Monday, November 07, 2005

True Faith or Generic Gullibility?

Every year about this time I start feeling like the sole voice of sanity. I know that's silly, boorish, and simplistic but here's why: Around about right now (first two weeks ofNovember) most people who talk about the Oscar race start trumpeting the studio lines even though they haven't seen the final batch of films and couldn't know the outcome.

Current exciteable memes that have no basis in fact:
That last minute voiceover addition to Memoirs of a Geisha has saved it -it's the epic nominee! The Producers really works. It's a giddy joy. It's the comedy nominee. Cinderella Man will resurge triumphantly in all categories! It's the early bird nominee. Munichis the absolute frontrunner -no worries, it's as great as we believed. Surprise attack -King Kong is a total epic triumph! It's the blockbuster nominee.

[ahem] That's 5 pictures right there enjoying immense hype o' the moment. This list would make the Best Picture lineup almost entirely Universal and almost entirely December. (Guess which studio is already working hardest to ramp up for awards season? You only get one guess.) Neither of those outcomes are statistically close to being "likely." Possible? Sure. Likely? No.

I'm not accusing any particular person that passes along these memes of being studio shills -many of my fellow movie writers are close to my heart. But it seems to me that every year the hype on the sight-unseen stuff reaches fever pitch in early November and nobody wants to do anything other than turn up its volume. Don't people know that before a film is screened, the studios control the buzz? Beforea film has screened there is no opinion of it that is anything other than speculative or, more commonly, simple sheep-like humming to PR tunes. No one not involved in the filmmaking could possibly know whether or not the studio memes are true. And many in the film industry would never tell anything other than great news--that's just basic professionalism and ethics. If you've seen the film, fine. If you haven't acknowledge (please) that this is all hype. Some hype will become real enthusiasm. Some will reveal itself to be pure fabrication.

Jarhead is having perception trouble now that it's open and won't do as well as expected Oscar-wise. This is very normal. In what year, ever has this not happened to some of the December hopefuls? And, yet, to hear the internet roar, you'd think every release in December was going to be an unqualified triumph. (Caveat: I know I probably err in the opposite direction, placing too much hope on earlier releases. I think I do that mostly out of principle, wishing Hollywood believed in releasing strong films all year long)

I hope you hear me on this one point. Not everything we hear in November about the movies that haven't yet been shown will turn out to be true once they have.


Anonymous said...

"I'm not accusing any particular person that passes along these memes of being studio shills..."

I will then.

It's either that or they are so caught up in cheering on THEIR film sight unseen (as if it is theirs anymore than a sports team belongs to its diehard fans) that they are blind to its true prospects.

Good post Nate.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I recall everyone thought The Shipping News was a dead cert Best Picture nominee right up to a week before it opened.


Anonymous said...

I have a question. I don't understand the bit about the last minute voiceover added to Memoirs of a Geisha. Didn't it always have a voiceover?


i don't know if always had a voiceover but they either added one or bulked it up considerably after test screenings and now its said to have "saved" the movie with audiences.

Anonymous said...

Well that doesn't sound too promising. I don't know why Rob Marshall feels like he has to put some type of buffer in his movies to make them "filmable." In Chicago, it was the musical-numbers-in-Roxie's-head deal (which worked), and now we have a voiceover (which hopefully works). Still, if these projects are too ambitious for him to come up with something more innovative, maybe he should choose a less problematic stint for his follow-up.

Anonymous said...

I'm more on a line up like Brokeback Mountain, The New World, Good Night and Good Luck, Memoirs of a Geisha and Match Point. 2 Oscar movies, the comeback of Woody, the critical fave with GNaGL, and Brokeback Mountain as the prestige movie and eventual winner.

Anonymous said...

"Still, if these projects are too ambitious for him to come up with something more innovative, maybe he should choose a less problematic stint for his follow-up."

I'm sorry Anonymous (grrr), but i give that comment a big ol' HUH?!

There are countless movies with voiceovers. Are they all now less-innovative? And you even say the Chicago numbers-in-Roxies-head thing worked. So.. why are you complaining.



It is incredibly silly they some people thing the BIG movies will all get nominated. There's always a smaller picture that gets nominated.

But, still, I don't begrudge people who have faith in those movies, just because you don't.

I have much more faith in, say, Crash or Pride & Prejudice than most, but I don't begrudge those who don't. I'd like everyone to be on the same wavelength, but they're not...


Anonymous said...

If King Kong is half as good as the preview looks and the hype would have you believe (and what reason do we have not to believe it, this is Peter Jackson)I think it will definitely garner a nomination and be one of the front-runners for BP. It's going to be a blockbuster no matter what it's quality is, and we all know how Oscar is a dirty little gold digger. Nathaniel, you are right to hold it off your list until we get some outside confirmation of its quality, but the moment that happens it has to get near the top of most people's lists.


i don't know. even if King Kong is great it's still a fantasy and a remake and a remake of a classic and it stars Jack Black and a big ape. i mean... i am just doubtful in almost every way. although I am certain that it has a better shot than the Producers, the continued buzz of which continues to baffle me.

Anonymous said...

To annonymous:

Well, yeah, movies with voiceovers usually follow a more traditional path...

Anonymous said...

Oh, god! The Anonymous' are talking to each other. It's all too anonymous for me.

One thing that hinders Kong's chance: It's not the 70s or 80s anymore! Movies don't get nominated just because they're great blockbusters anymore like, for instance, Jaws, Star Wars or Indiana Jones. They have to be like LOTR and be big epic dramatic human dramas as well. And I don't think King Kong (3 hour running time or not) will be all about the character arcs. Hell, even when they are (Spiderman 2) they still get ignored for BP. It's not like Sam Raimi wasn't a respected man or anything.

Is Peter Jackson turning into Steven Spielberg? The man who, whenever he has a new movie out, is immediately considered an Oscar front-runner.


adam k. said...

King Kong is getting nowhere near oscar. The trailer makes that plenty clear. Hey, Nathaniel said it all: fantasy, remake, Jack Black, big ape. Plus, Peter Jackson just won. Plus, the visual effects look kind of cheesy and cartoonish. I say sound editing and maybe visual f/x. That's it.

Also, the Producers, too - it looks bad. But I'm hopeful for uma. She's the only watchable thing in the trailer and I'm sure she'll be by far the best thing about the movie. She looks terriffic in it. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

See, I don't get where all this hatred towards The Producers is coming from? I knew Nat didn't too much like it on Broadway, but now it seems to have veered into outright disgust. And now it appears others think it as well.

I know I'm guilty of it aswell, but I sometimes thing film geeks are the worst offenders of hyperbole. IT'S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE!!! IT LOOKS LIKE ABSOLUTE TRASH!!! etc...

I'm having a reflective moment OKAY



I didn't "hate" the Producers so much as found it incredibly obvious, forced, and broad. I should note that I saw a replacement cast... so maybe that made a small difference. The lead was obviously doing an impersonation of Nathan Lane rather than acting the character.

The BROADNESS is why I've never much believed in it as an Oscar nominee. There just isn't really precedent for vaudevillian style YUK-YUK stuff making it into Oscar contention in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see your point. But there's also not much precedent for multi-tangent dramas about racism, or epic gay romances.

Again, I'm not saying The Producers is gonna get nominated, but it should surely have as much of a shot as some of the other titles you have listed.

But, it's your site, so you can do what you want. lol. At least you're not boring and predictable like Dave Poland's. Ugh. He's already saying Munich has won BP.