2015 is finally here and so are the Oscars and actual Awards Season. No more of this speculation and hype machine stuff around movies that haven’t come out yet or guilds that haven’t had their say. Oscar voting ends today, January 8, and nominations are revealed bright and early on January 15, one week from today.
This means that any news that breaks between now and next week will have no bearing on the actual nominations (or at least one would think; maybe the North Koreans have some thoughts). And though there will be a few more guilds and awards groups trickling in over the next week that might provide a hint more insight, any predictions should be considered FINAL.
So what’s so bizarre about this particular week on the Awards calendar is that the film generating the most attention is a movie not even on the awards radar, Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language. The film won the prize for Best Film from the National Society of Film Critics, and the Oscar watching Internet seethed with anger.
Perhaps frustratingly, but also excitingly, the 2015 Oscar race has revealed a particularly dense field with no immediate frontrunner, and the NSFC decision didn’t help clear things up in the slightest. And yet by throwing that particular curveball, it has arguably put the nail in the coffin for any long shot Oscar hopefuls. The candidates we’ve been hearing about for forever are the ones that will show up Thursday morning.
Easily the biggest Oscar controversy of the week also proved that Whiplash is a film with a lot of passionate support. Damien Chazelle’s script is now being determined by the Academy to be an Adapted Screenplay, despite the fact that it just on Wednesday picked up a nomination from the Writers Guild of America for an Original Screenplay, which it is. The confusion stems from the fact that Whiplash is technically based on a short film Chazelle made, a common habit of indie filmmakers who want to be able to earn the funding to tell the fuller story later. This could seriously hurt Chazelle in the screenplay category, preventing people who wished to vote for it elsewhere, and now putting it up against the likes of Gone Girl and The Imitation Game. But it also scored a key Producers Guild Award nomination, putting it in good Best Picture company and a solid contender on even the Gurus ‘O Gold’s meter.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
There was some serious concern just a few months ago that Fox Searchlight might not put up the strength necessary to secure a comeback for what could be one of Wes Anderson’s finest films. Now it’s starting to seem like a lock in an expanded field. Critics have showered it with praise, second only to Boyhood, and it has received across the board Guild recognition, even from the Art Directors in a key move for its chances across multiple technical Oscar categories. Kris Tapley says he’ll be convinced of Grand Budapest’s power as a contender if it can secure a Directors Guild nomination next week, but the bigger question I have is whether Ralph Fiennes can squeeze into the pack of Best Actor contenders. Fiennes lost out to Jake Gyllenhaal in the SAG nominations, but SAG did chalk up Grand Budapest’s collective cast.
Perhaps fittingly due to the film’s revolutionary subject matter, Selma has faced an enormous amount of controversy over its accuracy. HitFix has a comprehensive timeline of all the events over the last several weeks, but the collective whole has been a back and forth debate between the media and director Ava DuVernay as to President Lyndon Johnson’s role in the fight for Civil Rights. The Washington Post was first to draw blood, arguing that the film pits Dr. King and LBJ at odds to one another, making it inaccurate and peculiarly, calling for the movie to be ruled out of Oscar season.
DuVernay has responded publicly on Twitter and in Rolling Stone about the history and the film’s dramatization. Meanwhile, critics like Bilge Ebiri have come to Selma’s defense in the name of overlooking the need for historical accuracy. And all of the above might be a great boon to Selma in the same way controversy ultimately did not tank Zero Dark Thirty, but Selma has struggled to get screeners into the hands of Academy voters who need to see it. It’s hard to imagine that such a film could be left out with such an enormous pedigree and subject matter, but it missed with the Producers Guild as a result and is struggling to find footing.
Like Selma, Foxcatcher is currently a bubble contender now likewise battling historical accuracy claims. But unlike Selma, the film’s subject Mark Schultz is alive and well. Though he originally celebrated with Director Bennett Miller and championed the film, Schultz has since taken issue via social media with multiple aspects of the film’s accuracy, particularly the presumption that there are homosexual or fatherly undertones between his relationship with John Du Pont.
Foxcatcher did receive the PGA and WGA support it needed to buoy its chances, and Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo still seem like likely acting contenders in busy fields.
While there’s controversy surrounding Clint Eastwood’s latest film as well, it’s a fight many Americans aren’t prepared to pick. The Guardian called out inaccuracies in Chris Kyle’s memoir and labeled him a “hate filled killer”, wondering why “simplistic patriots” are so willing to embrace him as a hero. Bilge Ebiri says Eastwood is well within his rights to adapt Kyle’s memoir and allow it to stand alone as a film. American Sniper doesn’t have the support of SAG but found praise within the PGA and WGA.
If you want a dark horse, there’s nothing darker and more fitting than Dan Gilroy’s slimy, noir heavy Nightcrawler. Kris Tapley pointed out that Nightcrawler is one of five films to have received universal guild support, putting it in the company of The Imitation Game, Birdman, Gone Girl, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The SAG nomination for Gyllenhaal several weeks back was the film’s first big boon, and he’s the most plausible bubble Best Actor contender along with Bradley Cooper and David Oyelowo. And the critics love the film too, recognizing the film, Gyllenhaal and Gilroy’s screenplay, but failing to do the same for Rene Russo, who likewise is on the fence in the Supporting Actress category but deserves to be a sure thing.
Falling off the charts:
Gone Girl has been steadily raking in guild nominations but hasn’t gotten nearly the buzz of these films released later in the year. Hopefully we don’t see a surprise omission.
After missing a PGA nomination, the once mighty Unbroken may finally be broken. Its best chances for nomination still lie in Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography, but Best Picture is beginning to look like a stretch.
Not only did PTA’s film miss out on the PGA, it really could’ve used a WGA nod where films like The Imitation Game and Selma were ineligible. Who knows what, if anything, this great film will get from the Oscars.