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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: Settling Into The Starting Gates

Don’t misread my headline… this race started months ago. Many months ago. Even before the awards were handed out last season… at Sundance, where two then-serious contenders for Best Picture were purchased.

But by this time next week, the only unseen contenders in the race will be Allied, Collateral Beauty, Hidden Figures, Fences, Passengers, and Silence. And I expect, sight unseen, three of those six titles to be nominated for Best Picture. This is not an insignificant group.

That said, I suspect strongly that we have already seen the winner of Best Picture. And of those three likely nominees to come, I don’t believe they are threats to win, unless Allied is above and beyond all expectations (which, with Zemeckis helming, is always possible).

But Best Picture is, in its way, easier to handicap. There are up to 10 slots.

Look at the Best Actress race this season. Red hot. Emma Stone, Annette Bening, and Natalie Portman seem to be way out front. Amy Adams is close behind. One has to assume that Viola Davis is a sure bet for a nom. That’s five. But you’re only getting started. Taraji P. Henson. Jessica Chastain. Isabelle Huppert. Ruth Negga. Marion Cotillard. Rachel Weisz. Meryl Streep. Kate Beckinsale. Even Sally Field, in the highest grossing indie non-spectacle of the year so far. And never forget Jennifer Lawrence… she is a dangerous woman this time of year.

To be honest, there are at least five of those performances – haven’t seen four of them – that I would be perfectly happy to see win the statue in February. It is likely that even amongst some of the nominees there will be performances that could have won in other seasons.

Unusually, Best Actor is a smaller lot. Three are likely (Casey Affleck, Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington). And then you have five angling for the last two slots: Joel Edgerton, Andrew Garfield (in either of two films), Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Miles Teller.

Best Supporting Actor is more crowded with possibilities… and not a single lock at this late date.

It’s reasonable to expect to see at least one Supporting nomination from Hell or High Water, which was the indie that set its flag this summer fo real love from audiences (including Academy members). Jeff Bridges would be the obvious choice, but Ben Foster will likely go supporting for a lead performance, so… you never know. And it could even be both if the category stays surprisingly soft (which is to say, without obvious choices).

Tracey Letts got raves for his brief turn in Indignation, which also got a summer platform that could well stick in people’s memories.

Moonlight is another Supporting Actor party, though we still have to see how it plays with The Academy. But easy to imagine a slot going to this film, likely Andre Holland or Mahershala Ali.

Michael Shannon gives a great, fun, gritty performance in Nocturnal Animals that got raves out of Toronto. The film was widely seen as more commercial than awards, but still, he is a ton of fun.

And three of the male supporting roles in Fences have gotten Tony nominations on Broadway. Great roles. One, the best friend of the lead in the show/film, is played by Stephen Henderson, who was nominated alongside Denzel and Viola (both of whom won Tonys). But I believe that the power slot is the son, who is played by relative newcomer Jovan Adepo in the film (and recent Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance in the original stage production).

That could be your 5… but there is a lot more out there.

We’ve seen excellent work by veterans Eddie Murphy (in Mr. Church), Timothy Spall and Tom Wilkinson (in Denial), Aaron Eckhart (in Bleed For This) and from youngers Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls) and especially young Lucas Hedges, who completes the (un)holy acting trinity of Manchester By The Sea.

And coming up are Warren Beatty, Edward Norton, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Jared Harris, Kevin Costner and Dev Patel. And if Loving gets hot, Nick Kroll, Bill Camp and Marton Csokas all have excellent turns.

And Supporting Actress has some interesting ways to turn, though like male supporting, it feels very unsettled. I don’t see how Michelle Williams doesn’t get nominated for Manchester By The Sea. She is magic throughout, but in one scene, you will not see better, this year or any. After that… who knows?

Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver are both terrific in A Monster Calls. Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae will both win more fans in Hidden Figures. Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are both joyously awkward in 20th Century Women. How do those competitions play out?

Naomie Harris is unforgettable in Moonlight… in a brief role that she shot in a day or two. But still… wow!

Betting against nominations for Nicole Kidman (Lion) and/or Kate Winslet (Collateral Beauty) is usually a bad bet.

Does Kristen Stewart finally land her first nomination for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk? Does Lily Collins generate so much charm under Beatty’s eye in Rules Don’t Apply that she contends strongly?

It’s an interesting season. It’s mid-October and things could still be blown up by a movie or two or even three.

On the other hand… we kinda know a lot.

The only one of these Top 6 categories that I see as lock locked is Picture, where I can’t imagine what is going to beat out the pleasures and perfect Academy fit of La La Land. Even Emma Stone, who felt like a lock a few weeks ago, is still the frontrunner, but is looking down the barrel of two great performances by Bening and Portman.

We’re almost there. The room is full, but the door is still open. And the bouncers? Greatness. (Or at least, the kind of greatness that The Academy falls in love with every time.)

Place those bets…

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3 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: Settling Into The Starting Gates”

  1. Chris L. says:

    Live by Night is one of the unseen – or is it? Other pundits seem to downplay its profile also, as if maybe they know something unfavorable. The trailer was much sharper than I’d expected. Maybe cinematography if nothing else?

  2. Dorn says:

    Nominations for Bridges and Foster while Pine is ignored would be a very painful outcome.

  3. Greg says:

    I think we should start building the narrative that Annette Bening is due. And she is. Losing the Oscar twice to that Swank person is infuriating. Losing to Portman is understandable. When she lost to Goldberg it was warranted. Let’s build up the Bening narrative people.

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