November has come to an end and just like that we’ve been thrown into Awards Season. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t give a damn about the Oscars, you’re smarter than me. Every year I’m disappointed by what is nominated, what isn’t, and the general elitism the Academy shows (name five movies this year that are more well-made and entertaining than Guardians of the Galaxy). But I simply love movies too much to not care. So when the Academy announces their nominations on January 15th, I’ll surely go into another 50 tweet rant about it.
Here are my first round of predictions. It’s early. Many of the contenders haven’t been released yet and the major precursor awards are yet to happen, but I think I have enough from the critics and film festival circles to make some guesses.
Note: I haven’t seen all these movies yet. It’s impossible considering some of them won’t be in theaters near me until after nominations are out. But I’ve read enough throughout the year to get a decent consensus.
Additional note: This is what I think will be nominated, not what I think should be nominated.
I’ll start with Best Picture today, and make my way through the other categories in the next few days.
Let’s get one thing clear: This is a wide open race. Both in terms of the final few slots and the top tier contenders. There’s no clear frontrunner at this point in time. By this time last year, it was already a two horse race between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. There are as many as 20 many movies with legitimate cases for a nomination, and in a year without a frontrunner, a handful with a real shot at taking home the prize.
Ranked from most likely to get a nomination to least likely. I’m going with eight this year, though the Academy can select as many as ten if they feel there are enough worthy films because, you know, The Dark Knight.
The predicted nominees are…
Once its Paramount-backed wide-release hits, Selma will gain so much momentum, it may very well emerge as the favorite. Not a ton of reviews are out yet, but those that have seen it are lauding the film as an achievement on every level. When you combine that with its subject matter (the MLK-led 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery), Selma immediately becomes a contender in several major categories.
There are concerns that the Academy won’t want to “go black” two years in a row, but it’s 2014, and early world around Selma is that, like 12 Years a Slave, it’s simply too good to be classified as strictly a “race movie”. This is not going to be a Spike Lee film (with all due respect to Spike Lee, who’s made some great movies).
I’m excited to see it, even though Oprah “what else can I attach my name to?” Winfrey and Brad “only nice white dude in 12 Years a Slave” Pitt had a hand in the production. David Oyelowo, who plays Dr. King, is a rising star who’s been a scene-stealer in some really solid movies. Selma is the first of my four shoe-ins.
Birdman was one of the first contenders to emerge this year. Its critical acclaim (94% on rotten tomatoes, won some big international festival awards) and box office success ($18 million currently in limited release) have done nothing but elevate the films status. Like Selma, it has a chance to be a major player in most categories.
The acting, directing, writing, and many of the technical branches will be throwing support behind Birdman. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s the best this year has to offer. Whether or not it can actually win may come down to how good some of the late-releases this year end up being.
Birdman also deals heavily with conflicts pertaining to the struggling artist, something the Academy eats up. Shoe-in.
Boyhood, which follows breakthrough performer Ellar Coltrane over an 11-year span from childhood to adulthood, probably deserves a nomination if only for its sheer scope and ambition. Once critics and festival audiences saw it, and universally agreed that scope had been executed beautifully, it went from “probably” to a shoe-in for a nomination.
Director Richard Linklater’s impressive filmography has by and large been ignored by the Academy (with the exception of a couple screenplay noms for Before Midnight and Before Sunset). That needs to change, and is always a factor with the Oscars, one that should work in Boyhood‘s favor.
Boyhood has absolutely dominated early critics awards and film festivals, and enough people have seen it (sitting at $43 million right now) that voters will have no excuse if they were to ignore it. It’s a shoe-in.
4. The Imitation Game
A historical thriller being pushed by The Weinstein Company, The Imitation Game should be able to jump on the back of its star, (everyone’s favorite) Benedict Cumberbatch, and ride him to a Best Picture nom.
The film is about British cryptanalyst/computer scientist Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), who played a crucial role in helping the Allies win World War II by cracking the Nazi’s infamous enigma code. After becoming a hero, Turing went on to be criminally persecuted because he was gay. WWII and homosexual conflict? Sounds like Oscar-bait to me!
But really, early word on the film has been great and I’m eager to see it. The Imitation Game has made some noise in limited release, and will end up being one of those movies the masses see after nominations come out. If it does as well in the precursors as most expect, it will show up on a lot more screen across the country.
5. A Most Violent Year
One of the smaller indies that is being hyped up this year, A Most Violent Year is a relationship drama set in the backdrop of the Heating Oil industry in early-1980’s New York. Early reviews have been great and the film got a ton of buzz coming out of AFI Fest.
Out of all the small indies this year I think A Most Violent Year has the best chance at a Best Picture nom due to the buzz surrounding its two leads (Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain). By no means a shoe-in, but if I’m betting right now, I’m taking it.
The great Bennett Miller won Best Director at Cannes (on top of receiving acclaim at Toronto and NY film festivals) for the dark drama Foxcatcher. It has a loaded cast (Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, mark Ruffalo) that all supposedly turn in career-best work.
It could end up being too dark or too small for some voters but for now cracks the top eight.
7. Into the Woods
We’ve seen a Rob Marshall-directed, Tony-winning, musical adaption win Best Picture before (Chicago). Add a much-buzzed-about Meryl Streep performance to that and Into the Woods is certainly in the hunt. But nobody has seen it yet, and like some of Marshall’s other work, it may end up not being very good (Nine or Pirates of the Caribbean 4 anyone?).
Still, Disney is already pushing this hard as both a blockbuster and awards contender. Some of their internet adds actually say “for your consideration in every category including Best Picture”. They seem too confident for this too end up completely sucking.
8. Gone Girl
My last spot goes to David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Not because I thought it was good (I didn’t), but because the Academy will likely have to choose one or two major hits and I think more voters will have problems with Interstellar than this.
Many feel Fincher has been robbed in both director and picture in the past. There will be a ton of support from the acting branch as well due to the films talented and diverse cast. This could change very quickly, but for now, Gone Girl gets my final spot.
What I think will miss the cut…
9. The Theory of Everything
Certainly in the hunt, but I’m weary that this movie (about Stephen Hawking) might be ignored outside of Lead Actor. There have been mixed responses to the film.
I don’t think there’s room for both Whiplash and A Most Violent Year. As I said above, A Most Violent Year is gaining late buzz and has a more-respected cast.
This is the wild card, the Angelina Jolie-directed WWII drama. Some of the word of read and clips I’ve seen imply this film may be a bit too sentimental. It has the buzz, I’m just not sure it’ll end being good enough.
It could easily get in considering all the fans it has and that Nolan is the reason this category was expanded. But he already got his “we’re sorry” nomination for Inception.
Also, the Academy went heavy with Gravity last year (which was a much better movie), will they go with a space epic two years in a row?
13. Mr. Turner
Same as Whiplash. It may just be too small. It needs some major precursors to make it stand above A Most Violent Year.
14. Still Alice
Small movie, late release, probably more of a Juliane Moore showcase than anything. It could ride her to a nomination, but I doubt it.
Much like Still Alice, it’s a late-bloomer carried by its star actress (in this case Reese Witherspoon). It needs her to dominate precursors or there just won’t be any room for it.
16. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Many Wes Anderson fans are calling it his best, but it came out way too early in the year, and I’m not even sure they’re campaigning it that hard as an awards movie. They’ve never nominated Anderson outside of screenplay or animation in the past, why would they now?
17. Inherent Vice
The source material is just too weird. It’s going to be a stoner comedy, The Big Lebowski for this generation. Paul Thomas Anderson and a great cast probably aren’t even enough to get this a ton of attention.
18. American Sniper
“Directed by Clint Eastwood” is both a good and bad thing nowadays. He’s obviously a legend, but his films have been weak recently and the Academy has acknowledged that. Early word says Bradley Cooper is great, but the movie is not.
19. Top Five
I suppose Chris Rock has an outside shot and this is supposed to be a good one but I don’t think there’s room.
A weird release, premise, and style will probably prevent this from having any chance. But it’s the best sci-fi/action movie in recent memory. Snowpiercer will go down as a cult classic that we look at 10 years from now and wonder how the hell it didn’t make an awards impact.
Oh, and Guardians still reigns supreme.
I’ll be looking at Best Director and Best Editing next.