Saturday, September 11, 2010

Adventures in Oscar Prognostication

Early September brings about three simultaneous, and monumental film festivals-- Venice, Telluride, and Toronto-- where the studios trollop their prettiest and shiniest packages in grand hopes of catching the buzz to awards.  Awards, that's what it's all about, which as depressing as it sounds, and I whole-handily agree and outwardly complain.  However, it's also the only reason why a lot of very good films (and more than a few very bad ones) get made.  The unfortunate harsh reality of movie-land is that serious, adult-minded, non-superhero filmmaking will only get made in hopes of statuettes, which in hopes will bring in dollar signs.  As joyless as that sounds, I sooo very much I could split myself up and have been in Venice, Telluride and Toronto all at once.  My motives are simply-- I want to see these movies.

Namely Black Swan, which screened at all three festivals.  How I'm obsessed with the potential of Darren Aronofsky's nightmare ballet tale.  Early reviews have been favorable, even though Tomato-meters are as reliable as festival bloggers-- so far the only stinker on the RT side is from the Hollywood Reporter.  The point is I want it now, and love the conversation that this film could generate-- how I love that potential.  Career best reviews for Natalie Portman excite me as well; however I must remain skeptical for the sake of my own sanity, since I'm of the unfortunate breed that must wait two and half months for it's release-- boo world!  Murmurs have stated it might play a role in the Venice awards.  I want right now...

Somewhere, the new Sofia Coppola mood flick played at Venice to good, if muted reviews, again one I'm looking forward too.  Coppola in my opinion is currently three for three, whose artistry and cinematic language keeps expanding-- The Virgin Suicides begot Lost in Translation segueing into Marie Antoinette (a beautiful, and misunderstood period flick, I'd say.)  There's emphasis, especially from the trailer that this is Coppola doing the same thing; which to many might not be their thing, to me, flowing to her spirited moods is magical.  Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning might be less heralded than Bill Murray, but perhaps they're perfect.

Venice and Toronto boasts Ben Affleck's The Town, which appears to getting solid early world (EW gave it an A-, for what it's worth) and does The King's Speech starring Clin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, directed by John Adams' Tom Hopper.  Miral, director Julian Schnabel's follow-up to his terrific, and Oscar approved The Diving Bell & the Butterfly appears to be a disappointment, whereas Casey Affleck's oddball, wtf? documentary on brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix, I'm Still Here has divided even the ones who appear to like the film (again EW gave it an A-.)  Never Let Me Go, which opens in limited release, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures, divided the folks at Telluride, Colorado, while Danny Boyle's 127 Hours (from the same studio), reportedly had people fainting with praise; further analysis states that the fainting had to do with the altitude and not the film!

From the little that is known, there's obviously so much not.  For one thing these films are merely abstract ideas right now, and serious criticism will ultimately be tested when the movies open outside the festival hangers-on, and critics looking to be the first to anoint an Oscar frontrunner.  Two hallowed and heavily anticipated films had their fates somewhat cleared over the last week or so: Terrence Malick's long-delayed (would it be any other way for the masterful Malick) The Tree of Life, as Fox Searchlight picked up the film, readying it for 2011 release-- the only drawback is that fateful and drooling fans must wait another year to be awed (allegedly); why is it the innocent filmgoer must always be punished.  The other film is Peter Weir's The Way Back (starring Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Soarsie Ronan) debuted rapturously at the Telluride Film Festival, to due distributed by Newmarket Films, which is currently planning a mid-January release, with a dangling chance of an Oscar-qualifying run this year.  The ugly side of the craving films is that said films are unfortunately part of a bigger business that cares not of audience cravings, but of solid bottom line returns.  A sadder fate of the smaller, personal, less audience friendly material, that sadly needs the lure of awards to capitalize on it's investment.  For what it's worth, The Way Back allegedly cost only $20 something million to make-- Vampires Suck made that in a week-- clearly a more nobler world would seek out a Weir film?  His resume is pretty awesome: Master & Commander, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show...

The Toronto Film Festival is currently just getting started, and within days we shall now a wee bit more about one and all will soon be given the talk of Oscar.  Lots of films will have a reputation cemented, including Conviction, the Hilary Swank Bah-ston legal thriller, Robert Redford's take on the Lincoln assassination, The Conspirator, Clint Eastwood's "thriller" Hereafter, and plenty more.  I'll try harder to vigilant about the stories that come out, but truth be said, I'd rather seriously ignore most of it, and just watch the damn things.

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