How Warners' Moving 'The Great Gatsby' to 2013 Shakes Up the Oscar Race (Analysis)

Great Gatsby Mulligan DiCaprio Forest - H 2012

Great Gatsby DiCaprio Forest - H 2012

This morning, Warner Bros. shook up the Oscar race by announcing that it is pushing back the release of Baz Luhrmann's 3D take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby from Christmas Day 2012 to the summer of 2013. (The studio previously pushed four other films from this year into next -- Gangster Squad, Gravity, Bullet to the Head, and Jack the Giant Killer -- ostensibly for unrelated reasons.)

In a statement, Dan Fellman, the studio's president of domestic distribution, said: "Based on what we’ve seen, Baz Luhrmann’s incredible work is all we anticipated and so much more. It truly brings Fitzgerald’s American classic to life in a completely immersive, visually stunning and exciting way. We think moviegoers of all ages are going to embrace it, and it makes sense to ensure this unique film reaches the largest audience possible."

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There's no way of knowing whether Warner's actually decided that the film's release would be better served by a summer release (when it  will certainly serve as good counterprogamming to the usual summer shlock) or whether it came to the conclusion that the film wouldn't be able to hold its own against this year's stiff awards competition (which includes Warners' own titles The Dark Knight Rises, ArgoTrouble with the Curve, Cloud Atlas, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).

Regardless, the bottom line is that Gatsby's removal from contention immediately impacts this year's race in a number of ways.

Many believed that Leonardo DiCaprio might finally win the best actor Oscar that has long eluded him for his portrayal of the film's title character, Jay Gatsby; his 2012 prospects now lay entirely in the best supporting actor category, in which he will compete for his performance as a ruthless slave master in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. (Tarantino villains have been rewarded by the Academy in that category before -- see Samuel L. Jackson's nomination for Pulp Fiction and Christoph Waltz's win for Inglourious Basterds.)

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It was also widely predicted that Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy Buchanan in the film, would be a serious contender for best actress; outside of Shakespeare, there are few greater roles for women that Fitzgerald's Daisy -- plus Mulligan, a best actress Oscar nominee for An Education three years ago, is, at 27, very close to the average age of the category's winners.

As for the best picture race, the other studios must be rejoicing that one slot that most had presumed to be claimed is now opening up. In short, this is good news for presumptive top-tier contenders like DreamWorks' Lincoln, Universal's Les Miserables, Sony's Zero Dark Thirty, The Weinstein Co.'s The Master and Django Unchained, Paramount's Flight, Fox Searchlight's Beasts of the Southern Wild, 20th Century Fox's Life of Pi, Focus Features' Anna Karenina and Hyde Park on Hudson, and Warner's own The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Dark Knight Rises... and even better news for somewhat longer shots like Sony Pictures Classics' Amour, Searchlight's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Disney's The Avengers, Focus' Moonrise Kingdom, and Weinstein's The Silver Linings Playbook.

Personally, I had -- and retain -- very high hopes for Gatsby, albeit for 2013. As I wrote last month: "Luhrmann's unique tone and style can either make a film (i.e. Moulin Rouge!) or break a film (i.e. Australia). The writer-director, who usually writes and directs original material, has, in this case, opted to tackle one of the most widely read and loved novels of the past century, and critics will have their knives out ready to shred him if it's anything but great. I'm actually quite optimistic that it will be something special, having considered how his strengths align with the story's and seen the terrific trailer that is already playing in theaters... He specializes in hyperkinetic energy, heightened drama and -- in partnership with his wife, two-time Oscar-winning costume and production designer Catherine Martin -- style, three of the key ingredients of Gatsby."

We'll just have to wait for the better part of a year -- perhaps until a big, splashy Cannes debut, which is how Moulin Rouge! was launched -- to find out for sure.