Could ‘Interstellar’ be an Oscar winner?

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Last week, I was one of the lucky first members of the press to lay eyes on Christopher Nolan’s new opus Interstellar. Now that the embargo has lifted, I can say without hesitation that it’s his best work to date, an absolutely enthralling and deeply moving science fiction drama that makes both your heart and your mind soar. More important than my thoughts though (which I’ll get into more below), is how its debut could impact the Oscar race. I know that only a few of my fellow pundits love it as much as I do and some aren’t even fans of it at all, but this is a legitimate contender folks. The only question is to what extent…

For those somehow in the dark about this, Interstellar is a sci-fi movie set in the future from Christopher Nolan. It details a dying Earth and the last ditch attempt to save it by going in search of a new planet to colonize. Matthew McConaughey stars as the pilot turned farmer/single dad turned hero, with an incredible supporting cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, David Gyasi, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, and David Oyelowo. Nolan directs and co-writes with his brother Jonathan Nolan.

Even with high expectations, I was floored by this film. It’s visually stunning, powerful, and surprisingly emotional. Nolan has never been one to move me to tears, but on more than one occasion I got choked up. Particularly in terms of how he deals with relationships between fathers and daughters (McConaughey and Chastain/Foye, as well as Caine and Hathaway), it’s actually quite beautiful and sad. That’s really something special and unique, compounded by how intelligent the science fiction is here. The details about black holes and the Theory of Relativity is handled with the sort of faith that assumed the audience will come on this journey without turning off their brains. If they/you do, you’ll be in for something amazing.

So how can it impact the Oscar race? Well, it’ll depend on how the precursors and guilds take to it, but there’s a potential narrative where it could become one of the top contenders for Best Picture as well as Best Director. If all goes perfectly for Interstellar from this point on, it could be in line for up to a dozen Academy Award nominations. Pie in the sky/best case scenario has Best Picture, Best Director (Nolan), Best Actor (McConaughey), Best Actress (Hathaway), Best Supporting Actor (Caine or Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Chastain), Best Original Screenplay (the Nolan brothers), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects all being in play. That could translate into Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, which would be the dozen nods that I think are best case scenario. Those noms aren’t all necessarily going to happen, but it could pretty easily translate into ten citations or so.

On the flip side, if nothing goes right for the movie, it should still be set to do better than the unjustly shut out The Dark Knight Rises (seriously, can you believe that it didn’t receive anything after The Dark Knight got eight nominations and even won a pair of Oscars). I think even if Interstellar doesn’t become a real contender to win, it could still be the blockbuster nominee in the Best Picture field. Other than that, it would just be a matter of which tech nods that come through for this one. I don’t think it’ll wind up with anything less than three noms, so an overall total in the vicinity of five or six seems like a safe bet.

The thing that works in Interstellar’s favor is that it’s almost assured of a win somewhere, likely in one of the technical categories. My best guess is that Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, or Best Visual Effects will be where a victory could come from. The audio fields are the best bets too. Best Production Design or Best Cinematography aren’t out of the question either, but are less likely at the moment. The bigger categories are so hard to read right now, there’s just no way of knowing, but the techs can be somewhat more accurately predicted. Especially once the guilds and precursors begin in earnest, we’ll have a better idea of how this one will do with members of the Academy.

My best guess is that it’ll ultimately contend for double digit nominations, with the potential for a last minute surge to the front of the Best Picture race. Those aforementioned wins would only become more likely if Best Picture is in play, with the same obviously being true in the case of Nolan and Best Director. The acting categories are the longest shots for a win (and in the case of Best Actor, Actress, or Supporting Actor, even the nomination), so don’t get your hopes up there. Interstellar has the chance to really do very well with Oscar voters, especially if they appreciate the smart sci-fi like I do. Historically, they don’t usually, but something like Gravity last year could be part of the start of changing thinking within the Academy.

Overall, the story is still just beginning when it comes to Interstellar. I’ll have plenty more on this one in the next week or so, as it gets set for a wide release on November 7th. Until then, let me once again reiterate that you really should be excited for the film. If you’re a Nolan fan, this is the filmmaker working on a whole new level. If you’re not an admirer of this work, take it from me…this could change your mind. Interstellar is something very special, so it’ll be something we’re talking about not just for the rest of the season, but for years to come.

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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