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'Monuments Men:' Where do all the postponements leave the Oscar race?

October 23, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Steve Carell stars in the delayed "Foxcatcher."
Steve Carell stars in the delayed "Foxcatcher."

When George Clooney and Sony Pictures said Tuesday that the release of “The Monuments Men” would be delayed from mid-December to an unspecified date in 2014, they set off a round of speculation--and potential scrambling.

“Monuments Men,” a World War II art heist movie that Clooney directs and stars in, was considered a possible contender in this year's race. Could coveted Academy Award slots—and the important media and mindshare required to land them--now go to of other hopefuls?

It was an especially relevant question given other recent events. In the past few weeks a number of other would-be contenders also opted out of the season. “Grace of Monaco,” starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, was pushed to next year. “Foxcatcher,” a fact-based story of the murderer John du Pont starring Steve Carell and directed by awards-friendly Bennett Miller, was similarly postponed from this year to 2014.

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And James Gray's period drama “The Immigrant,” which had generated buzz out of the Cannes Film Festival for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard, was pulled from an early fall release for release sometime next year.

Widely touted as the most crowded awards season in years — “I don't think I've seen anything like this,” Picturehouse President Bob Berney said in early September of the crowded calendar — the field has now grown noticeably, and surprisingly, thinner. This much movement is rare in Hollywood's hyper-competitive awards season, when plans are laid out months in advance and involve a carefully calibrated schedule of industry events, transoceanic flights and marketing dollars.

Some of the changes were perhaps the inevitable consequence of too many movies crammed into too tight a space. Yogi Berra famously said, “No one goes there anymore — it's too crowded,” and Hollywood studios seemed to take the words to heart.

But the actual reasons for the move may be more complicated.

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Though Clooney cited delays in adding post-production effects to the film, some observers immediately asked if an end-of-year release would apply an “awards movie” tag that could set expectations too high. They also wondered if Clooney didn't want to compete with himself; the actor stars in the space-epic “Gravity,” a substantial contender, and produced “August: Osage County,” a Meryl Streep-starring adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that also has high awards hopes.

(Clooney, for his part, said that wasn't the case, even downplaying the awards aspect for “Monuments.” “All we've ever said, from the very beginning, is that we wanted to make a commercial, non-cynical piece of entertainment,” he told The Times.)

“Foxcatcher's” delay was similarly cloaked behind production delays. The studio, Sony Pictures Classics, said in a terse statement last month that it “supports the decision of the filmmakers to allow for more time to finish the film.”

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The Weinstein Co, a perpetual player that nonetheless pulled “Grace” and “Immigrant,” was believed to make the moves to focus, monetarily and psychologically, on its two other big bets, the Nelson Mandela biopic “Mandela” and “August: Osage County.”

Although moving a film to the following year doesn't mean it couldn't win Oscars then, it hardly bodes well for its prospects. Postponed fall releases such as “Shutter Island” four years ago and, this year, “The Great Gatsby” proved to be savvy commercial moves that nonetheless took the films out of Oscar contention.

In contrast, this year's thinned field could offer an opportunity for two 2013 films yet to screen: David O. Russell's fact-based “American Hustle” and Martin Scorsese's financial drama “The Wolf of Wall Street." It could also open up the field for awards wild cards such as Spike Jonze's upcoming futuristic romance, “Her.”

And all the postponements have also solidified the prospects of a movie that is thought the current front-runner for top prizes, Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” which is already in theaters and has been building buzz since the Toronto International Film Festival last month, where some pundits proclaimed it as a certain best picture winner.


'Foxcatcher' postponed to 2014

George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' pushed to 2014

Wolf of Wall Street not moving to 2014 (but Jack Ryan likely will)

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