Oscars 2015: Year of the Veterans? TIFF adds Big Names to the Race

stillalice_sliceThe Toronto Film Festival is just about winding down and the New York Film Festival press screenings will kick off on Monday for the 52nd annual event.  Contenders have plowed through, acquisitions were made, and we still have a long ways to go.

The Oscar Predictions have been updated throughout the festival, most recently on September 11 when Still Alice was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and the entire internet declared Julianne Moore this year’s Oscar-winner for Best Actress.  While I hope and pray to the awards gods for that to be true, we still have a few contenders to get through before we can make that definitive.  Rosamund Pike is a millisecond away from dropping in on the part with her work in Gone Girl, a performance that is said to be a clear contender.  Amy Adams is waiting in the wings for nomination #6 with Harvey Weinstein backing with Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.  Queen Meryl Streep will be singing all December long with Walt Disney Pictures about to pounce majorly with Into the Woods.  Finally, we still have a chance to get someone like Jennifer Aniston, who received stellar notices at TIFF for Cake.  Accompanying Aniston with some TIFF buzz is Nina Hoss in Phoenix, Brit Marling in The Keeping Room, and Jessica Chastain in Miss Julie.  All of them are waiting on a home and a possible spot in this year’s race.

One of the biggest gifts from Toronto was Felicity Jones in James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything.  It’s a performance that stands as one of the year’s finest and Focus Features could have a clear winner on their hands.  It is worth noting, that even though many of us have jumped on board with switching her to a Lead Actress lineup, someone involved in the campaign tells me that they are waiting until TIFF is officially over to declare a Lead or Supporting campaign.  She either becomes the challenging contender for Julianne Moore or the worst nightmare to Patricia Arquette in Boyhood.  If you’re asking me, a Lead campaign is where she belongs, with no question about it.  Will the Academy buy a Supporting campaign is the bigger question.  I keep going back to someone like Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.  A contender if there ever was one in 2004.  Coincidentally, Focus Features also handled her campaign and made the call in Supporting Actress and no one bought it.  Alongside Bill Murray, and a strong showing with Picture, Director, and Screenplay nominations, Johansson got edged out by Shohreh Aghdashloo and Marcia Gay Harden (both magnificent).  Let’s hope Jones won’t suffer the same fate.

EddieRedmayne_TheoryofEverything_imageHer co-star received just as much love from the Canadian crowd.  Eddie Redmayne‘s work as Stephen Hawking is an impressive feat, showcasing some pretty terrific moments.  At 32-years-old (will be 33 by the time the Oscars air), Redmayne would become the eighth youngest Best Actor winner ever.  They love their actors older.  There’s no secret about that.  Steve Carell, Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Murray, and perhaps even David Oyelowo, Joaquin Phoenix, Jack O’Connell, and/or Bradley Cooper are going to put up a big fight.

In Lead Actor, we’re getting a plethora of men by the second.  Speaking of Bill Murray, TIFF went nuts for his work in St. Vincent, along with co-stars Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts.  If Murray were to beat the odds and edge out all his competitors that include Carell and Keaton, at 63 years old, he would be the oldest Best Actor winner since Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond in 1981.  Insane.  It’s going to be interesting what Harvey Weinstein can do on an awards campaign for Murray.  Will he play the game?  Is the Academy in a veteran rewarding mood?

Picking up steam from its Telluride bow, Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game is just about one of the best things that this year has offered, perhaps even THE best.  Benedict Cumberbatch‘s towering work is really one for the cinematic ages.  It’s his crowning achievement and something that could land him on a stage at the Dolby Theater in February.  The film itself, is even a possible Oscar-winner by all the praises (including my own).  Keira Knightley, maybe even Charles Dance will also be in the conversation for awards as well.  I’m excited for the film as is Harvey I’m sure.

The big thing worth mentioning here is just how older the predicted frontrunners are skewing this year.  Imagine a ceremony in which Bill Murray, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette are all winning.  Arquette and Moore would be the youngest at 46 and 53 while Murray and Simmons would represent the 60+ club.  That doesn’t seem right but there’s still a lot more race to go.  Jones or Pike could steamroll the season over Moore, or Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick could create some havoc for Arquette.  This is all open ended still.  No locks, just good guesses.

I’ve updated our Oscar Tracker (different from Oscar Predictions), to track all the films and performances that made some noise at TIFF.  We will be plowing through to NYFF next with looks at Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, and a new crowd for Foxcatcher and Birdman.  

Where do you see the Oscar race?