In Bruges: And the Biggest Oscar Debacle of the Year — Thank you Focus Features

Good times on the set of "In Bruges"...before Focus Features dropped the ball.

Good times on the set of "In Bruges"...before Focus Features dropped the ball.

In Bruges, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is by and far the best movie of 2008, certainly better than several of the Best Picture Oscar contenders, and while worthy of a Best Orignal Screenplay nomination, it’s certaily worth more than that. It’s funny, contemplative, sad, hopeful, tragic, meaningful, poetic, bristling with intensity, violence, romance…any positive adjective you can throw at it will probably stick, and it lingers on all of these without diminishing the tone and overall spirit of the film itself. It’s a work of breathtaking genius that has stuck with me since the very beginning of the year. This is a film that’s just as perfect as last years No Country for Old Men, but somehow it’s been almost completely overlooked at the Oscars. Who’s fault is it that a gem like this isn’t as appreciated as it needs to be?

Is it the nominating committee? A bunch of crumudgeony grey-haireds that stick their tongues out at anything mildly offensive like Brokeback Mountain and instead vote in films like Benjamin Button, which may be good…but best? or even close to best?

My inside source says that there wasn’t a single In Bruges screener DVD sent out to any of the nominating committee members. Why? Did Focus Features not realize that the film they had on their hands truly had winning potential? Or was it a matter of focusing their attention on a far more “appropriate” Osar contender, Milk. And why not? Milk is a biopic about a political figure starring Sean Penn! It reeks of Oscar! And directed by a former feature Oscar contender doesn’t hurt.

A recent article in Newsweek, Oscar’s High Price: What’s a best picture nomination worth?, puts the cost of a simple ad on the front of Variety in the range of at least $72,000. They continue, “These campaigns aren’t cheap. Estimates put the costs at tens of millions of dollars, which is especially glaring when you consider that for some of these films, advertising budgets are right up there with production costs.”

The budget as listed on IMDB Pro has In Bruges sitting around $15m. And Box Office Mojo has the Domestic Gross at $7million, with the International Gross at $32m. Milk has the same budget and about the same International Gross.

So what does it come down to? Why did Focus Features submit and back Milk and ignore the pot of gold they had with In Bruges, which easily could have swung a Best Director, Best Actor (Farrell won a Globe for heaven’s sake), Best Editing, Best Supporting (Ralph or Brendan) and probably the coveted Best Picture.

Milk was probably just the easy sell. And why compete against yourself?

Any thoughts?

I'd be mad too.

I'd be mad too.

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3 Responses to “In Bruges: And the Biggest Oscar Debacle of the Year — Thank you Focus Features”

  1. Julia Says:

    If you’d actually like to further contemplate on this, feel free to e-mail me (I’ll be happy to talk to someone who sees this, too).

    I was on the set of In Bruges, and have kept my eye on any promotional efforts for In Bruges, as well as budgets, estimates and just the process of the film making. I’m nothing more than an admirer but I know my facts. I can’t say much how I know, but I do know that the people involved in making In Bruges – the big names, were also highly disappointed in Focus Features. I myself have even called the Focus office when they seemed sloppy with the release of In Bruges at the very beginning. They may have supported the making of the film in 2006-2007; in 2008 it was clear they had no intention of backing the film up.

    I am not sure if it might have something to do with the fact that their pride might have gotten hurt. The artists involved didn’t care much to answer to some profit-driven demands the exec producers posed, which might have caused tension between the filmmakers and the production company. I don’t know. Maybe the writers’ strike – and the loss of profit because of it – forced Focus to decide who they were and weren’t going to back up.

    The biggest problem in my estimate, is the fact that I’ll never know the complete budgeting contract of the film. I know the production contract was $15 million, but usually these contracts also contain agreements on the budgeting of promotion and marketing. I don’t know if the 15 was also to include promotional costs – I highly doubt it, but that would be the only explanation as to why Focus Features completely and utterly FAILED to promote In Bruges in any way. Promises were broken somewhere. And there is only so much the pioneers of the film (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Martin McDonagh) can do about it, because if they were to speak out too harshly it could damage their career. That’s the tricky fucker in the whole thing. You’ll never hear them say it openly because they can’t.

  2. Phillip Says:

    Julia,

    It’s unfortunate for the actors in such a case. If they speak up, that sort of negative energy around a film will hurt it’s performance more than a lack of publicity or praise from the Production House.

    Thankfully the film has become widely known based upon the fact that it’s just so tremendously good! Word of mouth still exists.

  3. Kelly Clarksons Says:

    hey, i came across

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