Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Monuments Men" Debuts with an Exciting, Star-Studded Trailer

Left to right: Matt Damon and George Clooney
It seems like we're in a recent winning streak with trailers right now. In the past week alone, we have gotten stuff for American Hustle, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and now one of the surefire Oscar contenders: director George Clooney's The Monuments Men. While it has been hyped since January as one of the films of the year, it is largely because Clooney is one of the biggest threats to competitors in general. As we'll discuss later on, he may not be the most decorated Oscar nominee/winner, but his presence and contribution is fascinating and the fact that this looks to be another strong entry only makes it harder to deny his charisma. 

While Clooney has only won two awards (Best Supporting Actor - Syriana and Best Picture (as producer) - Argo), he is an unstoppable force. As he said on the red carpet at this year's ceremony, he is now a trivia question. He has been nominated in six different categories only tying Walt Disney. His career has been impressive both in front of and behind the camera. There is a good chance that he will add another notch to his belt if The Monuments Men wins as well. If he does, he will be the first producer in history to win back-to-back Best Picture awards since David O. Selznick did it in 1939 and 1940 with Gone with the Wind and Rebecca

That wouldn't be too bad of a record to hold, especially as the first trailer that came out today has a lot of promise. While I initially saw it as a more serious war film a'la Saving Private Ryan, I am impressed to see that there is this small sense of humor that rides through it. Here's the trailer:

Looks pretty good. Here's the plot synopsis from IMDb:
"In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them."
There have been many films on the subject of World War II and even more dealing with Hitler directly. This is not new territory, though one that almost seems to be an Oscar bias. While war movies haven't fared well in the past decade in terms of actual wins, they still manage to occasionally get nominations. The last notable nominee was War Horse two years ago. If this film would win Best Picture, it would be the first war film to win since The Hurt Locker and the first World War II film since The English Patient.

I think that it stands a good chance largely because of the cast alone. Along with Clooney, who stars, directs, and co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov (who also won as a producer for Argo), the cast includes past winners Matt Damon (Best Original Screenplay - Good Will Hunting), Cate Blanchett (Best Supporting Actress - The Aviator), Jean Dujardin (Best Actor - The Artist), and nominees Bill Murray (Best Actor - Lost in Translation) and Bob Balaban (Best Picture - Gosford Park). There's plenty of overlap with other productions here, though it almost feels like the most optimistic part of the whole thing lies in the involvement of John Goodman, who has starred in the past two Best Picture winners (The Artist, Argo), though sadly has yet to receive a nomination.

What are the odds that the film can get nominated? As I have established, they are very high. While I have initial concern that the film may face similar treatment to Clooney's previous directorial effort The Ides of March, I do feel that the cast is at very least a little more high profile. The truth is that I consider Clooney to be in his prime. He deserved to win Best Actor for Up in the Air (as well as Best Picture), and The Ides of March was superior to whatever nominees were in the category. Still, that doesn't excuse that I feel that this multi-threat performer is producing unprecedented quality work that is on the verge of getting him his due. I know he won for Syriana, but I mean that he is not too far from Best Picture winning. I am just wondering if it is this one.

Of course, this film enters plenty of conflict zones. For starters, I have already begun speculating some performers in other films. Jean Dujardin is having a big year with The Wolf of Wall Street, and Cate Blanchett already feels like a lock for Best Actress with Blue Jasmine. So where does The Monuments Men get its due in terms of acting? In a just world, we could be looking at John Goodman finally getting his recognition, even though he is widely considered a character actor that improves the movie without making a big deal out of it. It would also be interesting if Bill Murray managed to get his second nomination. Even Matt Damon wouldn't be that far fetched. The trailer doesn't give any definitive standouts among the supporting cast, which may benefit the film, but makes it harder to speculate nominations.

Bill Murray
Of course, there are the more obvious ones that it may stand a strong chance at getting nominated in. With very little established competition so far, it wouldn't be hard to see this in the Best Picture race. The 5-10 sliding scale makes it easier for it to get in than the Best Director category, which I haven't even given proper consideration at this point, save for potentially Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). If this film plays well, I would also like to see it get into Best Adapted Screenplay category. I will revisit the acting fields as the release gets closer.

So what are the chances that a World War II film can win Best Picture in the modern age? To say the least, the Academy hasn't really been concerned about contemporary stories. That isn't the issue. Even last year's winner had a political edge to it. I think what makes a Best Picture winner click nowadays has a lot to do with relevance to their interests. The past two winners were about how cinema affects the world. Theoretically, The King's Speech was about finding your voice as a performer. All of these tie into motives that the Academy strives for. I am not saying that it always produces the right results, but it is something to keep into consideration. Unless Saving Mr. Banks is a surprise hit, I do hope they break their cinematic bias streak this year.

I am thinking that with Clooney actually being a powerhouse in Hollywood, he does have an edge over most people. His nominations and support of complicated projects helps make his efforts look more important. While I am still baffled by The Ides of March getting ignored, save for a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, he does have that power. Like I said, he is not too far from delivering a gem. He will win Best Picture for something he has directed sometime in his life. Is this it? The film does deal with World War II and art, which is already a nice, fresh take on something we already know.  We just have to see how Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks, and even Fruitvale Station does in competition.

Is The Monuments Men going to be Clooney's magnum opus? Is Bill Murray capable of another Oscar nomination? Why has John Goodman never been nominated?

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