August 22, 2009

Say It Ain't So

Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker. I eagerly wait for each of his new films, and while I've heard a lot of people bitch and moan about how often he works with Leonardo DiCaprio, I feel that they've formed a dynamic creative partnership that has already given us some terrific movies. The Departed and The Aviator are both fantastic movies and when I heard they were pairing again to make Shutter Island I was quite keen to see what they would come up.

Shutter Island, based on the Dennis Lehane novel, sees DiCaprio playing a US Marshall sent to a remote island prison for the criminally insane to investigate a case of a woman that somehow went missing from the facility. Of course nothing is what it seems, and soon things take a turn for the spooky. Scorsese hasn't done the spooky thriller thing since his flawed but ultimately entertaining remake of Cape Fear and I was counting the days til the film came out in early October.

Well, I'm gonna be counting a bit longer. The film has been pushed from it's October release to a February 2010 release instead. I must admit that when the Shutter Island trailer came out, I was a little concerned with how paint by numbers the story seemed and how reliant it appeared to be on genre cliches, but wtih Scorsese, I'm obviously willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. So hearing the movie was going to be pushed out of Awards season, when it appeared to be the exact kind of film a studio would want on its schedule for a fall release set of alarm bells. Did Marty and Leo drop a stinker?

That certainly would appear to be the case, but the film tested very well and the limited online buzz there is for this flick is overwhelmingly positive. A report at /Film says the movie was pushed because the studio - hard hit by the recession - doesn't have the cash required to heavily market the movie for awards season.

What? Seriously?

Is this industry so fucked up now that a big movie with a movie star in the lead and an acclaimed director behind the camera gets pushed out of Awards season because the studio can't afford to blow $40 to $60 million bragging about their movie? What happened to just making movies and you know, showing them to people? The Academy Awards - which is rapidly becoming a punchline; this season they expanded the Best Picture category to ten films - ten! - instead of the normal five. Why? Well, they claim it's to spotlight more worthy films. Right. I call bullshit on this. It's so more studios can get the valuable buzz of re-printing their posters with "Nominated for Best Picture" on their hard to sell and increasingly rare "drama" films and try to recoup the costs. But, because Hollywood is Hollywood, in order to go from "nominated" to "winner" they then blow millions and millions of dollars promoting the film, sometimes spending more then the production budget of the film, because really, it's not about which film is actually the best, but rather, what campaign is better. If you think I'm being overly cynical, look no further then Shakespeare in Love, a good but not great movie that somehow got some Oscar love, not-so-coincidentaly after Harvey Weinstein aggresively campaigned for the flick with no regard to the boatloads of cash it cost Miramax.

Which brings us to Paramount and Shutter Island. The studio doesn't want the ego bruise of not being able to launch a big, stupid, self-congratulatory campaign as they try to buy Academy votes, so instead they bury their own prestige flick in February where nobody would expect such a campaign. Great idea.

This is beyond stupid.

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