Recently Kris Tapley name checked me in a post on his blog about the possible revival of Cinderella Man in this year's Oscar race. So, since he shouted me out and my take on the situation is very different than his, I thought I'd respond. But before I get into this just a quick note: My negative feelings about its chances are not box office or release date related. Surprised? You will be if you've been paying attention. These are the two issues that normally come up in any discussion about why this movie is dead. But these are not the primary reasons why I think the film will have trouble. [Disclaimer: I have not seen this film. I see a lot of movies so its odd that I didn't. But I will catch it on DVD when it is released at the start of awards season. ]
Recently Sasha Stone of Oscar Watch published an article on the contenders so far and Oscar's short-term memory. I do not believe that Oscar's memory is as short as all other Oscar prognosticators seem to believe. I've done the research and years like 2002 when all Best Pictures come from December are much rarer than people think. The last time it happened prior to 2002 was in 1988. Statistics tell us that it's something like 2.3 of the nominees each year from from December. So 2 or 3 a year. And virtually every year has acting nominees that arrived prior to the fall movie season and each and every year people forget that when making their predictions.
But Sasha's article does bring up a point that I think is very relevant to the Cinderella discussion. Her article mentions the 'sexy vote factor' --the need for what you're writing on your ballot to seem fresh, kicky, sexy to you. Why do you want to see a film or a performance recognized unless you're a little in love? This is, theoretically speaking, a reason why so many Oscar nominees are late year releases. The voters are still excited by their new dates. The passion hasn't gone out of the marriage yet. And this is my main problem with buying into the belief that Cinderella Man will resurface in a major way. Who would consider voting for it as something kicky and fresh to do?
This may seem suspect coming from me. I know. I have taken flack for dissing Crowe and dissing Renee and dissing Ron Howard in previous Oscar races. But I am no longer alone in these feelings. The media does not stay in love with celebrities forever. Usually there is a shelf life factor, an expiration date. The biggest and best stars have comebacks but that is a different story for another day. Neither Crowe, who has exhausted many of his supporters with rage-aholic outbursts, nor Zellweger, who is experiencing a tailspin of her own have been in trouble long enough to experience "comebacks". They have never gone away. They are basically just entering the rocky road portion that often follows excessive spotlighting (2000 to 2004 for both of them). They are fixtures of the red carpet who haven't been model citizens (see: Tom Hanks) so it's natural that fatigue of sorts will set in among both media and audiences (and I count the Academy as a unique fusion of these two general entities with many of the same likes and dislikes).
So how would a huge movie about boxing (the genre of the last winner 2004) directed by Ron Howard (winner 2001), who is old-fashioned enough aesthetically to never really have a sexy factor going for him, Russell Crowe (winner 2000) and Renée Zellweger (winner 2003)... combined seem fresh --an exciting thing to vote for? Then, once you add in all the problems that the movie had this summer (box office/pr). Well, it seems like an uphill battle. A very steep one. What could be exciting for Oscar voters about returning to 2000,2001, 2003, and 2004 while they're voting at the end of 2005? Even the Golden Globes, which tend to give celebrities longer consecutive runs than Oscar, eventually move on to someone new. Someone sexier. Someone more [insert number of New Year here]. Hear me?
If Cinderella Man's campaign team can pull this off, it will be one of the most amazing worthy-of-worship-and-raises Oscar campaigns ever, but it will still result in zero Oscar wins in March. Oscar voters are only human. Even if their old affections resurface, they're not going home with any of these previous partners on Oscar night. Everyone knows it. So, what's sexy about voting for a seat-filler as opposed to a potential winner? My theory: Oscar voters will be interested in pursuing new love interests this year.