Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 8

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).

Now that the Oscar nominations have been announced, things will be slow for a week before ramping up with four weeks of guild precursors along a few other things.

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

Week 9

Saturday, Jan. 24 – Producers Guild Awards (Official)
Sunday, Jan. 25 – Screen Actors Awards (Official)
Sunday, Jan. 25 – Online Film & TV Association Nominations (Official)

Big Winners


The Grand Budapest Hotel has to be the biggest winner of Oscar season so far. Here’s a film that no one thought would be an Oscar contender, but after last week’s Oscar nomination, Grand Budapest is tied for most nominated with Birdman. That comes with nominations in all the key categories needed for a potential upset win for Best Picture (directing, screenwriting and editing).
Birdman may not have secured an editing nomination, but a tie for most nominated cannot be ignored. Birdman also benefit from two high profile wins recently. First, Michael Keaton gave a fantastic speech at the Golden Globes and then he changed it up when he won two awards (both speeches were different from each other and from the Globes), so it’s clear he’s playing the awards season game even though he seemed reticent. Without an editing nomination, the film has a much lower shot at Best Picture, but it could win several awards, including for its screenplay (though, that one seems destined for Wes Anderson) and for Best Actor with a possible Cinematography win to go with them all.
Boyhood chugged along since Sundance and has become the most unusual frontrunner the Oscars has ever seen. Indies have done well with Oscar in the past, but never an indie like this one. Richard Linklater has finally gotten the credit that so many of us supporters believe he deserves. Linklater is now the frontrunner for Best Director and the film is easily in the hunt for Best Picture. The difficulty here is that upsets tend to happen when the frontrunner isn’t a traditional narrative and, instead, tends to say a lot without saying much at all, which might hurt the film. We’ll see how the guilds, specifically the Producers Guild of America, handle the situation.
American Sniper emerged at the end of 2014 without a huge push from critics, but has slowly built up steam, including its win for Bradley Cooper from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. However, what’s really helped the film is the fact that it snagged several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. When the Directors Guild nominations came out, Clint Eastwood’s name surged into the hunt for a Best Director nomination. unfortunately, he didn’t manage to make it through with the Academy, putting his potential Best Picture rout in jeopardy.
Whiplash isn’t the kind of indie that does well with the Academy. While Boyhood at least had longtime director Richard Linklater, Whiplash is from neophyte director Damien Chazelle who came very close to an Oscar nomination for Best Director while the film itself nabbed several nominations, including Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing. J.K. Simmons remains the leader of the pack for winning Best Supporting Actor, but the film’s chances don’t seem as solid anywhere else.
Foxcatcher is a very divisive film. Critics have fallen on both sides of the appreciation scale and in spite of a couple of high-profile guild appearances, the film didn’t see poised to claim very many prominent inclusions. Yet, for the first time since the expansion of Best Picture nominees beyond five, there is a lone-director nomination. Bennett Miller, who has now secured major Oscar nominations for all three of his feature films, is a Best Director nominee while his film failed to make the final cut for Best Picture. In addition, the film managed to stave off wavering support and Steve Carell earned a Best Actor nomination, while Mark Ruffalo kept a hold of his expected Best Supporting Actor nomination. It doesn’t have much shot anywhere except Best Makeup & Hairstyling, but it is something of an Oscar oddity.

Big Losers

Nightcrawler had shown signs of a late-season surge earning successful nominations from a number of guilds. This caused a number of prognosticators to substitute in the likes of Rene Russo or Riz Ahmed into their predictions. Yet, the surge evaporated as quickly as it developed with the film going from a potential number of nominations exceeding five to a sole nomination for its screenplay. That means Jake Gyllenhaal who many thought was a pretty safe bet for a Best Actor nomination was not able to overcome Steve Carell or the last-minute surge of Bradley Cooper to make it into the race.
Gone Girl is another film that had shown healthy signs of life in the precursors, getting several guild citation and being talked about as a potential Best Picture nominee. The film suffered a similar fate to that of Nightcrawler with its support not only seeming ephemeral, but it missed out on there categories in which it was thought to be a major player for an actual Oscar. Best Original Score, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay were not to be claimed. With no frontrunner in Best Adapted Screenplay anymore, the eventual winner is now a bit of a contest.
Selma became the victim of a semi-failed Oscar campaign mounted by Paramount Pictures. The film managed to secure a Best Picture nomination, but as every category was announced, its safety was severely questioned as category after category ended up without a Selma inclusion. In the end, it’s been decades since a Best Picture nominee was nominated in only one other category that wasn’t a major one. The song “Glory” is its second nomination, a nomination it is very likely to win even if the film isn’t about to come close to Best Picture victory with this slate of obscurity.
Cake was an interesting experiment that caused a lot of prognosticators to take seriously the campaign for Jennifer Aniston as a Best Actress nominee. Released on a bare minimum number of screens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles county, Cake was nominated at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and the Broadcast Film Critics, in spite of few having seen it. Jennifer Aniston suddenly became a star and everyone was afraid a film that was generally thought to be utterly awful by those few lucky enough to see it, might end up Oscar nominated. That threat didn’t turn out very well as Aniston went home without a mention.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was the final film in the epic 6-part franchise set in Middle Earth. After the Oscar dominance of the first three films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second three were notably reduced in category representation. In the end, the final film went out with a whimper. While it almost received zero nominations, it barely managed to earn one in Best Sound Editing, a category the original franchise had trouble earning recognition in. Still, Peter Jackson’s monumental achievement has one of the highest Oscar nomination records in history and isn’t like to see that fall any time soon, so it can take solace in that at least.

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  1. Steve Carell may be facing the longest odds to win Best Actor, but he does have something in common with some previous winners:
    Jose Ferrer – Cyrano de Bergerac
    Lee Marvin – Cat Ballou
    George C. Scott – Patton
    Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
    Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
    Nicole Kidman – The Hours

    I’m sure I missed some others.

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