Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The fall push for Awards and Blockbusters. Hollywood hype season is in full swing.

It's the middle of November, so while the political world unwinds from a Presidential election and the retail world gears up for the last surge of holiday shopping, the movie marketing world is knee deep in a double barrel marketing push that studios engage in every autumn.

From the first barrel are the self-aggrandizing multi-million dollar campaigns to win over Academy Awards voters. Like it or not, the Oscar is still the only movie award that really matters, regardless of its near meaninglessness among average moviegoers. The second barrel fires off the monumental marketing effort to launch first strike trailers designed to lay claim to summer blockbuster fortunes. An endeavor that has come to have far more financial impact than printing gold statuettes on re-release and DVD posters.

For movie fans around the world, the result is a not entirely unwelcome barrage of advertising and hype that will likely set our ticket buying expectations through the end of the year, and well into next summer. In that spirit, here's a look at what's being heavily hyped for Oscar and what's already being banked on for next Summer. Though everyone has their opinions and predictions, Moviedozer is keeping it to personal expectations.

Here's a random sample of three major releases I expect to see on Oscar night. For those already counting days, will be presented on February 24, 2013, with announcements for nominations on January 15. Then three more I expect will set the summer ticket sales bar. Blockbuster season, for all intents and purposes, kicks off on May 3 with Iron Man 3 from Disney's Marvel Studios.

The Academy will likely be brushing Oscar gold on...

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (Touchstone/DreamWorks Pictures). There's no surer bet that in the ungodly hour of the morning that these things are announced, Oscar's nomination announcements will include the names Lincoln and Daniel Day Lewis. If not, I'll close up shop here and start writing a scrapbooking blog. This was a film shelved by Spielberg specifically because his one and only choice for the lead, Daniel Day Lewis, said no the first time. And even after some convincing, the all powerful director was willing to wait an extra year for the actor to get comfortable with the role. Making this film wouldn't be an easy task on anyone's to do list, but you have to believe that kind of commitment pays off. Everything about this movie is about what makes a great movie immortal. Meaning, if they got this right, they've got the big awards in the bag. It's that kind of project and likely the one movie you should absolutely see before February 24th.

Ang Lee's Life of Pi (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp). In 2011 Martin Scorsese furthered the legitimization of 3D as a tool for cinematic storytelling with Academy Award winner and best picture nominee Hugo. That legitimacy as a storytelling tool may again be refined (and defined) by Ang Lee's much talked about adaptation of the Yann Martel novel. The story of Life of Pi swirls around a young man named Pi Patel and a tiger named Richard Parker, who may or may not be a manifestation of young Pi's fears and imagination. That particular aspect of the book created an opportunity to tell a story through spectacular and fantastic visuals, perfectly and naturally suited to 3D. Having James Cameron's company, PACE, as technical consultants surely won't hurt. Though I wouldn't throw any chips on the table for best picture or acting honors, I expect to see Life of Pi dominate those technical award categories and perhaps even net Mr. Lee a nod as Pi's director.

Katherine Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures). Just to go a little off the already beaten path, I'm expecting Oscar winning director Katherine Bigelow (honored in 2010 for The Hurt Locker), to be recognized for director with her historically accurate telling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Rather than focus on the overnight raid itself, the film spans ten years of intelligence work that led to the final Seal Team Six mission. With solid casting and a perspective that hasn't already been exhausted by cable channel specials, there's a chance to unwind a sharp, smart narrative. Though Zero Dark Thirty doesn't promise to be a favorite, or even an eventual winner, I'll be surprised if it doesn't claim a presence. The most interesting story that follows may be what Katherine Bigelow does next, after exhaustively researching two high profile, military themed projects.

And as for those blockbusters? Seems far easier to pick money winners than award winners. Where I'd caveat the picks above as educated guesses, the three films below are all but guaranteed to score major box-office worldwide. If Vegas had a movie betting window, these three would be booking at even money...

Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios). Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man suit may as well be made of solid gold. The third outing of this franchise will build on last summer's Avengers success and may well become the most successful of the series.

Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney). While I think this one is a little bit more of a gamble, the incredibly wide demographic this film could appeal to is undeniably an enormous target audience. I may not be the first to point this out, but I promise that if Disney feels they've gotten this right, they're also betting that they've grabbed a property that could become a franchise. A take anywhere in the range of $200 million domestic and $300 foreign will pave the yellow brick road with a least a sequel or two.

World War Z (Paramount). The first trailer for this film so impressed me that it spurred the resurgence of this very blog. Brad Pitt is going to ride this film to action hero status and zombie movies are about to get "Twilighted". That's to say that what the Twilight series did for vampire movie production values is about to happen to Zombie movies. World War Z's effect on the genre will be as cataclysmic as the title of the movie suggests. A change I look forward to, and one that will welcome in a new caliber of talent and story quality to a genre previously mostly known for "B" level productions.

Fall's a great time to be heading to your local movie theaters. The bonus for movie fans is the avalanche of advertising and promotion that has turned Awards Season into Hype Season. Just more fun for us. Have a great weekend at the movies.

Poster art courtesy of their respective studios with thanks to

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