Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' drowned out by 'OSCAR!' noise at CinemaCon

Posted by · 11:55 am · April 26th, 2012

CinemaCon in Las Vegas is where it’s at this week as movie journos and bloggers have descended on Sin City and turned an exhibitors convention into an exasperated “We saw 10 minutes of ‘X’ movie!” slog. Nevertheless, I kind of wish I was there.

But then I don’t know what I could add when everyone is not just covering the same events but coming away with the exact same talking points. Are they distributing memos or something? Anyway, it’s no different than Comic-Con, I guess, where “Sucker Punch” looks like it could be an awesome movie for all of 600 seconds.

As it pertains to potential awards contenders, they’ve shown some much-anticipated footage from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in 48 frames-per-second, which yielded responses from mixed to overwhelmingly negative (a few champions of the hyper-real look scattered here and there). Today, though, “Oscar” was on everyone’s lips after a taste of Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”

Here’s an adaptation that’s been in the works ever since Yann Martel’s book was released in 2001. Everyone from M. Night Shyamalan to Alfonso Cuarón to Jean-Pierre Jeunet has flirted with the project over the past decade, but Lee ended up finally taking it by the horns. 20th Century Fox is set to distribute on December 21 (you know, when we’re all gonna die). Do they have an Oscar player?

Well, to judge by the overwhelming leap to a conclusion by those in attendance, yes, yes they do. But really, when you see a little bit of impressive footage from an upcoming film, you should be saying, “I want to see more.” Not, “It’s an absolute contender for Best Picture.” It’s one thing to idly make a few sight-unseen calls (we do it all the time). But outright declarations? Well, the heat is on.

The only thing close to an actual assessment of the footage as opposed to the film’s Oscar potential came from the always level-headed Moisés Chiullan, covering for Ain’t It Cool News. “‘Life of Pi’ footage absolutely wrecked me,” he Tweeted. “I cried. Choking up thinking about it. This doesn’t happen to me. The master at work.” Said the LA Times’ Amy Kaufman, “‘Life of Pi’ footage didn’t disappoint. The waves and underwater scenes look amazing in 3-D.”

And then, “Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!” Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican was the first to hit the big red button, proclaiming that the film “will be getting a best picture Oscar nomination. The footage screened at CinemaCon could claim one for short!”’s Erik Childress was right on his heels telling everyone to “mark [his] word, based on the footage…’Life of Pi’ is going to be a MAJOR player at this year’s Oscars.” I think it’s safe to say everyone’s on the same premature page, Erik, so there’s no need for word marking.

There were countless others, mostly variations on the same. “The Oscar race has begun.” “An absolute Oscar contender.” “I’d be amazed if ‘Life of Pi’ isn’t nominated for Best Picture.” Etc. Mostly from people who are shocked year in and year out when this or that ISN’T nominated by the Academy, I should note.

I wish more people had spent some time reacting to the 3D, which is apparently glorious (as yet another master filmmaker saddles up to the technology). Or something about how the adaptation has been handled, since apparently it was about 20 minutes of footage they screened. I’m sure those pieces are coming, but I guess such considerations just aren’t as grabby as “Oscar!” when it comes to one-offs. (There are, however, reports from yesterday’s CinemaCon panel on 3D with Lee and Martin Scorsese, which sounds like it would have been a delight.)

Anyway, no pressure, Fox (which has only seen Best Picture nominations for “Avatar,” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Thin Red Line” in the last 14 years, by the way). There’s always been a bit of a blasé attitude toward awards there (which can be refreshing, actually). Can the studio usher such a unique vision that doesn’t seem, on the outside, to be much of an Academy wheelhouse play to a nomination? Perhaps.

But I’ll wait until I’ve seen the whole film (or at least talked to someone who has) before tip-toeing into such declarations.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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