Crushed under the Awards Campaign Machinery

Why do you suppose studios campaign hopelessly for yet bury small films in the middle of awards season? Yes, one imagines its to stoke the egos of the films participants, but by all but ensuring that these movies never emerge out from under an avalanche of other bigger-noisier-often-crummier movies, youd think those egos would be pulverized under all that detritus by the idea of their work not being seen by anyone. Im thinking specifically of a handful of films that were allowed to die in limited release, never given even the chance to strike out with a larger audience: “Shopgirl, “Bee Season and “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Im not saying any of these films are particularly accomplished Im suggesting theyre probably not good enough to earn significant awards support but good enough to find larger audiences than they were allowed to. I wonder at what point did the studios behind these movies decide/realize they were going to dump these things, that they werent really even going to try to find them audiences?

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Of the three, “Shopgirl got the biggest push. But it never opened wide, which is puzzling why not open a Steve Martin movie wide? Particularly one based on a Steve Martin bestseller? By the time filmgoers realize this is a more understated film than they mightve expected from the guy whos spending much of his time appearing in junk franchises like “Cheaper by the Dozen, the film wouldve basically made its money back.

“Bee Season was also a bestseller, and stars Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche, who have been in films that have figured in year-end awards in the past, even scoring a nomination or minor win themselves (anything other than an Oscar Im calling minor sorry, but you know thats everyones Grail, not a Globe). But again, a quiet movie, a dithering limited run and a box office of less than $2 million. “Prize Winner which was also based on a bestseller, and starred Julianne Moore, who likewise gets nominated for much of her recent work fared even worse, dropping from sight before it made even half a million. Meaning that it was probably seen by fewer people in the whole country than who live in your neighborhood. Thats just sloppy, or lazy, or stupid. The executives knew when they greenlit these things that they didn’t have any car chases or shoot-outs, so why did they make them if only to dump them? To punish people with aspirations more precious than crass commercialism?

When actors of this caliber put effort into a project, why cant the marketing department respond in kind? Wouldnt it make sense to forgo awards hopes for such movies and give them wider releases in the spring, before the onslaught of summer tentpole junk? If they can market Vin Diesel to teenagers, why cant they market Julianne Moore to adults?

And by the way, do you think Usher cares that no one cared about his pop-junk film “In the Mix? See, youve forgotten it already: It came out less than a month ago, and got a bigger push than any of the aforementioned movies. Do people working long hours on these things really accept the notion that their efforts are that dispensable? Just asking.

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