Oscars: November Set to Thrust Actor and Actress Hopefuls Will Smith and Jennifer Lawrence Into Awards Race

concussionWe’re quickly approaching the close of October, and in this new Oscar world, we have much more answers at this point in an awards season than we’ve ever had before.  That’s because in this new landscape, many studios are loading their hopefuls in the month of October as oppose to the once gunned for December slots.  That isn’t to say that a potential winner isn’t still on the horizon.

Set to make its debut at AFI Film Fest as the opening film, Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea” sits by as a potential game-changer for Universal Pictures.  The money-making juggernaut this year has seen record-breaking debuts at the box office with “Furious 7,” “Jurassic World,” and “Straight Outta Compton” all making a name for themselves.  They already have Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” in their back pocket as the potential frontrunner for several categories when the precursors start to unleash however, things can change very quickly on the awards front.  Pitt’s directing track record hasn’t exactly ignited a lot of excitement with “In the Land of Blood and Honey” getting passed over and “Unbroken” just scraping by with three nominations last year amidst mixed reviews.  The early word on this is very strong and could present an opportunity for her to not just get her film in front of voters as a directing candidate, but possibly as Best Actress hopeful.  Hubby Brad Pitt has two films in play this year alongside her in “By the Sea” and in Adam McKay’s “The Big Short,” which is set to close AFI Film Fest.

stevecarell_bigshortTwitter rumblings following an Academy screening last week suggests a strong awards hopeful in several categories but Pitt wasn’t the name on everyone’s lips.  Last year’s Best Actor nominee Steve Carell seem to receive the lion’s share of praise for his performance.  After stumbling in a huge way in Peter Sollett’s “Freeheld” this year, a redemption card can wash the pallets of audiences and voters.  Co-star Christian Bale also get a nice set of ink for his supporting turn, and after pushing by names like Tom Hanks two years ago for “American Hustle,” the love for Bale is far from over.

In the middle of the fest, Peter Landesman’s NFL drama “Concussion” will make its bow and the word on the street for the film is palpable.  Sony Pictures has sit out the last two years with no major contender to give a proper push, and even earlier this season, “The Walk” will look to be a Visual Effects contender at best.  Unless you see the Academy receiving a surprise nostalgia and love for James Bond later this year, Landesman’s film is the most likely film up their alley.  Featuring a story that has been heavily in the media, “Concussion” will have many tuning in to watch the scandal unfold on screen.  If it wasn’t for Landesman’s previous effort “Parkland,” I’d imagine this film would have been way more anticipated by pundits and critics then it currently is.  As we saw with Tom McCarthy releasing “The Cobbler” earlier this year to career worst notices and then capping it off with “Spotlight,” no film can determine the potential of a director when given the right material, under the right circumstances.  The threat from “Concussion,” more than anything is the potential for Will Smith to become a runaway in Best Actor.  From someone who has seen the film, they’ve said to me: “even if Leo is a thing, Smith is a huge threat, no matter what.”  How many people in Hollywood are going to be oppose to the two-time Best Actor nominee winning his first Oscar?  With Johnny Depp’s recent statements about “not wanting to win an Academy Award,” Smith’s gracious and likable persona can be a serious force all season long.

jenniferlawrence_joyIn other news, another test screening for David O. Russell’s “Joy” occurred earlier this week, while the second trailer landed for us to view.  At this point, the film is a complete wildcard.  It can be just what the doctor ordered, resulting in Russell’s fourth consecutive career Best Picture nominee or it can “same ol’ Russell” allowing voters to look elsewhere.  Distributor 20th Century Fox has three huge films in the arsenal this year: “Joy,” the still unseen “The Revenant,” and Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.”  All of which, are feasible Best Picture contenders.  At some point, a decision may need to be made.  If they can’t go all the way with “Joy” or “The Revenant,” does “The Martian’s” story of a career resurrection of Ridley Scott bring him to the podium as a Director and Picture winner?  At bare minimum, Jennifer Lawrence looks like someone to check off in Best Actress no matter what the reviews and will likely cake walk to a fourth nomination and possible challenge frontrunner Brie Larson for “Room.”

The last unknown is Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” looking to capitalize on another Christmas debut from the Weinstein Company.  From the early rumors, it sounds as if Kurt Russell and Walter Goggins will be the standout contenders to compete in Supporting Actor while Samuel L. Jackson will play his hand at a Lead campaign.  The Jennifer Jason Leigh aroma is still in the air and should find her way comfortably in a seemingly four spot-locked Supporting Actress race.  All will be answered soon enough.

The predictions for all the Academy Awards pages have been updated.  You can see them on the sidebar or click on each category below to read all the commentary on each race.  Also, make sure to check the latest Awards Season Tracker to see what screeners have gone out to guild members.  They include:

  • “Infinitely Polar Bear” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Irrational Man” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Testament of Youth” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Fifty Shades of Grey” (Universal Pictures)
  • “Pitch Perfect 2” (Universal Pictures)

Include your thoughts in the comments below!

ACADEMY AWARDS PREDICTION CATEGORIES:

PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS | ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE | PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING |MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT