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Oscar 8-Ball: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom'

August 29, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
  • Newcomer Jared Gilman stars as Sam in Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom."
Newcomer Jared Gilman stars as Sam in Wes Anderson's "Moonrise… (Focus Features )

Will the actors and filmmakers from your favorite movie be making room on their mantels this award season? Or watching the Oscars from afar? Oscar 8-Ball knows all. Throughout the coming months, Gold Standard columnist Glenn Whipp will assess the chances of every film in contention. Maybe that includes "Ted." Probably it doesn’t. Only the magic Oscar 8-Ball knows.

We start by rounding up the early comers, beginning with Wes Anderson's beguiling storybook tale, "Moonrise Kingdom."

Focus Features has a busy fall on its hands with four strong best picture contenders. "Anna Karenina" and "Hyde Park on Hudson" premiere next month at Toronto, with Gus Van Sant's issue drama "Promised Land" arriving in December. Will they be good movies? Given the filmmakers -- Joe Wright, Roger Michell and Van Sant -- that seems a pretty safe bet. Will they be transcendent works of art? We'll get back to you on that.

But Focus has already released one film that bears the stamp of greatness -- "Moonrise Kingdom." Wes Anderson's rapturous young-romance/adventure tale will soon become the year's highest-grossing indie film. Can that commercial success translate to favor with academy voters? We give the 8-Ball three shakes to see:

You may rely on it: Anderson has two Oscar nominations for his distinctive body of work. He and Owen Wilson shared a screenplay nod for 2001's dysfunctional family saga "The Royal Tenenbaums" and, eight years later, Anderson returned to the nominees circle for directing the stop-motion animated feature “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” It's a meager inventory, one that voters would do well to beef up, giving Anderson and "Moonrise" co-writer Roman Coppola a well-deserved original screenplay nomination.

Ask again later: Anderson's detractors carp that his movies are precious, overly ordered, airless even. But "Moonrise" charmed almost all of his harshest critics. Could that lead to some recognition for the masterful work of cinematographer Robert Yeoman, production designer Adam Stockhausen and costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone? It should. They all deserve more than a Khaki Scout badge, that's certain. And if Focus can snag a handful of below-the-line nominations, perhaps a best picture nod will follow.

The key to such a campaign might not be positioning "Moonrise" as the ultimate example of Anderson's impeccably orchestrated style but, rather, persuading voters that it's an altogether different kind of Wes Anderson movie, a deeply felt, almost epic story of young love, put across with a purity and innocence never glimpsed in movies such as "Rushmore" and "Bottle Rocket." It's all there on screen. Voters simply need to look past their preconceptions to see it.

Outlook not so good: Though the cast is uniformly great, it likely only has a shot at the SAG ensemble award. The young leads are unknowns and, among the supporting players, only Bruce Willis stands out, though for the kind of quiet, melancholy turn that academy voters rarely recognize.

Follow Glenn Whipp on Twitter: @glennwhipp

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