Currently 2012 is more than halfway over, but if you base the calendar around awards season (like I do – March through February) we are not quite halfway through the year. However, there are at least a dozen movies in any given year that are released during the first sixth months that stick in people’s minds enough to earn Oscar nominations. Most of these are big budget movies that find their way into the technical categories or animated movies and documentaries that typically come out over the Summer. However, last year brought us two Best Picture nominees that were released before August and the year before brought us four nominees that came out over the Summer.
At this point I should preface by saying that when I’m talking about movies “we have seen so far,” I am referring to those films which have received a U.S. theatrical release date before today, and I am not including movies that may have played at the Sundance or Cannes Film Festivals, but have not been viewed by the populous.
So far it would appear that 2013 has fewer Summer prestige pictures than recent years offered. While movies like Moonrise Kingdom and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are winning over the hearts of audiences and critics alike, both are receiving decidedly little buzz surrounding the potential of Fall awards. Wes Anderson has a legion of fans (myself among them), but the Academy has never recognized him for anything more than a screenplay nomination. Moonrise Kingdom is his best movie in a decade, and with up to 10 Best Picture nominations it may have a more legitimate shot than anything he’s done before, but if the Academy has never embraced Anderson in the past, why start now?
John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is another film with a lot of question marks. It has been the runaway hit of the Summer with Box Office Mojo reporting over $44 million earned domestically and $130 million earned worldwide and it has the Oscar powerhouse studio Fox Searchlight behind it. It seems very likely to appeal to the older members of the Academy, who still have quite a bit of pull over the voting body. The one thing holding this movie back is that it has a lot of soft-spoken supporters, but it is not igniting the enthusiasm required to maintain momentum through the end of the year. It seems more likely that Judi Dench or Maggie Smith will earn a Supporting Actress nomination than the film going for Best Picture. Both Moonrise Kingdom and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel need other Fall movies from their respective studios to flop in order to get strong enough campaigns.
Speaking of Fox Searchlight Pictures, the studio may have found one of its top horses for the Oscar derby in newcomer Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. This little film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Award at the Cannes Film Festival and has been dominating among limited releases at the Box Office for the past several weeks. At first I suspected the movie would have the same trajectory as 2009’s Precious, and for a while it did, but Fox Searchlight has opted to release it over the Summer instead of wait for a few more film festivals. The film seems like the most likely Best Picture contender of anything we have seen thus far with its director Benh Zeitlin a strong contender for a directing nomination. The biggest revelation, however, might be the six-year old star of the film Quvenzhané Wallis who delivers a surprisingly layered performance. Children usually fare better in Supporting than Lead, but if the Best Actress race is thin this year, she should be one of the strongest contenders.
The biggest Oscar related question I have personally received this year has been about the Best Picture chances of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. There seems to be the feeling among movie fans that the Academy owes something to the Batman franchise for snubbing The Dark Knight in 2008, when there was only 5 Best Picture nominees. This year the field is expanded, the movie is good, and Christopher Nolan is due, right? Unfortunately I have to disagree with that rhetorical question I posed to myself. Christopher Nolan’s film Inception was nominated for Best Picture in 2010 and he received a Best Screenplay nomination. While that still gives him a goose egg in career nominations for Best Director, it might be seen by the Academy that that nomination makes up for the TDK snub. Also, as much as The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best films of the year, it is still a comic book movie, which is a genre the Academy historically loathes. Last year many argued thought that the final Harry Potter film was owed a nomination, but alas it never came. The Academy doesn’t owe anybody anything.
In addition to Judi Dench and Quvenzhané Wallis who I mentioned above, there are a few performances that could find their way into one of the acting categories. The most likely seems to be Matthew McConaughey who turned in a performance that I called the best of his career in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike. McConaughey’s biggest competition may be himself as he still has yet to be seen performances in the upcoming films Killer Joe, The Paperboy, and Mud. Michelle Williams has her supporters for her performance in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, but it does not have the gimmick factor of last year’s My Week with Marilyn and the Academy might be hesitant to give her back to back nominations without a win.
Be sure to check out the latest chart updates on the 2013 Oscar Predictions page.
Are there any movies or performances from this year that I missed? Which movies that you have seen most deserve an Oscar nomination?