Oscar Preview: Weekend of May 18-20, 2012

We had two films releasing this weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Battleship

What a difference a week can make. When I posited that Battleship was an Oscar contender, a lot was riding on how well it performed at the box office. With a dismal $25 million opening, the film looks poised to become one of the Summer’s biggest disasters (as if the critical response to the film hadn’t suggested that already). But with audiences not really caring for the film, then the Michael Bay Principle is harder to forcefully apply to the film.

The Michael Bay Principle is the concept that the loudest, most aurally exhausting Summer blockbuster is almost guaranteed a slot in the Sound Mixing category. Battlefield even has six-time Oscar nominee Paul Massey working as one of the re-recording mixer. This has enabled Michael Bay on multiple occasions to pick up Oscar nominations for films that the Academy would otherwise ignore (see Bay’s three Transformers films for a prime example). So looking at Battleship from that perspective, it seemed poised to pick up a nomination. However, bombing at the box office is a bigger recipe for being ignored by the Academy than any film. Cowboys and Aliens should have been a shoo-in for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing nominations, but after it imploded in the cineplex, it was quickly written off and ignored.

Battleship now seems more certain than ever to suffer the same fate, and with not only The Avengers, but Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises likely contenders for the blockbuster slots in the Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects categories, there’s not much room for anyone else, especially not a critically maligned and audience-ignored bomb.

Hysteria

Critics haven’t been very nice to Hysteria and for costume dramas, it’s more imperative than anything that it be supported by critics. Yes, the Academy’s art directors and costume designers have ignored critics in selecting the films they nominate for their own awards and the Oscars (see W./E. for a prime example), the distinction here is that the film is opening in the worst place for prime visibility and unless it had become a box office hit, which does not seem to be in the cards, it was destined to succumb to memory loss than anything else.

The year has a number of period dramas either already in release or due to be released later in the year (such as Lawless and Gangster Squad among many others) that a lot of these costume dramas are going to be pushed out in favor of the more broadly accepted Oscar contenders. The art directors and costume designers do nominate films that aren’t contending in other categories, but more frequently they prefer to tack on nominations to the totals of the bigger Oscar-caliber pictures.

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