Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Here are Reasons Why "Moonrise Kingdom" Deserves a Best Picture Nomination

Left to right: Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman
Is director Wes Anderson ready for a Best Director nomination? I'd like to think yes. With Moonrise Kingdom, he has taken the story of puppy love, transplanted it at summer camp, and turned it into one of the most endearing, heartfelt, and most of all original movies of the year. The leads Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman may have little experience at acting, but it doesn't show as they go through this light, breezy trip set to a retro soundtrack and features almost all of your favorite action actors in scout uniforms. How can this movie not be nominated for Best Picture?

Here's the reality, I love Moonrise Kingdom and I don't see how it couldn't get nominated. I have been carefully waning through the other possible nominees and none have hit me quite as hard as this one. Sure, it may not be on most people's radars due to its June release, but if I want to back any film, it is this one. Also, it doesn't sound too far fetched when you take into account the competition (which so far seems to be The Master) leaves some room for open slots. I am not expecting this to sweep the ceremony, but this may be Anderson's chance to make a name for himself.

Of course, he isn't new to the nominations game. Let's look at his personal history:

The Royal Tenenbaums 

Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
Best Animated Feature

With three nominations to his belt, he has gotten a lot of the lower playing field mastered. I am not expecting anyone to get acting nominations for Moonrise Kingdom, but with the Best Animated Feature nomination of Fantastic Mr. Fox, there is a silver lining that he has his foot in the door. This is his follow-up, and it could be on people's radar enough to give it a chance. 

I know that the jury on this movie is split between those that find it too traditional Anderson with odd French music and storybook cinematography. This is definitely an Anderson movie, and probably one of his more accessible. The story is simple and it doesn't feel as weighed down as his other movies tend to do with an overwrought sense of self reflection. This movie gets to the bizarre point of the relationship in a way that is forbidden love.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the cast features Oscar nominees and winners Harvey Keitel (Bugsy), Edward Norton (American History X, Primal Fear), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Tilda Swinton (won for Michael Clayton), Frances McDormand (won for Fargo) and Bob Balaban (Gosford Park). That is a pretty high caliber group to have in your movie. It could also help to get the little movie that could more recognition. If anything, it will contribute to the upswing that it has had this year with obtaining the record of Best Opening Per Screen Average (if only until The Master came out). It also helps that it currently possesses a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has somehow entered the IMdB's Top 250 highest rated movies at #190, and third highest rated for 2012 behind The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. It is the first Anderson movie to have that honor, even if it is only temporary.

Left to right: Edward Norton and Bruce Willis
What do I have dreamed up for possible nominations? Where I can hypothetically see The Grey not getting any nominations at all, I will be saddened if this one walked away without something. Very few movies have reached the level of creativity presented here, even it if is considered "Vintage Wes Anderson." It should be more accepted that this director has a style and still can make a competent, fun movie that is just plain fun. No other movie has left me feeling more upbeat and happy and wanting to see it again.

The advantage is that indie comedies have fared well in the Best Picture category ever since Sideways started a trend that included nominees Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, The Kids Are All Right, and last year's Midnight in Paris as well as winner The Artist. The Academy has had no issue recognizing outstanding efforts in comedy, though not as often giving it the top prize. This is a disadvantage, as usually dramas overshadow the category, and worse off, the winners tend to be longer films. Moonrise Kingdom is 94 minutes long. The shortest winner is Marty at 91 minutes. This isn't a great handicap, but an unfair bias that makes these movies usually glanced over.

So what I am dreaming of in a plausible scenario is at least a Best Picture nomination. That can easily be obtained based on the past few years plus the extended 5-10 nominees category. I would also like to see Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola go for another Best Original Screenplay nomination, though my money so far is on The Master (as director Paul Thomas Anderson won Best Adapted Screenplay last time for There Will Be Blood and his latest is much buzzed about for being complex). I am not expecting Alexandre Desplat to repeat with a nomination for Best Original Score, as it could possibly be seen as not "original" for using arrangements from Benjamin Britten. 

In a dream world, I could see Wes Anderson taking a Best Director spot, but with all of the big shots still to come, including Argo and Les Miserables, that is highly unlikely. Maybe something for costume, cinematography or technical, but otherwise, I see this not taking too many spots. The performances, while all terrific, don't feel award caliber, and I wouldn't be too sad to see them overlooked, even though nothing is as joyful as Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward, which justifies some nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but is it too light to be considered?

My only concern is that Anderson movies are often too dry and niche to be appreciated by people not familiar with his work. Even if it gets nominated, will this do anything besides add publicity for the film? I hope so. It is a well crafted piece of work and very few films have been able to hold a candle to the amount of love that I hold for this film, and I am one of the more casual Anderson fans out there (as far as I'm concerned, he's been on a winning streak since Fantastic Mr. Fox). Still, he deserves the credit and hopefully one day the honor. However, to not give Moonrise Kingdom a Best Picture slot would be a travesty. I mean, try saying no to this:

What do you think? Is Moonrise Kingdom, besides being a commercial success for Wes Anderson, an overrated tale that is nothing more than an afternoon movie? Does it deserve a Best Picture nomination? Isn't it sad that Bruce Willis is the only cast member over 40 to not have an Oscar nomination?

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