Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 3-7, 2013

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

Despicable Me 2

It’s stellar performance at the box office along with passable reviews puts this one ahead of many of the year’s other animated films in terms of competition. Of course, that would be presuming that the Academy sees past its cutesy image and childish elements. There’s no substance to this new installment that would set it up as a potential Oscar contender, but a nomination wouldn’t be at all surprising all things considered.

The Lone Ranger

Putting the team behind Pirates of the Caribbean behind the resurrection of the 1950’s staple The Lone Ranger was supposed to be a slam dunk hit. It had all the earmarks for a strong creative and technical Oscar contender. Then the critics lashed out at it and the audiences didn’t turn up for it. Those two elements combined push it farther from consideration. Of course, it could still show up for Best Visual Effects and possibly the two sound categories, but the Best Product Design and Costume Design nominations it likely could have received had it been a huge hit are in doubt. The rest of the year doesn’t seem to feature a lot of strong contenders for those categories, so it could still come out with a handful of creative and tech nominations. Of course, the stink from this dud could tarnish all of its chances, even in the more friendly Best Visual Effects category, especially with all of its competition.

The Way, Way Back

What looks to be the makings of a sleeper hit, The Way, Way Back could be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine. The film doesn’t have reviews nearly on par with the indie darling of 2006, but with enough prodding, it could be a decent box office hit. On top of that, there’s some talk now of Sam Rockwell getting long overdue attention from the Academy. For that to happen, I feel the film needs to be a big contender for other nominations including Best Picture.

Right now, I only see it as pushing for a screenwriting nod simply because of its coming-of-age elements and the fact that it’s written and directed by Oscar winners Jim Rash and Nat Faxon who contributed to the winning screenplay for The Descendants. That pedigree could certainly help and it may not be lost on anyone that both Steve Carell and Toni Collette were in Little Miss Sunshine together and are once again present here.

My hunch is that the film will be respected like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and may follow its trajectory towards and subsequently missing the Oscars. Distributor Fox Searchlight currently has a few duds on its calendar this year, but in addition to this film, 12 Years a Slave and Black Nativity could both provide fodder for the company to reach Oscar voters while ignoring The Way, Way Back. Yet, both of those films could be failures, which would make this film the only one they could push. Black Nativity may not go anywhere, but I think 12 Years will be their Oscar vehicle, not this one.

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