2016 Awards Profile: ‘Café Society’ from Woody Allen


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.

Directed By: Woody Allen

Written By: Woody Allen

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Anna Camp, Paul Schneider, Ken Stott, Judy Davis, Kelly Rohrbach, and more

Film Synopsis (via IMDb): A young man arrives in Hollywood during the 1930s hoping to work in the film industry. There, he falls in love, and finds himself swept up in the vibrant café society that defined the spirit of the age.

lead_960Why it could succeed:
Every couple of years, legendary and prodigiously consistent (in terms of one movie within a 12 month span) filmmaker Woody Allen sees one of his releases generate award chatter. It’s been that way ever since he became an Academy Award winner for Annie Hall. Now, as the benchmark for Oscar success as a writer/director, with four wins to go along with 24 total nominations, he’s someone you have to always consider. I’m inclined to support Allen and hope for the best, but even though I can legitimately claim to have enjoyed every one of his movies, I can still acknowledge that he doesn’t always hit with the Academy. Usually though, you can tell which have promise, and this one really does seem to. Period pieces and romances serve him best of late, and this is set in 1930’s Hollywood. The Allen stand in character is once again Jesse Eisenberg, one of the few actors to get that honor twice, with Kristen Stewart as the female lead, alongside potential scene stealing supporting players Steve Carell (who replaced Bruce Willis after he was let go) and Blake Lively. Other members of this cast include Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Anna Camp, Paul Schneider, Ken Stott, Judy Davis, and Kelly Rohrbach, to name a few, so it’s once again a brilliant group of actors and actresses for Woody to play with. We’ve now seen a trailer that looks rather delightful, along with knowledge that it’s going to debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival soon. You can put those pieces together and certainly make the case that appears to be one of his players. Voters do like to nominate Allen, along with his actresses, so it’s not hard to imagine another Best Original Screenplay nod for him, while Stewart gets a nom as well, either in Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. If there’s a true push for awards love from Amazon Studios, with the tons of money they have to spend, this could do even better than Blue Jasmine did a few years back. It could, maybe just maybe, be Midnight in Paris territory for Café Society, perhaps.

Why it might not:
In between Allen’s awards contenders, his output is hardly things that Oscar would take notice of. In fact, over the past decade or so, when a work of his doesn’t catch early Academy Award buzz, they’re more or less taken apart by critics, including things like Cassandra’s Dream and Magic in the Moonlight, to name a few. There’s really no middle ground, so if this isn’t good, it’s going to be labeled a big failure. The aforementioned Amazon Studios is completely untested as well, which could present a challenge. I’m sure the money is there to be spent, but Allen is already a brand name, so it’ll be more about if they can launch a successful campaign. That’s going to be something to follow, provided the film is up to snuff. There’s also no obvious acting nominee that you can point to as someone to lead the movie along the precursor circuit. Stewart will get cited one day, but until it happens, you have to play it safe and assume she’ll be snubbed. Maybe Carell or Eisenberg have nomination number two headed their way, but they didn’t jump off the screen in that trailer. I suspect the film will be enjoyable, but could it be another example of “lesser Allen”? There’s a distinct possibility that just that will be the case. I hope not, but Woody is no automatic lock before his latest screens. The reception at Cannes will tell us a lot, one way or the other. Until then though, Café Society is just an X factor with as many strikes against it as for it.

CgqKQe4WYAEe4xbAwards Speculation:
If we see Café Society more closely resemble classic Allen or even just the previously mentioned Blue Jasmine/Midnight in Paris pairing, there will be potential nominations to be had. Should that be the case and Amazon Studios is on the ball, look for a big time campaign. Efforts will be made for citations in Best Picture, Best Director for Allen, Best Actor for Eisenberg, Best Actress for Stewart, Best Supporting Actor for Carell or Stoll, Best Supporting Actress for Lively or Stewart, and Best Original Screenplay for Allen as well. Of course, there’s possible technical category nods to consider too, including. Best Cinematography, which is being done here by the master DP Vittorio Storaro. Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score are currently on the table as noms to think about also. I’m not saying that it’ll happen, but there’s a chance. It’s fair to play it safe and assume nothing will go down for Allen and company, but it’s hardly a lark to put Allen down in Original Screenplay, where he’s almost a nominee in residency. Something tells me a good day for Café Society sees Allen in Original Screenplay and one actor or actress, though the best day could include both Stewart in whatever category as well as someone like Carell, along with Best Picture. We’ll know more about this one before the summer is out, so it won’t be too long of a wait folks!

Café Society will be distributed by Amazon Studios and released on August 12th, 2016, after a debut at the Cannes Film Festival.

Potential Nominations:

Best Picture
Best Director (Allen)
Best Actor (Eisenberg)
Best Actress (Stewart)
Best Supporting Actor (Carell or Stoll)
Best Supporting Actress (Lively or Stewart)
Best Original Screenplay (Allen)
Best Production Design
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Best Original Score

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

Check out the latest
Oscar Predictions
and see where Café Society ranks!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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