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Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season

Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season (photo)

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As demonstrated by our recent holiday indie film preview, there will be nearly a hundred films opening in theaters before the end of the year, with many of them aspiring for Oscar gold. But in a tradition that’s getting to be as commonplace as end-of-the-year gift-giving, there are a handful of movies that seemed destined to compete during awards season that won’t be seeing the inside of your local theater until next year. Internal studio strife, endless tinkering or simply bad early reviews have contributed to why these five particular pieces of Oscar bait will be sitting on the sidelines instead of jockeying for awards attention.

“Miral”

Since the awards season success of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Oscar prognosticators had been anticipating the arrival of Julian Schnabel’s latest film with the idea that the director would once again bring a true artistic sensibility to journalist Rula Jebreal’s semi-autobiographical novel that covers three generations of women in Jerusalem, but centers on a young Palestinean orphan (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Freida Pinto) emboldened to become a revolutionary under Israeli occupation during the late 1960s. However, even before the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, it had already caused some ripples for taking a pro-Palestine point of view, which Schnabel has tried to downplay, telling The Huffington Post in an interview, “This film is not a treatise in political history, nor a polemic. It is a poem.”

But it turned out that U.S. distributor (and noted pro-Israel supporter) Harvey Weinstein’s headaches in Venice weren’t caused by the film’s content, but by the response from critics, who ranged from calling it heartfelt but misguided, as IndieWire‘s Anne Thompson did, to calling it “a disaster,” per The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. Some might argue that the dour reception to the film in Venice and subsequently, Telluride doomed its awards chances, but it was also probably the emergence of “The King’s Speech” at those same festivals that deep sixed its December release, which has now been moved to March. Just this week, Schnabel seemed unfazed by the move and the polarizing response in an interview with The Guardian, saying “If Arab people see a Jewish person can do this, they might think, ‘Maybe there’s somebody on the other side we can talk to.’ I’m not a saint. I’m just somebody who thought this was a worthwhile thing to do.”

“Shanghai”

While “Miral” was a last-minute call, The Weinstein Company likely never had plans to release this long-shelved production that once started with such high hopes. It was a coronation of sorts for director Mikael Hafstrom, who did right by the Weinsteins with the financially bankable thrillers “Derailed” and “1408” before being handed the keys to the film penned by “The Wings of the Dove” scribe Hossein Amini and a cast with awards bait written all over it, mixing Chow Yun Fat, Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi and Gong Li with John Cusack, Franka Potente and David Morse in a ’40s murder mystery centered around Cusack’s American intelligence officer snooping around for clues concerning the murder of his friend (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) shortly before Pearl Harbor in World War II.

Although the Chinese wouldn’t allow the production to shoot on its soil in 2008, the film did make its premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June before being released in much of Asia over the summer. (This was only after a 2009 awards run in the States was scrapped.) In his review for Film Business Asia, Derek Elley noted “[‘Shanghai’] has the feel of one that has been ruthlessly pared in post-production,” but generally gave the film a positive review, making it slightly strange that the company hasn’t rescheduled the film’s release in the U.S., let alone dropping it into awards season just to test the waters for acting nominations. A Weinstein Company rep recently told The Los Angeles Times that the film needed to be released in China first, which caused part of the delay, but as the article goes on to note “Shanghai” has endured other post-production issues. Still, Hafstrom will have one film out while all those ceremonies start rolling around, only it won’t be competing – his next film “The Rite,” a supernatural thriller which does boast an Oscar winner in star Anthony Hopkins, will is headed to theaters in January, and perhaps not coincidentally it’s his first English-language film not made for the Weinsteins.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.