July Oscar Buzz

Last week, I put out feelers to a few people closer to the Oscar race than myself. Journalists, pundits, and a couple industry folk. Some of them were kind enough to get back to me and answer some questions. I can’t say who they are, obviously, and this is just my speculation based on their speculation based on information they have.  
So, do with the following what you will…
I’m hearing that Fox has been and will continue to push Logan hard, including campaigns for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. They believe the film will resonate with the Academy more than Deadpool did, and they’re prepared to spend whatever they need to in order to ensure it remains in the discussion all year. Even if the smash hit doesn’t land well with Oscar voters in major categories, it’s expected to be nominated in sound categories. Fox will also run an expensive campaign for The Papers from Steven Spielberg, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. 

Star Wars star John Boyega is supposedly the closest thing Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit has to a lead, but it’s a true ensemble film and any awards campaigns for its cast will likely focus on supporting categories with Oscar. Don’t fret about its Best Picture chances, however, as the last two winners (Moonlight and Spotlight), were both also ensemble films without an acting nominee in lead categories. 

Competing distributors already fear the Lead Actor race could come down to two people; Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and Daniel Day-Lewis for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s still untitled fashion drama. Oldman is one of the most revered actors in film, and he’s never won before. In fact, his only nomination came five years ago for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He certainly has a strong overdue narrative and a baity role. Day-Lewis is of course an Academy favorite. The last time he teamed up with PTA it was for a little movie called There Will Be Blood, for which he won the Oscar.

Outsiders believe Netflix has their best chance yet of striking Oscar gold with Sundance hit Mudbound from Dee Rees. It remains to be seen how the streaming company handles the rollout -they’ve been much less open to theatrical than Amazon- but the film is said to be an urgent masterpiece, and the best thing to come out of Sundance. Also with Netflix, nobody expects Okja to be much of an awards player, hence it becoming available online so soon after its Cannes premiere. 

The Weinstein Company could be looking to play the role of last-minute buyer like Fox Searchlight did last year with Jackie. The company’s two assumed players, The Current War and Mary Magdelene don’t look as strong as they once did. I’m hearing straight up bad things about the former (albeit based on test screenings) and the latter is supposedly playing up the Jesus & Mary romance angle, obviously a controversial choice, which could bother a lot of voters. For as what films they could be looking to buy? I, and the few people I contacted, are clueless.

The Oscar chances for Dunkirk are very real, and Warner Bros knows it. They think the film can have a similar awards profile to that of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m yet to see the film but am told it could be a real threat in picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor (Tom Hardy), cinematography, editing, production design, costumes, sound editing, sound mixing, and original score. It could realistically get double-digit noms.

Hearing less-than-stellar rumors about Marshall but hearing strong rumors about Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!. The mysterious film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem and could hit with the Academy like Black Swan did. For what it’s worth, the person who told me to keep an eye on it is the same person who told me to keep an eye on Moonlight six months before it came out.

More in the coming weeks as festival season takes shape.

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