‘District 9’ receives most Academy applause in years

Posted by · 8:16 pm · August 17th, 2009

Sharlto Copley in District 9The unexpected fiscal and critical success of “District 9” has stirred the proper awards talk in the right circles.  The film looks to be pretty stiff competition in the nomination races for sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, perhaps even film editing.  But given the mood of a recent Academy screening here in Los Angeles, as conveyed by Variety’s Peter Bart, one might want to consider the film’s reach elsewhere.

Applause is a difficult thing to understand in circumstances like this.  Generally, a big ovation at the end of, say, a well-attended press or industry screening, can be chalked up to ever-manipulative publicists doing their part to raise the roof.  But at a screening such as the one this weekend at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, a screening meant specifically for Academy members, the claps take on a different meaning.  I have a friend, AMPAS member, who always says you can place a smart bet on a film’s Oscar chances across the board based on the way applause ebbs and flows during the closing credits.

If that’s the case, Sony might have stumbled onto a real live Oscar horse for the season.  Because the response was uncharacteristically enthusiastic for the sci-fi summer closer.

Says Bart:

Some critics missed the boat on this one (including Variety), but at a packed Academy screening over the weekend at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the film received the most applause of any movie in a couple of years. That’s usually a signal.

Maybe something like an original screenplay nomination could be in the cards?  Or — hey, there are 10 — a Best Picture berth?  In a perfect world, Sharlto Copley would be in the BEst Actor running, but let’s not get carried away.

Bart then gets into something that could really cause this film to register in an industry that finds itself struggling to maintain profit margins in the current economy: “District 9” is a film made on the (relative) cheap in the face of similar projects with inflated budgets that bring back dwindling returns.  The year after “Slumdog Millionaire” was crowned largely for turning chicken poo into chicken salad with a fortunate acquisition and a decent box office run, “District 9” could be held up by the Academy as an example of how to not only make smart films, but how to smartly make smart films.  You know, the kind that pay dividends.  Remember those?

More from Bart on that:

The success of the film serves as another reminder that the acquisitions business is far from dead – perhaps some of the acquisitions folks are simply too timorous. Hats off to Peter Jackson for fostering this movie and to Sony’s Peter Schlessel for zeroing in on it so fiercely. The director is an unknown named Neill Blomkamp and the producers are Ken Kamins and Bill Block – a one-time agent who keeps popping up with intriguing films.

A year ago “Slumdog Millionaire” went begging for attention until Peter Rice locked it up at Fox Searchlight. This year “Hurt Locker” had trouble finding a buyer and now along comes “District 9” – another superbly made film that any studio should have been proud to release

So the big question: Are there more potential winners out there that the majors are too timorous to touch?

Seriously, a Best Picture nod here makes more sense to me than “Star Trek,” and I’m a bigger fan of the Abrams film at the end of the day, so…

Read more at BF Deal Memo.

→ 27 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

27 responses so far

  • 1 8-17-2009 at 8:49 pm

    Cde. said...

    There’s no way Star Trek will be nominated.
    If any sci-fi film is going to get a Best Picture nomination, I think Avatar has that position sealed up.

  • 2 8-17-2009 at 8:57 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    haha yess, pter jackson you brilliant basterd, two peter jackson movies nominated for best pic in one year, sounds like a good year

  • 3 8-17-2009 at 8:59 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    theres a very real chance jackson could be getting 4 nominations this year, writer, director and best pic for both movies

  • 4 8-17-2009 at 9:04 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Sharlto Copley, please. Please!

  • 5 8-17-2009 at 9:25 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Academy members like to have fun at the movies during the summer too I’m sure but I imagine they’ll have more mediocre and recent films on the brain when it comes time to vote.

  • 6 8-17-2009 at 10:07 pm

    brady said...

    With the ten best pic lineup, I could see there perhaps being enough passionate support for DISTRICT 9 to land it in the final stretch.

    I thought Sharlito Copley gave an extraordinary performance. He is a huge part of what makes the film work. I’d love to see him nominated.

  • 7 8-17-2009 at 10:23 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    SLUMDOG ALIENS. I’m serious. I’m not going to be surprised at all if it has some very serious traction.

  • 8 8-17-2009 at 11:13 pm

    Joel said...

    I think it should be nominated for everything in sight, but most obvious would be Best Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. That is, if this goes anywhere.

  • 9 8-17-2009 at 11:14 pm

    Joel said...

    Oh and I didn’t classify the Screenplay subcategory. Would this be adapted, because of Alive in Joburg? Or original, since the creator of the short was in charge of the writing for the film?

  • 10 8-17-2009 at 11:26 pm

    j said...

    But there are only 3 BP noms I would consider sci-fi, and they’re classics: ET, Star Wars, Clockwork Orange. I just don’t think D9 deserves to join that shortlist.

  • 11 8-17-2009 at 11:37 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    That dynamic changes when there are twice as many opportunities to join that company, j.

  • 12 8-18-2009 at 12:01 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Shit, I still haven’t seen it but it’s sure a nice surprise to read this.

  • 13 8-18-2009 at 1:21 am

    Alex said...

    After Hollywood essentially shitting on its audience with films like GI Joe, Transformers, a competent semi-interesting film like District 9 is extremely satisfying.

  • 14 8-18-2009 at 1:22 am

    sasha stone said...

    I think it will depend on how the other films do. A lot of applause at one screening isn’t the best indication – the reviews, even the good ones, Ebert notwithstanding, call it a “popcorn movie.” If they can really shift the focus to it being “about South Africa” then they might have something. I agree with you Kris that it makes a hell of a lot more sense than Star Trek (which is dead and has been Academy-wise, imo) — if people are considering Up, they might as well consider Dictrict 9 – it has that “accidental hit” thing about it.

  • 15 8-18-2009 at 4:11 am

    Simone said...

    Could ‘District 9’ be the genre film to makeup for the snub of ‘The Dark Knight’?

  • 16 8-18-2009 at 4:52 am

    JFK said...

    I was blown away by the movie, I can’t shake the feeling that Blomkamp and Jackson may have really hit gold here; do you think it possible that years from now people might look back on this film (and possible franchise) as a film as epic as Star Wars?

  • 17 8-18-2009 at 6:51 am

    McGuff said...

    Kris: Thanks for bringing this up, because it serves as one more reminder to us that this is the year of sound mixing and editing. Seriously, do we not have about four films that have been released already that would be worthy of winning the Oscar: Star Trek, Transformers 2, District 9, Up? It’s a testament to the strength of this season that the Hurt Locker and Public Enemies are probably on the outside looking in.

    And yet still, we haven’t seen Avatar or 2012, or even Nine. There’s no chance another category this season sees as much depth.

  • 18 8-18-2009 at 7:04 am

    Chase Kahn said...

    Wow, there is some serious knee-jerk going on in here.

    “Star Wars”? Really? The “District 9” I saw was a pretty good political action sci-fi chase film, but tap the breaks everybody.

  • 19 8-18-2009 at 7:16 am

    Hardy said...

    Come December, they’ll forget about this film, LOL. I have a sinking feeling.

  • 20 8-18-2009 at 7:21 am

    Alex said...

    It was pretty good…not in the same league as Children of Men though. The accents killed me as well and I am from Johannesburg.

  • 21 8-18-2009 at 8:01 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Chase: It’s not knee jerk, it’s the reality of the new paradigm. Yes, Star Trek is actually EXPECTED to be a nominee in a lot of circles out here. It’s an idea I’ve been resistent to, personally, but with 10 nominees, a healthy box office take and solid reviews, this is hardly thinking outside the box.

  • 22 8-18-2009 at 12:00 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    Well, I’m not really referring to its awards prospects, but rather just the overwhelmingly fervent ejaculations going on over it. When readers start comparing it to “Star Wars”, it’s serious knee-jerking.

  • 23 8-18-2009 at 12:32 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Ah, I see. Well I think it’s a far better film than any Star Wars installment ever hoped to be, but that’s me. :)

  • 24 8-18-2009 at 3:46 pm

    Anthony said...

    Kris, I haven’t enjoyed a single installment of Star Wars either, and thoroughly enjoyed District 9.

    But, Chase is right. Calling it a franchise on par with Star Wars is dumb.

    Also, District 9 isn’t even in the same genre (or of the same quality, for the matter) as The Dark Knight, so I don’t see how it “makes up for” the perceived snub.

  • 25 8-18-2009 at 4:06 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Who exactly called it “a franchise on par with Star Wars?” Of course it isn’t. It doesn’t have those ambitions. JFK’s comment was merely a question, so ease up on the name-calling.

    Or are you calling me “dumb” for thinking it a better film than any Star Wars film?

  • 26 8-18-2009 at 4:40 pm

    Anthony said...

    No. In fact, I agree with you. I actually found D9 much more enjoyable than any Star Wars film.

    “do you think it possible that years from now people might look back on this film (and possible franchise) as a film as epic as Star Wars?”

    I make hundreds of rather dumb comments a day (and have made quite a few on this site). And, a question is just a question, but this is just downright silly, incredibly hyperbolic, whatever.

    I almost think it was parody meant to make someone look overzealous when they took it seriously. If so. . . well played.

    That said, poor choice of words. No offense intended.