What’s more valuable for an awards contender: strong box office or strong word of mouth? Critical acclaim doesn’t always procure an audience, though it usually helps. In the case of “Blinded by the Light,” which opened on Friday, a disappointing haul at the box office has dulled some of the movie’s momentum. However, does that mean it’s DOA as an awards contender? As of now, we don’t think so.
“Blinded by the Light” is a coming of age story set in 1987 England, following Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he’s inspired by the words and music of Bruce Springsteen. When he first hears the songs, the words of Springsteen open Javed’s eyes. He hasn’t just found a musical idol; he’s found a guiding force through life. As if born again, he begins to see everything through the lens of Springsteen. Gurinder Chadha directs and co-writes with Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor. Supporting players include Hayley Atwell, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, among others.
Debuting earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie received extensive praise, positioning itself as one potential breakout hit from the fest. Its opening this past weekend to a rating of over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, something that often can accompany a small scale feature hoping to get on the Academy’s radar (2007’s “Juno”). Our rave review here on the site includes the following praise:
“Blinded by the Light” is not just a delightful crowd-pleaser, based on the memoir “Greetings from Bury Park” by Sarfraz Manzoor. The film is also a rare example of how cinema can perfectly capture an evocative emotionally spiritual experience. This movie knows exactly what it’s like, internally and externally, to discover Springsteen; how the music makes one feel. Even down to how the music manifests itself into a person’s actions. The perceptive nature of the picture is so on the nose, it can cause a visceral reaction in fans of The Boss.
New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. should ignore the small box office numbers this weekend and campaign “Blinded by the Light” like the feel-good film of 2019. AMPAS and Oscar may have trouble looking beyond the financials, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) should not. That could make the flick a prime contender for some Golden Globes attention. The Globes have previously given Springsteen two awards for writing original music. Perhaps they’ll see fit to reward a work that celebrates his music like no other?
Much lighter than various Academy Award frontrunners are, “Blinded by the Light” would represent a celebration of how music influences creative figures. That likely will appeal more to Globe voters, giving it a shot in Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). It will take, however, a concentrated effort to keep it on the awards season radar. If that happens, voters could look past the financial earnings and be charmed enough to lift this one up.
On AwardsCircuit’s Aug. 13 prediction updates, the film was sitting in the “unranked section” of the Best Picture predictions for the Academy Awards. However, it is currently number eleven in the Golden Globes predictions for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).
“Blinded by the Light” may struggle with Academy members, though if Globe voters gravitate towards it, that could turn the tide. The critical factor will be audiences seeing the film. So far, everyone who sees it loves it. It’s just been too small a number. Provided that changes, at least amongst awards season voters, there’s a chance that the title becomes a player. Stay tuned!