There were two shots left at shaking up this year's horrifically locked in Oscar race: the musical Nine and Avatar. Well, after today's very mixed reviews of Nine, it looks like Oscar's only got one bullet left.
On paper, the film had everything an awards race could want; directed by Oscar winner Rob Marshall, revisiting the musical soil from which propelled Chicago to a million trophies; a cast filled with more Oscar bait than you can count including Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson and led by Oscar's golden boy himself Daniel Day Lewis; a story adapted from a cinema classic.
It should have been Nine's year, but the first indications are, it very much wont be.
Of the three reviews out on the streets, two are tepid at best. Although em>Variety's Todd McCarthy is very positive, this does not add up to the beginnings of a groundswell.
McCarthy called Nine a "savvy piece of musical filmmaking. Sophisticated, sexy and stylishly decked out, Rob Marshall's disciplined, tightly focused film impresses and amuses." He goes on to praise the handling of the adaptation of both the Broadway musical from whence it came and the Fellini film 8 1/2 on which the musical was loosely based.
So much for the nice. Over at the Hollywood Reporter, Kurt Honeycutt begins, "Nine marks the number of terrific acting and singing talents poorly used in this flat rendition of the Broadway musical...The disappointments are many here, from a starry cast the film ill uses to flat musical numbers that never fully integrate into the dramatic story. The only easy prediction is that Nine is not going to revive the slumbering musical film genre."
And over at The Hot Blog, David Poland can't slap enough hurt on the film to make it pay for his disappointment. He begins, Have you ever seen a singer with a great voice and no grasp of the lyrics? That's Rob Marshall. Nine is a movie with two memorable songs, performances that are routinely better than what the performers were given to perform, a problematically intense but not charming performance at the center, and most painfully, a lack of basic storytelling." And goes on in rich detail to count all the ways the film fails to live up to its promise, from a lifeless story construction to a charmless performance from Day Lewis.
So all that leaves us with an awards race right where it was last week, with the flawed campaigns of Precious, The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air keeping Oscar locked in their three-way death. Below is our end of the week check on the conventional wisdom of Oscar-land, with only three months and change to go:
↑ Up In the Air: Won the National Board of Review Best Film award which gives Air, dismissed by some as too lightweight, some needed gravitas.
↔ Precious: Strong showing at the Spirits nominations, but doubts persist about how well the heavy-handed story will wear in the long campaign. The National Board omitted the film from its top ten list altogether.
↓ The Hurt Locker: Was bizarrely ineligible for Spirits nominations as it was entered last year. Needing a break out win if its to maintain its place in the top three.
↓ The Lovely Bones: Met very mixed reviews in its London premiere, some saying the story is too Law And Order to make a serious contender.
↔ Invictus: Respectful but not jumping for joy buzz from early screenings. With Oscar having showered so many trophies on director Clint Eastwood already, will be likely reluctance to let him into the front of the race with a merely so so turn.
? Avatar: The last remaining question mark, unviewed by the critics. Despite a preponderance of early evidence to the contrary, some dare to hope for another Titanic to sweep the Oscar table clean.