Intriguing, Mostly Perplexing

N.Y. Times reporter Michael Cieply has an Oscar season piece out this morning. It mainly focuses on Paramount’s intention to push The Curious Case of Benjamin Button big-time. The most interesting line comes from marketing chief Megan Colligan, who says the not quite finished slogan for the film is something along the lines of “you must live your life forward, but it can only be understood backward.”
A portion of the Cieply piece raised an eyebrow. “Some publicists who specialize in Oscar campaigns,” he wrote, “are privately predicting a year-end shootout between Button and Frost/Nixon, a planned December release from Universal Pictures, directed by Ron Howard and with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the title roles. The films have been seen by few, but the campaign machinery is already lining up behind them.”
By all reports, Frost/Nixon is a solid film based on a very well-written play (which I saw), but I’m not hearing “favored Best Picture contender” from anyone. That’s certainly not what I’m hearing from a guy who’s seen Frost/Nixon and who’s heard from a trusted L.A. friend that there’s much more to be had from Gus Van Sant‘s Milk, the biopic of slain gay-rights martyr Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn.
This guy — a distribution/exhibition exec whom I’ve known for years and whose views I trust — believes it’s much more likely that Milk will be the shit rather than the Ron Howard film, which he feels is good enough but hardly a Best Picture front-runner.
An L.A.-based journalist (also a friend) says, however, that Frost /Nixon is “Howard’s best film” although “we haven’t seen most of the contenders yet and it’s a little early to say whether it’s going to be in or not. But it’s a classy drama that really works. Designed for the Broadway stage, but it’s been made into a cinematic thing with real suspense and dimension. I really liked it.”
Cieply really goes off the rails when he runs down other possibly Oscar-worthy films. He mentions Marc Abraham‘s more or less discredited Flash of Genius, which was more or less trashed in Telluride. He also lists Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling, which was well received in Cannes (I saw and liked it) but doesn’t quite have that “wow” schwing that puts it into Best Picture contention, even if Angelina Jolie will probably snag a Best Actress nomination.
Cieply also mentions “coming award contenders” like Baz Luhrman‘s Australia, Gabrielle Muccino‘s Seven Pounds and — no joke — Quantum of Solace, which he says has “provoked early Oscar talk.” People are actually telling Michael Cieply that Quantum of Solace is an Oscar contender? For what, special effects? Explosions?