Ben Affleck’s Air has opened to strong reviews coming out of South by Southwest.
It has general audience appeal, I’d say. A popular subject with popular actors. But we play this dumb game in the Oscar race every year. We like to build them up then tear them down. Affleck knows this rollercoaster ride very well, not just in his personal life but with his films. I have my own regrettable history with Argo – where I built it up then attempted to tear it down when I saw that it was going to do what Everything Everywhere All At Once just did (and then some), aka “win everything.” I thought Lincoln was the better movie but you know, the movie I think is the better movie never wins but for a few times, like No Country for Old Men or The Departed.
Either way, I am sort of rooting quietly for Air to be that movie that is popular and then makes money and then is nominated for its success rather than being “slotted in” so that all pundits put it at number one, curse it with frontrunner status, only to see a scrappy underdog rise up and overtake it. This has happened too many times because people get bored, which I understand. There are too many people covering the race now and not enough of an industry to justify it so a movie like Air becomes the one breadcrumb tossed on a beach to hungry seagulls.
There is another reason to root for Air and that’s the who, what and where of it. A production company started by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon that will give shared to the actors, “Artists Equity, with Damon, was founded on the premise of profit-sharing among not only directors, producers, and actors but also crewmembers such as cinematographers, editors, and costume designers.”
Affleck and Damon obtained at least $100 million in financing from investment firm RedBird Capital Partners to start and made their own financial contributions to Artists Equity, with Affleck, 50, serving as CEO, and Damon, 52, as chief creative officer. “Ben and I have both been making movies for over 30 years,” says Damon. “We know the things that actually matter to people — but ask Ben to see the spreadsheets.”
Moreover, it’s an Amazon theatrical release to see if maybe streamers can help breathe new life into theatrical:
All of these are good reasons to see this as an “Oscar contender,” but only if it “plays,” which I hope it does. It is going to take a village to expand the Oscars and the film industry outward for the people so it doesn’t become an insular bubble (like Barbie World). The trailer already has 12 million views.
It’s the kind of movie I am hoping will make a comeback because it is directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery. The trend of directors writing their own screenplays has become, I think, a bit of a naval gazing exercise that doesn’t have anywhere to go. This makes it all much more expansive (in my view).
In other words, go Ben and Matt go.