Can 'Noah' And 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Overcome Oscar's Greatest Curse: A March Release Date?

Academy members will get the chance this weekend to see Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel when their official AcademyNoah-2014-Movie-Images screening program finally resumes after a break for Oscar. But while the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters is undergoing major renovations, the screenings have moved to Hollywood at the Acad’s much smaller Linwood Dunn Theater at its Pickford Center For Motion Picture Study on Vine Street. That’s a loss of about 700 seats, so it could get dicey, especially since no extra screenings are added and RSVPs aren’t taken. For a lot of films the Academy screens, 300 seats is just fine, but these fall squarely in the hotter want-to-see category, and it’s still first-come-first-served, just as it is at the Wilshire Boulevard location. Could get nasty for members wanting a free screening. Better get there early, folks.

Grand Budapest Hotel.jpgOf course this is not exactly crunch time for serious 2014 Oscar contenders, so distributors need not worry too much about disgruntled voters getting turned away from their hot-button potential nominees. But recently I got an email from a veteran Oscar campaign consultant who asked the simple question, “Is NOAH a contender?” And it got me wondering if not only director Darren Aronofsky’s towering epic, which screens Sunday at 3 PM,  but also Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which runs Saturday at 7:30 PM both might actually have a decent shot at racking up numerous nominations, including Best Picture, despite their first quarter release dates (Noah opened March 28 and Budapest has been playing since March 7th). Both are doing extremely well at the box office and riding high with critics too (Noah is 77% fresh and Budapest is 91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and have the kind of first-rate production values to which Oscar voters usually pay serious attention. In fact, it is hard to imagine that either could possibly be denied a Production Design nod, for example, no matter what comes along in the rest of the year. Both have potential way beyond that, at least on paper, as both also come from very critic and Academy-friendly directors. But the odds are already really stacked against these two if their respective studios have Best Picture ambitions brewing based on strong early response to the films. “My next movie is coming out in March. I guess that means I don’t have a chance to win an Oscar for it,”  Alexandre Desplat , composer of Grand Budapest Hotel’s critically acclaimed score told me in February when I mentioned I had already heard early buzz for it. It’s probably far more likely he’ll have a better shot for Unbroken simply because it gets released on December 25th.

The fact is the Oscar voters just don’t seem to have long memories anymore (no ageMV5BMjMyMDMzMDg4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDc3ODYxMTE@__V1_SX214_ jokes, please). The last film released before May to get a Best Picture nomination was Erin Brockovich, a March release in 2000. Before that, Fargo, a 1996 March release also managed a Best Pic nod. The last film to win Best Picture with a first quarter release was 1991’s Valentine’s Day opener, Silence Of The Lambs. Things are a little better for releases in the first half of the year if you come out in May or June. May releases Braveheart (1995), Gladiator (2000) and Crash (2005) all managed to win Best Picture Oscars in the last quarter century, and most recently The Hurt Locker (2009)  turned that trick despite a late June opening. In the case of the latter two movies, lots of screeners helped enormously in leveling the playing field against stiff December competition. But the odds, at least based on more recent Oscar voting patterns, are clearly daunting  for the Aronofsky and Anderson pictures. It’s true that in 2011, Midnight In Paris and The Tree Of Life, both May releases, landed Best Picture nominations but the norm is more like 2013 when the earliest contender, Gravity didn’t come out until October.  It’s not called “awards season” for nothing.

In the case of Noah, the Academy also doesn’t have a sterling track record honoring films in the Biblical genre. Sure, Ben-Hur won in 1959  and with 11 Oscars is tied with Titanic and Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King as the all- time Oscar winner. And Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments was a 1956 Best Picture nominee. There have been scattered technical nominations (but no wins)  since for the likes of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965),  The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964), The Bible (1966),  Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) , The oscar statuetteLast Temptation Of Christ (1988) and Mel Gibson’s box office juggernaut The Passion Of The Christ in 2004. The most significant recognition among those films was a Best Director nomination for Martin Scorsese for Last Temptation. Of course Noah also has Russell Crowe in another epic kind of role like his Oscar-winning turn in 2000’s Best Picture sword and sandal epic Gladiator, so the biblical label may not hurt its chances as much as its release date will.

Of course all of of this is just early spitballing because pundits like me like to put it out there. Their eventual fates with the Academy will probably depend largely on just how big a campaign is waged on their behalf in order to remind those memory-challenged Oscar voters how much they liked them way, way back at the beginning of 2014.

    1. Production design. Costume design (maybe). Cinematography. Score. I personally enjoyed the movie and like Andersen’s sensibility, but even if I’d hated it I’d still see its merit in those categories. Oscars for technical work aren’t about the quality of the script or acting, so even if you hated a movie it’s easy to see how it could score in those areas.

      1. I’m sure it will get lost as the year progresses, but Ralph Fiennes was a complete marvel. I’d love to see him recognized.

  1. Amen to THAT. Transformer-type rock people? Really? This is what comes from a lifelong fascination with the Noah story?

  2. I was pleasantly surprised by Emma Watson in Noah. That was one heck of a performance. It’ll be hard to beat IMHO.

  3. Went to Grand Budapest with great expectations, theatre was packed on a weeknight. But I walked out after an hour, didn’t find it at all funny or even charming. I’m sure it’s a fine movie in some technical or artistic sense that’s over my head, but what a disappointment. Realized after that Anderson directed Royal Tenenbaums and Moonshine Kingdom, did not like them either.

  4. ROFL – Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel as Oscar contenders?

    Is this an April Fool’s joke? Or is this a paid advertisement?

  5. Academy members may have to PAY to see a MOVIE like the rest of us! What is this world coming to?

  6. Grand Budapest maybe for Script like Moonrise or Royal Tenenbaums before it. As for other stuff, the jury is still out.

  7. I think they will both fade away. Gladiator was a March release and that wasn’t hurt. But these two aren’t very good. Maybe for technical awards, but thats it. No best pictures here

  8. Is it that Oscar voters have short memories when it comes to nominating films that came out earlier in the year, or that the more Oscar-worthy films just come out later in the year? It’s probably more of the latter. Also, do studios hold off their more prestigious films to get award recognition or because they’ll have a better chance of finding an audience away from big summer films? All it takes is one or two films to break from tradition to start a trend. Like now box office smashes can come out in March, or the first week of May, or early November.

  9. Both Noah and Grand Budapest Hotel are Oscar worthy contenders,both films were directed by well-respected auteurs, both are innovative story -telling and both have excellent acting, especially Noah. So don’t set them aside just because they are not shown at Cannes or some other film festival or released at the end of the year. It would be nice to see these films get solid recognition from the film business. Although the atheist film critics would be howling if a god-forbid religious movie would be so honored.

  10. You got a better shot at Portman finally admitting that Aronofsky is the father of her kid then getting any real Oscar recognition

  11. Like it or not Noah is the best film of the year, so far.
    What else is there, Robocop, Divergent, 300 part 2? Whether it’ll even be in the top 10 by autumn is another matter.

  12. Ralph Fiennes deserves for decades an Oscar. It would be a good’farce’ if he got it for his great comedy-part M. Gustave H. what he didn’t get for Amon Goeth, Spider, Count László Almásy, the three Sonnenscheins , Duke of Devonshire, Coriolanus Charles Dickens etc.

  13. Don’t ever forget (although it was a different world back then) that SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was a February release and it cleaned up…

    But then again, it stayed in the theaters for months and months and kept pulling in audiences… I’ll bet you NOAH is gone from most theaters by the end of April and totally gone by May 15.

    It’s not the same world for early year releases.

    1. What makes you think NOAH will be gone then? If people don’t stop blabbing about it, more people will keep going. And we all know people will not stop blabbing. The amount of “less religious” people that now want to see NOAH keeps growing due to all the controversy.

  14. Yeah, the Academy is totally going to ignore the Grand Budapest Hotel. A movie that is :

    *currently sitting at 71 million+ worldwide with 100 million likely

    *a cast with over 16 Oscar nominations between them. (Over 20 if you count the crew.)

    *Over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes with both critics and audiences. Other aggregates reflect the acclaim as well.

    *The biggest limited live action debut ever (with no special enhancers to boot)

    You pretty much have to know nothing about Oscar politics to think it would be ignored. They’re forgetful when it comes to the average crap released early sure, but they aren’t Alzheimer’s patients.

  15. There seems to be a notion that films released in the first 3/4’s of the year are automatically not Oscar worthy movies. How did that evolve? Also not all of those art house/ indie films are outstanding,infact even many of the honored films are not memorable and get pushed along to Awards time by their patrons. Oftimes it seems as if there is a not so silent war going on between big studio films and art house films.

  16. GBH is classic cinema at it’s most enjoyable. Most of it’s detractors are probably Wes Anderson haters (never even seen GBH, I’ll wager), or are filmgoers whose idea of great moviemaking is The Hangover trilogy and the Fast and Furious franchise.
    GBH deserves Oscar recognition for Fiennes, for Anderson, for production values and for being one of 2014’s best films.

  17. …everybody’s pretty angry here… These are two pretty risky and personal films. I’d be pleased to see some recognition later this year.

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