Sunday Discussion: Are There Too Many Great Oscar Movies?
by Alex Billington
October 26, 2008
The instant answer to that question is of course - no! There can never be too many great Oscar movies, right? It's a question I've been mulling over for the past few weeks. The Weinstein Company's decision to move The Road to 2009 initially sparked my interest in exploring this discussion further. More fuel was added to the fire when Paramount shifted their fall release schedule, pushing The Soloist to 2009 (and knocking it out of Oscar contention) and in turn starting up an Oscar campaign for Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. Now I'm just not sure if all of the Hollywood studios are worried that there are too many Oscar movies? Will this Oscar season be so crowded it will be hard to find the gems?
Starting with the most recent news, I'm a bit baffled by Paramount's recent release date changes. Did they really think a comedic role in a mildly successful summer movie would be enough to beat out Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight? And on top of that, did they really think that Robert Downey Jr. would be a better Oscar bet in Tropic Thunder than in The Soloist, where he plays a LA Times journalist who helps a schizophrenic homeless man become recognized as the musical prodigy that he is? I guess why I'm asking these questions is because it leads into the discussion that there could be too many great Oscar movies. There are so many Oscar contenders already, that Paramount couldn't fit The Soloist in this year.
Let's take a quick look at some of the big Oscar contenders that haven't hit theaters just yet. I may be missing a few smaller indies, so please bear with me. In November: Slumdog Millionaire, Australia, and Milk. In December: Frost/Nixon, Hunger, The Reader, Gran Torino, Doubt, Seven Pounds, The Wrestler, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Valkyrie, Last Chance Harvey, and Defiance. I'm confused - this doesn't seem like that many? Of course, there are a few that haven't had enough buzz yet to really strike me as strong Oscar contenders, like Nothing But the Truth and Steven Soderbergh's Che (which doesn't have an official release date as far as I know).
We also can't forget the handful of movies that have already been released that have gained some early Oscar buzz: The Visitor, Rachel Getting Married, Happy-Go-Lucky, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and of course, The Dark Knight. With these two lists, I'm wondering why this year looks so much different than the past few (e.g. The Departed was released in October, No Country for Old Men in November). December is loaded with an excess of Oscar movies, but it seems like some of these already released films, while not the strongest contenders, are causing the studios to freak out about their fall movie season and prioritize certain stronger releases. But there really aren't that many?
I guess I'm forgetting that this is a business and the studios are more worried about making money. Out of the 22 films I just mentioned above, the average moviegoer will see at most three to five of them by the time we get to the Academy Awards. What I'm not forgetting is that there can only be one winner and five nominees. No matter how hard they try and no matter how good some films are, not all of them make it to the Oscars. Which is why this is such an interesting discussion. Watching great movies is never a bad thing, but when too many movies are shooting for Oscar consideration, too many of them get lost in the mix. I'm certain most people haven't even heard of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly even today.
Let's get back to the topic at hand. I don't think there are too many Oscar movies this year. In fact, I don't think there are enough. I would have loved to see The Soloist and The Road this year in addition to the 22 I already mentioned. Even if neither of those movies gets nominated at all, they still would have been better to include in this year's line-up. Now they're going to be buried and forgotten. I'm really not sure why Paramount and The Weinstein Company decided to move both of those films, but I don't think it's because audiences feel the Oscar season is already filled up. Then again, I see almost every movie, so I'm not the average moviegoer. I'm excited to see everything, but maybe everyone else is worried that there are too many great Oscar movies left to see this year? What do you think?