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by Peter Knegt
July 2, 2014 11:50 AM
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For Your Consideration: A Mid-Year Stab at the Oscar Race

It's been roughly four months since Indiewire's coverage of the mammoth 2013-2014 awards season came to an end. Our For Your Consideration column has laid dormant ever since, its most recent edition a year-in-advance stab at what might become of the next awards season. But with the Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival just two months away (we'll have a preview of what they might have in store in the next few days), "next" is soon to be now. Thus, we welcome you to a special mid-year edition of our For Your Consideration column, which will run regularly beginning in September. 

The focus of this particular column is not a preview of what's to come, but what we already know from the year's first six months whether via festival screenings or theatrical releases (which can be pretty hard to gauge some years). A year ago, it seemed like "All Is Lost," "Fruitvale Station" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" were strong bets to get some major Oscar love, but none of them ended up going the distance. In fact, the only major Oscar nominee we'd seen by last year's mid-way point was Alexander Payne's "Nebraska." Though that said, in 2012 we'd have seen two of the best picture nominees by now ("Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Amour"), and in 2011 we'd seen three ("The Artist," "Midnight in Paris" and "The Tree of Life"). Either way, that suggests we've at least seen one of the best picture nominees by this point in 2014. The last time that didn't happen was 2008, but that was back when there were only five nominees... So let's turn the conversation to this year's possibilities.

Mr. Turner

Cannes, Sundance and Berlin -- which often all offer an Oscar contender or two -- gave us the majority of possibilities so far.  Cannes arguably was the most generous, with Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" and Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner" both genuine possibilities for best picture nods, among others.  The former was a highly anticipated potential fixture in last year's awards race that was pushed to 2014 at the last minute because director Miller didn't want to rush things. But considering how crowded the Oscar race was -- and how well-received "Foxcatcher" was in Cannes -- it looks like that decision was for the best.

The film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric John du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune that led to murder. It might end up all feeling a bit cold for the Academy's tastes, so it's no sure thing, but it's still hard to imagine at this point that it doesn't at least get one of the best picture slots -- though that also depends on how many there are.

If there are nine or 10 slots, we wouldn't just bet that "Foxcatcher" makes the cut, but also "Mr. Turner." In addition to being a consistent fixture at Cannes, Mike Leigh has done pretty well for himself at the Oscars, too -- especially considering how his work generally doesn't bait such attention. He's received screenplay nominations for four of his last five films ("Topsy-Turvy," "Vera Drake," "Happy-Go-Lucky" and "Another Year") and saw his Palme d'Or winning "Secrets & Lies" manage the rare feat of both winning Cannes' top prize and getting an Oscar Best Picture nomination. So there's no reason to count him out for this biopic about the life of controversial 19th century British painter and printmaker J.M. Turner (Cannes best actor winner Spall), especially after it got such strong reviews.


  • Steve G | July 22, 2014 12:08 AMReply

    Hi Peter, great analysis as always.

    Screenplay categorisation can be hard to predict, but FOXCATCHER *may* well be considered Adapted if it is based on the Mark Schultz book of the same name.

    I had previously seen this referred to online as his unpublished memoir, but I notice it is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

  • Joe H. | July 3, 2014 1:52 PMReply

    Cronenberg for Maps to Our Stars isn't even a dark horse. It's an impossibility, like a few of the other mentions on this list. The best bet from what we've seen so far is probably Foxcatcher which I predict to be a major awards player. Mike Leigh has been successful at the Oscars before so Mr. Turner has a pretty strong chance. Grand Budapest Hotel has the backing of all the critics but Anderson has been snubbed many times before and unfortunately I don't think this year will be any different. The fact that GBH came out in February hurts its chances even more. I'm hoping I'm wrong though. The movie's a masterpiece and I'd love to see Anderson finally get his due at the Oscars.

  • Yulo | July 2, 2014 9:28 PMReply

    You missed Robert Pattinson as supporting actor for The Rover. I was fantastically surprised by his brilliant performance and it would be a shame if he does not get even just a nomination.

  • Jan Lisa Huttner | July 2, 2014 4:25 PMReply

    Congratulations, Peter: You've done it again! With a full 6 months left to go in 2014, you've already eliminated every potential female director from your list of both "Reasonable Maybes" & "Dark Horses" for Oscar 2015. You say (have said & continue to say) you are just reporting "the way things are." I say (have said & continue to say) that you are helping to determine the way things will be. Just like in party politics, as soon as pundits "anoint" a list of candidates, it becomes very difficult for anyone else to enter the field. Bravo!

  • Joe H. | July 3, 2014 1:56 PM

    Calm down, this isn't a political race and this list is a prediction not a freakin guidebook for Oscar voters. If any female director gets a nod it'll probably be Jolie for Unbroken, but that's not coming out till Christmas and this list is only considering the 2014 films that have already been released and/or screened, so give it a break.

  • Pedro | July 2, 2014 12:11 PMReply

    Marion Cotillard must be at Oscars 2014 and if possible winning another one.