Oscar Beat: What Awards Prospects Does the First Half of 2014 Have to Offer?

by     Posted 164 days ago

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We’ve now passed the halfway point of 2014, and while we dusted off our awards column Oscar Beat to rundown the post-Cannes Film Festival atmosphere back in May, the Oscar season doesn’t begin in earnest until September.  That said, given that fall isn’t the only time of the year that’s considered eligible for awards notice, I thought it fitting to take a look back at the last six months to see what films might pop up in the Oscar conversation later this year.  Read on after the jump.

the-lego-movie-oscarsThe barren wasteland that is January gave us nothing of note with regards to awards consideration, but February provided a serious contender in the Best Animated Feature field: The LEGO Movie.  Given its massive commercial success and wildly positive reviews, the pic is considered a top player in the Best Animated Feature category (and rightly so) and could indeed go all the way.  Might we also see a Best Original Song nod for the infectious “Everything Is Awesome”?

George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, unfortunately, was a non-starter, but then March brought us The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Writer/director Wes Anderson managed a Best Original Screenplay nod for 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, and while Grand Budapest also received rave reviews, Moonrise opened at the end of June.  Will voters remember Grand Budapest nearly a year after it’s release?  I imagine its prospects will come down to how hard Fox Searchlight campaigns, but a Best Original Screenplay nomination seems possible, and Alexandre Desplat’s score is certainly worth notice (though he will have scored a total of five films this year).  Ralph Fiennes is undoubtedly delightful in the lead role, but it’ll be tough for him to squeeze into the Best Actor race.  Again, the Academy has a short memory, and this fall is sure to be filled with plenty of striking performances.

grand-budapest-hotel-ralph-fiennes-saoirse-ronanThe stellar Locke features a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy, who carries the film as the only character onscreen, so he’s certainly one to keep in mind.  Should A24 Films decide to launch a heavy campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hardy land in the Best Actor race.  The same can be said for Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Enemy, though the pic may be a bit dense for the Academy’s taste despite Jake Gyllenhaal’s standout performance(s).  There’s also Under the Skin, but mixed reviews and an odd structure don’t exactly make the film heavy “Oscar bait”.

Larger-scale spring movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Noah, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 won’t crack any of the major categories, but technical nods are possible—especially when it comes to sound design and visual effects.  The same can be said for May’s Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Edge of Tomorrow, but again, any “above-the-line” consideration is unlikely.  As for Maleficent, director Robert Stromberg has two Oscars under his belt as a production designer, and it’s conceivable that Maleficent’s art directors Dylan Cole and Gary Freeman could land a nomination themselves.  The Academy seems keen on Disney’s CG-filled aesthetics.

transformers-age-of-extinction-optimusAnd then there’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, which is sure to pick up at least one nomination.  The previous three films have a combined seven Oscar nominations, all in Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects.  The abysmal Revenge of the Fallen even managed one nod (Sound Mixing), and the flashy robot re-designs in Age of Extinction are likely to result in a Best Visual Effects nomination; I imagine Sound notice will follow as well (for my money, Godzilla takes the cake in that category thus far).

The “surprise hit” of June was Fox 2000’s low-budget drama The Fault in Our Stars, which drew big box office and positive reviews.  Some have wondered if Shailene Woodley might be a contender in the Best Actress race, and while she does indeed turn in a fine performance in the pic, I’m not sure it’s destined for Oscar consideration.  There’s a slight possibility that Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter could be in the Best Adapted Screenplay race, but it’s too early to tell how crowded that field will be.

I’d love to see the delicate and very funny Obvious Child get some attention, but it may have come out a little too early to garner any serious awards consideration for either Jenny Slate or the film itself.  As for Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, despite the fact that the Academy has an infatuation with the filmmaker even when he turns in mediocre work, this musical adaption was D.O.A.

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-jay-baruchelAlso in June was DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon 2.  The franchise is an outlier in DWA’s oeuvre in that it eschews the studio’s cheeky, joke-heavy tone in favor of compassion and organic humor.  Reviews for the sequel were solid, but the box office has been disappointingly soft.  Regardless, given the dearth of animated films to choose from this year, How to Train Your Dragon 2 remains a serious contender for the Best Animated Feature trophy and, for my money, deserves consideration for Best Picture.  Additionally, composer John Powell was previously nominated for his incredible score on the first film, and I imagine his spectacular work on the follow-up will be in the Best Original Score conversation this year.

Though it’s a July release and technically past the halfway point, I will say that I saw Boyhood at Sundance and it is our first bona fide Best Picture contender of 2014.  Unique, masterful, and immensely affecting, the pic has been gathering rave review after rave review and I’d be shocked if it wasn’t part of the Best Picture (and Best Director and Original Screenplay) conversation later this year.

That about does it for 2014: Part One.  It’s become increasingly difficult for non-animated films that come out early in the year to stay relevant during the fall awards onslaught, but we could see a couple of nods here and there for the aforementioned features.  We still don’t know just how crowded this Oscar season will be, but you can be sure that Oscar Beat will be covering every aspect of the awards race.

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  • Neven

    Aaand we’re back! Thank you, Adam, for an early, yet wonderful start of new season of Oscar Beat. Much appreciated.

  • Anonymous Guest

    Not only will “Grand Budapest Hotel” be remembered, I predict it will score at least 7 Oscar nominations (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Script, Cinematography, Production Design, Score). Wouldn’t be surprised if it gets even more.

  • Manuel Orozco

    I smell Best Animated Feature competition between Hiccup and Emmet

    • Avery Merrick

      The LEGO Movie will most likely win because the Oscars never give it to sequels, expect for Toy Story 3.

      • Manuel Orozco

        except for Toy Story 3

      • Manuel Orozco

        I mean both movies equally overall were entertaining

      • Avery Merrick

        You are right about both movies being entertaining. I heard that How to Train Your Dragon 2 was one of the best reviewed films of the year, too bad it is underperforming in the box office.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Let’s hope it’ll make a profit because a third one is in production

      • milo

        I assume they’ll revert back to their earlier plan of making three instead of four.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I prefer 3 too

      • Mike

        I actually read awhile back on another site, marketsaw.com, which is known for breaking some stories years before the rest of the internet (Star Wars, Avatar, and The Hobbit) and their source said there are plans for a total of 5 How To Train Your Dragons and 7 Kung Fu Pandas. I’ll try and find the article.

        Edit found it: http://marketsaw.blogspot.com/2010/12/dwas-katzenberg-developing-another.html?m=1

      • Manuel Orozco

        All that crap is made up

  • Ceaser

    I know it hasn’t come out yet, but hopefully Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will get some noms, and maybe this year will be the year Andy Serkis gets an acting nomination.

    • Kyle Chandler

      Serkis is amazing, and i actually just watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes last night. Still breaks my heart that he isn’t more widely known or appreciated for what he’s brought to film.

    • Jeremy Flores

      I just got back and holy shit….its up there with the best sequels pantheon…my god it was just tremendous and is filled with transcendent and epic moments. A beautiful, poignant film.

  • Doug_101

    Grand Budapest Hotel better be remembered – it’s the best film of the year so far.

    • Fiz

      Never thought I’d think this, but you’re right. While I was not as big of a fan of Moonrise Kingdom as many others, I do hope Hotel scores some recognition during awards season. What a fun (and fantastic-looking) film.

    • ʝoe βloggs

      I loved the film! As I do most Wes’ films.
      This particular one was a gem from start to finish.

  • Person

    LEGO and Dragon will almost certainly factor into Animated Film (LEGO will probably win it at this rate), but I wouldn’t expect more than superficial nominations for Budapest. It could get Original Screenplay, but its other best bets are in Production Design, Costume Design, and Hair & Make-up. If Oscar season turns out to be especially weak, it MAY sneak into Best Picture, which would be great. It’s easily the best film of the year so far, even if it’s rather pointless.

    • Manuel Orozco

      But there’s also the Boxtrolls and Big Hero 6 to look forward to

      • Avery Merrick

        Unless Big Hero 6 surprises everyone, The LEGO Movie will win.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Exactly plus I’m expecting something bigger than Frozen out of Big Hero 6

      • Manuel Orozco

        Also Boxtrolls I’m looking forward to in September besides they’ll most likely get nominated because the film’s creators also made Coraline and Paranorman

      • Person

        Not saying they won’t be nominated, but we’ll have to wait and see how they’re received by critics. Right now, it’s LEGO’s to lose.

        (For the record, I haven’t seen any of these animated movies myself yet anyway.)

      • Manuel Orozco

        HTTYD 2 is good as the last one but slightly darker Lego movie features the most astonishing animation ever

      • Person

        Yeah I’ve heard nothing but good things about both, and the first HTTYD was one of the last truly great animated films (that whole industry turned to crap after Rango and Tintin). Wasn’t able to see LEGO in theaters but I’m hoping to rent it soon.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Not a totally great movie but it’s really good

    • Sten

      A bit like American Hustle last year. Great actors, great costume and production design, great music, but the plot…

      Love both though.

  • milo

    John Powell was nominated but should have won for his amazing score for the first Dragon. Hopefully this time he gets a well deserved win, I think he’s the best composer working these days.

    Dragon will get nominated for animated feature but not best picture considering how little buzz it’s getting despite the reviews. Tough call in that category between Dragon 2 and Lego, I’d probably go with the latter since I just freaking loved that movie. I can’t think of the last movie that gave me that level of pure adulterated joy. Big Hero 6 will be interesting and I assume it would at least get nominated.

    Transformers won’t get much even in the technical categories, the fourth
    in a series and it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much that it hasn’t
    already done in the first three, even with new robot designs.

    Not out yet but it seems like Guardians is a shoe in for a makeup nomination and a good shot at the win. Some of the most insane stuff I’ve seen in years.

    • Manuel Orozco

      John Powell’s music for Dragons feels like it could someday be good for ballet or dance

    • Manuel Orozco

      Also best make up let’s see what happens next month

  • Avery Merrick

    Chances that Legos win for Best Animated Feature= 95 to 100% percent
    Chances that “Everything is Awesome” will win for Best Original Song= 95 to 100% percent (so far).
    Chances that Dragons 2 win for Best Animated Feature= 50 to 55% percent
    Chances that Shailene Woodley for Best Actress: 85% percent (so far).

    • Manuel Orozco

      Animated film percentages are pretty good

    • Tobias Wolf

      So they are giving out 1 1/2 Oscars for Animated Feature this year? I never knew :-)

  • Avery Merrick

    The Fault in Our Stars has a great shot for winning a Oscar in Best Adapted Screenplay and a bigger shot of winning Best Actress for Shailene Woodley.

    • World’s Finest Comments

      Didn’t they already have an Academy screening for it? Didn’t a voter call it just another pandering cancer movie?

    • Person

      Winning? Are you joking?

  • Person

    Not sure why you mention the Academy infatuation with Eastwood and then single out J.Edgar – it (unfairly) didn’t receive any nominations.

    • bidi

      Eastwood has made some great movies. J. Edgar is not one of them

      • Person

        It’s not his best work but I thought it was a solid biopic, and should have been nominated for Make-up at the very least. DiCaprio was also deserving of a nod.

  • GrimReaper07

    Snowpiercer definitively should get a couple of nods (at the very least production design). These being the Oscars I’m sure it won’t get any.

  • Jan

    Sharknado 2: the Second One will sweep all major categories next year.

  • Pete

    I’m calling it right now…Boyhood will win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. I loved the movie!

  • Strong Enough

    The LEgo Movie you can only watch on a sugar rush. there are so many things happening so fast, i’m sure the voters won’t respond to it as strongly as HTTYD2

  • Bob

    Not even a mention for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?!?!?

    I mean the praise right now is beyond serious for that film. Critics calling it a Masterpiece and some are comparing to The Empire Strikes back and The Dark Knight as the 2nd films in their trilogies.

    There praising not only the effects, which you didn’t even mention which will prob win Best Visual Effects, but the acting, the emotion, the action, and that the film is actually pretty damn smart.

    Right now, I see it as the blockbuster of the year that gets the Best Picture nom. Could be wrong, but that’s what it’s looking like.

    • GrimReaper07

      It’s a bit too early to tell. Most review aren’t up yet and the general public hasn’t seen the film.

      • Minh

        Most reviews are up, look where it’s at in Rotten Tomatoes right now, 98%

      • Minh

        Most reviews are up, look where it’s at in Rotten Tomatoes right now, 98%

    • GrimReaper07

      It’s a bit too early to tell. Most review aren’t up yet and the general public hasn’t seen the film.

    • Minh

      Yea Dawn of Apes is looking to be the most movie of the year SO FAR. Wait till Interstellar =P

    • Minh

      Yea Dawn of Apes is looking to be the most movie of the year SO FAR. Wait till Interstellar =P

  • Jamie Teller

    FYC: SNOWPIERCER:

    Best Picture
    Best Director
    Best Adapted Screenplay
    Best Supporting Actor: Song Kang-ho
    Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton
    Best Cinematography
    Best Film Editing
    Best Production Design
    Best Costume Design
    Best Original Score
    Best Sound Mixing
    Best Sound Editing

    • GrimReaper07

      The only ones I wouldn’t agree with are the sound ones (there were some bad sounding things during a couple of the fights, mainly when the axes impacted on people) and Song Kang-ho. I love the guy and think he’s an unbelievable actor, but he wasn’t given too much to work with.

      • Jamie Teller

        It wasn’t until the second viewing that I really began to appreciate his performance. It’s almost the opposite of Swinton’s–extreme camp vs. extreme subtlety–and particularly in his monologue towards the end, and in his mixing Nam’s tenderness towards his daughter and his bitterness towards the world so well, I recognized a really strong performance.

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