Oscar Updates Continue with Screenplays, Animated Feature, and Production Design

Inside1Oscar Predictions continue here and with the acting categories getting the updates last week, I thought it was time to start breaking down the “non-major” categories in groups.  Honestly, these are some of the more exciting races because the technical merits of films this year have been the most astounding and have made this year exactly what it is.

In Original Screenplay, an obvious frontrunner is lacked.  “Inside Llewyn Davis” is by far, my favorite of the year so far.  The Coen Brothers magic in the words of their film is one of the best that they have ever produced.  CBS Films is coordinating a strategic campaign and have done everything right thus far, playing at all the right festivals, screening for Academy members beginning last week.  If they can’t muster a nomination for Oscar Isaac or a win for “Please Mr. Kennedy” or even Best Picture, a consolation screenplay prize is a fine place to reward it.

On the other side, the writers branch does love familiarity.  Woody Allen has continued to prove that he hasn’t lost his edge.  With Sony Pictures Classics having the opportunity to put a large sum of money behind “Blue Jasmine,” there’s no reason to think that they may not fall into old habits.  David O. Russell is gaining the momentum to be declared “overdue” and after losing Director and Adapted Screenplay last year for “Silver Linings Playbook,” sharing an Original Screenplay win with Eric Singer could be in the cards for “American Hustle.”

Enough can’t be said about Spike Jonze and his film “Her.”  Debuting very strongly at New York Film Festival, Warner Bros. is getting very smart about how to roll out the film and campaign it for the awards season.  Production Design, a category that should be in serious conversation, has some very vocal fans from those who have seen it.  On a writing standpoint, Jonze writes his most personal and ambitious note to mother cinema.  The big question is, will the Academy “get it?”

Believe it or not, the wildcard seems to be “Gravity” in Screenplay.  There are few “negative” reviews out there and the ones that are, cite the script as the problem.  I fell in love with the simplicity of the story but the writers may not see it that way.  And to boot, science fiction doesn’t do well in screenplay.  In terms of Production Design, that isn’t as obvious but neither was “Life of Pi” and it found a spot last year.

philomenaIn Adapted Screenplay, I’m floored with the lack of contenders.  “12 Years a Slave” looks like it will run away with the category and that’s great for John Ridley.  What he should be worried about is two gentlemen by the names of Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and their script for “Philomena.”  With the Weinstein clan gearing up to push it through the roof, the British voting bloc could check it film off easily.  Outside of the two, I’m pretending that AMPAS will remember “Before Midnight” and think it as a no-brainer.  Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have transformed the franchise into such a heartfelt abundance of masterful writing.  Each film has gotten better and better with each outing and MAYBE, they feel it may be time to reward their efforts.

Billy Ray‘s work on “Captain Phillips” SHOULD be able to weather the storm of controversy.  However, I think he’s been the undervalued member of the technical and production team.  You hear critics talking about Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, the Editing, the Sound, but not so much the script.  At least that’s how it looks to me over here.

Speaking of controversy, any person involved in “Blue is the Warmest Color” can’t stop bad-mouthing the other beings. If Adèle Exarchopoulos can’t factor into an Actress race or Lea Seydoux is just too much of a long shot in Supporting Actress, maybe an Adapted Screenplay mention can do the trick.  Outside of those mentioned five, “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “August: Osage County” are the only two other factors in the conversation.  “Wolf” is still unseen and “August” has vocal critics dethroning it as a sure-fire Oscar contender.

In Animated Feature, things aren’t interesting…at all.  “Monsters University” and “Frozen” look to be the ones to fight it out and “The Wind Rises” will attempt to play the Miyazaki card.  “Ernest & Celestine” is pretty incredible but a foreign cartoon is a hard sell to the Academy at large.  Pity because it deserves a slot.  I’m holding out for it.  “The Croods” is getting the big push from Dreamworks and could factor into more categories outside of Animated.  The score by Alan Silvestri and the Original Song, “Shine Your Way” are very much on the table.  The wildcard on the table is “Despicable Me 2” which is a huge financial success.  Universal Pictures will give it a detailed push and it could get the popular vote from members.

Check out the updates to Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Animated Feature, and Production Design.  More updates will be coming during the week.

Discuss.