It will be impossible to shake me of one fact. Director Derek Cianfrance's 2010 film Blue Valentine is without a doubt one of the greatest films of all time. Aesthetically, its use of the red and blue colors throughout are deeply integral to the mood. Add in great performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who have both never been better, and you have possibly the best, most accurate portrayal of love in awhile. It may be a more challenging movie, but one I feel is both artistically and narratively successful enough to stand next to the best of them. That is why I am hoping that his follow-up The Place Beyond the Pines will become at very least a Best Picture nominee.
I know that it is unfair to judge one film's success over that of another, but my affinity towards Blue Valentine has made The Place Beyond the Pines a must see on my list, and possibly one that I will defend come Oscar time, especially over other Ryan Gosling vehicles like Only God Forgives and his Terence Malick project. However, I want to address an issue that affects my bias heavily. I am sure many other people feel the same way.
I feel that Gosling is one of the finest actors working today. With that established, he has only had one Oscar nomination, which was for Best Actor for Half Nelson. As great as that performance was, I wasn't pleased to discover that Blue Valentine's sole nomination went to Best Actress nominee Michelle Williams. Perfectly fine. She did a great job, but Gosling was also superb. In fact, it almost seems to be ironic that ever since, any film of his that even is considered has become a one nominee pony (The Ides of March got a Best Adapted Screenplay nod and Drive got a Best Sound Editing nod). I would love to see that be fixed with The Place Beyond the Pines.
Enough back story. What exactly is this film about? According to IMDb:
"A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective."
It already sounds more elaborate than Blue Valentine. Also, with a cast that includes Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper, it has some credibility going for it. True, Mendes hasn't really gotten any Oscar attention, but she was in the excellent Holy Motors, so I am willing to believe that she will give a solid performance here. Also, this is Cooper's first post-Oscar nominated performance (Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook). As proven by Michelle Willaims' back-to-back nominations for Best Actress for Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn, it bodes well for Cooper to get some consideration when the time comes, even if the performance isn't stellar. That is provided that The Hangover: Part III doesn't flatten his traction somehow.
|Left to right: Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling|
While Cooper almost seems to already be available for consideration, the bigger question is how will it get any other nominations, including Best Picture? Notable detriments include that it is an early 2013 and may be forgotten by consideration time. Since Cianfrance is not established enough for familiarity, he may just get short-ended. While the Academy has recently began recognizing younger, fresher talents in the Best Director field (Benh Zeitlin last year for Beasts of the Southern Wild), it is still too early to really predict him being more than an art house darling. Even then, there are numerous Terence Malick movies coming out. Malick's previous film The Tree of Life got a Best Picture nomination, therefore giving him a more recognizable leeway.
Gosling is the more interesting figure. He has gotten plenty of nominations outside of the Oscars, including two acting nominations in 2011 for comedy (Crazy Stupid Love) and drama (The Ides of March). This is one way that proves that Golden Globes are not always a predictor to the big race. However, this small consistent appearance of clout should finally give Gosling some push, especially as he contemplates an acting hiatus. The biggest issue regarding him in Blue Valentine is the same that faced Michael Fassbender in Shame. The Academy isn't very rewarding to sexualized dramas. Blue Valentine notoriously almost got an NC-17 for an oral sex scene that wasn't really that showing. That should give you some hint as to the depths of the drama.
It is a shame that talent isn't quite as recognized over subject matter. However, from the plot description, it doesn't sound like it will be as sexualized. Also, with numerous reports claiming that his part in the film seems to be that of a supporting character, it may be easy to shoe him in to a Best Supporting Actor slot. Of course, this is hoping that the Academy doesn't find his lackadaisical persona to be a little played out and that he isn't trying. He would have to do something bold to get recognized, and he has been known to do that a lot. On another unfortunate note, this looks like the art house version of Drive. It could work, but the Academy famously didn't even nominate Albert Brooks for Best Supporting Actor, a move which everyone had long expected. In hindsight, this could largely be due to the fact that it was a great movie, but the interspersed violence was bizarre.
While I would love to see this film get a Best Cinematography nomination as well, I will leave that for after I see it to confirm if it is as gorgeous as Blue Valentine. My last focus for this piece will be Best Picture. Does it even stand a chance? Back in the days when there were five slots, I would have said no. With a sliding 5-10, I am pretty much convinced that provided this film is as acclaimed as I hope that it is, it will certainly land a chance. It lacks the controversy that kept Blue Valentine from getting nominated, so it already has one step up.
If you look at last year alone, it is easy to see how this could happen. Beasts of the Southern Wild was an underdog movie of sorts. Nobody cared about it, yet it came away with multiple nominations. The Academy even nominated more out of the box selection, including the profanity and violence-laced Django Unchained. Even the placement of Amour and proved that the Academy was all for thinking outside the box with unconventional choices. The Place Beyond the Pines is rather unconventional while also featuring an established Oscar caliber that may get it considered.
I am unaware about what other films are competing for this slot at this moment, but I feel like the Academy is slowly turning their mindset into a more well rounded view. While it is possible that it will ignore this like they ignored The Master for being too mentally surreal, it stands a chance of not entirely being shut out. Remember, The Master got ignored in Best Picture, but it still landed three acting nominations, which only strengthens the possibility of Gosling, Cooper, or Mendes getting considered.
I will probably address this more in my review when I have more facts to work with. It has been an interesting yet odd first few months of the year. The highly acclaimed films (Spring Breakers, Stoker) are potentially best of the year worthy, but their timing means that they'll be forgotten. I fear that Gosling will probably be overlooked here and most people will shove the hype around Only God Forgives, which based on poster alone, is probably too gruesome, like director Nicolas Winding Refn's previous film Drive, to actually make it despite finding an audience. It would be interesting, but it almost seems as far fetched as him getting one for his involvement with Terence Malick.
Do you think that Ryan Gosling will sneak out an acting nomination this year? Will Derek Cianfrance finally be recognized by the Academy? Does anyone else feel that Blue Valentine was heavily snubbed at the Oscars?