By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Usually by the start of December, the Best Picture nominations race has slowed to a crawl: What may have seemed like a crowded field back in May has dwindled to just a handful of real rivals because of lousy attendance or lowered expectations. Soon, the film critics’ awards narrow the field even further. Brokeback Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha(which Spielberg co-produced), Walk the Line, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Crash, The Squid and the Whale and Cinderella Man are topping the list of true contenders. Of course, there’s the usual wild card or two, like The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Syriana, The Constant Gardener and A History of Violence. But the spoilers will be the kept-under-wraps King Kong and Munich. Much of KK’s chances will depend on box office. Which leaves me to ponder Munich.
At the start of this year’s Academy Awards season, speculation centered on the tightness of Munich’s postproduction because it began on October 2. But the movie was finished scoring two weeks ago, a few days ahead of schedule. As it is, Spielberg is telling friends that his only film that had a shorter postproduction period was Duel, and that was because it was a made-for-TV movie. So there’ll now be plenty of time to show Munich to everyone and anyone, always a good thing come Oscar time.
But Spielberg’s refusal to do marketing may be a bad thing.
It’s sad but true: The more bucks that filmmakers spend on their Oscar marketing campaigns, the more attention their movies receive. Oh sure, the folks who benefit from this — the mainstream media and the trades and the bloggers — will howl in unison to deny this. Besides, missing in action this year is Harvey Weinstein, who single-handedly invented the supersized $15 mil-and-up Oscar campaign (all the while claiming that money was well spent because his films were going wide at the same time).
Last year, Mel Gibson announced that he wouldn’t engage in the usual Oscar marketing frenzy for his Passion of the Christ. (After all, there already was a promotional book written about Christ: it’s called the New Testament.) But then Passion was rejected at awards time, even though it was a box-office blockbuster and obvious artistic endeavor. The reason, I believe, was that Oscar voters were uncomfortable not just with the religious zealotry of its subject matter but also the widespread whispering about its anti-Semitic undertone.
The chances of that happening to Spielberg’s Munich are slim to none this time around, even though I’m told he’ll be limiting Oscar marketing to just no-frills “For Your Consideration” ads, banners, posters, etc.
Because of Spielberg’s involvement, I think Academy voters will be willing to accept on faith his take on this specific episode within the long history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Still, we’ve seen rivals use the least smidgen of controversy against Oscar front-runners (the flaps over Million Dollar Baby and A Beautiful Mind, for instance).
Let the bitch-slapping begin.
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