Oscar Circuit: End of the First Quarter, Any Academy Award Contenders So Far?


April may bring the “fools,” but along with that comes brand new predictions for the Oscars. With the first quarter of 2017 officially in the books, we haven’t yet been inundated with contenders. But over the last few years, films like “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The LEGO Movie” and “Zootopia” showed themselves as forces early on.

So what do we have thus far?

Beginning with the moneymakers, the highest grossing film of the year so far is Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.” The film has raked in more than $330 million domestically. On the awards front, the film seems primed to contend in tech categories like Production Design, Costume Design, and perhaps Visual Effects and Original Song.

At this time of writing, 20th Century Fox’s finale to the Wolverine series, “Logan,” sits at No. 2 on the domestic chart, followed by “The LEGO Batman Movie,” “Get Out” and “Split.”

“Logan” has bolstered hopes of comic book fans everywhere that the film can muster some serious awards consideration. Fox has doubled down on those hopes, featuring quotes from critics in their TV spots reiterating just that. Always trying to see the glass as half-full, superhero films have found love from AMPAS before with Heath Ledger picking up a posthumous Oscar for his turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

Since then, highly acclaimed superhero films like “The Avengers” and “Deadpool” have flirted with the idea of an Academy Awards run, but always came up short. With “Logan” taking on the R-rated, gritty approach, could it cause AMPAS to take it more seriously? The fans are not just clamoring for the film to make a play in Best Picture, they are also demanding serious consideration for its stars Hugh Jackman in Best Actor and Patrick Stewart in Best Supporting Actor. Johnny Depp’s first outing as Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is the closest precedent outside of Ledger’s win. Not only did Depp receive a nomination in 2004, but he was a serious contender for the prize as proven by his surprise SAG win.

However, if you’re really looking for Jackman to be at the Oscars this year, keep an eye on him for his upcoming performance in Michael Gracey’s musical, “The Greatest Showman.” Jackman will play the famous P.T. Barnum alongside Michelle Williams and Zac Efron.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” didn’t capture the same zeitgeist that its predecessor did, but it will surely pop up during the season. Warner Bros. would be remiss not to try to give it a healthy campaign by year’s end.

The two elephants in the room are the psychological horror thrillers that are “Get Out” by Jordan Peele and “Split” by M. Night Shyamalan, coincidentally both from Universal Pictures. Peele’s film garnered unanimous acclaim, pulling in an impressive 99 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and has pulled in $150 million domestically. In the case of “Split,” it’s been said to be a return to form for director Shyamalan, who has had serious misfires since his big debut in 1999 with “The Sixth Sense.”

SplitWhen examining “Get Out’s” chances on the awards circuit, where can a film like that fit in the conversation? Is 5 percent of the Academy willing to name this as their single best film of the year? Would the actor’s branch be willing to embrace the impressive breakout turn from Daniel Kaluuya (who already piqued our interests in Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” in 2015) or the creepy, magnetic turns from Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford or Catherine Keener? The word on the street seems to be a potential run for the film in Original Screenplay. The writer’s branch loves quirky, weird films, no matter where they’re from. This is the same group that ticked off “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” and the aforementioned “Sixth Sense” on their ballots. However, this is all contingent on how the next nine months play out. Will they remember it, or will it fade next to newer, shinier objects?

When it comes to “Split,” there only seems to be one direction for awards potential, and that is the performance of James McAvoy for Best Actor. Critics were mostly in agreement that he was the highlight of the film as a man with multiple personalities. If we’re being honest, the still nomination-less McAvoy should already have at least two nods under his belt (for “Atonement” and “The Last King of Scotland”). As the Academy continues to change demographically and socially, can they start looking at performances from all genres with the same consideration?

After these five films, we dry up pretty quick in talking about Oscar contenders (even longshots like the ones mentioned):

  • Kong: Skull Island” (Warner Bros.) – Can it muster anything in the sound or visual categories?
  • A United Kingdom” (Focus Features) – Will there be a push for David Oyelowo in this already seemingly forgotten film that premiered at Toronto last September?
  • Personal Shopper” (IFC Films) – Making the festival rounds in 2015, this Olivier Assayas film has some pulling for star Kristen Stewart in Best Actress. With the way her career trajectory has been the past few years, an eventual Oscar nod is inevitable, right?
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife” (Focus Features) – Jessica Chastain and the production value appear to be impressive, but people did not seem to enjoy this World War II film, which is the Academy’s favorite genre. Chastain seems to have bigger fish to fry in 2017 with “Molly’s Game”.
  • Song to Song” (Broad Green Pictures) – Critics and audiences have seen their frustration grow with Terrence Malick’s latest film. Don’t bet on anything coming from this.