Over the years Hollywood studios have been sensitive to the whiplash that can occur when Summer blockbuster season immediately transitions to the prestigious Fall Film Festivals. The studios have provided a buffer called “August” where the CGI gets toned down and occasionally a real Oscar contender can even crop up. Now that we approach the Fall Film Festival season, it is time to take one last look back at Summer before diving head first into the sea of prestige.
Working through the Summer chronologically we have to start with May and the release of one of the biggest surprises of the Summer – Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. Normally I attribute a film to its director, but I’m calling it “Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids” because as co-writer and star she really held the film together. Wiig is a lock for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, but her chances at scoring a Best Actress Oscar nomination is pretty unlikely. Instead she could see a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, a category that has been known to recognize movies that did not get love anywhere else like In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Lars and the Real Girl.
One week after the release of Bridesmaids came the movie that was the real winner of the Summer – Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It received raves after being the opening night selection at the Cannes Film Festival and went on to become almost unanimously critically acclaimed and the highest grossing Woody Allen film of all-time. It has stayed in theatres longer than any other movie this Summer and become a favorite to audiences and Academy members alike. Sony Pictures Classics will likely have a lengthy Oscar campaign for the film that will keep it memorable throughout the Awards season. It is the closest thing to a Best Picture lock that this Summer has given us and it will also probably land nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It’s chances might be affected by the fact that there are no foreseeable acting nominations, but other movies have pulled off wins without them before.
May was a cinematic high month for the Summer as it ended with Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life. One of the most polarizing films of the Summer, it may have a difficult time appealing to the more conservative members of the Academy. However, I anticipate that regardless of the Fall movie slate it will still score many critics awards, which will get it on the Academy’s radar. With the new Oscar voting system, movies get credit for being the number one selection of voters and since The Tree of Life is a love it or hate it film, it will probably have numerous number one votes. I predict a Best Picture nomination and potentially Best Director for Terence Malick, although Woody Allen has the slight edge in that category for being a long-time Academy favorite.
Beginners helped us ease into June with one of the greatest performances we’ve ever seen from Christopher Plummer as the recently out of the closet aging father. His performance is not only dripping with pathos, but it is pure Oscar bait for combining disease, self-reflection, and an older actor who deserves his due. He is a lock for Best Supporting Actor. X-Men: First Class opened the same weekend as Beginners and while Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy were both acclaimed for their respective roles, they are less likely to score Oscar nods.
Super 8 was one of the surprises of the Summer, not because it was better than expected but because it was far less impactful than many predicted. Murmurs of it being this Summer’s Inception surrounded its release, but it came and went without much fuss and didn’t even crack the top ten Box Office grosses for the Summer. It will probably score for Best Visual Effects and Sound Editing, but won’t be present in any of the major categories.
July was kind of a bust with movies like Larry Crowne and Terri barely registering with audiences (despite positive reviews for the latter). However, July did provide us with one of the most debated movies of the year – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. After breaking Box Office records and scoring the highest Rotten Tomatoes score for a wide release of 2011, the obligatory Harry Potter Oscar discussion began. Almost every movie blog posted an article with a headline something along the lines of “Does Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 have a chance at winning Best Picture?” My answer to this silly question in dozens of comment threads was a resounding “no.” Movies that are part of franchises only typically receive Best Picture nominations if the other movies in the franchise did as well (a la Lord of the Rings). HPATDHP2 will probably be a magnet for technical nominations, which will hopefully include a Best Art Direction win for Stuart Craig. However, it will be completely absent from the top eight categories.
In August Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave us the second surprise of the Summer for being surprisingly decent and showing us a moving motion capture performance from Andy Serkis. The discussion was had on this website and many others about whether or not motion capture performances should be eligible for acting nominations. Regardless of the opinion on that debate, however, I simply do not see Serkis being remembered come January. The film is a lock for Best Visual Effects and might be the frontrunner to win, but technical awards is the only place you will see this popcorn prequel.
The biggest discussion point of August came for another film that has also been incredibly polarizing – Tate Taylor’s The Help. Upon its release various critics claimed the film was racist or simply insensitive while others found it one of the most moving films of the Summer. I address both viewpoints in my review before sharing my own, but once again I will state that it doesn’t matter what side of the debate you stand on, it is not a debate that will still be occurring four months from now. The Help was not as well-received as movies like Midnight in Paris and would require some major inadequacies from Fall releases in order to score a Best Picture nod. However, the actresses in The Help are likely to get some attention at least from the Golden Globes. Viola Davis is expected to be campaigned for Best Actress, rather than Supporting which might be a mistake with movies like The Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs, and My Week With Marilyn forthcoming. However, it may open it up for Jessica Chastain to score a well-deserved Supporting nod for what I thought was the best performance in the film.
Check out our complete Oscar predictions which will be updated throughout the week. Stay tuned for Oscar Tracker Part 2 coming tomorrow, which will preview the upcoming Film Festivals.
What movies or performances from the Summer do you think have the biggest impact on the Oscar race?