December 04, 2016

Oscars: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “Philomena”

philomena judi and steve 600x345
Directed by: Stephen Frears

Written by: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Main cast members: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Peter Hermann, and Sean Mahon

Number of Oscar nominations in total: 4

Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Actress (Dench), Best Adapted Screenplay (Coogan and Pope), and Best Original Score

Notable precursor wins: Won Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTA Awards and Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival last year

Chances at winning Best Picture: Rather slim, though there’s supposedly a late surge going on to at least give it a long shot chance at a huge upset

Chances at other Academy Award wins: It’s potentially going to be shut out, though Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score are certainly in play

ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, HER, and Nebraska

Philomena is the eighth (and second to last) film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s another nominee that realistically has to look at the nomination itself as the only surefire reward it can count on here. Yes, co-writer/co-star Steve Coogan and his partner Jeff Pope could swoop in and steal Best Adapted Screenplay (while Best Original Score is an open field), but Judi Dench is way behind in Best Actress, so there’s nothing for this movie to hang its hat on. Still, it’s a crowd pleaser for the most part, and that’s always a dangerous contender in Best Picture, so be aware of that.

Working in Philomena’s favor is the Harvey Weinstein factor. Weinstein and his brother Bob have had some tremendous success running The Weinstein Company, especially when it comes to getting their films recognized. They pulled a bit of a rabbit out of their hats getting a Best Picture nominee for this flick and since then have been working overtime to make the case that this movie deserves to win. While Best Picture is a hard sell, they can certainly make the argument that the film should be recognized somewhere, which is why Best Adapted Screenplay is in play. If enough of the older and female voters (which is where the campaign is focused) are taken with this flick, I suppose anything is possible, considering how it’s made so many moves late in the game.

If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s the fact that it has the fewest nominations of any of the nominees and hasn’t really been able to score the necessary wins anywhere. Weinstein can work magic, but he needs the tools, and those wins would have done him and the movie a world of good. Without any major wins for Dench, there hasn’t been groundswell necessary to get things off the ground. This is very much one of those flicks that wouldn’t be in the lineup if the field was only five. Simply put, it’s an also ran, even if it’s coming on late to try and steal some votes.

philomena 600x330So will this movie win Best Picture? Almost assuredly not, but if you were to somehow be able to see the final vote totals when all is said and done, Philomena likely would be in the top five vote getters. That’s a pretty good end result for something that wouldn’t have even gotten in if there were only five nominees, so that’s something. We’re just over a week away from finding out what’s going to happen though, so keep it here…

Stay tuned for the rest of my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” pieces in the days to come, with the final article in the series on The Wolf of Wall Street up next!

ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, HER, and Nebraska

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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