After the warm-up from September, next week marks the official launch of Oscar season with Gone Girl. It is an exciting time to be preparing for an intense movie season in which the big shots come out to play (but don't forget about The Boxtrolls tomorrow). Among them is a familiar name of a director who has had quite a career that in many ways makes many consider him a potential Steven Spielberg or Stanley Kubrick of this generation (I'm not as high on hyperbole about him). I am talking about director Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, which is probably his most ambitious film to date. With gorgeous trailers that look straight out of the TV series Cosmos, one can only hope that this film delivers. However, there is one thing for sure. Regardless on quality, this will be his longest film to date.
There's an interesting counterargument to be made about film. For many, there is a complaint that longer movies are unnecessary and that they reflect a vapid nature of Hollywood. While that is applicable for films like Transformers: Age of Extinction, does anyone really lobby Boyhood's three-hour running time against it? While there's plenty of logic in desiring a brief film in a sea of two-plus hour films, I choose to stand by this quote from Roger Ebert: "No great movie is too long and no bad movie is too short." However, it has been a complaint that I lobbied at the class of 2012 and am worried that I will apply again here, even if Nolan is a personal favorite of mine.
To summarize, I still consider 2012 to be one of the best years for cinema this decade. There was an embarrassment of quality from foreign (Holy Motors, Rust and Bone), animation (ParaNorman, Wreck-It Ralph), drama (The Master, Zero Dark Thirty), horror (The Cabin in the Woods), superhero films (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises), CGI-driven films (Life of Pi) and musicals (Les Miserables). Nothing has topped it yet. With that said, my initial complaint was that the December output had running times that were too long. Going in, there were reports that Les Miserables was 158 minutes, Django Unchained was 165 minutes, and Zero Dark Thirty was 157 minutes. Even The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was 169 minutes. I am all for a well paced story (and these were all varying degrees of enjoyable), but it was so daunting considering that I wanted to see them all rapidly as to keep up with the Oscar Buzz. Didn't do too well. By comparison, The Wolf of Wall Street being 180 minutes last year was a piece of cake without the competition of epics.
Thankfully, the running times have mellowed out. However, I do feel like longer running times have become a commitment that most aren't willing to do. It poses the question of when these films could be pushed in between family get togethers and living life. Along with the growing output of trailers, it is impossible to properly fit them all in without sacrificing something personal. Thankfully, I am unaware of this film season being that long. However, Nolan has entered an interesting new trend: prestige directors releasing their longest films to date. In 2012, Quentin Tarantino had Django Unchained. In 2013, Martin Scorsese had The Wolf of Wall Street. Not to be outdone, Nolan tops his own previous record from 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises of 165 with Insterstellar at 169 minutes. Admittedly, that is only four minutes longer, but it still feels like an audacious move.
Nolan is actually one of the prominent forces in making blockbusters into cinematic epics. Check out this chart from /Film that was done by Peter Sciretta:
Yep. Nolan isn't a man of brevity. There may be possibilities that he could make an even longer film. He is the audacious director after all who turned superheroes into a gritty, brooding landscape and redefined modern cinema with The Dark Knight. Considering that Nolan remains a box office draw in almost all cases, there isn't any threat that a longer running time will effect anything. However, there's concern that this will start an onslaught of long films this season. Provided that they are scattered beyond the initial December holiday weekends, things may be improving.
However, there's still some curiosity that I have. What kind of film will this be? The trailers sell a nihilistic tale of restarting life on another planet. There's probably more. With Edgar Wright already sharing his thoughts (follow the /Film link) on how amazing the film is, there's a chance that this will be the space epic that defines Nolan's already impressive career. With a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway, the prestige is already there in ways reminiscent of Contact. However, is the film going to be more realism or abstract? There's a lot to consider about the film. Even then, Nolan has done impressive work with sci-fi, especially Inception: a film that has entered the zeitgeist and has refused to let go.
However, there's still some wonder if Interstellar can be the film that pushes Nolan over the top and into the Best Director race. It's hard to believe, but for a man who is one of the most celebrated filmmakers, his lack of recognition is jarring. Yes, it does feel reminiscent of early Steven Spielberg, but the times are different. The Oscars have a sliding 5-10 nomination slot for Best Picture (debatable that it was from the annexation of The Dark Knight in 2008's race). He managed to get Inception into the race, but not The Dark Knight Rises. However, Inception was more ambitious and successful in providing sheer entertainment met with intellectual challenges.
Then again, it is tough to call how the Academy feels on sci-fi during any given year. Films such as Cloud Atlas impressively challenged the genre yet were shut out entirely. Egregious errors are made frequently and superhero films have yet to make a dent in any Oscar nominations outside of technical. There's a lot of regressive viewpoints that the Academy hold and should work towards fixing (though I am not saying nominate just any Marvel film because those are more visceral than great). I feel like Nolan stands a chance when going off of the backs of films like Life of Pi and Gravity, which have benefited from being big CGI films that still pack wonderment and awe. There's a chance that Alejandro Gonzales-Inarritu's Birdman is going to steal the Best Director win, but I would like to see Nolan at least qualify, given if the film is as great as the trailers look.
There's so much to discuss about Interstellar, though I am reserving judgment just to avoid the Nolan fanboy-sounding nature. Also, I am avoiding most trailers for the sake of being surprised when I see it. Also, we have Gone Girl to look forward to a lot, lot sooner and I'm arguably looking forward to it more. Anyways, Interstellar is bound to be a long epic of space, existentialism, and the potential to give Nolan recognition, especially as the Academy begins to recognize special effects more and more. It is an interesting season that hasn't fully formed yet. However, here's hoping that it pays off and isn't just one super-long movie after another.
Is Interstellar capable of being a Best Picture contender? Are any of the actors going to get any nominations? Will Christopher Nolan ever get a Best Director nomination?