‘Into the Woods’ Lands On Oscar’s Doorstep, Will They Bite?

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intothewoods_bannerAt the Directors Guild Theater in New York City, the first official set of voting members, critics, and more set their eyes on Rob Marshall’s newest musical adaptation “Into the Woods” from Walt Disney Pictures.  Simultaneously screened in Los Angeles, and later a Q & A streamed on Yahoo! with stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, screenwriter James Lapine, and director Rob Marshall.  People are under heavy embargo until mid-December but the Twitter-sphere lit up last night with the first set of reactions.

As to be expected with a big movie musical, the reaction was mixed to positive on the film, at least based on the Twitter instant reactions.  We’ve said on podcasts, articles, and more around these parts, that “the musical” is the only genre in which someone who actively doesn’t like them, will give the film a negative take, no matter how good it is.  If you don’t like musicals, any film no matter if it’s Singin’ in the Rain” or “West Side Story” will pan the process.  You can already chalk about 13% off the Tomatometer for those individuals in the film criticism community that will review it.  itw_qaFrom an awards standpoint, we haven’t had a Best Picture winning film since Marshall’s “Chicago.”  Plowing through the season, Harvey and the awards machine behind him led the film to six Academy Awards.  Since then, and depending on what you consider “the movie musical,” only one film has contended in Best Picture and that was 2012’s “Les Miserables,” with its director Tom Hooper missing out on a Best Director nomination.  Looking at this year’s film landscape, “Into the Woods” fits nicely into its own niche.  With smaller films like “Boyhood,” “Whiplash,” and “A Most Violent Year” seeking citations from the Academy, the Disney machine, who hasn’t had a live action film nominated for Best Picture since “Mary Poppins” in 1964, should be able to create some serious damage on the road to the Dolby.

Around the board guild support helps a film of this caliber.  Production Design, Costumes, and Sound Mixing will be serious threats along the beat.  Disney is launching a huge campaign, focusing on the film’s cast and history of the musical, two things that AMPAS and other guilds will respond to.  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association will eat the film up with a spoon.  James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, and maybe even Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick will surely be in the conversation in the Musical/Comedy categories at the Golden Globes.  SAG will surely bark for the Ensemble with the BFCA likely to take on a similar reception.  Adapted Screenplay has been hard for musicals to achieve in these past few years.  “Chicago” was the last film to do so.  The respect for Lapine may carry some weight but I’m unsure, even with a dismal Adapted Screenplay race, if the film will be able to crack the lineup.

James Corden will definitely gain a following as he ventures off to take over for Craig Ferguson, a gig that he’s very nervous about.  He unfortunately sits in the thick of one of the most competitive Best Actor races in history.  He could demonstrate a similar narrative to that of Hugh Jackman when he scored for “Les Miserables,” however the light nature of his role will be hard to compete when standing next to quadriplegic Stephen Hawking, mathematician codebreaker Alan Turing, “schizophrenic” actor Riggan Thompson, and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr..  If anything, and at bare minimum, people will learn the UK performer’s name.

Emily Blunt has been on the verge of a nomination for years now.  “The Young Victoria” “The Devil Wears Prada,” in which she also starred alongside Streep, were both huge highlights for her.  In a presumed weak Best Actress, Blunt may be able to finally get her due, especially as the frontrunner to win the Golden Globe.  Since 2000, only two actresses have missed the Oscar nomination with winning Best Actress (Comedy or Musical).  Her only competition will likely come from Angelina Jolie (“Maleficent”) and perhaps Jennifer Aniston (“Cake”).

Meryl Streep will likely cake walk her away to another record breaking 19th Academy Award nomination.  If she does score another nomination, and if the film is nominated for Best Picture, this will be the first time that the two have correlated since “Out of Africa” in 1985.  Co-star Anna Kendrick may also find some wiggle room alongside Streep.  Showing off another example of her strong singing chops, many responded to her work.

Chris Pine surprised many.  One Academy member after the screening saying, “I can’t believe Captain Kirk can sing like that.”  This will be his strongest shot at awards recognition, and would be a welcomed one based on the word.

As a holiday musical, audiences should respond quite positively.  The entire premise that surrounds fairytale characters including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk, will get the butts in the seats.  This however, is one of Disney’s darkest ventures in the studio’s history.  Adult themes that play with life and death, adultery, and the consequences of our decisions will surely ignite conversations along the way.   It surely will be a box office hit.

The race continues.  Later this week, Oscar Predictions with a new Oscar Circuit column will be unveiled.

  • Roberto Hevia

    Out of Africa, in 1985*… Streep is amazing.

  • Chris Linke

    Oh, sweet Jesus, YES. Mixed to positive is always a good thing in my book.

  • A.j.

    If Kendrick gets in with Streep for supporting actress who’s out Knightley or is this going to be a fight for a nomination until the very end

    • Carlos.

      Arquette, Streep, Stone, Knightley seem really solid right now for noms with Chastain, Coon, Ejogo, Stewart all vying for that fifth spot. I don’t think Kendrick makes it, especially since most of the praise is going to Streep and Pine.
      It´s still november though so who knows…

  • L990227

    What about Depp?

  • Jeffrey Edwards

    Hi Clayton,

    So after having seen “Into The Woods”, do you still think of Emily Blunt as being the most likely candidate to take the ‘5th slot’?

    I’ve read some comments that, as fine as she is, she’s really more of a strong part of a quality ensemble and her role isn’t really a ‘lead’ performance. Even if she wins the ‘Lead Actress in a Comedy/ Musical’ at the Globes, the AMPAS voters would have already have returned their nominating ballots by then (so her winning the Globe won’t have a bearing on the eventual nomination line up).

    I think that Hilary Swank is looking like the strongest bet for that 5th slot.