Awards Profile: Foxcatcher

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Foxcatcher_imageFilm: Foxcatcher
Directed by
: Bennett Miller

Written by: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall

Synopsis (from IMDb): The story of Olympic Wrestling Champion Mark Schultz and how paranoid schizophrenic John duPont killed his brother, Olympic Champion Dave Schultz.

Release Date: Not yet announced.

WHY IT COULD SUCCEED:

Based on his past two Oscar-nominated films, Bennett Miller continues to elevate his own directorial style with such precision.  Capote and Moneyball were both magnificent pieces of cinema, both worthy of the accolades they received during their awards run.  When it comes the seemingly darkly tempered Foxcatcher, at least on the trailer’s first glimpse, this looks to be something truly special.  The story alone will have people running for their seats.  John Du Pont, which will be played Steve Carell, is everything that Oscar loves.  He has a mental illness, prosthetic nose, and is based on a true story.  What more can you ask for?

The technical team assembled is also going to be something that just makes every film lover salivate.  New “it” girl of producing Megan Ellison is on board with her company Annapurna Pictures.  After scoring two nominations for Best Picture just last year with American Hustle and Her, many can’t wait to see what she brings up next.   Composer Mychael Danna, just rewarded two years ago for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, will be scoring the film.  Danna also worked on great compositions for Capote, Little Miss Sunshine, and Moneyball, three scores wrongfully omitted from Oscar’s Best Original Score lineup. 

Director of Photography Greig Fraser, who won the lion’s share of accolades during his awards run for Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, will be offering his expertise.  Based on footage from the trailer, it seems to have a very Social Network meets American Beauty-type vibe with cold colors mixed with smooth palettes.  Fraser has always captured the medium with a different take as we’ve seen in films like Killing Them Softly and even Snow White & The Huntsman.  There are also lovers of his work on Bright Star and Let Me In.  This should offer up a wonderful contemporary choice for the Academy to latch onto outside of the normal 3D and epic scale motion pictures.  

foxcatcherThen there’s the stellar cast that’s assembled.  After Matthew McConaughey knocked everyone’s socks off with his Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club, I’m sure there are many comedians/less-than-serious actors that will try to replicate what the “McConassiance” achieved.  Carell, who I believe to have one solid Oscar snub under his belt for Little Miss Sunshine, has never really raised doubt in the hearts of critics and audiences.  A gifted comedian as we saw for nearly eight years on NBC’s “The Office,” Carell managed to breakout and elevate in blockbuster laugh-riots like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Crazy, Stupid, Love.  He’s rode the line in independent cinema as we saw in last year’s The Way, Way Back, which was fairly successful from a critical standpoint.  This will be his first full-fledged attempt at a serious role and I have high hopes for him.  Save for any truly poor reviews that the film can receive, I’d call Carell one of the highly most anticipated contenders in the Best Actor category.  Test screenings conducted last year have cited his performance as truly groundbreaking.

Co-star Mark Ruffalo, who will also have a significant role in TV’s “The Normal Heart,” has also been cited by those early test screenings.   After Ruffalo finally broke through Oscar’s wall for his turn in The Kids Are All Right, we’ve all been highly anticipating his next ambitious project.  As Dan Schultz, the brother of Mark, Ruffalo will have a sympathy card to play as well as his own ticks and devices that have made him so irresistible in past projects.  Showing pure acting at its greatest with his work in You Can Count on Me, Ruffalo has the talent to elevate any role or film.  What bodes well for him too is an already buzzed about work in John Carney’s Begin Again, which will premiere at Tribeca Film Festival later this month.  

Then there’s the movie star card that will be played by Channing Tatum.  An actor who’s choices in roles have been questionable over the years but is now looking like he’s turning the corner.  Words from the early screenings say he does an admirable job, and much of his role will be intensified by co-star Carell.  Viewers of the film suggest all three of equal screen time, which will put C-Tates in a predicament when it comes to an awards push.  Tatum will also have the lead role in The Wachowski Siblings upcoming sci-fi film Jupiter Ascending, which could offer up some help in building a narrative.

You also can’t count out Oscar-winner Vanessa Redgrave, the beautiful Sienna Miller, and the clever scribes E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.  The film is also set for a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which should begin a very nice run until the end of the year by Sony Pictures Classics.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

BennettMillerThere are only two things that can raise doubt in my mind for Foxcatcher to fall out of any contention for any category.  The film is one of those movies that got a push back last year.  Nearly a day after the trailer premiered in late September, the news dropped that Sony Pictures Classics would be pushing the film to an undisclosed 2014 release.  Oh, and by the way, the release is yet to be announced.  For every film that gets the push back and fails (The Great Gatsby, Gangster Squad), there are some that go the distance and succeed (Gravity, The Tree of Life).  SPC cited that Miller needed more time to complete his film, which seemed like a far-fetched idea at first since the world had virtually been waiting for what felt like forever to see any clips.  

The only other point to give pause is there’s currently only thirteen directors in history to score at least three Best Picture nominations in a row for their films.  We had two directors score the honor last year with Alexander Payne and David O. Russell.  But more importantly, there’s NEVER been a director to achieve the honor for their first three films.  Bob Fosse did 3 out of his first 4 films as did Stephen Daldry.  If Miller’s film scores a Best Picture nomination, he will be the first and only director to score Best Picture nominations for his first three feature films.  That’s a hard thing to beat (and imagine).

There’s also the “Jim Carrey-syndrome” that can overcome the Academy at large.  Can they take both Carell and Tates seriously?  Is there a Norbit in their future?  You never know.  The Film Editing team assembled also don’t have the projects in their past that give us strong confidence, just based on what the Academy normally goes for.  Stuart Levy’s last two projects were Immortals and Savages while Conor O’Neill has heavily been involved in documentary features including Capitalism: A Love Story and Murderball.

At this point I think we’re just nit-picking.  This is my second most anticipated film of the year.

OSCAR POTENTIAL:

  • Best Motion Picture – Bennett Miller; Megan Ellison; Anthony Bregman; Jon Kilik
  • Best Director – Bennet Miller
  • Best Actor – Steve Carell
  • Best Supporting Actor – Mark Ruffalo
  • Best Supporting Actress – Vanessa Redgrave
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Dan Futterman & E. Max Frye
  • Best Cinematography – Greig Fraser
  • Best Film Editing – Stuart Levy & Conor O’Neill
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Original Score – Mychael Danna

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