Ladies and gentleman, we're now entering a critical and (at least for me) fascinating section of the awards race which is known as the precursor season. Between now and when Oscar night roles around in about five months, nearly every awards body, critics group, and guild will chime in with their best and worst in 2013 cinema. Some unexpected films will rise in the Oscar race, while some will surprisingly tumble. Mostly though, things will begin to crystalize, so I felt that it was prudent to explain what's about to go down and how to properly filter it. That way you don't get too high or too low depending on how the new season goes.
I can hardly believe that it's November already! We're only weeks out from some major precursor awards that will begin to show just what shape the Oscar race will take at the start. Basically, this is the final calm before the storm, so an update to my predictions is due. There hasn't been a massive shift since my previous update last month, but more than enough has changed. What follows is a quick rundown of some of the major movements in the race to prep you for the how and why of some of my predictions. You'll see the predicted nominations after that, but once again, don't read too much into them yet. Moves are still being made, so it's going to be somewhere in December before one can get a concrete sense of some categories.
Much like our recent talk about how Ridley Scott's The Counselor was a trendy, early Academy Award prediction, another one of that ilk was Oliver Hirschbiegel's much hyped biopic Diana, which opened in theaters this weekend. Once presumed to be a Best Actress contender for Naomi Watts as the princess that gives the film its name, the movie is now in theaters with absolutely no buzz or fanfare. It's gone from being thought of as possibly one of the year's top films to an absolute laughingstock. Watts is basically out of the Best Actress race and Razzie awards are probably more likely than Oscars at this point. So what happened?
Over a year ago, we highlighted the launch of MoviePass, a $30 a month combination iPhone app and a reloadable credit/debit card that allows users to see one free movie a day at pretty much every theater in the country. The only catch is that it doesn't work for 3D or IMAX movies and you can only see a movie once. It's not a bad deal, though there were kinks to work out at first, the year of service that this writer has utilized has been largely pleasing. But clearly, MoviePass has some problems with how frequent some of their power users are utilizing their service, and they've introduced a "new feature" to stop it immediately.
About a month or so ago, I wrote about if the Academy would be able to resist George Clooney's newest directorial effort The Monuments Men. Well, it looks like we won't have to find out, at least this year. Yes, in case you somehow haven't heard the recent news, the film is being delayed until next year. Apparently, it has nothing to do with quality, but just about getting the film right, so this isn't likely some hidden disaster being kept from our discerning eyes. However, it's a major event in the Oscar race. Crossing Clooney's movie off of your predictions will impact the Academy Awards up and down the line, but how?
Last year, there was an unexpected movement to get Matthew McConaughey recognized with an Academy award nomination. Yes, the same guy who'd been criticized mercilessly for his shirtless performances and lack of effort was now a critical darling of sorts for the one-two punch of Killer Joe and Magic Mike in 2012 (plus the festival run of Mud, which was seen by Alex at Cannes, continued into this year at Sundance, and then came out earlier in 2013). While the former was a lead performance in an NC-17 flick destined to be ignored by Oscar, the latter was a scene stealing supporting turn in an unexpected hit. While McConaughey ultimately missed out, the stage has been set for him to perhaps build on that this year.
One of the benefits of hindsight when it comes to the awards season is to periodically look back and see just what some of us were predicting would be Oscar contenders at different points throughout the year. For example, remember when The Great Gatsby was, sight unseen, thought of as a Best Picture lock? I certainly do. Especially now, when nearly all the awards contenders have screened at film festivals or some form, I always like to see which titles currently stick out like a sore thumb. Now we're able to add one more to the list, and that's Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Oh boy, is it ever one to add to the list. More below!
Don't let all the nominations for Amour at last year's Oscars fool you... foreign films always have an uphill battle to be noticed by the Academy anywhere besides in their own category of Best Foreign Language. Michael Haneke's flick defied the odds the last time around, but could it be the start of a trend? We'll find out this year with Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color, which also is a Palme d'Or winning foreign flick hoping to score Oscar attention. This year's big foreign player has some striking similarities with last year's, but also some notable differences that make it one of the season's real puzzling contenders.
By the time you're reading this, J.C. Chandor's sophomore feature All is Lost will be out in theaters. In the coming weeks it'll begin expanding outside of NY & LA and you'll have a chance to see Robert Redford give one of the best performances of the year. The film itself may be a mixed bag (at least for me, though I know I'm in the minority) but Redford is aces and ever since the movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival he's been tipped as a likely Best Actor nominee. As the race has evolved, it's become clear that not only is he all but guaranteed a nomination now, he could wind up being the one to ultimately win the Oscar in March.
It has been a few days since I saw Her at the New York Film Festival and I can't even begin to get it out of my head. Not only is it far and away the best movie I've seen all year, it could very well be heading to the All Time list for me. That's pretty rare stuff, and I wasn't alone in heaping tons of praise on Spike Jonze's flick over the weekend. I'm sure it's going to develop a strong following, but when it comes to its Oscar potential, things are a lot more complicated. Up until I saw it, I was mostly dismissing its awards chances (outside of Joaquin Phoenix, as I wrote here) but once you actually see the movie, and specifically see how this is a universal story about love... it's a whole new ballgame now, at least in terms of deserving to be considered.
Once upon a time, Tom Hanks was just about as golden a god to the Academy as there was. Not only did he accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of winning back to back Best Actor statues (for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump), but he's constantly considered one of the more revered Oscar winners in history. These days he's lost a little of his critical luster due to a focus on less, why don't we say, taxing roles, but he's back in top form in the new Paul Greengrass film Captain Phillips (now playing in theaters). As such, he's once again got Oscar buzz surrounding him, and trust me... it's warranted. Furthermore, I truly believe that Hanks could be a few months away from winning his third Best Actor Oscar. High praise, I know, but hear me out!
By now I hope most (if not all) of you have seen Alfonso Cuaron's terrific new film Gravity at least once. Some of you have probably even seen it a bunch of times already. Not only is it an epic piece of cinema and among the year's best movies, it also represents a rare science fiction Oscar contender (and yes, I know calling it "sci-fi" is debatable, but it's close enough). That genre has had a hard going in the Best Picture field over the years, but it's possible that the days of knowing that a sci-fi flick was a surefire Academy loser might very well be over this year. I don't actually think that Gravity will take home the Oscar at this point, but it could make a stronger play than just about any other contender of its ilk over the last decade or so.
The calendar has now turned to October, so it's a perfect time to give those Oscar predictions an update! Between now and those initial predictions back in August, a lot has changed folks. Before I show you my new predictions, I figured I'd give you a bit of a rundown about where the major wrinkles in the race have come from. After that, you'll see how I see the nominations going down, though trust me... a lot can and still will change between now and the end of the year. This is the time where any and all of the big contenders begin making their moves, while others will start to fall back in the pack or ship out of the race entirely.
I finally saw Joel & Ethan Coen's new film Inside Llewyn Davis and boy oh boy is it a good one. Leading man Oscar Isaac especially is phenomenal. As for its Oscar prospects (no pun intended), well... that's a more complicated situation. This is the sort of movie that's going to need a very targeted campaign in order to be successful. Some flicks can just put out a "For Your Consideration" (or FYC for short) ad proclaiming that the work needs to be acknowledged everywhere and feel good about their chances. Inside Llewyn Davis is not quite that sort of beast, so it's hardly a contender likely to be shut out when all is said and done.