By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
22 Weeks To Oscar: How It’s Looking… OR And Then There Were Five
It’s a couple of weeks before I normally start 20 Weeks To Oscar. But I was getting a little itchy.
After all, it’s been a month since the Toronto International Film Festival started and not a whole lot has happened in those weeks.
Captain Philips has opened the New York Film Festival… though most of the media saw it in early September. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be shown at NYFF on Saturday. Foxcatcher, which was not all the way in for the season fell out of the season. And Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street finally got shown to top execs at Paramount at a length that needs a lot more thinning, which has rumors of the film moving to Christmas, early 2014, or Cannes flying all around the town.
So still in he “still mostly unseen, but we know they are coming” category are Saving Mr. Banks, Soul Survivor, Monuments Men, American Hustle, Her, The Book Thief, and Anchorman: The Legend Continues … though word is that Will Ferrell is refusing to do the work to get his Best Actor nomination.
Perhaps the biggest change between now and mid-August is that Gravity went from “A Space Adventure in 3D” (as it was tagged by The Cuarons on the screenplay itself) to, potentially, the movie house & cultural phenomenon of the year. People were looking forward to the movie, especially in the cult of Cuaron, but the movie turned out to be both emotionally connected and, in many ways, visually unlike anything anyone has ever seen. Click off nomination slots for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and probably a half-dozen more.
!2 Years A Slave was less of a surprise, though Steve McQueen has been left at the starting gate before, a victim of being unflinching in his portrayals in a situation where Academy members are easily turned off, even if they admire the work. Click off a Best Picture and Best Actor, with highly likely nods for Director, Screenplay, and another half-dozen slots.
Are there any more Best Picture nomination locks? I don’t think so. The list of already-seen contenders for what will probably be 7 – 9 slots isn’t very long (in alphabetical order): All Is Lost, August Osage County, Blue Jasmine, Lee Daniels The Butler, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, Fruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Nebraska, Philomena, Prisoners, and (less than 48 hours way) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Considering the 6 “unseen” movies and the 14 “seen” movies, I would expect that we’ll end up with 2 or 3 from the “unseens” and 3 or 4 from the “seens.” This is not a shocking assessment. But what it does mean is that while most people seem to think 1 or 2 of the “seens” list are likely nominees, you kinda have to get your head around a more likely 4-pack. i can argue for or against almost any group of 4 from this list.
“August has a massive ensemble that is catnip for The Actors.” “When movies by The Coens are seen as above average, they get in, even when most prognosticators don’t see it coming.” “Dallas Buyers Club has two mammoth performances and an important story about overcoming the limitations of government, which will ring loud right now.” (I won’t offer the arguments against… but there are arguments against all 14 movies.)
There do seem to be some acting locks from this group of titles. Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Forrest Whitaker. Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett
Equally striking, there are candidates in the Supporting categories from these films… but not really locks. Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Chris Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal. Supporting Actress: Oprah, Margo Martindale, June Squibb
And don’t misunderstand. It’s not for lack of quality performances. It’s just a year where a lot of these movies don’t have natural supporting slots that scream “Awards!” Not in the lock movies either. Gravity really has no supporting performances to parse. And 12 Years A Slave is loaded with great performances in supporting roles, but no real guide to which supporting performance should be The One. Fassbender, Pitt, Paulson, Giamatti, Dano, Woodard, Nyong’o are all worthy, but all part of a true ensemble. The other movies like that is Butler, with Oyelowo, Gooding, Williams III, Redgrave, Alafia… and that’s before all the presidential stunting. Who do voters focus on? The usual answer in this situation is, they don’t.
And in the acting categories, the “unseen” movies are loaded, perhaps even if they are not all Best Picture movies. Tom Hanks (sppt) and Emma Thompson (lead) in Mr. Banks. Pick some guys from Monuments Men and/or Soul Survivor. Joaquin Phoenix in Her with another Amy Adams sure-to-be-consideration-worthy performance. Is there anyone on the cast of Hustle that hasn’t won or been nominated? So looseness could get very tight very quickly. And Wolf of Wall St may still end up in the group.
On October 4, we really don’t know anything for sure. A few weeks ago, 12 Years A Slave was the runaway winner and now, Gravity is the movie to beat. What will be in be in a couple of weeks? I can’t say that I know.
There are pieces to the puzzle we have pieces that have yet to appear, and mostly, pieces that we have in our hands, but whose fit it is really impossible to know at this time. What will Gravity and Captain Phillips gross? Will The Fifth Estate stir debate or will everyone be too distracted by the government shutdown? Will Ridley Scott’s The Counselor present as an awards movie to everyone’s shock?
Oscar seasons are like raising children. Everytime you think you know how and what and why, things change. It’s neither shocking nor some evil plot by X, Y or Z. It’s the nature of the beast. And this season, The Beast is taking its sweet time taking shape.