The earlier a high-prestige art house movie opens in the fall, the less likely that its distributor harbors serious Oscar hopes for it. In other words, if Sony Pictures Classics moves Pedro Almodovar's retitled Skin I Live In from November to October, and slates Roman Polanski's Carnage on November 18, it means the latter is being given the Oscar advantage. Almodovar's kinky thriller starring Antonio Banderas met a mixed reception in Cannes. "This is not a move," asserts SPC co-president Michael Barker. "We never set the date until now. We were always going in the Fall. It is a great date."
On the other hand, Sony opted to open Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris right after its opening slot in Cannes to capitalize on rave reviews. It worked, as Allen's movie has outstripped his biggest hits and is poised to return as a formidable Oscar contender. I'm also wondering when SPC will date David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. Look at other November openers and you will see the Oscar race starting to rev up:
Weinstein Co.'s My Week with Marilyn stars Michelle Williams as the iconic star.
SPC's Carnage, based on Yasmina Reza's relationship stage play The God of Carnage, stars Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.
Focus Features is releasing Working Title's adaptation of John LeCarre's novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring Colin Firth, Gary Oldman (George Smiley), Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Ciarán Hinds.
TWC's silent film era The Artist stars Cannes best actor-winner Jean Dujardin. Academy voters will eat this one up (here are Cannes reviews). Paramount opens Martin Scorsese's 3-D period mystery-drama Hugo Cabret, starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law and Emily Mortimer. The Aviator's John Logan adapted Brian Selznick's novel. How much will 3-D hurt that film's playability with older Academy voters? Will Paramount screen it for the Academy in 3-D or 2-D?
And then in December things get rocking:
TWC opens another Logan screenplay directed by Ralph Fiennes, Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which earned advance raves in Berlin, especially for Vanessa Redgrave. Gerard Butler co-stars.
Fox Searchlight opens George Clooney starrer The Descendents, from Sideways director Alexander Payne, opposite TWC's Meryl Streep vehicle The Iron Lady.
Sony and David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo goes wide, which means they're seeking a big b.o. weekend. (Congrats to star Daniel Craig, who this weekend secretly married Rachel Weisz, fellow Brit and ex-partner of Darren Aronofsky, with whom she had a child.)
Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's Adventures of Tintin: Secret of Unicorn is another test of performance capture and 3-D's strength. On the artier side of the equation is FilmDistrict's Bosnian romantic war drama Land of Blood and Honey, marking Angelina Jolie's directing debut. Also opening that weekend is Fox's Cameron Crowe heart-tugger We Bought A Zoo, starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning, based on Benjamin Mee’s 2009 memoir.
Disney Touchstone/DreamWorks moved Spielberg's second movie, War Horse, from August 12 to December for obvious reasons: awards potential. “We think there’s room for a couple of holiday movies during that season,” said Stacey Snider some months back on a press call. She hopes that this “love story between a boy and his horse,” adapted by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis from Michael Morpurgo’s novel and the subsequent West End stage hit, will play well into January. “It’s a big market at that time of year.”
[Photo of Antonio Banderas, SPC's Michael Barker and Pedro Almodovar by indieWIRE's Brian Brooks.]