Which Films from Sundance 2014 May End Up Being Oscar Nominees?
by Joey Magidson
February 25, 2014
Each year at the Sundance Film Festival, folks like myself try and pick out which, if any, of the movies making their debut in Park City could become Oscar contenders later in the year. In 2013, I attended the indie film festival so I can attest to the Oscar buzz starting for something like Fruitvale Station screened. Ironically, none of the movies from Sundance 2013 made the cut for Best Picture, but screenplay nominee Before Midnight premiered there along with four of the five Best Documentary Feature nominees. But maybe some films from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival could get Oscar love. The question is, which ones?
As always, a few movies sprung to the forefront of the conversation about what was the best in Park City (just ask Alex and Ethan, who were there in person), though from the outside it seemed like there was a wider variety of well-received fare than usual. That could either mean that more films than usual will have some potential awards love, or that almost none will, since no one flick will capture the zeitgeist. Time will tell, but at this early stage, there's certainly some possibilities. Below you'll see some different films that played at Sundance 2014 and contain some level of Oscar potential when next awards season rolls around.
Richard Linklater's latest has been called a masterpiece by some (though a few people said the same thing last year with Before Midnight), but by whatever measure it's clearly one of the best hopes from this Sundance lineup for some awards attention. The incredibly unique method of filming the story is tailor made for a nomination of some sort, so if it hangs on all season and proves to be more than just art house fare, this is one that could show up in a number of places, including Best Picture and Best Director for Linklater. Read Alex's review from Sundance right here.
If the Academy is open to the idea of truly considering Kristen Stewart, her turn as a soldier at Guantanamo Bay here could be one to keep an eye out for. The reviews weren't too strong, but her performance was praised for the most part. It's a de-glam role for sure, and Oscar loves that. At this early stage, it's worthwhile to mention her as a Best Actress possibility. We may find that to be a pipe dream come the fall, but for now, she's in the early conversation. Read Ethan's review from Sundance right here.
This could be the project to get Aaron Paul some big screen recognition. Playing a troubled widower gives him an incredibly awards friendly part to test himself with, and by all accounts he did a very fine job. The movie could be too much of a downer for some, but that's never really stopped voters in the past when they are moved by a role. If they feel strongly for this one, he could wind up in play.
Mike Cahill has yet to really break out from the independent corner of the world, but those who liked this sci-fi tale really liked it. This sort of high concept indie could be in play for a Best Original Screenplay citation if it catches fire throughout the year, though we said the same thing about Another Earth and that didn't happen. Time will tell, but don't count it out. Read Alex's review from Sundance right here.
Infinitely Polar Bear
I think that voters would love to give Mark Ruffalo an Oscar one day, and this incredibly baity role could be a chance to do it. This dysfunctional family film was considered one of, if not the, biggest potential awards vehicles going into Sundance, particularly for Ruffalo's performance as a bipolar father. It's probably going to get a solid campaign, and Ruffalo could very well wind up in the Best Actor race.
If there's a documentary that could be a sentimental favorite all season, it's this one from Steve James on the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. Not only would I say that this is the very early (in fact, ludicrously early) frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature, I wouldn't rule out a Best Picture push. Oscar voters love to reward what makes them cry, and there won't be a dry eye left at Academy screenings of this one. If any of them knew Ebert personally, that only makes it an easier vote. Keep an eye out for this one later on in 2014, it could make some noise. Read Ethan's review form Sundance right here.
A biopic of troubled pianist Joe Albany shown from the perspective of his young daughter, this high concept flick gives baity parts to both John Hawkes (as the drug addled Albany) and Elle Fanning (as his daughter), and while the former is turning into an Academy favorite, the latter is doing some tremendous work of late. This could really be an acting showcase, so watch out for Hawkes and Fanning down the road.
A Most Wanted Man
The recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman will undoubtedly shine an extra bit of attention on this spy flick. Going into Sundance it was thought to be one of the bigger awards vehicles and even was considered an odd choice to play at the festival by many. The reviews were solid, but not overwhelming, so this could be less of a contender than originally thought. Still, I'm sure Hoffman's role at the very least will be considered for some citation. He's an acting legend, so he'll deserve anything that comes his way. Read Ethan's review from Sundance right here.
The One I Love
Sundance romantic dramedies have gotten nominated before, though they're also sort of stigmatized for just being quirk-fests. This one supposedly avoids those latter trappings, so there's definitely some potential here. Reviews were excellent, so that can only help. My guess is that this is more of a Spirit Awards player, but we'll see. I wouldn't count it out, perhaps for a Mark Duplass nomination even.
The Skeleton Twins
I'm not sure if the Academy will "get" this one, but few movies at Park City were enjoyed more by my colleagues than this one. I'd love to see Bill Hader get some awards attention, much like Will Forte did this past season for Nebraska. Kristen Wiig too could be in play, as she's already a prior nominee for writing Bridesmaids and potentially was close to a Best Actress nomination of her own. Read Ethan's review from Sundance right here.
This could very well be the film that stands the best chance of being remembered come the awards season. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons both are apparently phenomenal, so campaigns in their names are a sure thing. Both have been in play before, the former just last season for The Spectacular Now, so especially for Teller, this could be his ticket to the A-list and an invite to join the Academy. After all, Whiplash won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic at the end of the festival, so it already has accolades. Read Alex's review from Sundance right here.
Those are the 11 films that I think could stand the best chances of getting a nomination, but we have a long way to go until we find out. Plus, there's a whole slew of other films that got picked up at the festival which might have a chance. By my estimation, the main ones to take note of are Boyhood, Infinity Polar Bear, Life Itself, Low Down, and Whiplash. A year from now, I might look back on this piece and either cringe or gloat (perhaps both?), but for now, this is all speculation. Which Sundance films deserve some Oscar love?