Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Blind Bait Test

Will there be biting?

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a very early work print screening of an upcoming Oscar bait movie. As I’m weary of the effect online reviews of unfinished works have, this piece of Oscar bait shall remain nameless (though I will say it’s listed as a serious contender in major categories on several Oscar speculation sites, including Jeffrey Wells, Academy Award Speculation and Oscar Race).

I liked this film a lot, and it’s not necessarily my kind of movie. The dialogue was sharp and fresh and insightful; at times poignant and surprisingly funny. However, the performances here are the real draw, and they are all superb.

It’s quite rare when an entire ensemble (I don’t remember if anyone outside the main cast had more than one line) is this equally matched – there are no weak links here. Actors you’ve seen many times before going places they haven’t, as well as less-well-known actors in revelatory turns. Their performances, like the script, are raw and stripped down, and as James Lipton might say when one of these actors next appears on his show, “This film is a master class in fine acting.”

As I said, it’s being released into the waters as Oscar bait. I’m not sure how well it will fare. It may be too intimate and self-contained to be seen as a serious Best Picture contender, and too sexually frank for conservative voters. The only categories I see it being considered for are acting and writing (the direction, by a venerated veteran, is excellent when it comes to guiding the actors, but probably not showy enough to get much support).

I’m not sure which actors the studio will campaign for which categories since it seemed to me they all had roughly equal screen time. It will most likely come down to billing, salary and fame, in which case the actors in the supporting categories should generate the most buzz (their performances are more showy and daring than the leads’) and highest likelihood of nomination, though that will depend on which categories are most crowded come January.

When I said the movie was sexually frank, I wasn’t kidding. It’s one of the things I admired about the film, but it’s not for everyone (I heard somebody sitting behind me in the screening say he was offended). I’m curious to see it again, if only to see what’s been cut to appease the MPAA and avoid an NC-17 for dialogue (some of it not even spoken). I hope the biggest name in the movie (who is a very big name, and at the moment, getting bigger) gets enough credit for risking fan backlash in the name of their art.

Final thoughts: While I thought this film was excellent, I did benefit from seeing it without the burden of expectations or hype. I’m afraid that the media will focus too much on the sensational aspects and that all the awards talk might be too much for this – in spite of the stars in its cast – little movie.


Post a Comment

<< Home