Oscars With Josh #7: Some Major Players Leave The Race

‘The Birth of a Nation’ Disappointing Box Office


Well, this one is a bummer. Last week I not only gave The Birth of a Nation a positive review, but I went to bat for the film, advocating for it’s inclusion in the Oscar race. Though critics are pretty positive on the film overall (77% on Rotten Tomatoes), the movie’s summer of controversy meant it only had one avenue back into awards consideration: box office.

We can now consider Birth of the Nation out of the race. The film debuted to a $7 million opening, which would be great for most of the other Oscar contenders we are watching. Unfortunately for Birth of the Nation, Fox Searchlight bought the film at Sundance for $17.5 million. Nate Parker’s directorial debut barely crossed over the $10 million mark this weekend, it is doubtful the studio will make its money back on this one.

It looks as though the bad press, communicated mainly in the trades/blogosphere/twitter, made its way to general audiences. Now to be clear, I don’t think Fox Searchlight thought they had some mega hit on their hands. But it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Oscar buzz would drive audiences to the theater to the tune of say $50-60 million. Box Office buzz could have brought Birth of a Nation back into the conversation. That is not going to happen.

Controversy got the best of this one. Again, I think this is a great movie and we should all check it out/discuss it more, but as far as the Oscars go, it’s a goner. I will be officially updating my predictions (see below), and The Birth of the Nation is out.

‘Billy Lynn’ Debuts at NYFF


We are about to enter November, so us general audiences are about to be flooded with about 90% of the Oscar contenders over the next two months. Though pundits and critics have seen a lot of the movies at the various festivals (thus leading our conversation online), there are still some mysteries out there. Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was poised to be a frontrunner in the Oscar race, but it’s debut at NYFF is muddying the water as to this one’s chances.

Let’s take a look at some reactions. First, the positive side:

If you weren’t aware, Lee shot the film in 120 frames per second. For reference, normal films are shot at 24 fps, and Peter Jackson caused headaches when he released his Hobbit films in 48 fps. Here is a great article explaining why this filmmaking is off putting to audiences. Though the goal is to make things more realistic, our brains need the “suspension of disbelief” to enjoy movies, the ultra realism actually takes us out of the experience. The idea that Lee would shoot Billy Lynn like this was always a major gamble, and it’s not looking like the concept is working.

Now, let’s not get to hasty. Many have jumped to conclusions and declared Billy Lynn DOA, but with only a few more weeks to release, we can still “wait and see” on this one.

The “Qualifying Run” and Limited December Releases


As we have often discussed here, the end of each year sees a flood of Oscar-friendly films. The nominations are submitted in January, and studios want their films to be fresh on voters minds. Although September and October have films entering the Oscar race, November and December have 2-3 releases a weekend. For Oscar nerds and movie fans, the next two months are going to make for a lot of trips to the theater.

Probably the most annoying (for general audiences at least) release structure is the extremely limited release at the end of December, with a wide release in January. A film just needs to open in New York and Los Angeles for one day for it to be considered for the Academy Awards, even if that day is December 31st. Whether it be American Sniper or The Revenant, this strategy has been deployed many times. The film can come out limited at the very last moment, qualify for Oscars, then it can come out wide in January (thus making more money than if it were in the crowded December field).

And so yes, there are a lot of films that will be opening limited release in December, but so far I can see at least three movies going for the “last minute consideration” release window, with the hope it can make money in January. I know there is more, but all of these films were mysteries as to whether or not they would even be released in 2016:

  • Patriots Day (Peter Berg) – Limited Release December 21
  • Silence (Martin Scorsese) – Limited Release December 23
  • Live By Night (Ben Affleck) – This was the big one we were watching. The film originally had an October 2017 release, only to be “moved” to January 13, 2017. From the very second that announcement was made, all of the Oscar watchers and bloggers knew that the film would get a limited December release, we just waited on the confirmation. Well, now we know, Live By Night will have its limited release on December 25.

This is the ultimate first world problem, but man do I wish Oscar movies could be spread throughout the year. Make no mistake, it is going to be a fun 2 months, but it is now impossible to have a “2016 in film” conversation at the end of 2016. Whether it be your own personal Top 10 or simply engaging in the conversation online, 2016 officially runs through the middle of January now. We’ll all be playing 2016 catch up well into next year. With nominations being announced on January 14, 2017, there will be some serious effort into being all caught up by the time they are announced.

Weekly Spotlight: Lion

Full Predictions (as of 10/17/16)

An asterisk* denotes a change in a film’s position from last week.

Best Picture

  1. La La Land
  2. Fences
  3. Manchester By the Sea
  4. Silence
  5. Moonlight
  6. Arrival
  7. Jackie
  8. Sully
  9. Lion
  10. Live By Night*
  • Loving
  • A Monster Calls
  • Jackie
  • Hidden Figures
  • Hacksaw Ridge*
  • 20th Century Woman
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk*

Best Director

  1. Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
  2. Martin Scorsese (Silence)
  3. Denzel Washington (Fences)
  4. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
  5. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)*
  • Clint Eastwood (Sully)
  • Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
  • Ben Affleck (Live By Night)
  • Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)*

Best Actress

  1. Emma Stone (La La Land)
  2. Viola Davis (Fences)
  3. Natalie Portman (Jackie)
  4. Amy Adams (Arrival)
  5. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Annette Bening (20th Century Woman)

Best Actor

  1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
  2. Denzel Washington (Fences)
  3. Tom Hanks (Sully)
  4. Joel Edgerton (Loving)
  5. Michael Keaton (The Founder)
  • Miles Teller (Bleed for This)
  • Andrew Garfield (Silence)
  • Dev Patel (Lion)
  • Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Naomi Harris (Moonlight)
  • Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls)
  • Nicole Kidman (Lion)
  • Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Liam Neeson (Silence)
  • Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
  • Aaron Eckhart (Bleed for This)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Fences (August Wilson)
  • Silence (Jay Cocks)
  • Live by Night (Ben Affleck)
  • Lion (Luke Davies)
  • Arrival (Eric Heisserer)
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Simon Beaufoy, Jean-Chistophe Castelli)*

Best Original Screenplay

  • La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
  • Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney)
  • Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
  • Loving (Jeff Nichols)
  • Hell or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)

Best Animated Feature

  • Moana
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Finding Dory
  • Zootopia
  • The Red Turtle*

*I’m pretty confident in the first four. That fifth slot will definitely go to a film I’ve never heard of it. Which is fine btw, it means that a (hopefully) worthwhile film can get some exposure it wouldn’t normally get.

Best Documentary

There will be many more documentaries in contention this year, but right now Ava DuVernay’s 13th has all the buzz.

Best Original Song

Though I don’t have detailed predictions, I think it is safe to say we have two frontrunners here. I foresee two films duking it out in this category: La La Land and Moana. La La Land is our overall frontrunner…that just so happens to be full of original songs. Moanais the double threat of not only being a Disney musical (always a sure Best Original Song bet), but also being written by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though both movies will have a plethora of songs to pick from, the studios will each pick one song to champion, and these two films will go head-to-head for the prize.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing

Nope. Not gonna try and understand the difference between these two categories. I know there is a difference, and I know it is important to the professionals in this field, but it is outside my expertise to differentiate here. I like these two awards because it gives more opportunity for tech-heavy films to be recognized. Between the two awards, there are usually only 1 or 2 differences in the nominees, so let’s take a look at our “Sound Award” contenders:

  • Sully
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • La La Land
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Passengers
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • A Marvel Movie (Captain America: Civil War/Doctor Strange)

Best Production Design

  • Silence
  • La La Land
  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Cinematography

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • Silence
  • La La Land
  • Arrival
  • Hail, Caesar!

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Jackie
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Costume Design

  • Live by Night
  • Silence
  • Jackie
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Film Editing

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • Live by Night
  • Sully
  • Silence
  • La La Land

Best Visual Effects

Best Visual Effects has long been my favorite award for obvious reasons. This is the place where nerd movies get to shine.

  • The Jungle Book
  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • A Monster Calls
  • Passengers
  • Doctor Strange

There are five categories I excluded from my predictions. Three of them are the “Shorts” (Documentary Short, Live Action Short, Animated Short), I’m not sure if I’ll ever predict those, I just won’t have enough exposure to make a knowledgable prediction.

Next exclusion is Foreign Language Film, same reasoning, not enough knowledge here.

The last one, as surprising as it may seem, is Original Score. This is a category I love, and you could make predictions based on name alone (John Williams-The BFG, Johan Johansen-Arrival), but this is the one category I actually want to see (hear?) all the contenders before making predictions.

Special thanks to the following folks/sites (I’m pretty much just rewording what they have already said):

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