Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oscar's Labyrinth

How many statues can Pan's Labyrinth take home on Sunday night? That is the question.

When it comes to foreign language films you often see a correlation between Oscar success and domestic box office. The awards correlation is much stronger than it is with English language pictures. Those don't need to be regarded as hits to have a big awards profile (think Little Children, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Babel this year alone) though it obviously doesn't hurt.

For a foreign film anything between $3 - 9 million at the US box office is definitely in the 'big hit' category since at least 80% of the subtitled films never reach the $1 million mark. Films from this decade in that range include Amores Perros, Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, Bad Education, The Barbarian Invasions, Caché (Hidden), City of God, Downfall, Goodbye Lenin!, Maria Full of Grace, Talk to Her and Nowhere in Africa -- several of which were Oscar nominated.

The 'smash hits' are the ones that end up cracking the 8 figure barrier. Recent films that've lept that big hurdle for subtitled pictures are House of Flying Daggers, The Motorcycle Diaries, Volver and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Films that get this big despite requiring literacy in American moviegoers are almost always rewarded with Oscar nominations unless they're action flicks (Kung Fu Hustle or Brotherhood of the Wolf) ineligible (Hero) or named Monsoon Wedding ($13 million but still ignored by AMPAS).

Once a foreign flick nabs multiple Oscar nominations they can usually get even bigger. These are the ones that end up in the multiplexes: Il Postino ($10 million before nominations. $21 by the end of its run) Life is Beautiful ($18 before nominations, $57 in total) Pan's Labyrinth this year had just broken the 8 figure mark before its nominations were announced. Now it's as big as an Amélie (in the $30+ range) but still not the behemoth that the champ Crouching Tiger was ($60 million before nominations. $128 by the end of its run)

blah blah blah box office blah blah...

Point being: the big obstacle for Pan's Labyrinth is not subtitles (once you reach a certain saturation point you're not "foreign" anymore --just a regular old hit movie) but its genre. Lord of the Rings aside, Oscar voters are often immune to the charms of the fantastical outside of say, special effects and makeup. But Pan's is a crowdpleaser. Could it be a powerhouse on Sunday night? Could it actually win the most Oscars? It's more probable than it sounds.

Let's look at the six categories:

Original Screenplay
This would be a major get but it's the only statue that seems truly out of reach. It's hard to imagine Best Picture nominees like Babel, Little Miss Sunshine or The Queen letting a fantasy film overtake them.
Verdict:
Very unlikely

Art Direction
In this category Pan's major competitor is Dreamgirls but my guess (and hope) is that enough voters will feel that John Myhre was already rewarded for the stage & curtains razzle dazzle when he won for Chicago and will be too wowed by Pan's memorable set construction to pass it up in this category.
Verdict:
Pan's is the frontrunner. But vulnerable.

Cinematography
If any film in this category can defeat Emmanuel Lubezki's virtuoso work on Children of Men, it's this doubled fantasy world. But let's hope Lubezki, a world class DP, holds on to his momentum after his recent cinematography guild win and is finally Oscared on his fourth nomination. Lubezki is a true rarity. He can get nominated even if the film housing his work isn't anywhere near the Best Picture race. In fact, none of his nominations have come from Best Pictures. This award should and probably will land in his talented hands.
Verdict: Pan's is a possible spoiler.

Original Score
Scoring is often a difficult category to predict. Babel seems to empty of original material to deserve the statue (will voters notice that the music they're responding too is not the original score itself). Notes' music is probably too divisive (as Phillip Glass scores often are)
Verdict: It's a squeaker. Will Pan's memorable haunted lullaby carry it past The Queen or the umpteenth chance to honor Thomas Newman (for The Good German this time)?

Foreign Film
It's high profile and those multiple nominations in other categories ensure that they'll take it very seriously. But Amélie also had that advantage and lost to a more sober film No Man's Land. Germany's entry The Lives of Others could go the distance but I'm guessing Pan's holds on because it's not "light". It doesn't have the comedy working against them taking it seriously.
Verdict: Pan's is the frontrunner

Make-Up
The makeup creations of Pan, the Pale Man (pictured) and that Black Dahlia-esque injury on the evil Captain (Sergi Lopez) ought to fend off Pan's only real challenger, the prosthetic gore and theatrical face and body paint of Apocalypto.
Verdict: Pan's is the frontrunner

I may regret this but as of this writing I'm predicting that Pan's Labyrinth will nab the most (or tied for the most) statues of the night with a minimum of three and a maximum of four wins.

28 comments:

Joseph said...

I think Pan's Labyrinth will definitely win score. Too many people are underestimating it. It's foreign, Spanish and has some war-time Schindler's List type vibes to it at times as well. I'm also predicting make-up and foreign film. I might predict it for Art Direction as well.

Sid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sid said...

I dunno Nat. The fact that people who have seen all the five nominees can only vote for Foreign Language Film seems like an advantage for The Lives of Others. If members were voting merely based on buzz -- Pan's would get it. I'm just guessing that anyone who sees The Lives of Others (which will be everyone who votes) is going to feel a strong urge to vote for that movie -- it's more "important" and it's an equally good film. Also, it does have pretty spectacular reviews. The race is really tight.

Anonymous said...

Hero was nominated. It just wasn't released then. Somehow Miramax crapped up that release and didn't get here for another two years.

NATHANIEL R said...

that's right. sorry it was ineligible during it's release year or else it probably would have gotten some technical nominations

Carl said...

I still think (as posted on an earlier thread) that "Apocalypto" has so many performers in credible prostheses and paint at one time in such hostile (to make-up durability) environments that the pure scope of the achievement will get recognized. (Assuming enough voters see it.)

Beau said...

It could win any of those and I'd be happy.
Well, except Cinematography. Everything this year pales in comparison to Lubezki's brilliance.

Anonymous said...

The comparison Amelie-Pan's is kinda absurd. Amelie wasn't a real frontrunner in any category (not even in foreign film after it lost the Golden Gobe) unlike Pan, which is frontrunner in several categories.

This year Pan's labyrinth has more advantages to win foreign film: box office, critics support, the multiple nods also help (remember Fanny & Alexander) and the National Society of Film Critics for best picture could be a real help in the end

Anonymous said...

I'd rank Navarette fourth among the musicians in terms of actually deserving the award. PAN has a definite weakness in the score department relative to Newman, Desplat and Glass's work, but as this is the same body that gave the awards to LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and IL POSTINO, I'd say there's a strong chance he has it.

Anonymous said...

I hope Pan's Labyrinth win all awards.
For me, it is best film of the year. A masterpiece.

JavierAG said...

I think in the context of the Oscar categories "Pan's" truly has the best art direction, makeup and score, and by quite a distance at that. However, the foreign films that won the most Oscars in the past were "Fanny and Alexander" and "Crouching Tiger", with 4 each (including Foreign Film), and those had at least Best Director nominations (Crouching was also BP nommed).

NATHANIEL R said...

anonymous --i'm not sure why the Amelie comparison is absurd? films with fantastical elements which are global successes with very similar US box office (so far) and nearly identical Oscar profiles: multiple nominations (4 of them in the exact same categories) ...

what's absurd? I'm not saying their identical films of course that'd be just silly but so far very similar in their journey

Peter Nellhaus said...

Just a thought here - with Spanish language films, US distributors get a potential two-fer. A film first plays for the art and indie crowd, and also plays the Spanish language theater circuit before possibly playing in the multiplexes.

Arkaan said...

I think make-up and art direction is in the bag. I think that score is probable (one advantage that Pan's has is that it has a great, memorable theme. The Good German doesn't, despite being wall-to-wall music; nor does The Queen. The majority of recent winners have great, memorable themes). That said, if a memorable theme loses, it loses to a film with a lot of music (Notes and German) or to someone who's overdue (German).

As for foreign film - I think The Lives of Others is gonna take it. While it doesn't have the comedic elements, I think the fact that it's so strongly fantastic will register negatively and give the sober, intelligent Cold War drama the edge it needs to slip by.

Screenplay is out and I agree that it's a darkhorse spoiler for cinematography, but I think Lubezki will pull it out in the end.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I've always been very wary of Pan's Labyrinth in tge Foreign Language Film category. There are marks against it and it's foolish to not see that (I've been making the Amelie comparison all along, it definitely fits). But I think it's war themes and it's child-adult relationshipness (?) will put it across the line from The Lives of Others.

I think if voters are voting for Pan's in Art Direction and Score and so on then they'll just naturally vote for it in Foreign Language, too.

I do think it will be win the most on the night by taking Foreign Language, Art Direction (it really oughta take it), Original Score and Make-Up.

I would say it is definitely a spoiler for Cinematography, but it is just as free of widescreen vistas as Children of Men is. If it somehow gets Original Screenplay, that'll be huge.

Michael said...

THE GOOD GERMAN doesn't have a memorable theme? That love theme alone, with its bitonal construction, is one of the best thematic ideas in film music this year.

PAN'S LABYRINTH's memorable theme, sadly, sounds a little like 'Mary had a little lamb' in a minor key...

Arkaan said...

I like The Good German quite a bit and enjoyed Newman's music a lot, but for sheer knocking-round-the-brain memory, Pan's Labyrinth has it beat (think Pleasantville AND The Thin Red Line losing to Life is Beautiful). I would vote for Newman of this line-up, though.

Arkaan said...

If it gets original screenplay OVER FOUR BEST PICTURE NOMINEES, history would've been made.

daveylow said...

I think Pan could win Foreign Film, Art Direction, and Makeup. I don't think it can win the score category-The Queen and Babel have a much better chance. I don't think the Academy really loves Glass, even though they like to nominate him. I was surprised when he didn't win for The Hours. Even though The Good German is a haunting score, I think Newman should have been nominated for Little Children. I don't think the Academy will reward Newman because TGG was such a bomb.

etslee said...

Just saw The Lives of Others, it deserves the Oscar for best foreign film. Hell, maybe the best of film of 2006.

RC said...

i love the prediction...

we'll watch and see what happens for sure!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Arkaan, don't remind us of that horrible injustice!

I'm surprised Nat never really made a big thing on the fact that four BP nominees are contemporary and four BP nominees have original screenplays.

Sid said...

Also -- I think Pan's will take Original Score. Foreign films (and composers) have done well in that category for a long time now.

Anonymous said...

Pan's Labyrinth is too dark (literally and figuratively) and gratuitously violent. The characterizations are thin and stereotypical. Makeup Award yes, but "The Lives of Others" is the more classic film with stunning performances, terrific writing and set design, not just special effects, and which in 10 years will still be considered the winner of the category.

Anonymous said...

I'm suprised no one has mentioned another non-best picture nominee that could easily win the most awards of the evening: Dreamgirls. While its only true lock is supporting actress, it is near the top of the heap in virtually every other category in which it is nominated. Eddie is by no means a lock for best supporting actor- but he is considered the frontrunner- if only by an inch. After that, Dreamgirls has a pretty good shot at best sound and a decent shot at Costume design and Song. In art direction, I would say that it is only second (in terms of how the academy may vote) to Pan's Labyrinth. It COULD conceivably win every category it's nominated for: a total of six. Now do I think it will win six? No, I don't think it was respected that much by the Academy. But, it does have a strong possibility to have the most wins- or at least tie for the most with around 4.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Dreamgirls and Pan's could easily end up with the higher totals, besting all BP contenders.

Gotta say, I switched my iTunes over the US version (I can't purchase anything, but I can listen to the samples) and am going through the score of The Good German... I am loving it. I kind of wish Newman had a chance, but I really don't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

Bet365.com are offering odds on the film to win the most oscars. They go 6/4 Dreamgirls, 5/2 Pans Labyrinth, 7/2 The Departed, 6/1 Babel, 16/1 Pirates 2, 20/1 The Queen and 20/1 Little Miss Sunshine.

Alex Billington said...

Am I the only one that doesn't think it will take score? Don't get me wrong, it probably deserves it, but I think the likelihood that either Babel or even Notes on a Scandal will win is much, much higher than Pan's Labyrinth unfortunately. I could be wrong... but I just don't think it'll win that one.

In the end I'm guessing it'll take home 4 of those 6, missing out on score and cinematography (which has to go to Children of Men).