Wednesday, December 3, 2014


On March 19 of this year I posted my first Best Picture predictions. Topping the list was Angelina Jolie's World War II feature Unbroken, telling the harrowing story of Louis Zamperini. A week later I wrote an article headlined "Jolie's 'Unbroken' to be Yearlong Oscar Target" as Jolie herself previewed her new film at CinemaCon following the first, extended trailer dropping during the Sochi Olympics. Suffice to say, Universal saw the opportunity to promote the film as an Oscar contender at the start of the year and for good reason, it has all the trappings of a Best Picture winner along with the star power of its director and a screenwriting team that includes the Coen brothers along with Oscar-nominated screenwriters Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and William Nicholson (Gladiator), adapting the New York Times bestselling book. Reason says this is the film to pick early in the year, but of course, being the early front-runner means withstanding the backlash before your film is even seen.
Yesterday I updated my Oscar predictions and still have Unbroken at #1, ahead of Richard Linklater's Boyhood and Ava DuVernay's Selma. With Boyhood recently winning with the New York Film Critics Circle and the first (somewhat mixed) reviews of Unbroken finally hitting the Internet people wondered how I could keep Unbroken at #1. The answer is twofold: 1.) I still have not seen Unbroken, though the screener just arrived today and 2.) I... well... number two is a little more complicated.
While it all boils back down to the fact I still had not seen Unbroken, so how could I really take it off the top line after just a few early reviews were released, the second reason it remains #1 is because every time I tried to take it off that top line I couldn't figure out what to confidently replace it with. As in college sports, you don't lose your #1 positioning until you've been beaten and with Unbroken still yet to truly enter the game how could it really have been beaten?
Sure, Boyhood is the "little movie that could" right now and I loved it and would love to see it win Best Picture. We're talking a twelve year project financed for only $200,000 a year, released by IFC and most likely going to have the smallest For Your Consideration marketing budget of all the main contenders. A win for Boyhood would be a big win for cinema, but in the face of Oscar history it is hard not to look at it as unlikely.
Next is Selma. This is the one I would have the easiest time moving to #1 right now other than Unbroken. Problem is, like Unbroken, I have not yet seen it and won't be seeing it until next week. That said, everything I've heard about this movie suggests it could very easily be your winner, which given the state of things in this country right now, that could be a very good thing... With my screener of Unbroken sitting next to me right now, I very well could move this to #1 should Jolie's film not deliver in the way I expect it to and my expectations are high, Laura Hillenbrand's book is excellent and Zamperini's story is truly inspiring.
So as I pondered those titles it basically boiled down to whether or not I could replace one movie I hadn't seen with another. At this point in the race it's still possible to hold on to a little of your personal opinion/expectation when it comes to these things as the politics of the race haven't truly stepped in. Soon we'll be able to ask ourselves if the socially important film, the small film with heart or the big WWII film with all the Oscar fixings and the high profile name will take home Best Picture. But for now I prefer to try and enjoy the movies, look forward to them as much as possible and let the politics sort themselves out over the next couple months.
By the end of next week I will have seen pretty much everything 2014 has to offer. I have a lot of screeners to go through as the nomination ballots for the Critics Choice Awards are due on December 12. After that I will begin compiling my own top ten of 2014, rewatching many of my favorites from over the course of the year and then trying to keep my spirits high as the frequent nastiness of the awards season darkens the mood.
For now, my hopes are high that a spirited debate between several films can keep the question of "What film will win Best Picture?" somewhat ambiguous over the next month or so, and with the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards this Sunday, perhaps they'll name Birdman the Best Film of the year and things will become even more cloudy. I know I'm having a hell of a time figuring out my favorite and I still have plenty to watch.
You can see all my Best Picture predictions right here and visit my Oscar Predictions homepage here. These pages will be updating a lot over the next few weeks so continue to visit as I'll likely be updating them after every single film I see.

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