As Munich continues on its path of disintegration (awards-wise) the blame game has started. Usually this sort of thing happens after Oscar nominations are announced. [Perhaps Universal is bracing for an even more visible shutout than some are predicting?] This same thing happened to a degree with Cold Mountain which was supposed to be the only competition for Return of the King in 2003 and wound up with plenty of nominations but no Best Picture slot. Back then the Brothers Weinstein (of former Miramax glory) blamed it on not enough voters having seen the film and it looks like Munich's backers are experimenting with the same excuse with this film's fate.
But here's a thought for studio finger pointers: If you made the movie and it's a huge high profile one by an A list director and not some itty-bitty arthouse thing --it's your fault that awards voters are not watching the movie in time. They would definitely be willing to see it. They don't need cajoling to sit through it like they sometimes due with underdog fare (like, say, Junebug). It's your fault for rushing it. It's your fault for not getting the screeners out in time. It's your fault. Your fault. What's more if you know (as you seem to) that it's the type of film that requires real grappling with the issues it raises, what the hell are you doing raising the issues just days before people are supposed to vote? (Oscar ballots went out very shortly after Munich's opening). Movies that need to be thoroughly digested usually fare better if you give people time to chew.
These other movies in play for awards? They didn't try to hide themselves until the last minute. This message has been brought to you by Nathaniel's monotonous annual desire to see movies receive proper releases whenever they happen to arrive at a final print rather than ill-advised "peek-a-boo" Oscar tactics. The same goes for The New World. Much as I love the movie, they really ought to disqualify it for nominations since they've altered it post qualifying release, which is technically against the Oscar rules.
The overall take-away message for studios and their Oscar tacticians
Quit trying to get around the system. Quit trying to control the response more than is normal. Yes, you're suppose to help people to like your product. Yes, you're PR teams are supposed to guide perception. But there comes a time when you just let the chips fall where they may. Release your precious movie only after it's finished, do the publicity you're supposed to do, screen it for the critics early like you're supposed to, let people talk about the movie like they're supposed to (you do want audiences to be involved in the moviegoing experience, right?), and let the chips fall where they may. Above all should your movie receive less than glowing response, suck it up. Nobody respects a finger pointer. Just ask Oliver Stone, still trying to blame Alexander's reception on everything but his own moviemaking.
All that said Munich remains a wildcard in the Oscar race. Possibly only A History of Violence is more puzzling to predict in terms of how AMPAS will embrace or reject. Spielberg's examination of the retaliatory assassinations could have a major nomination haul or a total shut-out. We shall see in less than a week.