Contender Countdown: Turmoil in the Best Picture race?
Based on the events of the past week you'd think Tinseltown was on the edge of having some sort of dramatic breakdown. Let us count the ways...
Harvey Weinstein says it's the most competitive season he's ever seen and the best film he's seen so far this year isn't his ("Prisoners," which really isn't a player). Sony Pictures Classics moves the intriguing Bennett Miller drama "Foxcatcher" to 2014 (much to the delight of every other Sony and SPC contender). Paramount Pictures lays off 100 people (including some publicists) and then Wednesday Universal announced James Schamus was leaving his post as CEO of Focus Features at the end of the year. Of course, that's really not the case. Universal is booting him out to bring in FilmDistrict's Peter Schlessel to transform Focus into, um, FilmDistrict 2.0? From all accounts Schlessel is a nice guy, but he's done little outside of distributing "Drive" that is anywhere near Schamus' record of modern classics (most of which have more than delivered for Focus' parent company). "Brokeback Mountain," "Atonement," "Pride and Prejudice," "Coraline," "Lost in Translation," "Milk," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Milk," "The Kids Are All Right," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Far From Heaven," "The Constant Gardener," "In Bruges," "Beginners," "Eastern Promises" and "Moonrise Kingdom," among others. And Schamus is also the man who made sure films like "Pariah," "Sin Nombre" and "Brick" got major distribution
(Depression break. A moment please. This is even sadder than I first thought.)
(OK, we're back. Be strong cinephiles! We've still got Fox Searchlight, SPC and A24 Films, etc., to wave the banner for great independent cinema!)
Of course, this season Focus has the moving drama "Dallas Buyers Club" opening in limited release on Nov. 1. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are pretty much Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor locks. And, as for Best Picture? Well, this pundit still thinks it's in. But, all in all, what a week! And then again, not so much for those at the top of the Best Picture race. "Gravity," "12 Years A Slave" and "Captain Phillips" are all moving along at a steady pace. As someone I know always likes to say, "it's a marathon, not a sprint." And all this distraction is just that. Distraction from the race at hand. Therefore, let's move on, shall we? Here's the latest edition of the contender countdown of where the Best Picture race stands today.
Thurs. Oct. 3
This week's critics' raves…
2. "12 Years A Slave"
…all the critical raves in two weeks.
3. "Captain Phillips"
Moving right along, pt. 1. Tracking for a very solid box office debut. Positive LA screening at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater. No pirates in sight.
4. "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
The Weinstein Company needs to turn the campaign thrusters up in November and December (Oprah, anyone?) but in many ways this is the "Crash" Harvey hoped "Bobby" would be (at least in terms of a Best Picture nomination).
5. "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Moving right along, pt. 2. Grew the New York vote with a NYFF screening and a buzz-worthy charity concert. To say this will be the pick of the music-friendly members of AMPAS is an understatement.
6. "Blue Jasmine"
The producers of "Jasmine" are no doubt thrilled "Foxcatcher" moved out of their way. No disrespect to "The Past," but Woody Allen's drama is now 100% SPC's premier player this year.
7. "Dallas Buyer's Club"
Sad days for the indie outlet formerly known as Focus Features, but that shouldn't stop the groundswell of support for "Dallas." James Schamus should end his tenure with another Best Picture nominee.
This feels like a slot that either "Nebraska" or "All is Lost" will fill. Honestly, Bruce Dern may will this nomination all by himself.
9. "Saving Mr. Banks"
In many ways, the last great reveal.
10. "The Monuments Men"
Rumor is it's back in the game. Could it be this year's "Django Unchained"?
What do you think of the state of the Best Picture race? Has the reality that Focus Features is really no more sunk in yet? Share your thoughts below.