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Oscar Watching: Everything in CLOUD ATLAS is Connected but Not to Oscar

So, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski’s bold ensemble piece Cloud Atlas hit theaters this weekend, and audiences are showing little interest. For whatever my $0.02 is worth, the film is spectacular. It’s a film that stumbles quite often in its individual threads – there are six different stories to follow and one of them hardly works – but meshes together wonderfully in its themes of connectedness. The cast puts in (mostly) stellar work throughout, and the casting and editing exemplify the connecting themes and character dilemmas in each of the six stories.

In short, I love it and think it’s a must-see that’ll certainly throw some people into a tizzy over silly things. For instance, I imagine several have already thought, “How dare you suggest that the gays are actually people and share some kind of connection with me on a human level!” Not to promote my own work, but check out my review if you want to know why Cloud Atlas deserves a large audience. Our own Shemoviegeek is a huge fan as well.

Much to my dismay, the Oscars aren’t about what I think. I’ve long suggested the film would be a contender for picture and director nominations, as well as bids in the acting categories and adapted screenplay race. I admittedly suggested all of this before I saw the film – before even the major critics and films journos did – but I would have believed in Cloud Atlas as a contender just by watching the film itself if not for the reviews.

Xun Zhou and Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas

As it turns out, I was probably wrong since the reviews are vital to its awards success. A tepidly critiqued film that fails to draw in a huge crowd in the States doesn’t have Oscar voters checking off the ballot boxes unless its name is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and that’s an Oscar-baiting movie if there ever was one. Cloud Atlas can play the ambition card this season like few other films this year – or in other years – can, but critics have arrived at no real consensus on the film. Perhaps we should have expected as much given its “love it or hate it” nature that lurked even at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received an incredible standing ovation. Cloud Atlas sits in the middle of the critical spectrum, having several raves, some positive responses and probably just as many middling reactions, and a good chunk that are down on it.

I assume the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (i.e. Golden Globe voters) might have its eye on Cloud Atlas thanks to the star power brought primarily by Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. But this group, which many refer to as “starf–kers,” snubbed the aforementioned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Larry Crowne last year. Both films starred Hanks – he also directed and co-wrote the latter – and A-list Oscar winners like Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts handled the primary female roles of Close and Crowne, respectively.

Cloud Atlas might ride the understandable controversy surrounding its cast stepping into roles of different genders and ethnicities all the way to significant Oscar recognition, but I’m doubtful that it’ll happen. Unless it can pull in a decent audience in the coming weeks, I can’t imagine it becoming a legitimate contender despite my great admiration for it. The film’s best shot at major awards attention would be at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. The 2009 musical Nine – another star-filled movie that people buzzed about until they saw it – earned a bid in that category despite its awards-season tumbles (it didn’t even win best motion picture comedy or musical at the musical-loving Globes). Whatever happens, Cloud Atlas will be part of cinematic discussion long after this awards season is over, a claim few of this year’s bona fide contenders can probably make.

Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston in Argo

But enough babbling about a movie that probably won’t get too far with Oscar voters. Argo finally topped the box office over the weekend in its third frame. It’s the first film to do so since The Blind Side, which earned a best picture nomination. Of course, Ben Affleck’s thriller is in a far more convenient place regarding the Oscars since it’s the presumed front-runner to win picture, director, and perhaps several other prizes.

Ben Lewin’s The Sessions, for which John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy might return to the Oscar hunt, holds strong in its second weekend of limited release. So does Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, which might contend in best original song for the tune “Who Were We” that Kylie Minogue performs in the film but probably won’t be a major contender overall. Julia Loktev’s thriller The Loneliest Planet, starring Gael García Bernal, had an impressive debut in limited release, but there’s been little buzz for the film.

The Hollywood Reporter found out that Erik Canuel‘s Barrymore would hit locations in Los Angeles and New York City on Nov. 15. Perhaps Christopher Plummer, who just took home an Oscar  for Beginners, will join the best actor fray for the first time. He won raves out of Toronto last year for his portrayal of John Barrymore in what’s more or less one-man show. He also picked up a Tony Award for his stage rendition in the 90s, so we shouldn’t count him of the running even if the best actor race is stacked.

Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock kicks off the AFI Fest tomorrow, and contenders like Robert ZemeckisFlight and the Disney feature Wreck-It Ralph – which our own Kevin Taylor rather enjoys – hit theaters on Friday, so it’s safe to say that next week’s Oscar Watching will probably make for a more interesting read.

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.