Oscar Preview: Weekend of Dec. 11-13, 2015

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

In the Heart of the Sea

There was a time when Ron Howard’s name meant a great deal towards a film’s success, specifically at the box office, and sometimes at the Oscars. However, after his last two films have been high profile flops, the former child actor may struggle this year with getting his film some Oscar nominations.

His prior film also starred Chris Hemsworth, but after two Golden Globe nominations, Rush collapsed and failed to place at the Oscars. The same isn’t likely for In the Heart of the Sea because unlike Rush, Heart of the Sea doesn’t have the critical acclaim to back up its chances outside of the techs.

In the tech categories, it could still show up in places like Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, but competition is heavy in most of these categories with its best chances in the latter three, the trio of techs that frequently go hand-in-hand. I suspect it could be a Best Visual Effects nominee or at least a Best Sound Editing nominee, but I doubt it places in all three categories and, at this point, even one category might be surprising.

The Big Short

The director of Anchorman, its sequel and several other comic parodies has suddenly become the man behind a potential Oscar nominee. The Big Short stars Oscar winners Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Brad Pitt, and Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell in a comedy about the housing market collapse.

The Big Short is receiving respectable reviews, but its the regular appearances the film has been making in the precursors that have catapulted it into the conversation like few others at this point in the year. The received four Golden Globe nominations and two from the Screen Actors Guild. The National Board of Review even named it the year’s Best Ensemble. That recognition will help boost the film as it platforms into wide release, which will give it just enough exposures to position itself as a late-breaking Oscar contender.

How deep into the Oscar trenches the film will go remains to be seen, but Christian Bale seems like a solid bet for a Best Supporting Actor nomination and the screenplay should easily place Best Adapted Screenplay, an award it could possibly win if it gets big enough. There’s some chatter that the film will end up in the Best Picture race, but it needs a lot more exposure than those aforementioned two categories to get there. It’s not unheard of, but it won’t be easy.

Boy and the World

You might not know it by looking at it, but Boy and the World could be one of the key contenders for an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

The critics groups have been focusing on five films mostly: Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, The Peanuts Movie and Shaun the Sheep Movie. However, there are three films that prognosticators should keep an eye on because any one of them (or possibly two) could end up on the Oscar list and no one should be able to claim they didn’t see it coming.

Several years ago, a small distribution company called GKids became one of the most significant players in Oscar’s history of the Best Animated Feature category. While they have a strong history of distributing Studio Ghibli, few paid attention to them until 2009 when The Secret of Kells was nominated for Best Animated Feature, a shock to most Oscar watchers.

While they can claim shared distribution rights for Oscar winner Spirit Away and nominee Howl’s Moving Castle, Secret of Kells didn’t have Disney’s hand behind it. From that point on, every other year has brought a new GKids release or two to the Oscar race. In 2011, it was Chico & Rita and A Cat in Paris. In 2013, it was Ernest & Celestine. In 2014, it was Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. This year, the three contenders are Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, When Marnie Was There and this film.

It’s possible that GKids might get left out, but Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie could be vulnerable enough to slip off the list to admit entry to one of these films. Boy and the World is probably the most unusual of the three pics, which might give it an edge. Whether that will come to fruition or not may not be obvious until the nominations are announced.

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