Awards Season 2014: What to Look Out For (Part Three)
I know, I know: Even I’m getting a little bored with writing about upcoming award-season films. This is when we teeter into the listicles at PFC, and while it is true that most Americans get their information from lists these days, I’d like to hold on to long-form articles. This is the last in the series, I promise, even if no doubt I have overlooked some major contenders that will slide in just before Oscar noms are announced.
I had to wait for the Toronto Film Festival to be over to get a clear view of what else will be on offer. It ended yesterday — my heartiest congrats to those who made it through.
[heading]Dallas Buyer’s Club[/heading]
The revamp of Matthew McConaughey is so spectacular that while I was swimming laps the other day I found myself imagining what his agent Jim Toth might do with my career, a fantasy made all the more ridiculous because I’m not an actor. Plus, there’s that whole YouTube video of Toth being arrested for drunk driving and denying association with wife Reese Witherspoon’s diva antics, which I found a bit cowardly — if I’d been that drunk I probably would’ve turned the scene into a clip from Breaking Bad, but therein probably lies the reason I would need Toth to reboot my career in the first place.
McConaughey has been generating Best Supporting Actor buzz for his performance in Magic Mike last year, so he might get a nod for that as well as a likely Best Actor for his turn as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyer’s Club, which knocked ‘em dead at Toronto. The film has all the ingredients that will please Academy voters: a true story; an epic struggle in the time of a war/calamity (mid-AIDS crisis); a poor-man’s fight against institutional injustice (the FDA/pharmaceutical industry); a hitherto-vapid, good ol’ boy Hollywood hunk reinventing himself by dropping fifty pounds and getting ugly with it, not to mention trying really hard and making the profession look good. And of course Jared Leto as a transperson.
I’m putting this in here because Alexander Payne’s previous efforts that were similar — Sideways, About Schmidt and last year’s The Descendants — all do well with the Academy, and it’s that sort of thing that drives Woody Allen away, I think. The trailer was released today and is exclusively available on iTunes, which means I can’t embed it here. It looks okay, so I’d recommend watching it. Still, it’s more of the same old from Payne, so much so that he shot it in black and white to shake things up — hey, if it works, don’t fix it, right?
As much as I love Laura Dern, I find daddy Bruce to be scary, unsettling, and that’s a great thing when he’s playing the antagonist, but the protagonist? Hmmm. I’ll see this and likely review it, but I’m probably not going to be happy that Payne isn’t venturing out of his chatty quirky indie comfort zone.
Here’s a clip:
[heading]Wolf of Wall Street[/heading]
You would think that Wall Street being viewed the way it is now — I’m not even going to haul out comparisons and adjectives to describe the public mood, they’re too commonplace at this point — that we’d have more gripping financial-world dramas than we do: The level of criminal activity is up there with The Godfather. But financial people are not as tragic, as blood soaked as mafia types, and the truth is they get no comeuppance, no redemption — as we have seen in the five-year-anniversary reflections about the financial crisis, the situation is just as bad as ever, with not a single person who was responsible for a disaster that ruined so many lives having been brought to justice. Wall Street is the epitome of the banality of evil, and there’s nothing entertaining about the banal.
I like the look of the latest Di Caprio/Scorsese colab, but it’s hard for me to judge if this is up there The Departed or down there with Gangs of New York, two of their other efforts together. At least it appears to have some humor.
I’m going to hazard that maybe, just maybe Di Caprio will get a Best Actor nom. I’ll have to see the film in its entirety before I can judge if there will be a possibility of anything else. It looks a bit light:
[heading]The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her[/heading]
At a whopping three hours and twenty minutes this examination about the breakup of a marriage starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain is told in Rashomon style, first from his perspective and then from hers. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,” which in my case isn’t three hours and twenty minutes because I hydrate so much I’m like a leaky sieve. But apparently this debut film from Ned Benson is worth it, garnering some of my favorite review adjectives like ‘accomplished’ and ‘engaging’, although I am not a fan of Chastain’s; however, she is the sort of actor who needs time to evolve and might flourish in the hands of the right director. In the meantime, she’s a Cate Blanchett manqué in my books; and Blanchett is sure to lessen Chastain’s chances by securing a nod for Blue Jasmine or her publicist is a moron, which I doubt.
The running time on this may get cut down prior to release. After all, it is being distributed by Harvey “Scissor Hands” Weinstein. Still no trailer for it, sadly.
[heading]Blue Is the Warmest Color[/heading]
Ah, those Frenchies. Nothing like lots of lesbian sex and a coming-of-age story to stir the loins of the Cannes crowd. Blue is the first film to have won the Palme D’Or and had that award officially handed to the two stars as well as the director, which must have pissed Abdellatif Kechiche off no end — apparently, he abused the actresses so badly on the shoot that they were barely on speaking terms by the time the film hit the festivals. The actors have stated categorically that they will never work with him again. I can’t wait to see this apparent masterpiece, but if it’s anything like similar Cannes winners in the past, stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos aren’t going to have to worry about Kechiche wanting to hire them again — it’s not like there’s a sequel in the offing, and Kechiche will put in his time taking meetings in Hollywood, they’ll whip him into an excited froth but his projects will go nowhere, he already has a bad rep about his temper, which will invariably flare up in the worst way, too few dramas are getting made as it is, so he’ll go back to France cursing dumb Americans with no taste and make a few more like Blue… nah, not gonna happen, girls. Relax.
This isn’t eligible for Best Foreign Film because France didn’t submit it officially, part of the arcane, ridiculous rules for that category. They submitted a film on Renoir’s last years… zzzzzzzz. So this would have to compete in the main categories, but with a ten-minute lesbian sex scene and an NC-17 rating, good luck to them with that. What do you think this is, the 70s?
Wild Bunch seems to have blocked the trailer in the US, so here’s a clip:
[heading]Can a Song Save Your Life?[/heading]
Once upon a time not very long ago there was a little film called Once, made for $160,000, which went on to be a sleeper hit and grab the Oscar for Best Song. Then it went to Broadway and lived happily ever after as an even bigger hit, sweeping up eight Tonys. Now writer-director-composer John Carney is back with what should at the very least be given the Golden Raspberry for the Worst Film Title, Ever. Some people have rightly said it’s more of a subtitle, but if I were in the marketing department at Weinstein, the film’s likely distributor, I’d be red with embarrassment trying to promote that.
The film stars Keira Knightley as a singer-songwriter who forms a bond with a dejected music-industry exec played by the likable Mark Ruffalo. Adam Levine also stars, in his acting debut — I’m not a fan, but I understand his appeal, and he is talented.
With the exception of Atonement, films starring Knightley tend to garner Oscar attention only in the tech categories, if that. As I’ve said about her last year when she entered the race with Anna Karenina, she may be too beautiful to act.
There is no trailer for this either, yet, but here is a clip of Knightley leaving her trailer to go on set:
Jason Reitman’s new film seems to be a departure from his bittersweet norm (Juno, Up In the Air) directly into the purely bitter, or at least the depressed and darkly serious. Kate Winslet plays Adele, the newly single mother of a precocious 13-year-old (Gattlin Griffith), who runs across a bloodied escaped con (Josh Brolin) and the two fall in love, an unlikely but redeeming match for both.
This film was the opening of the Telluride festival at the ultra-secretive, ultra-exclusive Patron’s Screening. Films that are shown in that particular slot have often gone on to be nominated for Best Picture, so I’m going to trust the reviews and the festival programmers and ignore the rather tepid clip below. I’ll also call Best Actress and Actor noms for Winslet and maybe Brolin, and perhaps Griffith as this year’s Best Supporting Child Actor.
[heading]Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom[/heading]
The award for Most Moving and Effective Trailer of 2013 goes to this film. I won’t even bother with a logline for this because we all know the remarkable story, which doesn’t mean it can’t be told enough. Apparently the film gets off to a juddering start with an attempt to clobber the viewer over the head with emotionality, so I’m going to guess it’s not going to be up for Best Picture, particularly with other worthy films in the field, but I have to see this side by side with 12 Years a Slave. Apparently Idris Elba is incredible as Mandela, up there with Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, so we might have two black Best Actor nominees — Chiwetel Ejiofor would be the other for Slave.