While Nov. 1 represents a lot of different things to the general population (candy-induced comas, candy corn themed alcohol hangovers), it generally indicates the same thing to film studios — the start of Oscar season.
In the past months, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the likes of The Master, Flight, and other independently playing films, but the real discussion doesn’t start until now, when the major movie studios unleash the Oscar campaigns featuring not only the November and December releases they plan on unleashing upon Academy members, but also the big summer releases they feel deserve Oscar attention.
Warner Bros. hasn’t had a lot of luck when it came to wooing the Academy in recent years. Last year, their offerings included the last Harry Potter film, Contagion, Happy Feet Two, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – none of which received major gold with the exception of the last, which had the involvement of Academy favorites Scott Rudin and Stephen Daldry to thank despite its lukewarm critical response.
Even dating back to 2008, when Warner Bros. had The Dark Knight and Gran Torino to offer, Academy members still were unmoved (although the Best Picture expansion from five to ten looked like a sign of remorse from the Academy governors). Warner Bros. just lacks the power of The Weinstein Company or Fox Searchlight when it comes to campaigning — the last win it had by itself for Best Picture was in 2007 for The Departed.
This year, Warner Bros. offers up The Dark Knight Rises, Magic Mike, Argo, Cloud Atlas, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for consideration. They’re probably hoping for some love for Rises, considering the snub back in 2008 was well criticized, although the Academy may have already felt they paid their dues to Nolan in 2010 for Inception. Rises also lacks the strength of its predecessor, which could hurt it.
Cloud Atlas, despite a lot of anticipation, is receiving mixed reviews and doesn’t have the pedigree to save it — The Wachowski Brothers never received much love for The Matrix, so their power doesn’t seem enough to pull what Extremely Loud did last year with Daldry and Rudin.
The Hobbit may seem like a good bet to you, but you have to remember that the final Lord of the Rings movie did already receive 11 Academy Awards back in 2005 — the Academy may show some recognition in the technical categories, but I don’t see much happening besides that.
Magic Mike. Really? It surpassed commercial and critical expectations back in July, but I don’t see much happening for it except maybe a supporting actor nomination for Matthew McConaughey. Mostly, though, this just seems like Warner Bros. is scraping at the bottom of the barrel.
Argo, however, is the studio’s only serious contender. Out of all the movies released this year, it’s definitely the frontrunner, but like The Master before it, it might run out of steam by the time we get to, say, Lincoln or Les Miserables.
As far as the website goes, Warner Bros. isn’t exactly making the big push they made with Harry Potter last year — of course, we’ve seen studios do crazier things — say, the guitar shaped gift baskets members received on their doorsteps last year for The Descendants. In this, I can’t say I exactly agree with the methodology. Why should a film be nominated just because of who campaigns better? That’s the Academy for you — wait, no. That’s Hollywood for you.
Fox Searchlight and Columbia Pictures also have their For Your Consideration websites up, albeit incomplete and lacking major films or ones that incorporate mainstream fandoms. You can view the Warner Bros. one here.