When Warners had eventual best picture winner "The Departed" last year, it seemed to go out of its way initially to label the movie as anything but an Oscar contender, fearing that would send the wrong message.
Remember how Universal tossed "Shakespeare In Love" aside only to watch from the sidelines when hungry indie Miramax rode it into the winner's circle in 1998?
But if the stars are aligned, it could all change this year. In fact, could we possibly see that rare best picture lineup that iscompletely from the majors?
Well, maybe. Sort of. Possibly.
For your consideration:
Say the academy ultimately decides "No Country for Old Men" is too violent, "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is too French, "There Will Be Blood" too, uh, bloody and "Into the Wild" too, well, wild. Then, watch out.
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The lineup for best picture could conceivably include Universal's money-making critical success "American Gangster" and Warner Bros.' steady and admired George Clooney legal flick "Michael Clayton."
Another likely nominee could be "The Kite Runner," which despite distribution by Paramount Vantage is really a Dreamworks product. In fact, it was Dreamworks head Stacey Snider who introduced the film at its first industry screening Aug. 22.
Then there is "Atonement"(Dec 7), initially developed by Working Title for Universal before winding up in its Focus Features lineup and being released worldwide by Universal's international division.
Even the indie-that-could, Lions Gate's "3:10 To Yuma," is a best picture possibility. It was developed at Columbia, which owned the rights to the remake and was going to shoot it as a $100-million-plus Tom Cruise vehicle before dropping out when Cruise passed. The budget was slashed in half and the film was eventually financed by Relativity Media sans Cruise.
And don't forget the still-largely-unseen "Sweeney Todd." The "demon barber of Fleet Street" is from three, count 'em, three big boys: Dreamworks, WB, Paramount.
The all-star "Charlie Wilson's War" is from Universal, the same studio that also started a trade ad campaign this week for its August blockbuster and critical success "The Bourne Ultimatum" for consideration "in all categories."
With one of the year's top scores, a 93% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating (out of 204 reviews), could there even be hope for a studio summer popcorn picture, albeit a smart one like "Bourne," to break into the 2007 best picture race? Or even a feel-good musical like New Line's "Hairspray?"
And perhaps sensing a rare opportunity for some major studio love from the elusive and exclusive academy, Columbia took out an expensive Variety front cover ad this week touting its upcoming (but hardly Oscar-centric) Judd Apatow-produced biopic satire, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," that simply stated "For your consideration in every category you got."
Likely? NOT. But you can't blame them for trying to bring back a piece of best picture glory to the studios that started the whole thing in the first place.
In other words, the majors may be too busy fighting striking writers to point this out themselves, but they've got their fingerprints all over The Season.