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The Potential of ‘Parkland’ – Dark Horse?

Could be a surprise of the season…

parklandWe look for it each and every year as Oscar prognosticators…the awards contender that no one expected months before. Historically, they’ve come late in the game, but that doesn’t stop us from speculating well in advance. Everyone is looking for a potential Million Dollar Baby, even if that can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The recent trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty suggests that it could very well be one (as I wrote about in a recent piece here), and the trailer for Her got everyone’s hopes way (including mine, which I also wrote about here), but what about Parkland? Now that we know it’s going to be getting a festival debut, it might actually be something to consider. It’s really an unknown/X factor at this point, but sometimes those are the ones that do the best job of sneaking up and surprising us. Might Parkland be the next film of this nature to surprise? No one knows yet, but in my opinion, not enough people are considering it.

Why am I even thinking about this film? Well, it’s playing at the Toronto Film Festival and that’s where surprises can often come from. Sometimes it’s a known quantity that manages to exceed expectations, but sometimes it’s a movie we had barely been considering, and that’s where Parkland could come into play. It might be able to take its unknown and underdog status and parlay that into better reviews than some of the more hotly anticipated titles, which may just lead into Oscar buzz.

I’m sure lots of people are barely aware of what Parkland is or what it’s about. The name actually comes from the hospital that President John F. Kennedy was rushed to after being shot. JFK passed away at Parkland Hospital in Houston and the film, according to IMDb, will be “A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated“. The film is written and directed by the mostly unknown Peter Landesman, but contains a solid ensemble cast that includes Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, James Badge Dale, Jackie Earle Haley, Colin Hanks, David Harbour, Ron Livingston, Jeremy Strong, and Tom Welling.

For those wondering about the plot in some more detail, here’s how the Toronto Film Festival press release describes it:

November 22nd, 1963 was a day that changed the world forever — when young American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. This film follows, almost in real time, a handful of individuals forced to make split-second decisions after an event that would change their lives and forever alter the world’s landscape: the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, the chief of the Dallas Secret Service, the unwitting cameraman who captured what has become the most watched and examined film in history, the FBI Agents who had gunman Lee Harvey Oswald within their grasp and Vice President Lyndon Johnson who had to take control of a country in a moment’s notice. Thrust into a scenario of unprecedented drama with unimaginable consequences, these key characters respond with shock, outrage, determination and courage. Woven together, their seemingly disparate perspectives make one of the most thrilling and powerful stories never told“.

Sounds pretty baity to me.

Now, I’m hardly confident enough in this project to suggest that any awards will come its way, but if you’re looking for a flick that we could be underestimating, this is certainly one of them. Time will tell if Parkland can make a dent in things at all, and honestly, it has an uphill battle to climb. It’s still looking for a distributor, which actually could push it to a 2014 release as opposed to one this year. A lot will ride on how it does at TIFF and what the reception for it is over there.

If it turns out that writer/director Landesman is telling a compelling story, I really think this one has the potential to be a dark horse in the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay categories. Things only look up for it if one of the ensemble distinguishes themselves and makes a bid for either a Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress citation. I’m hardly saying it’s going to gain any ground on some of our higher profile contenders, and honestly I think it’ll wind up being shut out. It’d be foolish to forget about it though, especially this early on.

The jury obviously will be out on this one until Toronto, so this is really a sight unseen musing of mine. Essentially, all I’m saying here is that the material is there for an Oscar contender. It might work, it might not…time will ultimately tell. What I do caution is this: don’t completely discount it. Parkland has the potential to surprise. All that’s left to do now is sit back and wait to find out if it can ultimately deliver on its promise or not.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

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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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