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‘Inherent Vice’ looks to shake up the Oscar race

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One of the bigger X factors still to be unveiled this awards season is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. With a Trailer that just dropped last night (I’ll post it at the bottom of this piece) and a World Premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival (where I will be in attendance), now seems like the perfect time to discuss how it might fare with Oscar. Frankly, this is one of the hardest contenders to figure out, so things are really up in the air for it. It could either become a major player that stands out from the crowd or it could wind up little more than a critical darling that the Academy doesn’t take a shine to. The odds are about even right now.

For those of you who aren’t aware what this is, Anderson adapted the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name, a comedic mystery tale set within the Los Angeles drug culture of the early 1970’s. Joaquin Phoenix stars as private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend and being harassed at basically every turn by a police detective. Phoenix is the lead, while newcomer Katherine Waterston plays the ex and Josh Brolin is the cop. Other cast members include Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Michael K. Williams, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, making for a pretty strong ensemble.

Awards wise, this has the potential to show up everywhere. Obviously, the majors like Best Picture, Best Director (for Anderson), Best Actor (for Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (likely for Brolin, but maybe Wilson as well), Best Supporting Actress (for Malone, Waterston, and/or Witherspoon), and Best Adapted Screenplay (also for PTA) are on the table, while technical categories like Best Cinematography (it’s shot by Robert Elswit, who won an Oscar working with the filmmaker on There Will Be Blood), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score (if Johnny Greenwood isn’t ruled ineligible again this year) are certainly in play. This is the sort of film where a double digit nomination total could be had if everything breaks right.

On the flip side though, the movie has been described as being similar to The Big Lebowski in a way, which likely won’t endear it to the Academy. Others have called it a classy stoner comedy, another destination that won’t attract voters automatically. I’m not sure that anyone has actually seen it yet outside of the NYFF programmers, so the debut on Saturday is going to be a big deal. As you’ve seen in my predictions so far, I’ve stayed away from predicting it for much, just to be on the safe side. I’ll have a better idea if this is closer to The Master or There Will Be Blood in a few day’s time. Honestly, Boogie Nights or Magnolia probably seems like a better comparison, which is excellent for cinema lovers, but probably not a harbinger of Oscar glory.

Once I get out of the festival screening, hopefully more will make sense (sort of like how I feel better about predicting Gone Girl for Academy attention after it had its NYFF bow, but more on that one tomorrow), but it’s one of the few remaining X factors still in this race. Aside from Inherent Vice, the only unseen titles really are American Sniper, Big Eyes, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Selma, and Unbroken. It’s all coming together folks, so hopefully in the next month or so all will be revealed. In the meantime, you have that trailer below to give you a taste of what Inherent Vice is like. I’ll be sure to talk more about this one, perhaps even as early as next week, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll have plenty to say about it, one way or another…

Here now is the trailer for Inherent Vice:

Stay tuned to find out how the NYFF screening went!

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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