Distributors are starting to actually sit down and watch movies that may or may not be awards worthy. Disney moved "Saving Mr. Banks" into a limited platform release before the holidays; Oscar mavens the Weinsteins are lining up their ducks, from "Fruitvale Station"'s summer launch to likely fall fest entries "August: Osage County" and "Mandela: Walk to Freedom."
But are we ready for B-movie purveyor Relativity to enter the Oscar derby? The distributor is making a significant change in its release plan for Scott Cooper's gritty drama "Out of the Furnace," starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana and Willem Dafoe. Previously scheduled for October 4, the film will now have a limited release on November 27, expanding on December 6, at the height of awards season. This bespeaks confidence, whether deserved or misplaced.
Relativity has reason to believe, as Cooper's last feature, "Crazy Heart," won Jeff Bridges an Oscar. And the "Out of the Furnace" cast is no stranger to the Academy: Bale has his Oscar for David O. Russell's "The Fighter," Affleck was nominated for "The Assassination of Jesse James," Harrelson for "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Dafoe for "Platoon" and "Shadow of the Vampire" and Shepard for "Safe House." Affleck may be competing with himself, as he also stars in awards-worthy "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (August 16) from IFC Films, and Bale is coming up in Sony's December Oscar play from Russell, "American Hustle."
Cooper co-wrote the film with Brad Ingelsby. Here's the synopsis:
Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell’s brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so - with nothing left to lose - Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother.