I hope so, as it’s certainly costing Fox Searchlight a pretty penny. Although, I don’t mean “expensive” strictly in the pecuniary sense. No, I mean that your Oscar campaign for Shame is coming at the expense of others, notably Fox Searchlight’s other title, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Just as you dumped A Dangerous Method in order to support Shame—and improved Oscar chances—so Fox Searchlight seems to have dumped MMMM in favor of Shame as well.
Don’t get me wrong, Michael—I’m not blaming you. I’ve said it before and I’ll stick to it—Hollywood is not a team sport. You don’t get very far by trying to make everyone happy. Certainly David Cronenberg was pissed when you bailed on supporting A Dangerous Method in Toronto so that you could stay in Venice and accept your Best Actor prize for Shame, but let’s be real. A Dangerous Method was not going to get you invited to the Kodak next February. A few months ago I thought this situation would be reversed, that A Dangerous Method and Best Supporting Actor were your most likely options, but when Method wasn’t received quite as warmly as expected, you made the right call and promptly threw your hat into the ring with Shame and a Best Actor bid.
But I’m not going to lie. I’m disappointed that MMMM is being left in the dust. It’s a very good movie*, especially as a first-time effort from writer/director Sean Durkin. After seeing it a few months ago, I thought it would be a shoo-in for the “charming indie that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of actually winning anything” spot filled last year by Winter’s Bone. And I thought Elizabeth Olsen was the natural choice for the obligatory young’un nomination for Best Actress. But Olsen hasn’t separated herself all that well from the other breakout It Girls this year (Felicity Jones, Rooney Mara, Shailene Woodley). And then Searchlight picked up Shame and everyone started going nuts for you (as per usual), and the writing was on the wall for MMMM. There are only so many resources during Oscar season and you and Clooney are hogging them.
Oh don’t be mad. I don’t mean to be cruel. I’m just a little pouty that in this, a year with no clear frontrunner and thus a wide-open field, a truly good and original movie like MMMM is getting side-lined. But it’s not like it’s being side-lined for trash. It’s for you, and Shame, and that’s no little consolation. And really, your politicking through this process has been mostly flawless (I still don’t think you handled the TIFF/Venice thing that well but we’ll let bygones be bygones). Surely your natural Irish charm helps, but you’ve been so smooth and effective, selling Shame at the various festivals and special screenings. You’ve made some appearances for Method, too, so it doesn’t look like you’ve completely abandoned it but it’s clear where you’ve laid your Oscar hopes.
Your nomination is looking more assured every day, even if Shame itself is a tougher sell with that NC-17 rating—I’m not sure enough Academy voters will get out to see it. But a big upside to Searchlight’s fancy campaign is that the NC-17 rating is being treated not as a death knell but as a sign of movies made by grown-ups, for grown-ups. If Shame opens well this weekend, it could go a long way to eliminating the stigma of the NC-17.
You’re a natural politician, Michael. I didn’t expect you to be quite this good at the game on your first go round. I hope you land the nomination just so we can see what your game looks like when you move to the next level.
*(From Lainey: Someone asked during the LiveBlog last week whether or not Sarah and I ever disagree. We disagree on a LOT. And MMMM is a good example. I didn’t really care for it. I mean it didn’t suck and as Sarah says, it’s a good first effort from the director, but that’s the point - it’s a first effort. It feels like a first effort. And I don’t think this particular first effort deserves to be ranked among the best of the year.)