Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 2

As the precursor awards continue unabated until Oscar night, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (and in some cases other outside influences).

A large handful of prominent critics groups announced their awards this week, with another slew to come out this week. It’s a busy time and will be for another two weeks, then Christmas sets in and everything goes quiet until mid-January.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:

Week 3

Mon., Dec. 8 – American Film Institute Top Ten
Mon., Dec. 8 – DC Critics Awards
Mon., Dec. 8 – Detroit Critics Nominations (guesstimate)
Mon., Dec. 8 – Online Critics Nominations
Mon., Dec. 8 – Phoenix Critics Nominations (guesstimate)
Mon., Dec. 8 – St. Louis Critics Nominations (guesstimate)
Tue., Dec. 9 – San Diego Critics Nominations (guesstimate)
Wed., Dec. 10 – San Diego Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Wed., Dec. 10 – Screen Actors Guild Nominations
Thu., Dec. 11 – Golden Globe Nominations
Fri., Dec. 12 – Detroit Critics Awards (guesstimate)
Fri., Dec. 12 – Chicago Critics Nominations (guesstimate)

Big Winners

Boyhood covered a lot of ground this week, securing Best Picture wins from several groups and earning awards in many other categories for all manners of achievements (directing, writing, acting, editing). It seems to be the critics’ choice this year, though it may not have the popularity to win over Oscar voters.
Birdman didn’t perform nearly as well as it would have had Boyhood not been around, but it still performed admirably, picking up awards for its stars and screenplay along with a few other prizes.
The Grand Budapest Hotel quietly amassed a wealth of awards this past week, nabbing consideration for it production design, writing and directing. While it wasn’t a juggernaut in its wins, the incredibly strong performance might gain it some attention from Academy members.
Snowpiercer seemed to have been largely forgotten by critics, but with a well-placed Best Picture win from the Boston online critics and awards for Tilda Swinton in a couple of places, the film is still chugging along in spite of the poor support from Weinstein.
Selma screened very late, but enough critics in various groups got a chance to see the film and Ava DuVernay seems to be the rising star of the year with her second major directorial outing. The film placed in some top tens from critics groups and David Oyelowo got some attention for his performance. While it isn’t quite the trajectory of 12 Years a Slave last year, it seems to have more legs than other films that started screening around the same time.
Two Days, One Night. The Dardenne Brothers are well known among critics as one of the key artists in French cinema working today. This film made it US debut at Telluride, but seemed to have been quickly overshadowed by the festival hits that emerged as major Oscar contenders. The film doesn’t have a limited release until Christmas Eve, but it’s already starting to turn into a surprise hit thanks to Marion Cotillard’s multi-prize winning performance (which she’s sharing with The Immigrant). The Academy may finally reward her second foreign language performance.
Whiplash is the little indie that no one thought would be in the hunt for Best Picture. Everyone was certain it would make a run for Best Supporting Actor, but as the critics groups have announced their Best Picture nominations and ten best lists, it’s quietly becoming something of a dominant force, which might translate to Oscar consideration.

Big Losers

The Imitation Game is the latest cause-célèbre of the Weinstein Company, which decided to take a step back from the multi-title releases that have hampered their Oscar chances in recent years. With one film to focus on, they are trying to replicate the success of films like The King’s Speech, parlaying a crowd-pleaser into Oscar contender. Yet, the critics aren’t biting, not even the baity performance of star Benedict Cumberbatch. Could it have watered down the gay aspect of the story too much? Perhaps, but the Academy is still likely to love it. One mention on the top ten list from the New York Online critics doesn’t give one much hope.
Unbroken didn’t exactly have a botched roll-out. It was carefully groomed to play into Oscar season. The problem is that the film hasn’t been getting very good notices from critics, which is even more evident in the critics’ nominations, which have largely avoided the film except for the photography work of Roger Deakins. That doesn’t mean the Academy won’t bite. It very well could, but poor reviews might be a bad thing for it.
The Theory of Everything was never likely to run the table at the critics’ awards. It has largely been dismissed as paint-by-numbers storytelling that’s filled with traditional gimmickry. However, Eddie Redmayne’s performance has been lauded by many, including critics. However, they don’t seem to be responding with nominations or awards with New York Online critics the only ones to recognize him or the film, which will hurt likely his chances of steamrolling through awards season and taking an Oscar at such a young age.

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  1. A couple of dates need to be changed on the above (based on official results, not failure to report).

    The San Diego critics have formally announced their results dates. Nominations will be announced this Friday (Dec. 12) and their winners will be announced next Monday (Dec. 15).

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