Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 4-6, 2019

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

Joker

Winning awards at the Venice Film Festival, this Warner Bros. comic book adaptation was well regarded out of the festival circuit. Yet, as more critics saw the film, its prestige dropped. That didn’t stop the from from setting an October opening box office record, which boosts the film’s visibility, even if not its Oscar chances.

The Academy has been notoriously stingy in awarding superhero films. Even ones as dark and contemplative as Joker have struggled for more than minor attention from the Academy. While the Academy hasn’t been well known for recognizing such films in the big categories (Black Panther was the first to get a Best Picture nomination while Logan was the first to receive a screenwriting citation), the film has managed to score one major Oscar: Best Supporting Actor posthumously for Heath Ledger and his portrayal of the Joker character in The Dark Knight.

That seems to be the place most critics give Joker a leg-up on the competition: Best Actor where Joaquin Phoenix should ride a groundswell of support to a nomination, but a win may be out of the question. Whether the film can enter either the Best Picture, Directing, or Adapted Screenplay races remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t put any money on any of those three right now.

Judy

Rupert Goold has had four credits prior to Judy, the examination of Judy Garland’s life through a small series of concerts in 1968. Three of those credits were on television, making it difficult to see how a relative big screen neophyte could be heading into Oscar season with a contender on his hands.

The film has done well with critics and audiences, which gives it the kind of heft an Oscar contender needs to move beyond a single Best Actress nomination for Renee Zellweger, a likelihood regardless of how the film otherwise performs with Oscar voters and, presently, the frontrunner for the award.

Being a look at a Hollywood legend, it’s possible that Academy voters will nominate the film in several categories, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Production Design, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling. If they are feeling particularly jazzed, a Sound Mixing nomination could be in the cards. However, as other contenders lay claim to berths in this year’s Oscar race, the film’s chances diminish and ultimately, I suspect Best Actress, Production Design, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairsytling are the only likely places for nominations.

Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodovar’s semi-autobiographical film starring Antonio Banderas played well in its early festival run and has secured strong support from critics so far. With few having seen it, the audience appreciation for the film is not verifiable at this point.

Almodovar has done well with the Academy in the past and although it’s been 16 years since he was last nominated for Talk to Her (for which he won Best Original Screenplay), his films released around and after that time were well regarded and generated Oscar buzz if not nominations. 13 years ago was the last time one of his films was nominated and Volver picked up only a single nomination for Penelope Cruz in Best Supporting Actress, an award she lost.

This time around Banderas is being talked about as one of the key contenders for Best Actor. Cruz has gotten considerably less buzz for Best Supporting Actress. That said, the film’s best opportunities for nomination are Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay. The former is very likely at this point and the latter is a little less sure, but no less viable.

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