Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: SAG's Today, Golden Globes Tomorrow

So today, I will take a look at the Oscar race, and tomorrow, another article about the Globes, and finally, this weekend, updated predictions to reflect.

First things first. The SAG Awards are simply too early every year. SAG reactions to Selma were fantastic. Then how did it end up with zero awards, along with films like A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, Big Eyes, Into the Woods (besides Meryl but she probably would have gotten in sight unseen), and Unbroken? Some of the reason could be the quality. But a big reason could be that not enough people saw them, and Selma is an excellent example where there were not screeners in time. Could it still be a huge Oscar player? Of course, and although it has been a long time since a film has won Best Picture without a SAG Ensemble Nod, streaks are made to be broken. It could rebound tomorrow at the Globes, if not, I bet a DGA, PGA, and WGA trifecta gets it back on track.

Now onto the top five nominees. As expected, The Imitation Game, Boyhood, and Birdman did extremely well and solidified themselves as the top Oscar contenders. And I expect all of their actors to repeat at the Oscars and the Globes, and all three to reap Best Picture and Best Director nominations. I had predicted The Grand Budapest Hotel, because I feel a comeback coming, a feeling that started with the critics awards. I also expect it to do well with the HFPA tomorrow, and I think it is big Best Picture contender. This nomination confirms it. The one that actually surprise me is The Theory of Everything. It does make sense that the actors love it, as it is a film that is a major player simply due to the talents of its two lead performances. But they are the only ones in the film that make a mark. It is not really an ensemble piece. I was thinking instead of something like Foxcatcher or Into the Woods. I guess this proves that Theory of Everything is a big contender, although I would put it in fifth or sixth, despite its nomination here. The film that really hurt here was acutally Gone Girl, It has a big cast with a lot of names, and while the Rosamund Pike nomination was nice (a guarantee though due to weaker competition), it could have done better here, and it didn't. And the snub stings. Now back to Foxcatcher. I was really hoping for an Ensemble nomination to boost its chances, but it did have a good day...

Enter Steve Carell (And Mark Ruffalo). While it failed to get the Ensemble nod, the two nominations for these actors proved that people are paying attention, and despite its dark premise, I still think it is a major player across the categories. I'll remind everyone that people doubted Moneyball as well, and it managed six Oscar nominations. And with Keaton, Redmayne, and Cumberbatch, the quartet of actors that have led this race for months continue to dominate, and most likely will until Oscar night. It is that fifth slot that threw us all off. Since not enough folks saw American Sniper, Selma, or A Most Violent Year, I thought maybe Ralph Fiennes could snag a nod. Maybe Timothy Spall gets a lot of love as a brilliant and overdue character actor? Maybe Miles Teller gets some recognition for holding his own against J.K. Simmons and being one of the best young talents out there. But no. Instead a darkhorse contender in a dark movie made a huge comeback and staked his claim in a competitive race. When I heard Jake Gyllenhaal, I was genuinely surprised, and pleasantly so. He may be the one that doesn't go the distant in the Oscar race, as the late contenders get seen. But I am glad to see he is in the conversation, and who knows? He could ride this wave and beat out stiffer competition. This was a great first step.

Best Actress is another category that now has four clear frontrunners and a fifth slot that is up in the air. Jones, Moore, Witherspoon, and Pike are safe bets throughout the season, and I expect them to sail right through. But the fifth one has been a bit in flux for a while. I thought Swank would make it in here (not at the Oscars, but this is the group that nominated her for Conviction). But I will say, even if the HFPA gives her a nod tomorrow, I think that without SAG, she is probably done in this race. The big surprise for most people was Jennifer Aniston for Cake. I am proud to say that while I did not predict her for SAG, I have had her in my sidebar Oscar predictions for weeks now. I saw an opening in this race, and I genuinely thought Aniston could benefit from it. The Homesman as a film was not well-received, The Fault in Our Stars was too teen themed (a real shame as Shailene Woodley should be in this race), Not enough people saw Big Eyes (although I honestly think this is a year Amy sits out), and Marion Cotillard, despite a lot of critical attention, is going to need a lot more campaigning to break through the foreign barrier. That left Aniston as the natural heir to the fifth slot. If she gets a Globe nod tomorrow, it really solidifies her. Even if she doesn't, unless Cotillard breaks through (maybe BAFTA can help her here, and probably will), Aniston could well be the fifth slot here.

Best Supporting Actor had four guys going in (see a pattern here, it repeats itself again by the way), and all four made the cut. I had predicted Robert Duvall for that fifth slot, because SAG is predictable in the sense that in a race like this, the popular veteran wins out. Will he get an Oscar nod? He honestly could, and if the Globes agree, I will move him up. Yes, The Judge got mediocre reviews, but it is hard to argue against a legend like Robert Duvall. Who can beat him out of that slot? I still think Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson are threats once more actors see Selma. Christoph Waltz should not be discounted, and despite lack of support Josh Brolin could be a surprise contender. But I think it is between Duvall and Wilkinson for slot number five.

Now onto the nomination that simply doesn't make since. I loved St. Vincent. It was funny, a great cast, and yes a bit too feel-good, but it worked for me. And I love Naomi Watts. I expect that Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray could get in tomorrow at the Globes, and if pundits and voters wanted to reward the film, these are the two I expected to gain traction. I did not see Naomi Watts coming, as good as she was (although now that I think about it, it could have been a double nod for Birdman as well). I will be shocked if she continues to do well and get in at the Oscars. I think that slot will go to Jessica Chastain instead. Laura Dern is another possibility, although if the actors didn't go for it, the role just might be too small, and Wild might just be the Reese Witherspoon show. As for Streep, Stone, Arquette, and Knightley. Once again, four actresses that have been predicted all season, and will probably do well all the way through.

Tomorrow are the Globes. As always, we'll have to wait and see.....

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