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Oscar Myths 2003

Old 02-18-03, 01:15 PM
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Oscar Myths 2003

Oscar Myths 2003
Wednesday February 12 8:28 PM ET

by David Poland

One hates to be the one pissing on the parade instead of throwing ticker tape, but Iím gagging on some of the bent reporting out there.

First things first. The Hours is a Paramount movie that Miramax holds some foreign distribution rights to, attaching themselves by way of a contractual relationship with director Stephen Daldry. The film was produced by Scott Rudin, not Harvey Weinstein. The Oscar nominated score for the film would not be in the film if Weinstein had his way and, for people who like the movie, that score is key to the mood that makes the film. Miramax publicity has not been in control of the Oscar campaign for the film on any level. And you can be sure that any party for The Hours on Oscar night with be separate and apart from the Miramax extravaganza.

The Lord of the Rings was effectively put into turnaround by Miramax. Weinstein didnít want to make it as two films, much less three. His intention was to fire Peter Jackson off the project, for which he held the rights, and to hire a new team to write and direct a single film. The length had to be under 2 hours and the budget under $70 million. But New Lineís Bob Shaye took on the project and encouraged Jackson, already a geek legend, to make a trilogy. For his rights, Weinstein took a producing credit and a cut of the profits. Six hours-plus of film, $250 million in production costs and over $1.7 billion in world wide grosses (and still growing) later, Miramax has earned more money, free and clear, on each of these films - that they didnít finance, didnít make, and never wanted to make - than they will earn on Gangs of New York, Chicago and Frida combined.

Chicago is going to be a profitable film. But assuming that Chicago wins Best Picture, it will be the least profitable Best Picture winner of the last fifteen years, with the exception of one filmÖ Miramaxís The English Patient.

Perhaps the most heinous comparison made on Oscar day was made by the New York Timesí Rick Lyman, who used the statistical anomaly of Miramaxís 40 nominations that add up only if you include the Paramount and New Line films, to give voice to a comparison of Paramountís spectacular 1974 schedule that led to 39 Oscar nominations in 1975. Lyman doesnít stay on the issue, but it struck me the way that voicing the name of God does in an orthodox synagogue.

Shall we compare the two years?

Paramount had the Shakespeare In Love-like Murder on the Orient Express, which garnered 6 nominations and a career-achievement award of sorts for Ingrid Bergman. There was The Great Gatsby, which was nominated for and won two Oscars. There was The Little Prince which, co-incidentally co-starring Bob Fosse, was nominated for two Oscars. The studio also had a classic film that was snubbed by Oscar in The Longest Yard. There was Alan J. Pakulaís Warren Beatty vehicle The Parallax View and the underrated Karel Reisz film, The Gambler. They even had the film that would be a template for action films for decades to come, Death Wish.

Pretty good year. But I guess that Chicago, Gangs of New York and Frida could hold up against the group. Add in Rings and The Hours and Miramax is really impressive in comparison.

Oh. Did I mention the other three films on Paramountís 1974 schedule? Chinatown, The Conversation, and a little movie called The Godfather, Pt. II.


Do I even have to say it?


There are three more inevitable stories that I would like to get ahead of before they get completely out of hand. The first is the Year of The Woman absurdity. If anything, the Oscar nominations debunk the idea that this was a great year for women. Five of the 10 acting slots for women are filled by two films. The sixth is filled by an actress, Julianne Moore, who is also nominated for one of those films. Slots seven and eight are for performances best remembered for the sensuality and endowments of the two nominated actresses. The final two slots went to previous Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Kathy Bates. Great year for women!

White Oleander flopped. Secretary and Lovely & Amazing have been relegated to Independent Spirit Award status. Jennifer Aniston and Susan Sarandon were forgotten. And no one but the Ya Yas remembered their divine secrets when push came to shove.

Last yearís Oscar winning actress filled out a mean bikini for Bond and will sport a new white wig in X-Men 2. Hooray! The highest grossing film with a female lead was My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A fluke. The next highest grosser was Lilo & Stitch. Animation. The Ring was #17 for the year and Sweet Home Alabama, the only film in the Top 20 that was really sold on the shoulders of a female lead was #18. Get out the confetti.

The next issue is Brown as the next Black. (A line so good that I had to steal it from myself.) The Year of The Latino hype will soon begin. Salma is the first Latina actress to be nominated for Best Actress. Pedro and The Cuaron Bros. are in the hunt. All very good and well. Unfortunately, they are all going to lose and the hype will fade long before Academy membersí memory of Halle Berryís bare bottom bouncing up and down next to Billy Bob Thorntonís visible scrotum.

Finally, there is The Return of The Musical. First, Moulin Rouge brought back the musical, not Chicago. All Chicago proved is that anyone can do itÖ that you donít have to be a mad genius Aussie to make a wave.

Itís going to be an interesting time and lots of companies are going to lose lots of money. Traditionally, there is an assumption that period films are hard to sell. But in musical theater, almost everything is period. Moulin Rouge was period with a twist. Chicago is period with a modern sensibility. Victor/Victoria was a period film with a modern sensibility.

Is Miramaxís next likely musical, Guys & Dolls, really going to fly in 2004? There is some talk of modernizing it, but donít expect the tightly wound rights holders to go for that. (Sorry, Vin!) Rob Marshall is off of Sweeney Todd, Russell Crowe has passed on it and Tim Burton, the perfect match, is long gone. Into The Woods is a true theatrical conceit, reminiscent of the aforementioned The Little Prince in style, though with a much better book and score. Meanwhile, Phantom of The Opera has been ďabout to happenĒ for a decade now. Bye Bye Birdie has been done for TV in recent years. And the Kevin Kline starrer about Cole Porter is sure to do a roaring $9.3 million at the domestic box office.

(Note to John Horn: Musical theater performer Hugh Jackman was also tapped to be in Van Helsing.)
Aaron Amos is offline  
Old 02-18-03, 02:12 PM
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Some valid points, some of which I noticed lacking in the Oscar nomination reporting as well.
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