1 comment - Last on 03/08/2010
The Four Quadrants: Why Avatar will Take Home the Most Oscars
With Oscar time just around the corner, it’s time to size up the Best Picture candidates and compare them with past years’ nominees and winners. In moviebiz lingo, it’s called hitting the Four Quadrants. And in producer speak, it’s hitting the jackpot.
Avatar, and before that, Titanic, represent the Four Quadrants -- aka the Holy Grail of movie making success. Actually, director James Cameron probably could claim a three-fer with The Terminator series. UP, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Shrek are in the pure animation Four Quadrant trailblazers. Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird are also oldies that might be considered in that category.
What do I mean by Four Quadrants (4Q)? Every producer in Hollywood is looking for one. A moneymaker, but often big budget, in line with the old adage, you have to spend money to make money. (You can’t spend more Cameron did with Titanic and Avatar). Four quadrants mean the four audiences every movie maker wants to reach to make money: Young and Old, Women, and Men.
It’s easy to spot a chick flick a mile away. Nancy Meyer is a professional in this category – As Good as It Gets, It’s Complicated, When Harry Met Sally, and even younger chick flicks like 27 Dresses, Devil Wears Prada and Made of Honor, tend to fancy fashion and stars and happily ever after. The younger version of chickflix, often enjoyed by young girls and their moms, fall in the Enchanted and Princess Diaries categories. Guys (or at least straight ones) tend to need to be dragged by their daughters to these.
I (female) personally like certain genres of what one might consider male-oriented movies – The Bourne series is excellent (nice geography, good plot, and what’s not to like about Matt Damon), and Training Day and The Departed are riveting and well-acted despite violence and guttertalk. Even The Hangover was laugh out loud funny guy humor, although not something I'd take the kids too.
So what is it about Avatar and UP, and also this year’s Blind Side and Julie and Julia, that appeal to just about everyone?
In Avatar’s case, there’s decent acting, an interesting premise (until it falls apart at the sappier end), amazing special effects (especially in IMAX and 3D), and it generally takes one away from one’s daily life. That’s what movies are for, and ultimately why it will win Best Picture and many other awards.
UP – which I predict will win best animated film – is a sweet, sentimental, funny, original, embracing of family values, adventure, dreams and love. While most Disney movies aspire to many of these qualities, UP was more original in its approach and vision. I bawled watching the passing montage of the couple’s life, and yet, even kids thought it was sweet. (at least my girls did).
Julie and Julia shares the same sentimentality and sense of humor, and amazing acting by Meryl and Stanley. Alas, methinks Gabourey will win, as Precious was too dark to win BP but the Academy will want to reward its power and impact somehow.
So speaking of who will win in the non-4Q categories, The Hurt Locker is an interesting nominee for BP but with a better shot at Director (the Academy likes to discover fresh talent like Ms. Bigelow), but will probably just win a sound award if Avatar doesn’t scoop them all up.
Recognizing the talent in other nominated films that don’t have a shot against Avatar, I predict that Anna Kendrick will win for Up in the Air, because George Clooney won’t this year (he won too recently), but Jeff Bridges will for Crazy Heart (The Academy loves comeback stories, e.g. the Wrestler, even though Jeff has been here all along, just laid back in Coen Bros fashion). Which also means a real toss-up between two other comeback stories -- Woody Harrelson in The Messenger and Christopher Plummer in The Last Station – I’ll say Woody wins because of the anti-War sentiment, and this isn’t a typical Woody movie (not that he has been in any typical movies in a long time).
Randy Newman should get at least one song award for Princess and the Frog – another fun 4 Quadrants flick that would have made more money if it didn’t have to compete with Avatar… but will do well in DVD.
Pretty much the rest of the winnings will go to James Cameron and Avatar.
So, Peter G, what do I win??
Moderated by Wendell Collins.
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