By David Poland email@example.com
20 Weeks To Oscar: Late October And Still No True Frontrunner
Gravity opened to massive business and great reviews now seems to be locked into a Best Picture nomination.
Captain Phillips opened to strong business (for a drama) and mostly positive reviews and now seems to be locked into a Best Picture nomination.
12 Years A Slave has opened in a 17-screen run, did rather well, has glowing reviews, and now seems to be locked into a Best Picture nomination.
After that… no one really knows.
A movie that had no more than the tip of their tippy toe in the race moved to 2014 (Foxcatcher). A movie that boasts one of The Academy’s recent beloveds decided to push into 2014 (The Monuments Men). Scorsese is cutting his movie so Paramount can be happy releasing it at Christmas and showing it to press in the days after Thanksgiving.
Saving Mr. Banks opened in London to nice, but unconvincing reviews. American Hustle launched a new trailer, which has fans and detractors abuzz.
And then there’s everyone else.
In our Gurus o’ Gold chart, we split the films into The Seen and The Unseen. Amongst The Seen, there are a possible 150 points for a Best Picture candidate. The top three candidates are all at 119 or better. The #4 candidate is at 73 votes. What does that tell you? Everyone is still in the game for nominations. There are 15 movies with at least 2 Gurus voting the title into the Top 9 (which was how many nominees there were last year).
Amongst The Unseen, 90 points was the cap. There are 3 films over 60 points (Hustle, Banks, and Wolf) and the two now left (goodbye to Mr. Clooney & Co) are at 30 & 23 points. Using the same standard for consensus as I just did for The Seens, that suggests that The Gurus think the top 2 movies are pretty much in the “locked in” category, sight unseen, and the third high scorer (Wolf) would still be #6 overall.
So pick all 6 as “in” or pick 5… the question still remains… which are The Other 3? You could go familiar with Alexander Payne, the Coens, and Lee Daniels. You could go all movie star with Streep, Redford, and Blanchett. You could push the edge with Spike Jonze, Denis Villeneuve, and Jean-Marc Vallée. Or you could mix them all up, along with some other candidates, and make a great salad.
And what about the true potential shockers… gentle ones like like Philomena or The Book Thief or Enough Said... or more mainstream directors pushing the envelope like Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor (leaning male), Jason Reitman’s Labor Day (leaning female) or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (leaning earnest).
Every movie has a different story. Labor Day, for instance, kinda got lost in the hyperventilating over !2 Years A Slave and Gravity at Telluride and then Toronto. Is it another Little Children? Yeah…a bit. But maybe it will have better luck with real audiences and find itself racing. Walter Mitty kinda got smacked by not being arty enough for the critics at NYFF… but again, real people are not critics. They might make a more intimate attachment.
You want my bet? I think we know the Top 6 now and that Philomena is a mighty strong dark horse to be #7. I don’t see it winning Best Picture, but it could well be a lot of people’s favorite, warmest film of the season. It also could be the strongest of the Weinstein pictures. Then I would say, pick 2 between Butler, Osage, The Coens, and Alexander Payne.
Also… I have a blind spot every year… a movie that I just don’t see making it, but that has very strong support from the gut from a lot of people. That movie could be All is Lost this year.
The truth is, there are 25 films still on the Gurus chart, 5 of which have not been widely seen, and only 2 would really shock me if nominated. And 1 of those 2 is a movie I kinda love, but which stiffed at the box office (Rush).
I don’t know that I have ever seen a season where the many people lining up for revenue from Oscar ads are quite this hyperactive trying to claim there is significant news going on almost daily. There isn’t. There haven’t been huge trend shifts. Nothing is trying to break up the 12 Years of Gravity party that is all too easy to assume since you already know what those films are.
In the beginning, there is Us… the prognosticators and scene setters. But the new trend in entertainment journalism is to have many voices… so many that you really can’t trust most outlets’ headlines, as you don’t know who is writing the story you’ll be opening. Then there are the con artists who just want to keep pretending to know when they are really just guessing.
Truth is, We have usually set the field pretty effectively by mid-November. 80%-plus of nominees are pretty well guessed at by then. So then it gets even weirder, as We fight over the last 20% and attempt to “win” by guessing the winners before anyone else. Every minor shift gets overemphasized because it – how dare it! – surprises Us. What started as somewhat rational prognostication turns personal… and sometimes ugly. And the people who have jobs trying to convince Us of this or that get sharper edged, which is often misconstrued as “dirty tricks,” but outside of the bubble is just called “publicity.”
But in the end… and this is the pleasure of it all… it is about those 5800 potential voters. They decided. They engage their personal tastes, whether We all agree with them or not. They will tell Us what They think… and then we will spend a lot of column inches (certainly in this column) trying to explain why and why it wasn’t all that obvious a week earlier.
But yeah… when those nominations are announced in January, they will be over 80% “I told you so.” And maybe there will be a true frontrunner by then. This year, who knows? (And that’s not just a ploy to get more Phase 2 ads… at least not here… at least not now. That’s about all you can ask from award season.)