Monday, October 24, 2005

Cinderella Man and Oscar Fatigue

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.


Anonymous said...

Your analysis makes perfect sense.

Gerard said...

Quite the post there, Nat!
That said, while you make a convincing argument, I only think it goes so far. Oscar voters are only "so" daring. I think the recent Oscarability (which can be bad or good for nominations but guarantees consideration) of its cast/crew, the "prestige" factor and the huge and gorgeous, campaign will mean that it can't not be considered.
Admittedly, such campaigns (Road to Perdition, Cold Mountain) can fail to get into BP. But both got many nominations (including acting nods) and a win each.
Further, Crash, for example, which you faith in, is so unlike any BP nominee I can ensemble piece taking place over 24 hours with no major stars and only two former nominees between its cast/crew (Cheadle, Haggis). Plus, LGF's films always do well at HFPA and completely stumble come Oscartime.
Do you really think Dillon (who has the problem of internal competition- his performance isn't like McKellen's in LOTR or Cruise's in Magnolia) is going to get in before Giamatti (Oscar-type role, no internal competition, way better studio, major snubbee last year and the sort of actor who fares better in this category)? Do you really think Cinderella Man is going to be shut out when Thomas Newman (favourite, doing the sort of stuff they like) and "due for first nominations" Wynn Thomas and Daniel Orlandi are on the tech crew doing "authentic" work?
I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but just...writing where my heart leads me. ;)
(And while I thought CM was okay and better than ABM, in no way did I think it was anywhere close to BP material).
Nevertheless, your post is interesting theory and indicative why I don't have the film in my top five...but in #7 and way higher than Crash.
It's certainly a contender.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for the most part, but as I said over on the other page, and I've said it on here before. I'll say it again. I still think (and never stopped) Cinderella Man has good shots in the tech categories (sound, cinematography and score - Thomas Newman as gerard said!) but in the major categories is where it'll stumble hardest.

I don't think they'll nominate Giamatti. Apparently they undeservedly snubbed him (er, I didn't think he was that great in Sideways. A schlub is a schlub is a schlub) and the Academy will think that they'll look like fools to nominate him now.

Plus, another thing I think that may hurt Cinderella Man. The DVD will be out long before nominations are announced! They won't even be able to put it on the box "Nominated for # Academy Awards - inc. Best Picture" or whatever. If Cold Mountain had been released in June I believe it still would have gotten some of those tech nods, but not much else.

And where you say about the whole sexy thing, that's why THAT arguement wouldn't hurt Crash, which I still have a very real feeling in. Nominating Crash would be considered a great move by the Academy. It's important and it's topical. It's a movie that incites passion and if there's enough academy members who have that passion for it they WILL nominate it. Plus, they can get Oprah to introduce a clip, cause Oprah would lap that stuff up like a kitty and a bowl of milk.

Cinderella Man would, I think, have a whole lot going "well, it WAS good, but..."

, or, that's my long-winded theory.

As I mentioned over at In Contention, I have a strange hunch about Crash. I just FEEL it's on a path for a big nomination. There'll probably still be residual love for M$B so Haggis could snag a renegade director spot or the pic could go all the way. I think I'm pretty much alone on that theory though.


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen a movie so simultaneously impressive and yet so utterly, utterly uninspiring in a long time.


Anonymous said...

BTW I'm talking, for clarification, about Cinderalla Man; NOT about Crash, which I loved, and which I agree has a very good shot.


JavierAG said...

Nat's take on the matter would seem to make perfect sense on a normal basis, but there's still the fact that many Oscar voters actually believe Crowe and Zellweger and Howard to be "hot" right now, even after their Oscar wins. "Cinderella Man" still has that factor going for it.

adam k. said...

Even if they WERE "hot" in reality, the oscar wins for all of them would dampen the prospects for the entire picture. Remember Contact? Remember Ripley (the film, not the iconic super-space-heroine)? I just don't think they'll be bothered to nominate Crowe, Z and RH. It's not sexy. But I don't think they're above giving an obvious mercy nom to Giammatti, and tech noms.

Joe R. said...

If AMPAS was so hot for Crowe, why no Best Actor nom for Master and Commander? If they love Howard so much, why no love for The Missing? They may indeed end up having love for CM (though I doubt it), but it's not like the major players here are all that chic anymore.


which is my point exactly. If this were 2001 or 2002 than maybe...

adam k. said...

For the record, I think Gwyneth can be added to the list of "well actually, they're not that well liked"s. We'll see how she does with Proof... even with those "better than Shakespeare in Love" reviews of hers.

Anonymous said...


Gwyneth's win was obviously a flow on effect from the film (she WAS excellent, as was the film). Whereas Proof is a completely different beast of burden.

Wordy character dramas about mathematics aren't the stuff of Oscars, which is why that one won't go anyway. I doubt though that Gwyneth's eventual non-nomination is a result of GWYNETH BACKLASH(!!!!!), just ya know, the film isn't the type that gets Oscars. Only someone like Meryl could've got a nod out of Proof methinks. And, obviously that was never gonna happen.


Anonymous said...

I reckon Mary Louise Parker would have snuck in for Proof, had she got the gig. I suspect that her's is a name the Academy will fall over themselves to include at the next available opportunity. It will be like a Johnny Depp, "we've-just-figured-out-we-love-her!" realisation.


Anonymous said...

Really? The problems with Proof on film were going to be there no matter who it starred.

It's not like the role in Proof is something like Captain Jack Sparrow.