In the Oscar derby, what went wrong with Bright Star, which earned one Oscar nomination (for costume), and right with Young Victoria, which grabbed three?
It’s the same reason The Blind Side outstripped Invictus and Crazy Heart pushed ahead of a pack of other small Oscar wannabes.
With Bright Star, new indie distributor Apparition wanted to start out with a strong quality movie with Oscar written all over it: a Brit period Oscar romance, gorgeously mounted by a world-renowned Oscar nominated-director, Jane Campion. Back in 1993-4, after Campion’s The Piano played the Cannes and New York Fests, it opened November 2 and grossed $40 million domestically, scoring eight Oscar noms and three wins (Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, and Campion’s screenplay).
When I heard at Cannes that Apparition’s Bob Berney was planning a late September Bright Star release, I wondered, “Is it too early?” The risk: if a movie doesn’t take off and hang on to screens, it loses luster. Bright Star was impeccably-reviewed, but topped out in November at $4.3 million. And year-end critics groups ignored it. Why? It just never took off.
Meanwhile, Apparition’s more modest crowd-pleaser The Young Victoria opened well December 18 (with less stellar reviews), nabbed a Golden Globe nom for Emily Blunt and three Oscar nominations. It’s possible that if Sandra Bullock and The Blind Side hadn’t wowed Academy voters, Blunt might have slipped into a best actress nod. In three more weeks, Young Victoria should pass $10 million.