SIXTEEN WEEKS TO GO

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 11, 2004 | Publication: Movie City News | Author: David Poland
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It's very scary to go out on the tightrope alone… and I don't really like to make declarative statements in the heat of a still developing Oscar season… but here I go…

The only movie that can keep The Phantom of The Opera from winning Best Picture is The Aviator.

Breathe.

Let me say it again. This is not about locking in a nomination. This is not a guess because the film is one my favorites, so it's got to happen. This is a film whose buzz has come, so far, 100%, from a handful of people who saw it in long lead screenings and have been pissing on it ever since. But they are wrong.

The Aviator is the only movie still little seen that has the size and the potential weight to kick Phantom out of a Best Picture win. It could do it two ways… it could beat The Phantom outright or it could create a split in the voting for the two big Old Hollywood pictures and allow a smaller film to sneak in through the back door. So it's not 100%. But anyone who thinks The Phantom Of The Opera isn't being nominated is, well, to be kind, just wrong.

I was expecting that the film would be pilloried by critics… and some will shriek. I would now estimate a Rotten Tomatoes response in the high 70s, a little lower for "The Cream of The Crop" perhaps. But the negatives will be for what the movie is, not for how the movie was made.

I'm not going to get any further into the movie itself, since I saw it only as an accomodation to prepare me for tonight's MCN Screening Series screening, which will be followed by a Q&A by Joel Schumacher. It is not the time for anything remotely resembling a review. (Honestly, I'll probably get yelled at for saying anything at all…)

But I can say this… it delivers on its aspirations. And even if you are not a Lloyd Webber fan, if you let yourself get into it, you will be drawn in.

To put it in Oscar terms, if Chicago was the new millennium answer to Cabaret, The Phantom of The Opera is the new millennium answer to Oliver. 11 nominations, 5 wins, including Best Picture.

I know… I know… I know…

And I remember hearing the same spit takes about The Pianist and Lord of the Rings and Charlize Theron when I was the first to call her a lock to win after seeing Monster at its AFI premiere last November.

And if there was a 2001: A Space Odyssey or a The Lion In Winter out there, as there was opposite Oliver!, I would simply be assuming that The Phantom had a good shot to be nominated. (The Aviator may turn out to be the Funny Girl of this year.) But the cupboard is bare… lots of really good movies, but not many great movies that are in the Academy wheelhouse.

Sideways is still looking like the top of my Top Ten while Phantom is unlikely to be on the list at all. But this is not about what I like… this is about The Academy and what flies there. A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator over Traffic, Crouching Tiger and Erin Brockovich, Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan, etc…

In this year, what film beats a huge, theater rumbling, traditional melodramatic film that satisfies? Ray? Sideways? Finding Neverland? Hotel Rwanda? Kinsey? Ain't happening. There is room for some small films to get nominated, but if there is a big movie that satisfies, you can be sure that it will be The One.

Look back… the last time a "small" movie won, it was American Beauty in 2000… which was up against The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense and The Insider. Movies like Being John Malkovich, The Straight Story, Boys Don't Cry, Magnolia and The Talented Mr. Ripley weren't even nominated. Before that, you have to go back more than a decade to Driving Miss Daisy for a truly small film that won.

But again… despite the hateful buzz coming out of a very, very small group of long lead journos, this movie does its job. It's not Chicago… because it's not supposed to be Chicago. And from what I am told, since I didn't see the live show, it has improved on one of the weaknesses of the show, The Phantom's back story. There are a few minor miscues in Joel Schumacher's work, but he absolutely got it right… for this movie… for this feel.

It's a very odd feeling, watching a film like this, feeling in your gut that it is "The One" from the first frames, getting excited, then getting dejected in the brief lulls, then excited again. But I was pretty damned sure of all of this by the time the film hit the half-way mark.

I'm expecting a lot of kicking and screaming about today's column. Who will be the first idiot to call Phantom a "red state movie" as it ascends in the race? How much tension will there be at that first big Academy screening? And how will I feel after watching the film a second time with 370 people at our screening?

I don't know... but mostly, I am anxious to see The Aviator and Spanglish... for then, I will have the full field in front of me... and then we can really get down to business.