Perhaps the biggest stories of note this week involve the 50th New York Film Festival: Ang Lee’s big-scale adventure Life of Pi will kick things off, while Robert Zemeckis’ drama Flight will close out the fest. Even before these announcements, these films seemed like good bets for Oscar consideration, but now they’re practically necessities for our prognostication lists.
Interestingly enough, both films come from directors who could really use awards comebacks. Lee took the Director trophy for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain but has since disappointed on the awards trail with 2007’s Lust, Caution and 2009’s Taking Woodstock. Zemeckis, on the other hand, hasn’t even directed a live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away, and his efforts in motion-capture filmmaking have been met with tepid response at best. His Director win for 1994’s Forrest Gump was the last time he was even recognized by the Academy.
Lee is the main reason why Oscar-watching eyes are keenly following Pi, but there are other factors in play. Though it might be an impressive performance piece – notable actors like Gérard Depardieu and Rafe Spall are featured – the film will probably nab support from the crafts voters due to its visual aesthetics. However, David Magee scoring an Adapted Screenplay nomination doesn’t seem out of the question, and Pi might even make the top race.
In addition to Zemeckis’ possible comeback, Flight has a huge advantage in Denzel Washington, who leads the film as an alcoholic pilot caught in a heap of personal troubles. His presence virtually guarantees that the film will be a hit at the box office if nothing else. He hasn’t been back to the Oscars as a nominee since winning for 2001’s Training Day, and a film with this much attention on it already might get him back into the race. Like Pi, Flight could find itself in the Picture lineup, along with nods for Washington’s leading performance and John Gatins’ original screenplay.
TIFF announced even more titles for its annual Toronto International Film Festival, and while many of these titles are promising, the films from the initially announced lineup (already discussed) are far more likely for Oscar attention.
Walter Salles’ On the Road and Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, which played at Cannes, will additionally play at Toronto; like Susanne Bier’s Den skaldede frisør (Love Is All You Need), Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson documentary Bad 25, Brian De Palma’s Passion, and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, all set to play at Venice, have also been added to the TIFF lineup.
Also new on the roster is the family drama What Maisie Knew, the family drama starring newcomer Onata Aprile, Julianne Moore, and Alexander Skarsgård, and Peter Webber’s war drama Emperor. The musical dramedy Song for Marion, starring Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, and Gemma Arterton, will close TIFF. The fest announces its Discovery, Masters, Mavericks, Nextwave, and Visions slates next week.
Finally, let’s talk about the movies that just recently opened. 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum won three crafts Oscars, but will its follow-up/spinoff The Bourne Legacy pull off a similar feat with a new leading man? It’s doubtful: though acclaimed, Ultimatum’s Oscar success was a truly bizarre moment in recent Oscar history. Plus reviews for the latest installment won’t help it get anywhere with the Academy. If anything, Legacy might pull off a Sound Editing or Sound Mixing nomination, but I wouldn’t bet on even that.
Sight unseen, Jay Roach’s political comedy The Campaign felt like a remote possibility for Original Screenplay attention, but the film is playing the same way his others have: it’s making money but not garnering songs of praise. In the instance of a weak year for comedies, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis might sneak into the Comedy/Musical Actor race at the Golden Globes, but even that sounds like a stretch.
Lastly, there’s the dramedy Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The former performer is a fixture of the Oscar race, having won her third prize at the last ceremony. While she certainly won’t tie Katharine Hepburn’s four-win record, she might further extend her record of most nominations for an actor. Unsurprisingly, she’s winning raves for her turn as a woman who seeks to revitalize her marriage, but will that translate into Best Actress buzz?
Considering that Streep is the one actor who gets Oscar buzz for standing in front of the camera, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her impress on the awards trail once again, but if it ends up being a strong year for Actress contenders – something no one really knows just yet – the actress probably won’t score another nod this year. Accolades are also pouring in for Jones’ portrayal of Streep’s husband, who unwillingly attends counseling session with her, but is he worth discussing if the Oscar Queen’s candidacy is in question?
I suppose Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay could score an Original Screenplay nod if buzz for Springs continues to be a topic of conversation throughout the season. Nods in Director for David Frankel, who took Streep to a nod for The Devil Wears Prada in 2006, and Picture, though, feel very out of reach – even if we’re still talking about this movie in December and January.