Last week’s movies – The Amazing Spider-Man, Katy Perry: Part of Me, and Savages – probably won’t make waves with the Academy, but at least one of this weekend’s smaller releases feels bound to be a favorite of AMPAS’ crafts voters.
But let’s talk about wide releases first. Sadly, Ice Age: Continental Drift was the only new offering for most across the country, and as such, it took the top spot at the box office with ease. Although the country has fallen in love with a saber-toothed squirrel that just can’t hold onto his acorn, it’s doubtful that the Academy will.
The first installment of the Ice Age franchise scored an Animated Feature nomination, but don’t count on the prehistoric animals making the cut this time around: Continental Drift carries a scathing 39% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a consensus that “it often seems content to recycle ideas from the previous films.
Even if those reviews weren’t enough to bury the film’s Oscar chances in the ground, it’s not performing as well as expected at the box office despite being the country’s number-one film. Box Office Mojo’s Ray Subers relays the following:
[quote]The fourth installment in the Ice Age series debuted to $46.6 million this weekend. That’s noticeably off from 2012′s previous animated efforts The Lorax ($70.2 million), [the previously discussed] Brave ($66.3 million) and Madagascar 3 ($60.3 million). It is at least on par with the first Ice Age ($46.3 million), though it’s much lower than 2006′s Ice Age: The Meltdown ($68 million).[/quote]
In short, Continental Drift will have little to no leverage in the Oscar race. If it’s not even being discussed for Animated Feature, there’s no way it’ll be in the running for other Academy prizes. However, this weekend may have given birth to a contender at the specialty box office.
While Continental Drift entertained the kiddies, older audiences with certain geographical advantages had the opportunity to catch Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen. Distributed by Cohen Media Group, the film took $72,100 from just four locations across the country. That’s almost four times more than the Emily Watson-led Oranges and Sunshine – another CMG-distributed film – took in last year when it opened in the same number of theaters.
Farewell stars Diane Kruger and Léa Seydoux as Marie Antoinette and a reader with whom the monarch had a close relationship. Even with relatively strong reviews and what looks to be impressive box office – both for Jacquot and CMG – it probably won’t be in the running for top prizes like Picture, Actress, or Supporting Actress. Still, the film might be a major player in the Costume Design race, where period pieces often receive attention even if they’re completely ignored elsewhere.
The latest Picture winner The Artist won an Oscar for its threads, but Anonymous, Jane Eyre, and W.E. – all of which were period pieces –earned their only Oscar nominations in Costume Design. Even when Tim Burton’s big-budget Alice in Wonderland nabbed the award the previous year, box-office disappointments I Am Love and The Tempest earned their sole nominations for their costumes.
Back in 2009 and 2008, The Young Victoria and The Duchess respectively took the Costume Design prize, though the period pieces neither won over the Academy at large nor made big waves at the box office. Those are just some recent examples, as the Academy’s costume branch is often kind to films that are more poorly received by other branches within the Academy.
The Academy’s branch of art directors is similarly inclusive of less-lauded titles, having nominated Sherlock Holmes, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and the last two Harry Potter films, along with aforementioned Duchess and Young Victoria, for Art Direction in recent years. The latter film also picked up a Makeup nomination, and if Farewell follows in its footsteps, it’ll be among the first films to be nominated for the newly named Makeup and Hairstyling.
A mainstream and far more obvious contender arrives this weekend as Christopher Nolan closes out his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. Academy Award winners Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman and newly anointed nominee Gary Oldman return, now being joined by winner Marion Cotillard, nominee Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy. The current plan is to discuss that one next week.