If you’re reading this then I’m guessing you have at least some type of interest in the Academy Awards. Why do we care about the Oscars so much? Does it really matter? Of course not. Film is subjective, just because one group of people don’t recognize a movie doesn’t mean it is or isn’t good. We hate movies the Academy loved, and we love movies the Academy either hated or chose to ignore or it ended up that film wasn’t Oscar-y enough. All that being said, it is fun speculate and go along for the Awards race, and I do think there is some merit in following the season.
Not just for fun, I believe the Oscars serve a greater purpose in that there are amazing films released every year that would never be given a chance UNLESS there was “Awards buzz.” This can go both ways. On one hand, studios want awards so they put out by-the-numbers dramas (i.e. “Oscar-bait”) that aren’t very good. On the other hand, look at a film like Moonlight; I don’t believe Barry Jenkins woke up one day and said, “I want to make this movie so I can win an Oscar.” No, Jenkins had a story to tell and a studio helped him make a movie. Now, that movie exists no matter what, but here the “Oscar buzz” has taken a worthwhile movie and elevated its profile so more people are interested in seeing it.
My first year where I was part of the movie blogosphere was 2010. That summer brought us Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, it was a good year for movies, but I can safely say that I saw about 20-30 movies because of the “buzz” online. I shouldn’t say buzz, I should say exposure. I would have never seen Black Swan, 127 Hours, Buried, The Fighter, or (one of my favorites of all time) The Social Network if online bloggers and pundits didn’t promote these movies before release.
So yes, blogs and YouTubers can be super annoying with endless speculation about the next 15 years of Marvel movies (Lord knows I’ve joined them in that discussion), but they also help educate the masses on some great films that are worth our attention. Take a look at ScreenJunkies’ (a big purveyor of fanboy culture online) Fall movie preview.
Yes, they talk Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but Manchester By The Sea, The Birth of a Nation, Arrival, and La La Land are all discussed as well, and it is important for the nerds (like myself) out there to be exposed to movies like this. Now of course ScreenJunkies isn’t the ultimate source for Oscar coverage or promotion of drama films, but that’s a good example of the power the internet can have on helping a film gain an audience (see the links below for my go-to Oscar sites).
All of that being said, I thought we could take this week to catch up on some of the contenders and their respective trailers. I hope this column will get you excited for some movies you might not have heard of otherwise. We have hit the point in the season where a lot of films have been seen at the various festivals, but they won’t be released to the public until December/late November, so now we play the hype game and build up anticipation.
Not only does Amy Adams have Arrival, but she is said to give another great performance here in Nocturnal Animals. The film is the follow up to Tom Ford’s Oscar-nominated A Serious Man, and looks to feature the who’s who of stars. In addition to Adams, we have Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon, all of whom are buzzed about some type of nominations. Nocturnal Animals is set for release on November 18.
Consider Passengers the film I’m “advocating” for this year. Now I have no idea if the movie is good or not, but I want this one to succeed. Though Sony definitely wants a blockbuster here, Passengers’ Oscar chances are not totally out of the realm of possibilities. We have four time nominee Jennifer Lawrence starring in a dramatic sci-fi film directed by Morten Tyldum (who was nominated for 2014’s The Imitation Game). If this one is good, and that’s a big if, look to Passengers to fill that same slot Gravity or The Martian filled. Passengers will be released on December 21.
With everything happening this election season, sometimes we need a little fiction to help us understand our politics. Miss Sloane is directed by Oscar nominee John Madden (Shakespeare In Love) and stars Jessica Chastain as a lobbyst who tries to see gun control measures passed. Agree or disagree with the character’s position, films like this always make for an interesting experience that both entertains and educates. Miss Sloane will hit theaters on December 9.
Consider me 100% on the hype train for Moana. I absolutely loved Zootopia and it looks like Disney is going to top themselves here. There is just something about the animation, the music (provided by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda), the voice actors, the concept itself, I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but Moana looks incredible. I expect Moana to battle it out in two Oscar categories. First, it would be easy to call it a lock for winning Best Animated Feature, but I bet Zootopia and Kubo and the Two Strings will give it some real competition. Outside of the animated category, I fully predict that the big song (whatever that song may be) will go head-to-head with the big song from La La Land. That will be one of the most interesting races to watch: an original Disney song from Lin-Manuel Miranda going up against a musical that happens to be our front runner this year.
Live By Night
The big wildcard this season. You may ask why a period piece written and directed by Ben Affleck isn’t considered a sure bet? The film was originally scheduled for an October 2017 release, but then was moved up to January 2017. This was considered the ultimate “hedging your bets” move on Warner Bros’ behalf. On one hand, at any moment they can give it a limited release on December 31 for it to qualify for this year’s awards. On the other hand, maybe the movie isn’t really an “Oscar movie,” and that would be just fine. Maybe it is a little more pulpy than the Academy would like, and a January release date would mean it could make more money than a more competitive Fall opening.
The jury is still out on how Live By Night will affect the 2016 Oscar race. Assuming it gets a limited opening this year, I think it is a sure bet to say the film will be involved in the conversation. Argo won Best Picture, but Affleck was not nominated for director, and it is very possible the Academy would reward Affleck with a nomination to make up for their past mistake. The film looks to be the 1930’s version of Affleck’s The Town, and can be expected to hit the sweet spot of action and drama these crime stories can provide. Live By Night will have a wide release on January 13, 2017, it will have its limited release on whenever Warner Bros wants to commit to this thing.
Special thanks to the following folks/sites (I’m pretty much just rewording what they have already said):
- Awards Daily (Sasha Stone)
- Variety’s ‘In Contention‘ (Kris Tapley)
- Awards Watch (Erik Anderson)
- The Hollywood Reporter’s ‘The Race‘ (Scott Feinberg)
- IndieWire’s ‘Thompson on Hollywood‘ (Anne Thompson)
- Collider’s ‘Oscar Beat‘ (Adam Chitwood)
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