Is ‘Steve Jobs’ Going the Way of ‘About Schmidt’ With the Oscars or Is It Fluff?

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steve-jobs-movie-seth-roganThe box office CAN be an indicator a film’s support to travel throughout the season.  Films like “American Sniper” and “The Help” were moved along nicely and stayed in the conversation when they both exceeded their expectations with general audiences.  This year, films like Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” and F. Gary Gray’s “Straight Outta Compton” are hoping to see a similar outcome and muscle their way into the Oscar conversation.  It should be said, at this point, we still know nothing.  There are still question marks looming, and even with the majority of contenders being seen, as we learn each and every year, a film can come roaring back in a late entry fashion.  Case in point, “American Sniper,” which was mostly dismissed during early precursor handouts but when the major guilds weighed in, came in with seven nominations on the morning including Best Picture.

Looking at this year’s slate, let’s focus on the film that didn’t perform so well at the box office and that was Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” which premiered at Telluride back in the late summer before moving on as the centerpiece selection at the New York Film Festival.  Pundits and predictors often have the “follow the money” mentality when it comes to Oscar predicting, which is hardly ever the case.  It becomes more of a support clause than an actual beginning factor in a film’s hopes towards the Dolby Theatre.  Past Best Picture winners like “The Artist,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “12 Years a Slave,” prove that you don’t need to be a box office juggernaut to get Oscar’s attention.  So far, “Steve Jobs” has grossed $16 million dollars since its limited, then wider opening following on October 9.  Budgeted at $30 million, it looks to be one of the few films for the 2015 box office master, Universal Pictures, to be in the red, but that hardly dismisses it from the conversation.

The film has been screening for Academy members for weeks and its playing well with the voters.  Speaking to one anonymous voter recently they expressed, “it was like a lightning bolt striking the theater screen.  I thought it was fantastic.”

On the other hand, I spoke with a member of the Writers Guild of America who had seen it and she spoke quite negatively about it saying, “It was nonsense.  I can’t stand Aaron Sorkin’s self aware mentality and found it to just be bland.  I don’t know what I was supposed to get from that.”

Ouch.

About Schmidt We constantly are trying to see a film fits a certain trajectory of a past Oscar hopeful/nominated film.  I’ve heard some go the route of last year’s “Gone Girl” and say that it could be a one nomination morning for Boyle’s film.  If we’re looking at past movies, I’d go back to something like Alexander Payne’s “About Schmidt.”  That was a film that started off the season extremely strong with critics and guilds, nabbing key nominations from the Golden Globes for Best Picture (Drama), and winning two awards for Best Actor in a Drama (Jack Nicholson) and Best Screenplay.  It would move on to SAG with two nominations for its actors Nicholson and Bates.  On the morning, two nominations only, leaving out Payne and all the technical elements of the picture.  In retrospect, positively the correct choice (not a fan of “Schmidt” here).  Are we looking at a Michael Fassbender/Kate Winslet representation only?  What if its worse than that?

Anybody remember a small, indie film named “Kinsey” from Bill Condon?  Started off its run in 2004 as a strong contender for multiple nominations.  It nabbed key citations from the Golden Globes (in Best Picture) and American Cinema Editors (or A.C.E.).  As stronger, more competitive contenders started to bubble to the top, all the film could muster was a single nod for Laura Linney, the National Board of Review winner who would lose out to Cate Blanchett for “The Aviator.”

katewinslet_stevejobsThere are theories floating about a Fassbender snubbed day in Best Actor but I’m not buying that possibility just yet.  A previous nominee, Fassbender has also delivered in “MacBeth,” a liked though not loved film from Harvey Weinstein.  At this point, not counting the still unseen Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“The Hateful Eight”), he’s the frontrunner for the prize.  All categories, especially in Best Actor, are a fluid process, with the tides quickly turning at any given moment.

Where do we see “Steve Jobs” landing?  Until proven otherwise by missing citations from NBR, NYFCC, LAFCA, etc., it’s still a strong contender for a strong showing on Oscar nomination morning.  The winning potential has surely diminished but films can make a big comeback.  “Crash” didn’t look like a winner until it did.  You just never know.  It’s not over til’ it’s over.

Include your thoughts on the potential for “Steve Jobs” in the comment section below.

Also, check out the latest Oscar Predictions and see where “Steve Jobs” ranks in all categories!

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Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.