Does ‘Frozen River’ have one more trick up its sleeve?

Posted by · 2:09 pm · February 11th, 2009

(from left) Misty Upham and Melissa Leo in Frozen RiverOn Monday’s edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” reporter Nate DiMeo spotlights the “Cinderella story” of Courtney Hunt’s “Frozen River,” which turned up a rather surprising original screenplay nomination two-and-a-half weeks ago.

Originating out of Sundance in early 2008, the film is one of a handful that can be “very high quality, but not very obvious to sell or to market,” says Sony Pictures Classics honcho Michael Barker in the piece.  But, as DiMeo points out, “Frozen River” is “the type of film that Barker and his team have honed awards season after awards season.”

Interestingly enough, I’ve begun to hear a lot of chatter in favor of Hunt’s film turning up one more surprise: on Oscar night.  While most of us are debating whether Best Picture nominee “Milk” or animated critics favorite “WALL-E” will win in the original screenplay category, there are those who think Hunt could eek out a victory, a show of support for independent filmmaking to be sure.  There is also talk of Kate Winslet’s “assured” victory in the lead actress category not being all that assured at all, and that Melissa Leo has become a difficult choice to argue against.

Barker “had a plan and an instinct on this,” Hunt says in the DiMeo piece.  “I thought once I got into Sundance and sold the movie, I was a big shot.  Well, it turns out I wasn’t as much of a big shot as I thought I was.”

Barker notes that “for the longest time, we were the only film that the Academy members had in their hands to watch.”  Screeners of the film went out at the beginning of September, DiMeo reminds, “before it could be buried under a pile of ‘Benjamin Button’ and ‘Dark Knight’ screeners.  Sony Pictures Classics had scheduled the DVD release for right around now to take advantage of a potential nomination.  And now orders are up.”

The studio’s goal is “for the film to have the longest life possible,” Barker says, “and ‘Frozen River’ is probably a textbook example.”

Might it also be a textbook example of catching the Oscar frontrunners off guard?  It’s quite possible.

Also check out Sasha Stone’s interview with Hunt from earlier in the week if you missed it, as well as Liane Hansen’s chat with Leo from November, right around the time of the film’s release.

→ 10 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

10 responses so far

  • 1 2-11-2009 at 2:28 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Betting odds at Unibet for Leo are 40 while Winslet is at 1,5. So yes, I hope Leo wins.

  • 2 2-11-2009 at 2:38 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’d love for this to be true, however far-fetched it sounds. I’ve been surprised by how much the film has stuck with me.

    Leo outclasses everyone else in her category, and while Hunt’s screenplay isn’t my favourite in the category, I think it’d be a much fresher, more deserving choice than “Milk.”

  • 3 2-11-2009 at 2:54 pm

    The Z said...

    I just watched “Frozen River” today and I was unmoved. The screenplay was weak – there were better scripts in 2008, “The Wrestler” for one – and overall the acting was okay. Leo did the best with what was on the page, but I don’t think she should win, let alone have been nominated.

  • 4 2-11-2009 at 3:31 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    This reminds me of what happened to Away From Her. It was a small film that got great reviews (especially its female lead) but played to a limited audience, and it goes on to get not only an acting nomination but also a screenplay nomination as well.

    I wish Hunt and Leo the best on February 22nd, but my money is still on the front-runners, however undeserving they may be.

  • 5 2-11-2009 at 4:34 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    Has Focus ever had a BP nominee not win for screenplay until Atonement? I’m sure they must have, but I’m drawing a blank. Either way, Focus + Milk + a strange category think Black might take this with ease.

  • 6 2-11-2009 at 7:11 pm

    Glenn said...

    I would loooove Hunt to steal the Original Screenplay category away. It’s my favourite movie of 2008 (from the ones I’ve seen, anyway) and I can’t imagine Leo winning so I’m putting my hopes towards the screenplay. If, for no other reason, than to get it more publicity and more people seeing it. If not Hunt then the crew from “Wall-E”.

  • 7 2-12-2009 at 12:34 am

    PJ said...

    I’m torn between “Milk” and “WALL-E”, so this might be a nice compromise, but a Leo win would be absolutely brilliant.

  • 8 2-12-2009 at 1:33 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Let’s not forget there’s clearly passion for In Bruges as well in this category. So that makes four possibilities.

  • 9 2-12-2009 at 4:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    If we’re going there, Jonathan, there’s passion for “Happy-Go-Lucky” too. (And let’s be honest, no person in this category is more overdue for an Oscar than Mike Leigh is.) It’s an odd category this year… in a good way.

    I still think it’s really just down to “Milk” or “WALL-E,” though.