Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jun. 20-22, 2014

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

Jersey Boys

There was a time a few years ago that each new film Clint Eastwood made became the talk of Oscar prognosticators. Yet, in spite of an impressive string of Oscar nominees from 1992 through 2006, Changeling began a decline in his ability to secure Oscars for just about anything, especially in Best Picture. Changeling, Invictus and Hereafter each picked up nominations, but none were in Best Picture.

Jersey Boys is an adaptation of a critically respected, but not beloved jukebox musical from Broadway about the rise to fame of The Four Seasons, including legendary crooner Frankie Valli. Critics have been mixed-to-negative about the film and its failure to take a bite out of the weekend box office suggest it may be a niche picture for fans of that era’s music rather than wide audiences who are often needed to catapult musicals into the Oscar Best Picture race.

The film could still pick up some nominations, particularly in the creative and tech categories, but I would be a bit surprised at this juncture if it made much headway anywhere but Sound Mixing and possibly Production Design and Costume Design.

The Last Sentence

Do the titles The Emigrants, The New Land or The Flight of the Eagle sound familiar? How about Il Capitano or Everlasting Moments? Standing alongside the likes of Ingmar Bergman and Bo Widerberg, Jan Troell is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Sweden in the modern era. The Emigrants was one of only a handful of foreign language films ever nominated for Best Picture while The New Land and The Flight of the Eagle joined The Emigrants as nominees representing Sweden in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars. Il Capitano won numerous international awards, including a Silver Bear for Troell at the Berlin Film Festival. Everlasting Moments was a near-miss for Troell’s fourth Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film, securing a Golden Globe nomination, but nothing for Oscar.

Troell has collected an impressive list of nominations and awards from various film groups and festivals including Cannes, multiple citations at Berlin, the Guldbagge awards and the Oscars. His impressive career may not be as impressive in the last few decades, but that could change with The Last Sentence, an exploration of journalistic integrity, government pressure and the dangers of Hitler and his Third Reich within Sweden during World War II. While the film doesn’t deal directly with the Holocaust, that subject matter has been rife for recognition from the Foreign Language Film committee in the past.

The film has a satisfactory 76% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes at present, but a less impressive 61 from MetaCritic. Audiences aren’t responding well to it either, which could suggest the film won’t play well to the more populist Academy. A lot depends on whether Sweden even submits the film. Residual good will toward Troell might push it through to the next round, but while it might seem like a safe bet given what I mentioned before, I wouldn’t put too much faith in its chances at this juncture.

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