Oscar fever is here and nowhere is it more evident than in the US of A.
Oscar nominations and the subsequent ad blitz in the media mean hotter box-office hits across North America, and in many other countries. While The Departed sprang to life, Water began flooding the DVD stores to the tune of Dreamgirls.
There wasn't any film that did not benefit from the major Oscar nominations last week.
Deepa Mehta's Water had grossed about $1 million (a modest figure) on DVD before the Oscar nominations were announced. Now, the film stands to earn much more. Apart from the audio commentary by Mehta, the official DVD also includes behind-the-scenes shots of the shoot in Sri Lanka.
Films, which had exited theatres a long time ago, made their comeback in DVD, which saw sales on the upswing. While several films such as the political fantasy from Mexico Pan's Labyrinth, saw a 20 per cent boost in their weekend gross figures, some like the heart-felt musical tragedy Dreamgirls, saw only a moderate drop. But for the Oscar nominations, the film would have gone down by about 35 per cent.
Pan's Labyrinth, which jumped from 609 to 823 sites, grossed an estimated $4.5 million equalling its gross from last weekend. Nominated in six categories, including the best foreign film and best original screenplay, the film poses a powerful challenge to Water. The British docudrama The Queen, too did royal business, grossing $4 million and reaching $41.2 million.
Best picture nominee The Departed had a wide re-release and pocketed a healthy $3 million, reaching a total of $129 million.
The Oscar season also saved Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language war drama, Letters From Iwo Jima, from fading into oblivion. After grossing a measly $3 million in America, the film, which took $12 million to make, is quite a hit in Japan, grossing almost $50 million. Now, the film is slowly gaining attention across America grossing $5 million.
The golden statuette has even cast it's benign glow on the classics. Studios have cashed on the Oscar fever to capitalise on the recent DVD box sets that feature old Oscar classics.
The pride of the place in bookstores and DVD shops goes to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton Film Collection DVD box set that was released a few weeks ago. The box comes with two must-see films, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (winner of five Oscars) and The VIPs. The Sandpiper and The Comedians are the other two films from the set.
Elizabeth Taylor won the best actress while Sandy Dennis won the supporting actress award for their roles in Who's Afraid, which was based on Edward Albee's blistering drama about dysfunctional marriages. The film also won three technical awards.
The 40th anniversary two-disc special edition also has two new documentaries and commentaries by director Mike Nichols and cinematographer Haskell Wexler. Besides this, there is a vintage Nichols interview and a screen test segment involving Sandy Dennis.
The VIPs is not in the same league as Who's Afraid, yet the pleasure of watching its formidable cast that includes Orson Welles and Maggie Smith, is unparallel. The film centers on jet-setters awaiting London departure but are grounded by fog.
One should not forget Margaret Rutherford, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress.
A story of adultery and commitment complications, The Sandpiper starred Burton as a church minister, who is conflicted between his love for his wife (an excellent Eva Marie Saint) and his wife (a decent Taylor).
In The Comedians, based on a Graham Greene international bestseller set in the despotic Haiti of Papa Doc, there are serious questions about the attitude of the West towards a dictatorial third world country. It is also a film that asks tough questions about altruism and political involvement.
Though the film drags quite a bit, its gallery of stars including Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov bring to it quite a bit of tension and weight.
However, if you want something more current, the low budget independent hit Little Miss Sunshine will do the trick. This story of a dysfunctional family on the road is a sort of film that grows on you.