Oscars®: What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race: The early contenders so far

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I’m starting up with a new weekly series here at Hollywood News, one tentatively titled “What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race”. Once or twice a week, I’ll be looking at potential 2014 awards contenders, and for the inaugural piece today, I figured I’d cover some of the films that have already come out this year, including one notable release that’s beginning its theatrical run today. Future pieces will more specifically focus on one title in particular, completely with more of an in depth look at them, but today we’ll start off with a primer.

I’ve got a quartet of films to discuss, though they all have various pros and cons to their potential candidacies, obviously. Consider this a template for what’s to come during the year, including a placeholder grade of either “likely contender”, “potential contender”, or “long shot contender” for each…
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Owen Wilson

This film just began its theatrical run today in limited release, but Wes Anderson projects always flirt with the Academy’s attention. Anderson himself has a trio of Oscar nominations to his credit so far (for co-writing Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums as well as for making the animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox), so he’s no stranger to awards. Best Picture and Best Director has so far eluded him though. If the year is on the weak side, a comedically tinged film like this one could possibly slip in, though Anderson himself is more likely for another Screenplay citation than a Director one. Watch out for Ralph Fiennes too, as he could parlay a likely Golden Globe nomination into some Academy consideration as well.

Grade: Likely contender

The LEGO Movie

Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Written by: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller
Cast: (Voices of) Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman

I have my doubts that we’ll see another animated title get a Best Picture nomination again for a while, but the reviews and box office for this one make me think that it’s at worth considering its candidacy at this early juncture. If nothing else, this one seems good for a Best Animated Feature mention. Stranger things have happened though, so you’d be foolish to count it out right now. Wait until after the summer, at least…

Grade: Possible contender

The Monuments Men

Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett

Once upon a time this was predicted to be an Oscar juggernaut, but then…well, people saw it. The movie is decent enough, but rather disappointing, so I think we can all cross it off from Best Picture contention. Technical awards though, they could definitely still be in play. The Globes could also take a liking to this movie, which would keep it on people’s minds, and that’s half the battle. Major nominations from the Academy would be shocking to me, but a few tech mentions still seem in the cards right now.

Grade: Possible contender

The Pretty One

Directed by: Jenée LaMarque
Written by: Jenée LaMarque
Cast: Zoe Kazan, John Carroll Lynch, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston

If you’re looking for an under the radar independent contender, look no further than this one, in which Zoe Kazan gives a riveting performance. This is likely ticketed for little more than an Independent Spirit Award nomination (at best), but part of the fun this early on is trying to figure out which indie flicks will hit. Kazan certainly is worthy, so keep an eye on her candidacy. If the right people see it, she could be a factor in the race, at least to some degree.

Grade: Long shot contender

Those are just a few to get us started. Beginning next week, I’ll be looking more specifically at individual contenders, and that should go on for a while, so stay tuned!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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