New Oscar Strategy: Have Critics Raise Money to Screen Your Movie

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 20 2011 12:20 PM

New Oscar Strategy: Have Critics Raise Money to Screen Your Movie

colman
Still of Olivia Colman in 'Tyrannosaur'.

© Jack English

It is not uncommon for film critics to campaign for favorites during Oscar season. With their writing, usually: They publish columns about how this or that movie or performance is the best of the year and should take home the statue.

This year, though, Jeffrey Wells, who blogs at Hollywood Elsewhere, has actually raised money to fund a screening of the film Tyrannosaur, in order to boost the Oscar chances of its lead actress, Olivia Colman. As S.T. Van Airsdale writes at Movieline, this is, “in all likelihood, the first grassroots awards campaign by a critic on behalf of a film and/or performer.” Wells told  Anne Thompson of indieWire, “I don’t think any columnist in the history of Hollywood has ever tried to raise money to help others see a film (and particularly a performance) that he admires that the film’s distributor won’t or can’t pay for.” Wells is also running ads for the movie on his site “to help the film.”

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Tyrannosaur, the directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine (who also wrote the screenplay), received strong reviews in the U.K. The movie depicts the relationship between a widower (Peter Mullan) and a shopkeeper (Colman) with an abusive husband (Eddie Marsan). Colman’s performance has been singled out for praise. Wells first raved about the film after seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Sasha Stone at Awards Daily says that Wells and Colman face tough odds: Most Oscar-watchers think Meryl Streep (as Margaret Thatcher), Michelle Williams (as Marilyn Monroe), Glenn Close (as a 19th-century woman pretending to be a man), Viola Davis (for box office hit The Help), and Tilda Swinton (for We Need to Talk About Kevin) are the favorites, with several other big-name actresses (Charlize Theron, Keira Knightley, Ellen Barkin) also expected to receive attention.

Wells is hopeful, though: As he notes, Colman just showed up on the Gold Derby’s Best Actress List (her supposd odds: 50 to 1). He has scheduled three screenings of Tyrannosaur in Los Angeles, on October 27 and 31 and November 1. The movie opens in Los Angeles and New York on November 18 (too late, Wells fears, for the kind of word-of-mouth publicity such a small film needs to win over Oscar voters). 

I haven’t seen Tyrannosaur, but I’m inclined to root for Colman: She’s terrific in the very funny (and, in the U.S., too little seen) British comedy, Peep Show, which you can watch on Hulu. You can watch the trailer for Tyrannosaur below.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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