“The Martian”: Looking at potential Best Picture contenders

Matt Damon the Martian
Welcome to July folks. Much like I said last year, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions to see what folks like myself think will happen at the end of the year, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know which films will be in contention. To that end, once a week (or maybe twice a week) for the next month or so I’ll be running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls. Consider this a sort of pre awards season cheat sheet for you all.

Today I’m beginning with the big one, of course…Best Picture.

Here are the ten films that I have right now cracking the Best Picture lineup:

1. The Martian – A total hunch, I concede, but this is something with almost limitless potential. The Trailer was fantastic, the talent involved is top notch, and the book is a modern classic in my eyes. It’ll all depend on the execution on the part of Ridley Scott, but if he’s on his game and Matt Damon is his reliable self in the title role, there’s a chance we could see science fiction contend for a Best Picture win. Could this do what Gravity and Interstellar couldn’t? Stay tuned to find out…

2. Bridge of Spies – The safe bet right now, this latest collaboration between Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg has all the trappings of an easy pick to win. The thing is, that film almost never wins anymore, so I feel like having it in the number two spot makes total sense at the moment. Things can and likely will change, but while my top pick is a bold shot in the dark, this one’s high ranking is almost the de facto vote if you sit down and think about it. That takes nothing from its potential, as it looks very good, but Hanks and Spielberg are trafficking in Oscar bait here, plain and simple.

3. Our Brand is Crisis – Something you’ll notice in a few places here is that I’m taking chances. This is another case of that, since there’s no assurances that David Gordon Green’s political dramedy/satire will even be ready this year. It could be a 2016 release, but if it hits in 2015, Sandra Bullock could help power this one time George Clooney project to the top of the Best Picture tower. We’ll know in a few months possibly when it’s coming out, but if Green has it in play this year, watch out.

4. The Light Between Oceans – On more hunch of mine is that this arty project manages to catch on with the Academy. It has all the ingredients…a period setting, a well regarded filmmaker at the helm in Derek Cianofrance, big stars in Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz, as well as an up and comer in Alicia Vikander to boot. This drama could wind up getting lost in the shuffle, especially among Fassbender’s other contenders (one of which is coming up shortly on this list), but it has a classiness that could very well put it in play in a very big way.

5. Carol – Another somewhat safe bet is the presence of Todd Haynes’ melodrama throughout the season. Rooney Mara already has an award out of the Cannes Film Festival under her belt, Cate Blanchett should do very nicely herself during the precursors, and the timely civil rights nature of this period piece romance should give it an angle for The Weinstein Company to work. I don’t know that it can come close to winning, but a nomination seems like a very likely occurrence right now.

6. The Revenant – Could Alejandro González Iñárritu win two years in a row? Doubtful, but the Academy goodwill toward Birdman will certainly be a boon here, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio gunning for his first Oscar win and Tom Hardy seeking his first nomination. Most have this one ranked higher than I do, but I have a feeling that this one might not totally catch on. We’ll see what happens though, as you bet against Iñárritu right now at your own risk…

7. Steve Jobs – A Trailer yesterday helped the buzz of this one a lot, but I’ve always thought that the biopic has a place in the lineup as long as it’s good. After all, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin are Oscar winners, the title character holds endless fascination to many, and the aforementioned Fassbender looks to be crushing it. A win would be unlikely, but this is far from a knockoff off The Social Network. It can and will stand on its own.

8. Brooklyn – Something from the Sundance Film Festival usually cracks the lineup, so why not this romance set both in Ireland and America? Saoirse Ronan is rumored to be a threat for Best Actress, while Nick Hornby’s screenplays have held plenty of appeal to Academy voters so far. It’s another that I don’t believe has much of a chance to win, but assuming the lineup is on the larger side, has a great shot of sneaking in for a nomination.

9. The Hateful Eight – A lot will depend on if voters think that Quentin Tarantino is repeating himself here, but if they don’t feel that way, it’s not hard to assume that this one can duplicate what Django Unchained did a few years ago. There’s almost certainly going to be an acting nominee from this one, so that helps as well. Plus, Tarantino is sort of a favored son at this point.

10. Inside Out – I nearly went safe with David O. Russell’s Joy, but I got bold at the last minute and slipped Pixar’s hit in. It’ll suffer from not competing in the acting or directing categories, but an Original Screenplay nod is pretty likely and a surefire nom in Best Animated Feature probably will turn into a win as well. If it can hold on the rest of the season, it definitely can come close to making the lineup.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary) for Best Picture:

11. Joy
12. Ricki and the Flash
13. The End of the Tour
14. Lion
15. MacBeth
16. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
17. By the Sea
18. Demolition
19. The Walk
20. Freeheld

Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, sans commentary as well:

21. The Danish Girl
22. Love & Mercy
23. Southpaw
24. In the Heart of the Sea
25. Trainwreck
26. Sicario
27. Mad Max: Fury Road
28. Black Mass
29. Ex Machina
30. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, that’s what the Best Picture race could be made up of. Stay tuned in a few days/next week (like last time, I’m still figuring that part out) for my look at the Best Director race!

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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