This week has been the kick off of the major awards season, with the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the National Board of Review Awards, and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards coming in quick succession to start the week. While these Awards are not necessarily good at directly predicting what is to come from major awards shows that come early next year, it is a good way to start getting an impression of what is going to be competitive come Oscar time.
This also gives us a chance to stock our 'watchlists' with by-and-large spectacular films that, over the course of their releases, have come no where close to a good chunk of us (but hey, I understand; I am sure that Ted 2 needed to have those 5 screens...*cough*).
Something else to keep in mind is that there are those few films that will sneak out a limited release to get themselves into eligibility for the major awards that may not have been considered during these early days, with particular attention probably needing to be paid to reigning Best Picture/Best Director holder Alejandro G. Iñárritu's frontier epic The Revenant, and Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight...and a lad can dream about Star Wars VII mattering too...
Here is what I feel you need to know from these early award sessions, and the films that will be the ones you will most likely be picking between in your office Oscar pool.
The Gotham Independent Film Awards
The Gotham Independent Film Awards do not operate the same way that most awards shows (that most folks would be familiar with) operate, instead presenting an award to the Best Feature Film, Audience and Jury Awards, and Awards to Breakthrough performances. The Gothams' are not specifically a good indicator of Best Picture, with their heavier slant toward independent film, however it should be noted that last years' Best Feature Film went to Birdman, so it is not that they are completely isolated.
And I for one think that they have chosen one of the contenders for the year as their Best Feature Film in Spotlight
The newsroom drama based on true events surrounding the Boston Globe's pursuit of the story of child molestation in the local Catholic Archdiocese has an absolutely stellar ensemble cast (who received a Special Jury Award as well) is just one of those films that, with the cast it has, and the story it has to tell, is going to deliver a powerful film. There has always been something about newsroom dramas (particularly based on true events) that captures a film audience, and with the utter failures we are endlessly finding in the news industry now, those stories (and films) have become less commonplace.
Other awards were potentially more indie focused, including Tangerine and the Breakthrough Direction of Jonas Carpignano for his film Mediterranea, the story of two men making the journey from Africa to Italy, and revealing the intense struggle faced by refugees. While these films will probably not garner attention at the larger awards shows, they both look like they are worth getting onto your watchlist and tracking down at some point in the future.
In the end however, my takeaway from the Gotham Independent film awards is that I am now willing to put money on Spotlight getting several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The only trick being, with an ensemble cast, there may be fewer than one would expect, but Spotlight is a film to watch.
The National Board of Review Awards
Hold on to your butts:
Mad Max: Fury Road took home best film from the National Board of Review (the only award Max took). This is...well, this is something that I have been considering a bit, and think that Mad Max has a chance to be something of a dark horse; it is one of those films that should get nominated for technical awards (I have strong hopes for Production Design) and could see George Miller get a Directing nod, but it does not feel like one of those films that the Academy is wont to pick for Best Picture. I am not saying it's not going to get a nomination (I hope it does), but even if they do, it is one of those "oh, that's nice, but it's not going to win" nominations that we will totally not be surprised by when they lose.
Outside of the Fury Road surprise, the Awards were slightly spread out, with The Martian taking home three awards (Best Director for Ridley Scott, Best Actor for Matt Damon, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Drew Goddard), The Hateful Eight two (Best Original Screenplay to Quentin Tarantino, Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a smattering peppered around other films like Room, Creed, Inside Out and yet another mention of Mediterranea.
The thing to remember about the NBR awards are that they are voted on by a group of academics, film enthusiasts, professionals, students, and young filmmakers, so you there is definitely a more populist lean than many awards shows.
The major takeaways for me are that my hope that Mad Max could sneak a few nominations is looking strong, The Martian is going to garner some nominations, with a good look needed at Screenplay and Director (I can imagine Matt Damon getting a nomination, but I don't know about winning yet).
Brie Larson in Room is going to be in a dogfight for the Best Actress award with Saoirse Ronan, but you never know, and it does not hurt to get the first award under your belt
....oh and Inside Out by Pixar is probably going to win. Because Pixar.
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Generally a good indicator of nominations, however they have not matched their Best Film with the Best Picture Winner since The Artist, so again, you have to consider how early this is (although we may have a discussion soon about my feelings on Birdman v. Boyhood)....
However, we have yet another of the potential contenders going home with hardware:
Todd Haynes' Carol took home Best Film from the NYFCC's yesterday, not to mention awards for Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Cinematographer. The story is set in the 1950s, where a department store clerk falls in love with an older, married woman, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt. This is one of those quiet, moving films that has definite potential to compete come Oscar season, and it has been a (fairly) long time since a dedicated romance film won Best Picture.
As for the other awards, is is time to point out that Saoirse Ronan took home Best Actress for Brooklyn, the story of an Irish immigrant coming to New York in the 1950s, giving her her first award in what is (as I mentioned before) her fight with Brie Larson for Best Actress. Inside Out, to the surprise of no one, won Animation, Kristen Stewart and Mark Rylance spotted themselves Supporting Actor wins, each in very, very competitive categories.
My takeways from this? Carol could make things interesting, but I do not personally see it (as of right now) being able to muscle out the other competition in Best Picture; I could be wrong, of course, and we will see as awards season continues, but the quiet, romantically tinged dramas have not had a particularly good showing at the Academy Awards of late, however, it could prove strong in the Adapted Screenplay category, and could easily get nominations elsewhere.
A few notes before I go:
I will keep you posted when I find things of interest, and I will obviously discuss film here more as the Oscars approach. With how early it is, there is not a lot to be gleaned from this spread of results; it is generally more telling if one film dominates early, but it is seeming like the few categories I mentioned above are starting to shape out some contenders.
Mediterranea, sounds like an excellent 'breakthrough' film, and looks good, if not a difficult watch (difficult in the sense of heartbreaking, not like, Fellini difficult):
The NBR gave Best Foreign Film to Son of Saul, however it only won Best First Feature at the NYFCC's (losing to last years' Oscar Nominated Timbuktu)...which is interesting. Foreign Language Film can often be a tough category to get a sense of...and let's be fair, the early signs are not helping....
I imagine that László Nemes' Grand Prix winner at Cannes will be nominated, however from there, I have absolutely no idea...
Essentially I think we've learned that this film awards season is fairly wide open still, and that there are a number of great looking dramas...and now we just have to wait and see what happens when a few more films roll out, and a few more awards shows name their winners.
If you feel like talking film, and/or the upcoming Award Season, head to the comment section, or hit me up on twitter.