Thursday, August 15, 2013

Will "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" Get the Talented Young Actors Some Nominations?

Rooney Mara
With summer winding down and the Oscar Buzz season slightly on the horizon, we have quite a season to look forward to. One of the possibly more wild predictions would be surrounding director David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, which based on the trailer would suggest that it is yet another version of a Terrence Malick film, if just because of the sweeping imagery and emphasis on nature. Still, one thing makes this particular film an intriguing one, and it is the leads, who may not be household names yet, but each have been nominated before. Is it possible that this film can become one of the underdog success stories at the ceremony next year?

The comparisons to Malick are juvenile, but possibly worth at least getting out of the way quickly. Yes, it does seem like an elegant tone poem with a sweeping camera. However, the trailer does look to be more vocal and lively than the auteur's body of work. The only notable comparisons that could potentially be made is that in Malick's latest To the Wonder, there is also an appearance by an Affleck and stars Charles Baker. Otherwise, the similarities stop there. This appears to be more traditional narrative than the somewhat flimsy film from earlier this year.

The real intrigue for me lies in the two main performers: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. While neither are necessarily big name actors, both have proven to be charismatic and versatile. My secret hope is that since both have a nomination to their record (Mara: Best Actress - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Affleck: Best Supporting Actor - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), this will help them get another. Mara has already had a fantastic year with an impressive performance in Side Effects. I am personally hoping she pulls through again with something spectacular.

What is Ain't Them Bodies Saints about? Here's the trailer:

Looks to be rather elegant and poetic. According to IMDb, it is:
"The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met."
The movie isn't appearing to be that much of a slouch either. It has been receiving buzz ever since its premiere at Sundance (also where inevitable Best Picture nominee Fruitvale Station got its start) and on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, it has an 82% rating (subject to change). At very least, it is one of my higher scoring predictions for Oscar Buzz, as my claim on Jobs even having potential is quickly diminished by its low, low, low 33% rating. All I need is to not totally bomb on Lee Daniels' The Butler to maintain some credibility at broad speculation.

Back to Ain't Them Bodies Saints. I am not expecting it to obtain a lot of nominations, as the film does look a little too much Southern Gothic to appeal to everyone. In fact, I would be surprised if this film managed to reach a wide audience. Still, it looks to be one of the more ambitious, fun romantic stories of the year. Even if it can't land any technical, written, or other fields, my secret hope is that this is the film that lands Mara and Affleck back into the race.

It is a tough call at this point, as it would take a lot of promotion and presence to get the film that far. Affleck already has at least one hurdle for Best Actor: Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station. His performance also seems to be very much in the Casey Affleck mold of somewhat somber, which may play against him. While his brother Ben has had a recent success track record, that doesn't mean that it would translate to Casey. After all, his nomination was five years ago, and without having too many credible movies getting him recognition since, it only makes the challenge harder.

Left to right: Mara and Casey Affleck
I have more faith in Mara, whose nomination was only two years ago. She is also slowly becoming one of the most versatile performers of her generation. Even in her short body of work, she has played wildly different characters and has been on the radar more prominently than her co-star. It may be too early to suggest possibility, but there hasn't been a definitive Best Actress nominee so far this year, unless you count the great but unlikely Mia Wasikowska in Stoker and likely favorite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. It just all depends on how the rest of the year plays out, as there hasn't been any highlights so far.

There is a chance that this could be the independent film that sneaks into the Best Picture race, but the odds are too against it. The Academy has started doing a trend since posing the 5-10 sliding scale that there's at least one indie film in the race. I personally feel that it is more for recognition than actual chances. It is a way to keep them from having tunnel vision. I cannot argue with some of their choices, but there is that eerie sense that this is the case of check marking boxes of genres. With that said, Fruitvale Station is going to be that stereotypical indie film that gets in. As stated before, this just looks too removed from mainstream for that type of possibility.

I am still greatly looking forward to Ain't Them Bodies Saints and while I feel it may be a polarizing film, the great reviews and top notch performers suggests that it will be worth the trip. Cinema this year hasn't been overly exciting, and I am hoping that we're entering a better part of the year, where even the ambitious yet flawed (Elysium) prove that there's some life and something to get out of cinema. That is all I'm expecting out of movies, which thankfully have gotten better as we fell into August. Here's hoping that this film manages to get the young stars more recognition for their talents.

Is the film capable of pulling an upset in the nominations? Is Casey Affleck capable of being taken seriously? Will the film prove to be more than a critical darling?

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