Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.
FILM: “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected”
PRODUCERS: Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, and Lila Yacoub
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
WRITER: Noah Baumbach
CAST: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Grace Van Patten, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel, Adam David Thompson, Judd Hirsch, Ronald Peet, Adam Driver, Rebecca Miller, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Chernus, Mickey Sumner, and more
SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.
WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: Few filmmakers have more capably depicted dysfunctional families on camera than Noah Baumbach. He’s back mining that fertile territory with “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected,” fresh off a debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Baumbach often operates right on the edge of the awards season, seemingly about to be a contender but then not one. This high class debut for the flick, along with the seemingly empty pockets of Netflix, will give him his biggest launch yet. On occasion, Baumbach is compared to Woody Allen. Making this sort of dramedy into a player would help make that comparison even more apt. Hell, it could make him something of an heir to the throne.
Joining Baumbach once again is Ben Stiller in a central role, though much of the early praise has gone to Adam Sandler, who proves once again that when he plays it straight, strong reviews tend to follow. Sandler, along with the perfectly cast Dustin Hoffman, represent well thought out newcomers to the director’s fold. The three of them get to play off of each other, essaying something slightly different than the normal, character wise. Combining those actors with Baumbach’s specific style and there’s a recipe for success here. Plus, with talented ladies also on hand like Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson, and Grace Van Patten, this is an acting showcase for sure.
At Cannes, critics were fond of this film. In particular, Sandler received some the best notices that he’s gotten in years. When Sandler can get more acclaim than Hoffman, Stiller, or Thompson, that’s something. Hell, he outpaced Baumbach himself, not to mention cinematographer Robbie Ryan and composer Randy Newman. Depending on how the year shakes out, Sandler could help fuel some success for this project. That may sound odd, but it’s true. Especially if there’s no longer a Netflix bias (more on that later), this could be something the service really pushes. After all, wouldn’t it validate their investment in him in an even bigger way?
If Netflix can finally break through with Oscar this year, there’s a chance that “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected” can be the one to help do it. Producer Scott Rudin will undoubtedly do his part for Baumbach and company. It doesn’t appear to be an easy sell, but it’s the sort of thing that Rudin has a knack for. Sleep on this one at your own risk. At the very least, it will have a shot to make a play later on in 2017.
WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: Despite a high respect level among his peers, Baumbach has only had one of his movies catch on with the Academy. The buzz at Cannes was solid, but not overwhelming. “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected” doesn’t seem to be “The Squid and the Whale“. As much as Sandler led the charge, is he going to excite enough voters to make this a thing? There’s reason to doubt that. Without even being the most acclaimed Cannes title, it can make things a tough sell. Nothing here really screams a need for a citation, so that puts the movie at an immediate disadvantage.
Then, there’s the Netflix issue. The industry has clearly not embraced the streaming service in the same way that they have with Amazon and their Amazon Studios wing. That will change one day, but even at the festival there’s still some unease about their entrance into cinema. When something like “Beasts of No Nation” struggles, a more genial work like this one seems all too easy to pass on. It will be a statement when a Netflix title really makes a top tier Oscar showing. Will the powers that be deem this one the one to make the statement with?
In order for “The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected” to succeed, it will need Netflix to spend heavily and for some early precursors to cite Sandler. That might not be too likely, but anything is possible. This is one of the more interesting titles to keep an eye on as the year progresses. Stay tuned for more on the movie!
POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
Motion Picture – Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub
Director – Noah Baumbach
Actor in a Leading Role – Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller
Actor in a Supporting Role – Dustin Hoffman
Actress in a Supporting Role – Grace Van Patten
Original Screenplay – Noah Baumbach
Production Design – Gerald Sullivan
Cinematography – Robbie Ryan
Film Editing – Jennifer Lame
Original Score – Randy Newman