Rush and Prisoners to Hit Theaters – Hover on the Fringes of Oscar

http://www.awardsdaily.com/blog/rush-and-prisoners-hit-theaters-hove-on-the-fringes-of-oscar/

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The best thing Rush has going for it in the Oscar race is that it has a great Oscar story attached to it, and that is that Ron Howard couldn’t get the thing made and had to scramble around for funding — kind of amazing when you think about it. How could anyone say no to race cars and Chris Hemsworth? Maybe the mild bummer of it being a true story that doesn’t have a crowd-cheering climax so much as a thoughtful rumination on risk taking versus valuing safety first. Given that Rush opens with Hemsworth having sex with Game of Thrones’ uber hottie Natalie Dormer, it should be an easy sell, giving women dragged along for the ride with their “interested in race car driving” dates a thrill from the outset. I don’t get where all of this doesn’t add up to great box office.

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Rush has gotten some rave reviews from critics, but ends up with a score in the mid-70s on Metacritic, which means good — but that won’t necessarily get it into the Oscar race. Ron Howard, the cinematography, the box office, and the all-important “nobody wanted to make it” Oscar story could. What it really has going for it above all over things is a notable performance by Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. As lead, Bruhl would have a tough time squeezing into a very crowded category (remember, almost all movies now, especially Oscar movies, revolve around a central male character, so Best Actor is always crowded) but they’re apparently running him as supporting. Bruhl should have no trouble being considered there, although it’s filling up quickly.

Rush is entertaining, thrilling to watch and gives Hemsworth a chance to look like a real human being. No longer bulked up like a superhero, his smaller frame coupled with his exceptional good looks and charisma puts him right at the top of the list of major heartthrobs. And indeed, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good actor — he holds his own right alongside Bruhl — but it does mean the movie is going to greatly benefit from that singular detail. I dare say he might be having his Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall moment in that regard.

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Prisoners opens to the same kinds of reviews Rush received — some really love it and some are just okay about it, which puts it in the mid-70s on Metacritic. Like Rush, Prisoners is a crowd-pleasing thriller that takes you on a dark ride but won’t leave you there. The actors are given a lot of room to show their stuff and they act their hearts out, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano. But like Rush it also leaves you wondering whether it’s a film destined for big crowds and high box office or whether it can break into the awards race. One of the things holding both films back is they aren’t “important” in a year of very important films. They are going to be competing with other thrilling films that leave you staggering out of the theater, like Gravity and Captain Phillips. Getting a leg up in a competitive year will be the key. I suspect that, in the end, it will come down to box office. If there is enough shock and awe one of them could break through the Best Picture race.

46 Comment

  1. I’m seeing PRISONERS tonight, and I just found out RUSH was just a limited release. Almost ruined my day :/

    Out of the two I see RUSH having a better shot at a Best Pic nomination, and I’m writing down Bruhl as a near-lock for Best Supporting Actor. I’m not nearly as certain about PRISONER’s chances –it’s looking more and more like a longshot.

    It’s worth repeating, crowded year.

  2. Seen RUSH three times so far. Full-on praise from me: breathlessly exciting, brilliant repartee, full of testosterone, terrific acting and full of the passion that Makes Real Men Men: spitting in the face of death in the name of sex and immortality and glory. Best line: “Men love women! But more than women: men love cars!” Awesome movie.

  3. “Like Rush, Prisoners is a crowd pleasing thriller…” I’m sorry, I went bug eyed for a moment. Sasha, is it really a crowd pleasing thriller? Thriller sure but crowd pleasing? I feel like it would be depressing. I know “crowd pleasing” doesn’t always mean “feel good film”…just wondering the context.

  4. Looking forward to both. Hope Inreally love at least one of them.

    Funny, because of the pedigree, I could see Rush doing quite well (receiving a bunch of Oscar noms, mayyyybe even picture and director).

    Meanwhile, I could see Prisoners getting none; perhaps a few Best Ensemble notations with critics.

    Most interestingly, Prisoners has 5 100 s on Metacritic while Rush currently has 3.

  5. Prisoners is expected to open in 20M range which would be a pretty good hit for it. I think it has a shot at some categories like cinematography, screenplay, and supporting actor. i wish there was room for Jackman though.

    Rush seems like a film that the overseas members would go for. I think that of course Bruhl will be nominated but it also has chance at screenplay and cinematography and editing. Was kind of surprised by Hemsworth as well. Think Rush has better chance to sneak into BP because of pedigree and who it caters too.

  6. I wanted to see Rush so bad at TIFF, but it conflicted with another film I had to see. I’ll definitely check this out in the theatres soon.

  7. Just saw prisoners its was alright the performances were good especially Jackman

  8. I watched Prisoners last night and it’s far from crowd-pleasing.

  9. I guess the reason for Rush being not so attractive is that Formula1 is not that big a deal in the states, kinda like soccer, or football as we call it.

  10. 3rd place in TIFF audience poll over the likes of Gravity and August: Osage County says different. Also, all the people who attended my screening on Wednesday.

  11. I’m so excited for PRISONERS, but I am wary, after seeing ENEMY and being left cold and confused by it, I’m really hoping this one is a lot more balanced!

  12. *******SPOILERS ABOUT PRISONERS*********

    Prisoners is a soft-paperback, trashy story trying to dress up in Mystic River/Zodiac clothing. The acting is really stellar, and Villeneuve certainly knows his way around a shot. But I definitely had problems with it. Specifically the Bobby Taylor character and his motivations. What exactly is he doing? Why is he a fake kidnapper? Because the writer needed a red herring? What is the purpose of him stealing the kids’ clothing and drenching them in pig’s blood, or burying the mannequins in his yard, or having all the snakes in those boxes? Is he working with Melissa Leo to try and throw off the cops’ scent? I’d buy that if not for the line Leo says towards the end to Jackman where she says something to the effect of “I forgot about that Bobby Taylor kid ’till I saw him in the news”, effectively canceling out that possibility (unless she’s lying to Jackman in that moment, but why would she do that?).

    Also, if Paul Dano is just their victim and had nothing to do with the kids being taken, why was he saying and doing such creepy shit in act 1? Why have him hang his dog by its leash and sing the jingle bells song?

    If this were a giallo, we’d all just go along with this stuff because ITS A GIALLO, but this movie is trying to pose as something more “important”. The Fincher/Zodiac references couldn’t be more blatant, down to Gyllenhaal being cast as the detective, to the fact that he has zodiac signs tattooed on his fingers, to the fact that his opening scene has him discussing zodiac signs with the waitress at the restaurant. Obviously there are Mystic River parallels as well, but that goes without saying. I just think the film’s pretensions get in the way of what it really wants to/should be: a dumb, trashy, lurid thriller designed to get a rise out of an audience and nothing more.

    The major saving grace of the film is, again, its acting. Especially Hugh Jackman. His impotent rage mode after the kids are taken is a bit of a new angle for him as an actor, and he really does a great job in his first scene with Gyllenhaal of trying hard to communicate something, anything, whatever he has to say to feel like he has control of something in his life at that moment. I actually found Gyllenhaal to be quite effective in his role as well. They’re both acting like they’re in a much deeper film than the one they are actually in.

  13. I like Ron Howard but I’m just not interested in RUSH. Do I have to see it? I think race car driving is just as stupid as sticking a fork in a light socket.

  14. Antoinette,

    At least when you stick a fork in a light socket, you feel a real buzz.

    I found Rush to be quite good and yet very poor. It is a great pity that Peter Morgan’s script reduced the two protagonists to shallow opposites; Hunt sexy, fun charisma against Lauda’s dull, methodical grinder. Going that route results in weak characterizations, but the movie itself does well in delivering the Grand Prix races. What struck me as most interesting is the visual experimentation Ron Howard gently explored; framing, lenses, color and slow-motion.

  15. I’ll take that as a no. Thanks. :D

  16. Saw RUSH here in the UK on Wednesday. Reminded me of CHARIOTS OF FIRE in many ways. Its never dull and constantly seems to be on the move. The film should be nominated for Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Music and Sound. A Best Picture nomination is not out of the question.

  17. Hated A Beautiful Mind, Hated It, even though I thought Russell Crowe was excellent in it. But then Howard redeemed himself with Cinderella Man. So maybe Howard needs some sports in his movies. Looking forward to Rush. Never saw the original with Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh so I’m happy to have this second chance.

  18. *******SPOILERS ABOUT PRISONERS*********

    In response to both of your complaints, you’ve basically missed the whole point of the movie, which is about “waging war against God”. The story isn’t about the act of kidnapping, but rather how it turns the parents into demons and the children into sociopaths. Bobby Taylor and Paul Dano’s character were both past victims, which explains their deranged behaviour. Please understand the story before you call it “trashy”.

  19. A bit of old news, I bet, for most on this site, but Manohla Dargis designates RUSH a New York Times Critics’ Pick

  20. There seems to be perpetual confusion about year 2001. I’ll get back to you with the truth.

  21. 2 things:

    1. The fact that Bobby was a victim does not in any way explain his behavior. What he’s doing in the film is extremely elaborate and convoluted and there is very little in the way of explaining him or his actions besides “he’s damaged”. That’s just lazy writing designed to give the film an extra red herring.

    2. I’m not necessarily calling the film trashy. The problem with the movie to me is that it isn’t trashy enough. The story elements they’ve put in place are pure pulp ingredients, but the movie they’ve made is designed to be more than just a thriller. It wants to be deep, but provides only vague character motivations and foggy symbolism instead of anything resembling a coherent theme.

    The way you describe the movie is way more succinct and understandable than anything on screen. There’s just too much misdirection and trickery for the movie to feel focused, and most of the plot elements fall apart under close inspection.

  22. Prisoners was AMAZING! But very intense.

  23. Both of these films look like winners. Howard has made some of my favorite movies ,Apollo 13,Frost NIixon, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and now Rush.He has never been considered as one of the anointed ones, you know an auteur du jour,thank goodness, since the movie output of that group is dubious. Crowe and Howard worked well together . Cinderella Man is superior to The Fighter ,but Hollywood prefers screen fighters to be troubled,violent and punchy. Too bad since CM was one of the best movies of 2005.

  24. Just came home from seeing RUSH.

    Best movie Ron Howard has ever made. His oeuvre (pardon my french) has range from awful (his Dan Brown movies) to very good (APOLLO 13, CINDERELLA MAN). Won his Oscar for what I think is one of the most forgettable BP winners (A BEAUTIFUL MIND). But I think RUSH is his first truly great film.

    This kind of craftsmanship has almost disappear from mainstream movies.

    IN CONTENTION has had Daniel Bruhl as a possibility from Supporting Actor for a while, but I didn’t buy it. But now that I have seen his performance, if RUSH gets only one nomination, I hope it’s for his performance.

    In some ways this movie reminds me of MICHAEL CLAYTON, a superbly made mainstream commercial movie. The kind of movie that Hollywood used to make all the time. I hope RUSH is as successful with the Academy as that movie was.

  25. you wondered why something like RUSH would be a hard sell for studios? it’s hard to say except for the fact that it seems to be adult subject matter. studios are all about tentpoles. RUSH doesn’t seem to have an angle that could be touted at ComicCon. there is no MARVEL or DC COMICS connection.

  26. I wouldn’t nominate Prisoners for any awards. The film was ok, but it simply has too many problems to be taken seriously. There are too many characters and half of them have very little to do. It should play well to the masses – going by the crowd I saw it with.

  27. Rush deserves some accolades for Dod Mantle’s cinematography and Brühl’s supporting role. I hope the Academy will recognize these two.

    Best picture? That’s maybe a stretch since this seems like a strong year.

    Compared to Lee Daniels’ quite awful The Butler (which I got to see just yesterday), Rush should easily get a nomination, but there you go.

    About The Butler:

    Whitaker was good, I guess (his face has a nice way of capturing a curious mix of servility, subservience and a defiant form of integrity), Oprah is merely passable (but it’s a two-note performance and the script never allows the character to be anything but that), but everything else was a mess. The acting from that former Supermodel contestant (YaYa?) was hilarious. The worst I’ve seen in a long while. Gaines’ son is nothing but a stereotype, a tool for expressing the shifting perspectives of the black struggle from the 50s and onwards.

    The script is basically a scrapbook version of American history. The only time the film breathes as an organic whole is when it allows itself to slow down the history lesson-as-story arc approach (some of the scenes at the Gaines’ house are good enough to engage the viewer).

    I think you have to be American to appreciate this film, because as a work of art it’s really bad. No other way to put it. It’s a banal, haphazard kind of storytelling approach without no anchor (especially since its main protagonist – whose horrible voice-over spoils any remaining subtlety on show – is a blank canvas). I left the cinema frustrated. It ought to have been a good film, but it was not even close.

  28. Really not expecting anything worthwhile out of Rush. Ron Howard has this tendency to make his characters a bit too gooey for my taste. This seems like a competitive bro-match ala Backdraft but just substituting a racetrack for a firehouse. I’ll stick with Will Ferrell’s Tallegda Nights for a decent speedster movie (with less goo.)

  29. I saw debating myself for a good 10 min what should be #1 for 2001, and entertained the idea of a tie, but came to the agonizing conclusion the is one(1) that is -only marginally- the best.

    1. GOSFORD PARK
    2. IN THE BEDROOM
    3. MULHOLLAND DRIVE
    4. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN
    5. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
    6. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
    7. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
    8. MEMENTO
    9. BLACK HAWK DOWN
    10. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
    11. SPIRITED AWAY
    12. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
    13. OCEAN’S ELEVEN
    14. COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE
    15. ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER
    16. THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE
    17. ICHI THE KILLER
    18. GO/BULLY (I really recommend it as a doubleheader)
    19. PLANET OF THE APES (The last good Tim Burton film)
    20. O
    21. THE DEEP END
    22. HEIST
    23. LIFE AS A HOUSE lol
    24. KAIRO (PULSE)
    25. L.I.E.
    26. JOY RIDE/JEEPERS CREEPERS (Make it a double too!)
    27. DONNIE DARKO
    28. TRAINING DAY

    Meh: THE PIANO TEACHER (sooo underwhelming for a Haneke fan like me)
    Most Overrated: Don’t wanna hate, but y’all know which two, literally the two most colorful Oscar-nominated films of the year.
    Worst Movie: THE SON’S ROOM
    Never Seen Queue: GHOST WORLD (it’s supposed to be really good, I just can’t get over that poster), DOG DAYS
    Also noteworthy is that 2001 was the year of Bradley Cooper in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER #awkwardlyfresh

    Special Jury Prizes

    Gold: Paul Walker – JOY RIDE/THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
    Silver: Chris Evans – NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE
    Bronze: Josh Harnett & Ben Affleck – PEARL HARBOR

  30. All Bobby was doing was mimicking the actions taken by his ‘father’ (the dead guy in the priest’s basement) It’s not that hard.

  31. Saw Prisoners this morning and totally enjoyed it as did the audience I was in. There are some script weaknesses and I wouldn’t consider it for BP unless some expected big movies go down in flames. It is a well rounded thriller that thanks to superb acting is among best films of the year. Jackman & Gyllenhaal are well matched and the rest of the great cast defines the word ensemble. In any other year, they would all be considered for nominations. This year, we will have to see how the various categories shake out.

    Rush is giving me Grand Prix flashbacks, but I’ll definitely see it when it appears in the area even though I’m not particularly excited by it as yet.

  32. saw prisoners today and i enjoyed it.:) movies can still be good movies and not always have to be nominated for oscarz lol…

    with that being said if it did get nominated for any awards it would probably be for jackman. maria bello and melissa leo were also pretty decent but i wouldnt lost any sleep on it missing out on any awards- again- still doesnt mean it wasnt a good movie! one of my favs from this year definetely.

  33. SPOILERS

    Chris, no way. Prisoners is…trashy? The plot elements “fall upon further inspection?” Exactly, how? If anything, Prisoners’ screenplay is water tight and leaves nothing up to chance, and what initially seem like red herrings aren’t; they are part of a vast and evil cabal and as much a commentary on child abuse as child abduction. Bobby Taylor is a fascinating, complicated character, a heinous product of his twisted upbringing by zealots who brainwashed (or just call it Stockholm Syndrome, if you prefer) him into believing that mazes, kidnapping, snakes and blood on children’s clothing was “normal,” a process he’s been repeating his entire life over up to and including inadvertently inserting himself into this case. The burying of the child mannequins in his yard is superbly chilling and just perfect given his psychology.

    The material at the heart of Prisoners can qualify as genre — kidnapping, revenge, cop on the case — but the treatment but Villenueve, Deakins, Jackman, Gyllenhaal and company is anything but. It’s a first-class film that tamps down its genre trappings with a high degree of elegance, integrity and conviction.

    Perhaps you need to see the film a second time — I did, and the plotting certainly hangs together beautifully.

  34. Dano and Leo were the standouts for me. I found Bello to be the weakest link.

  35. Saw Prisoners today. Thought it was fantastic. Love what it had to say about shaky morals, faith, and religion. Loved how each character was a prisoner about something; or had to face/overcome a personal demon.

    I was fully engrossed. The acting was great (especially Gyllenhaal). And my goodness, Deakins cinematography of that wonderfully bleak setting was a character unto itself.

  36. A little late to the party, but I saw Prisoners this weekend, and it was incredible. I have never seen a movie with more twists and turns and red herrings. It was like Mystic River meets Sleuth. The subject of child abduction is already moving and deeply disturbing, undoubtedly working in the film’s favor. But what a ride. Excellent cinematography by Roger Deakins. The ensemble is SAG nomination-worthy. Hugh Jackman matches his performance in Les Mis and surpasses its intensity. If he doesn’t get nominated, I’ll be upset, because it was a meaty and powerful performance. It takes a lot for Jackman to be so unlikable on camera. I’m sure Dern, Redford, McConaughey, and Ejiofor are happening, so hopefully Jackman gets the last spot. At least it better not be Whitaker for that one-note character. The women and Paul Dano were also excellent. Gyllenhaal was very good, though his tics could be distracting, and he’s too much of a co-lead to be put in supporting.

    I’m sure the Academy will ignore the film in the bigger categories, except for Actor hopefully, for similar reasons as to why American Horror Story was ripped off in some of the Emmy categories. But even if you think the plot is too lurid and the twists are too much for one film, the performances couldn’t be better.

  37. I haven’t seen a lot this year, but Rush is maybe my favorite. The sort of film Hollywood makes when it’s doing things right.

    The reason it was a hard sell, I would guess, is that it resists the urge of easy villainy.

  38. RUSH is very interesting film. Ron Howard shows range and adaptability, sortof an old dog with new tricks. The technical aspects are top notch and the acting is very good. I think it is a very satisfying exploration of two competitive racers with mutual respect for each other’s style. The film has heart and integrity. I think it is deserving of Oscar consideration including Best Picture.

    PRISONERS is Zodiac meets Misery meets Silence of the Lambs. It is creepy and dramatic. I admire the filmmakers for trying to convince us that it is an Oscar contender, and while I applaud it for exceeding expectations, it falls short for me.

  39. SPOILERS

    I also felt that some plot points didn’t hold up.

    - the pattern on the necklace was so unique, that any detective studying the case that thoroughly would at least note it’s detail. He even asked the Father if the dead guy mentioned working with others.. I mean, we’re meant to believe he’s working hard to piece together what he can, and even entertains the idea of a ring of kidnappers, yet fails to connect the necklace to the drawings on the wall?? Also, I saw that twist a mile away. I think a lot of viewers did.

    - A HUGE part of the story asks us, the audience, to really ask ourselves if we can understand or relate to going to such extremes to find your kid. I really liked how brutal the bathroom scenes were, because it honestly pushes the audience to a point of asking how far would you go as a parent. It makes you think, and in that regard that part of the story was effective. However, where it fell apart for me was that it in no way helped them solve the case. The “question” the film asked was: if torturing a suspect helps you find your kid, is it worth it? Well, the kid mentioned the maze, and that prompted Jackman to visit the house, which then allowed the girl to see him… I get how it put in motion the steps to find the girls. But the whole notion of brutalizing a suspect because your kids are at stake is a very heavy theme for a film, one that could have made for one of the most divisive story lines in a film this year. But it didn’t have the pay off that it needed to justify it, because he turned out to not even be part of the kidnapping. Pretty much a teenager that was a victim of kidnapping, brainwashing and abuse was tortured for no reason, and for no greater cinematic statement or question about anything.

    However, I loved the use of windows and rainfall, the overall cinematography and the art direction. And I agree that the performances were pretty great overall.

    I guess my problem with the movie was that it had such an amazing proposition for the audience, asking “is it okay to torture a suspect that you know in your heart aided in the kidnapping of your child? How far would you go” The whole movie rested on that idea, but it didn’t help solve the case, nor was that kid connected. So it kind of fizzled out as a philosophic question.

  40. Nothing says “crowd pleaser” like abducted children!

  41. It is crowd pleasing in the sense that you can’t stop thinking about it a week after viewing and people are talking about it in forums all over the net. Biggest argument, you either see a good police who done it or you see all sorts of layers of religious, emotional, and psychological conflict. Either way, great movie.

  42. You’ve got Rush listed in your editing picks, which is a good choice, but you’ve only got it half right. Mike Hill, Dan Hanley’s longtime editing partner should be listed as well. They’ve edited all of Ron Howard’s films for over 30 years, with one Oscar win and 3 other norms.

  43. I seen “Rush”. It is a terrific Movie. 2 excellent performances that go along with the excellent editing and photography and a nice music score to boot. Daniel Bruhl should be award worthy. Hemsworth who is usually bland as an actor shows in this film he can be charismatic. Hope the film does more box office in the next few weeks so it can be considered for awards. Get out and see it.

  44. BTW, I also seen “Prisoners” which I enjoyed although the interlocking story lines and the too convenient plot devices strain credibility. Not anywhere as good as “Rush” from where I sat.

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