Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 4

As the precursor awards continue unabated until Oscar night, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (and in some cases other outside influences).

The critics awards deluge is now over with only a small handful left to announce. This means that what the critics have to say may already have been said with few exceptions. As such, we can take a look at the general landscape as declared by the critics. After relatively slow Christmas and New Year’s weeks, we’ll start seeing a new influx of precursors at the beginning of the year when the guilds stat announcing their selections. We’ll still have regular updates, but they will be sparsely populated.

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

Week 5

Tue. 22 – Phoenix Critics (Awards) (Official)

Big Winners

Spotlight finally had a winners kind of week. Not that it hadn’t been winning previously, but it had often split its awards with other films, which meant that until recently, its chances at a Best Picture win were a touch muted. That changed when Tom McCarthy finally started picking up Best Director prizes. The film has done fine with screenwriting, but hasn’t been very frequently viewed in the directing sphere. While it may not change the fact that a McCarthy victory in Best Director at the Oscars is a bit of a long shot, the film itself is performing strongly enough that it could still win Best Picture.
Brie Larson was fighting it out for prizes early in the season with Saoirse Ronan taking everything else that wasn’t nailed down. However, after this week, Larson seems to be developing into a trend. She now has twice as many prizes as Ronan, which will give her a boost going into awards season. With no veterans pushing for a win, the young ingénue has a strong chance at Oscar victory. Watch out for Ronan, though. She’s not out of the race yet and with a prior Oscar nomination under her belt, she has historical factors giving her a boost.
Leonardo DiCaprio. The same holds true for DiCaprio. Early in the season, when various groups hadn’t had The Revenant yet screened for them, DiCaprio was having trouble latching onto the building narrative that he’s due. However, in the last week, his potential has exploded with numerous Best Actor awards, presumably from groups that have now had a full opportunity to consider the film.
Tom Hardy might be getting too little attention, too late in the game, but there’s no doubt he’s gotten a large bump from the past week where he’s been cited far more frequently as a nominee and even managed a Best Supporting Actor victory out of Nevada. A win may not be possible at this juncture, but building some steam can only help him.

Big Losers

The Revenant failed to make the American Film Institute’s Top Ten list, losing out to weaker competitors like The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Straight Outta Compton. The critics still seem to love the film and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, but it seems to be dividing people and lacking consensus is a dangerous thing in a competition as heavy as is currently building.
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl. No one thought that Alicia Vikander would be building towards a nomination for Ex Machina rather than the Oscar baity The Danish Girl. Yet, her Ex Machina performance is currently leading all others I the Best Supporting Actress competition. Which will she get nominated for? Possibly both. The big question has been whether she will be gerrymandered into Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl or if she would be making moves towards a Best Actress nod. Critics have largely been split, some opting for studio-requested placement while others striking out against the category fraud and putting her in lead. The end result could be confused Oscar voters deciding to just put her up for Ex Machina instead and avoiding the furor that way.
Broadcast Film Critics Association (Critics Choice) has often been accused of whoring themselves out as Oscar prognosticators rather than actual film critics. While their membership seems to lean towards less critically-minded folks, there are still plenty of critics in the fold. This past week, however, the group may have made a Pia Zadora-level mistake (referring to the infamous Golden Globe nominee), by suggesting that they may reconsider their previously-announced Best Picture nominees so that they can give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a nomination, bringing their list to eleven. This has generated a lot of bad press, especially among Oscar watchers disenchanted with the group and other critics groups who consider such an act ludicrous. Either they should have moved their nominations back to give consideration to the film or they should just give it a special award. A re-vote or an amendment of nominees is the worst thing they could possibly do. At this point, I suspect they won’t go that route for fear of being labeled publicity whores.

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