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Awards 2014: If The Oscar Nominations Were Today, Who Would The Academy Vote For?

by The Playlist Staff
July 2, 2014 1:18 PM
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Recently we ran our Fall Festival 50, a wishlist and prediction piece about the films we expect to see popping up in the fall. Many of them will be on their way to an Oscar campaign, because, as the accepted wisdom goes, if you want your film to have a fighting chance at Academy Awards glory, you secure in a nice cozy October/November/December release date, maybe on the back of a festival premiere, and bombard the trades with For Your Consideration ads. This indeed has been the route taken by five of the six most recent Best Picture winners ("12 Years a Slave," "Argo," "The Artist," "The King's Speech," "Slumdog Millionaire") with only Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” proving that it’s possible to play in summer and still pick up the big one.

But of course the picture is a little more balanced when you expand it to include nominees in other categories. Which got us to wondering just how many of the 2014 films that have already opened might have a shot at figuring in the Oscar conversation come January 15th when the nominations are announced. And so we cooked up a little hypothetical thought-experiment: If the Oscar nominations were being announced today, with only the films that have premiered so far in 2014 in contention (that is to say, ones that have opened in New York and Los Angeles between January 1st and June 30th), what would they look like?

In order to keep this from simply becoming a list of our own favorite films so far, which we’ve already done with “The Best Films of the Year So Far” we also decided to put our awards-observers hats on (deerstalkers with built-in monocles, if you must know), and to try and judge which films and performances so far would have a shot with the real Academy, as much as we personally often differ with their choices (and we've included what would be on our collective ballot at the end of each section). So yes, there’s a lot of guesswork and rules of thumb going on, but it’s been fun to consider, and here’s our suggestion of what the lineup might look like, if the Oscars were now:

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Best Picture

The Academy's Picks:
“Fading Gigolo”
“The Fault In Our Stars”
“Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Lego Movie”
“The Railway Man”

Let's assume for a moment that even with the slimmer pickings of the first half of the year to play with, the Academy end up going with nine nominees (as they have the last three years with the new system of Best Picture voting). The safest bet, and probably the likeliest to make the cut come next winter (though it'll depend hugely on the strength of the competition to come) is Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel," one of the filmmaker's best-received pictures, and a legitimate crossover hit (taking nearly $60 million domestically). Anderson's luck with the Academy has only stretched to Screenplay nominations and an Animation nod for "Fantastic Mr. Fox," and he's missed out before—"Moonrise Kingdom" was hotly tipped, but failed to make the cut. 'Grand Budapest,' with its chopped-off heads and the like, is in some ways less Academy friendly than that film, but it did really connect with audiences, and if voting were restricted to the first half of the year, it would certainly be at the front of the pack, and could end up surviving all the way to January.

Also with some level of prospects for later in the year is Fox Searchlight's summer sleeper "Belle." Expertly timed as blockbuster counter-programming in the same way that "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was a few years back, it hasn't been the crossover smash that that was, but it's still the third most successful indie of the year, and certainly would seem to appeal to traditional Academy voters, combining lush period romance with more button-pushing issues of race and gender. How much of a push it'll get in the fall depends on how the rest of Fox Searchlight's slate connects (they have "Birdman" and "Wild" alongside "Grand Budapest Hotel," and they couldn't get much Oscar love for "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"). As a star-studded period piece, "The Immigrant" would in theory make sense but James Gray proves very divisive, and Harvey Weinstein all but abandoned the film months ago. Maybe there's enough of a Gray hardcore out there to get the same auteurist votes as Haneke or Malick in recent years, but without the distributor support, it's a longer shot, though might figure in to some degree if voting were being held now.

But Harvey's always courting Oscar, and he'd be better off with the Academy pushing "The Railway Man." The WWII drama starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman was tepidly reviewed at best, and is decidedly stodgy and worthy stuff that doesn't live up to the potency of its premise, but it's the kind of movie that Weinstein knows how to sell. He'll undoubtedly have shinier prospects in the fall, but with limited competition, could probably get a voter turn out for this. From the blockbuster arena, "Noah" has the right mix of auteurist cred and epic sweep (plus commercial success) to pick up votes, even if few truly loved the movie. "Godzilla" was also divisive, but was significantly more artful than most blockbuster this year, and, while it won't figure in at year's end, would have a fighting chance at this point.

In terms of animated fare, "How To Train Your Dragon 2" has strong reviews, but the film's commercial underperformance kills any chance of it grabbing the so-called Pixar slot. Instead, the critically and commercially massive "The Lego Movie" would probably sneak in: many voters would be reluctant to vote for something so heavily branded, but the film's invention would win plenty of fans besides. Next February, it'll have to settle for a Best Animated Feature nod rather than having a serious chance at Best Picture, but for now it would be in the conversation.

Beyond that, "The Fault In Our Stars" had some rather muted awards talk when it opened from some quarters: the weepie, better reviewed than many expected it to be, probably skews too young to make a dent against "Foxcatcher" and "Unbroken" et al. in the fall, but could squeak in votes were today. And for the remaining two slots, one should probably look to two of the surprise indie hits of the year so far: Jon Favreau's "Chef" (which has made nearly $20 million to date), and John Turturro's "Fading Gigolo"—not quite as big, but still remarkably popular with older crowds. With both films helmed and starring popular industry figures, they'd certainly be in with a shot.

The Playlist's Picks: "The Double," "Enemy," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Ida," "The Immigrant," "The Lego Movie," "Only Lovers Left Alive," "Stranger By The Lake," "Under The Skin," "We Are The Best!"

Best Actress

The Academy's Picks
Marion Cotillard - "The Immigrant"
Lindsay Duncan - "Le Week-End"
Angelina Jolie - "Maleficent"
Gugu Mbatha-Raw - "Belle"
Shailene Woodley - "The Fault In Our Stars"

Best Actress tends to be seen, usually unfairly, as having some slightly slimmer-pickings than the male equivalent even at year's end, and that's certainly true half-way through the year. Even so, there are some viable Academy-friendly options to be found at this point. Probably most notable among them is Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Hardly a household name at the start of the year (and, to an extent, even now), she was front and center for the marketing for "Belle," in which she gives a positively star-making performance. There'll likely be too many bigger names later in the year for her to crack the final five, but she'd be a strong possibility right now.

The category tends to be a mix of younger up-and-comers and veteran stars, and joining Mbatha-Raw as one of the former would be Shailene Woodley. The actress was touted for nominations for both "The Descendants" and "The Spectacular Now," but after headlining blockbuster "Divergent" and covering Vanity Fair, she's having a moment, and her acclaimed turn as a terminally ill teen in "The Spectacular Now" is certainly the sort of thing that Academy nominations are made of. Another relatively unknown possibility, albeit one much older than Woodley, would be Lindsay Duncan, a British stage veteran who's terrific in Roger Michell's "Le Week-End." The film actually did pretty well in limited release, and with the right traction could have made Duncan a first-half contender, but distributor Music Box Films don't have the deep pockets to put her seriously in the race in six months or so.

Finally, there are the major movie stars. Again, The Weinstein Company will have bigger fish to fry—or at least easier sells to sell—than "The Immigrant" once the rest of their slate hits, but as a previous winner in a potent role, Marion Cotillard would have a decent shot at this point. And speaking of previous Oscar-winners, there's Angelina Jolie. "Maleficent" got pretty poor reviews, but most agreed that Jolie was by far the best thing about it, and without much other viable competition, she'd be a possibility for the half-way Oscars (she doesn't have a chance at year's end, though don't count out a Globes nomination from the Jolie-loving HFPA, and she could be a directing nominee for "Unbroken" so she won't be too heartbroken.

The Playlist's Picks: Marion Cotillard in "The Immigrant," Paulina Garcia in "Gloria," Scarlett Johansson in "Under The Skin," Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Belle," Tilda Swinton in "Only Lovers Left Alive."

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  • Sanker from India | July 7, 2014 11:14 PMReply

    I knew this shit would happen. Last year's blue is the warmest colour wasn't eligible and this year everyone just forgot. I'm a movie buff and I really don't know why the hell I'm even thinking about the oscars and thinking about articles such as this when my time could be utilised elsewhere.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | July 8, 2014 5:28 AM

    Blue Is The Warmest Color was eligible for the main awards last year, but not for the foreign language prize. France could theoretically pick it this year (but it's unlikely at this point).

  • From India Too | July 8, 2014 3:14 AM

    Agreed. Everybody practically forgot Blue is the Warmest Colour. The heart-wrenching performances by the lead pair need urgent recognition by the Academy. I would be really disappointed if Jennifer Lawrence ends up getting another nomination this year too. Also, hopefully they nominate Tilda Swinton again. She was mercilessly robbed of several deserving Oscar nods earlier. Same goes for Marion Cotillard.

  • kyle123 | July 7, 2014 12:32 AMReply

    The Playlist debases film culture by slavishly Oscar musing, debasing movies to awards fodder. Do you people even care about movies?? Their emotional human potential?

  • JK1193 | July 3, 2014 7:08 AMReply

    Best Picture
    Edge of Tomorrow
    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    How To Train Your Dragon 2
    The LEGO Movie
    X-Men: Days of Future Past

    Best Director
    Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
    Darren Aronofsky (Noah)
    Neil Burger (Divergent)
    Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)
    Denis Villeneuve (Enemy)

    Best Actor
    Russell Crowe (Noah)
    Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow)
    Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
    Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy)
    Guy Pearce (The Rover)

    Best Actress
    Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow)
    Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant)
    Angelina Jolie (Maleficent)
    Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive)
    Shailene Woodley (Divergent)

    Best Supporting Actor
    Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
    Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
    Jeff Goldblum (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
    Theo James (Divergent)
    Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

    Best Supporting Actress
    Jennifer Connelly (Noah)
    Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire)
    Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
    Emma Watson (Noah)
    Kate Winslet (Divergent)

  • JK1193 | July 3, 2014 7:16 AM

    Add 300 to my personal Best Picture nominees.

  • Gerard Kennelly | July 2, 2014 10:32 PMReply

    best supporting actress 2015 predictions

    thurman nymphomaniac
    julie estelle the raid 2
    Gaby Hoffman Obvious Child
    watts birdman
    thierry the zero theorem
    rapace the drop
    farmiga the judge
    winstead kill the messenger
    green sin city dame kill for
    chastain interstellar
    rudolph inherent vice
    poots knight cups
    hoss a most wanted man
    martin nymphomaniac
    streep into the woods
    Lorelei Linklater boyhood

    best supporting actor 2015 predictions

    brolin inherent vice
    hopkins noah
    winstone the gunman
    oldman child 44
    Gary Poulter JOE
    bell nymphomaniac
    bale knight cups
    thewlis the zero theorem
    brooks a most violent year
    shannon 99 homes
    kilmer untitled terrence malick project
    odowd calvary
    dafoe a most wanted man
    duvall the judge
    gandolfini the drop
    mendelsohn starred up
    shia fury
    hawke boyhood
    hoffman armstrong
    dehaan life
    farrell solace
    considine macbeth
    liotta kill the messenger
    norton birdman

    best actress 2015 predictions

    chastain a most violent year
    witherspoon wild
    cotillard macbeth
    adams big eyes
    mara carol
    pike gone girl
    bissett welcome to new york
    woodley fault in stars
    rapace child 44
    mulligan far from madding crowd
    johansson under the skin
    wasikowska tracks
    Jenny Slate Obvious Child
    stone untitled cameron crowe project
    hathaway interstellar
    johnson fifty shades grey
    portman jane got gun
    chastain miss julie
    cotillard two days one night
    bejo the search
    williams suite francaise
    mcadams a most wanted man

    best actor 2015 predictions

    fassbender Macbeth
    fiennes grand Budapest
    crowe noah
    carrel foxcatcher
    boseman get on up
    hardy the drop
    depardieu welcome to new york
    affleck gone girl
    renner kill the messenger
    downey jr the judge
    keaton birdman
    penn the gunman
    oconnell unbroken
    phoenix inherent vice
    mcconaughey interstellar
    pitt fury
    cooper untitled cameron crowe project
    hoffman most wanted man
    depp black mass
    foster armstrong
    hopkins solace
    gyllenhaal enemy
    bale knight cups
    farrell miss julie
    sandler the cobbler
    hanks hologram for the king
    clarke everest
    garfield 99 homes
    isaac a most violent year
    hardy krays biopic
    waltz zero theorem
    pacino manglehorn
    oconnell starred up
    cage JOE

  • P | July 2, 2014 7:57 PMReply

    Best Actress

    Marion Cotillard - The Immigrant
    Scarlett Johansson - Under the Skin
    Charlotte Gainsbourg - Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 & 2
    Stacy Martin - Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 & 2
    Mia Wasikowska - Tracks
    Jenny Slate - Obvious Child

    Best Actor

    Tom Hardy - Locke
    Ralph Fiennes - The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Jake Gylenhaal - Enemy
    Russell Crowe - Noah
    Tom Hiddleston - Only Lovers Left Alive
    Jesse Eisenberg - Night Moves

    Best Supporting Actress

    Tilda Swinton - Snowpiercer
    Uma Thurman - Nymphomaniac: Volume 1
    Rose Byrne - Neighbors
    Mia Wasikowska - Only Lovers Left Alive
    Sarah Gadon - Enemy
    Jillian Bell - 22 Jump Street

    Best Supporting Actor

    Nat Wolff - Palo Alto
    Joaquin Phoenix - The Immigrant
    John Hurt - Only Lovers Left Alive
    Don Johnson - Cold in July
    Tony Revolori - The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Jamie Bell - Nymphomaniac: Volume 2

  • Newyorker | July 2, 2014 6:41 PMReply

    for me my pics are(sadly the oscars will probley not nominated alot of these films)
    but these lists are stuff i actulley enjoyed, not what the academy or alot of other people will enjoy.
    Best Picture
    22 Jump Street
    Amazing Spider-Man 2
    Captain America: The Winter soldier
    Grand Budapest Hotel
    Lego Movie
    Obvious Child
    Palo Alto
    Rob The Mob
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Director
    Bryan Singer-X-Men: Days Of Future Past
    Gia Coppola-Palo Alto
    Jon Favreau-Chef
    Phil Lord & Chris Miller-Lego & 22 Jump Street
    The Russo Brothers-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Wes Anderson-Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best Lead Actress
    Angelina Jolie-Maleficent
    Jenny Slate-Obvious Child
    Kristen Bell-Veronica Mars
    Shailene Woodley-The Fault In Our Stars & Divergent
    Vanessa Hudgens-Gimme Shelter

    Best Lead Actor
    Chris Evans-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Jason Bateman-Bad Words
    Michael pitt-Rob The Mob
    Nicolas Cage-Joe
    Ralph Fiennes-Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best Supporting Actress
    Elizabeth Olsen-Godzilla
    Jennifer Lawrence-X-Men: Days Of Future Past
    Georgie Henley-Perfect Sisters
    Rosario Dawson-Gimme Shelter
    Saxon Sharbino-Trust Me

    Best Supporting Actor
    Bryan Cranston-Godzilla
    Jamie Foxx-The Amazing Spider-Man 2
    Nat Wolff-Palo Alto & Fault In Our Stars
    Tye Sheridan-Joe
    Zac Efron-Neighbors

    Best Animated Feature
    Legends Of Oz: Dorothy's Return
    Lego Movie
    The Nut Job
    Mr Peabody & Sherman
    Rio 2

    Best Original Screenplay
    Grand Budapest Hotel
    Nymphomaniac vol 1 & 2
    Trust Me

    Best Adapated Screenplay
    The Fault In Our Stars
    Odd Thomas
    Palo Alto
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Cinematography
    Heaven Is for Real
    Nymphomaniac vol 1 & 2
    Palo Alto
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Costume Design
    300: Rise Of An Empire
    Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Film Editing
    Lego Movie
    Nymphomaniac vol 1 & 2
    Obvious Child
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Makeup & Hairstyling
    300: Rise Of An Empire
    Vampire Academy
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Original Score
    Grand Budapest Hotel
    Palo Alto
    Trust Me
    Under The Skin(ok, i really didn't like this film as much as everyone else does, but i did like the score)

    Best Original Song
    Big House-Muppets Most Wanted
    Everything Is Awesome-Lego
    When The World-Legends Of Oz

    Production Design
    300: Rise Of An Empire
    Edge Of Tomorrow
    Grand Budapest Hotel
    Son Of God

    Best Sound Editing
    Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Need For Speed
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Best Sound Mixing
    Edge Of Tomorrow
    Need For Speed
    Transformers: Age Of Exinction
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

    Visual Effects
    Edge Of Tomorrow
    Transformers: Age Of Exinction
    X-Men: Days Of Future Past

  • Jordan | July 2, 2014 4:52 PMReply

    I still think Snowpiercer is all smoke and mirrors with no real depth, but I like most of your staff picks. It's too bad that films that come out before October are generally overlooked.

  • Will | July 3, 2014 5:20 PM

    Snowpiercer had an interesting concept but it needed a better lead actor.

  • DG | July 2, 2014 2:10 PMReply

    Come on guys Under The Skin for best pic!

  • vangie | July 2, 2014 5:16 PM

    That movie was so shitty, geez! it made no sense, wen you aw under the skin, was it at the end, because i fel asleep?

  • MAL | July 2, 2014 4:12 PM

    Hands down, the best movie I have seen all year.

  • James Howlett | July 2, 2014 1:42 PMReply

    Wow! This really puts light on how weak and mediocre this year's first half has been. Hopefully it'll improve in the second half.

  • Glenn | July 2, 2014 3:43 PM

    Maybe in terms of what would theoretically find itself Oscar nominated. Not necessarily elsewhere. Plenty of excellent films have come out so far.

  • BEEF | July 2, 2014 1:28 PMReply

    What did Melanie Laurent do in "Enemy"?

    Alison Pill in "Snowpiercer", and Gaby Hoffman in "Obvious Child" yes, please!

  • brad pitt 54321 | July 3, 2014 10:00 AM

    when Total Film were anticipating inglorious basterds
    she was one to watch
    they mentioned some cult thriller she was in
    they reckoned
    it was the reason she was cast

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