Tag Archives: Aaron Sorkin

Oscars: One of the Better ‘Best Pic’ Fields in Years

The Academy did a pretty damn good job this year. The only nominee that doesn’t align with my personal Top 10 was Bridge of Spies and even that still has Spielberg+Coen Bros+Hanks+Cold War+USA! USA! aka deserves its nom.

My projections were off a little bit. I had a total of 6 “LIKELY” nominations based on historical trends regarding guild accolades. All 6 were nominated. My next three (Compton, Carol, and Sicario) missed in favor of Room and Brooklyn, two films that were right on the cusp. I would guess that Sicario landed in place 3-5 on many tech-heavy ballots for a near-miss with something like 4.7% of the vote (when you need 5%). Similar story with CarolCompton took a nice guild ride but really wasn’t good enough all-around to have a place here (lowest Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics % score and point rating of my 13 real players).

The Good News

Despite favorable opinion of the picture itself, I had doubts about A24 being able to keep Room in the game against the deeper pockets of the major studios. This is a HUGE victory for independent film.

Brooklyn is equally wonderful. Boasting the highest Top Critic RT score of the year (the ultra-rare perfect 100 from 38 critics) Brooklyn lacked the resources its parent studio paid to campaign the larger Martian and Revenant. Further evidence of secondary attention? It’s the only Best Pic nominee without its own Twitter handle. #BrooklynMovie. Worthy of note: Brooklyn director John Crowley was originally attached to helm Carol. He dropped out because of scheduling conflicts between the two projects. How relieved is that guy today? Fox outbid Weinstein Co (Carol‘s distributor) for Brooklyn‘s rights at last year’s Sundance. It’s a huge day for the studio since they now hold 37.5% of the Best Pic field.

Mad Max actually made it! How awesome is that?

Snubs?

Aaron Sorkin was the heavy favorite to win Adapted Screenplay and didn’t even get nominated. That field’s now wide open. If Sorkin still manages to pull down the WGA win I’ll be extremely confused. Also worth mentioning is the exclusion of Ridley Scott in favor of Room‘s Lenny Abrahamson. This is less a case of Ridley being snubbed  and more that Abrahamson deserved the acknowledgement. Tom Hardy was probably the last man in for The RevenantInside Out deserves to be part of the overall convo but I wouldn’t really call it a “snub” as it never really had a chance to actually win the field.

Problems?

Diversity. #OscarSoWhite will repeat as a hot convo this year. Again, this is a systemic problem and the Oscars are merely internal trade awards that reflect the current industry. A nom for Elba could have quelled this a bit but the Supporting Actor race is a feeding frenzy and any combo of 10 dudes could have made it. Netflix is also new to the game which put Elba at an immediate disadvantage. Will Smith was bested by 5 stronger performances. Compton’s not an all-around GREAT film. Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan remains too young to spar with the likes of Leo and Damon (in the eyes of the Academy).

Perhaps a further convo for a later date, but I think the Academy needs to combine the Actor and Actress categories as one. Why are actors the only branch that  segregates awards on the basis of gender? Aren’t we beyond that?

My Pre-Announcement Predictions: 2016 Best Pic Nominations:
Spotlight Spotlight
The Big Short The Big Short
The Revenant The Revenant
Bridge of Spies Bridge of Spies
The Martian The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol Brooklyn
Straight Outta Compton Room
Sicario
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The Season Hath Arrived (wait…which season?)

The Great Season is finally upon us! As summer’s warmth fades with the arrival of September, so too comes the irrational hope of so many devotees. Time for watercooler conversations about how one camp is FINALLY going to pull it together this year. Or how the performance of an individual player could be enough to carry the weight of relevancy as the weeks pass by. Until finally, with boisterous anticipation on a cold Sunday evening in February, we’ll all gather around our televisions to see one camp capture the season’s ultimate golden prize.

The field for contention may be more crowded than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Yet there are two organizations whose talent stands on a tier above the rest. Their peers will be left fighting for meager scraps of the same conversation.

This season’s two prime contenders will be… Steve Jobs and The Revenant.

These teams are talent juggernauts assembled from molds of victory. Directors? Boyle and Iñárritu are easy Top 5 living/working. Leads? Michael Fassbender (riding a heat check) and Leo (who need only be mentioned mononymously). Other casts members?A bundle of true A-Listers.

Each camp is also armed with the most renowned and powerful artistic weapons of their respective fields. X-factors. Off the top of your head, who’s the most renowned screenwriter in the biz? Chances are you’re thinking of Aaron Sorkin. What about the top DP? Off back-to-back wins, it’s clearly Emmanuel Lubezki. Each has contributed their strengths in an attempt to distinguish these pics from their now-formulaic biographical predecessors. With Jobs, Sorkin wrote three clearly defined scene-acts (filmed by Boyle/Küchler in three different formats). With Revenant, Iñárritu/Chivo opted for a difficult path with their au-natural photography and a grueling production schedule.

Many pics will find their way on the shortlist for various merits but the REAL heavyweight fighters always excel at the following: strength of release schedule, accessibility to SAG members, and delivering content that appeals to the crucial “OWMs” (Old White Males) who rep the majority of Academy voters.

With Steve Jobs, all three criteria are easily met. Universal has taken the early buzz-grab road of debuting Jobs through a festival before opening wide in October (the release month of the last 3 Best Pic winners), They will have plenty of time to host Q&As and mail screeners before SAG noms are due on December 7th. With continued positive buzz, $100mil by then doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable (one more thing to tout on “For Your Consideration” ads). “OWM” appeal? LOL! See film title.

Fox seems to have a bit more work cut out for them with The Revenant. The Christmas Day frame is VERY crowded  And while the limited release insures they meet the mandated one-week run in the calendar year, no Best Pic winner in 11 years has opened so late. This far out, it’s also hard to ignore even the most mild comparison to Malick’s The New World which will have opened exactly 10 years prior. But again, the track records of this team should be enough to make this thing really sparkle. While on-set tribulations feel reminiscent of something from Aguirre, the “no expense spared” attitude reflects a heavy level of confidence in the reigning Best Director. “OWM” appeal: 17th century westward trappers battling elements and BEARS. Oh and Grade A+ technical production. But if Fox can’t get Revenant to mature in time for this race, they may choose to instead run Ridley Scott’s The Martian as their Thoroughbred (though genre pics are generally viewed as box office Clydesdales instead of arthouse racers).

This season will certainly see a solid count of talent-laden prospects (Joy, The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Suffragette) and hot button dramas (The Danish GirlBeasts of No NationCarol, SnowdenFreeheld), But at the end of the day this game is all about appealing to one group: Hollywood’s Old White Men. Gazing forward, Steve Jobs and The Revenant seem best-positioned to greet them.