Awards Profile 2019: Sam Mendes’ ‘1917’ from Universal Pictures

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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: “1917”

DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
PRODUCERS: Pippa Harris, Callum McDougall, Sam Mendes, and Jayne-Ann Tenggren
WRITER(S): Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
CAST: Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Richard Madden, George McKay, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and more
SYNOPSISPlot unknown. The film will be set in 1917 during World War I. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: December 25, 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS:

For many great directors, helming a war film seems almost inevitable. For Sam Mendes, this will now be his second take on the quasi-genre. “1917” represents another period effort for Mendes, with “Jarhead” depicting a very recent past. This time, Mendes captures World War I for what is being touted as an immersive experience, one he co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. At CinemaCon, reports swirled that the movie could be compromised of a single long take. If so, that would set the film apart from other war efforts, making it a true cinematic event. Moreover, the project would represent a new challenge for Mendes and his frequent cinematographer Roger Deakins. With a first rate crew behind the camera that also includes production designer Dennis Gassner, composer Thomas Newman, and editor Lee Smith, there’s already a level of prestige to the project. That doesn’t even include the cast, which features Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong, in support of lesser known leads Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay. Rumored to follow the latter two over the course of a day during the war, it could be a singular cinematic experience for this particular conflict, one that has rarely been filmed. The involvement of Deakins and Mendes taking on this challenge immediately makes it must see material. In addition, the recent success of “Dunkirk” and “Hacksaw Ridge” suggests that both audiences and voters have a hunger for war movies still. Looking at the pedigree of this project, Oscar could easily come calling across the board. Universal Pictures clearly feels that they have a special project, judging by the early whispers they put forth at CinemaCon. At the bare minimum, Best Cinematography should be in play for “1917.”

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES:

Premiering late in the season is always a risk for a contender. It can be a calculated one, potentially taking advantage of other Oscar hopefuls that fall flat, but there’s always the chance that voters have turned their attention elsewhere. There’s only so much oxygen in the room for Academy Award players. “1917” runs up against a chance that by the time its Christmas release comes, frontrunners have already been established. That will have Mendes’ film behind from the beginning. Some films vying for awards consideration can come back from that, but some in recent years have shown they can’t. The material suggests that it can overcome the potential head start of competitors, though no one will be able to tell until much later in the year. Look for a bow at one of the fall film festivals, hopefully to build attention and conversation.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (Pippa Harris, Callum McDougall, Sam Mendes, and Jayne-Ann Tenggren)
  • Director (Sam Mendes)
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Dean-Charles Chapman and/or George MacKay)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and/or Mark Strong)
  • Original Screenplay (Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns)
  • Production Design (Dennis Gassner)
  • Cinematography (Roger Deakins)
  • Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran)
  • Film Editing (Lee Smith)
  • Original Score (Thomas Newman)

POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS

  • Best Cinematography (American Society of Cinematographers Awards): If Deakins and Mendes did in fact shoot this as one long take, ASC might see fit to honor the former
  • Best Director (Directors Guild of America Awards): Mendes could wind up the former winner du jour this year if the war epic catches on with his fellow filmmakers

Are you excited or skeptical about Sam Mendes’ “1917?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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