I thought we could dissect what we know of the top eight categories right now (Picture / Director / Screenplays / Acting), considering that the first leg of award’s season is pretty much over. We may have a few more critics filter in with their thoughts, but as we’ve seen, a consensus is forming around the best of the year. If you’ve checked out the Award’s Tally Page here on the site, you’ll have seen which films/performances are racking up the nominations and the wins, and so we’re going to talk about that a bit today. We’re gonna start with Best Picture.
|Is it really this easy to win an Oscar? I feel like I've done nothing to deserve it...|
Two films are dominating with the critics, Boyhood and Birdman. Birdman has racked up 25 (at the current moment) individual noms for either Best Picture or Ensemble, and it has won 9 of them. Boyhood has received 34 noms and has won 15 of them. Their Oscar nominations are locked in at this point, and they are arguably the two frontrunners, with Boyhood looking more and more like the eventual Oscar winner, unless something starts winning the big precursor prizes (and that could happen, as it has happened many times before). Still, there is no way that either of these films misses the Oscar lineup.
Next in line would, arguably, be Selma. It has missed with some key precursors thanks to late screeners (or no screeners at all), but WOM is strong with this one, and despite a later showing, it has still managed 16 individual nominations, and has hit with both the Globes and BFCA. More telling is the fact that it is strong in other categories, namely director, and the hype, buzz and importance heaped on the film itself and what the nomination for it and its director would mean are propelling this to the top of the heap. The reviews are solid, some extraordinary, and so I’d say it is safe for the nomination, and this is one of the few films that could, in the end, contend for the win over the aforementioned top two.
|Don't worry boys, once they see our movie...they'll vote!|
Next, we have Harvey’s main horse, that film that a few months ago was said to be the frontrunner for the actual Oscar that seemed to just kind of fizzle…The Imitation Game. Despite the fact that it hasn’t dominated with the critics (it still has a respectable 14 individual nominations, and has hit BFCA, Globes and SAG), it has the prestige and the British block sewn up, and that means a lot. Harvey will PUSH this one hard, so for now, it is resting in the top five despite not being as close to the win as one would have expected a few months ago.
04. The Imitation Game
Then we have three films that are doing respectable, one of them actually hitting top three level notices. I’m talking about Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Theory of Everything. These three films have made enough of a dent to establish their place in Oscar’s expanded field, but deciding which one would be in their Top Five at the moment could be harder. Gone Girl has missed two important precursors, SAG and The Globes, but the reason this feels more like a Top Five contender than the other two is the fact that Fincher is hitting almost everywhere. We’ll talk more about that when we dissect the Directors, but the combination of the two noms has a lot of meaning, and it is for that reason that I give Gone Girl the edge here. Sure, Anderson is also hitting (surprisingly) everything, but I still question whether or not The Grand Budapest Hotel is as secure as we all want to believe it is. This feels like that surprise indie that could, that one film that critics rally behind but Oscar eventually dismisses. It has a grand showing so far (20 individual nominations and 2 wins), but is Anderson really AMPAS cup of tea? And then we have The Theory of Everything. Maybe this is Top Five material, considering that it feels so much like an Oscar film (biopic about a beloved legend) and yet, despite 7 nominations and hitting top tier precursors, it doesn’t feel like a film with a lot of passion.
|It says here that they love you, they really, really love you.|
Still, in an expanded field, I’m placing bets on all three of these films.
05. Gone Girl
06. The Theory of Everything
07. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Speaking of surprise contenders, did anyone really think that Whiplash would be a contender for Best Picture? With 12 individual nominations (all for Best Picture), it really is that little film that could. Where Foxcatcher once felt like the studio’s main push, that film has only secures 3 mentions in this category (winning one Ensemble award), while Whiplash is on the rise, recently securing a nomination from BFCA. It could easily miss, considering that the pedigree isn’t strong, but it already has an Oscar win in the bag (Supporting Director), and almost all of the Breakthrough awards have been doled out to the film’s director, so the film has something that the aforementioned The Theory of Everything doesn’t seem to have…passion. Passion means a lot in a race like this.
And then we come to the last spot. This one is a tad tricky. If you looked over at the Award’s Tally Page, you’d see that I had 21 films under the Best Picture category, all of which could have made a play for Oscar’s top 8-10. Some of them are clearly out of the race now, and so they’ll be siphoned from the list now, but others are kind of resting there, not quite in, not quite out, all bringing their own pros and cons to the table. Fringe contenders like this don’t always rely on the quantity of their nominations, but the quality of them and the timing of them. A film like A Most Violent Year may have racked up three nominations early on, and even won NBR, but a film like Unbroken, which performed dismally (especially compared to what was expected) managed to hit both the AFI Top Ten and scored a recent BFCA nomination, which in the scheme of things ‘could’ mean more. It’s a gamble, but those little details say a lot.
So let’s start to narrow this down. Fury is out. It hit with NBR and then died. Love is Strange is gone. It never should have been there, but it had a strong showing early on, with nominations from Gotham, Satellite and Spirit and I wondered if it could be that small indie film that made a play, but it died almost immediately. Interstellar is out. LOL. It hit AFI, but nowhere else. No one cares about Nolan’s attempt to Cuaron’s fame. Top Five is out. I wondered, with all the hype, if it could become a player, but outside of a random HFA for the year’s best comedy, it hasn’t shown up anywhere, not even with the Globes.
|It doesn't look like the Oscars have ever been to this planet...|
That still leaves me with 9 films contending for that final spot or two (I’ll do a comprehensive Top Ten, even though we all know it’ll probably be 9, like it has been ever since the rule change).
Those 9 films are:
American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, Nightcrawler, Unbroken and Wild. This is where other factors start to come into play. You have to weigh in not only the amount of accolades/nominations the films have received, but the passion behind the films, the pedigree of the cast/crew/directors, the studio’s belief in the film and subsequent push, the timing of their rise; etc.
American Sniper and A Most Violent Year are not really in my sites at the moment, but are here for their pedigree (AS) and for their big win/possible passion/timing (AMVY). Still, I’m not predicting them right now.
Foxcatcher should have performed better, especially after the Cannes success, but maybe it is too cold. Wild has only 1 nomination for BP, but it is a recent one, and because of the success of Dallas Buyers Club last year, I’m holding onto a possible surprise BP nom here. I’m not counting on it, but I’m flirting with the possibility. Mr. Turner has landed a few nods, and it’s poised to perform well at BAFTA, but for now I’m thinking the passion may not be strong enough to break in here, especially when the film has been called a tad…dull.
That leaves us four films in two groups. We have the surprising indie films that are making a late play for a spot, and we have the big studio films that looked like frontrunners on paper that haven’t performed as strongly as expected but could make it in based on hype and prestige alone. I’m thinking we’ll have one of each, or at least that’s what I’m going to predict for now.
First, let’s look at our big studio pushes, since they always seem to have the easier time in these situations. Unbroken, at least here on this site, has been touted as the Best Picture frontrunner all year. I was wrong. The reviews were punishing, the performance was dismal, the possibility of an Oscar win is non-existent. Still, this is the type of film that can easily score that filler nod in an expanded field. Then we have Into the Woods, which was also expected to do well and yet missed with SAG (how does that happen) and really isn’t said to be that incredible. Good, yes, but not great. Unbroken has a more compelling, Oscary story, and has the combination of AFI, BFCA and NBR, so I’m going that route for now.
And lastly, we come to Inherent Vice and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler has been doing surprisingly well, racking up 7 mentions and 2 win and even hitting AFI, NBR and BFCA. Still, this feels so un-Oscary. I haven’t seen it, granted, but it just feels like one of those films that never makes it into the Best Picture lineup. Inherent Vice also has a less Oscary feel, but it has an Oscar nominee at the helm, and all of Anderson’s films (with the exception of his first film) have landed on Oscar’s radar in some way, shape or form. This is also where timing is a factor, since Inherent Vice has just been seen and so it is really now that it matters, and this is the type of film (Nightcrawler is also, to be honest) that could instill a rush of passion, but where this has the upper hand over Nightcrawler is that this passion would be sudden, and recent.
10. Inherent Vice
|I did NOT see this coming!|