Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Can "The Counselor" Bring Ridley Scott Back to the Oscars?

Javier Bardem
Up until this point, director Ridley Scott's The Counselor has being one of the more bizarre, intriguing films of the fall season. Its pedigree is chopped full of Academy Award-winning elite and features a script by Cormac McCarthy that only suggests that this film should be getting more recognition. Of course, my opinions of its possibility came back before competition was really heating up and films such as Gravity and 12 Years a Slave were taking over all of the momentum. Still, is there some off chance that this can sneak in a nomination or two?

One of the highlights of this Oscar season is setting up predictions and watching them play their course. While the momentum behind Rush faded quickly, I was pleased to see Gravity become one of the top contenders, as well as a box office juggernaut that sits firmly in the top position for the third week in a row. Even the presence of Captain Phillips threw a curve ball unlike what I expected from a thriller. Then there was The Counselor, which I talked about during the summer for multiple reasons. In fairness, I am a terrible speculator as the article humored the idea of a Jobs surprise nomination.

Nonetheless, the appeal of The Counselor is undeniably stronger than Jobs ever could be. For starters, the pedigree is beyond impressive and on paper, this sounds like one of the best films of the year. It is directed by Ridley Scott, whose film Gladiator won Best Picture. It was written by Cormac McCarthy, who besides being one of the most respected living writers, won a Best Adapted Screenplay win for the Coen Brothers adaptation of No Country For Old Men, which also won Best Picture. While Scott is arguably not as revered as he once was with his most recent film being the heavily maligned Prometheus, I still hold out hope that these two will make something engaging and fun.

The cast also seems oddly eclectic and features Oscar winners such as Javier Bardem (Best Supporting Actor - No Country for Old Men), Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress - Vicky Christina Barcelona), and nominee Brad Pitt (Best Actor - Moneyball) as well as Michael Fassbender, who is looking to shortly be part of the club provided that 12 Years a Slave becomes the sensational winner that it has been hyped to be. There isn't a shortage of talent and it only makes things seem more intriguing. 

Here's a trailer:

Despite my consistent enthusiasm that it will be a fun movie, I don't feel like it is long for the Academy Awards. It isn't an argument based on Scott's directorial style, but more on the themes. The trailer plays more as a thriller and has more bizarre, sexual tendencies going on than the Academy seems to be privy to. Also, with the many films out showing bigger acclaim, I worry that this will just be a disappointing thriller at worse and not get much recognition. As it stands, the statistics on Gold Derby has it at number 28 in the Best Picture race with odds of 100:1. Those are too steep to think enthusiastically about it becoming a dark horse front runner.

One of the biggest intrigues is the pairing again of Bardem and McCarthy. As stated earlier, Bardem previously won Best Supporting actor in a story penned by the author. Even if the casting situation may be a little different, I feel like there is some chemistry between the content and the performance that deserves some recognition. As I stated in a recent Films with Friends article,  he is a demanding presence. He even made Skyfall a worthy film with very little effort. Maybe I just like Bardem too much to think that this could get overlooked for something more traditional. As it stands, the Best Supporting Actor race is currently neck and neck between Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). That alone is enough to speculate The Counselor's lack of success in these fields.

Depending on how the trailers grab you, the film will probably be a fun ride, but along with some weird plot points, I don't feel like we're looking at a surprise hit of the scene. Even if the race is still young, it does feel like the contenders have begun making themselves known. The marketing and push around The Counselor would need to be far more aggressive than it has been in order to come even close to being as recognized as Captain Phillips or Gravity. It isn't a knock on the quality, but just one of the unfortunate realizations that comes with speculating Academy Award nominations and culture.

Can The Counselor pull a surprise nomination? Is the Cormac McCarthy/Javier Bardem team capable of producing another great performance? Does Ridley Scott still have some momentum when it comes to the Oscars?

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