Monday, December 9, 2013

The State of the Race 2013: Best Picture Before the Globes, and Guilds lay the Hammer Down!

It was a week ago today that the first critics group announced there winners, and to the surprise of many American Hustle, which has not been seen by audiences yet took home the prize at the New York Film Critics Circle.  Many bloggers cried cried foul at this choice, and Best Screenplay (except for the Lawrence win).  I was one of of the bloggers, the film is great, entertaining one of David O. Russell's better films, but not the best of the year.  I think Lawrence is over rated in the film, but I will not bore you my rant.  Since this group has announced their winners, American Hustle has disappeared, and not shown up at any other critics group, interesting, but a non-factor.

At the moment 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen (Best Director), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Best Actor), and Lupita Nyong'o (Best Supporting Actress) have won the most awards from all the critics groups.  Cate Blanchett has only lost at the National Board of Review, and Jared Leto is the front runner in Best Supporting Actor.  These winners look like the predicted Oscar winners at the moment, so will anything change with the Globes and Guild Awards?

The film that has gained the most attention from awards with critics groups is the Spike Jonez film Her.  Her has two Best Picture wins, a Best Director win, and 2 Best Screenplay wins under its belt.  In an ideal world this film would be launched as major player into the award show "derby."

If you read or go anywhere near editor Daniel Montgomery had a great point stating "Sadly, Her is probably a non-starter. It's an outstanding film telling an unusual kind of love story, and winning with NBR and L.A. critics gives it a better-than-expected shot at major nominations, but if "The Social Network" went over the academy's head, the sentient operating systems in "Her" probably won't fare any better. This is the same academy that last year could barely figure out how to vote with a computer, let alone fall in love with one."

Her is like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, critical darling wins tons of awards, but only shows up in one or two categories. At the moment it looks like a contender, and it could be, based on the critics groups, but look for the Globes and Guilds to change the game.  If I were a betting man, this will get Best Original Screenplay, and a Best Original Score Nomination, maybe Director.

Nebraska has made a strong showing in the acting races, Bruce Dern has won two Best Actor trophies, June Squibb has a Best Supporting Actress win, and Will Forte has a Best Supporting Actor win as well.  While its not a critics group Nebraska also had the second most nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards (ISA). Nebraska has grown a strong pair of legs, and could turn into a solid contender in many categories.  While Nebraska was always on solid ground because of Alexander Payne, and its reception at Cannes, the recent wins, and nominations have pushed the film as a stronger contender for nominations.

Where does American Hustle stand?  Hustle showed up to one critics group and disappeared as I stated above, but that means nothing.  Critics groups typically set things in motion rather than guarantee the win for a candidate.  At this moment I would argue American Hustle, and Gravity are in the best positions.  Both have won a major critics award, and will do well in the next couple of weeks.  American Hustle is going to score big at the Screen Actors Guild Awards-probably three nominations, and the Golden Globes will go nuts for this film as well, and the fact that its placed in Comedy can't hurt.  While some will argue, this is about bad men, I argue it has the one thing the last few best pictures have had, laughter.

2012-Argo was a taught thriller, but John Goodman and Alan Arkin made everyone laugh

2011-The Artist was about the rise and fall of a silent film star, but was a comedy and funny too

2010-The King's Speech-Sure this was a drama to the core, but there were some witty moments, there had to be it's a British film

We are in a period where Academy  voters seem to want to laugh, at least a little, mix that in with some classic period drama moments, and you have American Hustle.  The film will do well at the box office as well, probably over 100 million, which will help get even more nominations.

With a large number of critics groups out there, although there are many still to go the relevance of these groups is to build a buzz.  American Hustle, Nebraska and Her have surely gained the most buzz from the groups, namely because they have not been seen by mass audiences.  Will these films capitalize, or are they destined to stay film beloved by critics and not the Academy? 

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