Summer hopefuls that can go the distance

Posted by · 9:29 am · June 15th, 2009

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt LockerOver at, Jeff Sneider (you know him around these parts as “The InSneider”) has put together a rundown of the 10 summer movies that have a shot at awards glory.  In my post-Cannes Oscar column I mentioned how dreadfully quiet the first half of the year has been for awards hopefuls.  After all, this time last year we’d already seen “The Visitor” and “WALL-E” as viable contenders, but this year — nothing.

Sneider is hanging his hat on a number of films he apparently hasn’t seen yet (Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies,” Judd Apatow’s “Funny People,” etc.), but most of the love goes to Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” which I’ll be getting to in due time.  And I can’t say I disagree.  Along with the perennial Pixar entry of the year, Bigelow’s Iraq character study clearly has the stuff if Summit is willing to go there.  It needs to make money first, of course, which is why we’re getting trailers and posters that amp up the action elements.  But it’s Bigelow’s best work ever and features awards caliber performances from Anthony Mackie and especially Jeremy Renner, both of which are mentioned in Sneider’s column.

Sam Rockwell also gets his due for a tour de force performance in Duncan Jones’s “Moon,” but Johnny Depp gets a back-handed slap vis a vis “Public Enemies.”  This one is still up in the air since very few have set eyes on the finished product — director Michael Mann lords over every step of the process.

Here is what Sneider had to say on the matter:

Most “experts” would choose Johnny Depp as the leading summer contender in this category, since his turn as John Dillinger in “Public Enemies” will certainly garner at least some attention from awards voters. But it’s confession time, gang; Depp has lost me over the past few years, and I know I’m not alone. Let’s look at the history: He was nominated for seven Golden Globes before finally winning in 2008 for “Sweeney Todd.” And he’s been nominated for three Academy Awards in the last five years, but the movies have been the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Finding Neverland” and “Sweeney Todd.” Are those REALLY Depp’s three best performances? No “Edward Scissorhands” or “Ed Wood,” or at least six other performances in six much better movies? So if you’re looking for some Johnny Depp love, you’ll find it in the potholes of my “Scissorhands” DVD. I jumped off his bandwagon the day he sold out to Disney.

I expect that’ll rile up the natives.  Of course I can’t exactly comment yet as I haven’t seen the film.  I’ll know more on that front later tonight, but Sneider raises a pretty good point.  After all, it’s the intersection of art and commerce that has most often yielded Depp a nomination for his work.  In the case of “Finding Neverland,” it took an Oscar hungry studio in it’s final Weinstein days (not to mention a Best Picture nomination).

Now I wouldn’t label Universal an “Oscar hungry studio,” despite its sterling track record as of late.  It’s just not the same mentality over there.  But I think if Mann’s film has the goods, and if Paul Greengrass’s forthcoming “Green Zone” is too, shall we say, Greengrass for the Academy’s tastes, it’ll be tough not to sell this presumed marquee performance as an Oscar should-be.  We’ll see.

Read the rest over at

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24 responses so far

  • 1 6-15-2009 at 9:48 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Well Star Trek in all tech categories and perhaps original score, Up for probably the whole Wall-E shabam as well. Terminator for VFX, the movie looked flawless.

  • 2 6-15-2009 at 10:17 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Has it been 100% confirmed that Green Zone will hit theaters this year? I believe it doesn’t have a release date. Or did I miss the news…?

  • 3 6-15-2009 at 10:37 am

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    Am I the only one annoyed that Depp has an obvious CGI face when he jumps the counter in those Public Enemies spots?

  • 4 6-15-2009 at 11:40 am

    tony rock said...

    Dan…what are you smoking? His face looks normal to me. Anyways, selling out to Disney? This journalist needs to grow up.

  • 5 6-15-2009 at 12:15 pm

    Jamieson said...

    I hope The Hurt Locker is remembered later in the year…I don’t see how anyone who sees it could possibly forget it. Phenomenal film that I’m dying to see again when it’s finally in release this month.

  • 6 6-15-2009 at 2:14 pm

    Patryk said...

    Anthony Mackie, so great in “Half Nelson,” will hopefully get serious awards consideration this year.

  • 7 6-15-2009 at 3:11 pm

    brian said...

    Bigelow’s best work ever? Have you even seen Point Break?

  • 8 6-15-2009 at 3:53 pm

    The InSneider said...

    Jonathan, the article only takes into consideration movies from June, July and August, and Away We Go was omitted since I wrote about that last week.

    Tony Rock, Depp used to be the kind of actor who took chances and was unpredictable. I just don’t like the choices he’s been making. Everything about Public Enemies suggests I should love it on paper. But I just don’t get the feeling I should from the trailer and that’s why I’m down on its Oscar chances. But we’ll see…

    And Brian, I’m more partial to Strange Days. LOVE that movie. But The Hurt Locker is still better.

  • 9 6-15-2009 at 3:56 pm

    RichardA said...

    Speaking of under rated movies, “Point Break” has to be right up there. It’s awesome character study. Had that movie been about inside world of drugs/mafia instead of bank robbery/surfing or Al Pacino instead of Keanu Reeves, or a male director instead of a female director, “Point Break” would have made the Oscar rounds.

    But just as it is, I think the movie is pretty awesome.

  • 10 6-15-2009 at 3:57 pm

    RichardA said...

    Come Golden Globes time, The Hangover and Bradley Cooper will be remembered.

  • 11 6-15-2009 at 4:57 pm

    SueS said...

    Johnny Depp is one of the most underawarded actors of his generation – hopefully sometime soon
    he will be awarded for his work. At least he’s making movies the public wants to see (most of the time) unlike some of the pieces of totally boring and depressing performances that have garnered awards of late.

  • 12 6-15-2009 at 8:32 pm

    The InSneider said...

    I actually disagree, Sue. Yes, Depp has deserved awards in the past, but I honestly believe that he’ll NEVER win an Oscar, at least for acting Such is his fate. I could see him producing a Best Picture one day though…

  • 13 6-15-2009 at 11:30 pm

    Matt T said...

    The Depp hate doesn’t seem like it has any real thought behind it. I don’t see how playing Jack Sparrow counts as “selling out.” Sparrow is the most loved original character of this decade (someone prove me wrong) and I honestly think that type of work should be commended.

    Speaking of which, with the decade ending soon, you could do like a best character or something poll. Just a cool idea.

  • 14 6-16-2009 at 12:55 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Sneider is dead wrong when it comes to Depp in this film, FYI. Some of his best work yet.

  • 15 6-16-2009 at 1:24 am

    BJT said...

    So Depp’s got the goods in Public Enemies?

    I expect you’re embargoed for a bit, but when should we expect a review and do you have any more tips about it’s Oscar chances?

    I’d most like to see whether the Academy will embrace the digital cinematography.

  • 16 6-16-2009 at 5:43 am

    Glenn said...

    Brian, have you even seen “The Hurt Locker”? And we can’t even count “The Hurt Locker” as early 2009 contender since it hasn’t been released yet!

    Richard, considering the Globes have snubbed movies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” before, I doubt “The Hangover” will be getting any love from them.

  • 17 6-16-2009 at 7:10 am

    The InSneider said...

    Kris, believe me, I’m glad to hear it. Can’t wait to see it. I LOVE Mann, and it looks gorgeous. You make me wonder how Bale fared.

    Matt T, there’s actually A LOT of thought behind it. I’m not one of these assholes who rants and raves about every other actor. I put careful thought and consideration before I write something. I grew up as a HUGE Depp fan, since I was a little kid, and trust me, back in 1992, there weren’t many 8 year-old who knew who he was.. I mean, since I was a little kid. Scissorhands had a PROFOUND effect on me. I went as Freddy Krueger on Halloween for several years in a row, because I loved the original Nightmare so much and one of the first VHS tapes I owned was Freddy’s Dead, which has Depp on the back of the box. Platoon is my favorite war movie ever. I’ve seen Nick of Time approximately 30 times. But Depp had a LONG stretch of mediocrity and it came to a boil with the origina POTC, which I kind of hated, so I didn’t bother with either of the sequels. And I found Depp’s nomination for that film to be amongst the biggest travesties in the Academy’s history, IMHO. You think Jack Sparrow is the most loved original creation of the decade? That is an insane statement my friend, but I’m glad you enjoyed the performance. Fear and Loathing is considered one of his greats but I find that movie unwatchable. Ninth Gate, Astronaut’s Wife, Secret Window, yuck. Sleepy Hollow and From Hell, meh. Blow, overrated. Never seen Before Night Falls, Chocolat or The Libertine (BNF is on the Netflix queue though). Didn’t like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Corpse Bride or Sweeney Todd. I’m just not a fan of the new “Kids Choice Awards”-era Johnny Depp. There’s a HUGE difference between the choices he made in the 90s and the ones he’s making today, but Kris, it’s good to hear PE may be a return to form for the edgy, capital-A Actor who partially helped me fall in love with movies in the first place.

  • 18 6-16-2009 at 9:32 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    BJT: Embargo lifts the 23rd. I think it’s good to go in perhaps both sound categories, maybe cinematography, still highly possible in art direction and costume. My thoughts on its Oscar chances haven’t really changed, actually.

  • 19 6-16-2009 at 10:27 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    CUE: Bale bashing when PE rolls around. He’s playing second fiddle again! Blah blah blah…

    Can anyone name a “bad” performance in a Michael Mann film? William Peterson is a little over the top in Manhunter but he plays it mostly right, I think. I see no reason to suspect that Depp “won’t do it” for us in PE. I’m just glad he isn’t playing quirk. In fact, Depp looks like he’s having a blast.

    The Empire magazine cover story on PE suggests that Mann’s adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls is getting close. Fingers crossed.

  • 20 6-20-2009 at 3:35 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gittes: I’d say Ian McKellen is uncharacteristically terrible in “The Keep.” Then again, “The Keep” is an uncharacteristically terrible Michael Mann film.

    Diane Venora is pretty bad in “The Insider.” But she was always a borderline actress anyway.

    Bale isn’t GOOD in “Public Enemies,” but I wouldn’t say he’s BAD either.

    As for “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” he’s been trying to do that forever. He was inches away back when I interviewed him in 2006, he said, but the financing fell through that very same week. I’d say he needs a hit first, and I don’t think “Public Enemies” will be big enough.

  • 21 6-20-2009 at 4:15 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Kris: Everyone tells me not to see “The Keep.” So I guess I won’t. But Mann is my favorite director and someday I might have to.

    Dian Venora’s character in “The Insider” is pretty bad. She comes across as a money grubbing piece of work that worries more about her mansion than her husband. Though that’s a tough situation for anyone. Her southern accent is atrocious…yeah she’s bad.

    I should reserve judgment on Bale until I see the film. But I don’t fault him for taking a minor role that he probably knew wasn’t going to require him to express what he’s really capable of. Hard to say ‘no’ to Michael Mann. Maybe Bale can be Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls. I wonder who Mann was considering for the lead anyway…if it ever got to that point.

    If Public Enemies isn’t big enough than I’m not sure what is. Maybe this has nothing to do with anything, but if David Fincher was given – 150 mil? – to do Button after Zodiac, than why can’t Mann be given the dough he needs to put Hemingway’s tale on the screen? Frustrating. Only in L.A.

  • 22 6-20-2009 at 4:47 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I just watched it again on YouTube in preparation for next week’s edition of The Lists. It is indeed horrible but you owe it to yourself to give it a look if you’re a Mann fan. Like F.X. Toole says in the Taschen book, it’s good that he took a risk like that early on.

    As for Bale in this film, I don’t think it’s really that excusable. Yes, it’s true, you can’t say no to Mann if you’re an actor these days. But that doesn’t mean you sleepwalk through the part.

    Javier Bardem once told me “when Michael Mann invites you to his party, you accept,” and when he took on a small, inconsequential role in Collateral, it was almost the centerpiece of the film, performance-wise. Bale brings nothing approaching that kind of game in Public Enemies.

  • 23 6-20-2009 at 11:21 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Bardem is very, very good in Collateral. He had the benefit of a great script that provided him with scene stealing lines. Plus he delivered them flawlessly. I’d like to think that Mann wouldn’t allow anyone to sleepwalk through a film of his. Mann cares about every role in his films regardless of size. From the great Bruce McGill to even Colm Feore in The Insider (Feore’s talk to Wigand is quite effective), they all “bring it.” I’ll have to wait and see with regard to Bale.

  • 24 6-21-2009 at 12:09 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I think he may have overcompensated in his desire not to convey a similarly balanced crook/cop narrative to “Heat” and sapped the energy out of the role on the page. Bale’s sin, however, is failing to elevate the material for his part.