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Halfway Pt. 1: What if They Voted on the Oscars Right Now?

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...


  • 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?"


  • 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?



  • 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.


  • 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!)


"that weird lady"

  • 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 wouldIt'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.

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Reader Comments (26)

OMG, I thought Belle was horrible -- but apparently, it has done really well. I had such high hopes too since I had been intrigued by the painting for so long.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Wow. That would be a pretty atrocious showing, although some of the alternatives were interesting: Rose Byrne and Under the Skin especially. But Budapest sure is special so I hope (but doubt) it will hold up for voters. Maybe Fiennes in category fraud supporting but it depends on what he's up to at the end of the year.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I loved Ralph Fiennes performance but I really think a best actor nomination is a longshot; the Academy seems to have a very short memory and it'd almost be a year since Budapest's release by the time the Oscars come around.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

"Remember that weird lady" is already a classic for me lol. And oh how I long for that Cotillard Immigrant nomination but you're right. It sees so out of the question.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Up until 2004ish (a.k.a. when I started reading your blog, Nathaniel) I was uneducated on how AMPAS voting work. To be honest, I thought nominations and wins were solely decided by a jury, comprised of no more than 30 judges. When I learned that there are around 10,000 AMPAS members (let alone, 6,000 in the acting branch), and that they ALL vote, I was very surprised. Ever since, I've tried to come up with all the pros and cons of both scenarios (the real one and my imaginary panel of judges) and really don't know which is better. I really believe that most members don't watch even 50 movies a year, and a lot of them I believe don't take their privilege seriously, which is why we end up with the same media/campaign/politically corrupted nominations and wins we get every year. And even when deserving winners do end up claiming the trophy, sometimes it's for the wrong reasons. For example, "12 Years a Slave" is the best Best Picture winner since "The Hurt Locker," and a very deserving one, but I have a hard time believing that voter's didn't vote for it because of racial guilt and other external factors that had nothing to do with the actual merits of the film. I just hope that voting becomes stricter and that AMPAS starts making it a requirement for voters to go to a certain number of AMPAS screenings in order to qualify to vote. I think at least 50 movies would cover some late releases and some early releases that would jolt (qualifying) voters' memories and we'd end up with a slate of nominees that is actually telling of a FULL year of movies. If that was the case, Tilda Swinton would have a nod for "Julia," Wes Anderson's movies would have several production design nods, and.....it's all just wishful thinking.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

It's funny how we're halfway in to 2014 and films like Noah, Maleficent, Snowpiercer and The Immigrant are leading awards discussions! Good films and great performances from some, but none seem that likely to be contenders right now!!

As you said, Budapest is the only real likely contender. Aside from Fiennes, I would put my vote in for:

-Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy
-Stacy Martin and Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
-Joaquin Phoenix, The Immigrant
-Cinematography for Ida

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

Tilda Swinton is having such an amazing year! And while we're at it, so is her Only Lovers Left Alive co-star Mia Wasikowska, whom I loved in that and also in The Double. I wonder if either of those movies I just mentioned would even be in your hypothetical Oscar conversation, because I really liked both of them.

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

I imagine Tom Hardy might be in the conversation for Locke if Oscar voted right now.

However, for me, the best films of this year have mostly been uber-indies that would never gain Oscar traction. Some personal FYCs:

--Stranger by the Lake for Best Picture (which of course would *never* happen)
--Lindsay Duncan (Le Week-End) for Best Actress
--Under the Skin for Cinematography

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Nathaniel, didn't you say that you hadn't yet seen Only Lovers Left Alive? That's a favorite just like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Tilda is warm, loving, beautiful, scary. Hiddleston is a perfect partner and Wasikowska is a delight.

I'd give it half time nominations for:
Best Actress
Best Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Screenplay
Best Production Design
Best Direction

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Tilda's nom is for Snowpiercer obviously, she is barely in Grand Budapest.
For me it would be The Immigrant, Snowpiercer, The Grand Budapest Hotel, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Begin Again.
Love the mention of Joaquin in Immigrant, he holds up to his own against Cotillard.

Winners for me:
Grand Budapest

LOL this is fun

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

It breaks my heart Cotillard is not gonna be nominated for one of her greatest performances. I kind of loved The Immigrant and I wish it'd sweep the techs, like cinematography, art direction and costumes. It's like you're there...

At least Cotillard has two shots as Lady Macbeth and the Dardennes movie. Anyway, why are they snubbing her?

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Had The Immigrant been released last year, I think Cotillard would have given Blanchett a worthy run for the Oscar. I was blown away by her sublime performance...

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Nat: You think they'd go for How to Train Your Dragon 2 over The Lego Movie? I'm not exactly convinced that the former (a fairly straight-faced and more awkwardly bloodthirsty iteration of the franchise) would get more #1 votes than the latter (an eminently on-point but not unduly brutal satire of 1. Joseph Campbell Heroes Journey mythologizing and the laziness thereof and 2. Adult appropriation of media meant for children), you get me?

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Not much. The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Production Design and The Immigrant for everything else: Marion, Joaquín, Darius Khondji, Patricia Norris and James Gray (it's time to acknowledge him).

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I hope Fiennes and "Budapest" aren't forgotten by next January, but Wes Anderson's movies never do well with Oscar.

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErik

I think Jenny Slate (Yes I'm OVERLY confidant but hear me...) as a chance if they can keep the movie in the conversation & have member screen the thing & organize an agressive campaign and...ok it's a LOT of and's & if's but a guy can dream...right? (GO see it people she is THAT GOOD)

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

So far from the movies I'd seen it would go like this:
Best actor
1Nicholas Cage Joe
2.Mark Ruffalo Begin Again
3.John Gallagher Jr The heart Machine (saw it at Sxsw)
4.Tom Hardy Locke
5.Chandler Rylko The Toy Soldiers (saw it a festival)

Best Actress
1.Zoe Kazan The Pretty One
2.Shailene Woodley The fault in our stars
3.Keira Knightley Begin Again
4.Marion Cotillard The Immigrant
5.Jenny Slate Obvious Child

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

I don't really see how one can talk about the Best Actor performances of the first half of 2014 without mentioning Tom Hardy in Locke. That was an absolutely amazing performance!

I'm also surprised that nobody has mentioned the two lead actresses in Ida, namely Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska. They are both wonderful, particularly Kulesza.

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

I would have to wonder if the Academy would go with The Lego Movie instead. It also had great reviews and was a shiny new toy with a (should be) guaranteed Best Original Song nomination.

I also think Jenny Slate could be the surprise nomination, especially considering how many times Marion Cotillard has been in the discussion since La Vie en Rose and didn't get a nomination.

July 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

@Bill_The_Bear I'm not impressed by Agata Trzebuchowska in Ida. But Agata Kulesza is superb. I'd place her in supporting though!

July 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

In terms of Oscar potential (made up or otherwise), no 2014 hasn't had a great start. But there have been PLENTY of good/great/amazing movies. in the first half of the year. I'd like to think the directors would stump for UNDER THE SKIN, or maybe even Kore-Eda for LIKE FATHER LIKE SON. IDA would get a cinetography nod for sure, and wouldn't it be a hoot if WE ARE THE BEST got a screenplay nomination? NON-STOP for sound categories (those eerie airline sounds). I'd give the statue to Gillian Jones for THE ROVER, COLD IN JULY perhaps for score with VENUS IN FUR and BUDAPEST and GRAND PIANO and UNDER THE SKIN. With the likes of HAWAII, HAPPY CHRISTMAS, HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES, ADULT WORLD, MUPPETS MOST WANTED, LEGO, and BORGMAN filtered throughout various categories.

July 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Also, even though she hasn't a shot with Oscar, I'm wondering if Jenny Slade and get a Musical/Comedy actress nod from the HFPA. She has hip cache, and, I mean, the nominated John Cameron Mitchell for HEDWIG once upon a time...

July 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I can't imagine that Gyllenhaal in Enemy and Hardy in Locke, much less the ENTIRE Under the Skin contingent, would be shut out entirely… that's just depressing.

I feel like if they'd seen Enemy or even knew people who'd seen Enemy, voters would go for Gyllenhaal. It's so accessible despite the weirdness due to the double perf gimmick and the LA factor, I feel. And the second half is so much fun to watch.

And c'mon, at least Under the Skin for director and/or actress and/or visual effects… those effects were innovate as sh*t. I feel like most of it actually went right over my head, but I loved watching it. I actually didn't feel ScarJo was that amazing, but I think she'd get in in this limited halfway field because she's ScarJo and is riding a wave right now.

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Keller

Outside of Under the Skin and Stranger By the Lake (neither of which have any chance of Oscar nominations) and one of the docs at the AFIDocs, I haven't seen anything that is remotely Oscar-worthy this year. The Immigrant was too freakin' bleak (seriously, how did Marion's character not know that Joaquin set her up ... that last scene was sooooo stupid). Grand Budapest is too light (Fiennes is great, but this isn't even one of Anderson's best). And everything else is overrated popcorn fare ... oy. Bring on the second half!

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Adam -- you clearly have more faith in them than I do. Enemy just barely eked out $1 million at the box office. i feel like the low bar for oscar to even know your movie exists sis somehwere around $3-5 million if there is a major star in it

(lower if its foreign of course - IDA's gross of nearly $3 million without awards season hoopla or cannes buzz or anything to boost it is SUPER super impressive)

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I feel like already at the halfway point of this year I have my four acting winners in Fiennes (Budapest), Johansson (Under the Skin), Fassbender (Frank) and Arquette (Boyhood) and while two of those films have not been released yet I saw the films in the first half of the year and feel these four performances are just too good to not award the four acting categories at the end of the year. Again my favourite film of the year is Boyhood and it's such a special experince and if there is an even better movie this will be an even greater year for film. Wes Andersen is for me the director of the year. Some other acting mentions for this year include Gleason and O'Dowd (Calvary), Coltrane and Hawke (Boyhood), MacAvoy (Filth), Law (Dom Hemingway), Byrne and Efron (Neighbours), Duncan and Goldblum (Le-Week End), Gainsborough and Thurman (Nymphomaniac), Cotillard (The Immigrant), Swinton and Pill (Snowpiercer) and Gyllenhaal (Frank). This start to the year has been such a strong start to the year I do not see how the second half of the year can improve.

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

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