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?