|Scene from The Founder|
Depending on who you ask, this summer's movie season has been a bit of a drag with very few films rising above an average rating. Considering that we're almost halfway through July and haven't had a stand-out on par with Mad Max: Fury Road, the sentiments may be hard to ignore. However, there are those few like myself who had faith in an August release from director John Lee Hancock called The Founder, which sees Michael Keaton playing Ray Kroc: the man who turned fast food chain McDonald's into America's most recognizable name. Many have pitted it in the Oscar race, especially with Keaton coming off of two back-to-back Best Picture winning films. However, those who are eagerly hoping that The Founder makes this summer a little better, prepare to be disappointed. You'll have to wait a little longer. The only upside is that if you're hoping for some Oscar buzz, its late December release should perk you right up.
One of the unfortunate trends when it comes to Oscar-nominated films is that very few in the past five years have played before "Oscar season," which is commonly referred to as September through early January. It's for good reason, as the "Last in line, first in mind" logic seems to benefit those wanting to get their films recognized regardless of quality. Still, there have been years that have defied this logic both negatively (no Best Picture nominee in 2013 was released before late October) and positively (2014 saw The Grand Budapest Hotel show up big on Oscar night despite opening in March). Still, there's a taboo that Oscar films only open at the end of the year, and it looks like The Founder is taking a page from that book.
The idea of moving titles around is something that's very common. Last year saw Carol move around before landing on a November release date. This year also sees another year-long delay from director Oliver Stone with Snowden: a film intended to compete last Fall, but was initially moved to a summer 2016 release before landing on its current date. While it is often done to avoid competition with films that would overshadow them, it is usually done in the case of Oscar buzz movies to make their presence more known. Speaking as The Weinstein Company has made a career out of manipulating the system to their Oscar-winning advantage, it makes plenty of sense to take The Founder out of the untrustworthy August market and move it to the reliable though far riskier late December market.
Originally intended to be released August 5, the film will now have a limited release on December 16 before getting a wide release on January 20 of next year. As anyone who keeps up with Oscar season would know, this is common practice for those simply wanting to qualify. As long as the film plays in a theater for one week in New York or Los Angeles, it qualifies. It's a dumb yet accepted practice that cheats average movie-goers out of seeing the films that go up for awards. Considering that Hancock's track record includes The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks, there's no denying that he stands an above average chance of making a dent next Oscar season, if the film is actually any good. The real death knell would've been if the film failed to get any release in January and was instead moved to a black hole date, much like The Monuments Men, where nobody will care to nominate it for the next cycle.
Check out the trailer below:
My prognosis is that while August looks less eventful now, I am excited to see that this film may have legs. Considering that Keaton's work in Birdman and Spotlight have been stellar, I do hope that this film manages to bring an interesting look into the corporate side of fast food in ways that aren't often seen. My only concern, besides its potential quality, is that it will get buried under the last ditch effort to release as many prestige movies as possible. Maybe it will be great enough to rise above. Who knows. All I know is that if The Weinstein Company has an assurance that this film could do well, then I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.