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Oscars Postponed Pleasures (?)

[Here is guest columnist Matthew Eng to remind us of four films we may have forgotten. But they'll be back - Nathaniel R]

Postponements happen every year to a few among the many films on Oscar’s selective radar, to movies whose prospects look both bright and, well, bleak. It very nearly happened to Wolf of Wall Street, but for the skilled hands of Thelma Schoonmaker, who rescued the film from both a rumored four-hour running time and a dreaded NC-17. In cleaning up its act, though the film is still dirty, Wolf pushed Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan reboot Shadow Recruit out of its prime Christmas release date, but I’d wager that that project’s Oscar chances were already on the slim side. Let’s take a look back (and forward) at the four deferred features that tried to make it in time this year in order to win Oscar’s attention.

Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennet Miller)
Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director - Miller, Actor - Carell, Supporting Actor - Ruffalo, among others

Foxcatcher pretty much looked like a sure thing this Oscar season, considering the strangely fascinating true crime story at its center (the murder of Gold medal-wrestler David Schultz by a schizophrenic benefactor), as well as the main talent involved: director Bennett Miller, coming right off of Moneyball and reunited with Capote scribe Dan Futterman; star Steve Carell, transformed and intriguingly un-typecast as Schultz’s killer John du Pont; the ever-reliable and similarly-transformed Mark Ruffalo as Schultz; and a newly-revivified/post-Magic Mike Channing Tatum as Schultz’s brother/fellow Olympic wrestler. Following lots of general intrigue (primarily around Carell) albeit minimal buzz aside from an opening slot at the 2013 AFI Fest, Foxcatcher was moved by distributor Sony Pictures Classics from its late December release to a 2014 date that’s still TBD, in order to, you know, finish the movie. It’s a move thatseems pretty wise in retrospect, considering the already over-stuffed Best Actor line-up that the criminally under-sung and under-rewarded Carell (not even the Emmy?) would’ve definitely had to fight for a spot in. I expect that we’ll all be talking about Foxcatcher this time next year, but in the meantime, continue carefully placing needles in your Jim Parsons voodoo dolls and hope that that fantastically taut teaser reemerges on the web.


Grace of Monaco (Dir. Olivier Dahan)
Oscar Prospects: Actress - Nicole Kidman

On Oscar Sunday earlier this year, the Weinstein Company made news by buying domestic rights for La vie en Rose helmer Olivier Dahan’s latter-day Grace Kelly biopic for a planned December 27th limited release, building instant buzz around Nicole Kidman’s star performance as the late Princess of Monaco. Flash forward to today, December 27th, and here we are: Graceless. What happened? Aside from a rumor that footage from the film, completed nearly a year ago, would be premiering at Cannes, it seemed as though Grace of Monaco might have been nothing more than an actressexual’s giddy pipe dream, as Harvey Weinstein spent the greater part of the year stumping for seemingly every other movie on his already crowded docket, including Best Actress heavies Philomena and August: Osage County. Add in some early, pre-Weinstein criticism from Kelly’s children over the film’s presumed subject matter and a suspiciously delayed trailer that resembled a Dior commercial more than, um, an actual movie, and the odds weren’t looking so great for Grace and Nicole. Then, a week after the trailer’s release, Weinstein and Co. announced that they would be postponing the film until spring 2014, putting an end to any and all award buzz for Kidman, and subsequently rendering a dishy, ill-timed Vanity Fair cover story on the actress all but pointless. Meanwhile, in October, Dahan gave an embittered interview to a French newspaper, in which he bashed the trailer and called Harvey Scissorhands’ re-edit of the film a “pile of shit.” (Maybe Dahan can start a support group-cum-rebel rally with Bong Joon-ho and Wong Kar-wai?) It has yet to be seen whether Grace will be a spring treat or trifle, but it seems increasingly unlikely that Nicole will be a contender for a project with an such an already-dubious history behind it. One can only hope that Dahan doesn’t pull a Diana and further embarrass Our Darling Nicki.

The Immigrant (Dir. James Gray)
Oscar Prospects: Actress - Marion Cotillard; Cinematography - Darius Khondji

After a mixed reception at Cannes, the Weinsteins picked up acclaimed but Academy-ignored auteur James Gray’s period piece about the personal travails of a newly-arrived Polish immigrant in 1920s New York, with a promising lead performance by Cotillard in the titular role. The Immigrant seemed poised for an Oscar-qualifying release this year, only to find its admittedly modest chances temporarily squandered when Weinstein announced that the film would be delayed until 2014. It’s hard to say if The Immigrant (whose release date is still TBA, despite making its way to festivals in Toronto and New York) was ever really going to be a true-blue awards contender outside of the continually captivating efforts of oft-ignored cinematographer Darius Khondji, as well as Cotillard. After that dazzling La vie en rose win she has become something of a perpetual Oscar afterthought, with, in order of likelihood, Rust and BoneNineMidnight in Paris, and Inception all failing to make Oscar's lineups And even if The Immigrant isn’t the film to bring her back to Best Actress glory, Marion still has her upcoming, David Michôd-directed, Fassy-married, presumably fierce-as-all-get-out Lady Macbeth to potentially get her there.

The Monuments Men (Dir. George Clooney)
Oscar Prospects: Uh, every category Columbia can buy a campaign for...? 

Let’s be honest: this was either going to be a monumental crowd-pleaser for Oscar to bear-hug, orit was going to be a larkish, star-filled period piece, potentially all-dressed-up with nowhere-but-Goodman to go. (Is anyone else getting a whiff of Leatherheads from over here?) Based on its new February release date, not to mention those highly doubtful and groaningly self-serious trailers, it seems that Columbia may have settled the confusion, but not before we were subjected to the baffling sight of George Clooney talking about the trials and tribulations of being a screenwriter in Hollywood, while sitting at the same Hollywood Reporter roundtable as Julie Delpy and Nicole Holofcener. But who knows? Maybe The Monuments Men will be the surprise hit of 2014 and not just a studio-sponsored Eurotrip for Clooney & Co. Maybe it’s the art-saving, Nazi-evading baby in the early winter bathwater. Or maybe it’s just the bathwater.

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Reader Comments (22)

If The Immigrant does not get a proper theatrical release than the Weinsteins deserve all the bad luck they are getting this Oscar season and then some.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I really really really really really really hope Grace of Monaco turns out to be a good movie. Or at least that Nicole can shine in it. I found La Vie en Rose horrible but still loved Cotillard in it, so the same scenario wouldn't be so bad.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I'm afraid that the best thing of Grace of Monaco is going to be Nicole's dress at the Cannes opening ceremony.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

"Jim Parsons voodoo dolls...."

This is why we love TFE!! :P lolz but I'd add "Jim Parsons and Alec Baldwin twin voodoo dolls".

That said, it really is SHAMEFUL for the Emmys that Carell didn't win a single one (ditto Amy Poehler, who during the best period of her series was never even nominated and then when they started noticing her, here came the Melissa McCarthy train first and then Julia Louis Dreyfus being awesome at an awesome series stole her buzz; no fair)...

P.S. - Nathaniel, stop trying to make Grace of Monaco happen. It won't. I just hope, for my Nic's sake, that it won't be a Diana-level of disaster either. Girl needs to get money to make THE DANISH GIRL.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I was almost sure that The Monuments Men was going to be released in late December for a qualifying run as it looks to be as Oscar-baity as it gets. That being said, a February release does not sound very promising, which is a shame because I like Clooney (more the man than his movies).

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Meh, Clooney's proven to be a one-hit wonder as a director unless you're like me who thinks he brought the Alan Arkin of it all to Argo that people were eating up at AMPAS screenings.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I'm trying really hard not to get myself too excited for The Immigrant because I am really hit and miss with James Grey but OMG! How could it be a miss?? Look at her! Have you seen that trailer?? I was so disappointed that I couldn't see this at NYFF...hopefully it gets a decent release.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

MACBETH is not being directed by David Michod, but by Justin Kurzel. Easy mistake since both directors made big splashes with Australian crime dramas, but Kurzel made SNOWTOWN. Michod does, however, have THE ROVER next year with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson and sounds incredible.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Ah, my mistake! Thanks, Glenn. Kurzel totally seems like a much more fitting match to material anyway, considering just how dark and unnerving Snowtown is.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

I checked the list of 289 features submitted and 'The Railway Man' has also been deferred to 2014.

However, it has been released in Australia and the UK - and I think there are rules that would make it ineligible for the 2014 Oscars.

Shame - I've seen it and it is definitely Oscar worthy IMO.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I am really, really hopeful about Foxcatcher. I have that quickly-pulled-from-the-net trailer practically memorized.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Suzanne -- i never saw it. Le Tragedy!

December 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Well Nathaniel, here's your chance (I'm not sure if you're referring to the teaser trailer for Foxcatcher or the film itself). If you've watched it already today, I apologise in advance.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

anon -- thanks but it's blocked in the US. They really have done a good job of hiding that teaser because i have tried to find it several times.

December 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel, here it is on vimeo:

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I really hope TWC can give a decent release for The Immigrant, but Harvey Weinstein likes to scr*w James Gray, so I'm not so sure about it. I'm worried about Macbeth as well since The Weinstein Company bought the rights, so let's see if they will scr*w the release and its awards chances again.

And until now I can't understand how Marion was robbed of a Oscar nomination for Rust and Bone while mediocre performances got nominated and won! it was so shameful! I hope she'll have more luck with Macbeth!

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I feel like there's a think-piece out there a-brewing about Clooney and misogyny/racism by omission in his filmography. Both the promotional materials for The Monuments Men and the response they've gotten definitely makes me think this is something to consider. When I think about the people in my life, nearly everyone I know who is excited about The Monuments Men is a white male. And nearly everyone I know who is completely uninterested, if they're not appalled by its perceived smugness/Hollywood back-patting (fair or not) is gay.

I sound like a crazy person, I'm sure. I want to say that I (generally) like Clooney. But looking forward to The Monuments Men and back at the other films that he has directed, it does seem that Clooney only seems to be interested in telling stories about white, straight cis males (not that there's anything wrong with that). Also, he was on that list published earlier this year of producers who have never once hired a female director. Again, these two facts on their face don't condemn someone entirely. But it paints a huge bullseye on Clooney's back after his Oscar speech, where he made a point about the power of Hollywood to shake up the status quo by being "out of touch." Which I liked. I am not one of the many people who levied accusations of smugness for his Oscar speech and I think the sentiment was very well-timed and a necessary plea to Hollywood to remember these values...necessary given what happened at the end of that ceremony (but we are not going to talk about that..ahem). But it would seem that upon further inspection Clooney is sadly one of the many people who, inadvertently or not, is failing to put his money where his mouth is.

I think that it's so easy and understandable to target directors like Todd Phillips, Michael Bay and Brett Ratner for so aggressively and profitably upholding so many societal status quos in ways that are offensive to any number of marginalized groups in our culture. And I think these are directors who should be called out about it because their movies make so much money, which indicates an audience for virulent sexism/insidious racism/all kinds of prejudices, which is a huge problem. But these directors who, despite how much money their movies may rake in are never held up as being bastions of artistic quality for their medium. That's why I think it's important to not give a pass to more high-minded (if still somewhat middlebrow to people who actually watch a lot of movies) directors like Clooney or Alexander Payne or Jason Reitman who may make "better" movies, but are presenting the same value systems as defaults on a smaller scale. In my mind, it's actually more important to talk about the latter group because unlike the former they ARE (to varying degrees) held up as being artistically and critically validated.

I'm rambling, I know. I guess all of this is to say that I'm not excited about The Monuments Men at all. All of the other intangibles set aside, I've never seen a strong or confident directorial stamp on any of his movies and this one in particular feels almost especially offensive to me just in how banal and unnecessary (for everyone involve) it seems to be.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

What I get from Clooney is that he looked at Soderbergh's work and thought, 'I could do that!' The problem is it seems like he comes from a place where it's purely based on a formula/check-list. Aside from Good Night and Good Luck, a subject he seemed to care about regarding the role of media and free speech, his movies are devoid of a soul. He comes from a place of an exec find a story to exploit so he can get a pat on the head than actually make art.

I found that Oscar speech so manipulative. It put him forever in the Academy's good graces. It leads to him being nominated for that poor script for Ides of March. He's their Jack, except Nicholson started from the underground/indie/Corman world. Clooney was working through TV. Nicholson made box office despite his breakthrough role happening when he was well over 30 with a comb-over. Clooney's actual box office, status around Hollywood rides most on image and not box office receipts. I just find him a paper tiger that the Academy is just convinced that is what sophisticated A-lister is supposed to look like.

But going back to The Monuments Men. I really don't see the point of it if it will just be a rehash of John Frankenheimer's The Train. That's not even a great movie but Frankenheimer had fine technique in that film while Lancaster was an actual star turn.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Clooney is more comparable to Paul Newman than Jack Nicholson. Clooney, like Newman, is well-liked, politically active and has tried his hand at directing even though he's not great at it, and he's had his ups and downs at the box office. He's now 51 and has yet to win a lead acting Oscar; like Newman in his prime, who wasn't considered a great actor when he was working regularly, he's accused of relying on the same jokey charming shtick too often. He's great at selecting projects, though. Gravity will be the fifth Best Picture nominee in which he's appeared, and he's sought after by many of the top mainstream directors. He and the Coen brothers are supposedly about to team up for a fourth time.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Interesting to hear your theory, Suzanne. The only thing about the Newman comparison that I don't think fits with Clooney is that Oscar jumped to reward Clooney on his first acting nomination. They were clearly waiting to reward Clooney, but for a lot of reasons the opportunity didn't present itself until 2005 and they pounced on that opportunity. George Clooney not having a lead statue feels like a technicality with a lot of asterisks more than anything else because had they not so hastily rewarded him for his work in Syriana, he would have won for one of his lead actor nominations. Most likely The Descendants, which again...okay. I'll stop with the Clooney bashing. Let's just say that the fact that he would have won for that indicates a level of respect both as an actor and a personality in Hollywood that's on a level Paul Newman never saw, who they always kind of seemed resentful of.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

Bette Streep, it's not true. The Railway Man has easily compete for the 2014 race. The rule is only applicable in the aspect of foreign language films or indie films. Doesn't matter if the release in other countries were in other prior years. Just need considerations:

a. Not officially competing at Oscars in other years
b. Not releasing on TV prior the screen
c. Not being nominated by the Oscars.

The Railway Man, even if releasing in 2013 in UK and Australia, the USA release will matter at the end. That said that, with the mixed word (60 on Metacritic), I doubt it will be nominated, especially with Suite Francaise and Big Eyes as Weinstein films.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Yeah, CMG, the Syriana thing was strange (and it's not close to his best performance). I think they basically threw that to him as a consolation prize that year - in a weaker year (I.e., a year without Ang Lee) he probably would have won director instead.

As a fan, I do think some of the charges tossed around against him are just odd, though; he has, for instance produced a film by a female director - the documentary Playground by Libby Spears was the second film he and Heslov produced. Considering that, Argo and August are the only three movies they've produced not starring Clooney, he's got a pretty good gender representational record. (And of course August features numerous multi-generational roles for women.) I'm sure there are other more prolific producers with far worse records on gender issues.

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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