How many “unofficial starts to Awards season” are there? I think that phrase gets tossed around far too often (by me especially) in reference to film festivals, precursor awards, or simply months of the year. While the upcoming Venice, Toronto, and Telluride Film Festivals may not be the “unofficial start to Awards season,” they will serve as excellent indicators of what films will generate the early Oscar buzz. Until the dozens of Oscar hopefuls are unleashed on the lucky critics and bloggers in attendance, we can only make predictions based on buzz and promotional footage.
As I mentioned in last week’s Oscar Tracker column, we know very little about the Oscar race at this point in the year. There are no movies that could be considered “locks” for Best Picture and no performances that are strong enough that it would be a shock if they weren’t nominated. Everything is wide open and there are a lot of films on the way looking to fight for a spot.
One of the most interesting factors to consider when looking at the race this early in the season is online buzz. I subscribe to most major Oscar columnists via Google Reader along with a large number of entertainment newspapers and film/pop culture blogs. As an experiment I searched for various film titles that have been written about over the last year to see which movies have had the most coverage and here is what I found:
- The Master – 559 mentions
- Django Unchained – 448 mentions
- Les Miserables – 214 mentions
- Argo – 188 mentions
- Anna Karenina – 152 mentions
- Life of Pi – 104 mentions
- Zero Dark Thirty – 94 mentions
- Inside Llewyn Davis – 80 mentions
- To the Wonder – 61 mentions
It was no particular surprise that the two major Weinstein Company releases had more mentions than any of the other movies. Harvey Weinstein is a master publicist who often starts a movie’s buzz early in the season and keeps it strong until Awards night. Any movie he is behind will inevitably receive Awards buzz and both of his films on the above list have to be a part of the Oscar conversation this year.
The Master has received more publicity than any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous films. The usually secretive director has allowed several trailers for his film to be released on the internet along with much speculation about when the film will premiere. The film will play at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and if it lives up to the incredibly high expectations, it should have a clear path for Oscar night. The trailers we have seen so far are fantastic and indicate that The Master includes several things the Academy loves: good (and gimmicky) acting, themes to chew on, and Harvey Weinstein’s name attached.
Quentin Tarantino’s last film Inglourious Basterds was an unexpected hit with the Academy three years ago earning eight nominations including Best Picture and Director. For that reason, Oscar watchers are keeping a close eye on his new film Django Unchained. The trailer for the movie is moody and fun with some strong scenery chewing by Academy favorites Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz. Like Tarantino’s previous effort, Django is a period piece that offers a revisionist look at a controversial time in history. It seems like a sure thing for DiCaprio to get some awards attention and the movie should be a major player as well.
Les Miserables has been getting fewer mentions in recent articles, but that is probably because its trailer premiered back in May and not much additional footage has been released since. Universal Pictures likely wants to temper expectations for a film directed by a recent Oscar winner and based on one of the most beloved musicals/books of all-time. There will not be any festival screenings of the film next month, but expect a huge build-up of buzz and promotional materials around the Holidays leading up to its release. The trailer revealed some beautiful art direction, but made me nervous about some of the performances (the singing more than the acting).
Perhaps the best trailer of the year so far is for Joe Wright’s upcoming adaptation of Anna Karenina. The magnificent two and a half minutes of footage reveals a theatrical take on the classic novel from the colorful wardrobe to the distant camera shots that give the viewer an audience’s perspective. I wasn’t sold on the film until that trailer and now I am unquestionably excited. If Wright’s feature is able to live up to the trailer, it could be one of the very best films of the year.
Ang Lee’s Life of Pi has received slightly less online buzz than other films coming out this Fall. Before the screening of Prometheus earlier this Summer we were treated to an out of context scene that didn’t to much for me and felt like a boring exercise in the use of 3-D. However, the film’s trailer changed my mind as it showcased wondrous imagination and made it feel like the movie was more about the source novel than Ang Lee’s adventure in 3-D.
Several other movies have given us promising trailers including Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, and Ben Affleck’s Argo. Then there are those films who have yet to reveal a full trailer yet including the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Terence Malick’s To the Wonder, and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Which trailers have you most excited for Fall movies? Which do you think have the best Oscar prospects?