2016 Awards Profile: ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ from Ang Lee



Welcome to the 2016 Awards Profiles series, where we talk about high and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year.  We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not either by quality or being pushed back to the following year.  For the next eight weeks, we will bring you a film every weekday to talk about their potential.  If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below.  If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

Director: Ang Lee

Writer: Simon Beaufoy and Jean-Christophe Castelli. By the novel from Ben Fountain

Cast: Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin

Synopsis: An infantryman recounts the final hours before he and his fellow soldiers return to Iraq.

Why It Might Succeed: You can’t say the film doesn’t have the right pedigree for Oscar success. Ang Lee hasn’t directed a film in almost three years, but the last time he did The Life of Pi landed him nominations for Best Picture and Director. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy hasn’t had the same awards success since his last nomination in 2011 for 127 Hours, but his thrice-nominated status lends the film additional cache.

Lee also has a perfect storm of Oscar-winning talent behind-the-scenes including cinematographer John Toll, previous winner for Braveheart and Legends of the Fall as well as The Thin Red Line; editor Tim Squyres, who previously worked with Lee on Life of Pi; and costumer Joseph G. Aulisi, twice-nominated for Emmys. With the exception of Squyres, nominations for the others have been several years in the past.

The all-star cast is a mixed bag of seasoned talents – Stewart, Hedlund, Martin – and actors trying to break out of their preconceived personas, like Vin Diesel which could lead to a fun guessing game of “who’s due” for an award.  War movies are a mixed bag, but Lee’s status as a man who usually secures nominations, coupled with the past success of American Sniper might not lead to wins, but definitely nominations.

Why It Might FailThere’s a lot of questionable variables with this. Lee is usually an awards darling, but for every Brokeback Mountain we get a Taking Woodstock. Beaufoy missed out last year with the critically mixed Everest, and this is the first screenwriting credit for co-screenwriter, Jean-Christophe Castelli, who’s worked as a script adviser in the past.

And in spite of the all-star casts, it’s been said much of the film rests on the shoulders of newbie Joe Alwyn. This isn’t necessarily a detriment, as Lee’s worked to propel neophyte actors before, but the war story coupled with an unproven actor could lead to an Unbroken situation – mixed response and no Oscars.

Awards Speculation: Lee is one of those director’s who Hollywood is hard-pressed to dislike. The prime Oscar release date will put this in front of a lot of eyes, for sure. But I just don’t see much in the way of above the line nominations. Based on the little information available this looks to have similar sentiments as The Life of Pi, securing it a possible Picture and Directing nod, but little in the way of acting nods.

Oscar Potential:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Ang Lee
  • Best Actor: Joe Alwyn
  • Best Supporting Actor: Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund
  • Best Supporting Actress: Kristen Stewart
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy and Jean-Christophe Castelli
  • Best Cinematography: John Toll
  • Best Score
  • Best Film Editing: Tim Squyres

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advanced Oscar Predictions
and see where Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk ranks!