unable to see it, since The Hurt Locker never saw a wide release. Of course, the argument (probably valid) could be made that it could've gotten a wide release if it had played better in its limited engagements. But it's not as if it were a long-hyped big studio project that played to empty theatres across the country. The fact is that The Hurt Locker, for the most part, wasn't released to many theatres across the country. That probably does hurt it in the Best Picture race.

But at the same time, if Bigelow is to win, her film has to have a shot in the Best Picture race. A Best Picture non-contender probably isn't going to get its Director a win. A Director frontrunner is more likely to pull his (or her) film in with him (or her). And Dennis Bee isn't here anymore to remind us, but it bears repeating: Never bet on the split. Even though we've seen several in the past few years, splits are never expected--always surprising, usually the result of a Best Picture contender that was overestimated and faltered in one of the two biggest categories, but sometimes from an underestimated contender, or a chaotic race.




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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:48 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I can't speak to the artistic merits, but I will say The Messenger is in even more dire territory -- its full gross is barely over half a million (and it's not simply from release limitations; the film's per-screen is also extremely low). I haven't got time to do the research, but how many acting nominations have come from films so sparingly seen?

Ah, but more AMPAS members have seen The Messenger than can be gleaned from per-screen averages. It was the first film sent out on screeners this year. Since it arrived before the glut chances are a lot of recipients popped into their players as soon as they received it.

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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:16 pm

I've had a few stray thoughts about where we stand right now. Given that they don't fall comfortably into any previous thread topics, I thought I'd just throw them all together here.

The field is starting to take better-than-vague shape. What I'm looking at is: Up in the Air has the look of a hit -- based on early numbers, and given the Olympics-aided length of Oscar season, I could see it doing 100 million. And it's surely going to be a best picture nominee. Inglourious Basterds is also a likely best picture contender, and it's got $120 million in the bank. Up made twice that (don't have the exact figure), and will almost surely get a best picture nod. Avatar may well outearn them all, and it, too, should turn up among the final contenders. On top of that, we'll have Sandra Bullock, nominated for a $200 million smash, Meryl Streep contending for best actress for a just-short-of-$100 million grosser, star names like George Clooney, Morgan Freeman and possibly Matt Damon on the lists. All of this will give Entertainment Tonight and its ilk plenty to promote, and I'd guess the result will be a show far more watched than last year's. Following which, those Academy folk who made the change to 10 will proclaim, See, we were right: we expanded the field and brought in an audience. They'll never acknowledge that most of this -- I'd say everything except Up as best picture -- would have happened WITHOUT the expansion. (Pressed today, I'd have Avatar, Basterds, Up in the Air, Precious and Hurt Locker as the slate of five) The Academy could have got back its mojo without sacrificing its tradition, if they'd only shown a little patience.

Yes, I'm thinking Hurt Locker would have been a nominee, not just lone director -- much the way voters let cute little Atlatic City run alongside behemoths like Raiders and on Golden Pond 28 years ago. But the point Damien made yesterday really can't be ignored: Hurt Locker, especially given its critical push, has been a shocking financial failure. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: three years ago, Rex Reed openly mocked NY's choice of United 93 as "the movie nobody saw" -- but United 93 outgrossed Hurt Locker by about 2 1/2 to 1. Jeff Wells is waging the silly argument that the Academy would be somehow choosing to vote against a film they thought deserving simply because it didn't measure up in commercial terms. But that's looking at it backwards. The reason a film fails to connect commercially is generally that significant portions of the audience simply don't respond to it. I long ago learned to live with the fact that just because I adored a movie doesn't mean everyone will. And the Academy, as Damien said -- at least partly because it includes tech artisans, but also because of its executives, and a percentage of actors who simply have poor taste --will reflect the national average more than a collection of film critics or even film bloggers will. Hurt Locker's extraordinarily low gross makes its winning best picture an impossible dream, unless all laws of precedent are repealed. (Best director it might be able to manage, but we've seen in the last decade that voters have finally proven able to seaparte those awards, at least on ocaasion)

Also along the commercial line…I see a lot of folk are now promoting Harrelson, and some Morton, for supporting nominations for The Messenger. I can't speak to the artistic merits, but I will say The Messenger is in even more dire territory -- its full gross is barely over half a million (and it's not simply from release limitations; the film's per-screen is also extremely low). I haven't got time to do the research, but how many acting nominations have come from films so sparingly seen?

Someone reminded me the other day that Jeff Bridges has now been connected to the Oscars since his first nomination 39 years ago. What struck me was the realization that this is the first time he's actually IN it. Those who weren't around may not realize, but, though he made an impression in Last Picture Show, Bridges' nomination came as something of a surprise (all the heat had been on ultimate winner Johnson; there wasn't the split focus like Burstyn and Leachman received). And even less expected was his Thunderbolt and Lightfoot nod three years later. I read later there'd been a campaign, but, honestly, on nominations day, when I saw his name, I had to ask, For what? His later nods, for Starman and The Contender, were at least subjects of discussion, but in each case he was a borderline candidate, with no shot at an ultimate win. This year, with an LA win and a NY runner-up, he's clearly in the race. And, boy, he wants it -- I can't ever recall seeing him promoting something the way he is this, even showing up on the Today Show to pretend he takes the Golden Globes seriously.

I see there's already a lot of pre-angst over Streep's possible winning this year. I'll risk scorn by saying, though it's not something I'm eagerly awaiting (I haven’t seen a best actress candidate who's blown me away this year), I'd be fine with it. I'd in fact far prefer it to her winning last year for Doubt -- a performance I enjoyed, but chiefly as a goof. Her Julia Child wasn't on a par with her greatest creations, but it seemed to me better in the spirit of the surrounding film than Sr. Aloysius. Given the choice this decade, I'd probably most prefer she'd won for Devil Wears Prada (Adaptation was better work, but I think it'd be absurd for a leading lady like Streep to have 2/3 of her Oscars be in support). And it's worth noting that Streep's work these days tends to be more in films like Julia or It's Complicated (or, god help us, Mamma Mia!). In her first years on film, she worked with Oscar legends (Allen, Cimino, Benton, Nichols) or overseas auteurs (Reisz, Schepisi, Babenco), but these days, it's mostly Frankel and Ephron and Meyers. (It recalls Spencer Tracy's lament in the 60s -- If I'm the greatest American actor, howcome only Stanley Kramer'll hire me?) Julie and Julia is what Streep DOES these days. So I can live with a win there.

That's all for now. Feel free to add your own various insights.


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