2017 Awards Profile: ‘Detroit’ From Kathryn Bigelow

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile 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 few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday 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.

FILM: “Detroit”
PRODUCERS: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Matthew Budman, Megan Ellison, Colin Wilson
DISTRIBUTOR: Annapurna Pictures

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
WRITER: Mark Boal

CAST: John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, John Krasinski

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): A police raid in Detroit in 1967 results in one of the largest citizen uprisings in United States history.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

Following the back-to-back Oscar successes of “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow has established herself as a perennial awards contender. Her films have enticed the Academy with their social relevance and gripping intensity, catering to the tastes of both the “steak eaters” and the broader membership. With the upcoming “Detroit,” Bigelow continues in the same vein, depicting a seminal moment in US history that continues to reverberate through contemporary society.

That social relevance will likely shape the narrative of this film’s awards campaign, as its focus on police brutality and racial tensions is bound to stimulate conversations and think pieces galore. In addition, the diverse cast will also attract attention, following the Academy’s push for more inclusive narratives. From afar, the slate of contenders centered around persons of color seems scanty. As such, “Detroit” may very well become “The Great Black Hope” for 2017.

As for the quality of the film itself, that seems all but guaranteed considering the talent behind the project. The dynamic duo of Bigelow and trusted screenwriter Mark Boal make up part of a powerhouse producing team that also includes Megan Ellison, a three-time Best Picture nominee through her company Annapurna Pictures. Further helping to bring Bigelow’s vision to life will be a talented crew of craftsmen. Among them are Oscar favorites like James Newton Howard (composer), Barry Ackroyd (cinematographer) and William Goldenberg (film editor). And in front of the camera will be a cast filled with exciting up-and-comers led by John Boyega of “Star Wars” fame.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

Although “Detroit” seems like a slam dunk on paper, its summer release date (August 4) gives me pause. Coming out before the onslaught of festivals and fall releases is a risky gamble, leaving the film vulnerable to be overlooked regardless of its appeal. Furthermore, its social relevance could make the film susceptible to controversy (as was the case with “Zero Dark Thirty”), especially with a white filmmaker portraying a largely black perspective. Anyway you look at it, this film will have to be truly outstanding and financially successful to weather the storm of public opinion, rival “Oscar bait” publicists and a potentially exhausting awards season. But with Kathryn Bigelow at the helm, the film should be able to rise to the challenge.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Director – Kathryn Bigelow
  • Actor in a Leading Role – John Boyega
  • Original Screenplay – Mark Boal
  • Cinematography – Barry Ackroyd
  • Editing – William Goldenberg & Harry Yoon
  • Original Score – James Newton Howard
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing