News broke last night that George Clooney's The Monuments Men—thought to perhaps be a dark horse in the Oscar race—was moving to early next year, which usually a sign that a studio is giving up its award hopes. But Clooney's not worried. Should we be?
John Horn of the Los Angeles Times reported that Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov asked for a last minute extension on the film about WWII era art preservationists from Sony and 20th Century Fox, knowing that they would have to rush and finish it for a planned December release. Horn explained that the biggest problem they faced involved completing the visual effects, some of which involved post-D-Day Normandy. "If any of the effects looked cheesy, the whole movie would look cheesy," Clooney told Horn. "We simply don't have enough people to work enough hours to finish it." He said: "It wasn't going to be finished, and I wouldn't want to have my name on it."
Moving movies out of the holiday season to the early months of the new year often implies that its distributors and marketers don't think they will be able to compete in the busiest time of the year for "prestige" films. And the early months of the year make up a notoriously dry season for good films, which can be its own opportunity. After Martin Scorsese and Leonard DiCaprio's Shutter Island moved out of late 2009 to early 2010, it did not figure in the next year's Oscar race (as the director and actor's three prior collaborations, The Departed, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York had) but it did do big business at the box office after opening in February, grossing $128 million in the U.S.
As was the case of Shutter Island, Clooney's movie once looked like Oscar bait. Not only does it have Clooney himself as director, it is packed with movie stars (including Clooney) and tackles a lofty subject: the saving of pieces of art during World War II. But Clooney told Horn he didn't have Oscar in mind: "All we've ever said, from the very beginning, is that we wanted to make a commercial, non-cynical piece of entertainment."