Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 8-10, 2019

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Midway

It’s clear from Roland Emmerich’s post-2012 resume that he’s extremely interested in making an Oscar-caliber film. Stephen Spielberg did it. James Cameron did it. Ridley Scott did it. Why not him? Films like Anonymous, Stonewall, and now Midway are 50% of his output lately and are the kinds of films that Oscar voters tend to prefer. The problem is that he’s so interested in the bombastic that he may well be incapable of making an Oscar-winning film.

Like Michael Bay, Emmerich’s ability to put butts in the seats is strong, but his ability to take nuance and subtlety and turn it into something mesmerizing and approachable is limited. Even in Spielberg’s and Cameron’s and Scott’s portfolios, their early attempts at making emotion-friendly films was well known. Emmerich has yet to touch the level of acclaim those three had with their blockbusters, which is a sign he may never compete. He won’t be the next Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, or Ang Lee either. Again, these folks all made intimate films early in their careers that people responded to in ways that Emmerich never can.

That doesn’t mean Emmerich cannot garner Oscar attention. He has an eye for detail and technical craft. Three of his films have earned Oscar nominations. Independence Day was cited for two, Sound and Visual Effects, winning the latter. The Patriot was his closest to mainstream Oscar candidacy and it picked up nominations for Cinematography, Original Score, and Sound. It won none of them. Even one of his attempts at art house cinema, Anonymous, managed a nomination for Costume Design. It also didn’t win an Oscar. That means it’s entirely possible that his grandiose war film could earn nominations for Sound Mixing (he’s done it twice already), Sound Editing, and Visual Effects (he’s even won for this). Yet, its chances in above-the-line categories were dashed by the film’s miserable reviews from critics and its dismal box office performance, though its #1 finish over the expected box office winner Doctor Sleep gives it a bit of press attention at a crucial juncture in its Oscar campaigning.

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