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David Poland

By David Poland

Oscar Buzzed

Desperation for buzz… as desperate as the New York Times for assigning a story about desperation for buzz?

The idea that Phantom of The Opera is the “hot buzz Oscar film,” a notion pretty much started here at MCN a few weeks back, is hardly desperate given the history of the Oscars.

It is easy to scoff at the idea of a Joel Schumacher film starring three relative unknowns. But a look back at the last 25 years of the Oscars turns up Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Amadeus, Platoon, The Last Emperor, Driving Miss Daisy, The English Patient and The Lord of The Rings as eight winners with no major stars at the time of release. (The one exception is Peter O’Toole, in a supporting role, whose three previous roles had been in Supergirl, Creator and Club Paradise. He was, remarkably, not nominated for an Oscar.) In addition, all eight are period movies and only half of the directors had previously been Oscar nominated for directing when nominated for these films, Peter Jackson only for the first film of the trilogy.

The show has sold over 80 million tickets worldwide, which augers well for the box office and like the last two Oscar winners, LOTR:Return of the King and Chicago, it is swathed in familiarity.

The Oscar season has started, like it or not. But the only major difference between this Oscar season and others is that some many of the films HAVE been seen… not that so many films have not been seen. This time last year, the winner and Master & Commander had not yet been seen. But either had Cold Mountain, Monster, Something’s Gotta Give, The Last Samurai, Mona Lisa Smile or House of Sand & Fog.

There are five big films still to come… and they will all be seen in the next three weeks or so.

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12 Responses to “Oscar Buzzed”

  1. Martin says:

    Hate to say it, but I think the times is about 80% right, with the exception of perhaps Kinsey and Ray. Phantom looks like a bore to me that will do little business, Spanglish looks horrid, Kinsey’s got the Far from Heaven thing, and Eternal Sunshines is long time and a poor box office ago.

  2. Andrew Kightlinger says:

    I have a sneaking feeling that Alexander might be the big winner this year. I am dreading its release because I absolutely despised Troy and King Arthur. But can Hollywood actually made three mediocre big-budget period pieces in one year. And Oliver Stone hardly ever lets you down (other than Any Given Sunday). I’d like to see Sideways and Finding Neverland make a splash too. And eternal sunshine deserves the Oscar for best original screenplay hands down, no what the box office or how long ago it was released.

  3. bicycle bob says:

    not too interested in this especially from joel s

  4. mrbeaks says:

    I don’t know about desperation, but I find it very hard to believe that a Joel Schumacher-directed adaptation of an overwhelmingly mediocre musical that swept the 1988 Tony Awards by sole virtue of its razzle-dazzle, chandelier dropping stagecraft will contend for anything other than the costume and production design Oscars. I seem to remember another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical being hailed as a sure front-runner two months before its unveiling back in 1996. That film at least had a previously nominated director, genuine movie stars and a brand new Webber-Rice composition to stir additional interest. Though that combination was ultimately good for a solid five nominations in the “Year of the Independent”, once everyone saw the film and remembered how utterly corny a Lloyd Webber musical can be when stripped of its live spectacle, it ceased to be a legitimate Best Picture candidate. The same, I am sure, will happen to PHANTOM.

  5. David Poland says:

    Interesting that the last Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on film was against a Mike Leigh and a Jim Brooks film…
    I would argue that Evita got dragged down by Madonna, the entire thing becoming a referendum on her performance, which was lacking. The film has aged better than a few of the titles that did get nominated that year. And Banderas certainly deserved a nomination for that film. Phantom is not carrying that baggage.
    Also, Evita was a historical drama. The story of The Phantom is a true movie perennial, musical or otherwise. And Phantom was the second true cult show on Broadway and the world, following Cats. This is not Evita.
    Certainly, it may come up short. But I think it is being dismissed out of hand by far too many of the hip crowd. It won’t be hip. But since when was The Academy hip?

  6. Mark says:

    Evita was just a bad movie. Regardless of Madonna.

  7. bicycle bob says:

    i may be crazy but schumacher directing an academy award winning movie?

  8. Spencer Shannon says:

    To Mr. Poland, I believe you used to be at another OSCAR related website. Am I correct in this theory?
    Plus, please reply anyway & just let us at “oscartalk” I personally write for about 5 other ACADEMY AWARD related sites as well. However, i wish you had somekind of “newsletter?”
    Please reply & I thank you

  9. macavity says:

    people everywhere are content with spouting Andrew Lloyd-Webber cliches. the man is a superb composer, with tempo shifts and tricky key changes, melodic leaps, and a lot of technical musical and personal training to back him up. Schumacher is a visual wizard whose made some bad bad bad movies. so what? anything is possible. After all, Cuba Gooding Jr, won an Oscar for a paltry performance in a paltry movie.

  10. Mark says:

    Jerry Maguire paltry? You obviously don’t know good films.

  11. PeppersDad says:

    As a New Yorker for most of my life, I grew up with and know a lot about musical theatre. One of the dirty little secrets about Phantom of the Opera is that, like most every Andrew Lloyd Webber showcase, it’s held in disdain by serious Broadway aficionados. Webber is to the Broadway theatre what George Lucas has been to film: he has ruinously converted the institution into a commodity for theme-ride blockbusters, and anything of a smaller scale that doesn’t lure in under-informed tourists has been progressively shunted aside.
    Webber’s not really a hack. He’s just boring. The typical Webber musical has one, on rare occasion two, memorable tunes that stick in your head after the curtain has fallen. He tries to compensate by repetitiously drilling those melodies endlessly throughout his respective shows, which are gargantuan productions that are staged spectacularly with no expense spared. But at their core the shows are vapid and musically inadequate.
    When seeing such grand productions, I always try to imagine whether the show would work on a smaller scale. Webber’s shows always fail this test. A stripped-down Phantom? A community theatre staging of Cats? A high school production of Evita? Forget about it. Once exposed, there’s just no there there. That goes for the musical numbers, too. Does the typical theatregoer remember a single song from Cats other than “Memory”? Or “Music of the Night” from Phantom? Or “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from Evita?
    Compare that to all of the memorable songs from Oklahoma, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, etc. (hell, even Rent.) Now in his fourth decade of musical “showmanship,” Webber has had his greatest showtunes comprehensively (not just adequately) collected on single-CD sets. Could the same be done reasonably for Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Kander & Ebb, or Stephen Sondheim?
    So, while I’m not a fan of his, let’s not be too quick to throw darts at director Joel Schumacher. (While I haven’t yet seen the film, I think his overstuffed directorial style is perfectly suited for this type of Grand Guignol nonsense.) Let’s instead focus the blame on where I’m confident it will belong. Ultimately, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, the movie, will likely disappoint critically and commercially for the very same reason the film of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita tanked: the megablockbuster show upon which it’s based really stinks.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

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