LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – When it comes to Oscar consideration, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences isn’t entertaining any two-for-one offers.
The issue arises because this year there will be two “Matrix” movies and, possibly, two “Kill Bill” movies that could all qualify for Academy consideration. And that has left their respective studios, Warner Bros. Pictures and Miramax Films, strategizing over how to optimize their Oscar chances — even though the 2004 Oscar ceremonies won’t take place until Feb. 29.
The situation is considered unprecedented by Academy officials. Several movies have been carved out of material that was shot back to back: 1973’s “The Three Musketeers” was followed in 1974 by “The Four Musketeers”; “Back to the Future Part II” came out in 1989, followed by “Back to the Future Part III” in 1990; and “The Lord of the Rings” series, which began with “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001 will conclude with “The Return of the King” this year. But in those cases, the individual parts of each mega-movie were released in different years, so there was no possibility that the pieces of one whole would compete directly against each other.
This year, though, boasts “The Matrix Reloaded,” the second film in the Wachowski brothers’ “Matrix” series, released May 15, which will be followed by the series finale, “The Matrix Revolutions,” on Nov. 5.
In the case of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” Miramax has decided to divide the material into two films and will release “Kill Bill Vol. 1” on Oct. 10. The company has not yet announced when it will release “Kill Bill Vol. 2. While most observers expect it won’t arrive until 2004, there have been some discussions within Miramax of an Oscar qualifying weeklong run by the end of the year.
The discussions have included the possibility of a qualifying run for “Vol 2.” by itself as well as reconnecting “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2” for an Oscar qualifying run as one movie. But if “Vol. 2,” in some form were to play Los Angeles by Dec. 31, the Oscar cut-off date, Miramax would then find itself facing the same quandary as Warners.
Since the two “Matrix” movies were shot within a continuous 240-day period by the same filmmaking team, Warners considered advancing the argument that the Academy should consider them as one movie — albeit one containing a six-month intermission. But according to sources on both sides of the discussions, that possibility was never seriously raised in recent conversations between Warners and the Academy.
According to Academy executive administrator Ric Robertson, “Two separate releases with two separate marketing campaigns — even if they were four-walled together as one movie — would have to be considered two different films.”
So instead, Warners raised a separate question: Even though both movies will have completed the basic requirement for Academy consideration by having been publicly exhibited in Los Angeles county for one week, would it be permissible for the studio to qualify only one film for Oscar consideration?
After reviewing its own requirements, the Academy informed the studio there was nothing in the rule book to prevent the studio from submitting one of the films and not the other. As a result, Warners is currently contemplating submitting only “Matrix Revolutions” for Oscar consideration.
That particular Hobson’s choice, according to those close to the situation, may be born of strategic necessity.
The first “Matrix,” released in 1999, was nominated — and went on to win — Oscars in four categories: editing, sound, sound effects editing and visual effects. If Warners were to enter both parts of the “Matrix” in this year’s race, it theoretically could win two nominations in a given category, since both halves would have to be treated as individual films.
But that’s far from a sure thing. In the tightly contested technical categories, voters could be expected to resist awarding two slots to the same group of filmmakers. In fact, earlier this year, individual branches of the Academy struggled with how to treat “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” after bestowing 13 nominations and four Oscars on “The Fellowship of the Ring” the previous year. The music branch ruled that Howard Shore, who won an Oscar for his score for the first film, didn’t warrant consideration for a nomination for the second film. However, the movie did win the visual effects Oscar two years running.
Rather than see the votes within the individual branches divide between the two “Matrix” installments — and run the risk of canceling each other out — Warners has decided it may be wiser to promote the merits of “Revolutions” alone.
Miramax, which had informal conversations with Academy officials last week, is still formulating its strategy. But it was informed of the Academy’s response to Warners’ queries, which would similarly apply if “Vol. 2” were exhibited before the end of the year.
Even if Miramax does favor a second release by year’s end, however, it may not prove practical. According to sources, Tarantino is currently concentrating on completing “Vol. 1” and has not yet turned his full attention to finalizing “Vol. 2.”
“Once Quentin completes ‘Vol. 2,’ then we’ll make any decisions regarding its release,” said a Miramax spokesman.
Executives at Warner Bros. declined to comment on that studio’s developing plans.