Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material. Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”
FILM: “Ad Astra”
DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox
DIRECTOR: James Gray
PRODUCERS: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, and Rodrigo Teixeira
WRITER(S): James Gray and Ethan Gross
CAST: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, LisaGay Hamilton, Ravi Kapoor, John Ortiz, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland
SYNOPSIS: Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. (IMDB)
SCHEDULED RELEASE: May 29, 2019
Throughout his career, filmmaker James Gray has always just missed being in Oscar contention. Whether it was a distributor/studio messing with the movie in the case of “The Immigrant,” a star going off the rails in the case of “Two Lovers,” or voters outright snubbing him with “The Lost City of Z,” Gray isn’t even a bridesmaid yet, let alone a bride. That could be changing with his most ambitious film to date. “Ad Astra” not only teams him up with Brad Pitt, but it also brings Gray’s distinct style to a science fiction tale.
Up until now, he’s mostly been grounded in realism, often opting for period works. Now, he heads to space. Pitt isn’t just on board to star either; he’s producing along with his shingle Plan B Entertainment. They’ve been a fixture in recent Oscar races, picking up a couple of Best Picture statues in the process. If Gray has hit this one out of the park, it may be hard for voters to ignore him again. He has Pitt, a supporting cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland, as well as Hoyte Van Hoytema handling the cinematography. Assuming everything breaks right, this has the chance to be an across the board player.
As much as cinephiles have reason to be excited by “Ad Astra,” there’s reason for caution as well. The film has been in post-production for a while, even threatening its current release date. Much of that is due to special effects being worked on, but the longer it refrains from sharing any hints of its existence, the more bad buzz can set in. Plus, Gray may just be someone that Academy members don’t gravitate towards. Sci-fi has less of a stigma lately, which will help him, but they still are rather discerning when it comes to honoring this genre. The movie will likely need to be both a critical and commercial success to warrant a strong and lasting campaign. A strong festival bow could make or break this one early on in the season.
POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Motion Picture (Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, and Rodrigo Teixera)
- Director (James Gray)
- Actor in a Leading Role (Brad Pitt)
- Actor in a Supporting Role (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland)
- Actress in a Supporting Role (Ruth Negga)
- Original Screenplay (James Gray and Ethan Gross)
- Production Design (Kevin Thompson)
- Cinematography (Hoyte Van Hoytema)
- Costume Design (Albert Wolsky)
- Film Editing (John Axelrod and Lee Haugen)
- Makeup and Hairstyling (Nana Fischer and Jamie Leigh McIntosh)
- Sound Mixing (To be announced)
- Sound Editing (To be announced)
- Visual Effects (To be announced)
- Original Score (Max Richter)
POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS
- Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film (DGA Awards): A well regarded yet previously un-cited director like Gray could see a nomination here embolden Oscar voters to check his name off at last.