CIRCUIT CONSIDERATION: It’s that time of the year again. The studios are about to kick off Phase 1. In lots of ways, the more money you have, the more likely you are to capture Oscar’s attention. Smaller, independent companies can’t compete with the mammoths of the studio circuit. Just a few years ago, Ann Dowd of the well-received “Compliance” took out advertisements with her own money to secure herself a Best Supporting Actress nomination. With only the National Board of Review under her belt, her efforts were unfortunately overlooked. Just last year, Cinedigm distributed one of the finest films of the year with Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12” and its star Brie Larson was more than worthy of a nomination from the Academy. Alas, even with a thinner Best Actress race in recent years, the film was ultimately forgotten.
This year, I’ve made it my mission with this platform that is Awards Circuit and its annual Circuit Consideration pieces, to shine a light on those films, performers, and craftsmen and women, that don’t have the high-profile stakes or deep pockets to crack their respective lineups. Some of these may not necessarily be in the top of their categories based on quality, but they all should warrant consideration and looks. The Oscars and awards season are about rewarding the films that are the very best. Obviously, that message has been muddled over the years but we continue the good fight to get those their due.
The talk surrounding Steve James’ passionate portrait on the life of Roger Ebert was remarkable. Many seemed on board with “Life Itself” possibly contending to be the first to be nominated for Best Picture. This was back in the summer. The dust seemed to clear and there was only the pathway to walk but then “Citizenfour” landed, with about a dozen other docs and the film’s buzz seemed to diminish some. While everyone feels confident that the film will make the cut in Documentary Feature, crazy things have occurred with staggering omissions. Just look back at James’ “Hoop Dreams” that was disqualified/snubbed and the consolation prize was a mention in Best Film Editing. Perhaps if the Academy thinks outside the box, even with just five slots for Best Picture on their ballots, a small film about the most beloved film journalists of our lifetime is worth the look.
There are some performances that just hit the sweet spot of a film year. Brie Larson was a good example of this last year. Completely unexpected, Jenny Slate, alum of NBC’s “Saturday Night LIVE,” offered herself in one of the year’s most extraordinary and fascinating performances. Funny, awkwardly touching, and reminiscent of something you’d see from Diablo Cody, “Obvious Child” offers opportunities for Slate to lose herself and capture the essence of her Donna Stern, a young woman who’s one night stand results in an unwanted pregnancy. In a year where many are yelling “weak year for Best Actress,” a gem of the performance is right under their noses for citation.
We don’t get a whole lot of sound craftsman that take on the daunting task of tackling both Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. No one in recent memory has achieved this so effortlessly or with greater devotion than Johnie Burn‘s work on Jonathan Glazer‘s “Under the Skin.” Say what you will about the film, which is a mind trip that can be off-putting to some, the sound work is undeniably rich. Accompanied by a score by Mica Levi, who emulates something that would be made by Jonny Greenwood, Burn’s attention to detail, weaving in and out of the scenes with tension and ultimately capturing the bird’s-eye view of our human world, is superb. You feel as though you’re in it alongside Scarlett Johansson’s haunting alien persona, driving through a world that may seem familiar but becomes awakening in its demeanor.
I’ll be releasing three or more Circuit Considerations a week until ballots are due. Right now, SAG ballots are about to be sent out, Satellite ballots are out, BFCA is receiving screeners, and many more organizations are gearing up to meet for their annual awards kick off including LAFCA, NYFCC, and NYFCO. Hopefully they’ll all make some adventurous, eclectic choices for the Academy to indulge.
Include suggestions for future Circuit Considerations in the comment section!