Kenneth Lonergan’s early hyped drama Manchester by the Sea has had a wave of critical acclaim through the best part of this year, leading many to suspect it will be a big player in next year’s Oscars.
Then the trailer landed.
Here’s the deal with trailers. Before they’re released it is us, the fans and the critics, who determine a film’s perception. It may bomb or, in the case of Manchester by the Sea, it may be a big hit. No doubt this can have an affect on a distributor, but only when the trailer is released do we get a real sense of their intentions.
Have you ever seen ‘Academy Award Nominee’ or ‘Academy Award Winner’ preceding the names of a cast as they’re introduced? There are two reasons for this – either the film is not expected to do very well and any little draw will be used to get a few more bums on seats, or the distributor has one eye on awards season and is giving their product a prestige factor. After all, the first way to get into the awards race is to keep people talking about your film as an awards contender.
However, Roadside Attractions have taken things a step further. Rather than just the usual ‘Academy Award Nominee Michelle Williams’ and a few glowing quotes for Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges, they include the following:
“Could earn his first Best Actor nomination”
“Could very well earn her fourth Oscar nomination”
“Should be in the running for next year’s Oscars”
Whether you plan on running or not, this is a pretty bold strategy by Roadside, breaking discretion and confirming irrefutably its intention to campaign hard for Manchester by the Sea this year.
It also puts a lot of pressure on the distributor to follow through and deliver on these quotes, if only in creating the right impression – what voters do is out of their hands, but it’s now imperative they convince us, the general public, that these are Oscar worthy performances.
A focus on the acting is also a telling sign that they have already determined their campaign strategy this year. Perhaps surprisingly, there has not been a strong correlation in Oscar winning performances and their respective films winning director or best picture. Therefore, Roadside have all but acknowledged they may be out of their depth for best picture, so are instead focussing their efforts on Casey Affleck (leading actor), Michelle Williams (supporting actress) and Lucas Hedges (supporting actor).
What this trailer also does is all but rule out Roadside’s other properties, including Genius and A Hologram for the King. Both may have competed with the right push, albeit never for big awards, but if they do get a campaign it will be for the lesser categories.
The line has been clearly drawn and, by default, we now have a major contender firmly in the Oscar race.