Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 18-20, 2015

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

Black Mass

The story of mobster Whitey Bolger whose nefarious deeds were supported by secret deals with the FBI forms the backbone of Scott Cooper’s third directorial outing: Black Mass. Cooper’s debut feature, Crazy Heart was nominated for three Oscars, winning two of them. Jeff Bridges picked up his long-awaited Oscar in the Best Actor category while Maggie Gyllenhaal earned her first nomination for the same film.

While Cooper’s second film didn’t come close to Oscar consideration, he’s finally finding himself back in the Oscar race this year and with an opportunity to deliver another overdue Oscar to his lead and a nomination in the supporting category. Johnny Depp has been out of the awards circuit for some time, appearing in sequels or duds one after the other. His prior Oscar nomination wasn’t bound to win him the award; however, with a performance that puts him back into the groove that once earned him heaps of praise, Depp becomes a strong contender for what some believe is a deserved Oscar.

Also up for consideration in the supporting category are Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch, neither of whom are as guaranteed for consideration as Depp. The film, which earned solid reviews and is performing well at the box office, could end up considered for several categories, including Best Picture, but a lot depends on whether the year-end competition flounders or flourishes.

Everest

Based on the true story of an incident on the slopes of Mount Everest, Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest ratchets up the tension as a group of mountain climbers, some experienced, some not, are placed in peril by a dangerous storm hitting them shortly after reaching the summit. That storm seems to have approached from the side of film critics who’ve given the film solid, but not spectacular reviews.

For a film that is likely to perform well before audiences, it’s imperative that it earns great reviews to become an Oscar contender. While the reviews are good, they aren’t great and the film never felt like a major Oscar contender, so its chances are muted.

What the film does have is solid support for some technical consideration in the Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects. Reviews don’t matter much for these categories, just a keen attention to detail, which seems to be the case for this film. While nominations aren’t guaranteed, they may well happen. If they do, Oscars don’t seem as likely.

Sicario

Before landing his first Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for Incendies (2010), Canadian director Denis Villeneuve had built a small career in Canadian cinema. Three years later, Villeneuve would bring Prisoners to the big screen and earn his film another Oscar nomination for Roger Deakins’ cinematography.

His next film, Enemy, might have given actor Jake Gyllenhaal a shot at an Oscar nomination had he not had another film in release that was certain to yield him a nomination, but didn’t. Abandoning Gyllenhaal for his latest picture, Villeneuve brought in another solid Oscar-capable actress to lead a cast. Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent caught in an escalating drug war on the border of Mexico and the United States. Starring alongside Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro and prior Oscar also-ran Josh Brolin, Blunt has become one of the first Oscar contenders for Best Actress to find her film released in theaters.

Earning excellent reviews, Sicario is also turning into a first-rate contender for several categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay and probably even for Best Editing. Whether the film can win or not depends on its competition. I suspect the nominations will be its rewards.

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