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Oscar Circuit: When People Stop Being Polite, and Start Getting Real

Awards season is here and there’s still a bit of mystery left on the horizon…

joaquinphoenix-inherentviceIt’s always a good time for an Oscar Predictions update, especially in the thick of a festival.  NYFF is about to drop the bomb with Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” on Saturday and either shine the light on Joaquin Phoenix, or dim it completely for the rest of the season.  Early word has been strong for his performance but the film is said to be a “non-awards player” but we here remain hopeful of the film’s quality.

As we venture on into the month of October, it’s time to start looking at things a bit more seriously, and start taking some of the blinders off.  Many of my predictions will reflect such a mindset.  Many of the studios marketing departments are already getting materials ready to start sending out to members of all awards groups.  The Weinstein Company was the first one to send out awards screeners to members over a month ago.  Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” went out to members in early September.  Interestingly enough, the film likely stands a chance in some of the below-the-line categories like Cinematography, Sound Mixing, and probably Visual Effects.  Last year, “Mud” from Roadside Attractions and “The Place Beyond the Pines” from Focus Features were the first ones to hit doorsteps.  As you can see, being first doesn’t always pay off.

For the past two weeks, I’ve had the “Into the Woods” ladies in the categories that were announced earlier today but I wonder what a Meryl Streep fourth win would look like?  Walt Disney Pictures feel very confident on the film itself, and are going to be a force once again during the season.  They also have “Big Hero 6” which could rain on the parade of “The LEGO Movie” from earlier this year.

Focus Features feels mighty confident with “The Theory of Everything” at the moment as Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones look very strong, if not “locks” for nominations, even at this early point in the season.  The film will also likely crack a Best Picture lineup and several tech categories including Best Original Score.  They also will give a nice budge to “The Boxtrolls” and perhaps “Kill the Messenger,” which has already began screening for critics.

Whiplash Featured 2Sony Pictures Classics has a slew of Documentary Feature contenders that include “Red Army” and “The Salt of the Earth.”  Not to mention that they’re going to have a strong-arm in Best Original Screenplay with “Mr. Turner,” “Whiplash,” and “Foxcatcher.”  They also have a sure-fire Supporting Actor nominee (winner?) with J.K. Simmons.  You could also add Mark Ruffalo to that as well.  And let’s not forget what is said to be (FINALLY) the vehicle for Julianne Moore with “Still Alice.”

The Weinstein Company may finally be on top in February as “The Imitation Game” continues to build steam towards the awards season.  Benedict Cumberbatch should be a formidable contender while I imagine that the film may cake walk its way to an Adapted Screenplay trophy.  They will also have “Big Eyes” for Amy Adams to fight her way into and “Begin Again” which looks good for Original Song.

Warner Bros. looks to be a powerhouse with one-half of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” and “American Sniper,” which should have a trailer dropping soon.   Clint Eastwood may be able to capitalize on the popularity of Bradley Cooper for the past two years.  When it comes to Nolan’s film, speaking to someone close to the studio, they suggest that Jessica Chastain is a true standout and should be someone to watch out for.  Judging on the Academy’s history with science fiction films, you wouldn’t mind if I wait a little longer before committing to something like that.  The other half of “Interstellar” however, belongs to Paramount Pictures which will have “Selma” and “The Gambler” to play with.  You can also include Jason Reitman‘s “Men, Women & Children” but that seems to be fading pretty fast from the convo based on those reviews.  Talk about having your hands full from Paramount.  Nonetheless, they will have lots to go on in the technical categories and hopefully repeat the “Gravity,” campaign and sweep the below-the-line categories including Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects with Nolan’s picture.

20th Century Fox has been quietly gearing up with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and now thanks to the NYFF premiere, “Gone Girl.”  With Rosamund Pike and Gillian Flynn, they may be able to push those ladies to the top of their categories of Actress and Adapted Screenplay.  “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” could be able to do damage in the technical categories including Visual Effects.

Universal Pictures has already quietly been building the buzz for Angelina Jolie’sUnbroken” and they still have faith in Tate Taylor’s “Get on Up.” I say watch out for someone like Domnhall Gleeson to pop up quite a bit in the conversation based on early word.

If we’re looking at a studio as the #1 seed this year, it’s probably Fox Searchlight Pictures.   With “Birdman,” “Wild,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” they could run the gauntlet in several categories.  “Birdman” is still something to watch for in the top categories while “Wild” still has hope alive for Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

And let’s not forget about the “smaller” guys.  A24 Films is rumored to have a possible winner on their hands with “A Most Violent Year” which could do wonders for Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.  They also still have a small hopeful in Scarlett Johansson from “Under the Skin.”

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions will pump out word for “A Most Wanted Man,” “The Skeleton Twins,” and “The Homesman.”  All of which have good word behind them.  Finally, Open Road Films has faith in Jake Gyllenhaal cracking an Actor lineup for “Nightcrawler” and possibly anything from Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater.”

JessicaChastain_InterstellarLooking at the predictions, there is much faith in “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” as they lead the way with nine predicted nominations.  Christopher Nolan makes his first appearance in Best Director for “Interstellar” (against my better judgement, the Director’s branch has ignored him too many times) while David Oyelowo cracks the top five for “Selma,” replacing Joaquin Phoenix, though he’s not far behind.   There are no changes with the ladies in either Lead or Supporting but the Supporting Actor category welcomes Logan Lerman again for “Fury,” as early suggests he’s one to watch for the film.

Documentary Feature gets a full update with lots of possibilities entering the fray.  If you’ve seen HBO’s amazing “The Case Against 8,” there is a compelling case for the film to make “Life Itself” a bit worried.  Other contenders include “Citizenfour,” which will screen at NYFF next week, “The Overnighters,” which is building serious buzz, and “Stray Dog” from Debra Granik, which can find the “Winter’s Bone” director in the conversation once again.

Check out all the predictions and make sure to include your own, along with your thoughts in the comment section.

What do you think?


Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of 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,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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