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August 29, 2008

Oscar flicks: boxoffice buzz kills?


Could this year's crop of Oscar contenders stop the boxoffice momentum in its tracks?

Don't mean to be killjoys here, but in looking over various lists of Oscar hopefuls, some of them showing for the first time at the Sept. 4-launching Toronto Film Festival, we're noting an awful lot of, shall we say, difficult movies. As in, difficult to convince anyone to plop down some hard-earned ducats to see.

So far this year, serious is not what is driving people to the multiplex. Superheroes like "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man" and "Hancock" have reigned supreme this summer, as have popcorn flicks like "Indiana Jones" and family fare like "Wall-E" and "Kung Fu Panda." Looks like the season will finish on par with or better than last summer's record breaking grosses.

Some consistently well-reviewed indie movies with excellent word of mouth and nothing to do with the war in Iraq -- "The Visitor" and "Tell No One" to name a couple -- haven't cracked $10 million domestic. Documentaries, even the upbeat ones, can't get arrested.


What chance, then, does Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" have? The drama with a convoluted storyline, a play within a city wrapped by a warehouse, eventually got picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics after a Cannes screening that left a lot of critics scratching their heads.

Not that boxoffice gold translates to Golden Guys -- which has been a source of ongoing criticism of the Academy that more mainstream movies can't get invited to the party. Could this be the year where that happens? No "Juno" has yet emerged.

And not to say there won't be some fine films in a year that, like many, will be back-loaded with serious awards contenders. Just can't imagine a real stampede for "Frost/Nixon." (The stars, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, are pictured above). In fact, roll all the weighty Oscar hopefuls together and they probably won't equal the first few weeks' take of "Quantum of Solace."

The boxoffice will suffer. Will you? Let us know if you're already planning the trifecta of "Changeling" (with star Angelina Jolie, pictured), "Milk" and "Doubt" or if you're more psyched about "Twilight."


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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