Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 21-23, 2013

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

Monsters University

The Pixar Brand still commands a hefty take at the box office, and its influence with the Academy hasn’t completely waned, but it’s clear times are changing. Monsters University has earned a solid, if unspectacular 77% on Rotten Tomatoes as of yesterday. While that’s an excellent total for an animated film, it’s nowhere near the acclaim that its predecessors have received. The Disney machine has finally bitten into the Pixar flesh and is slowly draining its life away. The future is cloudy on whether this means we’ll be saddled with more follow-ups and fewer original ideas, but we’ll have to wait and see.

For now, the Academy still seems taken with them. Other than Cars 2, which became the first Pixar film in history not to earn a Best Animated Feature nomination, the rest of the films remain strongly tied to Oscar glory. In spite of weaker reviews, Brave still managed to capture the Best Animated Feature prize last year. That doesn’t mean Monsters University is a foregone conclusion, it’s still facing an uphill battle against a number of new, original projects and a few sequels. It will very likely be nominated, but its competition will determine whether a win is possible.

The Attack

Audience feelings haven’t been as kind to this film as I expected or as the critics might lead you to believe. Perhaps its challenging observations on Israeli-Arab relations makes it a divisive film. Regardless, the film still has potential to appeal to a broad swath of Academy voters if given the right handling and of course being submitted by its home country. It won’t complete in categories outside of Best Foreign Language Film, but it could be a decent contender for a shortlist berth, if not a nomination.

A Hijacking

Likely to be overshadowed by the more accessible Captain Phillips, this film looks to explore the dangers of Somali pirates than the Tom Hanks/Paul Greengrass film. However, with that level of acclaim behind it, Phillips is far more likely to appeal to the Academy than A Hijacking. Still, Denmark could submit it as its selection for Best Foreign Language Film and with strong support to go with its superb reviews, it could be a nominee this year. I don’t think it has a chance of winning, but I could be wrong.

Unfinished Song

Originally titled A Song for Marion, various delays pushed the film into 2013 and have left it bruised and battered. Critics haven’t been very kind and while Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave had once been thought to be contenders for Oscar consideration, everything seems to be pointing to the film being forgotten by year’s end with one exception. Chatter has already started for songwriter Diane Warren and vocalist Celine Dion whose song “Unfinished Songs” has been receiving the kind of attention that makes it an Oscar contender even if it ends up being benign. Warren has, to date, been nominated for six Academy Awards.

Her second nod came with Dion on vocals for “Because You Loved Me.” That alone should give her a strong shot at a nomination, twelve years after her last for “There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor. Not for lack of trying. She’s been talked about since then on a handful of occasions only to come up short. However, those were during years when the music branch had so gimped the Original Song category that it was nearly impossible for Warren or her style of songwriter to make the cut. Now that the Academy has approved rules that permit more nominees under slightly less onerous requirements, I could see this as one of the early contenders. A Golden Globe nomination is assured, the Academy might take a little more convincing.

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