Late-year films have Oscar in their sights
05:00 AM, Jan 16, 2013
LOS ANGELES There are 2½ months left on the calendar and more than four months until the Academy Awards, but it’s never too early for the industry to begin its quest for gold.
Studios are ramping up ads on Oscar-prognostication sites, which are offering best-picture odds on movies that won’t be out for weeks. The Academy Awards, whose nominations are due Jan. 10, already has a field of largely unseen heavyweights.
While Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo kicked off the unofficial Oscar race with a strong start this weekend (a debut of $19.5 million), most of the movies expected to rule the Feb. 24 Academy Awards won’t be released until as late as Christmas (Les Misérables).
Still, analysts say, the pedigree (and budgets) of many fourth-quarter films ensures Oscar contention: Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, and the true military story Zero Dark Thirty all are expected to land nominations.
The early campaigning, veterans say, is inevitable, given the crush of competing awards. But even Oscar winners say the season, which seems to arrive earlier every year, can make people crazy.
“Do I miss the kind of movies you get in the Oscar season? Absolutely, and I plan to go back there,” says Bill Condon, director of the final two Twilight films and winner of the adapted-screenplay Oscar for 1998’s Gods and Monsters.
Condon, who also received another adapted-screenplay nomination for 2002’s Chicago, says the awards season is ripe “for smaller-scale, personal movies. Finding them is the trick.
“Do I miss the craziness of (the season)? Not at all,” he says. “It’s so non-stop, it’s almost debilitating.”
Veteran Oscar publicist Tony Angellotti says the academy’s recent infatuation with low budgets and art-house themes see best-picture winners The Hurt Locker and The Artist has made the campaign tougher to read.
“Oscar voters in recent years have shown their affection for as diverse a group of movies as any time in history,” says Angellotti, whose campaigns include A Beautiful Mind, Erin Brockovich and Seabiscuit. “Almost no genre or subject is dismissed from consideration.”
Which means brace yourself for a rush at the cineplex. Nov. 2 will see no fewer than nine films open, including three big studio movies. Same for the weekend of Dec. 21, which will open nine movies (including two opening Dec. 19), four from major studios.
“The goal is to make holiday money,” says Fandango’s Oscar analyst Dave Karger. “The icing is academy attention.”