Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Quick Rundown of Films on the Outskirts of the Oscar Race

Bill Murray
The following is a collection of tidbits regarding recently released and upcoming films that I have previously given attention to as having Oscar Buzz. While there are still chances for these films to bounce back and potentially have a fruitful career, it does seem like the tides have shifted for them and may likely lead to a quick drop out of the race. It isn't all bad news, though the optimism is likely not to last. The piece will focus on the films St. Vincent, Fury, Inherent Vice, Serena and The Judge
St. Vincent

It seemed like a fluke that this film would even stand a chance in the Oscar race. However, many critics came out early to parade the film as Bill Murray's shot at an Oscar. After Lost in Translation started his career down a more dramatic and interesting path, it has been awhile since he turned in a role that would likely compel audiences to vote for him and remind us why Murray is so great, and not just in Wes Anderson movies (speaking of, we need to get that Grand Budapest Hotel campaign going pronto). In recent conversations, Murray has come out and said that making films specifically for Oscars is like a virus. Also, Harvey Weinstein has claimed that there's no talk of a campaign quite yet, though Murray wouldn't likely be involved. However, to keep from making this all bad news, Murray is teaming up with Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola for a Christmas show. That should be more awesome than any more talk of this film.

Robert Downey Jr.
The Judge

In the echelon of actors, Robert Downey Jr. is someone that I wish did more prestigious work that paid off. True, he got nominated for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, but in recent years, he has been predominantly set up with The Avengers and its many offsets. What unrelated materials he does (a humorous cameo in Chef most notably) seem to be saccharine and hollow, including the disappointing Joe Wright film The Soloist. I felt that with The Judge that things could be different, even if it is from the director of the godawful film The Change-Up. With Robert Duvall in tow, I secretly wanted this film to be great. It still could be, but with a rating on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes of 48%, it doesn't seem likely. The middle-of-the-road cinema may not be enough to get him back into the prestige circles.


It's gearing up to be quite a year for World War II movies. After The Monuments Men started off the year, it looks like the 100th anniversary of World War I will continue to honor the wrong war with Fury. While there's still a chance that it won't get outshone by Unbroken in December, early feedback suggests that it is simply a good movie with very little interesting or new to offer. There may be hope for the Steven Price score to sneak into the race, but it's already going to be a complicated year and after Gravity put him on the map, there's no immediate need to prove himself again, even if he claims that this one is unlike anything that he has done before: think very gruesome and atmospheric. Like if there were tanks being shot off in Gravity.

Left to right: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

It seems to be the film that I can't stop talking about. This unfortunate Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper film has been nothing but trouble since first hitting the scene. While American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook turned them into bankable stars, Serena has been shelved for quite some time only to be released in the burial ground of the first half of 2015. It has premiered to a resounding cry of mediocrity, leaving most disappointed and unsure of what to make of the uneven filmmaking and the lack of compelling story. It is sure to be quite the sight when it finally makes its way out next year, though don't expect it to be one of those surprise favorites in a year's time. Though keep an eye out for Cooper in American Sniper.

Joaquin Phoenix
Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson is back and as of two weeks ago, critics are loving it with some calling it "The Long Good High." It's been considered to be The Big Sleep of the modern era as fueled by drugs and a very strange sensibility. The other question is if its loose vibe can help it get some Oscar attention. From what I gather, the jury is still out. Considering that the Academy doesn't have a fruitful relationship with Anderson, it will seem like a stretch, even if there's some hope that they can overlook the fiasco surrounding Phoenix's Oscar comments from 2012. If they can forgive Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, then there's hope that Phoenix can be considered as well. Still, it's too early to determine how well the film will do. Anderson has, at best, been nominated for every film in some capacity since Boogie Nights with exception to Punch Drunk Love

So, as Oscar season continues this Friday with Birdman and The Book of Love, it is important to check list everyone who has entered and exited the race. While a few of these names still stand some chance of showing back up, there's skepticism to be had. Hopefully things will pan out and the race will be better than last year's choice to wait until October for all of the Best Picture nominees.

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