Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 10

As the precursor awards continue unabated through the month of December, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (this will be in place of my prior weekly article “Oscar Preview”. The guild awards are trickling in and perceptions of the race are cementing around certain outcomes. The next week may make things a bit more clear.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:

Week 11

Fri., Feb. 7 – American Cinema Editors Awards
Sat., Feb. 8 – Art Directors Guild Awards
Sat., Feb. 8 – USC Scripter Awards
Sun., Feb. 9 – Online Film & Television Association Awards
Mon., Feb. 10 – Oscar Nominees Luncheon

Big Winners

Her got excellent news over the weekend when it picked up the Writers Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay. Although the film has picked up a great majority of precursors for the screenplay, some were thinking that American Hustle had to win at least two awards besides Best Picture in order to be considered a contender. This dampens that prospect a great deal and increases the likelihood that Spike Jonze may be on his way to an Oscar.
Gravity also had good news over the weekend when it won Best Cinematography from the American Society of Cinematographers. While that group has an uneven history predicting the Oscars, its hesitation to award digital cinematography (not traditional film) has been a dominant part of the race when films like Avatar, Hugo and Life of Pi win Oscars, but ASC’s more traditional selections of The White Ribbon, The Tree of Life and Skyfall could not. Emmanuel Lubezki is well respected, which could explain why he triumphed with the ASC, but it suggests the film could be unstoppable going into the Oscars.
Frozen won five awards at the Annie awards Saturday evening, including the top prize. For a few years the Annies were out of step with the Oscars, but that seems to have changed now that whatever animosity existed between Disney/Pixar and the Annie voters has been resolved. Frozen picked up two of the key prizes (Director and Picture), so should have little trouble translating that to the Oscars.
Captain Phillips looks to be destined for a shut-out at the Oscars, but that didn’t stop the Writers Guild of America from giving screenwriter Billy Ray its prize for Best Adapted Screenplay. With two other higher profile and more likely films thought to be in competition, the win by Captain Phillips shows that without 12 Years a Slave in the race, the field is wide open.

Big Losers

Alone Yet Not Alone didn’t lose out at the precursors, but it was handed the biggest setback of any film this year. Because of questionable campaigning tactics by a member of the Executive Committee of AMPAS, the Board of Governors took the uncommon step of rescinding the film’s nomination for Best Original Song. This is the second rescission in the last decade, but it’s also the most high profile since the film’s nomination was an actual shock to most prognosticators. The last time a film’s nomination was rescinded before the Oscars was in 1992 when Uruguay’s submission A Place in the World was removed from consideration because that country (and not its home country of Argentina) didn’t exercise enough artistic control.
American Hustle had everything going for it until two weeks ago. Many thought the film was going to surprise at the Oscars and win the Best Picture prize. However, its hopes have been slowly evaporating with losses at the DGA, PGA and now WGA. Losing to Her isn’t much of a surprise to those who follow these things, but it still comes as a blow to a film that needs as much precursor love as it can get in order to be considered a threat for the Oscars. Its SAG ensemble award is looking less like a foreshadowing victory than it would have seemed two weeks ago.

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