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For Your Consideration: How Much Does Oscar Love a Musical?

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire December 10, 2009 at 2:29AM

Next week's release of Rob Marshall's "Nine" will cap off what is surely one of this decade's most notable cinematic trends: The return of the movie musical. Outside of animated films, the movie musical had essentially been considered dead for nearly two decades. There had once been a time when musicals routinely won multiple Oscars and would even find themselves among the year's top grossing films. There were five musical Best Picture winners out of eight nominees between 1958 and 1969, one of which - "The Sound of Music" - grossed the present day equivalent of $1,022,542,400 dollars. And while the 1970s and early 1980s brought a few notable examples ("Grease" wasn't exactly an Oscar favorite, it grossed over $500 million when adjusted for inflation), between 1984 and 2000, only one live action musical ("Evita") received an Oscar nomination or grossed over $15 million domestically.
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Next week's release of Rob Marshall's "Nine" will cap off what is surely one of this decade's most notable cinematic trends: The return of the movie musical. Outside of animated films, the movie musical had essentially been considered dead for nearly two decades. There had once been a time when musicals routinely won multiple Oscars and would even find themselves among the year's top grossing films. There were five musical Best Picture winners out of eight nominees between 1958 and 1969, one of which - "The Sound of Music" - grossed the present day equivalent of $1,022,542,400 dollars. And while the 1970s and early 1980s brought a few notable examples ("Grease" wasn't exactly an Oscar favorite, it grossed over $500 million when adjusted for inflation), between 1984 and 2000, only one live action musical ("Evita") received an Oscar nomination or grossed over $15 million domestically.

But then came the 2000s. First, two innovative indies - Lars Von Trier's "Dancer In The Dark" and John Cameron Mitchell's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" - drew international acclaim and managed to rake in reasonable specialty box office. Then came Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge!," which managed a $57 million gross - the highest any musical had seen since 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" - and received 8 Academy Award nominations, including best picture. Hollywood took notice, and from that point forward, big-budgeted, star-studded musical "events" seemed to meet us every year. While overall, they didn't find a perfect financial or critical record ("The Producers" is the best example of both), they certainly spiced up the mainstream cinematic landscape, and often found themselves major fixtures during awards season. So, in anticipation of "Nine," let's run down the thirteen films that led up to it and how they ended up fairing come awards time. We'll end off with consideration of how "Nine" - which I got a chance to see last night when it opened the Dubai International Film Festival - might play out.

Dancer In The Dark (2000)
Director: Lars Von Trier
Cast: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare
U.S. Distributor: Fine Line
Domestic gross: $4,184,036

Golden Globes: In one of their classier moves, the Globes double-nominated Bjork for best actress and original song.

Oscars: In one of their stupider moves, Oscars snubbed Bjork's performance. Her song - co-written by Lars von Trier and Sjón Sigurdsson - got a nomination (yes, Lars von Trier is an Oscar nominee), only to become a legendary Oscar joke due to Bjork's swan dress.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Cast: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt
U.S. Distributor: Fine Line
Domestic gross: $3,067,312

Golden Globes: In another uncharacteristically classy move, Cameron Mitchell got a best actor nod.

Oscars: See #23.

A scene from Rob Marshall's "Chicago."


Moulin Rouge (2001)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Domestic gross: $57,386,369

Golden Globes: With one of its two primary categories half-dedicated to the musical, the Globes have always gone gaga for the genre. But with little outside of Disney to reward, it hadn't gotten a chance to show that love for some time. But with "Rouge!," the Globes began a decade-long tradition of pretty much every musical that got released. "Rouge!" made one of the biggest showings, taking 6 nods and 3 wins (for picture, actress and score).

Oscars: 8 nominations, including best picture and best actress (Nicole Kidman), and wins for art direction and costume design. They snubbed Luhrmann's direction and the screenplay, though, which showed they weren't entirely ready to re-embrace their old friend.


Chicago (2002)
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Renee Zelwegger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly
U.S. Distributor: Miramax
Domestic gross: $170,687,518 (!)

Golden Globes: Received 8 nominations, the second highest total for a singer film ever (after "Nashville"), including picture, director and acting nods for its entire principal cast. Gere, Zelwegger, and the film itself all win.

Oscars: Gives the film the same distinction as the Globes with a whopping 13 nominations (less than only "Titanic" and "All About Eve"). Six of them are winners, including best picture - the first musical to take that prize in 35 years.


The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Gerald Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Domestic Gross: $51,268,815

Golden Globes: Despite very tepid reviews, gets nods for best picture, actress, and original song.

Oscars: 3 nods here as well, but for art direction, cinematography and song. Spoiler alert: No film would live up to "Chicago"'s awards reception for the rest of this decade, with it and "Rouge!" the lone best picture nominees of the decade (until "Nine"?)

-this article continues on the next page-

A scene from "The Producers."

Rent (2005)
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Taye Diggs
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Domestic Gross: $29,077,547

Golden Globes: Shockingly, zilch. That makes it the only one of two musicals noted here to not receive a Golden Globe nomination. The other, as you will see, is much more tragic.

Oscars: Also nada.


The Producers (2005)
Director: Susan Stroman
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Will Ferrell, Uma Thurman
U.S. Distributor: Universal
Domestic Gross: $19,398,532

Golden Globes: Despite being worse received than fellow-2005er and Globes shut out "Rent," "The Producers" got nominations for best picture, best actor (Nathan Lane), best supporting actor (Will Ferrell) and best original song.

Oscars: Not even for the song. People started wondering if the musical was dying yet again, and all eyes were placed on the next one...


Dreamgirls (2006)
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Glover, Anika Koni Rose
U.S. Distributor: Paramount/Dreamworks
Domestic Gross $103,365,956

Golden Globes: Five nominations, with wins for picture, and both supporting acting categories (for Murphy and Hudson). Condon doesn't manage a best director nod, though.

Oscars: Gets 8 nominations, the most of any film that year. Except... None of them are for best picture. Some call it one of the decade's biggest snubs (I call it reasonable), but it ends up winning for Hudson's supporting performance and sound mixing, and its $100 million+ gross signals that the genre is far from financially dead, Oscars be damned.


Hairspray (2007)
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Queen Latifah
U.S. Distributor: New Line
Domestic Gross: $118,871,849

Golden Globes: 3 nods - for best picture, actress (Blonsky), and supporting actor (Travolta).

Oscars: Despite being very well-received financially and critically, "Hairspray" doesn't get an Oscar nomination.


A scene from Adam Shankman's "Hairspray."


Across The Universe (2007)
Director: Julie Taymor
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson
U.S. Distributor: Sony
Domestic Gross: $24,343,673

Golden Globes: Competed against "Hairspray" with its lone nod for best picture.

Oscars: Just a costume design nomination.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen
U.S. Distributor: Paramount/Dreamworks
Domestic Gross: $52,898,073

Golden Globes: Completing 2007's triple-threat, "Sweeney" was one of three nominees in the best picture (comedy or musical) category, and won. It also won for Depp's performance, and received nominations for real-life couple Burton and Bonham Carter.

Oscars: Like "Nine" this year, and "Dreamgirls" before it, "Sweeney Todd" was a big December release with high Oscar hopes. While some predicted it would make the final cut up to the last moment, in the end it only managed nods for Depp, costume design and art direction (the latter of which it won).


Once (2007)
Director: John Carney
Cast: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova
U.S. Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Domestic Gross: $9,437,933

Golden Globes: Somehow, not even a song nomination. The Globes have three best picture nods to musicals during this landmark year for the genre, but failed to recognize the best one.

Oscars: Nothing short of a miracle, "Once" track "Falling Slowly" made it through wacky Oscar rules and won best original song.


Mamma Mia! (2008)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård
U.S. Distributor: Universal
Domestic gross: $144,130,063 (worldwide it grossed $465,711,574, and became the highest grossing film ever in the UK)

Golden Globes: Two for picture and Streep's performance.

Oscars: None, but who needs an Oscar when you have that kinda cash.


Nine (2009)
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and, uh, Fergie
U.S. Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Domestic gross: ???

Golden Globes: Announced next Tuesday, it would be a considerable surprise if the film did not manage to carry tradition and get multiple nods here. Expect picture, actor (Day-Lewis), actress (Cotillard), supporting actress (Cruz), and original song. Best director and another acting nod (likely for Dench) wouldn't be a surprise either.

Oscars: Chances are that "Nine" - despite what will likely be a very mixed critical reaction - will become the decade's third best picture nominee. But that's only because of this year's extension of that list from 5 to 10. Beyond that, it should reap plenty of technical and artistic nominations (costume design, art director, cinematography, film editing, sound mixing and one or two original songs are all very good bets), and Cruz, Day-Lewis, Cotillard and Dench all stand reasonable chances at acting nominations, in that order (if Cotillard wasn't foolishly being promoted as lead, I'd have her ahead of Cruz). In the end, I'd wager that "Nine" takes a fitting 9 nominations, and even manages a win or two in the technical categories. Not a bad way for the musical genre to cap off its resurgent decade.

"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:

For Your Consideration: 10 Surprises From The Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
For Your Consideration: The 50 Most Despicable Oscar Snubs of the 2000s
For Your Consideration: Assessing The Major Oscar Categories
For Your Consideration: Oscar's Gay Tendencies
For Your Consideration: 11 Underdog Performances
For Your Consideration: History Repeats as Major Foreign Films Left Off Academy List
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Told Us About Awards Season

This article is related to: Features, Academy Awards





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