Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 2-4, 2012

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

Flight

After twelve years of giving audiences a series of motion capture films that the Academy willfully ignored, Robert Zemeckis is back in the live-action seat with a film that is already earning Oscar buzz for lead Denzel Washington. Flight is the first film since 2000’s Cast Away that saw any measure of buzz for one of his films. While his other 2000 release, What Lies Beneath was also ignored, Cast Away earned two Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Sound. The same possibility exists this year with added potential in Editing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects.

Zemeckis’ Oscar history is more hit than miss when it comes to live action films. Other than Forrest Gump in 1994, he’s generally managed more than a small handful of nominations. Romancing the Stone earned one; Back to the Future nabbed four along with one Oscar; Back to the Future II earned one; Death Becomes Her won an Oscar for its only nomination; and Contact also earned one. Apart from these, Who Framed Roger Rabbit won three Oscars (one of which was honorary) out of six nominations; and his big winner, Forrest Gump, picked up 13 nominations in 1994 walking away with a total of six Oscars including Best Picture, his only entry into that category. Flight seems like it will be more closely associated with the smaller tallies he’s used to receiving than the highly successful take of Gump. He could end up with Roger Rabbit-level nominations, but I’m going to head a bet closer to Back to the Future, though with an expanded slate of Best Picture nominees, a solid box office result and a limited slate of Best Picture contenders could result in a return to the top category.

Wreck-It Ralph

It’s been a long while since Disney’s non-Pixar output has been more than a small influence at the Oscars. Back in the 1990’s, their films were everywhere, going as high as six nominations (Beauty and the Beast). These days, only Pixar seems to find itself getting many nominations outside of Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. Since there are no songs in Wreck-It Ralph, the only place the film will likely compete other than Best Animated Feature (which it’s almost assured a nomination) is Best Sound Mixing or Best Sound Editing with only the latter being in reach.

A Late Quartet

You don’t put together a slate of Oscar winners and Oscar nominees like this and not expect there to be buzz. Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener are likely to be talked about for awards consideration this year, but the film’s light box office prospects and Hoffman’s potential of nomination for another film, may prevent this one from being taken too seriously. Critics like it, but that doesn’t always help. If year-end awards show it any love, then it could emerge as a strong contender in the lightly-packed supporting categories, but at this point I’m doubtful of its overriding chances. It could make it into the writing categories, but I don’t think even that seems likely at this point.

This Must Be the Place

The only thing this movie has going for it is a much praised performance by Sean Penn. Apart from this, the film seems like it would hold little interest for Academy members. Penn, who now has two Oscars isn’t the kind of figure the Academy will go out of its way to honor again. While he is much admired, the film will be too little seen and the Best Actor race is heavily burdened this year suggesting that it would be something of a miracle of Penn could pull out a nomination. Any prominent critic group that bestowed its award on Penn would certainly bolster his chances.

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