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Awards: Are James Gray And Brad Pitt Blasting Into Oscar Contention With ‘Ad Astra?’

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This could be the year of Brad Pitt at the Oscars. Two months ago, we speculated about how Pitt could be the latest actor to win an Academy Award for his performance in a Quentin Tarantino film. Then last month, we looked at whether Pitt’s role inOnce Upon a Time…in Hollywood” has become the frontrunner for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. Today, we’re going to look at whether he has another awards contender on his hands in James Gray‘s “Ad Astra,” which hit theaters at last this past weekend.

The movie is a science fiction drama/mystery. Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride, one of Space Command’s very best. He’s recruited for a top secret mission to uncover the truth about his missing father Cliff McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) and what happened on his expedition to Neptune 30 years ago. Whatever happened, and whatever Cliff discovered, the impact of that mission is now threatening Earth. Roy sets out to the Moon, then Mars, then beyond, in search of answers, as well as another connection with his dad. Gray directs and co-writes with Ethan Gross, while the rest of the cast includes Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival, “Ad Astra” has been receiving largely strong reviews. Currently at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes from 259 reviews, this week will see more critics chime in. Back at Venice, there were some out and out raves for the flick, including this one at indieWire from David Ehrlich:

One of the most ruminative, withdrawn, and curiously optimistic space odysseys this side of “Solaris.”

Gray and Pitt are at the top of their respective games here. Gray is working on a scale larger than ever before, though completely at home and able to tell a deeply personal story. Pitt has rarely been better, mixing his matinee looks with a facade that slowly cracks, showcasing humanity. Together, they tell a story of fathers and sons that’s only nominally an epic space adventure. Think closer to Carl Sagan or Bruce Springsteen than George Lucas. Both deserve to be in contention this season, headlining the above-the-line chances for the movie. In March we speculated on its potential for Oscar love in Awards Profile, and it largely seems to have shown itself to be in play for many of those awards. Above the line it may be tough, though Pitt’s presumed Supporting Actor nomination may help him in Best Actor. Gray has two bites at the apple, in Best Director and for Best Original Screenplay. Either one would go a long way toward getting the flick a Best Picture nomination.

Below the line, “Ad Astra” should be an even bigger player. Both Max Richter‘s evocative score and Hoyte Van Hoytema‘s luminous cinematography arguably are frontrunners in their respective categories right now. The film is also a strong contender for its effects, which look largely practical in an era where everything appears to be CGI. These citations could in turn help its chances in Picture. If the movie scores in Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects, that’s an excellent start. Citations elsewhere, including in Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing would only further the argument.

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On AwardsCircuit’s Sep. 17 prediction updates, the film shows up in a number of Academy Award categories. Above the line, Clayton has the movie itself at number fifteen in Picture, Gray at number eleven in Director, as well as number thirteen in Original Screenplay, with Pitt currently number nine in Actor. Below the line is a different story. “Ad Astra” is currently predicted to secure nominations in Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. With a little precursor love, that tally could easily increase, potentially including Gray, Pitt, and the picture itself.

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Currently, “Ad Astra” is set to be a technical player. However, if enough passionate supporters back it, Gray and Pitt’s contributions could find themselves in the thick of Oscar season. The film is now in theaters and if audiences connect with it like critics have so far, the sky’s the limit. Stay tuned!

Do you think “Ad Astra” will be an Oscar player for James Gray and Brad Pitt? Let us know in the comments below! 


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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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Joey Magidson

At the very least, this is going to be a player in multiple tech categories.

Max Loehrke

Sometimes the critics are right, sometimes the audiences are right. In my opinion, in this case, the 45% audience score on rotten tomatoes gets it right.

Matt St.Clair

I hope so. I even hope Pitt gets considered since he’s better here than he is in OUATIH.


What was up with awful voiceover in the film. Completely distracting and unnecessary

Umair Zia

Oh man. I did not care for this film. I was really excited. The visuals and use of ‘space’ was amazing. Pitt was excellent. But the script and character motivation is so unbelievable.

Knox Van Horn

This film has really stumped me. On the one hand, I thought the visuals and the acting were top notch, as well as the score. But I really couldn’t get past some of the writing. I think it could have been a much stronger movie with a good chunk of Pitt’s voiceover monologues cut out, and with another pass at some of the dialogue. I think the intent and a lot of the elements are there, but the script is its weakest aspect by a mile IMO


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