Frost/Nixon Good, But No Best Film?

Many Oscar bloggers have pegged “Frost/Nixon” as the most likely candidate of upcoming films for a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Now it seems that guess may have been premature.

Screenings in both the UK and the US of the Ron Howard-directed film adaptation of the play has yielded a mixed/positive reaction from critics. There were no outright pans it seems (the closest was a mixed review), however even the glowing reviews indicate that its chances of being a Best Picture frontrunner have been dimmed – mostly due of all things to Howard’s rather frustratingly straightforward direction. Here’s a sampling of various reviews already online:

“An an effective, straightforward bigscreen version of Peter Morgan’s shrewd stage drama…Although it all pays off in a potent and revelatory final act rife with insights into the psychology and calculations of power players, the initial stretch is rather dry and prosaic…” (Variety)

“Howard continues to be virtually the only American director to achieve such a high degree of professional skill without displaying a trace of a cinematic personality…” (The Hollywood Reporter)

“The build-up to the final confrontation is an absolutely electric piece of cinema…Ron Howard turns this contest between Michael Sheen’s playboy and Frank Langella’s marvellous old creep into one of the most compelling cinema waltzes I’ve yet seen…” (The Times Online)

“Howard’s hands-off direction makes for an oddly bloodless viewing experience, with a lot of talk standing in for any fresh perspective (or frankly, much of a perspective at all) on the events…” (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Director Ron Howard and Morgan (who wrote the screenplay) have not only preserved the insight and charm of the play but made it work in a different medium…” (The Hollywood Reporter)

“There is a weird sense of deja vu watching the talky, inert drama…transferring this small-screen drama to the stage was a more interesting medium-shift than moving it to the big screen…” (The Guardian)

Early reaction to other potential contenders like “Milk”, “Doubt”, “Revolutionary Road”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Soloist” and “Australia” should be forthcoming soon. According to early polls among Oscar watchers, only four films to have been heavily screened so far are serious contenders “The Dark Knight,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Wrestler” and to a lesser extent “Changeling”.