Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Will the Christmas Release of "Les Miserables" be a Gift in Disguise?

Anne Hathaway
Update: I have written a review that is posted here.

One of the most highly anticipated movies of this year, director Tom Hooper's Les Miserables, has once again made a shuffle. Originally set for release on December 7, it was moved back a week to compete against director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. However, things have come up in which it needs time to finish shooting and we see another release date shuffle. Taking over the spot once belonging to director Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables is now set for a Christmas Day release. Is this a good or bad move for what will easily be one of the front runners at this year's Oscars?

There are many reasons to look forward to this, notably that it is the follow-up to Tom Hooper's Best Picture winner The King's Speech. That alone will guarantee that its follow-up will earn some Oscar love, even if it turns out to be undeserved. I am personally confident that Hooper will knock it out of the park and bring the record breaking musical based on Victor Hugo's titular book. He has proven himself capable of making period pieces move at an engaging pace and it only seems right for him to test the levels of musicals as the next step.

And then there is the actual trailer:

There is something breathtaking of the way Anne Hathaway belts "I Dreamed a Dream" as we get sense of what the film is about. We see a top notch cast that features Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, and even Sacha Baron Cohen. The question is can the Hollywood caliber hold up their end? It is has yet to be seen, but if they are as half as good as Hathaway, we may see our first Best Picture nominee from the musical category since Chicago back in 2003. 

However, the competition is going to be strong, and musicals rarely do gangbusters at the box office. Maybe the fact that the stage version has been seen by over 60 million people and translated into 41 different languages. The audience is already there, but will they see the movie? There is a good chance that it can be pushing this phrase as the release gets closer: "From the director of The King's Speech" in hopes of getting the rest of the crowd there. However, if the trailer doesn't move you, it probably won't get your money.

The bigger question, however, is if it can get the prestige that it deserves now that it has finally settled into a Christmas Day release? While the odds of a Christmas Day movie winning hasn't been popular in the past few years, there have been some titles that have gotten a considerable batch of nominations from the festive season date. In 2009, director David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button got 13 nominations. This bodes well for Les Miserables.

What is the competition for Les Miserables by opening up on this date? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is two weeks old, and while it can become a runaway hit, the initial steam will have worn out and it will be down to two heavyweights: Hooper and director Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. While his work is widely regarded as the perfect balance of critical and audience acclaim, the Academy has not held his work on a pedestal. With a story detailing slavery and revenge, it may stand a chance to get a Best Picture nomination (as his previous film Inglourious Basterds did), but will probably fall under the bottom half that are least likely to win. This isn't to call his work amateurish like director Steven Spielberg's War Horse Best Picture nomination from this past year, but they won't recognize Django Unchained as anything more than an entertaining film.

In that regard, we have to acknowledge that majority of 86% of voters are white men over 50. While revisionist history can be a big draw to vote for Tarantino, there is a chance that Les Miserables will win based on the already established popularity. By moving it later in the year, it pushes more focus on the film and therefore, with most of the other possibilities now already seen and considered, it will be the participant in the "last in line, first in mind" theorem. The only trouble now is for them to stick the landing. 

It is too early to see if it will sweep the Oscars, but I have a strong sense that it is going to be a front runner on the sheer force that we haven't seen a musical of this caliber in quite a while. We've seen blockbuster fare like Mama Mia, but nothing on this level. The teaser leaves the impression that Anne Hathaway will take home an Oscar this year. It is a really good trailer and unfairly disarms me every time I see it. It is a good choice to move it back to Christmas simply because no one would be talking about it. They would be discussing if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would be more than Jackson's signal to stop making J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations. While people will be talking about Django Unchained, there is a distinct difference in the audiences that it shouldn't interfere too much for anyone but Oscar obsessives.

Do you think that this is a smart move, or is the idea of releasing a movie on Christmas Day such an overwrought cliche that never pays off?

No comments:

Post a Comment