Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 3

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”. Today, we look back at the results of the New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards nominations, Spirit Awards nominations and the Producers Guild of America nominations. This is a healthy spread of award bodies from indie to big budget, and a nice broad spectrum of critics groups.

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

Week 4

Tuesday, Dec. 17 – London Critics Nominations (guesstimate)
Tuesday, Dec. 17 – Indiana Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Tuesday, Dec. 17 – San Francisco Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Tuesday, Dec. 17 – Toronto Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Wednesday, Dec. 18 – Austin Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Wednesday, Dec. 18 – Florida Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Saturday, Dec. 21 – Utah Critics Awards (guesstimate)

Big Winners

12 Years a Slave. After a slow start and a less-than-impressive showing at the big 3 (National Board of Review, New York Critics and Los Angeles Critics), 12 Years a Slave has been amassing an impressive array of prizes, topping the winners lists with two groups (D.C. and Kansas City) and picking up top-nomination slots at the Online Film Critics Society, St. Louis Critics, Phoenix Critics, Screen Actors Guild, San Diego Critics, Golden Globes and Chicago Critics. That’s a pretty impressive haul, with the SAG nominations being the most crucial of all.
Her. While 12 Years a Slave was rounding up nominations left and right, Spike Jonze’s film was emerging as a dark horse, capturing the Best Picture prize from the San Diego Critics and Detroit Critics. The film has also picked up several key nominations. While the film hasn’t dominated the awards season like 12 Years a Slave or American Hustle, it isn’t terribly far behind at this point.
Brie Larson and Short Term 12 may not have a shot Oscar nominations, but Larson and her film have been making a stronger showing at the year-end awards than many expected. Short Term 12 picked up a surprise Best Picture nomination from the Online Film Critics Society and tied for most nominations from the Detroit Critics. Larson also won her first (and likely only) trophy of the year from the Detroit Critics. This might not mean much to Oscar voters, but for fans of the film, it’s a pretty big victory and might point towards a left-field nomination in the Best Adapted Screenplay category this year.
Gravity isn’t the kind of film that slays the competition at critics’ awards, but the film and especially director Alfonso Cuaron have been collecting and impressive list of prizes in the last week. Numerous nominations, including a needed mention from the Screen Actors Guild for Sandra Bullock, and her first win from the Kansas City Critics all point towards the film doing quite well at the Oscars.

Big Losers

Saving Mr. Banks was supposed to be the popular darling of the year, taking its likely audience appeal and turning it into an awards bonanza. People saw the film, but the outpouring of support from the precursors have been non-existent. Other than nominations for Emma Thompson, the film was ignored by two major groups this past week, which highlight the film’s weakness. With the noteworthy names in the cast list (Thompson, Tom Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Paul Giamatti and others), it should have been catnip for the Screen Actors Guild. They ignored it. The film had a feel good, multi-national flavor that should have been right up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s alley. They gave the film a single nomination for Thompson. Those aren’t positive signs for a film that’s supposed to have broad appeal.
The Wolf of Wall Street has gotten a better deal in the last week than it had the first week, but the film is still struggling where it should have had no problem succeeding: critics. A few off-hand mentions have been drops in the bucket this week while movies like American Hustle, Her and 12 Years a Slave have been sloshing over the edges of theirs. The film did pick up nominations for Best Musical or Comedy from the Golden Globes and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Leonardo DiCaprio, but Scorsese wasn’t picked up for the Best Director category and the film’s supporting cast, including Matthew McConaughey, were nowhere to be seen. The film still has a shot once it hits the box office, but Paramount’s got a lot of ground to cover after fumbling the early plays of the competition.

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