As Heidi Klum is fond of saying on "Project Runway," "One day you're in, the next day you're out." That pretty much sums up the pros and cons of a potential awards player set on debuting at a public festival. Unlike a traditional release which usually has the early reviews staggered, a festival provides instant reaction thanks to the internet age. So far, a number of films have played the festival game smoothly this season. "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook" got big boosts from the Telluride/Toronto game. "Lincoln" and "Flight" found fans at the New York Film Festival. Last week, "Hitchcock" opened AFI Film Fest in LA with Oscar buzz for stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, but not so much for the film itself.
Of course, one day can also turn into one weekend in the awards season game. "Flight" received fine reviews out of NYFF, but most believed it was just a Denzel Washington play in the best actor race and nothing more. National reviews have been very good (76 on Metacritic, 77% on Rotten Tomatoes), but, in something of a surprise, the picture's box office debut has legitimately thrown it into the best picture nomination race.
"Flight's" remarkable $24.9 million in just 1,884 theaters and $13,127 per screen shocked even the most knowledgeable of industry veterans at Paramount Pictures. Robert Zemeckis' drama is playing incredibly well with older audiences and should easily make back its reported $31 million production budget. Hollywood loves a success story, but the picture's storyline of a middle-aged man trying to deal with his addiction is striking a chord with guild and Academy members too. In many ways, it's an "Eastwood"-esque picture that appeals to an older male segment of the Academy (and we know there are a lot of those out there). Granted, "Flight" could easily take a nose dive if and when other contenders gain momentum. But for the moment, it's enough heat for "Flight" to sneak its way up the Contender Countdown rankings. And if more awards season buzz helps sell tickets, you'll hardly hear a word of protest from the studio on Melrose Avenue.
With that in mind, here are this pundit's current rankings on the best picture race.
Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Competing consultants already trying to knock it down. That means it's the frontrunner for sure.
2. Silver Linings Playbook
We've said it before and we'll say it again. It's got to do well at the box office.
3. Les Miserables
The "Chicago" of 2013? Not one prestige musical has been nominated for best picture since.
If "War Horse" can get in, then landing a nomination is a cakewalk for "Lincoln."
5. Life of Pi
Women seem to love it more than men and those that love, adore.
First real surprise of the season.
7. The Impossible
Just waiting for more pretenders to lose steam or fall by the wayside. Notable Academy member turnout at AFI Film Fest screening.
8. Moonrise Kingdom
It should get in, but Focus really has to put some weight behind a campaign.
9. The Beasts of the Southern Wild
Critics groups could give a boost. Screener arrived this week. Smart move by Searchlight.
10. The Master
Needs major critics' group support to make the cut. Will financier Annapurna Pictures spend on an awards campaign after the disappointing box office?
Check out my overall thoughts on the other major races as of today.
Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below.
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
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