Oscar Moment: “The Lovely Bones”

15 12 2009

In honor of its release in New York and Los Angeles, I figured “The Lovely Bones” would make good material for an Oscar Moment.

I have read Alice Sebold’s novel, the source material for the movie, and I have gone on the record expressing my distaste.  However, I am the member of a vast minority who feels that way.  A lot of people love the story of Susie Salmon, the 14-year-old that is murdered by your friendly neighborhood pedophile.  The story progresses with Susie watching from some sort of “heaven” as her family struggles to deal with her absence while hanging on to the slim hope that she might be alive somewhere.  I don’t mind depressing stories (in fact, “Revolutionary Road” is one of my favorite books and movies), but Sebold gives us such melodramatic plot and characters that there is no way to conclude with any sense of satisfaction.

As I read the book, I kept thinking to myself how it would not transfer well to the screen, especially Susie’s very vaguely written heaven.  One of the things I did admire about the book was how Sebold allowed the reader to make of this mystical place what they wanted.  She probably had her ideas about what it would look like, and I had mine.

Yet almost instantly after I finished the book, I heard that Peter Jackson was adapting “The Lovely Bones” into a film.  Although I had a hard time following the plot of “The Lord of the Rings” throughout the trilogy, I did admire Jackson’s ability to create such a fantastic universe for the series.  My initial reaction to the announcement was curiosity, and then followed by a bit of reassurance.  Spawning Susie’s heaven would be a daunting task, but I had a feeling that Jackson was one of very few who could do a good job of creating it.

The initial critical reaction seems to suggest that Jackson did not quite get it.  The film currently holds a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (a 28% from top critics) and a 44 on Metacritic.  I’m a firm believer in the idea that critics don’t decide a movie’s awards success, but not even a fool can deny that they have an impact.  In the past five years, there has not been a movie with a Metacritic rating lower than 69 or a 68% Rotten Tomatoes rating nominated for Best Picture in the past 5 years.  I don’t think we can rule out Best Picture entirely, but Paramount’s blundering of the release schedule may have put the nail in the coffin.  In order for a movie that received this poor of a critical reception to score at the Oscars, it needs to be well-received by audiences.  And with “The Lovely Bones” not hitting most theaters until Martin Luther King weekend (only a week before nomination ballots are due), it would probably be too late to sway the tides in its favor.  “Gran Torino” learned this lesson the hard way last year.

Other than a Critic’s Choice nomination for Saiorse Ronan, the only blip that “The Lovely Bones” has made on the awards circuit radar so far has been for Stanley Tucci’s performance as Susie’s murderer George Harvey.  Tucci is a very likable actor who has always brightened movies with his presence, but now he has given a haunting performance that critics seem to agree is one of the few redeeming features of the movie.  He also has the success of “Julie & Julia” going for him, and the Academy loves to give nominations for a great year of work (for example, Kate Winslet ostensibly for “The Reader” but also for “Revolutionary Road”).  On a sadder note, there may be some sympathy for Tucci after losing his wife of nearly 15 years to cancer this May.

The only thing certain about the Oscar season is that nothing is certain.  So as much as I would like to say that “The Lovely Bones” is dead on arrival, I simply cannot.  Who knows what factors will come into play in the 2 1/2 months before the ceremony?  Maybe the movie will gain a huge surge of popularity that becomes too big to deny for Academy voters.  But only time will tell what happens.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Tucci)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Saiorse Ronan), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects

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2 responses

17 12 2009
7tavern admin

Hi,  
 
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admin@7tavern.com

22 12 2009
cmrok93

Surprised to see that this did bad, but looked kind of sketchy when I heard Peter Jackson directed it, so now I see.

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