Commenting on the critics with Simon Columb…
Scott Mendelson writes about the log-jamming nature of prestige pictures pre-Oscar Season in the US:
“Part of the problem is that there are just too many movies to see around this time of year. For reasons that still baffle me, the studios choose to unleash every single major awards contender during a 2-3 month period, rendering what should be a pleasure (seeing some of the year’s best films) into a chore, a marathon of balancing screenings and before-work matinees and the like. Maybe people would complain a bit less about how ‘Movies stink these days!’ if the studios actually spread out their quality product throughout the year rather than holding most of it for November and December.”
On the plus side, in England it seems that it is spread a little better from November through to February as, to be in the Oscar race it has to be released in the US for the appropriate year – therefore, the UK release can be a little later. Having said that, I vividly recall the difficulty in watching a few Oscar contenders in January when 127 Hours and The Kings Speech were both released on 7th January. With another film the week after. Another the week after that. Right up until the Oscars itself.
Ironically, the fight to get that all important Oscar-buzz, I believe may have a more detrimental effect. I love cinema and I love trying to ensure I have watched all 10 Oscar Best Picture nominees. But even I will rarely go the cinema twice in one week – its just too expensive! With this in mind, consider the quiet months between March and May, whereby there is nothing released … what a missed opportunity! The average person cannot see every Oscar nominee and, therefore, is simply at the mercy of what gets a wide release and what gets the most attention and publicity. If nominees represented the whole year (E.g. Shutter Island had no reason to not be in contention at last years awards, but alas, it was released in the US in February 2011 – not the November / December period) rather than those few months, then re-releases could be created once the film is nominated and those who missed it may hunt it down. Reality is, we have a situation whereby we have back-to-back blockbuster-contenders from May to August, some of which fail simply because it is released the same day or the weekend after the new Twilight or Transformers film. Then we have back-to-back ‘prestige’ pictures, with films losing out on the basis that it is released at the same time as a bigger-publicity-budget film is released. And huge chunks of nothing-ness in between.
This is nothing to do with the art of filmmaking or the quality of product – it is a combination of greed and bad management. What a shame. (Which reminds me, Shame will lose out this year as it is released on 13th January in the UK… the same day as Spielberg’s War Horse…)