Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Oscar Narrative: The Indie Spirits, The Critics, and the Road Ahead

The next two weeks or so are going to be a non-stop onslaught of critics awards, culminating with SAG and Golden Globe nominations mid-next week, then the Critics Choice the next Monday. It is going to be a whirlwind, but within a few weeks we could know a lot more about the Oscar race. First let's talk about the Spirits. The two films that solidified their Oscar status were Carol and Spotlight, and I will get to their critical prospects in a moment. These were not surprises, and I am still predicting both will do well with Oscar voters. But several films either took a hit or made strides in the race based on their overall performance at the Spirits. Anomalisa is a creative film with a lot of support, that I thought was going to be too weird to breakout beyond the Animated Feature category. But if it continues to rake in critical support, it may get enough of a boost to make a play at several categories, particularly screenplay, and maybe, just maybe Best Picture. Beasts of No Nation still has an uphill climb, because its subject matter is a downer. But, like Anomalisa, continued and sustained critical support can boost its chances in several categories, particularly Idris Elba. There are two films that I thought took a bit of a hit, and are going to need some help. The first is Room. It got a lot of love from the Indie Spirits, and many consider it a lock for a Best Picture nomination, and Brie Larson the leader for Best Actress. I still think all of those things are in the cards, the Indie Spirits are nice, but they are not Academy voters. That being said, missing out of the top prize at both Gotham and the Indie Spirits is odd, and a bit disconcerting for a film with so much awards potential. Finally, I was hoping Love & Mercy would make a play in more categories particularly Elizabeth Banks. But alas, only Paul Dano made the cut. Word is that the film is being remembered by Oscar voters, and I do hope at least a few critics groups remember it in the next few weeks.

Now come the critics, and unlike last year, I feel like there are so many possibilities. Last year it felt like Birdman and Boyhood were going to dominate the critics and they did all the way through to the big night. But this year, I am simply not sure where they will go. Carol and Spotlight seem like safe places for critics, as both films are beloved by these groups. They are big Oscar contenders, and have a cinematic quality to them that will appeal to these groups. But they could also throw us a curve ball. The aforementioned Beasts of No Nation and Anomalisa seem like outside choices that could garner some big wins. Then there are the big guys like Inside Out, The Martian, and Mad Max. You would think that big studio projects like that wouldn't need a boost, but in terms of the Oscar race, they are all non-traditional Best Picture contenders, but they also happen to be beloved films among critics. I don't honestly know how the critics are going to pan out, but I think that there will be much less than a consensus this year, which means that it will come down to the guilds, starting with SAG. Even now though, the number of potential nominees for ensemble is astounding, and it will take a while to sort everything out. It is only the beginning, and as always, we'll have to wait and see...

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