Oscar Chart Note: I'm experiencing some coding problems with the charts so I apologize for the update delays. Until it's fixed, please to enjoy this hypothetical discussion as we begin our Halfway Mark Review...
Happy July! We're now officially done with the first half of the year. There are MANY films to come including the bulk of Oscar contenders given Hollywood's preferred release patterns. But that doesn't mean the film year hasn't already delivered enormous pleasure. All conscientous Oscar voters, cinephiles, and critics ought to keep a list so they aren't tricked into believing that the thing they saw 5 minutes ago is the only thing worth voting for six months from now.
Which naturally begs the question: If the voting was sprung on everyone right now, which films would AMPAS go for? It's worth jotting them down because they have a head start and they'd be smart to capitalize on it somehow. They need to settle in the mind and hearts as viable options as it were so that the forthcoming biggies will have to unseat them rather than trample them on their way to Oscar thrones.
I'm thinking mostly of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and Ralph Fiennes as Best Actor. They'd both surely snag nominations if the voting were held today. But at this date, some 17 years into his career, Academy voters haven't yet fully embraced Wes Anderson. Comic performances are always trickier sells so Ralph Fiennes will need to capitalize on the fact that he's playing against type (in a way) and voters respect that. If Budapest hangs on for real Oscar play that should make the waters safe for all future Wes Anderson films (see also: David Fincher, David O. Russell, and Paul Thomas Anderson who all struggled to win attention until Oscar finally caught up with the critical passion and devout public fanbases and now they're automatically "in the conversation" before their films arrive.)
Let's fantasize about what might be nominated if the voting were cut off right now when so few expected contenders have opened. My guesses as to the nominees go like so...
BEST PICTURE IF THEY HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW... I'D GUESS
- Belle (for the theme)
- Grand Budapest Hotel (because it's an actual contender)
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 (because they love the first and it's respectable excitement)
- The Immigrant (because it's classy)
- Noah (for the ambition?)
Budapest is the only film that's arrived that is a no brainer. The other films that have made some sort of mark are all very small, very outre, very foreign, too young (like Fault in Our Stars), or too genrified for Oscar love (like Edge of Tomorrow). So would they fall back on films that no one loves from people they do love (like Monuments Men and Jersey Boys) or would they get all crazy and say "sure, I'll have Godzilla, Snowpiercer, and one from the superhero column, why not?!?"
It's a silly exercize but how would you answer that question:
What would the Academy vote for if there were no campaigns and none of the Oscar intended around?"
BEST ACTOR IF THEY HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW... I'D GUESS
- Russell Crowe, Noah (from habit but also he's baaa-aack excitement)
- Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel (due to excellence)
- Colin Firth, The Railway Man (so stuffy, so Firthian, so wounded bird adorable)
- Joaquin Phoenix, The Immigrant (from habit and classy project)
- Mark Ruffalo, Begin Again (from 'i just saw that and omg, did you see Normal Heart?')
With apologies to Tom Hardy in Locke and Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy but would they have even seen those tiny pictures?
BEST ACTRESS IF THEY HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW... I'D GUESS
- Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant (due to excellence)
- Angelina Jolie, Maleficent (mega-stardom instant access)
- Keira Knightley, Begin Again (from 'I just saw that. Didn't know she could sing!')
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle (on account of fresh face in serious drama)
- Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars (all the feelings *sniffle*)
With apologies to Jenny Slate from Obvious Child and Scarlett Johansson from Under the Skin but I think they'd frighten voters. Of these women I think only... no, I don't think any are serious contenders for a nomination in January. The closest might well be Shailene Woodley which is vaguely depressing since she rarely remembered to act the "sick / can't breathe" part of the role. Which is kind of a major part of the role. Just saying.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IF THEY HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW... I'D GUESS
- Bryan Cranston, Godzilla (for the same reason he could never have lost the Tony: 'I love Breaking Bad!')
- Ed Harris, Snowpiercer (remember how we were eventually going to give him an Oscar. Oops)
- Anthony Hopkins, Noah (from habit but...yeeesh!)
- Christopher Walken, Jersey Boys (from prestige factor and because everyone else is terrible)
- Tom Wilkinson, Belle (what a muddled but well meaning papa!)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - IF THEY HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW... I'D GUESS
- Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow (category fraud!)
- Laura Dern, The Fault in Our Stars (excellent but mostly from lack of competition, let's be honest)
- Tilda Swinton, in either Grand Budapest Hotel or Snowpiercer (from the 'Remember that weird lady?!?" effect, as brilliantly coined by Nick on the podcast)
- Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac (due to curiousity and buzz)
- Emma Watson, Noah (from 'we saw that picture! she's come a long way')
With apologies to Scarlett Johansson but she's in a superhero picture and apologies to Rose Byrne but she's in a comedy
My guess is they'd totally load up on the following five pictures: Maleficent, The Immigrant, Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, and Noah and that would be that. See, I'm already worried that the smashing production design of Snowpiercer will be brushed aside for something lesser! And there are six months left to go.
What do you make of this purely hypothetical guesswork? Agree? Disagree? Make a case for something else if you would. It's hard to imagine the Oscars in such a campaign-free vaccuum, isn't it? And it's frustrating to see so little in the way of actual contenders yet, I must say.
I'll share my own favorites in each category after the holiday.