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: “The Beguiled”
PRODUCERS: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
WRITER: Sofia Coppola, Thomas Cullinan
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell
SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): At a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in. Soon, the house is taken over with sexual tension, rivalries, and an unexpected turn of events.
WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: What a cast! This is the year of Nicole Kidman, and all of her projects look more promising than the next. Taking on Geradline Page’s role, Kidman has a leading role that she can really sink her teeth into. If this is the performance people love the most from her this year, residual “Big Little Lies” could push her to a nomination, if not a win. Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst have both been in the hunt for their first nomination for quite some time. However, their good work has not gone unnoticed. One more great performance, and Oscar will hopefully be forced to take notice. Add in Elle Fanning, who has done strong work in many Oscar vehicles, and you have an entire cast searching for a nomination.
It was recently announced that “The Beguiled” would be competing in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. This is a bullish move that, if it pays off, could catapult the film to the top of everyone’s Oscar predictions. Sure, past Cannes favorites, such as “Carol,” ended up missing at the last moment. However, this is a great early way to build buzz and box office potential for a challenging summer release. With four projects premiering at Cannes, Nicole Kidman will be the talk of the town. This can only add buzz for the project.
Sofia Coppola remains one of only four women directors to be nominated for Best Director. It’s a sorry statistic, but highlights how Coppola has managed to break into the boy’s club. This gives her a path to be the first returning female director. However, with this being a period western, hopefully Oscar looks outside of the top categories. There are many talented women working below the line that could get recognition. This includes costume designer Stacey Battat, editor Sarah Flack and production designer Anne Ross. Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd scored a nomination for “The Grandmaster” previously. This could be his ticket back to the Dolby. If the “True Grit” remake can get 10 nominations, why can’t “The Beguiled”?
WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: The Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page 1971 original has amassed a small cult following among today’s film buffs. However, the film flopped upon release. While some critics lauded it, the film received no awards citations. The Oscars, Golden Globes and critics awards all snubbed the film. Depending on how closely Coppola’s film hews to the original, it may have a similar awards fate.
Westerns remain a rarely rewarded genre at the Oscars. Depending on how loosely one defines a western, there have only been four Best Picture winners that are westerns (“Cimarron” in 1931; “Dances with Wolves” in 1990; “Unforgiven” in 1992; “No Country for Old Men” in 2007). This takes into account westerns being a popular genre from the ‘30s to ‘60s. “Hell or High Water” was able to garner four nominations this past year, but lost all four. In addition, the film was also a modern commentary on today’s banking system, which was a hot topic the year before with “The Big Short.”
Acting wins are also an uphill battle for westerns. While many actors prior to 1975 have won for westerns, acting wins are more rare for that genre today. Gene Hackman (“Unforgiven”), Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”), and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”) are the only true western winners since 1975. All of them won for Best Supporting Actor. Only two women have won Oscars for appearing in westerns – Patricia Neal (“Hud”) and Chloris Leachman (“The Last Picture Show”). While there is a precedent for this happening, it is not a likely occurrence.
Lastly, summer films always face an uphill battle to break through to the top categories. “Hell or High Water” was the earliest Best Picture nominee this past year. That film opened in August. Even if they do open in summer and are early frontrunners, many times they stumble on the big day (see “Boyhood”). It’s not impossible, but it is quite a lot of momentum to keep going.
POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Motion Picture
- Director – Sofia Coppola
- Lead Actor – Colin Farrell
- Lead Actress – Nicole Kidman
- Supporting Actress – Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning
- Adapted Screenplay – Sofia Coppola, Thomas Cullinan
- Cinematography – Philippe Le Sourd
- Costume Design – Stacey Battat
- Editing – Sarah Flack
- Production Design – Anne Ross