Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 19-21, 2013

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

Turbo

There’s something to be said for being a box office success with the Oscars. Oftentimes films that aren’t particularly big box office hits struggle to find a place at the Oscars if they were originally intended to be hits. A film like Beasts of the Southern Wild gets a pass for being an indie, but Turbo won’t get one because the studio was hoping for it to make a decent amount of money. However, facing off against two still-screening hits makes it harder to find a place in the over-stuffed marketplace.

With Animated Feature, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hayao Miyazaki has secured nominations for films that were box office disappointments, but he’s never been a box office king either. The same can be said for any number of foreign language animated films, but they also aren’t expected to make money. The closest analogy of recent years was Rise of the Guardians, which was supposed to be a huge hit for DreamWorks. DreamWorks seems to be struggling similarly with Turbo, which might still make around the same amount as Guardians did, but which will also share a similar fate.

That the film’s advertising made the film seem like a Cars wannabe didn’t help matters even if those who’ve seen the film assure audiences that this isn’t another Cars rip-off. Still, Pixar hasn’t had much else besides merchandising revenue from the Cars films. DreamWorks won’t likely have even that. It could still do okay at the box office, but ultimately it will likely be ignored in favor of other more noteworthy accomplishments this year.

The Act of Killing

Critics love creative documentary filmmaking and this concept film should easily pique their interests. The film forces former Indonesian death squad leaders to re-enact the events they perpetrated. The results are on display for the audience to hopefully see men performing heinous acts coming to terms with them and hopefully realizing why they were wrong. The trailer makes the film look absolutely fascinating and so far reviews have been outstanding. Yet, the Academy has an aversion to new things. In the past, they’ve ignored more challenging features because they were too unusual. That may change this year with the sudden influx of a number of documentary filmmakers. That participation may skew what we have typically known about the Academy’s more stodgy voters. The Act of Killing may be the ultimate test of the new voter base.

Blackfish

More in line with the Academy’s environmental penchants, Blackfish examines the inhumane treatment of orcas in captivity that have led to countless accidents and deaths of trainers of these gentle sea giants. Like The Act of Killing, Blackfish is earning superb reviews. I’m reminded of The Cove whenever I read about Blackfish in that marine life is often mistreated with impunity. That these creatures are being kept in cramped water tanks and behaving erratically for a creature that’s often considered harmless in the wild, you can believe that the pro-animal rights members of the Academy would love to get this one nominated. It’s still a long-shot for a nomination. The Cove had the benefit of countless precursor awards to bolster its chances. With The Act of Killing earning slightly stronger reviews, I doubt Blackfish will have the same benefit. Still, a nomination is still conceivable.

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