Monday, June 24, 2013

June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Genre Categories

     The Genre Categories (as we like to call them here at TheMovieFrog, are different from categories that celebrate a certain aspect of film making (say, directing or editing) in that they are each like their own little Best Picture category for a certain type of film.  Other than Animated Feature, they are also the most baffling categories to predict, with the most convoluted rules about eligibility, and the most complicated nomination processes.  They also (aside from Animated Feature) are sure to contain the most OBSCURE collections of titles to be found among the twenty-four categories that the Academy deems fit to celebrate.  All that being said (and grains of salt hopefully at the ready), this is what the buzz (and in some cases I) have to say on these six.  As always, the buzz appears first, while my thoughts (where applicable) follow thereafter...

Short Subject (Live-Action)
     In all honesty, it's really difficult to say a lot about ANY of the shorts this far out, but for the sake of completion, I will try.  Two films of this variety have caught my attention: Come and Play and Needle.  Both have had some early film festival buzz and could easily be contenders this year IF they qualify to compete.  In June, that's a big if.

Short Subject (Documentary)
     Completion be damned, I got nothin...

Animated Short
     I feel a little more confident in this category, due to the industry influence of Pixar and its parent company Disney.  Both have strong contenders this year, and I think it's a pretty good bet to call them front runners at this point in the game.
     THE lead horse right now has to be Pixar's The Blue Umbrella. It is currently playing in theaters as the lead in to Monsters University and getting as many raves as the feature (if not more).  Playing in conjunction with a major blockbuster will give the film massive exposure and awareness (for a short) and the strategy certainly worked for last year's Animated Short winner Paperman, which played ahead of Wreck-It Ralph in theaters.
     BUT DON'T COUNT OUT...Disney's Get A Horse, which I believe is going to be released with their upcoming feature Frozen.  The short uses archive voice over work from Walt Disney himself using (very) old style animation and Mickey Mouse character design.  It's still being kept somewhat under wraps but is being quietly publicized in much the same way as Paperman was last year.

Foreign Language Film
     Usually, I would have my own list for this category by June, because there would be a couple of star international directors that I would be willing to go out on a limb for.  Unfortunately, most of the usual suspects for such treatment that have films coming out in 2013 are making them in ENGLISH.  I'm talking to YOU Susanne Bier (Serena), Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer) & Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet).  Pedro Almodovar coming out with a piece of fluff camp comic relief (I'm So Excited) doesn't help matters either.  I think I'll just offer short commentary on the picks that the buzz has come up with instead.
  1. Blue is the Warmest Color - France...Director Abdellatif Kechiche would appear to be as new of a voice for the Academy as for me, but the film won the Palme D'or at Cannes and that is always a good start.
  2. The Past - Iran...The last film that writer/director Asghar Farhadi gave us was the Oscar winning A Separation, and this picture (which also did very well at Cannes) would be a shoo-in for front runner status if only I felt a little more confident that it will even be submitted. Farhadi's home nation (Iran) boycotted the Oscars last year, and there is no telling if that choice will be repeated.  The film is in French and was produced by that nation, but for France to submit The Past, they would have to pass up Blue Is the Warmest Color, so who knows...?
  3. Child's Pose - Romania...This would be Calin Peter Netzer's first notice from the AMPAS but the film won both the Golden Bear and the Fipresi Prize in Berlin so it would seem to have an excellent shot.
  4. Salvo - Italy...This production from Academy rookie directors Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza didn't get QUITE the attention of "Blue" or "Past" at Cannes, but it did win the Critics Week Grand Prize and the France 4 Visionary Award.
  5. Lunchbox - India...Another Cannes Critics Week hit, this film is by director Ritesh Batra who was shortlisted for a Short nomination for his film Cafe Regular Cairo.  Having international star Irrfan Khan cast in the lead should help to build notoriety.

  6. Me, Myself & Mum - France...This is the freshman feature from director Guillaume Gallienne, and it got good notices at Cannes, but it is difficult to imagine France picking it over its more esteemed competitors.
  7. The Missing Picture - Cambodia...I don't know that there has ever been a film that became a nominee in all three feature length genre categories, but this animated documentary from Cambodian film maker Rithy Panh could possibly do it.  The film won the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes and was VERY well reviewed. Considering the director already has more of an international pedigree than most of the names on this list, and things start to seem even more probable.
  8. Gloria - Chile...Director Sebastian Lelio won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury for this film at Berlin and star Paulina Garcia won the Silver Bear for Best Actress.  Can Chile get a second nod in a row?
  9. Like Father Like Son - Japan...This film won the Jury Prize at Cannes and despite international acclaim director Hirokazu Koreeda has yet to have a film nominated at the Oscars.  Might this be his year?
  10. Heli - Mexico...The same overdue factor could help director Amat Escalante secure his first nomination especially considering that he already won Best Director at Cannes.

     But don't count out...Mood Indigo (Belgium), The Hunt (Denmark), Omar (France), Closed Curtain (Germany), & Le Grande Bellazza (Italy)

Best Documentary Feature
     Actually, I think I'm gonna do exactly the same thing with this category.  I feel too ignorant of the width and breadth of the field to do much more...
  1. The Act of Killing...It's hard to argue with the buzz that Joshua Oppenheimer's film currently holds front runner status in this race.  First, it has the sort of unique premise for a documentary that the AMPAS seems to have taken to in recent years (Exit Through the Gift Shop is a good example).  Second, it currently holds a 92 Meta Score.  Third, it won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Berlin.
  2. Stories We Tell...Director Sarah Polley usually makes narrative films and, as you can imagine, this is another highly unusual concept for a documentary that came about almost like a happy accident.  The film currently holds a 93 at Meta Critic and has already won great acclaim NORTH of the border from the Genie Awards, The Toronto Film Critics, The Vancouver Film Critics...
  3. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks....Never count out director Alex Gibney, especially when he's delving into such timely material.  It's only sporting a 75 Meta Score at the moment, but who knows...?
  4. Blood Brother...Steve Hoover's tale of AIDS in India won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, so it must be considered a serious contender as well.
  5. The Missing Picture...and if you read my analysis of Foreign Language Film you know the triple threat hopes that I'm pinning on this one.

  6. Salinger...Oscar often fails to notice biographical documentaries about artists like this one from documentarian Shane Salerno, but with the Weinstein Company backing it, anything is possible.
  7. Room 237...I would love to think that the Documentary branch could make room for Rodney Ascher's in-depth study of the hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but it doesn't seem like their sort of thing even with good to great reviews (80 on Meta Critic).
  8. 20 Feet From Stardom...Morgan Nelville's doc on the lives of back up singers did well at Sundance and currently holds an 82 on Meta Critic.
  9. Herblock: The Black and the White...I haven't really heard a LOT about this film that screened at Tribeca but it has garnered a bit of buzz.
  10. Running From Crazy...Documentaries on figures in entertainment don't usually fare well with Oscar, which doesn't bode all that well for this biographical film about Mariel Hemingway from Barbara Kopple.  However, last year's for Searching For Sugar Man win proved that exceptions can be made.

Animated Feature
  1. Frozen
  2. Monsters University
  3. Turbo
  4. Ernest and Celestine
  5. Epic

  6. Despicable Me 2
  7. Planes
  8. The Missing Picture
  9. Free Birds
  10. The Croods

     After having a couple of great years with the Academy, independent distributor G-Kids got shut out at the Oscars last year facing an unusually strong field of mainstream competitors.  I'm thinking that they make a comeback this year considering the strength of the field of possible acquisitions that lays before them in 2013.  My list may be some wishful thinking (nothing wrong with that in June) but I think that (likely G-Kids competitor Ernest and Celestine aside) the buzz is going WAY too conventional in a year that offers an unusually varied assortment of candidates...

  1. Monsters University...I doubt that this wins.  That being said, the franchise is well respected and it's Pixar.  Oh wait, maybe it could win...
  2. Frozen...Disney is really trying to rebrand itself.  If this year's effort comes anywhere near the quality that they achieved last year then a nomination seems more than likely.
  3. The Missing Picture...If G-Kids is smart they will snatch this Cannes award winner up and go for the big time!!!
  4. Ernest and Celestine...For a Foreign Language 'toon to have this much buzz early on, that's got to mean something.
  5. The Trick or Treaters...Although the Weinstein company has had difficulty trying to "Bully" their way into some genre categories of late, I think you underestimate this possibility at your peril.

  6. The Congress...If I knew this trippy adult tale from director Ari Folman would qualify, it would knock something out of the top five.
  7. Hell and Back...If I knew this would get released in time, this re-imagining of the Orpheus myth from the creators of Robot Chicken featuring Susan Sarandan would knock something out of the top five.
  8. The Wind Rises...Miyazaki makes this film a contender, the subject matter's connection to the Axis powers make it a tough sell.
  9. Turbo...Nobody knows anything yet.
  10. Free Birds...Ditto

     And of course...Despicable Me 2, Dorothy of Oz, Epic & Planes

     Next time out we go above the line and cover the Adapted and Original screenplay categories...


  Related articles:  What "Cannes" We Tell So Far?, June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Aural TechsThe Visual TechsIf It Ain't Wrecked (Wreck-It Ralph review), Side Smashed by Bully (Bully review)

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