Oscar Moment: “Crazy Heart”

9 12 2009

Here’s a little Oscar story for you, told just like a fairy tale!

Once upon a time, there was a studio called Fox Searchlight.  This was a specialty studio, so their job was to release movies that would be critically acclaimed and win lots of Oscars.

But in September, it was becoming inherently clear that things weren’t quite panning out for Fox Searchlight.  “(500) Days of Summer” and “Adam” weren’t really Academy-type movies, and “Amelia” was a huge bomb with critics.  With only Wes Anderson’s animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” left to release, they didn’t seem to have any viable candidate for big categories at the Oscars (although some author’s commentary: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserve to be nominated).

Fox Searchlight, who gave us last year’s Best Picture “Slumdog Millionaire,” had to do something to put themselves on the awards season map.  So they used a trick play and moved “Crazy Heart,” originally scheduled for release in 2010, up to December 2009.

“Crazy Heart” is about an aged, washed-up country singer who falls in love with a younger female journalist and begins the trek back to the place he loves the most: the stage.

Does this sound familiar?  Think back to just last year…

“The Wrestler” is about an aged, washed-up wrestler who falls in love with a younger female stripper and begins the trek back to the place he loves the most: the ring.

But the comparisons shouldn’t stop there.  Both movies feature a sort of “rebirth” performance from their lead actors who have been ignored by the Oscars previously.  Jeff Bridges, the main man of “Crazy Heart,” has not hit the depths quite like “The Wrestler”‘s Mickey Rourke, whose struggles with drug abuse were widely publicized.  Bridges, on the other hand, has been doing rounds as a valuable character actor over the past few years and has deep respect in the industry.  However, Fox Searchlight wants to make sure that we know that he has been an Oscar bridesmaid four times.  They also make the somewhat hyperbolic claim that this is “the performance of a lifetime.”  I think its pretty safe to say that all the hopes of this movie ride on Bridges’ shoulders.

And just look at the trailers.  They are practically the same, even down to the guitar-strumming melodies behind them (the tune for “Crazy Heart” is Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind”).

So, will this be a fairy-tale ending for Fox Searchlight?  That’s largely up to you, the moviegoer, who makes the business, and the critics, who give the awards and write the reviews.  At the moment, the latter have not shown much love.  The Washington, D.C. Film Critics did not even nominate Bridges for Best Actor.

One interesting note: Mickey Rourke lost the Oscar to a gay man played by Sean Penn.  Could Bridges lose to Colin Firth, who plays a darker homosexual in “A Single Man?”

We’ll find out the ending on a Sunday night in March…

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Song (“The Weary Kind”)

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

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