'Dunkirk,' 'Get Out' may give Os­cars a crowd-pleas­ing punch

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The stran­gle­hold that au­tumn pres­tige films have on Os­car sea­son just might be wilt­ing in the sum­mer sun. Christo­pher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" hits the­aters Fri­day, but the over­flow­ing re­views have al­ready made it abun­dantly clear: It's a ma­jor Os­car con­tender and a best-pic­ture front-run­ner - even in July. And "Dunkirk," which an­a­lysts ex­pect to de­but this week­end with $60 mil­lion-plus in do­mes­tic ticket sales, might not be the only box-of­fice hit to crash this year's awards sea­son. The zeit­geist­grab­bing sen­sa­tions "Get Out" and "Won­der Woman" could also be play­ers come Academy Awards time.

It is, of course, ex­cep­tion­ally early to hand­i­cap the Os­cars. And it's far from un­com­mon for early break­outs to re­cede once the fall film fes­ti­vals start fir­ing out heav­ily an­tic­i­pated re­leases from Hol­ly­wood's most ac­claimed di­rec­tors. Steven Spiel­berg, Paul Thomas An­der­son and Alexan­der Payne are just some of those wait­ing in the wings this year. But any in­flux from the rest of the cal­en­dar year would be a wel­come change of pace for an awards sea­son that has in re­cent years only fur­ther so­lid­i­fied as a pre­dom­i­nantly Septem­ber-De­cem­ber af­fair. Last year, Au­gust's "Hell or High Water" was the ear­li­est best-pic­ture nom­i­nee.

Aside from spread­ing out what are po­ten­tially some of the year's best movies, any awards love for the likes of "Dunkirk," "Get Out" or "Won­der Woman" would give the Os­cars some­thing it has of­ten lacked in re­cent years: ma­jor re­lease crowd-pleasers. "It's not re­ally a fac­tor for us, the awards thing," says Emma Thomas, pro­ducer of "Dunkirk." "This film we pri­mar­ily thought of as an en­ter­tain­ment. For us, we make films for au­di­ences. My feel­ing is al­ways: If your film works and peo­ple en­gage with it, any­thing that comes later is a huge bonus."

"Dunkirk" may bear the look and se­ri­ous­ness of an Os­car sea­son film, right down to the wool coats. But shot in 70mm IMAX, it also has much of the vis­ceral spec­ta­cle of a sum­mer movie. Thomas and Nolan have also pre­vi­ously had suc­cess July. It's when they re­leased "In­cep­tion" (which earned eight Os­car nods and won four awards) and "The Dark Knight." The Os­car over­sight of the lat­ter, re­leased in 2008, was seen as a ma­jor motivation for the ex­pan­sion of the best­pic­ture cat­e­gory the next year from five nom­i­nees to up to 10.

"We've had very good luck in July in the past and we like this date. It's an ac­ces­si­ble movie," said Thomas. "When you put movies at the end of the year, you're sort of say­ing some­thing about it. You're al­most lim­it­ing it, in a way, and we don't want to limit the film." The Os­cars haven't been with­out crowd-pleasers. "La La Land" made more than $440 mil­lion glob­ally. "Hid­den Fig­ures" charmed North Amer­i­can au­di­ences to $230 mil­lion. The year be­fore, the Mayre­leased "Mad Max: Fury Road" crashed the Academy Awards with 10 nom­i­na­tions and six wins. "Dunkirk" may be a sim­i­lar force in craft cat­e­gories. Its en­sem­ble na­ture may leave less room for act­ing at­ten­tion, though re­cent Os­car-win­ner Mark Ry­lance is a stand­out. More no­tably, Nolan seems likely to fi­nally land his - some would say over­due - first di­rect­ing nom­i­na­tion. He has al­ready earned the praise of fel­low film­mak­ers like Rian John­son (who called the film "an all timer") and Jon Favreau ("be­lieve the hype").

Dig­i­tized movie world

Other sum­mer movies might also shake up the Os­cars. The ac­claimed ro­man­tic com­edy "The Big Sick" has the back­ing of Ama­zon, which last year sim­i­larly ac­quired "Manch­ester by the Sea" at Sun­dance and made it an Os­car heavy­weight. "The War for the Planet of the Apes" even has some buzz, in­clud­ing pleas for con­sid­er­ing Andy Serkis' mo­tion-cap­ture per­for­mance as the ape Cae­sar. Such an honor, while un­likely, would be a game-changer in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tized movie world. Jor­dan Peele's hor­ror sen­sa­tion "Get Out" ($252 mil­lion world­wide af­ter open­ing in late Fe­bru­ary) could well be the first hor­ror film nom­i­nated for best pic­ture since 1991's "The Si­lence of the Lambs." At the least, Peele should be a likely nom­i­nee for best screen­play.

Patty Jenk­ins' "Won­der Woman" has been an even big­ger box-of­fice dy­namo and earned nearly as good re­views as "Get Out." Whereas Peele's film was re­ceived as land­mark film for its fu­sion of genre with a satir­i­cal cri­tique of race in Amer­ica, "Won­der Woman" set a new record for top-gross­ing film by a fe­male di­rec­tor. Jenk­ins and star Gal Gadot could well be in the hunt. The un­likely awards run last sea­son of "Dead­pool" sug­gested vot­ers may be open to award­ing a su­per­hero film. A cam­paign for Jenk­ins, who helmed the Os­car-win­ning "Mon­ster," would be closely watched since only four women have ever been nom­i­nated for best di­rec­tor. Kathryn Bigelow, the sole win­ner of the four, also has a film up­com­ing: her am­bi­tious Detroit ri­ots drama "Detroit," out Aug 4.

Usu­ally, a highly rel­e­vant, so­cially con­scious film from one of Hol­ly­wood's most cel­e­brated film­mak­ers would be plunged right into awards sea­son. But the cal­cu­lus was dif­fer­ent for "Detroit," which was de­lib­er­ately timed to the 50th an­niver­sary of the ri­ots. And she, like many others, doesn't love the in­creased em­pha­sis on Os­car sea­son. "It's not why we make these films," said Bigelow. "The motivation be­hind the re­lease has to do with the 50-year an­niver­sary," she said. "I think it's im­por­tant to honor that and the re­siliency of the city of Detroit. What­ever hap­pens along any other lines, I have no idea." Bigelow knows from ex­pe­ri­ence. Her "The Hurt Locker" was a June re­lease but went on to best "Avatar" at the Os­cars. "To say that it was even a re­mote thought would be in in­ac­cu­rate," she said, laugh­ing. — AP

This im­age re­leased by Warner Bros Pic­tures shows a scene from "Dunkirk." — AP

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