Saturday, July 26, 2014

Will "A Most Wanted Man" Get Hoffman a Posthumous Oscar Nomination?

Philip Seymour Hoffman
One of the saddest moments in film culture in 2014 was the passing of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor - Capote). After dying from drug abuse, he left behind an impressive, enviable catalog of films that reflected charisma. He remains a towering figure to film and brought so much joy to his work. With the release of his last completed film to feature him in a leading role, director Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, there is a question to be raised. Is it possible that the actor is capable of joining the rare ranks of posthumous Oscar winners? From the sound of reviews so far, it does seem very likely.

For starters, there is something special about Hoffman as an actor. With a total of four nominations and one win among them, he is already an established favorite among Oscar voters. His performances in many prestige films has gone a long way in getting him and the filmmakers well deserved recognition. If nothing else, his death is one that will likely cause the Academy to potentially give him a more elaborate tribute than simply being part of the In Memoriam. His current success and ability to transition from art house to blockbusters is something of enviable talent. He wasn't fading away as his drug problem eventually took his life. He was still producing quality work such as The Master.

There is a small echelon of actors who have won posthumously. Some were probably more considered out of respect for the deceased. The most notable example of which is Heath Ledger, who won Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. The box office phenomenon that reinvigorated superhero films saw the actor die months before audiences saw an inimitable, iconic turn as the film's villain The Joker. It is a performance that still gets referenced and parodied to this day. It is an award much deserving whether he was dead or alive. If nothing else, it showed how an actor gave almost too much of his being to a single performance that it ended up doing some painful personal issues.

The only issue between The Dark Knight and A Most Wanted Man is that the latter is not getting anywhere near as much acclaim or financial attention as the former. Whether it is to be blamed on marketing or audience's investment, the film is probably not going to top the box office. At best, it will have to approach the trajectory from here on out as a word of mouth film. Even then, the acclaim of Hoffman precedes his work. Though what exactly gives this more acclaim than his other posthumous film God's Pocket? It probably has to do with the direction.

Here is the trailer: 

Looks pretty good. Speaking as Corbijn's other films include The American, there doesn't look to be guaranteed prestige for the film going forward. However, he is a reliable name who produces consistent work. In fact, critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film's score at 90% with several critics hailing Hoffman's performance. 

For those who need more information, here is the plot description according to IMDb:
"A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror."
Not too bad. While political thrillers haven't played well in the Best Picture race, it has often done well enough in the acting fields. Maybe the film's unassuming nature will benefit the Oscar race. Even then, it has to face up to guaranteed hard ball competitors such as Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, Boyhood, and even Interstellar. The film just hasn't taken the world by storm in all of the ways that would suggest a guaranteed sell. Even then, it is Hoffman, whose reputation almost calls exactly for a move like this. I don't see the film being great enough to capture the Best Picture race, but maybe Best Actor is in store.

I will admit that I don't have a lot of interest in seeing A Most Wanted Man, but may likely do so eventually out of curiosity to see if it lives up to potential. Even then, with phenomenal reviews and high praise, it does play well in the long run. It all depends on what happens as things become more set in stone in the months to follow. There's no exact front runner in the Best Actor race as of yet, though that can change at any moment. All that we'll have to do is wait and see.

Is Philip Seymour Hoffman capable of a posthumous Oscar win? Will A Most Wanted Man stand any chance at a Best Picture nomination? Who is the front runner in any category at this point?

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