You're a director with dreams of Oscar glory. Imagine you, the little filmmaker who could, onstage accepting the golden statuette, thanking your parents, your agent, all the people who "helped make this moment possible."
If you do make it there, be sure to leave room in your speech for more than the usual colleagues and relatives. To win an Oscar these days, it's usually no longer enough that your film be just good. It has to be superlative, sure, but it also has to have an awards pedigree, a million-dollar cast and, increasingly, a concerted, relentless publicity campaign. Before you can win, you first need awards buzz.
If there's one film this season that has been pulling out all the stops in pursuit of Oscar glory, it's "Dreamgirls," starring Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy (see "New Beyonce Single — And Eddie Murphy Singing — Featured In 'Dreamgirls' "). The new Bill Condon-helmed musical, based on the Tony Award-winning show and opening December 25, is topping several key categories on OscarWatch.com, the definitive online site for forecasting Academy nominations.
According to Hollywood Reporter writer Borys Kit, there's a recipe for Oscar success that "Dreamgirls" has followed to a tee. First, he says, start with an acclaimed director.
"Bill Condon has an Oscar pedigree," said Kit of the twice-nominated writer/director, who won a statuette for his screenplay adaptation of 1998's "Gods and Monsters."
Then make sure your movie is big on stars, especially ones playing against type. "Dreamgirls" boasts Oscar-winner Foxx, who won for his portrayal of Ray Charles in "Ray," but advanced buzz centers primarily on Eddie Murphy. Best known for his comedic work, Murphy stars as singer James "Thunder" Early, a role prognosticators peg as a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
But the best way to ensure lots of nominations is to generate word of mouth — and that starts with a carefully orchestrated publicity campaign. The Oscar campaign for "Dreamgirls" was under way well before the movie was finished: Looking to create advanced buzz for the flick, DreamWorks invited members of the press to visit the set last winter (see "Jamie Foxx Raves About Beyonce, Ribs Eddie Murphy At 'Dreamgirls' Event").
"They had a special day where they were shooting in downtown Los Angeles and they invited members of the press to come into this old movie theater, where they were shooting an onstage sequence," Kit explained. "So you had members of the press who sat in the audience, and they did a take. And you actually saw Beyoncé and all the stars sing, and they actually shot stuff, full lights and full crew and everything."
Kit credits this kind of openness with fostering a sense of ownership and interest among members of the press.
"You're already feeling kind of special because you're seeing this movie get made," Kit said. "The studio executives are there, and they're showing off. They're saying, 'We're very serious about this film, so please take us seriously.' "
And if you can get the press talking, well, you're halfway home. While reporters aren't voting members of the Academy, they can influence those who are.
"The whole media circuit is important [because it's] getting the word out on the movie," Kit said. "If all of a sudden there is Oscar buzz, that makes Academy members more aware that they should maybe pay attention to this film. That's what you want."
The Christmas Day release date of "Dreamgirls" is no accident. Of the last 10 Best Picture winners, only two ("Crash" and "Gladiator") opened before September in their respective years.
"In terms of Oscar contention, movies are released towards the end of the year because the campaign always starts in December and then [into] January and February, when the Oscar telecast happens," Kit explained.
"[People] tend to remember the last few movies they've seen, so that's why you stock the end of the year with these more serious, ponderous films."
Of course, all the buzz means nothing if you don't actually go out and deliver a good film, ostensibly still a prerequisite for winning an Oscar.
"It could still fall flat if you deliver a bad movie because all that stuff you've done will go nowhere," Kit said. "That's happened before. But DreamWorks really believes in this, [and] they're very good at running Oscar campaigns."
So good, in fact, that it wouldn't be surprising if Bill Condon thanks the studio from the podium after picking up another golden statuette.
Check out everything we've got on "Dreamgirls."
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