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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar

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.


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

The Martian
Steve Jobs

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

Black Mass
I Saw The Light
Our Brand Is Crisis
The Walk

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

The Hateful Eight
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
The Danish Girl
In The Heart of the Sea
Inside Out

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
45 Years
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mr. Holmes
Star Wars: Episode 7
Straight Outta Compton


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

23 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar”

  1. Matt says:

    Highly doubt The Martian is “in” for BP. It could make it if the late breakers don’t pan out, otherwise it’s clearly Fox’s 3rd priority. Poland has a habit over overestimating Ridley’s films, see Exodus in his post-NYFF BP lineup last year.

    And Fox knows they won’t get 3/5 Drama slots at GG, which is why Martian is going Comedy.

  2. John E. says:

    If Hateful Eight gets acting noms, Kurt Russell and Sam Jackson are co-leads. JJ Leigh could be supporting actress, of the other male supporting parts, Bruce Dern probably has the best shot. But this one doesn’t feel like it has the same crazy ambition as Django or Basterds. Feels more like Reservoir Dogs of 1870.

  3. Hcat says:

    Haven’t seen either but everything Seems to point to Brooklyn being more of a shoo-in than Martian. And wouldn’t it make financial sense for Fox to push the smaller film for awards since Martian will already have reached its box office peak well before awards season?

  4. Hallick says:

    “And Fox knows they won’t get 3/5 Drama slots at GG, which is why Martian is going Comedy.”

    I dunno, I think they should really be leaning in on the Musical side of it instead.

  5. PJ says:

    There seems to be quite a few people in disbelief that a film that successfully launched at TIFF, followed by excellent reviews, followed by boffo box office is “in”. While Martian may be Fox’s #3, it’s in better position then other studios #1s. Martian is going to win both GG Comedy and Actor in a walk, so don’t see how pushing it there is some sort of mark against it….

  6. JK says:

    Can’t wait to see Jennifer Lawrence’s and Leo Di Caprio’s performances in Joy and The Revenant…Top Oscar contenders for Best Actress/Actor and Best Picture.

  7. Smoove says:

    Interesting take on a potential narrative taking shape around Elizabeth Banks. Her “iconic year” being a “conveyance” and people wanting to celebrate that.

    If she were to get nominated (and I agree she was excellent in “Love & Mercy”), it would add a new wrinkle to that supporting actress race alongside the proven horse in Winslet and the fresh faces, Mara and Vikander.

  8. Chris L. says:

    Figures that Weinstein would be lax in pushing a film that most reviews actually deem a masterpiece rather than the usual pablum he promotes. Distressing to read this assessment, but certainly not surprising. The thing is, though, if Hateful Eight is his prime candidate, he might want to advise its director to dial back the “candor” ever so slightly, before it lands on someone the voters care about. (Or is QT the Trump of this campaign, able to say literally anything without losing his audience?)

  9. Gustavo says:

    “Martian is going to win both GG Comedy and Actor in a walk, so don’t see how pushing it there is some sort of mark against it….”

    Because the Academy rarely likes comedies, let alone sci-fi comedies? Besides, it’s not a comedy.

  10. AdamL says:

    The Golden Globes category placement is often absurd but if they do place Martian in Comedy it will be the most absurd placing in history. That surely cannot happen.

  11. Hallick says:

    “The Golden Globes category placement is often absurd but if they do place Martian in Comedy it will be the most absurd placing in history. That surely cannot happen.”

    I believe they’ll be claiming that their film is actually based on the Ray Walston sitcom, “My Favorite Martian”, and hence it more than qualifies in the Comedy category.

    Failing that, maybe they can wander it into the Foreign Language Film category instead.

  12. Ray Pride says:

    Does he speak that much Martian?

  13. PJ says:

    Yeah the Academy surely hates comedies what with David O. Russell movies getting nominated left and right.

  14. Smith says:

    So you think Truth, The Big Short, and Love & Mercy aren’t in the BP race even as long shots?

    And what about Son of Saul?

  15. Doug R says:

    Does hexadecimal qualify as a foreign language?

  16. Ray Pride says:

    Plus, now, the dying of the Light, singing Long Gone Lonesome Blues.

  17. Bulldog68 says:

    Read one or two sites that liked Seth Rogen and think that he might pull a Jonah Hill, but I gotta agree that really liked Michael Stuhlbarg in Steve Jobs.

    Does anyone think there is any space for a Charlize Theron nom for Mad Max the way there was space for Heath Ledger?

  18. cadavra says:

    David O. Russell films are comedies? Ya coulda fooled me.

  19. Brandon says:

    To my eye, Jeff Daniels had THE money scene in STEVE JOBS (apart from the rousing final ninety seconds, which put as fine a button on that film as any closing scene in recent memory). It’s not a showy performance by any stretch, but DAMN, he’s great in a true supporting role. Would love to see him get a strong push.

  20. movieman says:

    Daniels is one of those dependable, go-to guys who’s been so consistently strong for so many years (decades now) that he’s invariably taken for granted.
    I thought he deserved a nod for “Terms of Endearment” 32 years ago.

  21. mark says:

    Julia Roberts… Secret in Their Eyes? It looks bait and commercial…

  22. Hallick says:

    “Does anyone think there is any space for a Charlize Theron nom for Mad Max the way there was space for Heath Ledger?”

    She didn’t make a sonic boom in Fury Road like Ledger did when people saw The Dark Knight. If there is space, it’s a different kind altogether.

  23. TMW says:

    Not mentioning The Big Short seems a tad foolhardy to me. Paramount is putting a lot of muscle behind this one and Bale/Pitt/Gosling/Carell apparently love the material and writer/director Adam McKay so much that they’ll go out of their way to promote it. And the Academy surely wants them all there on Oscar night. A screening of it a few nights ago in LA with the stars in attendance was apparently well received, too.

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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