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The State of the Race: The Calm Before the Storm

As we contemplate where we’re going and where we’ve been it’s important to take note of how things stand right now. To my mind, there are three films that could win Best Picture if the Oscars were held today. So many movies have yet to open, some of them completely shrouded in mystery, others seem to be deliberately avoiding being screened here in Los Angeles. Reports are trickling in on how the films are doing but one can’t help but think there is a concerted effort to gauge audience reaction without the most vocal bloggers getting a crack at it.

It really is as true today as it’s ever been: “Nobody knows anything.” What William Goldman meant by that is this: all of the planning and good intentions can vanish in an instant when the film hits audiences. The great movie everyone expected and hoped might suddenly turn out to be a disappointment at best, a total bomb at worst. It’s the publicity department’s job to help mitigate this. It worked well for The Blind Side to avoid the bloggerati completely, to go straight to the people and the major news outlets that aren’t in the business of determining artistic value but are perfectly content to simply tell the film’s story to the world. Even though no one has yet seen J Edgar, you could see Clint Eastwood doing 60 Minutes with the film profiled and have absolutely no idea whether the film was good or not: you would simply want to see it. Publicity old school. It worked then; it works now.

But blogs work too. Grass roots publicity campaigns pretty much rule the Oscar race these days. Even if The King’s Speech won without any significant support from critics or bloggers — almost all of whom preferred a different film — it was still important for the filmmakers responsible to work the bloggers at festivals long before its preordained Oscar win. Jason Reitman’s Young Adult seems to be screening in various locations, as pointed out by Kris Tapley on Twitter, but isn’t being screened here in Los Angeles yet. A few people seem to have seen Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but that film, according to the studio, isn’t yet finished. We Bought a Zoo, The Iron Lady, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and War Horse have not yet been seen by anyone. There are no trickle down reports. J Edgar will be unveiled in early November at the AFI Fest. The others most likely in November, some maybe even December.

And each time those screening invites go out and the bloggers assemble, like a Greek chorus, or the judges on American Idol, sitting there and waiting to decree whether the movie’s “got game” or not, one can’t help but die inside just a little bit. Even if you like the movie, as I did last year with Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, I knew what was coming, and you can’t stop what’s coming.

But until that moment, nobody knows. Not the producers, not the director, not the writer, not the crew and cast who have just devoted years out of their lives to make the movie, not the publicists who have to sell the film anyway, whether it’s good or not, and certainly not us, the Oscar predictors, who faithfully check out box scores and make our predictions sight unseen. The only reason anyone would do that is because the Oscars have always been, and always will be, a game. Predictors are oddsmakers who are playing that game, taking a gamble on much the same set of criteria one might utilize when picking a good racehorse.

·  ·  ·

As we wait, as we bite our tongues and sit on our hands and feel all of that premature excitement well up, I am reminded of Oscar’s past, the years when things shifted suddenly and without warning. Those kinds of years are a lot more exciting than the years when one film started winning and didn’t stop, like Slumdog Millionaire. Many pundits are betting that The Artist is already that movie.

With so many surprises left to unearth, we continue to look at what’s right in front of us. Right now, I think there are only three movies that have been seen that can win Best Picture: The Artist, The Descendants and Moneyball. Of those, Moneyball is the only one that’s passed all of the tests so far – it’s the only one that’s opened to the public, gotten the best reviews of any film this year, and is making money steadily at the box office.

Box office isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing either. To date, Moneyball is doing well at the box office, hitting $63 million over the weekend. Both The Artist and The Descendants will have to sweat the box office. The Artist is an enormous crowd-pleaser which will test the strength of its word of mouth while also answering the question of whether audiences will pony up for a silent black-and-white film.

The Descendants also has great word of mouth, and will test George Clooney’s box office appeal in a role he seems to have been waiting his whole career to play. What he hinted he could do with Up in the Air he delivers deeply with The Descendants. It is a warm film, an optimistic film, and a change of pace for director Alexander Payne, one of this country’s finest directors to have never won an Oscar. Election, Sideways, About Schmidt — a brilliant writer/director whose only Oscar came for writing Sideways. But he’s yet to win Director – hell, he’s only been nominated once. Most of his films have been black comedies and we know the AMPAS can’t go there. But The Descendants delivers on catharsis and leaves no dry eye in the house (well, ok, a few dry eyes).

The Artist was directed by French director Michel Hazanavicius. A film by an unknown foreign director winning Best Picture? It’s an unprecedented challenge, to be sure, and would be a tad shocking were it come to pass. But last year it seemed unlikely Tom Hooper could pull off a win, him being mostly known as a TV director (HBO, but still). If anyone can pull this one off, the Weinsteins can. They will know just when to bring out Hazanavicius and introduce him to the industry and to the world, something that will have to happen if that movie is to win Best Picture of the year.

Why are Moneyball, The Artist and The Descendants so good? Story, story, story. Along with Woody Allen’s absolutely wonderful Midnight in Paris, one of the year’s strongest films, what stands out here are mostly traditional stories well told. There is very little ambiguity here. They are heavy on character, with with plots that hinge on the internal troubles of their protagonists. In this case, they are all men. DuJardin isn’t American, though it hardly matters since The Artist is an American story about an American star. These are stories about our own inner worlds, our collective psyches, our longings, our failings, our successes. And, my friends, there is very little new here.

These movies are very different from many other important films we’re seeing this year — films that are more daring in their disregard for the typical desire to give us a tidy story wrapped up neatly. The endings of movies like Drive, Shame, Tree of Life, are more opaque, their plots in some cases completely invisible. Their protagonists more elusive. The outcomes uncertain. In a time when our own outcome feels insecure, movies with too much ambiguity will frustrate viewers — maybe even rattle or disturb them — be they regular folk or insulated Academy members.

Ah, but the deliciousness of the quietly reliable successes in Moneyball, The Artist, The Descendants, and Midnight in Paris are not to be underestimated. A man leaves his trapped life to find a nostalgic Paris of the 1930s only to come to discover that nostalgia is something that always trails along with us no matter what time we’re living in. The deliciousness of Brad Pitt’s endearing Billy Beane, a man who changed the way baseball was played only to discover that his very strategy couldn’t help his own team win. But what did it matter? He has his daughter. And the home run he hit he never got up off the ground to notice. It is an American story. One so bittersweet that it just might resonate right through all the ups and downs of awards season.

And the deliciousness both The Artist and The Descendants have in store for the public, I will not spoil here, except to say that these movies are about compromising, evolving, learning how to accept what is, and how to close one door and then open another. All of these films were written by people who knew exactly what they were doing.

Movies that leave people lost or feeling unfulfilled in the dark may have a hard time fitting themselves into this year’s race, partly because these stories already hold their place so well, but also, in 2011 we are living through dark times, uncertain times. Darker than the darkest theater, more uncertain than the most ambiguous open endings. Many of us are scared of what the future holds. It’s been a while since we’ve seen protests in the streets about the direction our government is taking us. Disillusionment with our President has set in and almost everyone, the 99%, are barely scraping by.

Of course, Academy members aren’t the 99%. But they’re likely feeling the uncertainty too. (If they’re not, they ought to be. It’s the 99% who pay for movie tickets instead of receiving screeners by express courier. The 99% are the source of profit that keep the 1% in business.) If the films that seem to be Oscar bound right now feel a little light, a little uplifting, a little more optimistic that recent years that’s because the last thing a struggling family is ever going to do is plan a night out at the movies to feel worse about their lives.

Movies like J Edgar and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are going to propel us into dark realms, but maybe that is also what will make them stand apart from the rest. Right now, though, the dogs are still sleeping and we’re letting them lie.

106 Comments on this Post

  1. Which is why I’ve seen “Midnight in Paris” eight times! I wanted to escape and live in THAT world! Just like Owen’s Woody character. Well, for 90 mins. at a time anyway.

    And David Poland has it at the top of this brand new first Oscar chart!

    And Jean Dujardin. And Michelle Williams. And Christopher Plummer. And Berenice Bejos!

  2. Which is why I’ve seen “Midnight in Paris” eight times! I wanted to escape and live in THAT world! Just like Owen’s Woody character. Well, for 90 mins. at a time anyway.

    And David Poland has it at the top of this brand new first Oscar chart!

    And Jean Dujardin. And Michelle Williams. And Christopher Plummer. And Berenice Bejos!

  3. chilledstate

    As a Japanese, I certainly do not appreciate your comparison Japan before/after Tsunami and the Oscar race. We are dealing with life and death here and the Oscar race is clearly not. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to read all those predictions and thoughts on the race especially because we don’t get to see most of those films before the actual awards.

  4. chilledstate

    As a Japanese, I certainly do not appreciate your comparison Japan before/after Tsunami and the Oscar race. We are dealing with life and death here and the Oscar race is clearly not. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to read all those predictions and thoughts on the race especially because we don’t get to see most of those films before the actual awards.

  5. Off topic: did u see “In the land of blood and honey”? I would like to read a review…Thanks!

  6. Off topic: did u see “In the land of blood and honey”? I would like to read a review…Thanks!

  7. With a subtitle to an article regarding the Best Actor race like “The Calm Before the Storm,” one might think this was about Michael Shannon and Take Shelter…

  8. With a subtitle to an article regarding the Best Actor race like “The Calm Before the Storm,” one might think this was about Michael Shannon and Take Shelter…

  9. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “A film by an unknown foreign director winning Best Picture? It’s an unprecedented challenge, to be sure…”

    A little pre-emptive butt-covering:

    Nearest precedent might be Miloš Forman, though he was more well-known before Amadeus than Michel Hazanavicius is today.

    other international Best Director winners — Bertolucci, Polanski, Ang Lee — no question that their fame preceded their Oscars.

  10. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    “A film by an unknown foreign director winning Best Picture? It’s an unprecedented challenge, to be sure…”

    A little pre-emptive butt-covering:

    Nearest precedent might be Miloš Forman, though he was more well-known before Amadeus than Michel Hazanavicius is today.

    other international Best Director winners — Bertolucci, Polanski, Ang Lee — no question that their fame preceded their Oscars.

  11. Ryan, I believe you intended to cite “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Forman’s first Director/Picture win, not “Amadeus”.

  12. Ryan, I believe you intended to cite “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Forman’s first Director/Picture win, not “Amadeus”.

  13. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    you’re right, dfa.
    that would’ve been the better example.

  14. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    you’re right, dfa.
    that would’ve been the better example.

  15. Sasha, I get your point and enjoy reading your viewpoint as always, but I think this might be a bit of an overreach.

    For example, you mention Drive, Shame, and The Tree of Life as movies where an ambiguous ending lessens the movie’s appeal. I can’t tell whether you mean to the audience or Oscar voter types, but either way, I’m not sure this is true. Shame hasn’t even hit theaters yet– we don’t know whether audiences will respond. As for Drive and the Tree of Life, they are, respectively, a film that was mismarketed and a film by Terrence Malick. These reasons alone provide plenty of cause for a ‘lack of success’ (though I’m not even sure I’d say ToL was unsuccessful). It could be more than the ambiguous ending.

    Moreover, if you look to last year, voters were more than fine with the king of all ambiguous endings in Inception, as well as one in Black Swan.

    American audiences, in general, suck. I agree with you there. But I don’t think their taste can be summed up into neat little boxes as in this editorial.

  16. Sasha, I get your point and enjoy reading your viewpoint as always, but I think this might be a bit of an overreach.

    For example, you mention Drive, Shame, and The Tree of Life as movies where an ambiguous ending lessens the movie’s appeal. I can’t tell whether you mean to the audience or Oscar voter types, but either way, I’m not sure this is true. Shame hasn’t even hit theaters yet– we don’t know whether audiences will respond. As for Drive and the Tree of Life, they are, respectively, a film that was mismarketed and a film by Terrence Malick. These reasons alone provide plenty of cause for a ‘lack of success’ (though I’m not even sure I’d say ToL was unsuccessful). It could be more than the ambiguous ending.

    Moreover, if you look to last year, voters were more than fine with the king of all ambiguous endings in Inception, as well as one in Black Swan.

    American audiences, in general, suck. I agree with you there. But I don’t think their taste can be summed up into neat little boxes as in this editorial.

  17. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    For example, you mention Drive, Shame, and The Tree of Life as movies where an ambiguous ending lessens the movie’s appeal.

    Evan, I have to take blame for that line because I recommended those examples.

    But bear in mind it doesn’t mean that the structure of these films won’t appeal to discerning audiences accustomed to sophisticated narrative devices.

    The reason I recommended citing Drive and Tree and Life as difficult films for the average moviegoer is because they are both perceived to have underperformed at the US box office — and, in fact, have pretty shaky CinemaScore exit poll reactions (Drive was rated C- by audiences surveyed by CinemaScore.)

    That, to me, is evidence that the audiences who paid to see it didn’t get the movie they expected, or else simple couldn’t follow it, or maybe felt dissatisfied when the credits rolled.

    So why is that? What makes Tree of Life and Drive different from mainstream crowd-pleasers like Midnight in Paris that get A scores and great word of mouth? I think it’s because Midnight in Paris gives us a familiar and happy resolution with a rhythm of editing that feels comfortable. Drive and Tree of Life do not.

    I’m extrapolating when I predict Shame will face similar resistance from typical date-night audiences.

    I personally disagree that the ending of Inception was ambiguous at all. I don’t know anybody who’s confused or left hanging by that ending — even if different people think it meant different things — they’re all pretty sure of what they think, aren’t you?

    Likewise, Black Swan — sure, it’s a movie meant to play tricks and mislead us, But unless a viewer blinks for about 5 minutes straight and totally misses the key scene that reveals the surreal happenings aren’t all that mysterious, then it’s all explained very clearly before Nina takes the stage for her final performance, don’t you agree?

    Audiences gave Black Swan and Inception CinemaScore grades of B+

    But I think you already know the better evidence that audiences were satisfied with Black and Inception in ways that Drive and Tree and Life failed to click.

    Inception – $292 mil
    Black Swan – $106 mil
    Drive -$33 mil
    Tree of Life – $14 mil

    We can argue about the reasons for the divergence in those measures of popularity. You already know I think it’s because Drive and Tree of Life frustrated audience expectations and left many viewers baffled. I already know that you don’t agree. (and that’s fine!)

    But if your dispute is over that one point, I have to make the argument to defend it. Because it’s my fault that Sasha cited those examples. They were my suggestions.

  18. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    For example, you mention Drive, Shame, and The Tree of Life as movies where an ambiguous ending lessens the movie’s appeal.

    Evan, I have to take blame for that line because I recommended those examples.

    But bear in mind it doesn’t mean that the structure of these films won’t appeal to discerning audiences accustomed to sophisticated narrative devices.

    The reason I recommended citing Drive and Tree and Life as difficult films for the average moviegoer is because they are both perceived to have underperformed at the US box office — and, in fact, have pretty shaky CinemaScore exit poll reactions (Drive was rated C- by audiences surveyed by CinemaScore.)

    That, to me, is evidence that the audiences who paid to see it didn’t get the movie they expected, or else simple couldn’t follow it, or maybe felt dissatisfied when the credits rolled.

    So why is that? What makes Tree of Life and Drive different from mainstream crowd-pleasers like Midnight in Paris that get A scores and great word of mouth? I think it’s because Midnight in Paris gives us a familiar and happy resolution with a rhythm of editing that feels comfortable. Drive and Tree of Life do not.

    I’m extrapolating when I predict Shame will face similar resistance from typical date-night audiences.

    I personally disagree that the ending of Inception was ambiguous at all. I don’t know anybody who’s confused or left hanging by that ending — even if different people think it meant different things — they’re all pretty sure of what they think, aren’t you?

    Likewise, Black Swan — sure, it’s a movie meant to play tricks and mislead us, But unless a viewer blinks for about 5 minutes straight and totally misses the key scene that reveals the surreal happenings aren’t all that mysterious, then it’s all explained very clearly before Nina takes the stage for her final performance, don’t you agree?

    Audiences gave Black Swan and Inception CinemaScore grades of B+

    But I think you already know the better evidence that audiences were satisfied with Black and Inception in ways that Drive and Tree and Life failed to click.

    Inception – $292 mil
    Black Swan – $106 mil
    Drive -$33 mil
    Tree of Life – $14 mil

    We can argue about the reasons for the divergence in those measures of popularity. You already know I think it’s because Drive and Tree of Life frustrated audience expectations and left many viewers baffled. I already know that you don’t agree. (and that’s fine!)

    But if your dispute is over that one point, I have to make the argument to defend it. Because it’s my fault that Sasha cited those examples. They were my suggestions.

  19. It is almost November and The Iron Lady does not even have a proper trailer and has not been seen by anyone?
    Sounds like they are afraid of their product?
    Poor Meryl, once more she is better than the film she is in!

  20. It is almost November and The Iron Lady does not even have a proper trailer and has not been seen by anyone?
    Sounds like they are afraid of their product?
    Poor Meryl, once more she is better than the film she is in!

  21. For the record, I saw Young Adult at a screening here in LA. This was way back in February, but it has definitely screened in town. I also had the opportunity this past weekend to see Extremely Loud (it was screened at Arclight Pasadena at 130p this past Sunday) but I wasn’t able to make it in time. Super bummed that I didn’t get to see that one because its a real question mark that I wanted to get some clarity on.

  22. For the record, I saw Young Adult at a screening here in LA. This was way back in February, but it has definitely screened in town. I also had the opportunity this past weekend to see Extremely Loud (it was screened at Arclight Pasadena at 130p this past Sunday) but I wasn’t able to make it in time. Super bummed that I didn’t get to see that one because its a real question mark that I wanted to get some clarity on.

  23. I doubt anyone will go to watch Shame and expect a romantic film.

  24. I doubt anyone will go to watch Shame and expect a romantic film.

  25. Mr_Glass_Jaw

    I feel like Moneyball is being overestimated. This is a film that will barely make back its budget, not even counting in the pr budget. People were expecting a lot more from this one and it did not deliver. That is not to say the quality of the film isn’t great.

    Descendants is a really good movie too, one that voters can and probably will embrace. However, Payne is probably the most boring dude in the race, but I guess that didn’t stop Tom Hooper last year? I can see Descendants winning Picture and someone else getting Director.

    Finally, I think Sasha makes a good point, or at least infers it, and that is that it feels as though studios are holding back their prime real estate from bloggers and the online writing community more and more because of the sway these writers actually do have on the box office and the awards races. They don’t like being called out on having subpar products, which is usually the case. Ah, progress.

  26. Mr_Glass_Jaw

    I feel like Moneyball is being overestimated. This is a film that will barely make back its budget, not even counting in the pr budget. People were expecting a lot more from this one and it did not deliver. That is not to say the quality of the film isn’t great.

    Descendants is a really good movie too, one that voters can and probably will embrace. However, Payne is probably the most boring dude in the race, but I guess that didn’t stop Tom Hooper last year? I can see Descendants winning Picture and someone else getting Director.

    Finally, I think Sasha makes a good point, or at least infers it, and that is that it feels as though studios are holding back their prime real estate from bloggers and the online writing community more and more because of the sway these writers actually do have on the box office and the awards races. They don’t like being called out on having subpar products, which is usually the case. Ah, progress.

  27. I’m reasonably sure THE IRON LADY has been screened; I know a couple of people who have seen it (mind you these are industry folks in New York, so perhaps these weren’t test screenings) but they say the film is good and Streep is, to be expected, sensational and very funny.

  28. I’m reasonably sure THE IRON LADY has been screened; I know a couple of people who have seen it (mind you these are industry folks in New York, so perhaps these weren’t test screenings) but they say the film is good and Streep is, to be expected, sensational and very funny.

  29. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I doubt anyone will go to watch Shame and expect a romantic film.

    I hate to say it, dane. But in light of its NC-17 rating and raw reputation, I’m concerned whether anyone will go to watch Shame who’s not hardcore. Hardcore art film aficionado, that is. The point of Sasha’s post is that The Descendants, The Artist and Moneyball are all movies with traditional male protagonists — indeed they are classic heroes — and the structure of those 3 films is familiar and comfortable. They go down easy.

    I don’t get the impression Shame is anything heroic or familiar, and don’t expect it to be very comfortable for most viewers, do you? It goes down hard. So that’s why I suggested it might find a lot of admiration from the same viewers who do appreciate Drive and Tree of Life — but I worry that maybe it won’t be so well understood outside that circle. Outside that circle it may not be widely seen at all.

    You want to know whether I’m right or not, we’ll look at its earnings in a few months, ok? Let’s wait to see where its box-office lands now that the MPAA had sabotaged its theatrical release.

  30. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I doubt anyone will go to watch Shame and expect a romantic film.

    I hate to say it, dane. But in light of its NC-17 rating and raw reputation, I’m concerned whether anyone will go to watch Shame who’s not hardcore. Hardcore art film aficionado, that is. The point of Sasha’s post is that The Descendants, The Artist and Moneyball are all movies with traditional male protagonists — indeed they are classic heroes — and the structure of those 3 films is familiar and comfortable. They go down easy.

    I don’t get the impression Shame is anything heroic or familiar, and don’t expect it to be very comfortable for most viewers, do you? It goes down hard. So that’s why I suggested it might find a lot of admiration from the same viewers who do appreciate Drive and Tree of Life — but I worry that maybe it won’t be so well understood outside that circle. Outside that circle it may not be widely seen at all.

    You want to know whether I’m right or not, we’ll look at its earnings in a few months, ok? Let’s wait to see where its box-office lands now that the MPAA had sabotaged its theatrical release.

  31. You know what just occured to me? If WB is planning such a huge Oscar push for Potter as they’ve promised then why did they release the final installment in July as opposed to over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when the films have made the most money and it would be fresh in Oscar voters minds. I mean just imagine how much Potter could have shaken up the race if was released late year with that nearly unprecedented 100% Top Critic s rating and whatnot. Really was stupid planning on WB’s part…

    Oh, and it would have awesome to see Potter and that inferior other franchise battle it out, lol.

  32. You know what just occured to me? If WB is planning such a huge Oscar push for Potter as they’ve promised then why did they release the final installment in July as opposed to over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when the films have made the most money and it would be fresh in Oscar voters minds. I mean just imagine how much Potter could have shaken up the race if was released late year with that nearly unprecedented 100% Top Critic s rating and whatnot. Really was stupid planning on WB’s part…

    Oh, and it would have awesome to see Potter and that inferior other franchise battle it out, lol.

  33. According to this press release and I guess take it as you will the Iron lady will have it’s first world wide viewing at S.-China Forum on The Arts and Culture in Beijing.

    http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/asia_society.html

  34. According to this press release and I guess take it as you will the Iron lady will have it’s first world wide viewing at S.-China Forum on The Arts and Culture in Beijing.

    http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/asia_society.html

  35. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I know it’s frustrating Scott — But Warner Bros has Happy Feet 2 for Thanksgiving and Sherlock Holmes 2 for Christmas.

    What would you have them do? Release the last Harry Potter installment the same weekend as Twilight: Breaking Dawn? How stupid would THAT be?

  36. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I know it’s frustrating Scott — But Warner Bros has Happy Feet 2 for Thanksgiving and Sherlock Holmes 2 for Christmas.

    What would you have them do? Release the last Harry Potter installment the same weekend as Twilight: Breaking Dawn? How stupid would THAT be?

  37. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when the films have made the most money… Really was stupid planning on WB’s part..”

    $380 mil worth of stupid planning. Top-grossing installment of the franchise.

  38. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    “the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when the films have made the most money… Really was stupid planning on WB’s part..”

    $380 mil worth of stupid planning. Top-grossing installment of the franchise.

  39. You touched on a few things I’d like to make a point about.

    The 99% and the box office. I really think that we should take the box office with a grain of salt. Granted my favorite of the Oscar bait, Warrior, bombed. I admit it. That baffled me. But in following weeks when Drive didn’t do that great either and Moneyball didn’t blow the roof off the place, I started to think about what people were actually spending money on. Kids movies have been THE moneymakers for decades. But now I think people are actually making a choice because of the current climate. I think parents who, in the past, might have taken the kids one weekend to see the latest kid movie in 3D, and then hired a sitter for a date night the next weekend are now making a choice between the two. They’re choosing to take the kids and foregoing the more adult and Oscar worthy fare because they can’t afford both. So I think every movie in the Oscar race that’s not kid friendly should be given a 50% discount on it’s box office expectations. And if nothing grabs the zeitgeist then so be it. This might be the year Mr. Zeitgeist got laid off.

    The other thing. About men. Due to location and my own lack of funds I’ve not seen as many 2011 movies to date as I would have in a normal year. (You can see what I’ve seen on my lj) So when it was time to start nominating movies for the People’s Choice Awards I cracked open my own list to look for nominees to write in for Best Actress because none sprung to mind. So, I went down my list of seen films and I could barely find a female in the movies at all, let alone one that was award worthy. And looking forward apart from the obvious one woman show type films, The Iron Lady, Nobbs, etc., where are the womens? I’m so not a feminist, but it’s just kind of funny to me how I’ve accidentally been able to avoid chicks this year. It’s like it’s either a movie specifically for women, The Help, Bridesmaids, or they’re not in it or are unmemorable. Nearly all or the movies I’ve seen have a girlfriend or wife character, but they have little to do with the action. In several instances they actually stay home or in one place waiting for updates from their menfolk on what real life is like. lol That’s not funny. >:(

    (I’m sure I’ll have other stuff to talk about when I read through the comments, but I just wanted to get those points out.)

  40. You touched on a few things I’d like to make a point about.

    The 99% and the box office. I really think that we should take the box office with a grain of salt. Granted my favorite of the Oscar bait, Warrior, bombed. I admit it. That baffled me. But in following weeks when Drive didn’t do that great either and Moneyball didn’t blow the roof off the place, I started to think about what people were actually spending money on. Kids movies have been THE moneymakers for decades. But now I think people are actually making a choice because of the current climate. I think parents who, in the past, might have taken the kids one weekend to see the latest kid movie in 3D, and then hired a sitter for a date night the next weekend are now making a choice between the two. They’re choosing to take the kids and foregoing the more adult and Oscar worthy fare because they can’t afford both. So I think every movie in the Oscar race that’s not kid friendly should be given a 50% discount on it’s box office expectations. And if nothing grabs the zeitgeist then so be it. This might be the year Mr. Zeitgeist got laid off.

    The other thing. About men. Due to location and my own lack of funds I’ve not seen as many 2011 movies to date as I would have in a normal year. (You can see what I’ve seen on my lj) So when it was time to start nominating movies for the People’s Choice Awards I cracked open my own list to look for nominees to write in for Best Actress because none sprung to mind. So, I went down my list of seen films and I could barely find a female in the movies at all, let alone one that was award worthy. And looking forward apart from the obvious one woman show type films, The Iron Lady, Nobbs, etc., where are the womens? I’m so not a feminist, but it’s just kind of funny to me how I’ve accidentally been able to avoid chicks this year. It’s like it’s either a movie specifically for women, The Help, Bridesmaids, or they’re not in it or are unmemorable. Nearly all or the movies I’ve seen have a girlfriend or wife character, but they have little to do with the action. In several instances they actually stay home or in one place waiting for updates from their menfolk on what real life is like. lol That’s not funny. >:(

    (I’m sure I’ll have other stuff to talk about when I read through the comments, but I just wanted to get those points out.)

  41. Tero Heikkinen

    I thought Summer is STILL the #1 season to release blockbusters. If I remember correctly, Christmas was far from that until Titanic came and changed all that (and even Titanic was originally scheduled for Summer, but postponed).

    You release your movie in the Summer, you are not expecting Oscars, but you are in for a lot of money. The good thing about Summer movies is that the DVD’s and blu-rays are out the door just before the time of award consideration. I believe they still need critics’ support – and Potter has that.

    I do believe that if Potter was a November 2011 release, it would do great come nomination time, but the longer gap between Pt 1 and Pt 2 may have hurt it. Maybe both parts should’ve been 2011 releases, first one in May and the second in November – something like that.

  42. Tero Heikkinen

    I thought Summer is STILL the #1 season to release blockbusters. If I remember correctly, Christmas was far from that until Titanic came and changed all that (and even Titanic was originally scheduled for Summer, but postponed).

    You release your movie in the Summer, you are not expecting Oscars, but you are in for a lot of money. The good thing about Summer movies is that the DVD’s and blu-rays are out the door just before the time of award consideration. I believe they still need critics’ support – and Potter has that.

    I do believe that if Potter was a November 2011 release, it would do great come nomination time, but the longer gap between Pt 1 and Pt 2 may have hurt it. Maybe both parts should’ve been 2011 releases, first one in May and the second in November – something like that.

  43. LOL MONEYBALL IS NOT WINNING BEST PICTURE. 0% chance. In no known or even parallel universe is Moneyball winning the big BP. It’s barely getting it’s production budget back, and lol it probably had a pretty hefty MARKETING BUDGET. FAIL. The Descendants or The Artist is winning Best Picture. And The Artist will be victorious! The End. LOL.

  44. LOL MONEYBALL IS NOT WINNING BEST PICTURE. 0% chance. In no known or even parallel universe is Moneyball winning the big BP. It’s barely getting it’s production budget back, and lol it probably had a pretty hefty MARKETING BUDGET. FAIL. The Descendants or The Artist is winning Best Picture. And The Artist will be victorious! The End. LOL.

  45. Wow that guy above wants to remove calm before the storm from the language? There was nothing specific to japan in the article. Also does a tsunami even technically count as a storm?

  46. Wow that guy above wants to remove calm before the storm from the language? There was nothing specific to japan in the article. Also does a tsunami even technically count as a storm?

  47. But it would have made even more (eclipsed 400 million perhaps?) Ryan if they’d released over the holiday season. Anyways, box office was not my main point…you guys always talk about timing of release being key. Well if they’d swapped Part 1 and 2 to where 2 was released in November (like most the other Potter films) it might not be getting swept under the rug so easily. I mean the sort of reviews Part 2 got could not have been ignored if they’d come during Oscar season.

  48. But it would have made even more (eclipsed 400 million perhaps?) Ryan if they’d released over the holiday season. Anyways, box office was not my main point…you guys always talk about timing of release being key. Well if they’d swapped Part 1 and 2 to where 2 was released in November (like most the other Potter films) it might not be getting swept under the rug so easily. I mean the sort of reviews Part 2 got could not have been ignored if they’d come during Oscar season.

  49. Also Ryan, I believe Potter would have been victorious over Twilight this time had they released the same weekend, and box office analysis suggests that competition isn’t as much of a factor as one might assume…they’ll simply see both. But if fans of both had to choose I think they’d go with their original love, Potter.

  50. Also Ryan, I believe Potter would have been victorious over Twilight this time had they released the same weekend, and box office analysis suggests that competition isn’t as much of a factor as one might assume…they’ll simply see both. But if fans of both had to choose I think they’d go with their original love, Potter.

  51. daveylow

    I don’t think Moneyball has any chance of winning best picture. It’s certainly a very good film but there’s nothing about the film to make a voter say, Wow, that was the best picture of the year. It’s not exactly about anything profound though it is entertaining, well written and well acted.

  52. daveylow

    I don’t think Moneyball has any chance of winning best picture. It’s certainly a very good film but there’s nothing about the film to make a voter say, Wow, that was the best picture of the year. It’s not exactly about anything profound though it is entertaining, well written and well acted.

  53. Mr_Glass_Jaw

    Funny how these big studio films with big names and budgets, like MB, don’t get criticized for the under-performance but when indies don’t reach blockbuster status, they’re failures. This industry can be so fucked. lol.

  54. Mr_Glass_Jaw

    Funny how these big studio films with big names and budgets, like MB, don’t get criticized for the under-performance but when indies don’t reach blockbuster status, they’re failures. This industry can be so fucked. lol.

  55. Goodvibe61

    Has War Horse been seen by anyone? Feinberg seemed to imply that it had been seen, but he didn’t directly come out and say it. I’d say it’s the greatest wild card of them all..

  56. Goodvibe61

    Has War Horse been seen by anyone? Feinberg seemed to imply that it had been seen, but he didn’t directly come out and say it. I’d say it’s the greatest wild card of them all..

  57. Movies that could change the entire race when they are mass released to the theaters…
    The Artist
    The Descendents
    J. Edgar
    War Horse
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (looking forward to this the most)
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    Hugo (yes, I said it, Hugo could be a game changer)

    Moneyball is the best movie that I’ve seen so far in 2011… and that is a big SO FAR. Saying what the best movies of the year have been while it’s still October can end up being a useless exercise; in reality we don’t really know how to call this one until the end of December.

    That being said, how exciting is it that this many big name and big expectation movies are coming out in November and December? I <3 Oscar season, let the games begin!

  58. Movies that could change the entire race when they are mass released to the theaters…
    The Artist
    The Descendents
    J. Edgar
    War Horse
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (looking forward to this the most)
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    Hugo (yes, I said it, Hugo could be a game changer)

    Moneyball is the best movie that I’ve seen so far in 2011… and that is a big SO FAR. Saying what the best movies of the year have been while it’s still October can end up being a useless exercise; in reality we don’t really know how to call this one until the end of December.

    That being said, how exciting is it that this many big name and big expectation movies are coming out in November and December? I <3 Oscar season, let the games begin!

  59. Tero Heikkinen

    Drive cost “only” 15M to make, it more than doubled (=33M) the budget in USA plus took 10M from foreign markets (=43M). Even with marketing costs (that are modest), it’s not a failure. Studios are happy if their more artistic pictures break even in theaters – home entertainment/award season will give the “satisfaction”.

    The Tree of Life cost 32M to make, it made 13M in USA and 41M in foreign markets (=54M altogether). This movies is still struggling, but it should eventually make profit, too (might take a year or two more, though). You could say that it failed at home, but foreign was there to help – significantly.

    For movies this size, a 2,5 multiplier is almost always a safe bet. In this calculation Drive needed 37,5M worldwide and TToL needed 80M to break even.

    Both are good examples of films that are made for PRESTIGE more than money. Studios need these and they keep making them – these are some posters they have on their hall of fame right next to the moneymakers. They are director-driven titles – they know what they are getting, no matter how straight-forward the plot was on paper.

    Sometimes it baffles me when people see something like TToL as a cheap-ish film. Who are these blockbuster-sucking people? That movie is really expensive and even distributor Fox Searchlight knew they were taking a risk. Once again – for PRESTIGE. Isn’t the aforementioned studio pretty much invented for this purpose – to make the parent look better? The logo is very similar to a random viewer.

    Studios are not 100% money hungry. Sort of, 98% they are :)

  60. Tero Heikkinen

    Drive cost “only” 15M to make, it more than doubled (=33M) the budget in USA plus took 10M from foreign markets (=43M). Even with marketing costs (that are modest), it’s not a failure. Studios are happy if their more artistic pictures break even in theaters – home entertainment/award season will give the “satisfaction”.

    The Tree of Life cost 32M to make, it made 13M in USA and 41M in foreign markets (=54M altogether). This movies is still struggling, but it should eventually make profit, too (might take a year or two more, though). You could say that it failed at home, but foreign was there to help – significantly.

    For movies this size, a 2,5 multiplier is almost always a safe bet. In this calculation Drive needed 37,5M worldwide and TToL needed 80M to break even.

    Both are good examples of films that are made for PRESTIGE more than money. Studios need these and they keep making them – these are some posters they have on their hall of fame right next to the moneymakers. They are director-driven titles – they know what they are getting, no matter how straight-forward the plot was on paper.

    Sometimes it baffles me when people see something like TToL as a cheap-ish film. Who are these blockbuster-sucking people? That movie is really expensive and even distributor Fox Searchlight knew they were taking a risk. Once again – for PRESTIGE. Isn’t the aforementioned studio pretty much invented for this purpose – to make the parent look better? The logo is very similar to a random viewer.

    Studios are not 100% money hungry. Sort of, 98% they are :)

  61. I do not understand why people are repeatedly griping about Moneyball underperforming. Moneyball was NEVER expected to be a $100 mil blockbuster.
    It was always expected to make approx $50-80 by the studio but some people were overestimating because it was a Pitt film. A lot of Oscar contenders will not make as much as Moneyball. Moneyball was a genre movie and not your traditional sports film. There was a focus on statistics and dialogue rather than action/the underdog team triumphing angle. It had many emotional nuances and was more subtle in its wit & intelligence. I loved it but to the average moviegoer, some of them probably did not understand it or probably found it dull. It was not designed for broad appeal when you compare it to other sports movies.

    There are other factors which I won’t discuss here because it will lead to a complicated personal rant. It’s already made made $15 over its budget by its domestic gross alone. Pitt is usually an international draw. It has not expanded to its full international market and it does have the limit of being a baseball movie that is driven by its writing. It is one of the highest grossing baseball movies. It has displayed a decent holdover pattern so far and has maintained its Oscar buzz. Also, what is with the whining about Indie’s versus Moneyball. I have not read any rants about any Indie movies underperforming. Also, some people keep exaggerating its marketing and PR budget. It has already met that budget. I am annoyed by the spin by acting like its a failure.

    Tree of Life also met its budget and industry expectations with the overall international gross. I felt it was a foolhardy move to release it only in limited release during the summer.

    For In the Land of Blood & Honey, I really hope Jolie & Graham King have the intelligence to postpone it to 2012. The 2011 Oscar race is already too crowded and I can’t see it squeezing any nominations at this point nor being a bo commodity. I know the Dec. 23rd date is tentative and I think it will better for the movie if it got postponed. It definitely does not have mainstream appeal.

  62. I do not understand why people are repeatedly griping about Moneyball underperforming. Moneyball was NEVER expected to be a $100 mil blockbuster.
    It was always expected to make approx $50-80 by the studio but some people were overestimating because it was a Pitt film. A lot of Oscar contenders will not make as much as Moneyball. Moneyball was a genre movie and not your traditional sports film. There was a focus on statistics and dialogue rather than action/the underdog team triumphing angle. It had many emotional nuances and was more subtle in its wit & intelligence. I loved it but to the average moviegoer, some of them probably did not understand it or probably found it dull. It was not designed for broad appeal when you compare it to other sports movies.

    There are other factors which I won’t discuss here because it will lead to a complicated personal rant. It’s already made made $15 over its budget by its domestic gross alone. Pitt is usually an international draw. It has not expanded to its full international market and it does have the limit of being a baseball movie that is driven by its writing. It is one of the highest grossing baseball movies. It has displayed a decent holdover pattern so far and has maintained its Oscar buzz. Also, what is with the whining about Indie’s versus Moneyball. I have not read any rants about any Indie movies underperforming. Also, some people keep exaggerating its marketing and PR budget. It has already met that budget. I am annoyed by the spin by acting like its a failure.

    Tree of Life also met its budget and industry expectations with the overall international gross. I felt it was a foolhardy move to release it only in limited release during the summer.

    For In the Land of Blood & Honey, I really hope Jolie & Graham King have the intelligence to postpone it to 2012. The 2011 Oscar race is already too crowded and I can’t see it squeezing any nominations at this point nor being a bo commodity. I know the Dec. 23rd date is tentative and I think it will better for the movie if it got postponed. It definitely does not have mainstream appeal.

  63. I don’t even understand why people are fixating so much on Box Office. If we are going by beating box office expectations, we would presume The Help is going to sweep the nominations and be a major contender. That might not necessarily be the case. I bet a bunch of Oscar contenders this year won’t necessarily be major box office hits. Did anybody expect that the Tree of Life would be a huge mainstream hit? No, it met expectations and made more than most of Malick’s other movies. I personally felt both Moneyball and Tree of Life were profound in very different ways. I was actually surprised that I was impressed with Moneyball and the movie turned out to be much more sharp than I expected it to be. I expect at least one of them to make the cut. Ides of March is not a huge hit either but it will earn more than its budget. I feel there will be some issue with the two Pitt vehicles vs the Clooney vehicles vs the Damon vehicles vs Depp’s The Rum Diary competing with each other for various spots. That is how it is when you have a bunch of A-list stars in the same race who are viewed as peers.

    I don’t think the box office will have a dramatic impact on Drive, Moneyball, or Tree of Life’s chances. However, those movies will have to struggle to keep its Oscar buzz momentum but they have not lost the buzz so far. I find it hard to believe they would snub Malick completely especially since I felt most cinemaphiles revere The Tree of Life. You have Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zallian, Pitt, and Jonah Hill gettin nomination buzz and being associated with Moneyball. I expect at least one acting nomination and a screenplay nomination. I honestly never felt Warrior would get Oscar nominations.

    Then you have Clint Eastwood, Spielberg, Scorsese, Cronenberg, Allen, and a bunch of top-notch directorsr all either directing or producing movies.
    Then you have a bunch of breakout stars who are getting so much buzz with Fassbender, Elizabeth Olsen, and etc. This year seems like a very mixed bag with a lot of potential contenders. Then you have Meryl Streep, Glenn Close ( overdue), and Kate Winslet ( whose movies always get Oscar buzz).

    There are rumors about some movies possibly having a re-release. I think it would be smart if HPDH2 got a re-release. It stands a strong risk at losing its #1 box office position. However, there are other factors for HPDH2 to get Oscar nominations other than strong box office like critical acclaim, the pedigree of the franchise & cast over a decade, and sentimental value. I could go on and on about HP but I know this has already been dissected a great deal on this site.

  64. I don’t even understand why people are fixating so much on Box Office. If we are going by beating box office expectations, we would presume The Help is going to sweep the nominations and be a major contender. That might not necessarily be the case. I bet a bunch of Oscar contenders this year won’t necessarily be major box office hits. Did anybody expect that the Tree of Life would be a huge mainstream hit? No, it met expectations and made more than most of Malick’s other movies. I personally felt both Moneyball and Tree of Life were profound in very different ways. I was actually surprised that I was impressed with Moneyball and the movie turned out to be much more sharp than I expected it to be. I expect at least one of them to make the cut. Ides of March is not a huge hit either but it will earn more than its budget. I feel there will be some issue with the two Pitt vehicles vs the Clooney vehicles vs the Damon vehicles vs Depp’s The Rum Diary competing with each other for various spots. That is how it is when you have a bunch of A-list stars in the same race who are viewed as peers.

    I don’t think the box office will have a dramatic impact on Drive, Moneyball, or Tree of Life’s chances. However, those movies will have to struggle to keep its Oscar buzz momentum but they have not lost the buzz so far. I find it hard to believe they would snub Malick completely especially since I felt most cinemaphiles revere The Tree of Life. You have Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zallian, Pitt, and Jonah Hill gettin nomination buzz and being associated with Moneyball. I expect at least one acting nomination and a screenplay nomination. I honestly never felt Warrior would get Oscar nominations.

    Then you have Clint Eastwood, Spielberg, Scorsese, Cronenberg, Allen, and a bunch of top-notch directorsr all either directing or producing movies.
    Then you have a bunch of breakout stars who are getting so much buzz with Fassbender, Elizabeth Olsen, and etc. This year seems like a very mixed bag with a lot of potential contenders. Then you have Meryl Streep, Glenn Close ( overdue), and Kate Winslet ( whose movies always get Oscar buzz).

    There are rumors about some movies possibly having a re-release. I think it would be smart if HPDH2 got a re-release. It stands a strong risk at losing its #1 box office position. However, there are other factors for HPDH2 to get Oscar nominations other than strong box office like critical acclaim, the pedigree of the franchise & cast over a decade, and sentimental value. I could go on and on about HP but I know this has already been dissected a great deal on this site.

  65. Rufussondheim

    Plus, Moneyball, came out in September. I’d be willing to bet that you can count on one hand, maybe even zero hands, the number of movies that made 100 million with a September wide release.

    Lack of Box Office didn’t hurt The Hurt Locker.

    Yeah, Box Office is nice, but looking at Box Office for Best Pics of the last ten years, more than you would expect were ‘failures’ at the box office.

  66. Rufussondheim

    Plus, Moneyball, came out in September. I’d be willing to bet that you can count on one hand, maybe even zero hands, the number of movies that made 100 million with a September wide release.

    Lack of Box Office didn’t hurt The Hurt Locker.

    Yeah, Box Office is nice, but looking at Box Office for Best Pics of the last ten years, more than you would expect were ‘failures’ at the box office.

  67. I would be greatly surprised if Carnage, Shame, The Descendants, The Artist, or Tinker Tailor Solider Spy were huge hits at the box office but they will still continue to get Oscar buzz. Judging the box office and timing of a release is all relative and you have to go by many factors. I consider to Moneyball to be a moderate success and it has the critical acclaim/buzz/strong story/compelling performances. Tree of Life is viewed by many to be a modern masterpiece. It is still getting buzz and it was an art house film that was released back in the summer.

    For example, I think a poor box office output might hurt J.Edgar or War Horse’s chances. I don’t consider War Horse or J Edgar to be wild cards given the cast and directors. We know Spielberg will get some recognition unless the movie is a disaster or unless the expectations are too high with the critics being harsh. It is nearly November and the state of the race is far from solid or decided. Usually, most of us can predict most of the nominees at this time. There are also a bunch of films set to be either postponed or pushed back. There are too many big names in the mix as well as smaller movies/breakout actors getting attention in 2011.

    Harry Potter’s biggest threat is losing its Oscar momentum due to Nov-Dec releases that might overtake the attention and awards zeitgeist. So far, HP keeps being brought up in Oscar Race discussions. I find it hard to believe it will be snubbed. I expect this franchise to get more nominations than it has in the past. Honestly, Warner Bros needs to campaign more for HP. They just took it for granted that it would be the highest grossing movie of the year when it has failed to make $400 mil and they should not take Oscar buzz for granted either. The DVD is set to release in Nov. 11, I hope it gets postponed. I have seen DVD releases get postponed before. Though sometimes a DVD release during Oscar season can be helpful too.

  68. I would be greatly surprised if Carnage, Shame, The Descendants, The Artist, or Tinker Tailor Solider Spy were huge hits at the box office but they will still continue to get Oscar buzz. Judging the box office and timing of a release is all relative and you have to go by many factors. I consider to Moneyball to be a moderate success and it has the critical acclaim/buzz/strong story/compelling performances. Tree of Life is viewed by many to be a modern masterpiece. It is still getting buzz and it was an art house film that was released back in the summer.

    For example, I think a poor box office output might hurt J.Edgar or War Horse’s chances. I don’t consider War Horse or J Edgar to be wild cards given the cast and directors. We know Spielberg will get some recognition unless the movie is a disaster or unless the expectations are too high with the critics being harsh. It is nearly November and the state of the race is far from solid or decided. Usually, most of us can predict most of the nominees at this time. There are also a bunch of films set to be either postponed or pushed back. There are too many big names in the mix as well as smaller movies/breakout actors getting attention in 2011.

    Harry Potter’s biggest threat is losing its Oscar momentum due to Nov-Dec releases that might overtake the attention and awards zeitgeist. So far, HP keeps being brought up in Oscar Race discussions. I find it hard to believe it will be snubbed. I expect this franchise to get more nominations than it has in the past. Honestly, Warner Bros needs to campaign more for HP. They just took it for granted that it would be the highest grossing movie of the year when it has failed to make $400 mil and they should not take Oscar buzz for granted either. The DVD is set to release in Nov. 11, I hope it gets postponed. I have seen DVD releases get postponed before. Though sometimes a DVD release during Oscar season can be helpful too.

  69. I only mentioned the box office relative to War Horse and J.Edgar because the studios have strong industry expectations for those movies. It is not just about budget but about industry expectations. With most of the Oscar contenders, the focus will be on the critical ratings,buzz, and overall reception rather than the box office but it might play a factor for a few movies. Most Oscar contenders are not blockbusters anyway.

  70. I only mentioned the box office relative to War Horse and J.Edgar because the studios have strong industry expectations for those movies. It is not just about budget but about industry expectations. With most of the Oscar contenders, the focus will be on the critical ratings,buzz, and overall reception rather than the box office but it might play a factor for a few movies. Most Oscar contenders are not blockbusters anyway.

  71. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I don’t even understand why people are fixating so much on Box Office.

    Me, one reason: It’s a useful gauge to indicate how much people want to see a movie. Academy members are people too. They’re tastes really are not all that different from any other devoted moviegoer. If a movie can’t attract a lot of people into a theater. the screener DVD will fail to attract some voters from ever watching it. That’s a sad reality nobody likes to think about.

    Why didn’t Tilda Swinton get any traction for Best Actress for Julia? My guess is only a small fraction of AMPAS members ever saw the performance.

    Why was A Serious Man in, and A Single Man out, in the Best Picture nominees? More voters were curious to watch the Coens take on late 1960s Jewish suburbia then were interested to watch an gay director’s take on early-1960s gay academia.

    I’d say A Serious Man barely made the cut (box office: $9 million) and A Single Man barely missed the cut (box office, $9 million). But the Academy’s aversion to anything too overtly gay is well-documented. (There was no frank sex to freak anybody out in Capote or Milk). Their affection for Jewish characters is a given. Jewish Man in. Gay Man out.

    Meanwhile, how is The Blind Side a BP nominee but Bright Star isn’t? I think the answer is $255 mil vs. $4.5 mil in ticket sales. The Blind Side is the movie everybody wanted to see, if only to be part of the conversation. Nobody felt left out of the Bright Star conversation. There wasn’t any conversation about Bright Star.

  72. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I don’t even understand why people are fixating so much on Box Office.

    Me, one reason: It’s a useful gauge to indicate how much people want to see a movie. Academy members are people too. They’re tastes really are not all that different from any other devoted moviegoer. If a movie can’t attract a lot of people into a theater. the screener DVD will fail to attract some voters from ever watching it. That’s a sad reality nobody likes to think about.

    Why didn’t Tilda Swinton get any traction for Best Actress for Julia? My guess is only a small fraction of AMPAS members ever saw the performance.

    Why was A Serious Man in, and A Single Man out, in the Best Picture nominees? More voters were curious to watch the Coens take on late 1960s Jewish suburbia then were interested to watch an gay director’s take on early-1960s gay academia.

    I’d say A Serious Man barely made the cut (box office: $9 million) and A Single Man barely missed the cut (box office, $9 million). But the Academy’s aversion to anything too overtly gay is well-documented. (There was no frank sex to freak anybody out in Capote or Milk). Their affection for Jewish characters is a given. Jewish Man in. Gay Man out.

    Meanwhile, how is The Blind Side a BP nominee but Bright Star isn’t? I think the answer is $255 mil vs. $4.5 mil in ticket sales. The Blind Side is the movie everybody wanted to see, if only to be part of the conversation. Nobody felt left out of the Bright Star conversation. There wasn’t any conversation about Bright Star.

  73. Me, it’s kinda ridiculous to say Potter has failed to make $400 million when it’s actually made 1.3 BILLION, lol. But I agree of course they should have released it during Oscar season, especially since they had already said prior to release that they had a big Oscar push planned for the finale.

  74. Me, it’s kinda ridiculous to say Potter has failed to make $400 million when it’s actually made 1.3 BILLION, lol. But I agree of course they should have released it during Oscar season, especially since they had already said prior to release that they had a big Oscar push planned for the finale.

  75. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    You guys, if The Hurt Locker can premiere a full 15 months prior to its Oscars in film festivals, be released in mid-summer and barely break even, then it’s sort of silly to try to parse out box office and release dates as an excuse or justification for why Harry Potter will or won’t be nominated.

    Is it so hard to remember that Inception and District 9 and Inglorious Basterds and The Social Network didn’t need to open on Christmas Day to get BP nominations? This release date issue is moot.

    Expecto PatronuMoot!

  76. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    You guys, if The Hurt Locker can premiere a full 15 months prior to its Oscars in film festivals, be released in mid-summer and barely break even, then it’s sort of silly to try to parse out box office and release dates as an excuse or justification for why Harry Potter will or won’t be nominated.

    Is it so hard to remember that Inception and District 9 and Inglorious Basterds and The Social Network didn’t need to open on Christmas Day to get BP nominations? This release date issue is moot.

    Expecto PatronuMoot!

  77. But it’s not moot cause there’s still the issue of genre bias that comes into play. It’s no secret that the Academy has something against Potter…and now, even with a unanomously praised final installment since it wasn’t released during Oscar season they can hide behind the excuse that “they forgot about it”. I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me…

  78. But it’s not moot cause there’s still the issue of genre bias that comes into play. It’s no secret that the Academy has something against Potter…and now, even with a unanomously praised final installment since it wasn’t released during Oscar season they can hide behind the excuse that “they forgot about it”. I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me…

  79. Ugh, if you read all of my posts carefully, I acknowleged that the addressing and evaluating of the box office issue is relative to each film regarding certain factors. There are variables that differ greatly for each movie based on those factors/maintaining buzz which gets harder when more Oscar bait is released in Nov-Dec. We have some big bait in Nov-Dec with J.Edgar, War Horse, and etc.

    Release dates and timing are definitely NOT a moot point especially when it comes to genre movies and overcoming competition. Moneyball, Tree of Life, HP, and certain other earlier Oscar contenders will have to contend with major competition in Nov-Dec as well as struggle to maintain Oscar momentum. None of these movies are in a position where it is viewed as a solid lock for nominations.

    Maintaining buzz and the zeitgest is a factor when it comes to comes to a movie’s Oscar chances. It is different for many movies and there are different factors regarding each movie depending on its position/other issues so that should not be blown off when compared to The Social Network which was viewed as a strong lock for nomination despite competition. You are going by the exception, not the usual state of the race when generally speaking of the MAJORITY of movies based on timing. It is usually harder for movies that are released in the summer and fall to maintain momentum versus movies that release during the height of Oscar Season- Nov-Dec. People forget The Town and dozens of other movies got screwed over because it wasn’t able to maintain its momentum. The Town only got one nomination. It is generally harder to maintain that buzz when it is September or summer film especially when there are issues like the broad appeal vs niche appeal or genre biases or etc. The Tree of Life, Moneyball, HP, and many other earlier releases are certaintly not in the same strong position currently as The Social Network was in the same timeframe, so that is not a valid comparison.

    Scott, good grief. I was defending HP’s chances as well as address some pitfalls. I was not being ridiculous at all. The DOMESTIC expectations were higher from the studio, at around $400 mil. A lot of people thought it would soar above Titanic and even take on Avatar for its international all-time gross, that has not been the case. It can’t meet that amount without a re-release and postponement of its DVD release. The marketing and PR for the final installment was far less when compared to the previous seven movies. Nov or Dec would have made for a better release date. HP is going to have to contend with more conventional Oscar-bait movies like J.Edgar, War Horse, and etc. I hope it makes the Oscar cut but there are a lot of good and negative factors. I addressed both the factors in its favor as well as the negative factors.

  80. Ugh, if you read all of my posts carefully, I acknowleged that the addressing and evaluating of the box office issue is relative to each film regarding certain factors. There are variables that differ greatly for each movie based on those factors/maintaining buzz which gets harder when more Oscar bait is released in Nov-Dec. We have some big bait in Nov-Dec with J.Edgar, War Horse, and etc.

    Release dates and timing are definitely NOT a moot point especially when it comes to genre movies and overcoming competition. Moneyball, Tree of Life, HP, and certain other earlier Oscar contenders will have to contend with major competition in Nov-Dec as well as struggle to maintain Oscar momentum. None of these movies are in a position where it is viewed as a solid lock for nominations.

    Maintaining buzz and the zeitgest is a factor when it comes to comes to a movie’s Oscar chances. It is different for many movies and there are different factors regarding each movie depending on its position/other issues so that should not be blown off when compared to The Social Network which was viewed as a strong lock for nomination despite competition. You are going by the exception, not the usual state of the race when generally speaking of the MAJORITY of movies based on timing. It is usually harder for movies that are released in the summer and fall to maintain momentum versus movies that release during the height of Oscar Season- Nov-Dec. People forget The Town and dozens of other movies got screwed over because it wasn’t able to maintain its momentum. The Town only got one nomination. It is generally harder to maintain that buzz when it is September or summer film especially when there are issues like the broad appeal vs niche appeal or genre biases or etc. The Tree of Life, Moneyball, HP, and many other earlier releases are certaintly not in the same strong position currently as The Social Network was in the same timeframe, so that is not a valid comparison.

    Scott, good grief. I was defending HP’s chances as well as address some pitfalls. I was not being ridiculous at all. The DOMESTIC expectations were higher from the studio, at around $400 mil. A lot of people thought it would soar above Titanic and even take on Avatar for its international all-time gross, that has not been the case. It can’t meet that amount without a re-release and postponement of its DVD release. The marketing and PR for the final installment was far less when compared to the previous seven movies. Nov or Dec would have made for a better release date. HP is going to have to contend with more conventional Oscar-bait movies like J.Edgar, War Horse, and etc. I hope it makes the Oscar cut but there are a lot of good and negative factors. I addressed both the factors in its favor as well as the negative factors.

  81. Everybody knows that maintaining traction for Oscar buzz for a movie is different dependent on the cast, crew, genre, zeitgeist, blogging reactions, and etc. There a number of different variables and not all movies can be grouped together. I wouldn’t generalize based on TSN or The Hurt Locker. Sometimes box office and timing is an issue for some movies, other times it makes no difference. There are still a lot of potential heavy-hitters set to be released in Nov-Dec which might affect some of the Oscar potential of earlier releases. There is a reason why Nov-Dec is viewed as Oscar season and the best timeframe. Sometimes earlier releases can maintain the momentum and make the cut; sometimes they fail because of more recent competition that stole the thunder and lose their traction. It all depends on the circumstances which vary from year to year. You can’t make a simple comparison based on two random years. Any award pundit knows that timing and BO can sometimes play a factor when it comes to traction.
    Key word, being SOMETIMES. I personally think HP, Moneyball, and TOL will make the cut but there are strong risks/variables. I think the timing might affect The Help’s chances despite the strong box office. It is different and complicated for every movie as well as convoluted for each award season. Sometimes the BO and timing plays a role but sometimes it doesn’t. Did most of us predict two years ago, that Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges would sweep the race in the lead acting categories before Award Season started with the Critics Choice Awards?. Hell, no. The tides can turn quite easily.

  82. Everybody knows that maintaining traction for Oscar buzz for a movie is different dependent on the cast, crew, genre, zeitgeist, blogging reactions, and etc. There a number of different variables and not all movies can be grouped together. I wouldn’t generalize based on TSN or The Hurt Locker. Sometimes box office and timing is an issue for some movies, other times it makes no difference. There are still a lot of potential heavy-hitters set to be released in Nov-Dec which might affect some of the Oscar potential of earlier releases. There is a reason why Nov-Dec is viewed as Oscar season and the best timeframe. Sometimes earlier releases can maintain the momentum and make the cut; sometimes they fail because of more recent competition that stole the thunder and lose their traction. It all depends on the circumstances which vary from year to year. You can’t make a simple comparison based on two random years. Any award pundit knows that timing and BO can sometimes play a factor when it comes to traction.
    Key word, being SOMETIMES. I personally think HP, Moneyball, and TOL will make the cut but there are strong risks/variables. I think the timing might affect The Help’s chances despite the strong box office. It is different and complicated for every movie as well as convoluted for each award season. Sometimes the BO and timing plays a role but sometimes it doesn’t. Did most of us predict two years ago, that Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges would sweep the race in the lead acting categories before Award Season started with the Critics Choice Awards?. Hell, no. The tides can turn quite easily.

  83. I think war horse is the frontrunner, they are gonna want to reward spielberg his second bp to make up for ryan… Plus with tintin they may want to reward him for a big year, and a great comeback after many believed he lost his mojo. That was the film to beat all year. I love clint but the last couple years his films have gotten a little senile.

  84. I think war horse is the frontrunner, they are gonna want to reward spielberg his second bp to make up for ryan… Plus with tintin they may want to reward him for a big year, and a great comeback after many believed he lost his mojo. That was the film to beat all year. I love clint but the last couple years his films have gotten a little senile.

  85. I still don’t get this fascination with Moneyball. It was an alright film, but nothing special. Pitt doesn’t deserve a nomination for this either. Which pisses me off because Pitt is a great actor, but the academy last awarded him a nomination for a film he didn’t deserve recognition for (Benjamin Button). Yet, they overlook him for his best performance (Jesse James). It’s so damn frustrating. I would love to see Fassbender (Shame) or Harrelson (Rampart) win, but I can see neither receiving a nomination.

    “It’s been a while since we’ve seen protests in the streets about the direction our government is taking us. Disillusionment with our President has set in and almost everyone, the 99%, are barely scraping by.”
    – Uh…what about the Tea Party? You know, a movement that actually has a clear concise message, and nowhere close to the amount of arrests as that bowel movement happening currently. I’m sorry, I kid, I kid. I just couldn’t help myself Sasha. Keep up the good work, though. I’m glad you are championing Shame. That film blew me away.

  86. I still don’t get this fascination with Moneyball. It was an alright film, but nothing special. Pitt doesn’t deserve a nomination for this either. Which pisses me off because Pitt is a great actor, but the academy last awarded him a nomination for a film he didn’t deserve recognition for (Benjamin Button). Yet, they overlook him for his best performance (Jesse James). It’s so damn frustrating. I would love to see Fassbender (Shame) or Harrelson (Rampart) win, but I can see neither receiving a nomination.

    “It’s been a while since we’ve seen protests in the streets about the direction our government is taking us. Disillusionment with our President has set in and almost everyone, the 99%, are barely scraping by.”
    – Uh…what about the Tea Party? You know, a movement that actually has a clear concise message, and nowhere close to the amount of arrests as that bowel movement happening currently. I’m sorry, I kid, I kid. I just couldn’t help myself Sasha. Keep up the good work, though. I’m glad you are championing Shame. That film blew me away.

  87. moneyball was great and brad pitt deserves to get nominated for both moneyball and tree of life as for the box office,it is the second best earning basball movie ever

  88. moneyball was great and brad pitt deserves to get nominated for both moneyball and tree of life as for the box office,it is the second best earning basball movie ever

  89. Okay you know what? I’m just realizing how freaking crowded December is. I think I thought there were more things being released in November. And I wasn’t thinking about the non-Oscary blockbusters Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows coming out. And Hugo is sharing the last week of November with The Muppets?! Oh gawd. This is gonna be a hot mess.

    This is gonna be like the year me and all the old people were at the box office window looking for Brad Pitt and all we could find was Tom Cruise.

  90. Okay you know what? I’m just realizing how freaking crowded December is. I think I thought there were more things being released in November. And I wasn’t thinking about the non-Oscary blockbusters Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows coming out. And Hugo is sharing the last week of November with The Muppets?! Oh gawd. This is gonna be a hot mess.

    This is gonna be like the year me and all the old people were at the box office window looking for Brad Pitt and all we could find was Tom Cruise.

  91. I predict the winner of Best Picture and Best Director will be Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

    Since my 2 favorite films of the year, The Tree Of Life and Melancholia, stand no chance of winning (although I believe Tree Of Life could get a nomination), for now I route to Midnight in Paris. I still feel it’s an underrated movie.

  92. I predict the winner of Best Picture and Best Director will be Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

    Since my 2 favorite films of the year, The Tree Of Life and Melancholia, stand no chance of winning (although I believe Tree Of Life could get a nomination), for now I route to Midnight in Paris. I still feel it’s an underrated movie.

  93. Houstonrufus

    I don’t know, Sasha. I’m with you on everything you write here except Moneyball being one of the contenders for Best Picture. If you mean now, I guess maybe that’s true. But come oscar time, I don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’ll be nominated. But I can’t see the film truly being one of the top contenders for the prize.

  94. Houstonrufus

    I don’t know, Sasha. I’m with you on everything you write here except Moneyball being one of the contenders for Best Picture. If you mean now, I guess maybe that’s true. But come oscar time, I don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’ll be nominated. But I can’t see the film truly being one of the top contenders for the prize.

  95. chilledstate

    To R, Sasha originally did mention something like, “to talk about the Oscar now is like talk about Japan before Tsunami,” I don’t remember exact wordings but that’s basically what she wrote. So, I pointed that out. And I don’t know if she read my comments or just changed her minds, she deleted that part very quickly. As you can see, I posted my first comment almost right after she had posted her original article. I suggest you think about the possibility of editing before making fun of someone.

  96. chilledstate

    To R, Sasha originally did mention something like, “to talk about the Oscar now is like talk about Japan before Tsunami,” I don’t remember exact wordings but that’s basically what she wrote. So, I pointed that out. And I don’t know if she read my comments or just changed her minds, she deleted that part very quickly. As you can see, I posted my first comment almost right after she had posted her original article. I suggest you think about the possibility of editing before making fun of someone.

  97. Beautiful piece.

    So far, “Moneyball” is the best film I’ve seen this year and do believe it is going to be among the BP nominees.

  98. Beautiful piece.

    So far, “Moneyball” is the best film I’ve seen this year and do believe it is going to be among the BP nominees.

  99. If the general consensus here is that Moneyball is an “if” or a “maybe” then that feeling surely should be felt by the members of the Academy. As Ryan pointed out they are people too. I based my initial feelings about Moneyball on it’s box office and it may very well reach the 100 million mark but I think that’s going to take some time specially with what’s waiting in the wings to be released. I don’t see how Moneyball can compete with the upcoming releases that are geared to drag audiences into the theaters.

    As for Hazanavicus I think the best example of a foreign director being nominated without being well known in the US was Wertmueller when she was nominated for Seven Beauties. Wertmueller was really an unknown here except for those who really paid attention to foreign films.

    I also think that releasing Harry Potter in July based on what was going to be released during the holiday season was brilliant. Potter will be on demand in a few weeks so it may not be in theaters but it surely won’t be out of the public eye. The networks will be advertising all over the place “catch Harry Potter On Demand”. Melancholia and Margin Call are already there and are my short list.

    I personally see the only lock on a BP nomination right now is Midnight in Paris. Of course that’s based on what is yet to be released. If forced I might go out on a limb and say that Moneyball might get a green light but I think Moneyball is going to be overshadowed by J Edgar, War Horse, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and perhaps Carnage. The Artist is definitely a contender but the true guage for that will be how the public responds at the box office. Like it or not the box office does have some impact on a film. In this years scenario you can’t really use The Hurt Locker as an example because by this time it was already a critical success, had a lot a press for it’s director Kathryn Bigelow and had at least two performances that everyone was raving about, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. By this time we all knew The Hurt Locker was going to be a nominee. I dont’ think any of us could have argued that and by now what we were discussing about Locker was whether it could win and would Bigelow win as well.

    I’ve already said enough about Tree of Life so I’m just gonna let that dead horse lay there rather than pick up a stick again to beat it. That’s a joke by the way.

  100. If the general consensus here is that Moneyball is an “if” or a “maybe” then that feeling surely should be felt by the members of the Academy. As Ryan pointed out they are people too. I based my initial feelings about Moneyball on it’s box office and it may very well reach the 100 million mark but I think that’s going to take some time specially with what’s waiting in the wings to be released. I don’t see how Moneyball can compete with the upcoming releases that are geared to drag audiences into the theaters.

    As for Hazanavicus I think the best example of a foreign director being nominated without being well known in the US was Wertmueller when she was nominated for Seven Beauties. Wertmueller was really an unknown here except for those who really paid attention to foreign films.

    I also think that releasing Harry Potter in July based on what was going to be released during the holiday season was brilliant. Potter will be on demand in a few weeks so it may not be in theaters but it surely won’t be out of the public eye. The networks will be advertising all over the place “catch Harry Potter On Demand”. Melancholia and Margin Call are already there and are my short list.

    I personally see the only lock on a BP nomination right now is Midnight in Paris. Of course that’s based on what is yet to be released. If forced I might go out on a limb and say that Moneyball might get a green light but I think Moneyball is going to be overshadowed by J Edgar, War Horse, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and perhaps Carnage. The Artist is definitely a contender but the true guage for that will be how the public responds at the box office. Like it or not the box office does have some impact on a film. In this years scenario you can’t really use The Hurt Locker as an example because by this time it was already a critical success, had a lot a press for it’s director Kathryn Bigelow and had at least two performances that everyone was raving about, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. By this time we all knew The Hurt Locker was going to be a nominee. I dont’ think any of us could have argued that and by now what we were discussing about Locker was whether it could win and would Bigelow win as well.

    I’ve already said enough about Tree of Life so I’m just gonna let that dead horse lay there rather than pick up a stick again to beat it. That’s a joke by the way.

  101. i just like to say it’s pretty ironic that the tagline for awardsdaily is “the trick is not minding” when in fact this site was created exactly because some people DO MIND a lot and have this idea that if they can talk about a film in a certain way then they can influence the Oscar outcome and when their opinion/favorites and the Academy do not match up they say that the Academy is out of touch. And yet when the Academy bestows best pic to also critically-acclaimed movies (see No Company for Old Men) that they like they’ll say it’s a fluke, it/the director/actor/actress was over-due or they couldn’t be denied. this is very amusing indeed. you pronounce it’s only a game but the extent and breadth of covering the Oscars by bloggers/online writers are so intense and filled with zeal that they’re more obsessed with bestowing the Oscar to a movie/performer when in the first place they say that the Oscars are a joke! like you say, it’s just a popularity game! lighten up. the paradox is hilarious

  102. i just like to say it’s pretty ironic that the tagline for awardsdaily is “the trick is not minding” when in fact this site was created exactly because some people DO MIND a lot and have this idea that if they can talk about a film in a certain way then they can influence the Oscar outcome and when their opinion/favorites and the Academy do not match up they say that the Academy is out of touch. And yet when the Academy bestows best pic to also critically-acclaimed movies (see No Company for Old Men) that they like they’ll say it’s a fluke, it/the director/actor/actress was over-due or they couldn’t be denied. this is very amusing indeed. you pronounce it’s only a game but the extent and breadth of covering the Oscars by bloggers/online writers are so intense and filled with zeal that they’re more obsessed with bestowing the Oscar to a movie/performer when in the first place they say that the Oscars are a joke! like you say, it’s just a popularity game! lighten up. the paradox is hilarious

  103. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    the paradox is hilarious

    You see hilarious paradox. We see frisky irony.

  104. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    the paradox is hilarious

    You see hilarious paradox. We see frisky irony.

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