Awards Profile: Inside Llewyn Davis

Directed By: Ethan and Joel Coen
Written By: Ethan and Joel Coen

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garret Hedlund, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham, Adam Driver

Synopsis (From IMDB): “A singer-songwriter navigates New York’s folk music scene during the 1960s.”

Why It Could Succeed:
All of the elements for an Oscar movie are there: a great cast, Oscar winning writers/directors, period drama with musical scenes. With all of the nostalgia that The Artist, Hugo and The Help drummed up last year, it’s not inconceivable that this movie would play well for the Academy’s average 62 yr old white male member. Considering this is about the 60s folk music scene in New York, it could be seen as the cool musical option of the awards season as opposed to the serious musical option in Les Miserables.

On a more substantial level, this film is directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, who seem to deliver quality movies every time they pick a project (I refuse to believe The Ladykillers exists). They have also found a groove with the Academy, winning 3 Oscars for No Country for Old Men, getting two Oscar nominations for A Serious Man and whopping 10 nominations for their True Grit remake. While this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be Academy caliber, it’s hard not to go into it with the opinion it will be.

The Coen brothers also get great performances out of their actors and they’ve cast a great mix of young actors and veterans who can actually sing.  Oscar Isaac has been doing good work for a while and it will be interesting to see what he will do with his first major leading role.  Carey Mulligan has built on the promise she showed in An Education and after the dynamic performance she gave in Shame, her performance will definitely be on to watch. Justin Timberlake and Garrett Hedlund have shown flashes of acting brilliance in the past, and should provide fun supporting turns in this movie.  And, you can’t go wrong in casting John Goodman and Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham as veteran anchors for the film.

Why It Could Fail:
The list of concerns about this movie should probably start with whether or not the film will even be released in time to qualify. IMDB currently has the movie slated to arrive in February, which doesn’t exclude the film from getting one of those dreaded one week qualifying runs at the end of December. However, I get the feeling that this film will need more time to grow on voters and audiences in order to really be successful. Especially when you consider that there will be other go to musical (Les Miserables) and cool recent era period  pieces (On the Road and Argo), it will be tough for this movie to stand out.

While the cast seems to be good on paper, many of the actors are still unproven. Justin Timberlake (whom I really liked in The Social Network) didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his leading roles, can he deliver here? Same with Garrett Hedlund and to a smaller extent, Oscar Isaac.

Another issue might just be the Academy’s taste. They seem to like the Coens until they direct films that are against the grain like The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading. Will this movie fall into that same trap?

Awards Speculation:
There are a lot of unknowns regarding this film but if it’s any good you can bet that an Original Screenplay nomination won’t be too far away.  Another good bet would be for the film to be a contender for craft categories like Art Direction and Costume Design, given the period nature of the film, and Sound Mixing, given the film’s musical nature. However, this film will probably need to be a critical or commercial hit in order to advance further than that.

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture
Best Director – Ethan and Joel Coen
Best Actor – Oscar Isaac
Best Supporting Actress – Carey Mulligan
Best Original Screenplay – Ethan and Joel Coen
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Mixing