“Wish I Was Here”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

wish i was here zach braff 600x338
Directed by: Zach Braff
Written by: Zach Braff and Adam J. Braff
Main Cast: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene, Donald Faison, Michael Weston, and more…
Past Oscar relations: Kate Hudson was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Almost Famous

Here now folks is a brand new article in this ongoing series of mine on 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of notable Oscar attention as contenders at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is the Sundance dramedy Wish I Was Here, which is the sophomore writing and directing effort from actor/Garden State helmer Zach Braff. If it manages to appeal to the Academy, it’d be a first, since it was backed by Kickstarter and no film of that ilk has gotten nominated to date.

In many ways, this is almost a spiritual sequel to Braff’s debut. It’s got similar themes, Braff in the lead role of someone who needs to come of age, and a sparkling supporting cast. The likes of Kate Hudson (giving one of her very best performances), Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Jim Parsons, and Ashley Greene are on hand as well, with King and Patinkin especially good. Braff is top notch too, in this story about an actor/husband/father learning to balancing those things out in order to truly be happy in this world. It talks about faith, family, and fatherhood while also being a quirky and very amusing indie dramedy. Now, it seeks to get some awards under its belt to help validate the Kickstarter campaign that Braff put forward to finance this movie without any studio interference.

What this flick has going in its favor is how unique it is and how much of a worthy successor/follow up to Garden State it is. The film is very cute, heartwarming, and often hilarious, with a winning soundtrack to boot. I understand that it may be too quirky or “Sundance-y” for some, but it was right up my alley and I had a great time with it. Especially the younger block of Academy voters might feel the same. Honestly, it’s only real chances are in Best Original Screenplay for Braff and his brother Adam J. Braff, as well as an Original Song from that aforementioned soundtrack that could very well be a player in that particular category.

Working against Wish I Was Here are mixed reviews (despite my raved) and a sense that somehow Braff did something wrong by utilizing Kickstarter to fund the movie. It doesn’t seem to be getting a fair chance, and films that don’t come out of the gate strong tend to be very long shots for any end of the year citations. A place like the Independent Spirit Awards could come to its rescue, but Oscar seems to be a bit of wishful thinking on my part. Time will tell though.

So, can this be a player at all? My heart certainly says yes but my head says more or less no. The only shots it has are in Original Screenplay and Original Song, with the former probably a pipe dream and the latter a total crap shoot. Regardless of that, this is an underrated flick in my book that deserves an audience. It hits theaters this weekend and I highly recommend it. Take a look for yourself starting tomorrow and see if the Academy will be missing out on this one…

Grade: Long Shot Contender (with the possible exception of Best Original Song)

Stay tuned for another one of these profiles coming your way next week!

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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