Awards Profile 2019: Scott Cooper’s ‘Antlers’ from Fox Searchlight Pictures

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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: “Antlers”

DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight Pictures
DIRECTOR: Scott Cooper
PRODUCERS: Guillermo del Toro, David Goyer, J. Miles Dale
WRITER(S): C. Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca (based on the book, The Quiet Boy by Nick Antosca)
CAST: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, JT Corbitt, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Amy Madigan, Rory Cochrane, Cody Davis
SYNOPSIS: (via IMDB) A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences. (via Fox Searchlight studio) In “Antlers,” a small-town Oregon teacher (Keri Russell) and her brother (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, discover that a young student (JT Corbitt) is harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

SCHEDULED RELEASE: To be announced, 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS:

Scott Cooper is the kind of director that seems just on the cusp of a breakout hit. In 2009, he directed Jeff Bridges in his Academy Award-winning performance for Best Actor in a Leading Role in “Crazy Heart.” The film was Cooper’s directorial debut and its three Oscar nominations put major expectations on his career. Those expectations lead to higher profile projects like “Black Mass” and “Hostiles,” but it still feels like the best is yet to come for Cooper.

Teaming up with Guillermo del Toro, Cooper may be getting closer to Oscar glory. Del Toro recently won Best Picture and Best Director for “The Shape of Water.” Like much of Del Toro’s own work, “Antlers” looks to straddle the line between fantasy and horror. If that formula could work for “The Shape of Water,” perhaps this team can find success with this narrative as well.

On the acting side, two names stand out. Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons. One is an established name and the other is a relatively new face with a growing following. But both are notable for their recent success on the small screen. Russell received a great deal of acclaim for her work on “The Americans,” which came after years of high profile movie and television work. Plemons is best known for his work on “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo,” but has appeared in awards contenders “Bridge of Spies” and “The Post” in just the last few years. Each could campaign for nominations if the film’s reception is strong enough.

The short story the film is based on “The Quiet Boy” can be read in its entirety here.

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES

The biggest challenge the film will have to overcome is genre bias. While “The Shape of Water” was able to do so, many similar stories within this unique genre mix have fallen short. The Academy often ignores films in this lane. If the film manages to break through, it will be because of overwhelmingly positive reception.

While Russell and Plemons are fine actors, no one in the cast has ever received much traction with the Academy, specifically. Usually, actors receive their first nominations for films that make the cut in several categories. “Antlers” seems unlikely to fit that bill, but anything is possible. The best recent comparison for Russell would be Toni Collette in “Hereditary,” who just missed the final Oscar lineup.

Overall, the film’s quality remains to be seen, but it will face an uphill battle to have an impact on the awards conversation. “Antlers” would benefit a great deal from a festival run or strong critical reception, but it’s too early to know whether either will happen.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (J. Miles Dale, Guillermo del Toro, David S. Goyer)
  • Actress in a Leading Role (Keri Russell)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Jesse Plemons)
  • Adapted Screenplay (C. Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca)

UPDATE (5/20/19 @ 1:32 PM EST): The article was updated to reflect distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures, along with updated synopsis and cast listing provided by representatives of the studio.

Are you excited or skeptical about Scott Cooper’s “Antlers?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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