Oscar Preview: Weekend of Apr. 12-14, 2013

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

42

While recent sports films like Moneyball and The Blind Side make it seem like the Academy loves sports films, only boxing movies have really found celebration at the Academy. Apart from Moneyball and The Blind Side, you would have to go back to Field of Dreams to find another Best Picture-nominated sports film and few others remain historically of these. That being said, the historical significance at work in 42 will play into the wheelhouses of several Academy members. Race relations has been a big factor in past contests and 42 looks like the perfect blend of social messaging and Hollywood charm.

While Chadwick Boseman should be considered one of the key acting contenders from the film, Harrison Ford’s performance as manager Branch Rickey seems more like something the Academy could latch onto. Ford has only ever been nominated for one Oscar, 1985’s Witness. His choices of films haven’t always been the best, but as the star of two of Hollywood’s biggest franchises (Star Wars and Indiana Jones), he has made lots of friends and earned lots of respect. From the trailers alone, this looks like the perfect Oscar baity performance and even if the film doesn’t materialize as a contender, I could see Ford becoming its sole nominee.

What helps 42 are a couple of things. Critics seem to be overwhelmingly positive about the film. That helps it gain gravitas. Additionally, it’s generated a record-setting genre opening that is sure to turn into a strong word-of-mouth campaign. While it has no hope of taking down Oblivion this coming weekend, I could see it carrying over well and possibly becoming on of the year’s first mid-range hits. That helps it gain financial credibility. Those two factors alone could carry it a long way towards Oscar, but we’re still eight months away and we’re only in the second inning. While 42 may be seem like it’s pitching towards a shut-out, a lot can change in seven innings.

To the Wonder

It’s hard to believe these words are about to be written. Terrence Malick may not be Oscar-nominated this year. In an uncharacteristic move, critics have largely written off Malick’s latest feature starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem. From the trailer alone, I wasn’t impressed and the critics dissing the film seems to suggest I wasn’t far off my suspicions. With just under 100 reviews collated, Rotten Tomatoes has the film down at an awful 41%. That’s a lower score than Olympus Has Fallen. That says a lot about how low Malick’s performing. As a frame of reference, as a director, Malick has never scored below a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and that was for The New World. His next worse directorial performance is The Thin Red Line with a 78%. He is frequently considered one of the greatest working directors.

What does this mean for the Oscars? It’s hard to say. Even The New World scored a Best Cinematography nomination and The Thin Red Line was a surprise Best Picture nominee along with several other categories. There’s still an intense amount of respect for the director and while the premise from the trailer didn’t pique my interest, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s work looks spectacular. For this reason alone, I would pencil the film in on the Best Cinematography slate. I don’t think the film will go anywhere else at the Oscars, but it remains a possibility, albeit a small one, that the film will nab at least one nomination.

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