The Hype Cycle is News Editor Brian Welk’s roundup of industry news, reviews and predictions of everything Oscar, boiled down into weekly power rankings of the buzziest and most likely contenders in this year’s awards season. This article is Part 2 of this week’s Hype Cycle column. Read Part 1 from yesterday.
7. Foxcatcher and Steve Carell
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You’ll recall that Foxcatcher was actually a frontrunner in last year’s Oscar race but got pushed back. Critics got their first look at Bennett Miller’s dark sports film doubling as a takedown of the one-percenter lifestyle back at Cannes, but it has rekindled excitement after bouts at Telluride and Toronto. The film is the true story of John du Pont, an inherited multimillionaire who recruited the brother of an Olympic wrestler to forge his own Olympic gold dreams.
The film is an easy contender for Best Picture and Director, a dark entry in a category that always seems to have a couple. Word has it though that Steve Carell, looking pudgy and unrecognizable as du Pont, is the outright star and Best Actor contender as opposed to a Supporting play. Kris Tapley writes, “mostly one sits in awe at the gall of du Pont throughout, repression and bruised ego oozing from every pore of his creepy frame.” In the same piece, Tapley mentions how Tatum needed to learn to be a better actor in order to embrace the role, and our own Lane Scarberry champions Tatum’s captivating performance during moments of self-inflicted violence. There’s some grumblings as to whether Tatum will also be campaigning for Best Actor or Supporting Actor, but he’d have a better shot if he went with the latter.
8. Jake Gyllenhaal and Nightcrawler
For his performance in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance has earned him comparisons to work in films such as Taxi Driver and Network, or an unholy combination of the two. He plays an investigative journalist embedded into extremely dangerous LA murder and drug regions, working on a chemical level to get freelance footage of crimes and sell them to the media. The combination of neo-noir and satire shows Gyllenhaal giving an “acrobatic performance,” as The Hollywood Reporter says, heaping criticism on a blood-hungry news media in the process.
But Gyllenhaal already looked like he was in campaigning mode at TIFF, turning on the charm as he recited a big chunk of his opening monologue in the film. He faces an uphill battle in a crowded Best Actor race though and may end up empty handed following his equally impressive turn in last year’s Prisoners.
9. Everything Adam Driver touches
The persona Adam Driver has established on Girls may make him a bit too weird to ever be a beloved, nerdy heartthrob, but in the past year he’s occupied the position that Benedict Cumberbatch held back in 2013, appearing in just about a half dozen high profile films throughout the year. Aside from What If and Tracks earlier in the year, Driver starred in This is Where I Leave You, Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young and the foreign romance Hungry Hearts, the latter for which he won the Best Actor award at Venice (take that Michael Keaton!).
Here at SOS, Ariel Fisher touted both of his performances in While We’re Young and Hungry Hearts, writing, “Driver is perfectly skin-crawling. The depths to which he manipulates those around him is shocking and infuriating.”
Unfortunately for Driver, neither film has distribution in America yet and thus won’t be a contender unless they get picked up. Perhaps The Weinstein Company will make a Supporting Actor push for Driver for Tracks, but hopefully his time will come soon enough.
10. Jennifer Aniston
Welcome to modern journalism, in which people are still unironically writing how brave it is for someone like Jennifer Aniston to be acting without makeup. In Cake, Aniston surprised the media with a dark, gritty performance in a grim drama about a woman with a drug addiction. Vulture calls it Aniston’s Monster, a transformative performance that allows her to “shed her vanity.”
The Playlist seems to think the talk that Aniston is a dark horse Best Actress contender is a stretch due to the quality of the film, writing, “Aniston digs deeper than she has in recent years, encroaching on territory much darker than people are accustomed to seeing her in, but thanks to a bloated screenplay from Patrick Tobin, and by-the-numbers direction from Daniel Barnz, Cake wallows in self-pity too much to sustain any true merit.” Monster didn’t receive much acclaim either, but that didn’t stop Charlize Theron for being a runaway winner. And in a light field, we may be seeing Aniston on Oscar night yet.
11. Hilary Swank
Is the Best Actress race truly light for real contenders? That seems to be the narrative, especially when compared to the Best Actor race that has already produced enough contenders to count on two hands, not including the likely contenders sight unseen.
Still though, with Witherspoon, Moore, Aniston, Knightley and Jones already circling, how much room does that leave? If the field is light, Hilary Swank could get a chance at her third Oscar, putting her in truly elite company. Tommy Lee Jones’s Western finds Swank leading a claim jumper (Jones) and three insane women across state lines from Nebraska to Iowa, battling onlookers, rapists and Native Americans along the way. Critics and audiences alike found it strange, if not still redeeming for the acting on display, which Eric Kohn said of Swank’s work, “she’s a pathological outsider, fiercely individualistic and awkward in equal measures, but always a commanding presence.”
The best thing that can happen to a summer movie with awards hopes is for it to stay afloat in a busy festival circuit. Boyhood has done just that. It’s had the pleasure of being called a masterpiece (a perfect 100 on Metacritic) and a slowly buzzy movie in the general public all without being THE frontrunner, opening it to contrarian attacks and a heavy burden to sustain all the way until March (though it’s seen some backlash as well). Sasha Stone claims it’s a contender to win Best Picture because it’s not divisive the way some of the heavier hitters are, writing, “Right now it’s quietly hovering in the background with the nicest people in Hollywood representing it. If you are underestimating Boyhood right now you are not paying attention.”
Other than The Grand Budapest Hotel and a possible push for The Fault in Our Stars, Boyhood may be the only early-year release with much of an awards hope, specifically for stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette in Supporting categories.
Making strides but losing ground
The narrative behind Jon Stewart’s involvement in anything is reason enough to check Rosewater out, but while the Telluride crowd celebrated it and called it a crowd pleaser, critics were less kind. It faces a big uphill battle in both Best Picture and Best Actor for Gael Garcia Bernal. Read Lane Scarberry’s review.
Though Mike Leigh’s film won Timothy Spall a Best Actor award at Cannes, it was old news at Toronto, where it was behind two other beautifully made British biopics in The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game.
J.K. Simmons seems to be the frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor category for his fiery, career making performance, but this Sundance sleeper may not have Boyhood’s legs. Read Ariel Fisher’s review.
Effectively out of Competition
Thomas McCarthy’s film has been called the worst of TIFF and capable of making everything else look half a star higher in comparison, veering closer to Adam Sandler’s Click with a big political message.
Men, Women and Children
Men, Women and Children is being described as Crash for millennials. Despite being the second worst received movie at TIFF, Jason Reitman’s film received a few positive notices, including some for star Ansel Elgort as an outside Supporting Actor contender.
Vulture noted the uncanny similarities between The Judge and This is Where I Leave You, a crowd pleaser and commercial fare but sadly not a charming comedy. It’s been described as a phony star vehicle and a straining drama.
Not likely contenders but buzzy all the same
After failing to get critics on his side with At Any Price, Ramin Bahrani has returned with a surprise hit starring Michael Shannon as a cold bank foreclosure agent who evicts Andrew Garfield from his home. Deadline reports the film was picked up by Broad Green Pictures and will be released in Spring 2015, making it ineligible for this season.
Called the grossest movie of the year, some have said all the same that Carla Juri’s performance is the real deal. Perhaps in a thin Lead Actress field, but that didn’t help the Blue is the Warmest Color girls.
Kevin Smith is back with a movie called completely insane. It’s a horror treatment starring Justin Long, and Tasha Robinson confirms that yes, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” is used throughout. Read Justine Smith’s review.
The Duke of Burgundy
The Dissolve critics all championed this satirical send-up of European softcore erotica movies from the ‘70s, directed by Peter Strickland of Berberian Sound Studio.
The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to The Act of Killing won the Jury Prize at Venice. Scott Tobias described it as “somehow more disturbing, if not more innovative, in confronting the terrible reality of the perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide.”