Mid-Year Oscar Checkin
It is now July, which puts half of 2016 squarely behind us. Here, that means a lot of so-so movies are out of the way and we are inching closer to the part of the year that actually matters. The festival circuit begets buzz, buzz begets precursors and precursors beget Oscar himself.
But while most of the nominated movies tend to come from the end of the calendar, there are always a few gems from the earlier months that get recognized. Last year, it was Mad Max: Fury Road, a May release, and the year before, it was The Grand Budapest Hotel, a March release. Both of those not only secured nominations, but also managed to win multiple awards and play a big part in the evening. Are there any films from this year that have a chance to do the same? Have we already seen something that might make the Best Picture lineup? One of the acting categories? Something else? Let's take a look!
The Jungle Book
It is Disney, it was well-received (95% on Rotten Tomatoes and 77 on Metacritic) and it made a ton of money. That is usually a recipe for Oscar love, but what about this year? Even though I didn't think it was the strongest work, many did. Which means it will probably remain a part of the conversation until the very end. Best Visual Effects would be its best shot at a nomination, but don't be surprised to see it sneak into a field of ten in Best Picture.
So far, this is my favorite film of the year. It was an episode of The Wire wrapped up in a lovable little story about foxes and bunnies. If things were solely based on merit, it would have a great shot at making the cut in Best Picture. However, we already know that's not how things work. Great animated work misses the cut all the time. Because these films have their own category in Best Animated Feature, many find them less deserving of a Best Picture nod. That's why snubs like Inside Out are the rule and the ones that make it in (like Toy Story 3 and Up) are the exceptions. There is also a minor issue with the fact that it is not a Pixar film. Even though it is under the Disney umbrella, time will tell whether that Pixar name is needed to really make a splash at the Oscars.
This weird, dystopian dramedy received love here, but will the Academy notice it? Well, it has a few things working against it. It is not sexy, it is dark, and worst of all, it is a comedy. The Academy usually prefers serious films that are pretty to look at and end with a bow on top. If it were to be nominated, the most likely place for a mention is Best Original Screenplay.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Released in March to much appreciation (90% on Rotten Tomatoes and 76 on Metacritic), this was the first film of the year to generate some Oscar buzz. Because it is a 'genre' film, it has almost no shot at making it into the Best Picture race, but Best Supporting Actor is another story. John Goodman's towering performance really deserves to at least be in the conversation. The movie has little else going for it, but a nod for Goodman isn't out of the question.
OJ: Made In America
My review for this is under construction, but it suffices to say this will almost certainly be in my year end Top-10. The work is tremendous and it should serve as the last word on a subject about which many words have been said. ESPN was so confident in its quality that they screened it in two cities for a week to make it eligible for Oscar consideration. There is no way to convince me we will see five better films this year, let alone five better documentaries. It should easily make the cut for Best Documentary Feature, but Oscar history is littered with things that should have happened, so we shall see.
Hello, My Name Is Doris
If there is one thing on my Oscar wishlist, it is that Sally Field becomes a thing. Her work in this role was just sublime and it would be great to see her recognized. She singlehandedly elevated this so-so film and made it something to recommend. She is a legendary scene-stealer, so hopefully she garners the praise she deserves. If she can make a splash in the comedy category at the Golden Globes, her chances improve greatly.
If I had to guess, I would say we haven't seen anything that will make the Best Picture lineup--and have seen little that will make the final cut for any of the major categories. While there have been some definite bright spots, the year has gotten off to something of a slow start. These next couple of months might turn things around, but by October, we'll only be looking forward to what is to come.