Trophy Talk: Is There an ‘Interstellar’ Smear Campaign?
People love watching famous people accept trophies. So, every so often, The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen and ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan will speculate about these trophies and which famous person might win one. It will be fun. Let’s talk some trophies! Today, we discuss smear campaigns against movies and the recent New York Times piece about Christopher Nolan and Jessica Chastain.
Mike: So, a couple of days ago, The New York Times ran a story stating that Christopher Nolan made his cast -- specifically Jessica Chastain -- sign a contract forbidding them from promoting any movie other than 'Interstellar' until mid-January. It's a fascinating article, but also doesn't present Mr. Nolan in the best light. And it really hampers Chastain who is probably not getting any nominations for 'Interstellar' considering that a few critics agree her part could have been cut out entirely and not affected the film. That descriptions doesn't define the kind of roles that are usually nominated, as opposed to her more meaty role in 'A Most Violent Year' -- you know, the one she can't talk about. Having said all that ... is this piece an example of awards season smear campaign?
Chris: I've been thinking about this for a couple of days -- it doesn't feel like a smear campaign in the way that we've seen in the past. (I'm reminded of the aspersions cast against 'Lincoln' for accuracy in 2012 as a prime example of that.) This is more like a David going up against a Goliath. 'A Most Violent Year' can't smear 'Interstellar,' per se, but a piece like this can maybe shame Nolan into allowing Chastain to do more work for the film. At least that's what I thought before 'A Most Violent Year' screened at AFI last night. Now, with reports that Chastain's role is definitely of the supporting variety onscreen -- even though A24 is positioning her as a lead-actress candidate offscreen -- I don't think anything will change. Nolan wants Chastain to get an Oscar nod for his movie. And while her part is often extraneous, she's good enough to be in the conversation in a weak year. But if Chastain's 'A Most Violent Year' performance looks like a supporting one, it'll detract from 'Interstellar,' even if she's not in the same category.
Mike: Let me ask you this, do you think what Nolan did was wrong or smart or both?
Chris: I actually think he was smart. Let me give you a little aside. When I was in high school, I was in the marching band and the regular band. And the regular band had practices that would sometimes conflict with marching band. And though both band leaders worked together in the school, each thought their practice should take precedent. It was a learning experience for me: People are really only concerned with their own things, and they have that right. Christopher Nolan has no obligation to worry about Jessica Chastain or J.C. Chandor; he only has to worry about himself. In this case, that's 'Interstellar.' And if it is going to rage, rage against the dying of the light -- in this case, its Oscar chances -- then all options should be on the table
Mike: Here's my aside: I was only so concerned with myself, that I would have never been a part of something that took as much time as a marching band. (Also: Nerd.) But, yeah, it makes him look like an ass, but people already kind of assume he's an ass, so I don't think this really hurts him one way or another. It just sounds like something he would do. I think it we found out that J.C. Chandor did this, there would be a lot of, "Well ... who does he think he is?"
Chris: (We had uniforms and everything. There was a plume.) But that's true. Yet I'll go one further: If J.C. Chandor was in a position as lofty as Christopher Nolan, he would do the same thing.
Mike: Has this been a weak year so far for smear campaigns? Have any stuck? I suppose it's still early, but there's been nothing like "'Zero Dark Thirty' is pro torture" yet. The reason I ask about this one is because even though it might not be a studio sponsored smear campaign (though, this information had to come from somewhere), it's the most damning so far this year. It certainly sticks out more than "we didn't see enough of Alan Turing's sex life in 'The Imitation Game'" or "'Birdman' is smug."
Chris: It's shocking because these things usually wait until January to kick into high gear. It's the last gasp tactic. I expect we'll see a bunch this year. 'The Imitation Game' is already facing that. 'The Theory of Everything' doubters have their playbook all mapped out thanks to this article on The Daily Beast: "The Other Side of Stephen Hawking: Strippers, Aliens, and Disturbing Abuse Claims." I expect we'll see plenty of others too: Not just for 'Interstellar' but 'Unbroken,' 'Wild,' heck, even 'Boyhood.' Some people were tweeting about it being a gimmick movie this week, as if all movies aren't gimmicks in some way. That kind of thing starts as a low murmur and winds up taking over the narrative.
Mike: We should help everyone out and come up with smear campaigns for every Best Picture contender that doesn't have one yet. I'll start: 'Foxcatcher' plays too loose with the passage of time in order to create a more tidy narrative. And who cares about Steve Carell's dumb nose anyway?
Chris: 'Gone Girl' is too mainstream, and too misogynistic. 'Whiplash' is too indie and too misogynistic ....
Mike: Oh, 'Unbroken,' yet another World War II movie? It's pandering.
Chris: 'Into the Woods' isn't as good as the musical. Or the singing sucks. Or it's too Disney. 'American Sniper' is too right wing. Or too left wing.
Mike: Do you think every studio has a smear campaign session? Like a meeting on the calendar where they can brainstorm this stuff? Part of me suspects that they do and I really want to sit in on one of them. Remember last year when they even tried to smear poor 'Philomena' after that New York Post hatchet job?
Chris: 'Philomena'! When even 'Philomena' is not immune to this, it does feel like a coordinated thing. So they probably do have people working on this throughout the year. I hope it’s Clarence Beeks.
Mike: Do you really think he got out of the gorilla costume?
Chris: I almost want to end it there. I don't know if I have a better joke.
Mike: I wonder if that was a rental? Do you think Jim Belushi lost a deposit?