Clooney's 'The Monuments Men': Will The Academy Be Able to Resist?

September 29, 2013

The Monuments Men

There are certain things that Academy voters tend to love year in and year out. Chief among them are World War II-set films. They also are fond of when their well-liked actors step behind the camera. The Academy certainly proved as much in the case of actor/director George Clooney when they fully embraced his sophomore directorial effort Good Night, and Good Luck. Since then, he's had a mixed bag of luck awards wise with his projects (though his 2011 film The Ides of March did score an unexpected Best Adapted Screenplay nod), but his new movie The Monuments Men appears to be his most Oscar friendly flick yet.

What is The Monuments Men about? It tells the story of a race against time that a crew of art historians and museum curators united for in order to recover renowned works of art stolen and hidden by the Nazis before Hitler destroys them all. George Clooney is directing, co-starring, producing and co-writing with his frequent partner Grant Heslov. The cast besides Clooney includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and recent Best Picture good luck charm John Goodman. As you can no doubt see, the man has no problems wrangling up A-list talent for his movies.

Despite a plot that screams "give us all the Oscars", the film isn't predicted to win much of anything, though the more prudent pundits are still predicting assorted noms for it. Why the lack of love? Mainly it has to do with the trailer, which didn't thrill most. It seemed unsure if it was an action adventure or a comedy, or even a light drama. Tonal inconsistency can be an issue with a film like this. The Academy likes their heavy material handled respectively, though in this case it could actually be a welcome breath of fresh air when compared to presumptive frontrunner 12 Years a Slave and its bleak tone.

Assuming the quality or at the very least the Oscar appeal is there, I think this could very well be the film that contends to lead in terms of overall nominations. Obviously, its got the potential to compete just about everywhere, including in the technical categories, and that's usually where the films that win the big prize manage to add to their nomination total. Here, clearly Best Picture, Director, Actor (possibly Clooney or Damon if they're good), Actress/Supporting Actress (wherever Blanchett is campaigned), Supporting Actor (whomever doesn't go Lead, along with perhaps Goodman or Murray), Adapted Screenplay, and then techs like Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. Double digit nominations are not out of the question if everything breaks right here.

The Monuments Men

The more likely outcome here is that the film will really only be contending for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay in the big categories while hoping to catch on in enough techs to give it a respectable nomination total. The pipe dream of a dozen nods is more likely to turn into the reality of hoping for at least three or four in the end, with anything else being a nice surprise that boosts its chances for actual wins. A lot will depend on if the actual reviews for the film and subsequent box office are solid enough to make voters think it's a realistic contender to win. As much as some are dismissing that, remember this: we've had bad trailers for good movies before. This wouldn't be the first awards hopeful to overcome less than terrific early buzz.

Though Clooney's new film is purportedly skipping the fall film festival circuit entirely, it's one of the top contenders that could potentially play at the end of the ongoing New York Film Festival as their annual Secret Screening. That would be a strong show of confidence in the movie and could certainly change the conversation somewhat. So where do I stand on The Monuments Men? I'm of the opinion that it's probably more likely going to be a Best Picture nominee than current flavors of the month like Lee Daniels' The Butler, which could easily fade by the end of the year. I wouldn't count on the film to win a damn thing, but it could wind up with more nominations than you'd expect from it.

If you want a random bit of awards trivia that bodes well for the film, you can look to the presence of the aforementioned John Goodman. The last two Best Picture winners have featured him in supporting turns (The Artist and Argo, for those with short memories), so having him in your cast has been a good luck charm of late. I wouldn't say this means anything serious, but hey… it can't hurt their chances, apparently.

We'll ultimately see what happens with the film between now and the year's end, but don't discount how much this sort of movie can appeal to Oscar voters, especially the older white males that may not be 100% on board with uniformly supporting 12 Years a Slave. It may not be the sexiest contender out there, but Clooney's The Monuments Men is one that you shouldn't turn your back on at all. It's going to be in the thick of the awards race, one way or another. We'll be keeping a close eye on it over these next three months.

Find more posts: Awards, Editorial



I don't understand the purpose of these recent awards articles about films no one has seen. Every year some supposed oscar contenders fizzle and others excel. But if you haven't even seen the film then these are just empty prognostications.

disqus_wk0h5kz2Wu on Sep 29, 2013


i was going to leave this exact same comment! Where are the fun articles about stuff people care about, that the author's legitimately care about? These seem like stuffer, and excuse me if i'm wrong...but mechanical, and not serving the readership.

Linkfx on Sep 29, 2013


I legitimately care about this, trust me...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


i went back and looked you up and read your intro and it makes sense to me now...I guess it's just not that fascinating to me - i have a passing interest in awards season, would rather talk about movie's i've already seen. in that regard i'm seeing an early screening of american hustle on thursday and will be chiming in.

Linkfx on Sep 29, 2013


Fair enough there...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


I'd argue they're hardly empty, since this is my career and all...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


It's a well written article. I just don't understand the point of this or similar pieces from other publications when the film hasn't been seen. You're suggesting, among other things, that this film could be an Oscar darling. No one can make an honest judgment until the film is screened. Clooney is unlikely to make a POS but most people expected big things of "The Ides of March" a few months before release and that film, while well done, critically underwhelmed and as you said, was somewhat surprisingly nominated for a screenplay Oscar. There are so many good films already out - those are the ones that should matter until new ones are seen.

disqus_wk0h5kz2Wu on Sep 29, 2013


Ironically, most of the time I've found people always want to talk about the films that haven't been seen yet as opposed to the ones that are already out...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


I say its in if its secrect screening at NYFF

John on Sep 29, 2013


It's got a good chance, yes...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


I think Monuments Men biggest issue is that Sony has 2 films (albeit one unseen) in a better position awards wise(Captain Phillips & American Hustle). And if you think the Butler is a "flavor of the month", you are going to be surprised come January!

thatpj on Sep 29, 2013


You're right about Sony, and we'll see in that other regard...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


I still think 12 YEARS A SLAVE has Best Picture locked over this film. Hollywood has a deep seated history with liberal, White guilt.

DAVIDPD on Sep 29, 2013


It's possible, but hardly a lock...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


Why would you call 12 Years A Slave a liberal picture David? Just curious.

Quanah on Sep 29, 2013


Quanah, I am not calling 12 YEARS A SLAVE a particularly liberal picture. What I am saying is that Hollywood, suffers from Liberal, White guilt and will vote accordingly to make 12 YEARS A SLAVE this years best picture. That being said, I do not want to sound like I personally believe 12 YEARS A SLAVE does not stand on its own merits to deserve the win, because I do, I just think it was destined to win almost on premise alone.

DAVIDPD on Sep 29, 2013


Fair statement David. Thanks for responding.

Quanah on Sep 29, 2013


Historically they seem content enough to nominate as a method of making themselves feel better, but it's not like I think 12 Years a Slave has no chance to win, I'm just not sold on the race being wrapped up...

Joey Magidson on Sep 29, 2013


Fuck the Oscars.

cobrazombie on Sep 30, 2013


Will they resist next year?

Kim on Nov 8, 2013


Probably, but we shall see...

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013

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