First Gurus ‘O Gold Pre-Festival Top Fifteen Oscar Contenders (‘GONE GIRL’ TRAILER)

First Gurus 'O Gold Pre-Festival Top Fifteen Oscar Contenders ('GONE GIRL' TRAILER)

“Are you asking me if I killed my wife?” Ben Affleck is strong casting for a man at the center of a media maelstrom following the disappearance of his wife, who may or may not have been beloved (Rosamund Pike). Fox’s latest “Gone Girl” trailer, which aired during the Monday night Emmy Awards broadcast, followed the first round of voting from Gurus ‘O Gold, a group of veteran Oscar watchers of which I am a member. (Trailer below.) Movie City News asked us to list in no order 15 choices for the Oscar race, pre-film festivals. The collated list is below. 

Of the top seven that everybody but one picked, in past years that list yielded the eventual Oscar winner. (That doesn’t mean they will all be nominated.) So why is everyone so high on “Gone Girl,” which opens wide October 3 after launching the New York Film Festival? In some ways it could be the most mainstream of the group. Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her bestseller, it boasts director David Fincher (“A Social Network” and “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) as well as Oscar-winning “Argo” star Affleck and ace British actress Pike (“An Education”). The elements are choice, in other words.

I’m not surprised at the other films on the list. Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” boasts the highest budget, on the scale of last year’s “Gravity.” (Ridley Scott’s studio epic “Exodus” is notably farther down the list.)  Of the films folks have actually seen, “Boyhood” and “Foxcatcher” rank high and Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” surprisingly low. Isn’t that a lock for a Best Picture nomination? So is Mike Leigh’s exquisite period biopic, which earned Timothy Spall Best Actor at Cannes. This will also do very well with the Academy, I wager. 

Of note is the inclusion in the top seven of two films directed by women, straightforward hero biopics from Angelina Jolie (“Unbroken”) and Ava DuVernay (“Selma”). I expect the much-anticipated Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Paul Thomas Anderson films (“Birdman” and “Inherent Vice”) to be aesthetically demanding and challenging. To what degree will also factor into their ultimate playability and awards fates.
Lower down on the list are true stories, Working Title’s “The Theory of Everything,” starring Eddie Redmayne as ALS-stricken scientist Stephen Hawking, and Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s solo hike memoir, starring Reese Witherspoon. Both are small-scale films that could wind up as acting vehicles. That depends– like all the new films—on how they play at the fall fests and beyond. Two war films, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper, and David Ayer’s “Fury,” an unrelenting World War II combat film about a tank unit led by Brad Pitt, need to be seen before people can tell if they are closer to “Saving Private Ryan” or “Lone Survivor.”

As for “Into the Woods,” while it’s a lavishly expensive Disneyfied Stephen Sondheim musical, Rob Marshall is an inconsistent director who has delivered commercial “Pirates” movies as well as Oscar-winner “Chicago” and the disappointing “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Nine.” The elements (Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp) are promising to be sure, but need to be seen. Also relatively unknown is Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, whose first English-language effort is “The Imitation Game,” a behind-the-scenes code-breaking thriller starring Emmy-winner Benedict Cumberbatch and Oscar veteran Keira Knightley. That the Weinsteins are behind it is a plus. Also missing from the top 15 is Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” starring Oscar perennials Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams in a real-life dysfunctional marriage, mainly because the Weinstein marketing materials have not wowed people so far. 
Rank Last Chart Best Picture Contenders  Votes Total
  • Gone Girl * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 14 14
  • Birdman * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 14 14
  • Boyhood* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 14 14
  • Unbroken* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 14 14
  • Foxcatcher* * * * * * * * * * * * * 13 13
  • Selma* * * * * * * * * * * * * 13 13
  • Interstellar* * * * * * * * * * * * * 13 13
  • Wild* * * * * * * * * * * * 12 12
  • Fury* * * * * * * * * * * * 12 11
  • Inherent Vice* * * * * * * * * * * 11 11
  • The Theory of Everything* * * * * * * * * * * 11 10
  • The Imitation Game* * * * * * * * * * 10 10
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel* * * * * * * * * 9 8
  • Into the Woods* * * * * * * 7 7
  • American Sniper* * * * * * * * 8 6

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Comments

Old Fart

Once upon a time, the Best Picture nominees included films that the audience had actually heard of, let alone seen. And the winners were often popular favorites: GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE APARTMENT, WEST SIDE STORY, PATTON, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, anyone?

Not anymore. Critics and Academy members live in a completely different universe than average moviegoers. INTERSTELLAR's probably the only film on that list that has any kind of audience awareness–and that's only because there've been trailers for it everywhere.

(On the other hand, once upon a time, only children went to superhero movies. And science fiction was completely ignored at awards time, except, occasionally, for the special effects category. My, how times have changed.)

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