Yesterday afternoon Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson posted some Oscar-nomination spitball calls. I’m afraid I need to clear the air about some of her Best Picture picks. I’ll just go down the list title by title:
Thompson Frontrunner #1: Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight). HE comment: It’s a frontrunner, yes, but it probably won’t last over the long run, especially if Denzel Washington‘s Fences turns out to be aces. Any and all films with African-American subjects and/or made by African-Americans are in a very favorable position this year with many Academy members anxious to prove they’re not OscarSoWhiteys, but here’s a fact: The Birth of a Nation is an Ed Zwick film.
Robert Zemeckis‘ Allied (Paramount) / HE comment: WWII romance between assassins, or something like that. Maybe but if you ask me Zemeckis’ instincts these days are too schmaltzy. He was a provocateur in the late ’70s, and a somewhat edgy guy when he made Cast Away. But Polar Express and The Walk convinced me that he’s become kind of a smoothie who smoothes things over.
Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Sony) / HE comment: Maybe.
Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society (Amazon, Lionsgate) / HE comment: Two days ago I would’ve said Woody’s in a decline mode and that he generally doesn’t do Oscar films anyway, but that trailer is encouraging. Still, you have to wonder why Thierry Fremaux gave it the opening-night slot for next month’s Cannes Film Festival.
Denzel Washington‘s Fences (Paramount) / HE comment: Almost certainly.
Gary Ross‘s The Free State of Jones (STX) / HE comment: Nope. Ross doesn’t make Oscar-level films, period. The McConannaissance is on a downturn.
Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between Oceans (DreamWorks/Disney) / HE comment: Nope.
Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea (Amazon, Roadside Attractions) / HE comment: A sad, devastating knockout. Academy nominations for Best Picture and Casey Affleck-as-Best Actor all but assured.
Morten Tyldum‘s Passengers (Sony) / HE comment: Nominations for VFX and production designed all but assured. Ethical issue will interfere with Best Picture talk — mark my words.
Martin Scorsese‘s Silence (Paramount) / HE comment: Yes, but this will apparently be a rough sit because of the physical torture aspect — possibly the new Revenant in this respect.
Clint Eastwood‘s Sully (Warner Bros.) / HE comment: Not enough story. What happens after he lands the jet on the Hudson river and it doesn’t sink and the media goes all “Sully! Sully! ” I’ll tell you what happens: not much.
Warren Beatty‘s Untitled Howard Hughes movie (New Regency/Fox) / HE comment: Very good to good to decent, I’m hearing. Possibly commercial but not an awards-level thing.
Thompson Long Shots:
Bleed for This (Open Road — I hear “good but no cigar”),
Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate — Wahlberg emotionality + fireball VFX).
Tate Taylor‘s The Girl on the Train (Universal — this year’s Gone Girl — commercial but no awards).
Damien Chazelle‘s La-La Land (Lionsgate — pleasing, well-finessed tribute to ’50s musicals).
Lion (Weinstein Co. — possibly shameless lost-puppy, looking-for-lost-family heart-tugger).
Jeff Nichols‘ Loving (Focus Features — beware of Joel Edgerton‘s Southern accent. It will break into your home at 3 am and strangle you in your bed.).
Peter Berg‘s Patriot’s Day (Lionsgate — watch out for this puppy if Berg restrains xenophobic viewpoint about crazy Muslims).
Denis Villeneuve‘s Story of Your Life (Paramount — maybe).
David Michod‘s War Machine (Netflix — definite possibility).
Niki Caro‘s The Zookeeper’s Wife (Focus Features — with that title?).