MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

29 Weeks To Oscar: Let The Wild Rumpus Start

29 weeks 2016 651

As usual, at this point in the year, the pickings for Oscar already seem light. Lots of presumably good movies. But how much Oscar bait is there in the ocean, really?

Let’s just dive in.

My first Top 10… in which I feel strongly about the nominations bets on only 3 of these titles. The deck could shuffle a lot in the next 2 months.

(in alphabetical order)

The Accountant
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The Birth of a Nation
Bleed For This
The Founder
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Robert Zemeckis, Ang Lee, John Lee Hancock, and Damien Chazelle are the four directors with films on this list who have had films nominated, or winning, for Best Picture.

Gavin O’Connor, Nate Parker, Denzel Washington, Kenneth Lonergan, Ben Younger, and Barry Jenkins have not.

And now… here are the films that didn’t make the 10 (for now). Let’s start with September releases.

The three titles that seem lock-ish are Billy Lynn, Birth, and Fences. Everything else is just… could be.

The Accountant, Allied, and The Founder have to prove that they are more than high profile. La La Land could be One From The Heart or all the things One From The Heart was hoped to be. I can’t imagine not loving it, either wa). Kenneth Lonergan has earned a lot of love, but is 0 for 2 on Best Picture. And Moonlight seems like pure indie with Barry Jenkins finding a more sizable audience, but probably a reach for Best Picture. I’m giving A24 the benefit of the doubt because they have earned the respect.

In the last decade, only one September release has been Oscar nominated. Moneyball. One-for-78.

So whether you are looking at what seem like obvious Oscar contenders – Sully or The Light Between Oceans or what promises to be the most Oscar-worthy film of the month, Snowden – or more commercial product whose Oscar prospects some will wonder aloud about – Deepwater Horizon, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Magnificent Seven, The Dressmaker – never bet on September… even for a nomination. (Performances, perhaps. Best Picture, no.)

As long as we are on dating issues, here are a bunch of titles with potential that either don’t have a US distributor as of yet or are dated realistically for 2017: Miss Sloane, A United Kingdom, Tulip Fever, The Circle, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Secret Scripture, and Annihilation.

Looking backwards at the year, titles with potential include The BFG, The Lobster, Money Monster, The Nice Guys… none of which were commercial enough, in their individual contexts, to make the leap to Best Picture nominee. (And this comes from someone who is upbeat about all four films.)

If there is a film that could circle the year and land a nomination, it would be Hail, Caesar!. The Coens have had this happen before. The passion for their work just keeps growing. So if enough bodies fall by the wayside, their moralistic comedy about studio-era Hollywood could be taken very seriously by mid-November. If the season turns stronger than expected, it will go away.

So… let’s move down the list.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Arrival (previously Story of Your Life)
Collateral Beauty
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
The Girl on the Train
Patriots Day

When I started this year’s list, I has Rogue One in my Top Ten. I think Hollywood, as embodied by The Academy, would like to have a Star Wars movie good enough and pleasurable enough to nominate. Titles from the Trilogy of Trilogies are at a disadvantage… there has to be some kind of unique element that makes that particular movie stand out on its own. But the spin-off titles, it seems to me, have a better change, because they will feel like one-offs. But then, the buzz about trouble in post-production began, and while many films overcome problems along the way (actually, most great films), the unusual issue of Star Wars‘ breed pushed me away from the guess.

Also sure to be massive is the new Harry Potter-associated brand, Fantastic Beasts. But because that franchise skews younger, I don’t think Academy members are eagerly awaiting a chance to vote for that one.

Then, we have five commercial pieces aimed at adults. Arrival and Passengers have sci-fi elements… which are a bit scary, Oscarwise.

The Girl On The Train feels like Gone Girl, in tone, and with that, more a likely nomination for Emily Blunt than for the film.

The partnership of Allen Loeb – who write some good dramas before becoming a Sandler comedy acolyte when Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps went bad – and David “The Devil Wears Prada” Frankel is not encouraging when you look at the weighty drama of Collateral Beauty. On the other hand, a lot of great talent was attracted to this material. So… you never know… but not getting on my Top 10 this week.

And Patriots Day is Peter Berg on the Boston Marathon bombing, which takes it out of the “just commercial” arena, but doesn’t necessarily pull it into Oscar season.

American Pastoral
Nocturnal Animals
The Queen of Katwe
War Machine

These are the wildest cards in this year’s deck.

And they will all be in Toronto.

There are arguments to be made against all of these titles “on paper.” But the season doesn’t happen on paper. One or even two of these films could find their wings and take off at Toronto (and/or Telluride) and make it all the way to the big finish line.

Rules Don’t Apply

Beatty. Scorsese.

Oscar players. Masters. Never assume they are not going to be in play. And that’s all I know until I see the movies.

And that is what I think on August 4, 2016. Big names still have an advantage. Big budgets too. And nothing, in my opinion, will change at all as a result of the efforts to change the composition of The Academy. So that is that… for now.

Be Sociable, Share!

14 Responses to “29 Weeks To Oscar: Let The Wild Rumpus Start”

  1. Kate says:

    Just an FYI, Allied is not formerly War Machine. Allied is a Zemeckis film with Pitt/Cotillard, distributed by Paramount. War Machine is a David Michod film distributed by Netflix.

  2. David Poland says:

    I’ve adjusted that. Thanks, Kate.

  3. Kate says:

    Question: could The Light Between Oceans be the kind of film where its chances reside solely in the performances, with SAG especially responding to them and lifting them into the race?

  4. Tuck Pendleton says:

    How about Sully? If DP has seen it and the film is left off intentionally I understand, Eastwood appeal can run hot and cold. Thought the trailer looked great though.

  5. Sam says:

    Hacksaw Ridge. There are obvious reasons it hasn’t been discussed by the Oscar Nostradami, but the response to the trailer and the grassroots screenings suggests it will be a commercial hit. In addition to technical noms, Supporting Actor for Hugo Weaving is possible. Andrew Garfield may be in play for Best Actor, depending on what happens with Scorsese’s Silence.

  6. Jane says:

    Downsizing is not released until December 2017. [ED. Removed 8/5: ” Downsizing smells gimmicky, but Payne has made intimate magic in the past out of themes that seemed impossible.” Thanks!]

  7. Chris L. says:

    IMDb has “Downsizing” dated for NEXT Christmas. (EDIT: Jane beat me to this.) Though heaven knows the season could use all candidates, if Paramount wants to somehow squeeze in one more.

    Weinstein has Stephen Gaghan’s “Gold” slated for this December, but of course that could vanish with a whisper. For a more highbrow jungle adventure, there’s NYFF closer “Lost City of Z” if it gets picked up. “20th Century Women” might even slide in if Bening’s performance equals the buzz. And “Loving” has the feel of more than just a wild card; it should at least hover around that 9th or 10th spot a la “Carol.”

    This is just a bleak year, though, for the solid upscale middle of the road traditional Oscar movie. We’ve been told of their extinction for years, and right now it can truly be felt.

  8. chris says:

    The trailer could be misleading — actually, of course the trailer is misleading — but it doesn’t appear that “Rules Don’t Apply” is trying to be in the Oscar conversation. Yes, the Academy has loved Beatty since “Bonnie and Clyde” but I wonder how well its present make-up even knows him. And I think “Loving” is going to get a lot more loving than you suggest. Thanks for getting the conversation started.

  9. Movielocke says:

    This feels like birth of a nation has already won this considering the cultural context of blm and the success of 12 years a slave with the academy two years ago.

    I don’t think any other movie is even competitive with it, nor will one rise to be competitive.

  10. Sideshow Bill says:

    I know it’s the longest of shots but…The Witch. Goddammit, The Witch. Better at least land costume/production design nods.

    The Witch, man.

  11. Doug Pratt says:

    The trailer for Magnificent Seven does not have Oscar written on it

  12. Kevin says:

    Swiss Army Man should be nominated for Best Picture.

  13. YancySkancy says:

    David Frankel, not Daniel.

    Can’t say I got a big Oscar vibe from The Accountant trailer. Doesn’t seem like the kind of thriller that makes it to the big show, though it certainly looks interesting.

  14. Josh says:

    What about the acting predictions?

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon