2017 Awards Profile: Todd Haynes’ ‘Wonderstruck’ from Amazon Studios

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Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Wonderstruck”
PRODUCERS: Brian Bell, Pamela Koffler, Frank Murray, John Sloss, Christine Vachon
DISTRIBUTOR: Amazon Studios

DIRECTOR: Todd Haynes
WRITER: Brian Selznick

CAST: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Amy Hargreaves

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

For cinephiles, any new Todd Haynes film is always a majorly anticipated event, and “Wonderstruck” is no different. Based on the novel by the same name from Brian Selznick (who is also writing this adaptation), it tells a fascinating time-hopping story that will surely garner attention. While Haynes is more known for his intimate adult dramas, this child-centric film has already been described as his most ambitious yet.

“Wonderstruck” follows the intertwined narratives of a pair of deaf children named Rose and Ben, living in 1927 and 1977 respectively. The former will be played by first-time deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, in what could be a landmark film for deaf actors. Her storyline will reportedly feature an unprecedented number of deaf actors and will be in the form of a silent film to add further authenticity. This stylistic approach will surely get people talking. And considering screenwriter Selznick was also the man behind the story for Oscar juggernaut “Hugo” a few years ago, we expect this one to be a wondrous spectacle as well.

To bring his vision to life, Haynes has assembled a crew of trusted collaborators. These include composer Carter Burwell, cinematographer Edward Lachman and legendary costume designer Sandy Powell, all of whom have been Oscar-nominated before. Speaking of legends, the esteemed Julianne Moore will play two key roles which could put her in awards contention once again. Also featuring in the cast is Michelle Williams as Ben’s mom.

With all of this esteemed talent involved and the unique premise, “Wonderstruck” has the potential to hit it big awards-wise. In particular, an overdue narrative could kick in for Haynes, considering his “close but no cigar” history with the Oscars. And with upstart distributor Amazon Studios making big moves, he’ll surely have good support for an awards season campaign.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

Though it looks like a perfect Oscar candidate sight unseen, we’ve infamously been in this situation before with Todd Haynes. For his last film “Carol,” Haynes could hardly have asked for better reviews or awards buzz, and yet, it was snubbed in Best Picture. Despite frequently getting nominations in other categories for previous films, that marquee category has remained elusive. There seems to be something about his austere style that Academy members aren’t able to fully embrace. Even if individual branches nominate the film down the line, there may not be enough passion overall. And with no trailer available at this stage, it’s hard to tell if the tone will be Oscar friendly. With the focus on child actors and possibly magical elements, the Academy may consider the film to be too juvenile.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Director – Todd Haynes
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Oakes Fegley
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Millicent Simmonds
  • Actress in a Supporting Role – Julianne Moore
  • Adapted Screenplay – Brian Selznick
  • Cinematography – Edward Lachman
  • Editing – Affonso Gonçalves
  • Costume Design – Sandy Powell
  • Production Design – Mark Friedberg
  • Original Score – Carter Burwell
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions
and see where “Wonderstruck” ranks!