Off the Carpet: Eye of the storm

Posted by · 10:10 am · October 29th, 2012

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, Notre Dame actually GOOD again — oh the horror! The weekend produced its fair share of nightmares (well, the end of baseball season was a godsend) and Halloween isn’t even here yet. But Oscar season feels like it’s at a bit of a standstill, settled into a holding pattern. I hesitate to call it the eye of the storm, but after that first wave of fall festival entries, and with plenty still ahead, it kind of feels like that. So let’s just do a bit of tidying to get an idea of where we are.

“Argo” continues to be a box office hit and the Best Picture frontrunner while “Cloud Atlas” has faltered. AFI Fest is going to bring “Hitchcock” into the fold at the end of the week with “Lincoln” closing it out a week later. “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Misérables,” “Django Unchained,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Promised Land” (though it’s been seen) are all on deck for press reveals next month.

Sam Mendes’ “Skyfall” has continued to screen, drawing support along the way. And indeed, it’s a lot of fun and a film that could easily appeal to the Academy on the level of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” if not more. “Flight” is opening at the end of the week, at which point we’ll see what the overall critical assessment will be. The focus is more on opening the film than awards buzz at the moment, and indeed, it needs to make an impact if it’s going to register in the season.

Similarly, films like “Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook” have been seen and chewed on, but now they have to open. Late-November will bring those releases and we’ll see how the conversation shifts or doesn’t when they make it to the masses.

After already having bowed in the UK, “Anna Karenina” is priming the pump for domestic release. The general feeling has been that a lack of awards faith in that and “Moonrise Kingdom” helped grease the rails for “Promised Land” to find a place in the season, but I wouldn’t lose my faith in Joe Wright’s period piece and Wes Anderson’s best film since “Rushmore.” They’re exceptional, unique and offer plenty to work with.

“The Master” story is becoming, more and more, its box office miss more than its achievement as a work of art, which is always unfortunate. The critics groups at the end of the year will surely do their part to drag it back into the conversation, though they could just as easily be on to new favorites by then as well. The film is in a precarious position, particularly with the Weinsteins’ crowd-pleaser (and easier awards play) “Silver Linings Playbook” coming in right behind it.

In the DVD realm, films like “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Magic Mike” have hit shelves in recent weeks, while “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Brave,” “Ted” (from Oscar emcee Seth MacFarlane), “Hope Springs” and “ParaNorman” will land over the next month. Getting a home video release in the midst of Oscar season can be a big boost for films that have been losing a foothold, and more than a few of those qualify.

The news items of late haven’t really moved the needle. Joaquin Phoenix’s rebuffing of the circuit was fun for some pundits to kick around for 48 hours, but it didn’t amount to anything most don’t already agree with (even if secretly) anyway. The Hollywood Film Awards came and were mocked by the feted. The Gotham nominations raised questions for all of a day. It all feels like prelude.

So with November right around the corner, here’s to the next wave. It’s not that I’m bored with the early circuit or anything. There have been a number of films I’ve cherished, conversations I’ve found enlightening, etc. But I’m eager to see how the rest will shape things. I’m looking forward to seeing how “Amour” lands after riding the festival circuit for so long. I’m curious to find out if Middle Earth still resonates. I’m excited for the season to lay its full hand on the table. And we’re just not there yet.

To all my fellow east coasters, stay dry.

Check out my updated predictions HERE and, as always, see how Guy Lodge, Greg Ellwood and I collectively think the season will turn out at THE CONTENDERS.

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