House Logo
Explore categories +

Oscar Prospects (#110 of 41)

Oscar Prospects American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash
Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

I think the scene that finally secured American Hustle a place on my Top 10 list was the one in which conman Irving’s (Christian Bale) wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), goes on and on about her fingernail topcoat at a dinner. Chatting up Dolly (Elizabeth Röhm), the wife of soon-to-be-swindled Camden mayor Carmine (Jeremy Renner), Rosalyn raves about the topcoat’s contradictory virtues, saying it’s “sweet and sour, rotten and delicious—like flowers, but with garbage.” She “can’t get enough of it.” To watch this scene is to witness David O. Russell not only reclaim his former, gonzo glory, but wholeheartedly own the superficial tackiness of his vision. Sure, this is a film about countless layers of fakery, and the notion of a topcoat—a mask—being both vile and alluring has definite thematic implications. But American Hustle, marvelously, isn’t hung up on such sobering ideas. The topcoat speech is more a megaphone announcement of tone, and of a director finally ditching the safety net of Oscar pandering, which he used to entrance voters with the falsely offbeat The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. And still, he’s going to net those votes nonetheless, as there’s just enough delicious here to make the rotten palatable for traditionalists.

Oscar Prospects Saving Mr. Banks, the Winning Heavyweight That Probably Won’t Win Anything

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Saving Mr. Banks, the Winning Heavyweight That Probably Won’t Win Anything
Oscar Prospects: Saving Mr. Banks, the Winning Heavyweight That Probably Won’t Win Anything

If I had to bet which 2013 Oscar contender would score the most nominations without a single win, I’d go for Saving Mr. Banks, a movie so gosh-darn disarming you might just strain your cheeks from watching it, but one that doesn’t quite fit into the apparent fabric of this year’s awards race. Watching this film, which recounts the rocky relationship between Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and smiley juggernaut Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who’d adapt Travers’s work for the screen, you feel, aptly enough, as if you’re on a theme park ride, soaking up the glee while knowing your joy is highly controlled by precise mechanics. You also feel that this baldly manipulative, yet nevertheless adorable, origin flick has all the trappings of a Best Picture frontrunner—one from some stage in history, at least.

Oscar Prospects August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show
Oscar Prospects: August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show

A funny thing happens during the course of August: Osage County, a film many would label as this year’s Meryl Streep awards vehicle. Though Streep, who plays the story’s drug-addled matriarch, Violet Weston, has ample moments of alternating grief, delusion, vileness, and humor, all delivered in a swirl of characteristically calculated theatrics, it’s Julia Roberts who walks away with this thing. Playing Barbara, the one of Violet’s three daughters who’s most distanced from, yet most similar to, her warts-and-all, “truth-telling” mom, Roberts is gifted some of the greatest language in this adaptation of the play by Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer and Tony Award for his efforts before shaping his work into a screenplay. In the rare role that actually demands she exude more fire than glee or grace, Roberts brings just the right amount of harsh, poetic cynicism to lines like, “Thank God we can’t predict the future; we’d never get out of bed.” The key bit of dialogue, though, comes just after the film’s resentment-baring emotional peak. Gathered around her mother’s table with her sisters, her aunt, her uncle, her cousins, her daughter, and her two-timing husband to commemorate the death of her father, Beverly (Sam Shepard), Barbara finally tackles Violet to the ground, fed up with the woman’s rant-fueling pill abuse, which may well have prompted Beverly’s apparent suicide. “I’m running things now!” Barbara barks at Violet while snatching a bottle of painkillers, and the sentiment couldn’t be truer here in regard to Roberts and Streep.

Oscar Prospects Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the Black-History Epic That Should Be Hogging the Buzz

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the Black-History Epic That Should Be Hogging the Buzz
Oscar Prospects: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the Black-History Epic That Should Be Hogging the Buzz

Time will tell if Academy members’ reported trepidation about 12 Years a Slave will actually impact the movie’s awards momentum, but at the moment, Steve McQueen’s keenly-lensed horror show seems unstoppable in its march to Oscar anointment, and to being crowned the best achievement in a standout year for black cinema. While it’s terribly embarrassing that members of Hollywood’s top voting body would shun any major contender, and still consider themselves worthy of casting legitimate votes, it remains interesting that, of 12 Years a Slave and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, 2013’s two key black-history epics, the latter, ostensibly much more Academy-friendly, has landed on the bottom. Upon seeing its trailer, folks I know griped that The Butler seemed too Oscar-baity—the Forrest Gump of the Civil Rights Movement. 12 Years a Slave, on the other hand, seemed the more vanguard selection—a fearless look at the barbaric slavery era from a filmmaker with art-instillation proclivities. In the end, despite those shameful fears of seeing black flesh whipped with bracing realism, McQueen’s film and Daniels’ film have curiously switched places, as the former is in fact a safe Academy pick whose outward prestige masks a hollow heart, while the latter is an idiosyncratic soul-stirrer whose personality transcends its standard structure.

Oscar Prospects Nebraska, the Arguably Offensive Veteran’s Vehicle

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Nebraska, the Arguably Offensive Veteran’s Vehicle
Oscar Prospects: Nebraska, the Arguably Offensive Veteran’s Vehicle

Lately, the conversations I’ve been having with people about Alexander Payne’s Nebraska keep coming back to the same thing: Payne’s depictions of Midwesterners, which, in his latest, are more ostensibly—and, to many, offensively—cartoonish than ever before. I’ve heard some folks describe the characters in Nebraska as loving renderings of those in and around the auteur’s home state, while others have announced outright that Payne’s employment of stereotypes make his movie truly hateable. I personally found that the deplorable decisions Payne does make (such as planting his viewers inside a g-darn TV set, and making them gawk at lounging Nebraskans with voyeuristic judgment), are eventually alleviated by the layered character revealed by the film itself. But what matters in regard to this movie’s awards potential is whether the naysayers have loud enough voices to counter the din of approval. And, at this point, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even critics and pundits left squirmy by Payne’s captured-in-grayscale rednecks have largely not allowed the caveat to ruin the party, and as for industry types, most seem over the moon about Payne’s well-intended, yet characteristically barbed, heart. Moreover, enthusiasm for the film’s performances, particularly that of “long-overdue” and “under-appreciated” Bruce Dern, appears strong enough to eclipse pesky, nitpicky hang-ups (you should have seen the film’s rapturous reception at the New York Film Festival).

Oscar Prospects Captain Phillips, the Other Tom Hanks Contender

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Captain Phillips, the Other Tom Hanks Contender
Oscar Prospects: Captain Phillips, the Other Tom Hanks Contender

At present, the Tom Hanks Oscar vehicle getting the most buzz is Saving Mr. Banks, an apparent dual biopic of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and some underachieving schmo named Walt Disney (Hanks). Having premiered at the recent London Film Festival, Banks, one of the season’s last expected awards players, is netting some glowing reviews, despite such red flags as its insta-baity industry back-patting; the direction of wholesome and Red State-y maestro John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side); and the peddling of an Americans-tame-the-stuffy-Brit narrative. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Saving Mr. Banks, and it may well be as winning as Escape From Tomorrow is overconfident, but let’s hope it doesn’t overshadow Hanks’s other contender, Captain Phillips, a film that, regardless of missteps, deserves to appear in a handful of categories.

Oscar Prospects The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins
Oscar Prospects: The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins

Even more than Foreign Language Film, the category of Original Song is Oscar’s most fickle, rewarding Three 6 Mafia over Dolly Parton one year (2005), crowning a track from a documentary the next (2006), and, just two years ago, screwing over songs from every film save Rio and The Muppets. Last year, Adele’s titular, crossover ballad from Skyfall scored a somewhat sanity-restoring win, becoming the first James Bond theme to ever claim the trophy, and standing as the most popular victor in the field since Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 2002’s 8 Mile. While no one will ever be able to explain away the stupidity of 2011’s two-tune lineup, one of the things that makes this category so tricky, particularly in the guessing-game stages, are the many stringent nuances of song eligibility. Does the track start early enough during its movie’s closing credits? Does it have a sliver of previously released material that might taint its “originality?” So layered are these oft-excessive provisos that many Oscar pundits won’t even bother making their predictions until the Academy announces its official list of potential candidates (you’ll notice Original Song is one of the few categories not yet accounted for over at tracker site Gold Derby). But if there’s a single song that stands out with anything close to the in-the-bag ubiquity of Adele’s triumph, it’s Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful,” the wistful love theme from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Oscar Prospects Gravity, Your Cinematography and Visual Effects Winner

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Gravity, Your Cinematography and Visual Effects Winner
Oscar Prospects: Gravity, Your Cinematography and Visual Effects Winner

On September 12, when Mark Harris officially returned to Grantland to cover the Oscar race (he stepped aside last season due to the conflict of husband Tony Kushner’s Lincoln being in contention), he penned this dead-on and intentionally prickly piece, which took to task the festival-going, hastily-Tweeting types who hurried to declare 12 Years a Slave this year’s Best Picture winner. In true Harris style, the article used insider wisdom and everyman accessibility to comprehensively articulate the trouble with this particular behavior, and the folly of using “I’m first” tactics to simplify something that still has miles of nuanced ground to cover. It’s one thing to announce, with great certainty, one’s thoughts on a probable nominee, like the baity Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but it’s quite another to plant one’s feet so early, and firmly name a winner. 12 Years a Slave has a lot of promise, but it’s impossible to tell how it will fare amid the cavalcade of critics’ awards, additional precursors, shifting tastes, and campaign strengths, not to mention the mystery of whether or not Academy members will stomach the film’s violence enough to hand it their loftiest vote. That said, as another adored colleague, Nathaniel Rogers, recently acknowledged, Gravity simply isn’t walking away this year without statuettes for Cinematography and Visual Effects. Sorry, Mark, but this time, my feet are planted.

Oscar Prospects Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen Brothers Musical Bound for Aural and Visual Nods

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen Brothers Musical Bound for Aural and Visual Nods
Oscar Prospects: Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen Brothers Musical Bound for Aural and Visual Nods

Okay, so it may only be a “musical” in the eyes of the Hollywood Foreign Press, but even the “bad” music is great in Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ tuneful, bittersweet study of a deeply talented failure amid the 1960s folk scene. As is their wont, the Coens lay on the dry satire as they turn the likes of Hedy West’s “Five Hundred Miles” into an impossibly earnest sham, set in stark contrast to the rich and raw poetry of the titular artist’s (Oscar Isaac) soul-bearers. But, as arranged by incomparable music producer T Bone Burnett, and as performed by co-stars Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Stark Sands, the West cover still sounds gorgeous in all its tongue-in-cheek squareness, and it’s one of many songs that could humble Les Misérables in regard to the “novelty” of singing live on film. Isaac’s tracks, which are each flawlessly sung in scenes that operate as sober, angelic interludes to the film’s irony, are, unfortunately, all covers as well, leaving them ineligible for Original Song consideration (it would have been swell to hear Isaac croon traditional ballads like “Dink’s Song” or “The Death of Queen Jane” on the Oscar stage, but that won’t be the case). The only eligible track appears to be “Please Please Mr. Kennedy,” a political parody song penned by Burnett, Timberlake, the Coens, Ed Rush, and George Cromarty, and performed by Timberlake, Isaac, and a quasi-beatboxing Adam Driver. The song is deliberately un-soulful, but it’s an absolute hoot, and it has a good shot here if only because voters will want to squeeze in some music from the film.

Oscar Prospects Before Midnight, the Critics’ Darling with a Sure-Thing Screenplay

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Before Midnight, the Critics’ Darling with a Sure-Thing Screenplay
Oscar Prospects: Before Midnight, the Critics’ Darling with a Sure-Thing Screenplay

Before Midnight is destined to be a year-end favorite among critics, perhaps even being the film that lands on the most top-ten lists. Its near-unanimous praise may seem to be currently overshadowed by the comparable embraces of 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, but those films have their detractors (yes, including on this site). Good luck finding someone who’s willing to hate on Before Midnight. The film’s unpretentious honesty, modest presentation, unabashed show of flaws (from Julie Delpy’s regular-mom curves to the lead couple’s stubborn battle of wills), and long, flowing takes have left few with causes for complaint (even the movie’s potentially contrived theatrical nature works beautifully the more it’s examined). So, this third outing with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Delpy) is bound to make a decent showing in the precursors, particularly when it comes to individual critics’ groups, and, most likely, the Indie Spirits. But what about Oscar?