As evidenced by the first rounds of critics group awards and announcements of both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, we are in the thick of awards season. I’ve been following the race closely these past few months and taking a closer look at specific categories like Best Picture, Best Actress, and most recently Best Supporting Actor over the past few weeks in regular Oscar Beat columns, but now feels like an opportune time to take a breath and consider what the awards thus far say about the race ahead. Does Unbroken’s snub signal a surprisingly light Oscar presence? Will Boyhood enjoy a near clean sweep of the critics groups? Is Jennifer Aniston on her way to an Oscar nomination? Read on after the jump.
Before we begin, a brief note on the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is not the most prestigious of awards groups out there, and they have a reputation for gunning more for celebrity appearances with their nominations rather than making choices based on talent. The group has zero overlap with the Academy’s voting body so it’s not really an indicator of how they will vote, but what it can do is raise the profile of certain contenders that are vyying for an Oscar nomination. As such, that’s where it value comes in as we consider its impact on the race overall.
Unbroken Doesn’t Look to Be This Year’s Oscar Juggernaut
Angelina Jolie’s World War II drama Unbroken has been a high-profile awards candidate for a while, but the overall critical response to the film was much more muted than expected. Still, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can’t resist inviting Jolie and husband Brad Pitt to the boozy Golden Globes ceremony, so obviously Unbroken will have a major presence there right? Wrong. The biggest surprise of the HFPA’s uncharacteristically low-key nominees for this year’s Golden Globes was the total shut-out of Unbroken. Not a single nomination. The film also got zilch from the SAG Awards nominations and hasn’t gained much steam among the critics groups, though it only started screening a week and a half ago so we could possibly see it pick up steam in the coming weeks as more folks have a chance to see the film.
The snubs don’t mean Unbroken is DOA with regards to its Oscar status—we haven’t even seen the wide response from critics yet that will come closer to release, and I still think it can squeeze into the Best Picture category. But Universal’s awards play certainly doesn’t look to be the game-changer that many were expecting.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Jennifer Aniston Are Genuine Contenders
Just as it is every year, this year’s Best Actor race is an embarrassment of riches. Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Carell, Eddie Redmayne, and Michael Keaton all emerged as early contenders in the category, but there’s been a bit of a dogfight for that fifth slot. Timothy Spall is a favorite for his Mr. Turner role, and David Oyelowo has been picking up serious steam for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma (indeed, I may even put him above one or two of the aforementioned actors in terms of chances of being nominated), but Jake Gyllenhaal has enjoyed some serious advocating for his stunning work in Nightcrawler, and now he looks to be a genuine Dark Horse contender to land a spot in the Oscar category with both a SAG Award and Golden Globe Best Actor nomination.
In the Best Actress category, there appears to be a fifth slot that’s sort of up for grabs as well, and Jennifer Aniston is making a strong case for landing the nod. Most considered Aniston an outside contender for her dramatic turn in the little-seen indie Cake, but a SAG Award nomination proved that her peers took notice, and the Golden Globe Best Actress nod compounded the SAG recognition, raising her profile considerably. If she’s able to stay at the forefront of voters’ minds, an Oscar nomination doesn’t seem out of the question.
The Grand Budapest Hotel Is Definitely in the Race
Films released before the September/October festival season traditionally have a tougher time gaining traction in the Oscar race as their profiles tend to be overshadowed by the onslaught of new fall releases, and many thought Wes Anderson’s wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel might be destined for the same fate. However, the critically hailed film has actually been enjoying considerable notice from these preliminary awards, picking up a SAG Award nomination for Best Ensemble as well as Golden Globe nods for Best Picture (Musical/Comedy), Actor (Musical/Comedy), Director and Screenplay, in addition to a Best Screenplay award from the New York Film Critics Circle. Moonrise Kingdom came close to a Best Picture nomination a couple years ago, so could Grand Budapest finally make Wes Anderson a Best Picture nominee?
Boyhood Is the Critical Darling
Most years, the critics groups tend to rally around one specific film, while the Academy and Guild groups favor another. For every The Social Network there’s a The King’s Speech antagonist, and while we don’t yet know which way the Guilds will be voting, there does appear to be a clear consensus with most of the critics groups: Boyhood. Director Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking coming-of-age drama has picked up the Best Picture award from the Los Angeles, New York, and Boston Online film critics groups thus far, and I imagine there are still plenty more trophies to come. Moreover, Linklater himself has been picking up a slew of Best Director trophies, making him an early frontrunner in that race as well.
Watch Out for Selma
While Unbroken wasn’t the game-changer that some were expecting—a film that shakes up the race by announcing itself as a serious contender for the top trophy, among others—it looks like Selma might be. The film, which chronicles the effort to fight for the voting rights of black Americans in Selma, Alabama led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is an incredible piece of filmmaking that feels absolutely relevant to the times we’re living in. It has bold, confident direction from Ava DuVernay, fantastic and complex performances, and some brilliant cinematography by Bradford Young.
The Golden Globes took notice of the emotionally charged with nods for Best Picture (Drama), Director, and Actor, and while Selma was shut out of the SAG Awards nominations, that is likely due to the fact that Paramount hadn’t yet sent out screeners due to the film only just being completed in recent weeks. The same thing happened with The Wolf of Wall Street last year, and that picture went on to land a number of Oscar nods, including Best Picture. As the other guilds begin to weigh in, look for Selma to start popping up with greater frequency.
We’ve still got a ways to go before the Oscar nominations are announced on January 15th, but the race is off and running with some curious developments thus far. We’re no doubt in for a few more surprises in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to Collider and Oscar Beat for the latest.