October 30, 2013

OSCARLAND: Xmas at Marty’s


The big news this week in Oscarland was the confirmation that Martin Scorsese’s WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill and many more, which wasn’t finished in time for its scheduled November 15 opening, will arrive on Christmas Day, just in time for the potential Oscar equivalent of an election’s October Surprise.  A Scorsese movie is by definition an awards contender, and this one is the kind of sprawling epic about the wrong side of the law (even after editing, it’s reportedly 165 minutes long) that he’s made his trademark.

There are lots of potential implications for the Oscar race.  For one thing, the glimpses we’ve seen of Wolf suggest that it’s the anti-12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight), a teeming, blackly comic, backhanded salute to excess (even if it reforms itself into a moral lesson by the end) facing off against an austere tale of suffering and pain.  Academy members could decide they prefer their morality with more entertainment value–or the extremes of 12 Years and Wolf could cancel each other out and set the table for the more warmly nostalgic footnote to history of SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney).

Thinking of being canceled out, the movie most nervous about the arrival of Wolf has to be AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony), which overlaps with Wolf in ways that could be too close for comfort.  Both are the work of distinguished directors (David O.Russell, in Hustle‘s case), with large ensemble casts, a tone that ranges from comic to dark, and a concern with recent American stories of high-profile greed.  Sony rushed to move Hustle‘s wide release up a week, to December 18 (after a quick platform opening in big cities 5 days earlier), but it nevertheless leaves two somewhat (at least superficially) similar films in theatres at almost exactly the same time.  This could play to the advantage of 12 Years (or Saving Mr. Banks)… or by December either the Russell film or the Scorsese may have so far eclipsed the other in critical praise and audience attention that one will have faded into the background.

In any case it will certainly make Oscarland more interesting.  Although both American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street officially open in mid-to-late December, they’ll start screening after Thanksgiving at the latest, because critics groups will start handing out awards the following week.

This weekend’s major awards-contender arrival is DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal), which comes bearing film festival praise, especially for the performances by McConaughey (who could conceivably be nominated this year in both the lead and supporting Actor categories, as might Tom Hanks) and Jared Leto.  Dallas also has an odd piece of inside-Hollywood sentiment going for it:  with Comcast’s recent decision to get rid of most of the Focus leadership and essentially have the division taken over by the more mainstream FilmDistrict team (a studio that recently gave us Olympus Has Fallen, not exactly an awards candidate), Dallas marks the last hurrah for a very well-respected group of executives.  Might that help a film that’s already being praised for its genuine quality?  Don’t dismiss the possibility.  In any case, the opening may divert some media attention this weekend from 12 Years A Slave, which has had almost undivided attention for the past few weeks and will widen to over 400 theatres this weekend after continuing to do strong but not remarkable business in last weekend’s expansion to 123.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."