But is it?

Posted by · 9:07 am · September 21st, 2010

I’m not sure how I missed the memo, but in the past 48 hours, “The Town” apparently became an Oscar contender and nobody told me.

You may recall that when I posted my updated predictions on Sunday, I actually found room for Ben Affleck’s popular sophomore feature in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. I thought that a relatively off-center guess at the time, but now others, emboldened by strong reviews and excellent box office for the straight-ahead thriller, are going much further.

Just yesterday, both Deadline’s Pete Hammond and THR’s Gregg Kilday bestowed the “O” word upon “The Town,” with both reporters citing a wildly enthusiastic reception at the film’s Academy screening on Saturday. (I always take such screening reports with a pinch of salt — a film can play well without inspiring reverence — but I’m just passing along the message.) Kilday goes on to suggest that Affleck could benefit from the Academy’s noted fondness for heartthrob actors turned serious filmmakers.

Here’s some of Hammond’s gossip:

A 2-time Oscar winner who frequently attends these private weekend screenings for voting members told me, “There was big loud applause at the end credits — and that’s something I rarely see at the Academy.” He went on to praise the film as easily one of the best he has seen there in some time (and, interestingly, he’s not impressed with much of the 2010 output so far). He singled out Affleck’s direction and the acting ensemble for particular kudos. Two other Academy members who saw the film at non-Academy screenings told me the same thing.

Maybe so, maybe no. (Or, as my fellow South Africans would say, jawellnofine.) Given how it has exceeded both commercial and critical expectations thus far — even in my review, I anticipated that it would need more defense than it ended up requiring — “The Town” is clearly not a film that likes being underestimated. And it’s the kind of rock-solid mainstream genre outing that AMPAS dreamed of including when they doubled the size of the Best Picture category, even if some of us could find more imaginative uses for those extra slots.

That said, I like “The Town” rather more than a couple of other studio titles that are being pegged as near-locks in the Best Picture race, so you won’t hear me complaining if this kind of talk catches on. (Even more so if the talk extends to the film’s terrific ensemble — Kilday mentions Jeremy Renner as a Best Supporting Actor possibility, but it’s Jon Hamm I’d really like to see in play.)

But I still think people may be jumping the gun a little. The film had a terrific opening weekend at the box office, but we have yet to see how it holds. If it’s still hanging around the upper rungs of the chart a month from now, there may be something there. As for the actor-director issue, it’s worth noting that while the Academy looks kindly on thesps who take a supposed creative risk with their personal prestige projects — why hello, Kevin, Warren and George — there’s less precedent for them honoring actors making meat-and-potatoes entertainment.

I sense “The Town” will need to become a smash, as opposed to a mere success, to remain in the conversation for another four months. Still, nice to have Ben Affleck — Academy Award-winning writer Ben Affleck, lest we forget — back in the mix.

[Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures]

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50 responses so far

  • 1 9-21-2010 at 9:56 am

    hopeless pedant said...

    Didn’t Pete Hammond last year stick with This Is It being a BP nominee based on a supposedly rapturous Academy Theatre screening?

  • 2 9-21-2010 at 10:02 am

    McAllister said...

    I would much rather see Jon Hamm in play too. Every other category seems a bit too crowded with more formidable-seeming contenders. Best Picture could be in play with good-will voters… should other good-will contenders like Secretariat not make it.

  • 3 9-21-2010 at 10:37 am

    hopeless pedant said...

    The problem for The Town is likely preferential voting. Ballots won’t be in voters hands for more than three months. They rank them.

    Is The Town really going to have a lot of top three votes, let alone #1s, in such a competitive year?

  • 4 9-21-2010 at 10:46 am

    Rashad said...

    Best Picture right here baby

  • 5 9-21-2010 at 10:46 am

    AmericanRequiem said...

    i think its a pretty great movie, with some of the best heist/car chase scenes ive seen put to film(sorry heat) Id love for it to show up in more then one category, renner, the sound in specific and picture. film editing gets a lot of credit here to

  • 6 9-21-2010 at 11:04 am

    McAllister said...

    Acting-wise, I don’t think Renner accomplished anything more than Affleck. As far as the men of the movie go, Hamm and Postlethwaite are the best two. I think people are rooting for Renner because everyone loves to see a newbie follow-up a first nomination with a second the next year.

  • 7 9-21-2010 at 11:19 am

    the world said...

    If Affleck wins an oscar before Dicaprio and Depp, I’d think I’ll kill myself.

  • 8 9-21-2010 at 11:31 am

    Graysmith said...

    If upcoming films stumble, anything can happen. My only concern about it is the fact that there is no obvious nominations it could score. There aren’t any performances that seem likely to be nominated like there was with The Departed, and it’s hard to imagine it scoring any technical nominations. As such, it’s hard to picture it as one of the ten Best Picture nominees if that’d be it’s only nomination. Last year’s least nominated Best Picture nominees (The Blind Side and A Serious Man) both had an additional nomination. Not that one year sets that much precedent, but that’s my big concern about The Town anyway.

    A screenplay nomination might be the most realistic, especially with a weak Adapted Screenplay category.. So it could happen, but personally I’m gonna wait and see how other films pan out before jumping the bandwagon.

  • 9 9-21-2010 at 11:44 am

    McAllister said...

    ^the world: Affleck already has an Oscar. But don’t worry… he won’t be getting an Acting nomination for “The Town.”

  • 10 9-21-2010 at 11:47 am

    Marshall1 said...

    I’m gonna just post this again:
    Saw the Town yesterday. I think it is very good, but overhyping it as one of the best movies of the year is a bit too much. Ben Affleck was good, but not great (the scene that he talks about his mother is a bore, his face blank, no emotion). I agree, Jeremy Renner kinda overplays a bit too much for me. I actually thought Hamm plays his character too one-dimensionally for me. (Yeah, most of the men in this movie I don’t buy as actors. Jon Hamm as Superman, YES YES YES!)

    I think the standout is actually Rebecca Hall, who is equally good in Please Give this spring. How’s the supporting actress race this year? If this movie gets a big push, I hope they consider her. I just don’t get why the brain (Affleck) of the group would stupidly fall in love with Hall who was being kidnapped. We all know this would end badly. However, I thought the movie was maybe 15-20 mins too long, but the last half was excellent and tense (starting from the car chase scene). A solid B+ movie for me.

  • 11 9-21-2010 at 11:52 am

    Marshall1 said...

    From Ryan Adams:

    Ryan Adams says:
    Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 11:47am

    I just don’t get why the brain (Affleck) of the group would stupidly fall in love with Hall who was being kidnapped.

    What the movie only alludes to is made more clear in the novel and an earlier draft of the script.

    As ‘the brain’ it was Doug’s job to case the jobs for days or weeks before the gang hit them. He’d tail the employees to learn about their habits and assess their personality traits. This is why he wanted to pass on the armored van job because he knew one of the guards was too wired up on his own testosterone.

    Claire does ask Doug in the movie if he had been following her, watching her, and he admits to her that he had been. He had already fallen for her even before the bank job, long-distance love at first sight.

    During the job, there’s a shot that tells us Doug sees Claire’s toe on the silent alarm, but he keeps his mouth shut about it because he doesn’t want Jem going off on her. Later, he’s quick to yank her drivers license away from Jem in the skating rink, so that he can continue to protect her. In the van during the abduction, he pulls off his fright mask and just gazes at her lovingly, already infatuated.

    Too subtle? Maybe so. Not sure I’d have picked up on all that without some background prep. But all the clues are there in the film that Doug was already enraptured by Claire long before she was a hostage.

  • 12 9-21-2010 at 12:11 pm

    hopeless pedant said...

    Affleck already has an Oscar.

  • 13 9-21-2010 at 12:15 pm

    Josh said...

    I’m as baffled as you, Guy, though I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much. The movie is good; it’s well acted and well made, but the story falls apart in the end. What’s more, though I haven’t seen it mentioned here (and if it was, my apologies), the final minute of the movie reminds me very heavily of a deservedly well-loved movie that is often at the top of the IMDB list–and if it’s not clear, this is not a movie that has anything to do with The Town.

    Either way, I kind of hope it doesn’t get nominated, just because it seems like Academy members would only favor it because Ben Affleck, an actor, made a good movie. It’s happened before, of course, but this is not a movie worth that praise, IMO.

  • 14 9-21-2010 at 12:30 pm

    Aaron said...

    What am I missing on Hamm? I was thoroughly disappointed with his performance. It was a much more boring version of Don Draper. Same facial ticks, same mannerisms. I just don’t get the love.

    I loved the film but I’m not sure it should be in the BP race. It’s clearly better than something like THE BLIND SIDE but I don’t know if we want to go nominating things based off of that. I’d love to see Affleck and Renner get noms. Especially Renner. I’m shocked to hear people say here that his performance was overdone. I don’t think the guy’s ever overdone anything in his entire career.

  • 15 9-21-2010 at 1:23 pm

    Loyal said...

    So if a film hits big at an academy screening, pinch of salt. But if a film is received lukewarm as reportedly was the case with Inception, then it’s something to be considered?

  • 16 9-21-2010 at 1:26 pm

    James D. said...

    Could be this year’s District 9. A genre film that isn’t terrible that is elevated by an Academy that does not want to take risks.

  • 17 9-21-2010 at 1:41 pm

    Gustavo said...

    Renner backlash! LOL…

  • 18 9-21-2010 at 2:13 pm

    Fitz said...

    District 9 is a poor comparison. District 9 was nominated for its message on apartheid, too bad the Academy didn’t pay any attention to pig-launching Michael Bay-like theatrics toward the end.

  • 19 9-21-2010 at 2:23 pm

    Ben M. said...

    I think The Town is very different from District 9, we have seen the academy nominate crime dramas/thrillers like this before (even giving wins to French Connection and The Departed), but District 9 has to be one of the most atypical BP nominees in the academy’s history, even among the other sci-fi films that got nominated there is no easy comparison.

    I really did feel The Town’s oscar chances were alive once it opened so strongly at the box office; it would be in my best picture predictions right now (in one of the last couple of slots), and Renner, the screenplay, film editing, and the sound categories also seem to be in play.

  • 20 9-21-2010 at 2:23 pm

    Addison said...

    This year seems to be the year of genre films. With titles like Black Swan, Let Me In, The Town, and Inception all getting rave reviews and some already are and others have the potential to be big blockbuster hits, I think it is time Oscar appreciated more titles like this.

  • 21 9-21-2010 at 2:43 pm

    James D. said...

    I think it is a perfect comparison. The Academy has continually rewarded genre films that happened to not be terrible. District 9 and Up come to mind from last year, and The Dark Knight was arguably the sixth nominee the year before. Gone Baby Gone, a similarly not terrible genre film, received a nomination and maybe was in the mix for all we know. This year, Inception and Toy Story 3 will likely achieve the same feat, so why not The Town? All everyone is doing right now is raving about it. There are going to be a ton of disaster Oscarbait films, like there are every year (The Lovely Bones, Amelia, Invictus, and Nine all crashed and burned), so maybe the field will be much more open. Maybe The Fighter is terrible or the Coens will slum this year.

  • 22 9-21-2010 at 2:48 pm

    Red said...

    As much as I like this film, I highly doubt it gets voted in. Just wishful thinking on other people’s behalfs.

  • 23 9-21-2010 at 2:51 pm

    Fitz said...


    I’m not saying The Town shouldn’t be nominated, rather that District 9 has no comparison to any other film’s award chances. But I do take umbrage to your classification of Inception, Toy Story 3 and The Town as just “not terrible”.

  • 24 9-21-2010 at 3:11 pm

    Marshall1 said...

    I think it’s still too early to say if the Town will be nominated or not, but I think it’s a strong candidate even though I think it’s being over-praised. It’s a good solid movie, but is it just me who thinks the best performance in the movie is Rebecca Hall? LOL
    I think Ben Affleck should stick to directing though….yeah, I know that’s mean to say, but we all know Matt Damon is the actor in that duo:)

  • 25 9-21-2010 at 3:16 pm

    James D. said...

    Fitz, I have not seen Inception or The Town. I quite liked Toy Story 3, although it is not the masterpiece everyone else made it out to be. I am talking more general consensus than anything.

  • 26 9-21-2010 at 3:22 pm

    Fitz said...

    James, my apologies for making an assumption.

  • 27 9-21-2010 at 3:40 pm

    matsunaga said...

    It’s a very well made film… Really good I must say.. But as of now, I cannot say If it can make it to the 10 BP list… Maybe a precursor love will help?

  • 28 9-21-2010 at 4:26 pm

    Bia said...

    Blake Lively and Jeremy Renner are quite impressive, I could see them getting attention.

  • 29 9-21-2010 at 4:29 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’d say Lively doesn’t have nearly enough to work with.

  • 30 9-21-2010 at 4:44 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    As I said in the podcast over the weekend, I think it really depends on the film being something of a breakout success at the box office. This kind of love for a genre film (which is real, by the way — I’m hearing the same thing from voters who are absolutely passionately in love with the film) is better in tandem with commercial success.

    At the same time, it is indeed worth it to remember Pete held on to “This Is It” as a Best Picture possibility all season long a year ago largely because a few voters at the AMPAS screening loved it. Judging those screenings can be tricky.

  • 31 9-21-2010 at 6:01 pm

    Marshall1 said...

    I agree with Guy, she has very little to work with, and she’s terrible with that little to work with. Slurring your words is not an accent.

  • 32 9-21-2010 at 6:43 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It is if you’re playing a drunk. She’s just fine.

  • 33 9-21-2010 at 6:50 pm

    j said...

    Well, there are 5 2010 released films with 4 stars on BFCA; the other 4 are considered very strong contenders: Toy, Kids, Inception, Bone.

  • 34 9-21-2010 at 7:18 pm

    Julian Stark said...

    “The Town” is a terrific movie, one that I would like to see get a Picture nomination (at this point), but I’m not sure that it’s happening. As many have already stated, it’s very much a genre film.

    FWIW, I think that Rebecca Hall is the MVP, even though everyone else does well. Renner is fine, but I don’t at all get the awards hype. Then again, I didn’t get what was so great about his performance in “The Hurt Locker,” so maybe he will get in…

  • 35 9-21-2010 at 7:32 pm

    JJ said...

    Saw The Town yesterday.

    Great acting, great sound work, good pacing, good direction.

    But many implausibilities.

    In a bad movie, implausibilities are part and parcel of it’s badness. I don’t mind them.

    But in a good movie (The Town), the implausibilities stick out like a sore thumb to me; knocking my rating from 3.5 stars out of 4 to barely 3.

    I still liked it. I wouldn’t be “against” a BP nom. But I don’t see it happening right now; unless precursors occur and B.O. remains very, very strong.

  • 36 9-21-2010 at 7:45 pm

    Marshall1 said...

    Yeah, even when she’s sober she seems to think that’s “acting”. Just like in another blog, I keep thinking Brittany Murphy would play this role much better than Lively. I mean she’s still young so she has time to learn, but I seriously think this character is miscast.

  • 37 9-21-2010 at 7:46 pm

    Marshall1 said...

    Rebecca Hall is slight bit older, but even when she was in Woody’s Barcelona movie, I think she’s even better than Penelope Cruz.

  • 38 9-21-2010 at 7:59 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Truthfully? I never got the impression that character was ever sober.

  • 39 9-21-2010 at 8:05 pm

    Jake G. said...

    Ive had it on my Best Picture predictions for like a couple months now:)

  • 40 9-21-2010 at 8:21 pm

    JR said...

    Unless I’ve missed something up there, no one’s mentioned how much the Academy loves to reward actors-turned-directors… I’m not saying Affleck’s getting a director nod, but let’s not forget 1980 and 1990. Far stranger things have happened…

  • 41 9-21-2010 at 10:10 pm

    daveylow said...

    Even if the film gets Oscar nominations, will it win anything? There are so many other good to great movies opening the next few weeks.

  • 42 9-22-2010 at 12:12 am

    Tyler j. Pratt said...

    All that really needs to be said, in regards to The Town’s best picture chances, is: If The Fugitive was a Best Picture nominee back when there was still just 5 nominees, its absolutely ridiculous to say that The Town has little chance at a big ten nod. Its not only foolish to disregard the film, but stupid as well

  • 43 9-22-2010 at 1:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Unless I’ve missed something up there, no one’s mentioned how much the Academy loves to reward actors-turned-directors…”

    Well, yes, you have missed something up there. Two paragraphs, in fact. Did you read the post?

    Tyler: Not just foolish, but stupid too? You’ll have to explain the difference to me. Anyway, while I’m certainly not discounting the film, I’m not sure “The Fugitive” is the best comparison. That film made $183 million back in 1993 (help me out with the inflation-adjusted figures, somebody), making it something of a phenomenon — “The Town” doesn’t look to be in that league. See my “smash as opposed to a success” line.

  • 44 9-22-2010 at 1:40 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The art of measured consideration is dead. “You’re either with us or against us!”

  • 45 9-22-2010 at 2:24 am

    emma said...

    for me this movie is not an oscar contender. The town is not The Departed and Affleck is not Scorsese. i hope that Best Picture winner will be something daring, original (Sorry to tell that The Town storyline was already seen before)Hopefully for us Boyle, Aronovsky and Nolan are here to show us something different.

  • 46 9-22-2010 at 5:56 am

    JJ said...

    What emma said. Good movie. Will catch it on tv. Next.

  • 47 9-22-2010 at 7:33 am

    Ben M. said...

    Guy, The Fugitive would be around $350 million adjusted and was the third highest grossing film of its year.

    Personally, I would say The Town is a better movie than The Departed (but that is mainly because I liked Departed a lot less than most), and while The Town would not make my personal top ten of the year even at this point, I wouldn’t be against it getting nominated either.

  • 48 9-22-2010 at 8:14 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ben: Thanks. Tyler, take note.

  • 49 9-22-2010 at 9:02 am

    Fitz said...

    I’d like to see The Town nominated, but it certainly won’t win. Unfortunately I don’t think Black Swan, 127 Hours or Inception will either.