Awards Profile: Savages

Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Shane Salerno, and Don Winslow (based off of Winslow’s novel)

Cast: Taylor Kitch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch, Benicio Del Toro, Uma Thurman, Joel David Moore, Demian Bichir, Trevor Donovan, and Jonathan Patrick Moore

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb): Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.

As a bonus, here’s the description of the novel from Amazon: Ben, Chon, and O are twentysomething best friends living the dream in Southern California. Together they have made a small fortune producing premium grade marijuana, a product so potent that the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a cut. When Ben and Chon refuse to back down, the cartel kidnaps O, igniting a dizzying array of high-octane negotiations and stunning plot twists as they risk everything to free her. The result is a provocative, sexy, and darkly engrossing thrill ride, an ultracontemporary love story that will leave you breathless.

Why It Could Succeed:
When at his best, Oliver Stone is capable of making some of the best films of any American auteur out there. If this more youthful endeavor from Stone is able to capture his troublemaking spirit in the service of a hip crime flick, there could be enough crossover appeal to get the notice of the Academy. He’s working off of a well regarded novel by Don Winslow, so it’s possible that the ingredients for a great film are already there and he just needs to stir the pot in the right way. The movie is likely first and foremost looking to be a financial success above all else, but a big box office take could only help it here. I’d guess that the acting categories will be where they’d look if an honor was to be bestowed, but you never know here. The cast certainly has its fair share of Oscar favorites, so if Stone is playing nicely with them, anything is possible. If we get the director who make ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, ‘JFK’, ‘Platoon’, ‘Talk Radio’, or even ‘World Trade Center’…watch out. He could be an A-list director that sneaks up on you in 2012. There are no guarantees, but Stone is a talented enough moviemaker that it never is smart to write him off. In fact, that’s probably the best way to set this film up for success…make it the underdog right off the bat.

Why It Could Fail:
When at his worst, Oliver Stone is capable of making some of the biggest train wrecks of any American auteur out there. If this sentence sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Stone is someone who’s equally as likely to make a movie that will place highly on lots of Top Ten lists as he is to make a movie that winds up on Bottom Ten lists. This has to give one pause when talking about the awards potential of a film of his, and it doesn’t help that this looks all but purely a flick aiming to make money and be a commercial hit before a critical one. Of all of the Awards Profiles I’ve done so far, this seems like the most mainstream and least Oscar-centric of the group, so that’s a definite chink in its already damaged armor. Also, if this is just a hip action flick, I can’t imagine the Academy will go for it in any way worth mentioning. We don’t know if that’s all that it is, and as mentioned above the book is well liked, but I really have my doubts here. I know some like ‘Natural Born Killers’, but to me that’s Stone at his worst, and this could be a redux of that. I hope it’s not, but I can’t really muster up too much enthusiasm for the awards chances of this flick…

Awards Speculation:
There’s a few places that we could see ‘Savages’ make a play for some Oscar love if the film turns out to be a hit for Oliver Stone. Best Picture is a pipe dream, but you can’t 100% count it out right now. I’d say you can count out Best Director though, unless somehow Stone has hidden all of the great filmmaking touches elsewhere than in the trailer. Adapted Screenplay is a long shot, but worth mentioning if it’s a hit, and the same goes for Film Editing, but likely any chance it has is going to come from its actors. Blake Lively has shown potential recently (namely in ‘The Town’, giving an incredibly underrated supporting performance), and if she blows everyone away she could wind up on the fringes of the Best Actress conversation. I’d bank heavier on a Supporting nod for the flick, if it’s to get anything. With Best Supporting Actor, you can gaze upon whichever of the two supposed leads (Taylor Kitch and Aaron Johnson) gets bumped down to supporting, or potentially look at Demien Bichir to establish himself as an Academy favorite, but more likely you’re looking at either Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch, or John Travolta breaking through. Del Toro and Travolta appear to be chewing the scenery in such a way that the supporting category can sometimes admire, and while Hirsch doesn’t appear in the trailer, anytime he’s in a film the potential for a nomination is worth discussing. As for Best Supporting Actress, one really can only look at Salma Hayek playing a drug kingpin and assume that she’s the one with the real shot worth thinking about. She’s not an incredibly likely nominee, but she’s easily the likeliest of this bunch. We’ll ultimately see how the film is in a few months, and that will tell us what we need to know. Until then, stay tuned!

The film opens in theaters on July 6th, 2012 and will be distributed domestically by Universal Pictures.

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture
Best Actress (Blake Lively)
Best Supporting Actor (Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch, or John Travolta)
Best Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Shane Salerno, Oliver Stone, and Don Winslow)
Best Film Editing

Thoughts? Discuss on the Forum!

What do you think?


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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