‘All is Lost’ Positioned for Oscar Race, ’12 Years a Slave’ Debuts Strong

Robert Redford in All is LostThis weekend the Oscar juggernauts that are J.C. Chandor‘s “All is Lost” and Steve McQueen‘s “12 Years a Slave” opened in limited release.  Though they had no chance against the money-making “Gravity” – the two have received the lion’s share of critical endorsement and support.

Chandor’s film, which screened a few weeks ago at NYFF 51, is currently sitting at a staggering 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Robert Redford‘s nomination for Best Actor seems like one of the season’s surest bets, in a race where no one is safe.  With Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions launching their awards site last week, the solo-character drama that takes place at sea may find itself in serious Oscar territory in Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay, despite the under 40-page treatment.  Don’t be surprised to see the film pop up in some tech categories including Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing.  If AMPAS relates to the film in a big way, it could go far.

Chandor is a huge selling point to the picture.  Charismatic in Q & A screenings and speaking passionately about the filmmaking process, Chandor is one that’s hard to route against.  I’m sure he’s gaining a lot of fans as he travels on the circuit this season, which will open the door for more compelling and complex projects in the future.  He’s an exciting director to watch.

As for Redford, the Oscar-winning director has made his rounds.  Earlier this week, he was interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show, speaking about the process of preparing and taking on the role of the unnamed character.

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A bit of a disadvantage to the Redford campaign is, when compared to competitor Bruce Dern who is making similar rounds for “Nebraska,” he doesn’t “sell” himself with the zeal and passion that past Best Actor winners are typically known for.  One point to make, and I’m sure people will say is, he doesn’t have to.  He’s Robert “F#@$%” Redford.  The man has astounded in his career from directing, producing, acting, and developing one of the best film festivals in the world.  I’m sure at 77-years old, winning an Oscar and playing to the cameras is not the first thing on his mind.  That can be overlooked by some Academy members, but not all.  Though the art of film isn’t about awards, “All is Lost” is being campaigned for them.  Him and Dern are gunning for the same voting bloc of members, which could hurt both in the end.  They’re both well-known in the industry, have friends that will naturally check their names off on ballots, but most importantly, they are being approached by younger, fresher performances like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey, and perhaps even Leonardo DiCaprio this year.  Lead Actor is a category they aren’t afraid, for lack of a better phrase, to let you die without an acting Oscar in your hand.  Though living, Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole are still Oscar-less in competitive categories.  Hell, they let Richard Burton go without rewarding his stunning career.  Don’t count on the Academy to right the wrongs of their past with veteran actors.

As we’ve known since it debuted at Telluride, McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” is capturing the hearts of movie-goers everywhere.  On Friday, the film came in at $275,000 in just 19 theaters according to Box Office Mojo.  There are rumors however of light Academy-filled screening rooms in Los Angeles, and grumblings about its graphic nature.  This isn’t surprising.  We knew reactions like this would come but hopefully, enough voters will see the Fox Searchlight film and keep it heavily in conversation.  Hopefully they get over it.

LupitaNyongo_12Years_SupportingThere are a few pundits out there who believe in the power of Supporting Actress hopeful Lupita Nyong’o and are predicting her above frontrunner Oprah Winfrey from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” from The Weinstein Company.  No complaining from this pundit if it happens, the gorgeous and wonderful Nyong’o will need A LOT of critical citations and support to topple the network executive who has many friends in the Academy.

With “Gravity” continuing to make money, “Captain Phillips” getting the critical support, and “Saving Mr. Banks” set to premiere in London tomorrow evening, this race is stacking up to be the most exciting one in the last ten years.  Many surprises are coming our way I’m sure and we’ll continue to keep track.

Academy members have received screeners of “Mud,” “The Croods,” and “Fruitvale Station” thus far with other groups, including BFCA, getting films like “Stories We Tell” and “Monster’s University” to keep in the conversation.  In the next day or so, look for reviews for two animated hopefuls from GKIDS, “Ernest & Celestine” and “A Letter to Momo,” two films that may shake up the Animated Feature race.

What did you think of “12 Years a Slave” and “All is Lost” this weekend?  What Oscar prospects do you see coming their way?