Oscar Predictions: Round 2 - Could Oscar Season Revive These Contenders?

Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant
A month goes by quickly and a few corners are taking shape in the early rumblings of the Oscar race. Gone Girl is certifiably in after a month of booming box office and intelligent debate about gender roles in film (for the better) and has clearly tapped into a conversation that people need and want to have. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is definitely in, especially since the film is already earning cries of “Give Michael Keaton the Oscar,” although Keaton and company won’tbe available for much early campaigning, but, as THR notes, the film’s in good company with Fox Searchlight. Twitter’s losing its sh*t over Interstellar, but the film is so embargoed up the wazoo that nothing is really clear except that a bunch of people on the Internet are going crazy over a Christopher Nolan movie. (Because that never happens, right?) CITIZENFOUR, finally, also seems to be sparking major conversations with reliable writers like Anne Thompson callingit the frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature. I personally can’t see anything edging out the Roger Ebert doc Life Itself in the doc category, though, but I have yet to see CITIZENFOUR.

Life Itself sits in a good, if awkward position, since its early release means that many journalists, bloggers, voters, and industry have seen and embraced the film long before nomination day. It’s an early favourite, especially in a category that increasingly recognizes life-affirming films. A nomination or two keeps it afloat, and the rollout of screeners (which distributor Magnolia Pictures usually does quite smartly) means that it’s bound to stand out in the pile of DVDs that accumulate in the weeks to come.

What other films could benefit from a reminder? This year still seems relatively quiet on the awards contender front with only four legit Best Picture players out in theatres—Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Birdman—so there’s ample room for films to be revived before the glut of Christmas releases.

Here are some distant contenders that could benefit from a reminder:

The Immigrant:

Has the goods for: Best Picture, Best Director (James Gray), Best Actress (Marion Cotillard), Best Original Screenplay (James Gray & Ric Menello), Best Costumes (Patricia Norris), Production Design (Happy Massee), and Best Cinematography (Darius Khondji).

The deal: The Immigrant (review here) perfectly embodies my love/hate relationship with awards season. This excellent film is the kind of bold, meticulously crafted, and gorgeously mounted film that, in an ideal filmland, would be embraced by critics, audiences, and industry types everywhere. However, when the film hit theatres this summer—a full year after its well-received debut at Cannes—it barely made a dent. It barely made it into theatres at all, actually, for it seemed as if The Weinstein Company and Canadian distrib eOne were both ready to throw it under the bus. (Much like they are now with Eleanor Rigby, which isn’t even hitting Canadian theatres!) Some critics got behind it and audiences voiced a demand, and the distributors did the right thing and rolled it out slowly and it did okay with a $2 million-ish domestic box office take for a release that never went wider than 150 theatres. With a few exceptional reviews from key sources like TheNew York Times and particularlygood notices for Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant could conceivably get some life and recognition if critics get behind it in the precursor awards  like they did with 2011’s utterly mishandled (and arguably inferior) Margaret. Cotillard, however, appears in Belgium’s Oscar bid Two Days, One Night, so she’s bound to be on the fringe of an increasingly competitive Best Actress field, while Darius Khondji’s Oscar-worthy cinematography remains a dark horse.


Has the goods for: Best Actress (Mia Wasikowska), Best Cinematography (Mandy Walker)

The deal: Tracks (review here) joins The Immigrant as another Weinstein title that probably shouldn’t expect to receive much attention on the campaign trail. (It’s worth noting that neither Tracks nor The Immigrant appears on TWC’s Academy screening schedule, although Eleanor Rigby does, but this might also simply be a product of their early release dates.) Tracks is a beautifully realized emotional journey thanks primarily to Mia Wasikowska’s career-best performance and to Mandy Walker’s warm lensing of the stirring Australian desert. Tracks isn’t doing too well at the box office right now, which is strange since its inspirational story and favourable critical reception seem to offer the right ingredients for crossover appeal between mainstream and smart-house audiences. The film isn’t especially well-publicized, though, and seems like it’s being swept away by the yet-to-be-released Wild. The film has some traction since Wasikowska nabbed a Gotham nomination for her performance, but these indie awards aren’t exactly Oscar bellwethers. She and the film need a few more shout-outs in the weeks to come.


Has the goods for: Best Visual Effects, Best Score (Clint Mansell), Best Song (“Mercy Is”), Best Production Design (Mark Friedberg, Deborah Schutt), Best Costumes (Michael Wilkinson), Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

The deal: Early releases don’t usually make it to the Oscars. There are exceptions, sure, like Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, and Crash, so a film really needs major love and support to last through the year. The odd arts and crafts nominations, however, sometimes sneak through, such as a pair of nominations for Costumes and Visual Effects for Snow White and the Huntsman or a make-up nomination for Norbit. If Norbit can muster a nomination, albeit in a season eight years past, then Darren Aronofsky’s spectacularly waterlogged VFX art film Noah (review here) can probably nab some of the technical nominations it deserves. The film hit the campaign trail early and it might remind voters of the impressive visuals and production design that demands to be seen on the big screen. They also have the Human Society praising the use of fake animals instead of real ones, which adds to the value of Aronofsky’s vision. If Noah shows any legs in the campaign trail, though, it might be vying to advance in the relatively open Best Song category, since Patti Smith has been generating great exposure for her haunting ballad “Mercy Is” that appears in the end credits. “Mercy Is” has a tough road to a nomination with “Lost Stars” from Begin Again and “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie already as frontrunners, but it’s early so anything can happen.

Begin Again

Has the goods for: Best Original Song (“Lost Stars,” “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home,” “A Step You Can’t Take Back,” “Like a Fool,” “ComingUp Roses”) and maybe more?

The deal: The Weinsteins have some decent back-up options if anyone of their fourth-quarter films fail to gain awards momentum, and their best early bird might be John Carney’s infectiously enjoyable Begin Again (review here). This sweet ditty has at least one Best Song nomination in the bag for “Lost Stars,” but new rules state that only two songs from one film may be nominated. (Past years saw the Best Original Song category inundated with three songs from one film in the years of Dreamgirls and Enchanted, although one can hardly argue against the merit behind those nominations.) Begin Again’s bubbly pop numbers appear as musical performances in the film, so that generally gives them an advantage against other songs like “Mercy Is” that appear in the final credits. If any other Begin Again song could join “Lost Stars,” it seems likeliest that a song like “A Step You Can’t Take Back” could be the runner-up, since has the strongest narrative integration of the remaining songs, plus a nifty visual hook in the scene where Mark Ruffalo imagines the song coming to life with Keira Knightley on stage. Golden Globes nominations could give the film an extra boost, especially Ruffalo who is firmly in the conversation for Foxcatcher.



Has the goods for: Best Supporting Actress (Tilda Swinton), Best Production Design, Best Make-up

Is Snowpiercer (review here) a wild card in the Oscar race? The sleeper hit of the summer is also the first screener out to Academy voters and it went extraordinarily early, which is great because distributors seem to be behind on screeners, as only Sony Pictures Classics has followed suit with Love is Strange and Magic in the Moonlight, according to an avid source that reports on the inboxes of Academy members. Snowpiercer is a wild card simply because it represents an extremely successful multi-platform release and sits outside the box office figures that can cloud Oscar speculation. The release also ensures that many members of its target smarthouse audience caught it at first sight and created an explosion of buzz, which helped draw greater viewership. This release certainly gives it a novelty—or makes it a point of interest—for leaders in the industry, especially when distribution patterns are in flux. Snowpiercer itself isn’t really Oscar fodder, though, since weird, dystopian, thinking-people’s action films don’t exactly win hardware. With that being said, though, the visuals are undeniably spectacular and Tilda Swinton is a total scene-stealer. Swinton’s not one to be a shoe and is getting onboard the campaign train with a spot at a Hollywood Reporter round table at AFI with fellow Best Supporting Actress contender Kristen Stewart (Still Alice).

Under the Skin

Has the goods for: Best Actress (Scarlett Johansson), Best Score (Mica Levi)

The deal: I really don’t see this happening. It’s a great film, ScarJo gives her most fascinating performance to date, and the music by Mica Levi offers the most hypnotic chords one will hear all year, but Under the Skin (review here) is just too alienating (no pun intended) for the Academy. Critical kudos seems inevitable and that’s about it. (But it’s sometimes nice to be wrong!)


Has the goods for: Best Original Screenplay (Jon Favreau), Golden Globes

The deal: Chef is scrumptious! (Review here.) Jon Favreau’s smart, funny comedy remains one of the winners for counterprogramming this summer. Chef boasts a respectable domestic box office of $30 million dollars, which is impressive since it appeared at multiplexes crammed with the loud, escapist superhero movies that Favreau usually directs. It’s easy to see Chef as a return to form for Favreau as he gets back to basics, much like his character Chef Carl, and makes a film driven by the basic home-cooked ingredients of film. Favreau credits word of mouth for driving the success of the film, which worked nicely for My Big Fat Greek Wedding and could help give it life at comedy-friendly awards like the Golden Globes. The film is so popular that Favreau himself wantsto open a Chef-themed restaurant. Maybe he’ll cook up some Cuban sandwiches and brand the grill the letters FYC… that’d be an effective campaign! Om nom nom!

The F Word / What If

Has the good for: Best Adapted Screenplay? Golden Globes? Nothing?

The deal: I realize that I’m probably the only person who really wants this to happen, but The F Word (review here) really deserves some love. A film as smart, funny, and down to earth as this one earns awards and nominations in Canada, but send it to the USA and it gets lost in the shuffle. Maybe the fault simply lies in its August release, since the film came on the heels of a summer packed with alternative fare. The snappiness and authenticity of the screenplay by Elan Mastai deserves consideration, as do the revelatory performances by Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. US distributor CBS Films seems more likely to get behind Pride as it expands theatrically in the coming weeks, but several fans of The F Word (or What If) are quick to note how refreshing the chemistry of the film revives the rom-com, and that’s an invaluable card in a year with only one certifiable comedy contender (The Grand Budapest Hotel). The F Word, at the very least, deserves to be savoured as a sandwich-themed double-bill with Chef.

A Most Wanted Man

Has the goods for: Best Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Andrew Bovell)

The deal: Critics groups need to get behind this film in the early stages if the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final lead performance in A Most Wanted Man (review here) stands to gain a nomination. Hoffman’s mesmerizing turn as agent Günther Bachmann is one of his best and even reserved reviews of the film note that the power of his performance, especially in the film’s final moments, chilling underscore the massive loss Hoffman’s death represents. Posthumous nominations remain rare, for even James Gandolfini’s award-worthy turn in last year’s Enough Said missed the cut in a relatively weak field. This year’s Best Actor race, however, already feels overcrowded with Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Eddie Redmayne leading the pack. It’s therefore a year in which aggressive campaigning inevitably seems to be a factor—and probably needs to be when an award-calibre performance appears in a comparatively cold film. Sentiment could revive when Hoffman’s final role hits the screen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 in November and when the film returns to the conversation with a release on home video just a few weeks before that.


Updated Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture:

The Theory of Everything

Almost put: Still Alice
What about: American Sniper,* Big Eyes, Fury, Into the Woods,  Mr. Turner, Selma, Whiplash

Best Director

David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Angelina Jolie, Unbroken
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morten Tyldum,  The Imitation Game

Almost put: Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
What about: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel; Ava DuVernay, Selma; Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner; James Marsh, The Theory of Everything; Rob Marshall, Into the Woods; Christopher Nolan, Interstellar*; Jean-Marc Vallée, Wild.

Best Actor

Ben Affleck, Gone Girl*
Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch,  The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Almost put: Ralph Fiennes The Grand Budapest Hotel*
What about: Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood; Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Most Wanted Man*; Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year; Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman; Bill Murray, St. Vincent; Jack O’Connell, Unbroken; David Oyelowo, Selma; Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice; Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner; Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher; Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes.

Best Actress

Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything*
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Almost put: Emily Blunt, Into the Woods*
What about: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year; Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant; Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night; Hilary Swank, The Homesman; Mia Wasikowska, Tracks.

Save it for the Screenies: Anne Dorval, Mommy; Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars

Best Supporting Actor:

Miyavi, Unbroken
Edward Norton, Birdman*
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
JK Simmons, Whiplash
Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher

Almost Put: Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
What about: Alec Baldwin, Still Alice; Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice; Benicio Del Toro, Inherent Vice*; Domhnall Gleeson, Unbroken

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley,  The Imitation Game*
Kristen Stewart, Still Alice
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Almost put: Hilary Swank, The Homesman*
What about: Marion Bailey, Mr. Turner; Carrie Coon, Gone Girl*; Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods, Emma Stone, Birdman, Tilda Swinton,  Snowpiercer.

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel– Wes Anderson
Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh

Almost put: Whiplash – Damien Chazelle
What about: Chef - Jon Favreau; Interstellar - Christopher Nolan*; A Most Violent Year, J.C. Chandor; Big Eyes – Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski;

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
Still Alice - Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
Wild – Nick Hornby

Almost put: Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson*
What about: Into the Woods – James Lapine; A Most Wanted Man - Andrew Bovell; Unbroken – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard Lagravenese, William Nicholson

Best Film Editing:


Almost put: Unbroken
What about: Foxcatcher, Fury, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game , Into the Woods

Best Cinematography:

Mr. Turner

Almost put: Wild*
What about: Fury, The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game, Into the WoodsSnowpiercer

Best Costumes:

Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

What about: Belle, Big Eyes, Exodus, Inherent Vice, Magic in the Moonlight

Best Production Design:

Into the Woods
Mr. Turner          

Almost put:  The Imitation Game
What about: Big Eyes, The Hobbit 3, Inherent Vice, Interstellar

Best Score:

Gone Girl– Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
The Grand Budapest Hotel– Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game  – Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
The Lego Movie – Marc Mothersbaugh

What about: Birdman, The Judge, The Theory of Everything, Under the Skin

Sound Mixing:

Into the Woods

What about: Edge of Tomorrow, Fury, Get on Up, The Hobbit 3Snowpiercer

Sound Editing:

Transformers 4

What about: The Lego MovieSnowpiercer, Unbroken

Visual Effects:

Guardians of the Galaxy

What about: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Noah Snowpiercer, Transformers 4

Best Make-up

Into the Woods

What about: Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hobbit 3, Mr. Turner, Snowpiercer, X-Men: Days of Future Past

Best Song:

“Rainbows,” Into the Woods
 What is Love?,” Rio 2

What about: Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home,”Begin Again,  “Like a Fool,” Begin Again,Coming Up Roses," Begin Again; "Mercy Is," Noah.

Best Documentary Feature:

The Case Against 8
Finding Vivian Meier

Almost put: CITIZENFOUR*
What about: Sunshine Superman, Tales of the Grim Sleeper, The Look of Silence (will it be released this year?), Red Army

Best Foreign Language Film:

Beloved Sisters - Germany
Ida - Poland
Mommy – Canada
Two Days, One Night - Belgium
Wild Tails – Argentina

Almost put: Force Majeure – Sweden
List of submitted films on Wikipedia.
*Please see The Film Experience for the best and most comprehensive coverage on this category.

Best Animated Film:

Big Hero 6
Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
Tale of Princess Kaguya

Best Animated Short:

[awaiting shortlist for additional four films]

Best Live Action Short:

[awaiting shortlist]

Short Documentary Short:


Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace

The Lion’s Mouth Opens

One Child
Our Curse

The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

Are there any early contenders that you think can run in the race?