Monday, March 4, 2013

Can "Spring Breakers" Be Taken Seriously for Nominations?

James Franco
With the 2013 Oscar season firmly behind us, it is time to wade through the releases until we get an actual front runner. Until then, let us speculate on the films that could and will get nominated. As I noted back in December, one of the films gunning for a Best Actor contention was director Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Somehow the belief that James Franco's gangster persona was capable of competing with winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) seems absurd in hindsight. Also, since the film wasn't released in time for consideration, nothing happened. However, with the release coming on March 22, it is time to raise speculation again. Is Franco capable of winning back the Academy with girls and guns?

The one aspect of this film that has amazed me is that somehow this was the film that someone wanted to push Franco for an Oscar push. Even this week's Oz: The Great and Powerful seems like a more acceptable choice for a campaign. From what little we have seen so far, we get Franco as a funny-voiced gangster who along with a group of young, bikini-clad girls, decides to pull off heists during spring break. Mind you, this is also a film from the director of Trash Humpers, which is everything that title suggests. At very least, this isn't conventional cinema.

So what can possibly happen to land Franco consideration? For starters, March is not a considerable month for the Oscars campaign. People are burned out from the aggressive marketing that culminated in last week's ceremony. Nobody wants to go out and call a movie the Best Picture front runner just yet. It's a shame, because by this point last year, we had The Grey, which probably suffered from a release schedule that landed it in the midst of lousy movie season. There are probably numerous other candidates currently out there, though with Jack the Giant Slayer and Identity Thief atop the box office, who would want to?

In fact, the trailer only makes the initial December release plan all the more baffling. Caution, NSFW: 

Where we just had a brief video of Franco talking funny available for argument in December, now we have an entire trailer as well as other marketing materials. The red band trailer suggests that the film is grittier than originally thought. There will be more violence and drug use with intent of being done by scantily clad women. The trailer plays as some perverse fantasy and with a cast of former Disney starlets like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, there is little to keep this from being seen as their version of being risque. It may pay off, or it could just be like Barbara Kopple's Havoc and be actors being edgy for the sake of being edgy and not quite looking the part in the process.

However, the Franco consideration is a fascinating aspect. Where Gomez and Hudgens need to add some dramatic depth in order to convince us that they are serious actors, Franco looks dedicated. While he has never been one to always take the conventional road, this may be his most ridiculous-looking role to receive major attention since his unfortunate 2011 stint as Oscar host. He is talking funny, looking ridiculous, and has an eerie confidence that almost convinces you that he is indeed worthy of consideration.

However, there is still the matter of timing. This film probably stands very little chance of a nomination just based on the plot alone. According to IMDb: 

"Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper "Alien" promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget."

Besides the fact that youthful demographics rarely played with the older Academy members, this seems even more baffling because it feels excessive. While the Oscars have given awards to hip hop songs, urban culture hasn't been as much embraced in the acting fields. True, Denzel Washington won Best Actor for Training Day, but he was established by then and had a few nominations under his belt. True, Franco has a Best Actor nod for 127 Hours to his name, but he is more notorious as the art freak who does anything and everything he imagines. To some, the very idea that he is playing a rapper and hanging out with bikini-clad women doesn't seem that far fetched.

Left to right: Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson,
Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine
The Academy has never been won to award sexually charged or violent movies the top prizes. While I predict that the film won't do stellar box office and may end up more of a punchline to jokes about absurd cinema than for its quality, the film just seems odd in hindsight to have received so much attention in the first place. Even the proposition that Skrillex is composing music doesn't help the cause. This film sounds like it is planning on being a loud, vivacious party and little else. Since Harmony Korine hasn't ever been considered for Oscar attention before, this will only help it slide under the radar even more.

With that established, Franco probably will not get that last laugh. That limited contention run in December sounds more like a joke. True, the Academy should recognize a wider variety of film, but Spring Breakers doesn't feel like the one to do it. I could be wrong and it could be amazing, but for the time being, the urban gangster characters haven't done well at the Oscars and while Franco stands a chance at eventually getting another nomination, it is laughable to think that it would be for this.

Do you think that the film will receive any Oscar attention? Was that contention campaign plan for December the most ridiculous thing ever? Will anyone take a film from the director of Trash Humpers seriously? Or is it all too soon to even consider next year's selections?

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