Valkyrie Surrenders Sabre

The Newark Star Ledger‘s Stephen J. Whitty has concluded the obvious regarding the MGM team’s decision to keep Bryan Singer‘s Valkyrie out of possible critics awards contention (or for consideration by National Board of Review) by not screening it for junket journalists until December 12th, or to regular critics until December 15th.

Why does MGM continue to send out these distress signals? This is a movie made by the formidable Bryan Singer, Tom Cruise and Chris McQuarrie, for heaven’s sake. I’ve read an early draft of the script — it’s servicable, gripping, efficient as far as it goes. And yet MGM keeps telling everyone that something must be wrong.

The screening dates “seem timely, you might think, considering the film doesn’t open until Dec. 26th,” Whitty writes. “Except those screening dates actually send a subtle, but very clear message of defeat.

“The problem is that even the earliest of those shows come too late for the New York Film Critics Circle — of which I’m a member, and votes on Dec. 10 — to consider the film for awards. Unless special arrangements are made, a number of other awards groups — from the New York Film Critics Online to the National Board of Review — probably will be shut out as well.

“Now, first off, let me make clear — I’m not feeling snubbed, vexed or even slightly miffed. With dozens of serious movies jockeying for prizes, there’s a mad rush to see everything by Dec. 9. Having one film drop out of the schedule actually makes my life a little easier.

“And, quite frankly, courting awards with fresh-from-the-lab previews is a simple waste of time for some films. As of right now, for example, Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories hasn’t set any early screenings either. And that makes sense — Bedtime Stories is not expecting to be a major prize winner among reviewers, or Academy voters.

“But Valkyrie was supposed to be a return to serious drama for star Tom Cruise and director Bryan Singer, as well as a big, back-to-business triumph for the re-vamped but still reeling MGM. It needed to be a big prestigious hit, with lots of enthusiastic notices and at least the chance of an Oscar or two down the line.

“But then the release was delayed. Certain scenes were reshot. Rumors started circulating. A peculiar advertising campaign was launched, selling what had once been pushed as a serious study of the German opposition to Hitler as practically a buddy-boy caper film — Ocean’s S.S.

“And now, when the film’s strategy seems to be to deliberately avoid Oscar predictors like the NYFCC and other critics groups? Even when a schedule change of a few days could make it eligible? What does that suggest?

“Well, that they’ve become quite convinced they’d never have a chance anyway. And that the once invulnerable Cruise Machine seems about to take another, quite sizable hit.”

  • lbeale

    I’ll tell you why, Jeff. Because if the trailers are any indication, Cruise is seriously miscast. I mean, John Wayne in ‘The Conqueror’ miscast. Cruise looks like a little boy playing dressup, trying to impress the older guys. But sheesh – he’s in a high-powered cast with Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh and Terence Stamp, guys who can act him under the table any day of the week. And here’s ol’ Tom, with his eyepatch and clipped line readings, tring to impress us with his Teutonic gravitas. Ludicrous.

  • NDH

    Why does Tom Cruise always get such a bashing? The guy is a solid actor. Sure, he may not be in the same league as Branagh or Nighy, but he’s shown he can carry a film in the past. Plus, he’s a dead ringer for the real Stauffenberg, so why not cast him? The only discrepancy seems to be that he’s not actually German, but then again, neither is the majority of the cast. So let’s wait until the film is actually screened before we begin tearing it to shreds.

  • The Winchester

    There are a number of things about this movie that rub me the wrong way. I think the major problem is that MGM can’t market a movie out of a paper bag anymore. If you’re touting your big prestige picture, don’t brag that it’s the “From the director of X-Men” on your poster. (X-Men is a fine film, but not when you’re trying to bait awards).

    I second the Cruise miscasting, especially when he speaks in the trailer. Granted, I’m glad he’s not even attempting a German accent (we don’t want another K-19 on our hands), but it gives off the high school play vibe.

    And I know it sounds silly, but the PG-13 rating sort of raises a flag that a movie about Nazis (which is always a fine holiday film subject matter) will in some ways be a bit watered down.

    Like NDH says, I’ll wait until the film opens before tearing it to shreds, but these flags make me believe I want to wait a little bit after it opens before I actually see it.

  • arturobandini2

    If I see this at all, it’ll be for Carice Van Houten — the only element MGM isn’t touting. Maybe she’s in it for two minutes, but still — after Black Book, she’s the only star on the rise here. Nobody goes to a movie anymore just to see tired ol’ Tom Cruise and his Amway-pitch style of acting, not in a long time. The last movie I saw him in was Minority Report, and that was just to see then-rising star Samantha Morton.

    Oh, wait. When was Collateral? Maybe that was the last one. I’ve already forgotten it.

  • fitz-hume

    Cruise is a solid actor alright and one with a exceptional natural movie star shine. Though that shine has obviously been diminishing thanks to his offscreen antics. Time will tell if he’s ever able to truly recover and Valkyrie’s success or lack of it will of course tell a lot, assuming the movie itself is any good.

    I’ve wondered about that “From the director of X-Men and Superman” marketing as well. Is it a desperate move or am I just too old to understand it. I personally enjoyed Singer’s X-Men and Superman but in my eyes the campaign devalues Valkyrie and hints at it being nothing more than lite popcorn entertainment. Of course there’s nothing wrong with good lite popcorn entertainment but I was hoping for a return to his Usual Suspects mode from Singer with this one. Of course that may well still be the case and I’m just simply too old to not get annoyed by the marketing campaign. But whatever works…

  • BurmaShave

    Not making excuses for VALKYRIE, but it always bothers me that these film awards start trickling out in the middle of December. There should be more breathing room for last minute contenders.

  • High Chaparral

    Since when was Nighy a good actor, let alone a heavyweight one? He’s got the range of a sand-wedge.

  • BurmaShave

    High Chaparral, you’re full of shit. Nighy has a flamboyant streak with a deep reserve underneath. And for the truly excellent quiet work he can do, I’d suggest you turn to his performance in NOTES ON A SCANDAL.

  • The Winchester

    “Not making excuses for VALKYRIE, but it always bothers me that these film awards start trickling out in the middle of December. There should be more breathing room for last minute contenders.”

    I agree Burma, and I think this was the major factor in the lack of awards recognition for Children of Men.

  • awesomemovie

    It’ll be a fine movie. And what’s this all about Cruise being casted with other actors that can act him under the table. Short term memories ey ?
    He’s held his own opposite quite a few heavy weight actors. Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Ed Harris, Gene Hackman to name several. And like the other person mentioned, he looks very much like Stauffenberg.
    I did a look up on the back story and it’s a very compelling story. Most people will find out about it first when they see the film. You wish they would have pulled it off.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the movie. It’s made by a very competent director, an inventive screenwriter and is very well casted. Take it easy, nothing is wrong.

  • arturobandini2

    ” ‘Cruise’s performance elicits uncomfortable and inappropriate laughs,’ reports MSNBC, especially a scene where he removes a false eye. ‘It was disgusting’ says a viewer … ‘And Tom doesn’t speak with a German accent — though they did add a voiceover of him speaking German to the beginning of the film. Still, it’s as if he could say “I complete you” at any time. This is not his Oscar moment.’ ”