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?

25 thoughts on “Intriguing, Mostly Perplexing

  1. Josh Massey on said:

    Casino Royale should have been nominated for Best Picture.
    I don’t know too many folks who would argue Little Miss Sunshine was a better film. And when was the last time somebody mentioned Babel?

  2. I’ll bet if the Bond Oscar talk is true, it has something to do with how there was legitimate talk last year of the Bourne film getting nods, either for picture or director. The thinking was that the genre had matured enough that it represented some kind of apogee of the form and that we should move those kinds of films into the “awards-worthy” mainstream.
    I suspect they are thinking that if Quantum is terrific then it deserves some Oscar talk. Or more accurately I would hope that if it’s terrific it wouldn’t get automatically excluded because it’s just an action movie. Attitudes like that ensured that the Searchers, Rio Bravo, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon would basically be shut out from any oscar nominations for the major awards.
    Basically it sort of happened with animation in the early 90s when beauty and the beast got a nod, but it never really played out thereafter; although every year’s there’s a great pixar movie the talk comes up again.
    I for one think it’s overdue that extremely well-made action films start getting some awards-worthy resect. I look back at all of the oscar nominees and winner in 88: Rain Man, Accidental Tourist, Working Girl, Dangerous Liaisons, and Mississippi Burning, and I think Die Hard was better than all of them.
    Well maybe Mississippi Burning was better; except the way it completely changed the actual history of the events was pretty reprehensible.

  3. “I look back at all of the oscar nominees and winner in 88: Rain Man, Accidental Tourist, Working Girl, Dangerous Liaisons, and Mississippi Burning, and I think Die Hard was better than all of them.”
    I’ve always (seriously) said that Die Hard, A Fish Called Wanda, Midnight Run and maybe even Coming to America should have been nominated in ’88.
    That said, no, Bond will not be nominated, but The Dark Knight almost certainly will. It’ll be this year’s The Fugitive.

  4. Just a few random thoughts on the two major stage-to-screen contenders this season:
    When I watched “Frost/Nixon” on B’way I thought it felt like a screenplay that Morgan couldn’t sell and so then decided to turn into a play. It felt like a screenplay, not a play: dozens of short scenes, multiple one-scene characters played by actors doing heavy doubling. So it might just work really well on screen in a way it never did on stage. (I realize I am deeply in the minority with this view.)
    As for “Doubt,” knowing the role and the actress, my money is on Streep FINALLY winning her third Oscar this year. It’s a stunner of a role (played brilliantly by the Tony-winning Cherry Jones on Broadway) and it’s obviously in very good hands.

  5. Not optimistic on Benjamin Buttons winning best anything now. Early front runners never end up with the awards. Revolutionary Road likely loved their exclusion from this article.
    I wonder if WB will use the phrase “This year’s Fugitive” in their For Your Considerations.

  6. Ooh, Lazarus, that IS a tough call. The sentimentalist in me wants Streep to get #3 and assumes that Winslet will have just as many by the time she’s Streep’s age.

  7. Cieply’s piece was a joke without a decent punchline. It was a puff piece for fincher along with some other pics thrown in into his inconsequential shallow puddle.
    Why does he write so much about paramount? same reason he wrote a glowing interview with brad grey in january and a nice early piece about tropic thunder that had nobody in paramount worried. He’s a chimp with a pen writing sweet nothing to paramount in return for nuggets that would get thrown out of mcdonalds for being so stale.
    Imagine what this goon would have said about the 70s and 80s paramount?
    Were it not for Tom Tapp- and actually Tom has largely been forgotten for all time- Cieply would be the biggest parasite in the Hollywood media system. Bob Evans wouldn’t have even told this guy the time.

  8. Having seen Frost/Nixon, it shouldn’t be an Oscar contender. It’s solid, decent, definitely worth checking out. But like a lot of Ron Howard films, it’s been made to feel faintly fuzzed out and mediocre. The greatness has been scrubbed from it, even though Langella is very good. Best Picture? I hope not.

  9. The “Revolutionary Road” trailer during “Mad Men” last night was AWFUL! Who wrote that script? I felt sorry for Kate Winslet because of the horrible lines she was forced to say.
    “W.” will KILL “Nixon/Frost”

  10. From the clips I’ve seen, Langella has got to be the WORST Nixon ever! Nothing is like RN in his performance. Tony Hopkins and Lane Smith take the honors for Best Nixon ever.

  11. “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.”
    Button doesn’t have a chance, because it’s too long, and
    AMPAS already honored it when it was Cocoon and ‘Gump.
    No reason to award Frost/Nixon, either, since they already honored “All the President’s Men”.
    “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”
    Sorry, it’s weird to hear a journalist use youth slang.
    Josh: Agree with you on everything but Wanda, as it’s overrated, and stuck in the 80s.

  12. DZ: “Button doesn’t have a chance, because it’s too long.”
    Hate to be “that guy”, but…. in the past two decades, w’ve had Titanic, Braveheart, Fellowship of the King, Dances With Wolves, English Patient, The Departed, Schindler’s List… in fact, I could make an arguement that 2 1/2-3 hour movies are all part of the prestige that goes with winning (or being nomintaed for) the award.
    Say you hate Fincher, or Pitt, or the movie (you can even say it before you or anyone else has even seen it), but don’t throw out an opinion like that like it’s some sort of inarguable geometric given.
    Also, I was meaning to ask, in a previous thread, DZ, you said you’ve never seen a Michael Cera film, which means you didn’t see Superbad or Juno, two of the more talked-about films of last year. As someone who is a frequent visitor of a movie-related website, weren’t you even the least bit curious to see these films? Or was the problem that the movie featured real-live females, not those drawn in anime style?

  13. JC: Multiple endings aside in LOTR 3, those films had some sort of simple theme or story to them, while Button appears to be a narrative mess. As for whether I had interest in Superbad and Juno, the answer is no. They didn’t exactly scream fun as much as cliche. The girls had nothing to do with my disinterest, unless you count the fact that they looked more manly than the guys…

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