Saturday, February 20, 2010

Would 'Shutter Island' Have Been A Contenda?

Most everyone knows by now that Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island was originally set to be released on October 2nd of last year in hopes of being a major Oscar contender. However, back in late August, Paramout Chief Brad Grey came out and said that the best thing for the film and the studio would be an early 2010 release. At the time, the statement was a shocker, and led many to believe that this film was doomed to be forgotten, much like Joe Wright's The Soloist was. However, after seeing the fantastic piece of work that is Shutter Island, I firmly believe that it will be remembered as one of the director's most ambitious efforts. Variety is already reporting that the film took in an estimated $14 million on Friday night, and could be well on its way to becoming the director's highest-grossing film ever.

In terms of the style of the film and the subject matter, it is the furthest thing from Oscar bait, and had the original release date been kept, I doubt that it would have been in the Best Picture race. It certainly would have had a shot at the #10 slot, but I feel that reviews have been mixed and controversial to the point where it would have had trouble finding enough votes. I also believe that the Best Director race was too solidified to make room for Martin Scorsese. He might have been in the same boat as Clint Eastwood (Invictus), fighting for an outside shot at the #5 position, but I still think the love for Precious would have been enough to secure a nomination for Lee Daniels.

However, I can't help but believe Shutter Island would have had impact in some other major categories, such as the following:
  • Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio has been snubbed far too often by the Academy, and with Shutter Island, he is as good as he's ever been. Especially after being left out for his terrific work in Revolutionary Road, I think that the Academy might have felt the need to give him another nomination. The support behind Invictus continuously decreased throughout the awards season, and it's quite possible that DiCaprio could have jumped Morgan Freeman for a final spot in the top five.
  • Best Supporting Actor: This was a relatively weak category that surprisingly offered no wild cards from the Academy. Everyone who had been expecting a nomination in this category -- based on the Globes and the SAGs -- got one. However, I think some of the players were weak enough where Ben Kingsley or Mark Ruffalo could have thrown a curveball into the race. Ruffalo is a well-liked and respected actor, and he hasn't quite gotten his due yet. Even though the role wasn't as meaty as it could have been, I'm sure there are plenty of voters out there who would have loved a chance to give this guy some well-deserved recognition. Ben Kingsley has the more flashy role of the two, but I have a hard time believing that the Academy would have given a nomination to this Oscar winner over a nomination-less old-timer like Christopher Plummer.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams had a very tricky role in this film, and a lot of the emotional impact relied on the effectiveness of her performance. She would have also been helped by the fluidity of the category, which features a last-minute nominee in the form of Maggie Gyllenhaal, and also, in the form of Penelope Cruz, a nominee that the Academy wouldn't have had too much trouble passing up after her Oscar-winning performance just a year ago. It also doesn't hurt that Williams gave an absolutely heartbreaking performance in Wendy and Lucy that ended up being shut out by Melissa Leo of Frozen River.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: This would have been one of the toughest nods for Shutter Island to lock up, but it's stock would have been helped by another shaky category, and the well-respected source material. Dennis Lehane has proven to be an author that screenwriters should keep their eye on, as Mystic River received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination back in 2004, and Gone Baby Gone came awfully close to one in 2008. The adaptation came courtesy of Laeta Kalogridis who, although she doesn't have many notable writing experiences to date, was attached as an executive producer for Avatar. Take that information for what you will, but it is certainly something that wouldn't have dimmed her chances.
That's my take on the issue. With all of the stunning performances in this film, I would have been shocked if it didn't receive at least one acting nomination. Do you think it would have had a shot in any other categories? Feel free to chime in about the technicals as well. 

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