Directed By: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen, Lucy Punch, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford
Synopsis: A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children’s stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.
Why It Could Succeed
Amazing Ensemble: Casts don’t come much starrier than the one for Into the Woods. Every letter in the EGOT is covered by the cast and Rob Marshall seemed to find a balance between classically trained singers and those that are not. Meryl Streep will certainly be gunning for Oscar number 4 with her role as the Witch, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick should find themselves back in awards contention. Of the cast I’m most excited for Tony Award winner James Corden tackling the role of The Baker and Oscar nominated actress Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. Both have the most sympathetic characters and wonderful moments in the show.
The Sondheim Prestige: Stephen Sondheim is a legendary figure on Broadway and with an adaptation of his musicals comes his awesome tunes. I mean the first act of this musical is written in iambic pentameter! But more than that, Into The Woods combines playful fairtytales and Sondheim’s adult themes very well. Also, the songs are awesome.
Walt Disney Studios: Yes Disney failed to get a nomination for Saving Mr. Banks, but with Into the Woods they have perhaps their best shot for a live action Best Picture winner given that it plays both into their history dealing with fairy tales and is a bit more adult than other fare they usually release.
Why It Could Fail
Dark Material: “Wishes come true, not free” is a line from the musical that can give you a glimpse as to what might be in story. The second half of this musical deals with some serious subject matter and while that makes it a good musical, could that turn some people away give what the characters attempt to do? Not everyone gets a happy ending and some of the characters make very unlikable choices, it’ll have to walk a fine line.
Genre Bias: Despite some of the best movies ever made being of the musical variety, musicals have to claw and scratch their way for respect. It’s the only genre aside from horror where inherent biases are allowed to color a screening experience. What does this mean for Into The Woods? Well if the movie is met with a tepid critical response (think 70s on RT) and a less than stellar box office (less than $100 million US) the film will have a tough time making the lineup, even in an expanded field. Les Miserables got savaged by LA critics but that $400 million worldwide is hard to ignore. Into the Woods will need a sizeable haul as well.
Late Release: Christmas movies have been massively successful these past few years but they haven’t really yielded Best Pictures. Since 2000 only 5 BP winners released in December have won. More and more it seems as though the films being looked at for Best Picture wins have come in the October timeframe. Into the Woods will be in a dogfight with other big Oscar contenders and if it doesn’t differentiate itself with a well received festival screening or being an instant box office hit, it could get drowned out. If it had an earlier release, it could ride past the takedowns, but being released at year’s end…
Category Confusion/Fraud: Massive ensembles may work for SAG but come Oscar time, it’s easier to get nominated if they can easily place you in a category. Into the Woods is a real ensemble piece, especially amongst the women. If we go by Tony Award categorizations from the Broadway productions then the roles of the Baker’s wife (Blunt) and the witch (Streep) would be considered lead and Cinderella supporting. But there’s word that Streep will go supporting but she’s being written a new song and Kendrick’s role is really the heart of the film and dominates the second half…and already you can see where issues may arise. Also the parts that were once played by one person (the Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince) have been split. The last thing you want to do is leave the Academy in limbo of where to put you (like Marion Cotillard in 2009).
Actor (James Corden)
Actress (Emily Blunt)
Supporting Actress (Streep, Kendrick)
Supporting Actor (Johnny Depp)
Adapted Screenplay (although musicals do terrible here)
Makeup and Hairstyling