Awards Profile 2019: James Mangold’s ‘Ford v. Ferrari’ from 20th Century Fox

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Ford v. Ferrari”

DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios (under 20th Century Fox label)
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
PRODUCER: Peter Chernin, Lucas Foster, Alex Young, Kevin Halloran, and James Mangold
WRITER(S): James Mangold, Jason Keller, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth
CAST: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Noah Jupe, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, Remo Girone, JJ Feild, Josh Lucas, Alex Gurney, Benjamin Rigby, Jack McMullen, Joe Williamson, Gian Franco Tordi, and Corrado Invernizzi
SYNOPSIS: The true story of the battle between Ford and Ferrari to win Le Mans in 1966. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: November 15, 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS:

Christian Bale answers the call to Oscar race…

How the mighty keep rising! James Mangold has been among the most reliable of directors for years now, entirely selfless in that he chucks his ego aside to pour total concentration on his screen subjects. If you’re looking for authentic representation of source material that benches toxic masculinity, Mangold is your man. There’s gritty elegance to every one of his films, from the throes of the Wild West in “3:10 to Yuma” (2007) to the epic denouement of Marvel’s most turmoiled antihero in “Logan” (2017). He underscores dramaturgical plight without compromising its validity.

Now with megastars Christian Bale and Matt Damon aboard his latest cinematic venture, there’s no stopping Mangold from potentially receiving that elusive Best Director Oscar nomination. Numerous accolades for “Walk the Line” (2005) and “Logan” – the latter of which he received his first career Academy Award nomination – prove his peers view his genre work as elevated material. Therefore, he should have an easier time being embraced during awards season for tackling a subgenre that inherently plucks AMPAS heartstrings: the straight white male historical biopic. Even if it’s just a movie star action vehicle that carries minimal dramatic weight, many will be tethered to the Ford and Ferrari rivalry with grand event enticement. 

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES:

Matt Damon returns to a serious dramatic role

The last time a racing competition was the focus of a biopic, it resulted in poor box office and little awards fare. If Ron Howard – someone who won a “Best Director” Oscar and is cherished for his sentimentalist entertainment value – couldn’t ignite awards recognition for “Rush” (2013), it’s difficult to imagine James Mangold reversing this misfortune. Granted, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl aren’t perceived in the same thespian regard as Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Yet, if their involvement is less about flexing talent and more about adhering to a formula, it’ll be one less advantage the movie has when stacked against its competition.

Prestige casting carries with it the expectation that its principal players will bring their skills to the forefront. If that turns out to be false or underwhelming, then their participation is arbitrary, consequentially creating a backlash. The industry is already heavily criticized for recycling actors just for the sake of selling entertainment. With Quentin Tarantino already using the global popularity of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt to market “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Damon and Bale will inevitably be seen as the lesser onscreen pairing if Disney attempts something similar.

Finally, there’s the issue of Mangold regressing in the projects he chooses in the latter stage of his career. Going from cutting-edge genre work to an outdated form of cinema consumerism that appeals to an older demographic seems like a betrayal of auteur growth. “Ford v. Ferrari” is as generic an enterprise as its title. There’s no built-in excitement for an event in history that’s so aligned with American corporate interests, less about the innovators and men behind the wheel than it is about self-congratulatory technological advancement. When we have sprawling and ambitious biopics about American icons in space, incremental progress in automotive capabilities isn’t enthralling by comparison.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (Peter Chernin, Lucas Foster, Alex Young, Kevin Halloran, and James Mangold)
  • Director (James Mangold)
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Christian Bale and/or Matt Damon)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Noah Jupe, Tracy Letts, and/or Jon Bernthal)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role (Caitriona Balfe)
  • Original Screenplay (James Mangold, Jason Keller, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth)
  • Production Design (François Auduoy)
  • Costume Design (Daniel Orlandi)
  • Film Editing (Michael McCusker)
  • Cinematography (Phedon Papamichael)
  • Sound Mixing (Richard Bullock Jr. and Steven Morrow)
  • Sound Editing (Dan O’Connell)
  • Visual Effects (Olivier Dumont)
  • Original Score (Marco Beltrami)

Does “Ford v. Ferrari” have what it takes to go the Oscar distance…or not? Let us know in the comments section below!

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