Oscar Monday – Halfway through New York

Even a week in Awards Season can change the race dramatically, dropping a film out of contention or introducing a new one during the slog of festival premieres, precursors and campaigning,  downfall and triumph, whittling down the selection until the ‘big show’ – the Oscars. It’s a crazy six or so months, and one I love to follow and analyse, despite how subjective the Oscars themselves are. Every week, I look at the ins and outs of the biggest happenings of the awards race. 

We’re nearly through fall festival season – Veince; Telluride came and gone, not having a distinct breakout like other years due to TIFFs new policy; TIFF passed with more fanfare, but, again, no clear, standout hit that had everyone reeling like 12 Years a Slave last year; and, as of Saturday, we’re halfway through NYFF. For me, Boyhood still looks like the frontrunner at this point in time (I’m feeling a real Coen Brothers in 2007 moment for Linklater here). All that’s left on the major campaign trail is AFI, where we’ll get the first look at likely our last batch of contenders, namely J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, the festival opener, and perhaps films like Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. NYFF this year, like any, was hotly anticipated for a few reasons, the prime ones this year being Gone Girl and Inherent Vice.

#Pikemania is here, people. Opening in many markets worldwide last week, Gone Girl, thus far, has been the cultural and financial juggernaut everyone anticipated, perhaps even performing above expectations. Usually, it’s the type of film that wouldn’t be drawing these types of crowds – it’s long, it’s nasty, it’s dark, however you want to put it, it’s the antithesis of an audience film. But, as I said in my review, it grabs onto our sick fascination with the grotesque, captures the zeitgeist, and, most importantly, regardless of whether audiences have been completely sold about it, they love talking about it, they can’t get enough of it. This conversation is going to continue for months. We’re in the first wave now, the initial viewers and reactions. This is not the type of film where the entire audience for it sees it in the first week, it’s a marathon runner, not a sprinter. This $38 million or so opening weekend in the US is only the beginning. Not everyone knows about what it has in store, what Rosamund Pike’s character is yet, and they don’t want to. They want to see it themselves. Then will come a second wave, where the majority has seen it, and want to discuss it more. More can be talked about, spoilers don’t need to be worried about anymore. Pike’s incredible performance can be truly discussed in depth, the buzz around it cemented in the collective consciousness (it’s a performance that’s going to be remembered in years to come, without a doubt). The problem most commonly faced by campaigners is getting voters to watch the film. It’s why heaps of smaller, less buzzed about films dont get in – they haven’t heard anything, voters want to know what they’re going to watch out of their mountain of screeners is going to be good. Gone Girl doesn’t have that problem. If a voter hasn’t seen it for some reason (and most of them would have), they will have heard enough about it to be curious and watch it. It has a formula that leads to strong Oscar chances: big bucks+inbuilt book fans+controversy+buzz that will be around for a long time+very showy role+hardworking ‘newbie’.

UPDATE: Well, after only 5 days of release, Gone Girl is #85 on the IMDB top 250. Don’t underestimate this one.

Current projected nomination breakdown:

Very likely: Actress, Film Editing, Score, Screenplay, Cinematography

Likely: Picture, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

Possible: Director, Actor, Supporting Actress (Dickens or Coon), Makeup (probably not ‘showy’ enough for the Oscars, the closest comparison I can think of is Barney’s Version, which also stars Pike, but even then, the work in that film covers much more time)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s hotly anticipated The Master follow-up Inherent Vice premiered as the NYFF centerpiece on Saturday, and while the reactions have been positive, as expected, awards prospects are beginning to dwindle. Said by Indiewire to:

“Surely divide, PTA’s latest will not be for all audiences and arguably for hardcore cineastes only, but the movie should be a tad less inscrutable than “The Master.” As per usual, Anderson doesn’t deign to spell anything out other than the plot, which is so complicated it doesn’t matter. And in the picture’s second half it’s all showing and no telling, which may leave some viewers feeling unmoored. “Inherent Vice” will be baffling to some, and these criticisms won’t be invalid. But the point isn’t the plot or the grammar, it’s the feeling, and the layered, complex tempers of Anderson’s latest creation are legion.”

Variety’s Scott Foundas:

“Not for all tastes (including the Academy’s), this unapologetically weird, discursive and totally delightful whatsit will repel staid multiplex-goers faster than a beaded, barefoot hippie in a Beverly Hills boutique. But a devoted cult awaits the Warner Bros. release, which opens wide Jan. 9 following a Dec. 12 limited bow.”

To be honest, PTA getting some Best Picture love again was a dubious prospect to start with. His track record in the main category is spotty, his only nomination is for There Will Be Blood, arguably his most ‘traditional’ film. It would be great if Inherent Vice pulled through and got some recognition (I hope I’m wrong and it does get in), it’s amazing that PTA still lacks an Oscar after producing continuously incredible work, but at this point, I’m not optimistic outside of a small chance for Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin in what looks like a very entertainingly hammy part), Supporting Actress (Katherine Waterston, who’s getting a lot of positive reviews), Costumes  and perhaps Screenplay. Sigh.


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