Friday, December 14, 2007

Now Playing: The Very Separate Worlds of Oscar Hopefuls and CGI Chipmunks

L I M I T E D * R E L E A S E * and
* ** O S C A R * S C H E D U L I N G *T H E O R I E S

Keira Knightley and her emerald dress slink into a few new cities today as Atonement expands (a little) and should attract some Golden Globe buzz ticket-buying. In theory at least. The other notable mini expansions are the Globe snubbed Margot at the Wedding and Frank Langella's acclaimed turn in the adaptation Starting Out in the Evening.

Borrowing from an earlier discussion I had in a comment thread now ~ If you ask me both should have opened much earlier. If you're in a tiny, strange, or intimate film and/or you're not an A list Entertainment Tonight ready red carpet star, the best way to attract Oscar talk is to open before all the deafening Oscar buzz. Less competition equals more talk and more time to settle in as an assumed contender. Perception is everything. This strategy paid off superbly for Terrance Howard and Ryan Gosling in the past couple of years. It might be paying off for Viggo Mortenson right now (cross those fingers for a best actor shortlisting), not to mention Julie Christie and Marion Cotillard. This isn't that complicated. Why do so many Oscar strategists miss this? Frank Langella (Starting Out...) is not a big enough star to get Oscar traction while people care about nothing so much as whether or not Johnny Depp can sing like a pro whilst slitting throats.

Big stars and huge prestige epics are fine in December. They're probably smart to wait. Everyone will want to see them, including the Oscar voters. Challenging, subtle, intimate or non star-driven stuff? Those movies are better off finding a good seat before the crowds start rushing in. No Country For Old Men played it exactly right I think. Michael Clayton was also in a smart position (though it probably could've benefited from a couple of weeks of platforming). December frustrated though I always am, I should admit to this painful fact: yes, you can come out too early just as the common wisdom suggests. I need quality films all year round so it pains me to admit this defeat. But what the hell happened to Zodiac ? The critics are turning as forgetful as the Academy is assumed to be.

--->Will Smith searches in vain for Oscar hopefuls. Sorry, Big Willie, they don't go wide until January... if ever.

In the larger world out there, the world beyond awards-junkies and prestige fare (I know ... it seems like such an alien desolate place) they're probably not even talking about the Golden Globes. Maybe they've just purchased tickets to see computer generated chipmunks or Will Smith as the last man standing on gods green earth.

But that is not my world. I'd rather watch literary meta epics or Romanian abortion dramas than sit through singing chipmunks. Any day of any week. But I might be persuaded to watch Will Smith kick some ass.



Anonymous said...

We just saw Atonement and loved it... I am still tearing up when I think of the ending.
I know you had this on your prediction list from the beginnning and rightly so. We have been very disappointed in the BIG movies that were coming out... except for Into the Wild, Gone, Baby, Gone and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ... these were all heavy duty depression and violence.. also loved Eastern Promises.

Well, Atonement is brilliantly directed and photographed, and it is because of these jobs done so well, it makes the story unfold wonderfully... just think of the sound of the typewriter throughout the movie...
the acting, too, was brilliant.. My favorites being McCavoy and the two young girls who play Brion.. Keira Knightley, who is absolutely gorgeous does a great job...but for me her skeleton look detracted from the performance.

Vanessa Redgrave, who pulls the story's plot together in the end is remarkable.

I hope it wins Best Picture .. at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Atonement is a very good movie. James McAvoy and Saorsie Ronan gives a tremendous performances. Sorry for McAvoy because I think he'll be snubbed again; but Saorsie Ronan has the best Briony's role and she's deserves the OScar nomination. The 8 minutes of Vanessa Redgrave appearence are outstanding... in a very small part Vanessa Redgrave shows her experience and class... I hope she'll win a nomination... Beautiful photography, art direction and music...
My perception: Only bad thing is Keira Knightley. I think Natalie Portman, Abbie Cornish or Eva Green could do a better job... Keira's performance is mediocre and constant overshadowed by Ronan (An splendid little girl) and McAvoy. I understand the nature of the caracter, but Keira doesn't have much for this. Skeletor body and overracted performance

Anonymous said...

***cough*** hater ***cough***



Anonymous said...

BTW, i loved Knightley's reaction to her GG nom:

"I was sitting in my living room actually nursing a hangover when my agent sent a text saying congratulations."

aww, thats my girl!

Haters, begone!!

lylee said...

I'm beginning to feel a little like Lauren Ambrose's character in "Starting Out in the Evening," and if you've seen the movie you'll know what I mean.

People who live in or near a major city, please please pretty please go see "Starting Out in the Evening." It's a wonderful little film, and if, as Nathaniel points out, it had been released earlier in the year, Langella would have had a LOT more Oscar buzz than he does now.

And yes, I also liked "Atonement" and you should all see that, too. But it's got plenty of momentum now. Langella/"Starting" badly needs to get some going.

El Gigante said...

I enjoyed Atonement but much more so the first hour then the second. I felt that having Briony role be diminished made the movie lose some of its focus that was only regained with the Redgrave coda at the end.

Anonymous said...

I knew that Marion Cotillard would get in Musical/Comedy -- it's just like Jamie Foxx, Reese Witherspoon, or Joaquin Phoenix in the Globes mind. "Once" was never in the running for picture was it? It was in foreign film consideration and snubbed, so it wasn't like "Across the Universe" was preventing it from getting in. Now "Knocked Up" or "The Savages", maybe. And I loved Denzel in "American Gangster", so I'm glad he was nominated. I would have liked to see Russell Crowe make it in too, or Tommy Lee Jones for "In the Valley of Elah". Loved the nod for Viggo though. Hope that James McAvoy is great in "Atonement", but Clooney can and should have been replaced by someone else.

Anonymous said...


Once wasn't in competition in the foreign film category, since it's reserved solely for films in foreign languages.

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

I don't think I'll watch Atonement anymore now that Nathaniel didn't give it an A after all that build-up.

Oh Nathaniel, why did you pull a Weinstein campaign on us? =(

(I'm joking. I'm just frustrated that according to the Golden Globes, I haven't watched any movies at all this year plus Atonement might not even get a release here until next year if ever. <--sadness!)

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering if the early-starters like Zodiac are affected in *my* own rankings of the year. Zodiac has been slowly pushed down the scale by newer films (as has 2 Days in Paris - PS. why isn't that making a shot in Orig Screenplay? Did it not have the ecstatic reviews it had here in the UK?), and is now around no. 14 or so.

I wonder if it would be higher if it too was one of the 'newer' films pushing the earlier ones out of my mind and down the scale.


JS -i almost never give "A"s no worries. It's very much worth seeing. ;)

Amir --this is actually why i try to rewatch the early stuff before i give out prizes. yesterday i rescreened 'away from her' and 'once'.

Anonymous said...

Good idea Nathaniel. I did rewatch Zodiac, twice. But then that was on a plane and it was July. So still quite a while ago.

At the moment and subject to change, there aren't that many pre-1 Oct releases in my Top 15: Atonement (1), A Mighty Heart (12), Zodiac (13), Away From Her (14) and 2 Days in Paris (15). The fact that they cluster like that makes me think I've just pushed them down in favour of newer stuff - so yes, must rewatch.

Also - completely unrelated but I need help on this from anyone out there - I'm working out my Original Song list at the moment (geek alert). Does anyone know why "Hell No" from Dan in Real Life isn't eligible for Oscar, but three other songs from the film are? Also is Sondre Lerche the sole composer of the track, or does Regina Spektor have a credit too? Can't find info anywhere.

So far I'm thinking it's between: Dan in Real Life (a couple of songs); Falling Slowly - Once; Come So Far - Hairspray; Guaranteed - Eddie Vedder; Lyra - Kate Bush; Lose Myself - Lauryn Hill; Despedida - Shakira/Antonio Pinto; Say - John Mayer. Any others I've missed that are actually good?...

tspatil said...

Nathaniel, what would you say about Pan's Labyrinth's unexpected buzz acceleration late last year? It seems odd that such a film would receive heaps of praise so late (so much so to steal the cinematography from Children of Men! Ugh, frustrating, but I loved Labyrinth anyways)


i chalk that up to a few things

a) an obvious stand-out film. I didn't love it but there was nothing like it in the marketplace
b) three amigos collective buzz generating interest in all of their films
c) i attribute its wins to the late release. but nominations are another story. for nominations i think with smaller films it's safer to open in the fall.

it's not a perfect theory obviously but it's a hell of a lot more rewarding to moviegoers than the obviously flawed DECEMBER IS RIGHT FOR EVERYTHING OSCAR argument that the studios try to promote... and so many movies lose money this way too. The market can't support every classy or reasonably prestigey middlebrow project in one month. moviegoers who like that sort of thing are not willing to buy tickets to all of them. They'll pick and choose just like the moviegoers at every other time of the year.

Anonymous said...

I think Nathaniel is going to surprise us and eventually give "A" to one of "A-" films. Last year was much weaker, and still, there were six A-.
I'm crossing my fingers for Sweeney and Atonement.

adam k. said...

I think There Will Be Blood is headed for the year's first "A". But yeah maybe one of the A- things will be upgraded, too. No Country, Atonement and perhaps Sweeney will be in Nat's best pic list. Maybe this will be one of those rare years like 2001 when his list and the academy's look similar?

adam k. said...

And Nat, please PLEASE see The Host. It already won't be done justice when you watch it on DVD, but that's better than not seeing it at all.

Anonymous said...

Frank Langella (Starting Out...) is not a big enough star to get Oscar traction while people care about nothing so much as whether or not Johnny Depp can sing like a pro whilst slitting throats.

Too true. I'm hoping that maybe they will take notice of Langella anyway. Roger Ebert wrote a nice review of the film and of his performance, and actually went as far as to write that he deserves an Oscar nomination for it. Maybe people read it or will read it.

I read somewhere that they were going to mail DVD's to the voters, so maybe that will help.

Yes, it does seem like all anyone cares about is whether Johnny Depp can sing like a pro or not. I was heartened to see your comment about A Little Priest under the Lansbury video of the same. I'm glad to hear that this number still works on film. Yes, Sondheim's masterpiece is strong enough to stand up to anything, even weak voices.

Anonymous said...

Will Smith rocked it at the box office this weekend with "I Am Legend". I had no interest in seeing it from the previews, but if anyone needed proof of his box office dominance, they have it with this film. So from who've seen it here, is it any good? Worth the hype and huge box office or not?

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Received the e-mail and promo stuff.

I am both glad and uneasy to say that I might do multiple entries for the Class of 2007 blogathon. :3