Post-Festival Outlook

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OscarGuy
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Re: Post-Festival Outlook

Postby OscarGuy » Sat Sep 24, 2016 11:43 pm

I think Moonlight could be a success in the way that Beasts of the Southern Wild was.
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Mister Tee
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Post-Festival Outlook

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:58 pm

Sabin’s set of predictions somewhat got this jump on me here, but, per tradition, I’ll offer my take on how the festivals went and where they leave us.

Prior to Venice, I opined that we had basically no race at all. I can’t say we have a full-scale one even now, but we definitely established some terrain: a half-dozen or so titles emerged with decent or better levels of strength; others departed entirely (American Pastoral, for instance, seems a clear non-factor); and some earlier debuters had their previous status either enhanced or diminished. This isn’t remotely an end point, even for the films screened -- more than most years, we’ll now need to watch how these films, however well-received critically, perform at the box office, to know whether they’re major or fringe contenders.

The nearest to a slam-dunk, “this is in the race without doubt” call would have to be for La La Land, based on universally strong critical reception, plus the Toronto audience award to indicate mass support. Commercial results are of course months away, but it’s hard to imagine a film with so positive a response, an apparent upbeat tone, and popular actors in the leads could fail to score commercially and get itself right into the thick of best picture contention (as well as in multiple down-ballot categories). I of course won’t go so far as the usual get-it-over-quick crowd and label it the clear favorite, but it’s certainly a sort of film that has won/can win in this current Academy era.

Jackie, the from-nowhere candidate (belatedly slated for December release), also seems likely to achieve significant success, at least within its biopic realm. Portman’s performance looks to be a without-doubt best actress contender, and overall raves for the film – the strongest I can recall for any biopic (am I forgetting something?) – should push it into the major categories.

Moonlight got roughly the same critical huzzahs as the two preceding (I’d expect all three, plus Manchester by the Sea, to contend heavily for the NY/LA Critics prizes), but it may be an iffier prospect with audiences. A largely unknown all-black cast and gay-dominant subject matter will make the film less than a commercial sure-shot; this could, as Okri suggests, limit it to the acting/writing categories. However, should the film take off the way some other niche films have in recent years (like Boyhood), it might climb into the film/director races.

Those three films made the most emphatic noise of this festival round, but a few others also got solid enough response they have at least a chance at making the expansive best picture roster. Arrival’s reviews weren’t quite as strong as the first batch -- c. 80 on Metacritic, as opposed to the 90s the others scored -- but, given its sci-fi milieu, it feels like it could have strong audience prospects, and maybe become Villeneuve’s first breakout hit. For some reason, many blogger-pundits (Tapley/Wells/Feinberg) are utterly dismissive of its Oscar chances; I don’t know if this shows unique insight on their part or is some personal bugaboo. Reaction elsewhere has been strong enough that I’ll be watching the film’s box-office showing closely; it could be a player.

Lion finished second in the Toronto Audience poll, and has Harvey Weinstein behind it – yes, it’s a seemingly a diminished Harvey, but he’s shown, even in recent years, what he can do with middlebrow crowd-pleasers. Another one that will rise or fall with its box office.

The Edge of Seventeen seems to be a teen movie with something extra. The question is whether that something extra is just enough to make it a Perks of Being a Wallflower – meaning it gains respect – or if it might become a Juno – meaning much more, in both money and prize terms.

I’m having a tough time deciding if Hacksaw Ridge is to be taken seriously. The bloggers seem to be pushing this as a big Mel Gibson comeback; my question would be, comeback from what – utter obloquy? If the premise is, Mel can now be spoken of again in polite society and that’s a victory for him, I suppose there’s no major argument. But if people are trying to say this is a potential big Oscar player…I’d ask why a film with a 68 Metacritic score would be given that distinction? Maybe I’m wrong…maybe come November this will turn out to be a cultural phenomenon that brings Mel back to Hollywood in triumph. But I’m not seeing any more than the sound nods that Apocalypto got.

There were a few other Toronto/Venice/Telluride debuters that are likely well short of the best picture contest, but might be worth seeing and/or make minor Oscar waves: Nocturnal Animals sounds a tad esoteric (a Tom Ford movie arty? Stun me), but intriguing enough, and has potential among writers and actors… Deepwater Horizon could be a commercial performer in a week or two (unless Sully has stolen its “real life men at work” thunder), and might replicate the sound/sound editing nods picked up by Lone Survivor… A Monster Calls, one of my sleeper picks for Toronto, did end up getting some positive response -- enough the studio moved its opening to December. Thought to be a contender for supporting actress and visual effects… Queen of Katwe opened to a good NY Times review today, and was the third place finisher for that Toronto Audience Award. But its opening gross is tepid at best, so I doubt it goes much of anywhere… Snowden has already opened to not-horrible reviews/box office, but it’s hard to see it ginning up enough enthusiasm to get it into serious races… Bleed for This is another film that got no particular critical endorsement (in fact, a hideous 60 at Metacritic), but continues to be pushed by some, especially for acting nominations. I mention it only for the record… Their Finest seems to have been a comeback for Lone Scherfig, but probably won’t be released this year… And Sing is apparently a big crowd-pleasing animated feature that may make a play for that category later this Fall.

As for the Sundance/Cannes films that faced a second, wider round of response:

Manchester by the Sea came in the Sundance sensation, and left with that Park City acclaim echoed by pretty much all audiences and critics. Barring an unlikely complete commercial flame-out, the film seems firmly in the top races.

Loving is, as Magilla noted in Sabin’s thread, a film that on paper seems to rub the Academy’s erogenous zones. But the reaction, overall, seems to be a shrug.

And then there’s The Birth of a Nation. I get the feeling there’s a book to be written about this film’s trajectory over the course of the year. Much of the narrative feels unfair, since it’s related to issues separate from the quality of the film. However…there’s something karmic to that, because the initial response to the film seemed similarly disconnected from achievement. Reports of a standing ovation PRIOR TO the first screening at Sundance suggested a frantic audience wish: a wish to turn this film on a certainly worthy subject into a masterpiece, largely because it would provide a perfect, instant antidote to the roiling #Oscarssowhite controversy. Even at Sundance, there were dissenters – the film never scored above mid-80s on Metacritic – but the loud crowd of passionate supporters seemed to overwhelm them, and the film, purchased by Fox Searchlight for a staggering $17 million, spent Spring and summer assumed to be a hot (even if flawed) best picture contender.

And then, as most know, the controversy hit, over lead actor/director Nate Parker’s years-ago rape accusation (and his friend/co-writer’s conviction). The incident wasn’t exactly a deep secret – some mentioned it even as the film was being picked for distribution – but it became something bigger because 1) Parker’s attempts to massage the issue in late August interviews concentrated on how HE had moved past it, which struck the wrong chord at a time when the Stanford swimmer was headline news; and 2) it turned out, apparently unbeknownst to Parker, his alleged victim had committed suicide not long after the event. Since the suddenly radioactive Parker, in his dual roles, was the clear face of the film, Searchlight went into Toronto flailing to find a way to generate positive publicity for the film. Their apparent decision (and I’m not sure there was a better one) was to freeze out any questioning about the incident – press availabilities at Toronto were evidently cut short if anyone raised the issue. Critics – perhaps as a result, or because they felt more free now to pile on – were substantially less enthusiastic than at Sundance; the film now stands at a drab 76 on Metacritic. Some bloggers (like Feinberg) insist the film went over gangbusters with audiences, but 1) standing ovations at Toronto are notoriously easy to come by and 2) Feinberg, one of the film’s loudest enthusiasts all year, has been known to push his pet projects without regard for absolute truth. So…I don’t quite know what to make of the film’s prospects. A best picture win seems out of the question at this point, but the subject matter might hold enough interest/appeal to secure it one of the add-on slots. This is one case where the box office will be crucial: even with success, the film might stumble; but, should it fizzle commercially, it’s out of the picture entirely.

And, just a few words about what the festivals bought the acting categories:

In best actor, Casey Affleck seems to be running almost unopposed at this point. Ryan Gosling could certainly land a nomination, but Affleck is way ahead of him in critical evaluation. Nate Parker might have been a strong candidate (he was once considered so) -- but what are his chances with this much muck swimming around him? No one else seems even a medium-level entry (Hanks in Sully would probably run ahead of most already seen).

Best actress, on the other hand, is stacked – if the trend of the past two years continues, we might start viewing it as the stronger of the top two categories. Natalie Portman’s reviews for Jackie were close to sensational. Her Oscar turn in Black Swan didn’t win her a thing from the old-time critics; this time, she might run right through them. Emma Stone is also seemingly a sure Academy nominee – actually winning at Venice! Amy Adams was highly touted for both her films, especially for Arrival, and I view her as likely to get lead actress acknowledgement. (The bloggers dispute this, but 1) as noted, they’re oddly down on Arrival overall and 2) Adams has never been a cause celebre among them – I think The Fighter might be the only one of her five nominations they widely foresaw.) Ruth Negga, in this company, is almost an also-ran – given the bland reaction to her film – but the subject matter and a desire to promote deserving black actresses could get her mentioned. And Hailee Steinfeld is getting excellent notices for The Edge of Seventeen, though she may have picked the wrong year to compete.

Supporting actor appears to be a lean-ish field so far, so you have to like Michael Shannon’s chances – his Nocturnal Animals performance was among the most singled-out so far this season, possibly presaging attention from critics (especially those who passed on him last season). Mahershala Ali in Moonlight also seems to have got excellent notices.

For supporting actress, Michelle Williams’ Sundance acclaim for Manchester by the Sea was widely echoed – some are viewing her as the clear front-runner. Naomie Harris in Moonlight and (to my surprise) Felicity Jones in A Monster Calls also appear to have turned in nomination-level work.

There’s still a long way to go in the year, and maybe the acting categories will be filled in later than usual this year.
Last edited by Mister Tee on Sun Sep 25, 2016 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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