Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the Valley of The Valley of

Even if you dread another Paul Haggis (Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby) centric night at the Oscars it will have no bearing on the AMPAS reaction to his new film In the Valley of Elah, a film about the father of an Iraq war vet who goes missing. Take all forthcoming buzz you hear (good & bad) with a healthy dollop of cool analytical distance. It's the only way to make it through the 5-ish months of Oscar buildup and release. I've learned this from years of obsessing even though I sometimes still trip on my emotions. Take deep breaths. No matter how much we may love or hate a thing... We're no Professor X. We can't telepathically bend the will of 6,000 members of the Academy to our the correct way of thinking.

Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere has already come out as Elah's first big Oscar pundit cheerleader. I'm hearing considerably less enthusiasm from an industry reader who I know has seen it (he wishes to remain anonymous) and he wasn't at all averse to it going in. He thinks the screenplay is strong but that the movie fails to capitalize on it. Like Wells, he feels confident that Tommy Lee Jones is in the shortlist [my current Actor predictions] --going so far in our conversation as to compare Jones' film carrying work with a few very recent Oscar winners. Elsewhere, no pun intended, he doesn't see the film getting very far feeling that it comes up lacking in impact. Charlize Theron, though solid, has no character arc or 'Oscar scene' and he shares the early bird concern about Sarandon's grieving mother performance: very moving but too little screentime for Oscar traction.

I haven't seen the film but I'm personally feeling good about Susan Sarandon as a shortlister [I'll soon move her up on my Supporting Actress page], screentime be damned. If a perfomer is well liked enough, a glorified cameo can do the trick (Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwhich Village anyone?). Backgrounded roles can have big impact on voters if actors nail a memorable scene (Miranda Richardson, Damage anyone? Or try winners like Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love or Beatrice Straight in Network).

Other than the very strange and unfortunate case of her snubbing for Bull Durham (1988, seriously what happened there: big juicy comeback, best performance to date from an acclaimed actor, critically hailed hit film) Sarandon has been very well looked after by Oscar voters since the early days of her career when she got a surprise Lead nomination for Atlantic City (1981) --she had campaigned as supporting. Since that time Sarandon has been nominated for most of her statue friendly work. Grieving mothers are an ancient and effective 'Oscar Bait' staple. It's early but I think she's probably in.

What's your gut telling you about In the Valley of Elah and its Oscar chances and/or quality? Or are you more excited for the other political hot buttons coming out: The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs or The Kite Runner.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

My gut's telling me that this will be the most Oscar-friendly out of all the "Iraq" films coming out this season. I like the cast here, so I don't mind that too much. I also don't hate Paul Haggis with the strength of a thousand suns the way that most seem to. I'm looking forward to seeing this film from what the trailer offered. I hope that it delivers.

J.D. said...

I'm positively indifferent towards Paul Haggis. It seems Iraq and the Middle east-orientated, not direct like The Kingdom or The Kite Runner, the latter of which I have high hopes for. The former I could care less about. It seems like a weird and stupid combo of Syriana and a Second war version of Jarhead

Rendition will be incredible. It. Will. [twitches]

Lions for Lambs looks like it might be good, but even with Redford and Streep, the whole Tom Cruise part will hurt it with the critics and awards organizations and the public and box office and just people seeing it at all... Eep.

Atonement will be the Best Picture of 2007. I swear it'll go down that road, don't you?

vince said...

imdb's daily question the other day asked for the September release you're most looking forward to. Not that it's an indicator of anything, but "Elah" came up somewhere in the middle of a very long list with a very small percentage.

Anyway, I was thinking of Beatrice Straight too before you mentioned her.

As far at Sarandon's "Durham" performance, Roger Ebert said that she probably would have gotten nominated over Melanie Griffith had "Durham" been released later that year. But, considering it was a film about baseball , I think that the summer release was appropriately timed.

1988 was just such a crazy wonderful actressexual year. I read yesterday that Shirley MacLaine is the only actress ever to win a best lead actress Golden Globe for a performance the AAMPS never nominated. But, that Globe win was part of a three way tie.

NATHANIEL R said...

maybe it meant best lead drama actress? because the comedy winners often get shunned

but yeah 88 is divine

Anonymous said...

yes but maclaine still won,88 was so rich judy davis,jamie lee curtis,barbara hershey,gena rowlands and esp maggie smith in the lonely passion of judith herne nat if you have not seen thin perf by the dame check it out it tops her gosford park work easy.

as for itvoe i too think this is the one oscar will go for and with jones also in the new coen bros fil mwill only help him he's been i nthe wilderness these last few years his carrer seemed to flatline after 00 they like to welcome back the previous winners,theron will sit thiso ne out i think her role is not a typical oscar tpe role and in some reviews i have red she is slightly miscast but 07 is looking like a weak year to me,sarandon & jones teaming up again will also help esp sarandon whom ifeel oscar is itching to let back in ,like you nat i feel shes in already,you dont need babs of screen time to get the nod.

Anonymous said...

Now, if I have to have to read the phrase "too little screentime" in connection with Susan Sarandon one more time I think I'll scream. (I feel the same way in regards to Holly Hunter...oh I could just be here all damn day.) A great actress and you don't use her? Why because she's over the age of 35 and not cute and taut anymore? Sheesh.

It seems like after "Dead Men Walking" and that Oscar her career just disappeared - it's been mostly supporting stuff (mothers) and dreck like The Banger Sisters ever since. (She was so out of place in that film - working against her natural warmth and sensuality.) The rare exception is "Igby Goes Down" and yes, she played a mother and it was a supporting role, but the script and the film were excellent and she was so damn good, bringing pathos, bitchiness and humor...

Elah? I couldn't give a hoot in heck. Just so long as sentiment does not allow it to steamroll over better films.

RedSatinDoll

Nick Davis said...

No particular ESP about this. I'm with Anon up top: I don't dislike Paul Haggis, and I'm actually sort of interested to see this, especially for Jones, even though I doubt I'll be bowled over.

Also, Tommy Lee has indeed been flailing around, but I expect he was focused pretty heavily on making (and financing) The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which almost nobody wound up seeing because it was released so stupidly. But see it! Great movie, and by far Guillermo Arriaga's best script since Amores perros.

Tony Goes said...

What happened in 1988? Too many good performances form actresses, not enough slots. Remember, that was the year that both Sigourney and Glenn were robbed by Jodie. Thankfully, Susan was awarded further down the line; S. and G. are still bridesmaids.

Ben said...

I'm extremely hesitant about Elah. It looks... like it has the possibility to be fine, but also terrible. (I find it amusing that Haggis, a white Canadian, made a film about racism and now America... But whatever, make films about whatever you want.)

I hope Rendition emerges the best of the bunch, just because it's got a cast I like best out of all of them (Streep, Gyllenhaal, Witherspoon, Arkin, AND Sarsgaard?! My cup runneth over!) Plus, Witherspoon's one of my picks on the Actress contest, so... Well, there's that. :-D

And J.D.: I see Atonement going the route of a more successful Dreamgirls. I.e., the same kind of hype, but it'll probably live up better and wind up with the most nominations but also Pic and Director.

Anonymous said...

Atonement reminds me more of Cold Mountain than Dreamgirls - popular novel, wartime love story, outlaw lead. It's looks dazzling, but it will need to be great, not just good.

Elah and Rendition are in direct competition with each other for the Iraq slot, and I don't think they will both be nommed. I don't consider The Kite Runner in the same vein - it's mostly foreign actors and it's not as political.

John T said...

I'm dreading this, partially because I think it will do well with the Academy, and that will mean that the Oscar-fanatic in me will have to see it (Crash is the Best Picture nominee I most personally loath, and the script of Million Dollar Baby is, in my estimation, it's poorest element).

Anonymous said...

LOL. I knew it, some critics are calling Atonement BORING. It is being warmly received. I said that this will be the big HYPE movie and not be up to standards. LMAO.

Sorry Nat, but I had to do it, too many people were talking about it and I was getting sick of it.

amir_uk said...

Atonement's biggest problem is its hype machine. People seem to already be getting sick of it, and the film hasn't even opened yet.

Even as a strong admirer of the film, I'd concede that the almost too-strategic planning of the various release dates, the fawning articles that keep coming out of the Guardian, the multiple preview and 'gala' screenings across the UK - these will ultimately work against what is a great film.

People like to see an underdog go the whole hog, and Atonement just isn't an underdog anymore. The studio, director and others concerned with the film KNOW they have an awards magnet on their hands. The problem is, they haven't been humble enough, "oh really, our film is great, is it?" about it. I personally don't care much for humility anyway.

PS. Quite looking forward to Elah, myself (Theron/Sarandon bits anyway).

StinkyLulu said...

I too have no instinct on this. I've got a fond-spot for Elah despite its Haggis-ness. This week I'm loving the idea of shortshort Supporting Actress noms.

But the reasons for my early fondness for Elah.

1: A really talented former student of mine has a tiny part, with a number of other students in bitsy roles.

2: Elah provided the occasion of my only real world Susan Sarandon sighting. (In first class on NYC-ABQ flight, in the row behind Parker Posey and Alessandro Nivola. Talk about cups runnething...)

Barry said...

I'm excited for In the Valley of Elah only because I liked Crash a lot. Paul Haggis isn't as bad as what people can make him out to be (did that make sense?)

Anyways, I want to see Rendition over Lions for Lambs. The latter has Tom Cruise in it and I can't stand him. It's good that Meryl Streep is in both of them.

Stephen G said...

My gut feeling also is that Elah will be the most Oscar-friendly of the Iraq bunch. Anne Thompson saw it and also praised Jones and Sarandon. But I guess the Academy have got to get tired of Haggis sooner or later, so who knows?

Funny how an actress can get nominated multiple times until their win seems long overdue. And then they have an uphill battle to get noticed again. Would be great to see Sarandon make the lists once more.

But it's weird how there is often a former winner actress who gets talked about at the start of Oscar season, gets a mention or two but never the Oscar nom. I'm thinking of perfs like Cloris Leachman in Spanglish, Sarandon in Igby or Moonlight Mile, Emma Thompson in Stranger than Fiction, Maclaine in In Her Shoes, Clayburgh in Running with Scissors.

Chinese Odyssey said...

A possible comeback of Susan is the only thing that get me excited.

My expectation for "Charlie Wilson's War" got a bit higher than the others after reading the screenplay.

NATHANIEL R said...

Stephen G --definitely a good point there. I may be overreaching. that list is very convincing that snagging the nom isn't easy. Even for past nominees.

amir_uk said...

The trailer for Rendition looks so cool though. As in coolly shot - for some reason its the word that most springs to mind. Looking forward to it the most out of the politicals this year.

Anonymous said...

I was kind of expecting this reaction for Atonement, I mean the more you hype the movie the more people will be like ..mehh!!!!!!!!!

Thats me wiping off the movie from my front runner list.

Matt said...

Guess it's always hard to spot the comedies/non-drama/non-biopics this far out...but looking at the possibilities for picture - yikes! we're gunna need something light.

i think sasha stone might be on to something by thinking Once might be the little engine that could (i mean...a globe nod m/c seems at least capable at this point, yes?).

as for Elah - meh. i'm not particularly interested in any of the "frontrunners" (i'm sure buzz, awards, and reviews will change that...but most of them just aren't my kind of movies - a lot of them seem like CNN meets Lifetime mediocrity).

Arkaan said...

What's your gut telling you about In the Valley of Elah and its Oscar chances and/or quality?

My gut tells me it's better for my soul if I don't predict a Haggis film for quality honours, as he has singlehandledly destroyed possibly great films (Million Dollar Baby) and brought down mediocre films to the level of terrible pap (Flags of our Fathers, Crash)

Or are you more excited for the other political hot buttons coming out: The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs or The Kite Runner.

You know, not really. My two favourite films from 2006 were Children of Men and Iraq in Fragments, and Munich was one of my top three of 2005, so I really like political films, but none of these appeal to me. Either the directors haven't shown a great deal of talent, or the trailers have been unexpectedly bad. Plus, Hollywood is always nervous when it comes to politics.

rural juror said...

Charlize hags it up....how can she NOT get nominated. She has brown hair and looks washed out.


Seriously, though, I do want to see what Sarandon does b/c I love that woman.

MadHatter said...

Paul Haggis and Susan Sarandon.
It's like the perfect storm.
They couldn't ham it up more if they cast Catherine O Hara's character from For Your Consideration.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I've been predicting Sarandon since the start of March. If she's good then I'd love her to make a comeback of sorts. Last weekend I saw her in this bizarre Australian movie called Irresistible with Sam Neill and Emily Blunt. Utterly ridiculous.

"Atonement's biggest problem is its hype machine. People seem to already be getting sick of it, and the film hasn't even opened yet."

I would say that the film is only hyped my internet savvy movie bloggers and not so much by your casual moviegoer, which are the ones that every romance must target if they wanna make a hit.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Wells also blogged that Rendition is more commercial fare, and not the Oscar bait movie people thought it would be. Good news for me, I loved her in Walk the Line and Legally Blonde, but can no longer stand her. What's with her ridiculous screaming in the trailer?

Anonymous said...

can i just say that 13 out of the last 20 oscar winning performances lead & supp from 2000 - 2006 were for playing real people so when predicting always start with those playing real people alive or dead.

Anonymous said...

in response esp best actress 00,02,03,05,06 all played real people quite frankly i ma bored of it esp if blanchett wins for the golden age.

Carl said...

I am ambivalent on "the Valley of Elah", though eager to see it. I am just as ambivalent about Paul Haggis - hated "Million Dollar Baby", loved "Crash" (sorry, folks), so I know this one could end up anywhere on my top or bottom ten lists this year.

The participation of Haggis may not matter, though, for Tommy Lee Jones. This role is squarely in his wheelhouse. The last time he was this perfectly cast was as Lt. Sam Gerard in "The Fugitive"...and we know how that ended up. He could even draw the same lead/supporting double that Cate Blanchett is being touted for, except that his Supporting nod would be for "No Country for Old Men". Playing an officer of the law on the trail of a wanted man. Sound familiar?

Marshall said...

Just tell me he's OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!

rural juror said...

"Just tell me he's OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!"

I really hope that works better in the movie than it does in the trailer....