Two tiny movies are up against the ‘big boys’ in the Oscar campaign.
HOLLYWOOD’S award season battle is suddenly in full swing – limousines are shuttling filmmakers to and from the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, suites are filling up at the Chateau Marmont and actors’ entourages are crowding the lobbies of theatres hosting screenings for industry guilds.
Amid all the spare-no-expense campaigning, Andy Garcia can be found driving his own car around town, trying to drum up award voters’ interest in City Island, a tiny movie that has proved its doubters wrong at every turn.
“We can’t compete with the money big studios spend for awards,” Garcia said. “All you can do is your best effort with what you have.”
Filmed more than two years ago and released in March, City Island is one of two longshot movies thrust into the award race from Anchor Bay Films, the two-year-old theatrical division of direct-to-video company Anchor Bay Entertainment.
For most of its Hollywood life, Anchor Bay has specialised in lowbrow genre titles ( The Dead Next Door, The Killing Machine) and exercise videos ( 10 Minute Solution: Dance Off Belly Fat, Billy’s Bootcamp Cardio Inferno).
Now, with Garcia’s City Island and Michael Douglas’ Solitary Man, the company has not only two arthouse breakouts but also two potential Academy Award contenders.
City Island grossed US$6.7mil (RM21mil) in domestic theatres, more than Roadside Attractions’ Winter’s Bone and more than double Fox Searchlight’s Never Let Me Go. Solitary Man sold US$4.4mil (RM13.7mil) in tickets, more than Sony Pictures Classics’ critically acclaimed Please Give.
Anchor Bay is pushing Garcia and Douglas for lead actor nominations (Fox will push Douglas for supporting actor for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). City Island and Solitary Man are eligible in other categories, but their odds might be significantly poorer in the race for picture, director and screenplay.
Although some studios can (and will) commit more than US$10mil (RM312mil) to a single film’s award campaign, including television spots and newspaper advertise- ments, Anchor Bay can spend only a fraction of that, as its profits are so comparatively slender that any significant expenditures would wipe out a film’s earnings.
Anchor Bay has spent about US$3mil (RM9.4mil) buying and releasing the film, and because Anchor Bay collects about half of the box-office receipts, it will need video and television revenue to make a profit. The company declined to say how much it was committing to its City Island and Solitary Man award efforts, but it is likely not more than several hundred thousand dollars for each film.
“Anchor Bay doesn’t pretend to be a competitor with the major studios and the advertising budgets they have,” said Kevin Kasha, the company’s executive vice president for worldwide acquisitions. “Advertising is terrific, but it all comes down to the performances in the film.” ‘We can’t compete with the money big studios spend for awards,’ says Andy Garcia.
British actress Lesley Manville is a veteran of such Mike Leigh films as Vera Drake and All Or Nothing, but she is little known in Hollywood.
That’s changing with Leigh’s Another Year, in which Manville is the mirror reverse of Sally Hawkins’ eternal optimist in the director’s 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky.
Manville is heartbreaking as a lovelorn woman who sees everyone around her getting at least some of what they want, while she perpetually holds an empty glass.
While reviews are mixed at best for Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, the ensemble drama does offer some excellent performances, with Loretta Devine and Kimberly Elise among the standouts.
Other possibilities: Helena Bonham Carter ( The King’s Speech), Marion Cotillard ( Inception), Minnie Driver ( Conviction), Cecile de France ( Hereafter), Greta Gerwig ( Greenberg), Gemma Jones ( You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Keira Knightley ( Never Let Me Go), Mila Kunis ( Black Swan), Ellen Page ( Inception), Rosamund Pike ( Barney’s Version), Sissy Spacek ( Get Low), Olivia Williams ( The Ghost Writer). – AP
In City Island, Garcia plays a New York corrections officer with more than enough drama in his personal life who dreams of becoming an actor.
Douglas plays a disgraced car dealer in Solitary Man who is as ruthless when hitting on women (he seduces his girlfriend’s daughter) as he is when trying to close a big deal.
Because Douglas has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer, he has not been able to work the award circuit. Garcia has no such limitations.
Garcia was a presenter at the Hollywood Film Festival’s awards gala, appeared at Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America screenings in New York and Los Angeles, and has done question-and-answer sessions at City Island screenings for the trade newspaper Variety on both coasts. He also has granted frequent interviews with print, radio and online journalists who specialise in covering Hollywood awards.
What Garcia and Anchor Bay need is for award voters to see the movie so that they might understand why City Island was such a word-of-mouth sensation. “A day does not go by that someone doesn’t come up to me on the street and say, ‘I love City Island. That was my favourite movie of the year,’” Garcia said. “If people see the movie, it will speak for itself.”
Kasha believes audiences can sense the heart behind City Island and Solitary Man. “Both films were labours of love and made independently by people who had real passion behind the camera and in front of the camera,” he said.
Although nominations may help sell more DVDs of the movies, they also could elevate Anchor Bay’s profile in the industry.
“It shows that we can point to a success story – and that we can do a successful campaign for talent,” Kasha said. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
In contention: CityIsland is one of two longshot movies thrust into the Oscar award race from Anchor Bay Films.