February 27, 2012



Moving on…
As we all know, last night was the Rise Of the Planet Of the Black-and-White Silent French People.  For some of us, this was not good news.  But there’s always next year!  Which means this year.  So let’s see what’s on the horizon for the 2012 Academy Awards:
Harvey Weinstein seems to control the Academy like Angela Lansbury (or, more appropriately, Meryl Streep in the remake) after telling The Manchurian Candidate to play a little solitaire, making him the appropriate place to start.  The Weinstein Company will no doubt acquire some more titles as the year goes by (the company bought THE ARTIST shortly before Cannes last year), but here’s his slate for now:

DJANGO UNCHAINED (currently slated to open Christmas Day, although dates so far out are always subject to change):  The return of Mr. Quentin Tarantino, good-luck charm of WeinsteinCorp.  Tarantino’s never won–those who think the snub of last year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK was something new should look up 1994, the year FORREST GUMP swept away PULP FICTION–so could this be his year?  It combines the incendiary American topics of race and violence in a story about an escaped slave who gets vengeance on his vicious master, which means that even with a fabulous cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Sacha Baron Cohen and Kurt Russell, Harvey has his work cut out for him.
Also potentially controversial–and the film least likely to get Tom Cruise’s vote–is THE MASTER (currently unscheduled), the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson, who’s as brilliant as any filmmaker in the world today.  Anderson has danced with Oscar for THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but only Daniel Day-Lewis collected the gold.  Master is widely rumored to be a thinly-veiled saga about the rise of Scientology, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the “L. Ron Hubbard” character, Joaquin Phoenix as his subordinate, and Amy Adams in the female lead.  In the universe of Hollywood, this subject matter is about as daring as it gets.
THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (November 21) seems on first glance to be more of a performance-award play, but who knows?  It’s David O. Russell’s follow-up to THE FIGHTER, about a teacher back in his real life after 4 years in a mental institution, and the stellar cast includes Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lawrence and past nominee Jacki Weaver.
The thriller COGAN’S TRADE (September 21) also seems on its face to be a less likely candidate.  However, it shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly:  the film reunites Brad Pitt with his nothing-if-not-serious ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES director Andrew Dominik, and the opening date suggests the picture is aiming to premiere at one or more of the fall film festivals like Venice or Toronto.
There are, of course, other studios in the game besides Harvey Weinstein’s, although few are as invested in the Oscar hunt.  Here are some of their likely candidates:
THE GREAT GATSBY (Warners – Christmas Day):  When they talk about “Oscar bait,” this is what they mean.  Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the classic stars Leonardo DiCaprio (again), Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire… and it’s in 3D.
ARGO (Warners – September 14):  Another likely film festival premiere, from director Ben Affleck, whose THE TOWN had him on plenty of Oscar shortlists.  This one adds a political dimension, with a real-life story about an attempt to free Americans from Iran.
TWYLIGHT ZONES (Paramount – October 19):  David Chase?  You’ve heard of him?  Did a little show called The Sopranos?  His big-screen directing debut, which is also his first post-Sopranos piece of work, is an Oscar candidate by definition.
ANNA KARENINA (Focus – September 7):  Tolstoy may not quite be the level of big name as David Chase, but still.  An all-star group of filmmakers including director Joe Wright, screenwriter Tom Stoppard, and actors Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Kelly McDonald and Downton Abbey‘s beloved Michelle Dockery present that novel that was in Oprah’s Book Club.
LES MISERABLES (Universal – December 7):  Thinking of big-time adaptations… KING’S SPEECH Oscar-winner Tom Hooper directs Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter and similarly classy folk in the giant musical of the year.
BIN LADEN:  DEAD OR ALIVE (Sony – December 21):  Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to THE HURT LOCKER is a thriller with a terrific ensemble cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler, Nina Arianda and Edgar Ramirez.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warners – September 28): Clint, in another valedictory role, is always an Oscar possibilty.  He didn’t direct this one, so maybe not a Best Picture favorite, but on paper his part as a baseball scout on the road for the last time could get him into the running for a long-awaited Best Actor nod.
NERO FIDDLED (Sony Classics – June 22):  Can Woody Allen double down on his MIDNIGHT IN PARIS bonanza with another foreign-set (Rome, this time) ensemble comedy?  Probably not, but no one saw Midnight coming, either.
THIS IS FORTY (Universal – December 21):  Another comedy auteur, this time Judd Apatow, with a lengthy comic-dramatic story about the sister and brother-in-law (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) of Katherine Heigl’s character from KNOCKED UP.  No, don’t look for Heigl to make an appearance (or, more surprisingly, Seth Rogen).
THE LIFE OF PI (20th – December 21):  It’s taken a long time for Yann Martel’s classy best-seller to get to the screen, but Ang Lee has finally done the job.
THE HOBBIT PART I  (Warners – December 14):  The last time Peter Jackson directed those little guys, it worked out pretty well.

And then there’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warners – July 20).  The Academy has an ambivalent relationship with giant franchises (say goodbye, Harry Potter).  But Christopher Nolan’s spectacles have formed the most critically-acclaimed franchise since, well, LORD OF THE RINGS, so…

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."