Oscar Preview: Weekend of Apr. 10-12, 2015

We had two films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Clouds of Sils Maria

When Kristen Stewart won the César for Best Supporting Actress, a couple of unique things occurred. First, her critics were silenced by the fact that she would not only be considered for a major award, but that she would also win. Now, her chances at an Oscar nomination have gotten a boost.

Stewart has long been lambasted for her terrible performances in big screen blockbusters for her vacant expressions and lack of emotive capability. In Clouds of Sils Maria, she’s been said to have provided a wide array of emotions, which may give her a “she can do that?” vibe with Academy voters. It also helps that past Oscar winner Juliette Binoche is there to help guide the young actress.

Releasing in April, however, doesn’t always turn out well, especially for foreign language films. However, curiosity might bring people into the film just to see why Stewart’s received such acclaim, which may give them the opportunity to give Binoche a second Oscar nomination after a career of potent performances that have often been ignored. The two could end up double nominees, an unheard of feat at the Oscars, which would set a whole new line of precedents. Of course, a win doesn’t seem that likely.

Ex Machina

A hit on the festival circuit, this claustrophobic science fiction film has earned a lot of praise for its tackling of the fascinating concept of artificial intelligence. It stars a frequent Oscar contender (Oscar Isaac) and sports some interesting effects. Whether the film can capture the minds of Oscar voters remains to be seen.

The story, about a young man brought in to test the humanity of a young A.I., instead becomes involved in a delicate cat and mouse game between the A.I. and her creator, each playing off one another for his loyalty and ultimately leading him to question his own perception of what’s real and what is not.

The film could follow the path of something like District 9 into the Best Picture race. The film has solid support from critics, who have generally rated it positively, but their reviews aren’t head-over-heels excited about it, which may dampen its chances with Oscar voters who tend not to want to recognize genre features when they aren’t accompanied by massive praise and huge box office. Ultimately, I think the film will fail to materialize in any meaningful way unless critics begin bolstering its chances when they give out awards in December.

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