Midyear Awards Report: Fox Searchlight (Analysis)
'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' 'Una Noche' Win Top Prizes at Deauville Film Festival
NOTE: Throughout July and August, THR's lead awards analyst and blogger Scott Feinberg will analyze each studio's 2012 awards outlook. He will then post his first "Feinberg Forecast" of the season -- featuring ranked projections for every major Oscar category -- on Sunday, Aug. 12.
The studios that we have covered, thus far: (1) Warner Bros.
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FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
20th Century Fox's indie unit has become a perennial, and savvy, awards season player. Last year, it fielded both Alexander Payne's family dramedy The Descendants and Terrence Mallck's tone poem of a film, The Tree of Life, and between the two, it collected eight Academy Award nominations, including two best picture slots. It hit a wall only with the NC-17-rated Shame, although that movie's star, Michael Fassbender, did pick up awards elsewhere, including a best actor prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
2012 FIRST-HALF SUMMARY
The company has scored an unexpected commercial triumph with its May 4 release of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (May 4), a charming film about a group of septuagenarian Westerners who retire to India. The $10 million movie, which was directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and features an impressive ensemble of respected vets (including longtime Academy favorites Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith), has grossed an astounding $125 million worldwide, primarily from the 50-and-over crowd.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
2012 SECOND-HALF PREVIEW
Searchlight is famous for making late-season festival acquisitions and turning them into major contenders -- the most famous example, of course, is Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which went on to win the best picture Oscar. With a number of filmmaker-driven films (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen's Inside Llewyn Davies, Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines, and István Szabó's The Door) currently available for distribution, it's possible that the studio could still pick up a title or two for its 2012 slate.
But it already struck early this year, picking up two of the hottest titles at Sundance, and positioning both of them for awards runs: Beasts of the Southern Wild (which bowed on June 27 and is now expanding into wider release), is a $1.3 million film by 29-year-old first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin that won the Grand Jury Prize and Excellence in Cinematography Award and then in May was awarded the Camera d'Or for best first feature at Cannes. The Sessions (set for an October 26 release), is a $1 million film written and directed by 65-year-old Australian director Ben Lewin that had its world premiere under the title The Surrogate at Sundance, where it won the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting.
Beasts is a vibrant film about a young girl (played by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, an 8-year-old who was 6 when the film was shot) and her father (newcomer Dwight Henry, a 49-year-old non-actor who runs a bakery in New Orleans) who live in "The Bathtub," a mystical part of America's Gulf Coast. Sessions is an inspired-by-real-events story of a middle-aged man (Oscar nominee John Hawkes, playing Mark O'Brien, the subject of a 1996 Oscar-winning short) who was stricken with polio as a child and, largely paralyzed and breathing with an iron lung, decides to hire a sex surrogate (Oscar winner Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. Oscar nominee William H. Macy plays O'Brien's priest.