Oscar Films Stumble in Race to the Starting Gate

roadx large Oscar Films Stumble in Race to the Starting GateIf you’re looking for a meme to grab onto during the upcoming Oscar season, try this: in an effort to make pre-established release dates, studios are rushing their prestige films to the detriment of the product. And we thought that only happened with summer tent poles!

We first noticed a month ago when The Weinstein Company pushed John Hillcoat’s version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road back until 2009 because it wasn’t going to be ready for its November 26th release date. Fine. It’s nice to see TWC head Harvey Weinstein show some restraint, right? Unfortunately for The Road, that change didn’t happen until after some advanced screenings lead to negative reactions on the internets. Whoops! The Viggo Mortensen downer is now cloaked in uncertainty.

The Reader, Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of the acclaimed novel, met a different fate. After a power struggle between the aforementioned Mr. Weinstein and producer Scott Rudin over the release of the film, the film will finally reach theaters on December 12th. The trailer hit the web this weekend; The Reader is certain to draw awards attention to Kate Winslet, but chances are it won’t be a major player. Wouldn’t The Reader have benefited from more time? At least Mr. Rudin seemed to think so.

Speaking of time, Slumdog Millionaire could use some extra. Fox Searchlight snagged the rights to Danny Boyle’s festival smash and promptly set a platform release starting on November 12th. Great! A happy ending! Just one problem; the film got an R-rating from the MPAA. Rather than appeal the completely arbitrary decision and try for a PG-13, something that would allow Slumdog to reach a wider audience, Fox Searchlight has abandoned the cause. Any holdup would stick the film in a turnaround and prevent it from making its release date. Doh!

We didn’t even mention Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, which, three weeks from its debut, is still not finished.

Maybe we’re naïve, but we thought the year-end films were coddled and cared for, not thrown into the crowded winter months unprepared to fend for themselves. The Slumdog Millionaire‘s of the world are being treated no better than their populist summer brethren, rushed in an effort to make the date on the poster. Still, this upside-down and unhappy development has us excited for one reason. Since Oscar films are being treated like summer blockbusters, maybe that means the opposite will happen too. Memo to Christopher Nolan: get your tux cleaned.