Academy Lauds District 9 Screening; Is Oscar Race Next?
Oscar-watchers would have proposed this even without the five extra Best Picture berths this year, but District 9's critical and commercial receptions appear to have made it an unlikely contender in the early '09 awards-season race. And now, according to one report, even the Academy itself is investing in the hype.
Peter Bart is hardly anyone's gospel, but he made a few important points in a recent piece about District's swift dog-days momentum. Chief among them would be the reception that Neill Blomakmp's sci-fi hit scored at an Academy screening over the weekend, followed by an allusion to voters' preoccupations with gross, prestige and studio loyalty. Conceivably District has it all -- not to mention the Peter Jackson connection, which influenced Sony's initial buy-in back in 2007 and obviously retains deep cachet with Academy members.
Yet the Jackson link could provide just as much of a headache for the studio if it sought awards glory, thus forcing a showdown between District 9 and the director Jackson's more bloated, obvious Oscar-chaser The Lovely Bones. There's probably room enough for both to at least compete together (especially with The Hurt Locker's hopes fading early from lack of box-office traction), and August is the new October, judging from the international buzz afforded titles like Juno and Slumdog Millionaire just before their big September unveilings in North America.
Or, alternatively, maybe this all means nothing. Sony hasn't had a Best Picture nominee since 1997, when TriStar pushed As Good as it Gets into contention. On the other hand, it has no real potential horses in the field unless Julie and Julia manages some word-of-mouth streak deep into fall -- which it won't. So what's the worst that can happen? If the studio could market an inexpensive genre thriller to such lofty highs, who wouldn't want to see how it sells aliens to Oscar?
· Sony's Big Steal [BFDealMemo]