Has anyone seen Atonement? It feels like The Costume Picture That Couldn't: despite its pedigree (adapted from a breathtaking-- nay, mindblowing--novel by Ian McEwan) and generally positive reviews, it hasn't gotten the Oscar traction of No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood or Juno, all of whom have fierce partisans maneuvering on their behalf; Atonement, by contrast, feels more like the Bill Richardson of the race, where no one truly dislikes it, but no one feels particularly inspired by it, either.

I haven't seen it yet, but I was taken aback by the ad for it that aired during CNN's Degrassi-like primary coverage tonight. Intercutting some steamier clips for the film with the usual critics' quotes and mentions of various awards wins and nominations, the most fascinating element was the ad's choice of music: Timbaland's remix of OneRepublic's alt-pop ballad, "Apologize." It's a nice song, but a counterintuitive one, for a costume picture set in 30s and 40s England, and feels like a last-ditch long bomb to raise the film's box office profile (similar to the way Keira Knightley' earlier bit of Oscar bait, Pride & Prejudice, cast a distinctly emo Darcy to rope in a younger audience).

Even more interesting, though, is what I discovered when I logged onto YouTube to try to find the clip: a couple of fan-made videos, done months ago, that cut together clips from the film to the same backing track (WARNING: the vids reveal plot spoilers). Was Working Title aware of these videos when it cut its own ad together? If so, it's a really interesting example of viral marketing, picking up on how fans are already talking about the film and incorporating it into your own work. 20 years ago, MTV and radio marketed sountrack tie-ins for Miami Vice and Top Gun as emblems of cool that fans just had to have. I welcome this apparent shift in the direction of influence, the absorption of DIY ethos into an Oscar campaign. Coming as it does during network campaign coverage that often ignores such on-the-ground opinions in favor of pre-set narratives and tired conventional wisdom, it takes on an extra irony.


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