OSCARS: Do Recent 2013 Dropouts Make Any Difference In Best Picture Race? Definitely Not

It seems highly unlikely that films once thought since Cannes to be potential Best Picture Oscar contenders — The Weinstein Co’s Grace Of Monaco and The Immigrant, both highly touted in May — would have made the Academy’s final list, even if it goes for the full 10 nominees this year. And no one is missing them now that they’ve moved on.

The real “SHOCKER” as some breathless headlines stated yesterday, was the decision by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who won the Best Picture Oscar just last year for Argo, to move their planned December release of the World War II thriller, Monuments Men to February. (That decision follows a similar path Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island took a few years ago, a move that resulted in the film becoming Scorsese’s most successful ever at the box office.) As Clooney told my colleague Mike Fleming Jr. earlier today, he wasn’t in this for the Oscars and December was a good luck date where his Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve films had played. I had always heard from the beginning that Clooney wasn’t ever really looking at Men as an Academy Award play but rather a commercial picture — his Guns Of Navarone as he reiterated in the Fleming interview. In fact a top Sony source told me in the summer that Clooney had told them he wasn’t looking to campaign it (but the exec insisted they would cross that bridge when they came to it). Of course sometimes you can have both box office success and Oscar recognition.

Related: ‘Monuments Men’ Gets Feburary 7 Release Date

Ironically, Guns Of Navarone went on to win seven Oscar nominations in 1961 including Best Picture.Could that have happened for Clooney’s pet project too? Who knows, but the list of potential nominees with a realistic chance is a very long one that includes another Clooney film in which he co-stars (Gravity) and yet another Clooney film he produced with Heslov (August: Osage County). What did he need another one for? Or Sony for that matter, which already has a very strong Best Pic contender in Captain Phillips and another potential one with David O. Russell’s unseen American Hustle coming out in December — where now it appears the other major unseen contender, Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, is definitely going to land, further crowding the territory. The list in addition to all of the above is loaded with prospects that also include 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dallas Buyers Club, All Is Lost, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Philomena, Labor Day, Universal’s Lone Survivor and Rush (although despite strong reviews, weak domestic box office doesn’t help the latter’s chances). Some may even view the so-called “thinning” of the field as helpful to the chances of darker horses like Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, Enough Said, Her, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and another upcoming 20th Fox sleeper The Book Thief which I think could surprise.

The biggest impact on this year’s bow-outs might have come in the acting categories — to a point. Nicole Kidman in Grace and Marion Cotillard in Immigrant could have ballooned an impressive list of contenders. But in the end the likely five nominees will probably be chosen from a short list of frontrunners led by Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet  — all former Oscar winners, as are Kidman and Cotillard — so the trajectory and personality of that category is unaffected. On the Best Actor side, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher could have prompted a campaign for Steve Carell, but Sony Pictures Classics already has another good bet, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, in the Best Picture sandbox so better to let it go to 2014 than try to squeeze a spot at the end of this very crowded year.

It is always interesting to see the amount of pressure put on films that are released after Labor Day. Critics and pundits walk into most of them not as a regular movie but rather as an “Oscar picture” and judgment on the film’s merits becomes sidetracked. It’s not always fair. I know for a fact Bill Condon set out to make a movie, rather than a contender, when he took on The Fifth Estate (a film I really liked)At the time he told associates he didn’t want it to be in the Oscar game. When it crashed at the box office this weekend headlines said “Oscar hopeful flops” etc. In retrospect, taking the opening-night slot at Toronto probably did the film no favors as it was doomed after that no matter what the original intention.

Now that his film is no longer an “Oscar picture” — at least for 2013 — I look forward to seeing Clooney’s Monuments Men as just an old fashioned movie. Remember those?

  1. Pete,

    I think you’re taste and ability to predict Oscar nominations come in questions when you exclaim that you really like Fifth Estate and predict good things for The Book Thief’s Oscar chances and then make unqualified statements about Foxcatcher. So few people have seen it in its rough form. Miller is as close to Oscar golden boy as Stephen Daldry. I wouldn’t bet against Foxcatcher being a major factor in next years race.

    1. And if I could revise that post I would because my near immediate spelling error does me no favors either. Nobody’s perfect, Pete. Don’t take my criticisms too harshly.

  2. Clooney is making way for Gravity once again, like on the press tours, it is all Bullock. Two Clooney projects would mix up the message. Let’s hope he doesn’t lobby so successfully as to KO Blanchett, who hands down wins on earth & space as Best Act.

  3. “Lone Survivor and Rush (although despite strong reviews, weak domestic box office doesn’t help the latter’s chances)”

    I’ve been reading similar comments lately and I’d really like to understand this.

    If Rush was ever a contender then why does the poor box office discredit its chances? Frost/Nixon did even worse and got several nominations.

    And what about recent winners The Hurt Locker and The Artist? Unimpressive box office was clearly not an issue for either movie.

        1. I’m not an insider, but I would guess that better box office translates into more Oscar voters taking the time to see the film and subsequently discussing and considering it. With so may “Oscar movies” in their faces during the last three months of the year, I’d imagine it’s easy for voters to bypass something that comes and goes at the box office too quickly. Expectations also play into it, fairly or not.

  4. Hollywood seemed to like that it helped free hostages in “Argo.” A ragtag group touting the importance of art and culture and trying to preserve it in a war zone and save it from being destroyed by the Nazis – that sounds like Oscar material to me.

  5. Stoker – Park chan wook debut in hollywood. Stoker is a feast for the eyes. Clearly, adele winning an oscar for skyfall soundtrack engenders emily wells to be atleast nominated for original soundtrack. Also, I am looking forward to wolf of wall street. Gravity, undoubtedly a work of art. The rest of the movies for this year are feel good movies or nothing surprising, including fox catcher, prisoners, american hustle, Out of the furnace and Captian phillips ( New Rule: Before seeing the new Tom Hanks movie, ‘Captain Phillips,’ liberals in the audience must be warned that, yes, the bad guys in the movie are black. And we apologize. We tried casting Jude Law and Alexander Skarsgard as Somali pirates. So you wouldn’t think we were saying all black people are pirates. But it turns out it’s based on a true story, so let us make it up to you now by offering free downloads of ‘Webster,’ ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and ‘Homeboys in Outer Space.’

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