MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20 Weeks To Oscar: 20 Weeks To Go

Oh, the lists are flying fast & furious now. It’s open season again. Many possibilities.

In honor of everyone and their brothers (all absolute experts, make no mistake), I will throw some stuff at the wall today, as we are now 20 Weeks To Oscar.

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Here are four movies that are going to be nominated, barring major screw-ups by the distributors/consultants (in alphabetical order):

The Martian
Room
Spotlight
Steve Jobs

Here are eight much talked about titles that are now dead for a Best Picture nomination:

Black Mass
Everest
I Saw The Light
Legend
Our Brand Is Crisis
Southpaw
Suffragette
The Walk

Here are the three films left to be seen with a serious shot at being nominated for Best Picture:

The Hateful Eight
Joy
The Revenant

Here is the crowd of movies that have been sufficiently well-received (or are still anticipated to be so) to get nominated, have distributor support (meaning will AND money), but will have to wade through the crowd to find a place at the big table:

Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Concussion
The Danish Girl
In The Heart of the Sea
Inside Out
Trumbo
Sicario
Youth

And here are your longshots for a Best Picture nomination for a wide number of reasons, from minimal theatrical alongside Netflix, to commercial aversion to minimal award budgets:

Beasts of No Nation
By The Sea
Creed
45 Years
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mr. Holmes
Star Wars: Episode 7
Straight Outta Compton

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The Actress race is pretty hot, if tight, this season.

Brie Larson is in.

She is also the only female lead in any of the films I see as locks for Best Picture nods. (You could argue Kate Winslet is co-lead… but I wouldn’t.)

After that, you have Emily Blunt, Cate Blanchett, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander (who will probably go supporting), Charlotte Rampling and Lily Tomlin.

Unless Angelina Jolie is great in By The Sea, there are no real surprises left in this category. Blythe Danner, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith have faint glimmers. Dame Maggie is not traveling and while Danner is being pushed to fight for it, it’s a tough get, though people really like the performance, as well as the veteran actress herself. Mirren’s movie was popular, but not well loved.

So assuming no Vikander, it’s one lock and seven chasing four spots. Hard to be against Jenn Lawrence. Rampling and Tomlin are chasing the same slot… so pick one of those two. After that, I’d go Saoirse and Blunt at this point.

I don’t believe that anyone is being nominated for anything from Truth. And the Weinstein Company has a lot of work to do to get Carol where is should be… they aren’t close at this point… only media seems sold.

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Actor, anyone?

Fassbender in. Redmayne in.

After that, it looks kinda like the women, except we are waiting on more films to land. DiCaprio in The Revenant, Will Smith in Concussion, even Michael B. Jordan in Creed. Is there a lead in The Hateful Eight? We’ll know when they show the film.

Your list of nominees could be full right there. But there are others who require serious consideration.

Michael Caine is ripe for love. Matt Damon leads what will be the most commercial film of the season. Ian McKellen is more than due and could take the rug out from under Caine. Bryan Cranston is brilliant in the third act of Trumbo, though voters may have tuned out by then. And of course, big dogs Hanks and Depp are always a threat.

There are many other excellent performances this year… but they aren’t getting in. Sorry. Jake Gyllenhaal is still due… but the taint is on the movie even if it is undeserved.

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Supporting Actress is a great category with a surprisingly thin realistic field.

Winslet is in. That’s about it.

Rooney Mara is highly likely for Carol, but TWC – again – needs to get on the horse. She is really the lead of the movie and she does the best work of her short career with the best character she has had to play. But this is not a lock… this could be lost for lack of attention.

Vikander is highly likely for The Danish Girl, but she was better and more decisive in Ex Machina. (She is one of the great emotive actresses of her generation and will be back to the Oscars many, many times if she wants to be. This is not her greatest performance… but it will still get in without a ton of muscular competition.)

Then, the fight. I’d love to see Jennifer Jason Leigh get honored. But we can’t know until we see the film. Fonda is brilliant in her 2.5 minutes of Youth… but if the movie doesn’t heat up a lot – like Best Picture possibility hot – it won’t matter. Elizabeth Banks is excellent in Love & Mercy, but if she gets nominated, the rest of her resume will be her conveyance… she is having an iconic year and many will want to celebrate all that is her. Joan Allen is excellent in Room, but the movie will have to take her to the holy land… she is missing the money scene… but it could well happen.

Spotlight is going to get a lot of heat, but I don’t think there will be enough for Rachel McAdams to ride that wave… especially because she won’t ride the wave.

We haven’t seen Joy, so we don’t know if one – or two – of the supporting actresses take slots. Could Gugu Mbatha-Raw get love? Possible… seems like a longshot in a movie that seems like it might be a challenge for Academy voters.

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Supporting Actor

Pick two Spotlight actors… they’re in.

Mark Rylance owns Bridge of Spies. The movie feels limp and hungry for his presence when he isn’t around. In.

Benicio del Toro seems undeniable… and he is working for it… but Sicario is one of those movies that is hard for old people. I want to believe he is in. But not fully confident.

Then we start guessing.

Paul Dano. Harvey Keitel in Youth.

One of the unseens like Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. Idris Elba. Tom Hardy in The Revenant. Someone (multiple someones?) from The Hateful Eight?

I’d love to see Forrest Whitaker for Southpaw or Michael Shannon for 99 Homes… but those are beyond long shots. Michael Stuhlbarg in Steve Jobs… Giamatti in either bad guy authoritarian role. Uphill fights for great character actors.

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And finally, for this exercise… Best Director.

Danny Boyle and Tom McCarthy, in.

Ridley Scott and George Miller are out ahead early, but could well be pushed aside. Scott is the more likely.

We haven’t seen the Tarantino, the Iñárritu or the Russell. One, two or all could easily be undeniable.

Spielberg is Spielberg… which doesn’t assure him a nomination.

Honestly, I think your five is in this group.

Lenny Abrahamson, Todd Haynes, John Crowley, and Paolo Sorrentino are the arty longhots. Wouldn’t be a profound shock if one of their films caught fire enough to get them in.

And that is the field as I see it, this day, October 15, 2015, 137 days until the Oscar ceremony, or roughly, 20 weeks to Oscar.

8 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: 20 Weeks To Go”

  1. theschu says:

    No mention of The Big Short which was just given a December date a few weeks ago.

  2. movielocke says:

    Asking again:

    How does inside out get enough number ones to avoid being eliminated in the first round? Especially as they are splitting Disney Pixar votes with the good dinosaur being released in november.

    Star wars is going to be the most popular screening in the below the line guilds. Who wouldn’t want to hear a panel on the sound or editors or costume etc etc on the ultimate dream job? If the movie is good I could see the below the line portion of the academy pushing it over the edge.

  3. benutty says:

    Most of these “in” comments are laughable. Two Spotlight supporting actors? Room is not IN. Wait until it fizzles at the box office and barely makes half of the critics top 10s. Carol is being wildly underestimated–I don’t care what anyone hears or knows about how slowly TWC is acting on it… critics that matter love it and it’ll be all over the precursors. Pundits will come around late, as usual.

  4. Pete says:

    Spielberg is out. His direction is pedestrian in Bridge of Spies. Not an original scene in the movie. The script does not help.

    In supporting actress, Kristen Stewart should be in the mix.

  5. KMS says:

    Anomalisa?

  6. Daniella Isaacs says:

    When will Todd Haynes finally learn his lesson that Harvey Weinstein is not his friend. He screwed up on the release of VELVET GOLDMINE, so much so that Todd went elsewhere with FAR FROM HEAVEN, a fact that so enraged Weinstein that he vowed to do whatever he could to *keep* it from winning Oscars for Focus Features. (This isn’t a rumor. Weinstein’s temper tantrum and threat were covered in the media at the time.) He then gets I’M NOT THERE somehow and works hard for his friend Cate Blanchett to get a nomination, but could easily have pushed that film over the top in terms of nods for its screenplay and cinematography (maybe even direction), but he didn’t bother. Now he’s dragging his feet on CAROL. Sigh.

  7. Stephen Holt says:

    I don’t know why all this quietness about “Carol”? Wasn’t at Toronto. It’s hardly being screened. What up Weinsteins?

  8. jenna says:

    No DeNiro for Supp. Actor?

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin