Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

     No, silly, I don't mean the Holidays, I mean Oscar Season, that wonderful time when the vast majority of movies are released that might appeal to adults who want to see art that might actually cause them to think or feel something.  They all get piled in together in the hopes that critics' and Academy members' eyes will be caught just in time to fall in love right before they cast their ballots for year end awards.  So, what has changed since my last Changing of the Seasons post?
     Well, first off, I've seen a LOT more of the films that factor in, and so has the general public.  When I last updated buzz and predictions, the only films that I had seen that were likely to factor into this year's awards race were:  Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, and Mirror Mirror.  Now I feel a little more informed, having seen several other films that factor into this round of predictions, including:  Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Master, Argo, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, Prometheus, Cloud Atlas, The Sessions, The Amazing Spider-Man, Magic Mike, and Skyfall.  I'm a long way from having a personal opinion on all the year's top contenders, but I'm getting there.
     Outside of my own personal education, the season and its buzz have been rolling on:  It now appears that hardly any early year releases have much of a chance to make a real splash with the Academy this year.  Matthew McConnaughey is still a dark horse for Supporting Actor via Magic Mike, and Maggie Smith has a stronger shot at scoring a Supporting Actress nod for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, although the latter film's Best Picture buzz has pretty much faded entirely.  The Dark Knight Rises continues to become a less serious contender even in the technical categories, although it should still land a nod or two, as should The Avengers.
Brave holds onto front runner status in Best Animated Feature by a (thin) thread.   Only Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild remain possible contenders for the top prizes.  The former has held steady near the bottom of the top ten Best Picture contenders but seems HIGHLY likely to at least land a Best Original Screenplay nod.  "Beasts", meanwhile, has been losing ground steadily amid the onslaught of high profile projects that have either roundly met or far exceeded expectations.  Still, it seems guaranteed a Best Actress nomination, while Picture and Adapted Screenplay seem more likely than not.  I still think that support for the film may rally before year's end, so don't count it out completely in Supporting Actor, Score, and Cinematography either.  Oh, and let's not forget the Intouchables.
      Several big league competitors have been released theatrically, and had their campaigns boosted or stifled accordingly.  Lincoln has been a huge hit with both critics and audiences revealing that my previous reservations were rather misguided.  I can't always be right, I'd be too smug to survive.  Argo's box office has lived up to its reviews, leaving these two films fighting it out for front runner status at the moment.  The Master, unfortunately, did pretty poorly in theatrical release, although it remains a critics darling, so its future seems a lot less certain than it did back in August.  Flight debuted to positive notices at the New York Film Festival and has been something of a hit in theatrical release as well, and Skyfall is being hailed as the best Bond ever.  Washington is probably in for Actor, but both films' Best Picture prospects seem less likely.  The Sessions is floundering in limited release which probably won't prevent a couple of acting nods and maybe Screenplay, although Picture is becoming less feasible.  The public also failed to embrace Cloud Atlas (or darker horse Looper) in the way that they really needed to if it had much hope of breaking out of the technical categories.
      In the genres, some shuffling has occurred.  Strong fall film festival finds in the Documentary field such as West of Memphis and the Central Park Five have taken most of the wind out of the sails of popular early year favorites such as Bully, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and The Queen of Versailles.  Meanwhile, the success that Searching For Sugar Man has met in theatrical release has returned it to the forefront of the conversation.  The Foreign Film landscape is in limbo to an extent as we await the Academy's shortlist, the expansion of A Royal Affair, and the release of Amour.  Animated Feature looks to be a fight this time out as both Frankenweenie and Rise of the Guardians have met with critical approval that at least rivals Brave, while Wreck It Ralph may beat them all at the box office.
      Meanwhile, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi have just opened. Pi flagged a little opening weekend but it is still too early to count out the possibility of a rebound or to guess how much effect this might have on its standings in the awards race.  Hitchcock has been screened and praised modestly, with a little more enthusiasm being heaped on its two leads (especially Mirren) than on the movie as a whole.  Buzz has waned a bit for The Impossible since its well received debut, but that could easily change once it hits theaters.  Anna Karenina is just beginning to expand across the country, but whether it will get AMPAS love beyond the costume drama gimme nods for Costume and Production Design is still a big question mark.
     Most amazingly, it is almost the end of November and there are still five films that virtually no one has seen.  Les Miserables will either be a top tier contender or the biggest disappointment of the year.  The level of buzz and anticipation has left it no middle ground.  Zero Dark Thirty stayed under everyone's radar until it was right on top of them.  Even the film's marketing seems to be a covert ops exercise, but its sudden surge in buzz over the last month indicates that they know exactly what they are doing.  Django is the great question mark of the season.  Tarantino is always creative and interesting, but sometimes a little "out there" for the Academy's tastes, so...?  Promised Land and Hobbit seem likely to get lost in the shuffle in this tough year, but neither has released or previewed extensively, so they still have the chance to knock expectations out of the park.
     I'm going to try to limit my commentary in the predictions articles to new developments and things that I didn't say in the August or June editions, so don't be surprised if this set of articles seems a little more compact.  You also shouldn't be surprised if I unexpectedly take a big old froggy leap to the top of a soap box once or twice either, because that would be very like me as well.

Related articles:  Awards Season Hits Next LegThe Dark Knight TranscendsBest That the Summer Wields? (Beasts of the Summer Wild review), Being Margaret's Mirror (Mirror Mirror review), Can You "Master" Your Nature?I Think You "Argo"ing to Love ItThe Best Huntsman's Shadow (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Snow White and the Huntsman reviews), Promarlius Kingdom (Prometheus and Moonrise Kingdom reviews), Twist Until You Are Loopey (Looper review), Cloudy Connections (Cloud Atlas review), Acting Master Classes in Private "Sessions"Bernie! On a Ledge of Misfits (Pirates! Band of Misfits review)

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