2017 Awards Profile: Sean Baker’s ‘The Florida Project’ from A24

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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: “The Florida Project”
PRODUCERS: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, Shih-Ching Tsou
DISTRIBUTOR: A24

DIRECTOR: Sean Baker
WRITER: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

CAST: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): The story of a precocious six year-old and her ragtag group of friends whose summer break is filled with childhood wonder, possibility and a sense of adventure while the adults around them struggle with hard times.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

Widely perceived to have been one of the most underwhelming competition lineups compared to years past, it was left up to a film in one of the sidebar sections to shake up the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Playing out of Directors’ Fortnight, Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” follow-up “The Florida Project” emerged with the most buzz after its premiere, prompting many to wonder why it wasn’t contending for the Palme d’Or. On the basis of its rapturous reception from its screenings however, this Orlando-set film could be aiming for any even bigger prize, the Oscar.

Promptly finding a home at A24, the film will also have the backing of a distributor who knows how to guide unique and challenging work to Oscar glory. From the bizarre screenplay for “The Lobster” to the minimalist visual effects triumph of “Ex Machina”, it’s clear that this indie contender is in good hands. While it may not go all the way like A24’s biggest success story “Moonlight”, comparisons have been made to “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, due to the similar juxtaposition of poverty and spectacle in the shadow of Disney World. Furthermore, its young star Brooklynn Prince is said to be a scene stealer much like Quvenzhané Wallis, who ended up with a Best Actress nomination a few years ago.  If all goes well, it’s therefore conceivable that “The Florida Project” could follow the same awards trajectory as that Benh Zeitlin gem.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

While the film was enthusiastically received at Cannes, we are reminded every year that the domestic release can be a whole different ballgame. Sean Baker’s gritty DIY style is a far cry from the typical “Oscar bait” and is more suited to the world of the Film Independent Spirit Awards. And save for previous Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, the cast is filled with unknowns who may not have enough sway with the all-important acting branch of the Academy. Ultimately, the film will likely have to exceed expectations to seal its place among the Oscar nominees, which could be a tall order for a film that has now surged up many “Most Anticipated” lists.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Director – Sean Baker
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Willem Dafoe
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Brooklynn Prince
  • Original Screenplay – Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Share your thoughts in the comments on the message forums!

And be sure to check the Oscar Predictions to see where “The Florida Project” ranks.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE |DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING |
MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
| ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
| DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE |

  • Cornelius Buttersby

    Willem Dafoe is looking good for a Supporting Actor play – his role isn’t central but is crucial and moving. In terms of awards trajectory think also Hell or High Water’s Cannes release to steady Oscar contender.