As the Oscar season starts heating up and the big films come out, there's a need to not lose focus on the potential upsets. There is bound to be a few films that will enter the race after an unassuming start. My personal money has long been riding on director Rob Marshall's Into the Woods for many reasons. Beyond the fact that it is a very musical year that has already featured Jersey Boys and Get On Up as well as the upcoming Annie, it is opening in prime real estate for Oscar voters: Christmas Day. The last musical to open on this day (Les Miserables) did pretty well for itself with a Best Picture nomination and a few other slots. That is why I believe that it's time to start taking Into the Woods a little bit more seriously. Also, the trailer is actually pretty good.
I believe that the Academy is all about recognizing a wide variety of films. Despite the mixed opinions of Les Miserables, I believe it managed to survive on the back of being a musical with high ambitions. It soared to innocuous heights and captured a wonderful kind of melodrama. Also, it has been awhile since musicals have been a dominant force in cinematic culture. This year is especially notable, even if nobody should bet a pony on Annie getting very far. I believe that with a cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt Johnny Depp and directed by Marshall, who previously won Best Picture for Chicago, there's very little that can go wrong. Also, it is adapted from a popular musical, which plays in its favor.
Beyond that, I don't feel like it stands much of a chance of winning. However, I do think that there's something subliminal about opening up at this specific date. It isn't just a spectacle film. There's a feeling that there's something more to it. I can only hope that it's true because I do want musicals to get more recognition at the Oscars. They just need to actually be good.
While the first teaser trailer was controversially music-free and not very interesting, the follow-up is actually full of the real teasing. There's a few chords of the songs and the imagery begins to pop up. It may look like an Alice in Wonderland/Maleficent knock-off, but I can hope that it is so much better than that. It does hurt that Depp was in the former, but Marshall has proven to be a reliable force, so I don't see why we need to worry all that much.
Here's the trailer:
It looks pretty good. Let's just hope it pays off. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
"A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children's stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel."
It also helps that it's based on a very popular stage musical. Still, with the mash-up culture being what it is, there is no doubt the angle that this was supposed to be marketed as. While it is disheartening to see Meryl Streep in this film instead of someone who could sing, the rest looks colorful and has a lot to offer. I just worry that it follows in the Disney pattern and much like Saving Mr. Banks before is a brand deposit meant to make you interested in the studio's past. True, most of the named characters aren't direct properties, but there's Cinderella. Also, with their TV series Once Upon a Time mixing everything ever made by them into one blender, the film could easily go in that direction. Don't forget that Marshall also made Nine, which even with Daniel Day-Lewis didn't land him any Oscar nominations.
Nonetheless, it is a musical and that stands to reckon with the popular trend. Fingers crossed that there's something more to it. Still, I am curious and hopefully things will pay off. The music isn't grabbing me, but at least the stage and spectacle make me think that there's substance here. I am unfamiliar with the actual stage version of this, so I cannot comment on the music or its reputation. However, I want to put it out there that this is one to look out for as a wild card.
Is Into the Woods going to be Best Picture material? Will this get Anna Kendrick her second Oscar nomination? Will musicals ever come back into fashion?