Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at the awards prospects of The Muppets and Bridesmaids; two films that, while critically and commercially successful, aren’t necessarily your typical awards season fare. Today we thought we’d consider the awards status of another impressive film from 2011: Drive. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s violent genre pic premiered as a little independent film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The movie blew audiences away, and Refn nabbed the Best Director prize.
The film finally opened to general audiences this past September with plenty of advanced buzz and stellar reviews. While Drive didn’t exactly break box office records, critics and cinephiles fell in love with the peculiar drama, and now the film is headed into a very crowded awards stretch. Hit the jump to see our take on how Drive will fare during this year’s awards season.
With regards to the Oscars, it seems like Drive has one nomination almost on lock: Albert Brooks for Best Supporting Actor. The writer-director had been absent from the big screen for almost six years and his return was almost unrecognizable. Brooks’ inherent sense of levity lulls the audience into thinking he’s a relatively tame villain, but the character’s explosions of violence give us a glimpse at the monster underneath. It’s a bone-chilling performance, and Brooks is positively superb.
Justly, Brooks started picking up awards recognition pretty early on. He’s already nabbed the Best Supporting Actor prize from the New York Film Critics, San Francisco Film Critics, Boston Film Critics, and New York Film Critics Online. Furthermore, he’s landed a nomination in the category from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Independent Spirit Awards, and most recently the Golden Globes. His inexplicable snub by the Screen Actors Guild (who loaded up on the snubs this year) took many by surprise, but his recent Globe nomination solidifies his frontrunner status heading into the Academy Awards. Furthermore, he’s the favorite to take home the Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Golden Globes as well.
As for the film itself, Drive is certainly worthy of a Best Picture nomination but the nod is becoming less likely by the day. So far the only major organizations to recognize Drive as one of the best pictures of the year have been the National Board of Review, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Independent Spirit Awards. While those are definitely worth being proud of, the film is gonna have to pick up a considerable amount of steam in order to land among the Academy’s best films of the year.
Working against Drive’s chances for a Best Picture nomination are its less than stellar box office performance and the fact that it’s essentially a genre picture. The Academy doesn’t normally respond to “strange” ultra-violent pics (unless they’re directed by Martin Scorsese), and Refn’s masterwork is essentially a bloody, dialogue-light John Hughes movie; that’s what makes it great, and that’s why the Academy will more than likely leave it off their shortlist of the “best” films of 2011.
The low box office numbers for Drive don’t help it’s chances either. The Departed was a bona fide commercial hit and became Scorsese’s most successful film to date. Even the Coen brothers’ relatively violent No Country for Old Men took in over $150 million. While Drive’s $67 million take is nothing to balk at (especially given the film’s meager budget), it’s not exactly noteworthy to Oscar voters. While it’s not unheard of for low-grossing films to be nominated for Best Picture (The Hurt Locker is the lowest-grossing winner to date at just under $50 million), Drive’s mediocre box office draw combined with its absence on many critics’ year-end lists doesn’t inspire much confidence.
The film also stands a chance at a Best Original Score nomination for Cliff Martinez’s fantastically synth-infused score, but the Academy is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to eligibility so I’m not 100% sure if Martinez’s work will make the cut. I don’t know enough about the category to say whether or not the Drive score meets the Academy’s qualifications, but it’s definitely worthy of a nod.
Overall, it looks like Drive’s best shot at the Oscars is Albert Brooks. He’s righteously earning recognition for his brilliantly nasty performance, and we should expect to hear his name called once the nominations are announced. With 9 wins so far in his category (tied for the most wins in the Awards race so far with The Artist) Brooks is currently the frontrunner to take home the trophy. We’re still a little ways off from the ceremony so things could certainly change, but I’m hoping he pulls the win come Oscar night not only because he deserves it, but also because he’s sure to deliver one of the more entertaining acceptance speeches. While Drive may end up being deemed too “genre”, “weird”, or “violent” for the Academy’s taste, a lack of major Oscar nominations will in no way demean the quality of the film. Refn crafted a masterfully dramatic (and cool) film jam-packed with extraordinary performances, and Drive is sure to stand the test of time as a movie that won’t soon be forgotten.