By John H. Foote
Though there are six major films that remain unseen as they did not play any film festivals, nor have they had advance screenings, and yes, they could impact the Oscar race. That said it is becoming much trickier for December releases to make the race as they run the risk of missing out on those important critics awards and the Globes. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and The Big Short (2015) each managed to sneak into the race, but were the last films to do so. With a shortened awards season, it makes sense for films to make it to the fall festivals, Telluride, Venice or the all-important Toronto. That trio is followed by New York, so missing all four can be a problem as the film misses a chance to build buzz and trust me: buzz is hugely important.
The categories are so stacked with excellence right now, any December release that has not screened previous has little chance to break through.
HOWEVER…never say never.
At the end of November screenings for these six films will start, but it could be too little, too late.
The six potentially game changers are as followers in order of threat, with the categories named it could disrupt.
Adam McKay’s film about Dick Cheney, the muscle behind President George W. Bush could provide the biggest upsets of all. The film is a threat for Best Actor, no question, which the trailer made very clear. Christian Bale is among the finest actors of his generation, and once again appears to do a disappearing act under the skin of Cheney. I think a spot among the Best Actor nominees is pretty much reserved for him. Last years Academy Award winner for supporting actor, Sam Rockwell could be in the mix again as President George W. Bush. Like Bale, he captures the essence of Bush in the trailer, that dim bulb gaze that defined Bush. Amy Adams is said to be Oscar-worthy as Cheney’s wife, and she is a many time nominee, who in fact deserved more and beloved enough to win. McKay is a gifted director and writer who has a genius for writing scenes with a great deal of information in them while still being entertaining.
DECISION – The game changer. BEST PICTURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, and ACTRESS, BEST SCREENPLAY
Clint Eastwood is among the finest American directors of the last thirty years, an artist who has evolved right before our eyes. Twice he has won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, for Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) with two other Best Director nominations, (Mystic River in 2003, Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006) and three for Best Picture. Twice he has been a nominee for Best Actor and certainly deserved to be for Gran Torino (2008). Beloved within the Academy, approaching ninety and STILL hard at work, he is an absolute icon. The Academy would like nothing better than to hand him an Oscar for Best Actor. This film, based on a true story pits Eastwood, an elderly drug mule against the Marshall looking for him, portrayed by Bradley Cooper. Warner Brothers obviously has great confidence in the film to release it in December pitting it against A Star is Born. Nominations could come to Eastwood for Best Actor and Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Cooper (what a year!) and character actress Dianne Wiest.
DECISION — BEST ACTOR, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, and ACTRESS, BEST SCREENPLAY
MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS
Saoirse Ronan is By now widely thought to be the heir apparent to Meryl Streep, possessed of staggering depth as an actress and looking to challenge herself each time she takes a new role. Squaring off against Margot Robbie in this historical drama, the actresses should provide fireworks on screen, and the production design looks terrific. With the Best Actress Race so competitive, so fierce, Ronan might struggle with the film being released so late. I think Robbie is a lock, as much for last year as this.
DECISION — BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, BEST COSTUMES, BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN, BEST MAKE UP.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
Has everyone forgotten that Mary Poppins (1964) won five Academy Awards on thirteen nominations? Walt Disney truly believed this was his ticket to that coveted Best Picture award, though he lost. This sequel brings the beloved character to a whole new generation and I for one am excited to see what Rob Marshall does with it. The trailer suggests he has kept the films original look intact, and the film has singing and dancing. Emily Blunt looks positively perfect as the much loved, magical Poppins, and she has strong support from cast original Dick Van Dyke and Meryl Streep. As crowded as the Best Actress category might be, they might need to make room for Blunt. I cannot see it among the Best Picture nominees or Best Director, but you never know. And what a chance for a sentimental Oscar for Van Dyke!
DECISION — BEST ACTRESS, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, BEST SCORE, BEST SONG, BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN, BEST COSTUMES, BEST SOUND, BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
ON THE BASIS OF SEX
This bio of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be in the discussion for awards, but the fact it is not is troubling. Felicity Jones was so great in The Theory of Everything (2014) and I suspect will be good here, but they have sat on it far too long, no one has seen the film, no one has had a chance for any buzz building. Jones is it, but the category is so stacked, newcomers need not apply.
DECISIONS — BEST ACTRESS…but do not count on it.
WELCOME TO MARWEN
Do not count on any awards attention for this. I admire Robert Zemeckis, very much, but this does not strike me as an awards contender.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.