Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 27-29, 2014

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

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Since the inecption of the Transformers franchise in 2007, each film has earned at least one Academy Award nomination. The first film received three in the Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects categories. The third film also snagged nods in these categories. The middle film, however, only secured a Sound Mixing nomination.

Michael Bay has been well known for using cutting-edge technology, or if not cutting-edge, then just an overabundance of technology, to deliver his films. They are loud, bombastic and visually erratic, but that seems to please members of the Academy’s tech departments quite well. Apart from his Bad Boys films, the only action film Bay hasn’t managed to get nomintaed for the Oscars was The Island. The Rock was nominated for Sound Mixing (then called simply Best Sound); Armageddon was nominated in all three categories the first and third Transformers films were; and Pearl Harbor was nominated for four Academy Awards as well, matching exactly the categories Armageddon found itself in. Pearl Harbor remains the only Michael Bay film that has won an Academy Award taking the Best Sound Editing award.

What this suggests is that no matter how much the critics loathe this latest Transformers film, it’s sure to be a contender in Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects, though an Oscar win is very unlikely.


Joon-ho Bong is one of the hottest directors from Asia working today. The South Korean helmer has earned significant praise for his films The Host and Mother, but it’s his latest effort, his first in English, that’s getting all the attention. Snowpiercer is a post-Global Warming dystopian drama about the remnants of society crowded onto a class-delineated train where the people have finally tired of the oligarchs and are preparing to rebel as the train speeds through the bleak environment.

The film has already risen to the top of the year’s top-reviewed features, currently sitting with a 93% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and an 84/100 rating at MetaCritic, both incredibly strong numbers. The film has also been in the press for the last year due to a dispute between the director and Harvey Weinstein who picked up the film and was insisting on editing the film down to appeal to a less educated midwestern audience. After enough bickering, Weinstein agreed not to cut the film, but decided that a wide launch would not be in his best interests and is instead pushing it out on a platform release with notably little advertising.

Whether Weinstein or Bong gets the last laugh remains to be seen, but with the critics firmly in its corner and typical audiences who wouldn’t catch an indie film interseted in its post-apocalyptic style, it could end up being a big hit. If it is, it could be a contender in more than a handful of categories. However, being as bleak as it is likely to be, I doubt it will get anywhere with the Academy. There are three categories I think it could compete in, especially if those branches are tired of Harvey “Scissorhands” (as he’s become known in the blogosphere) and his antics.

A nomination for Bong would cement him as a rising star in cinema and might fit well into the Acadmey’s long history of recognizing independent voices from the world stage. That tendency has faded in recent years, but it could come back this year. Best Adapted Screenplay is possible only because it seems like the kind of quirky, political affair the writers branch has recognized in the past. The category I think that would be the most fascinating would be Best Editing. It would be the kind of nomination that supports the director’s vision and would be a direct rebuke of Weinstein’s proclivity for altering directors’ visions in an effort to make it more appealing to audiences he doesn’t think are smart enough to understand the nuances of fine art.

What will happen depends entirely on critics and their support of the film at the end of the year. if they back off and let it hang in the wind, nothing will likely come of it. If they support it with fervent excitement, it could become a major player.

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