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Hollywood Contenders – Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea” sets sail for late Oscar consideration

With very few films still to be seen, we more or less know who and what the Academy Award hopefuls for 2015 realistically are. Sure, we don’t know exactly what will happen, but the mysteries are drying up. One that still remains is if members of the Academy will take to Ron Howard’s latest work. Yes, with this week seeing the release of In the Heart of the Sea, another of the very few releases left for 2015 is coming to theaters. Howard’s flick is hoping to catch on with audiences, which in turn might help with its appeal towards Oscar attention. I have my doubts that it will happen, but there’s certainly a chance. As such, it’s something well worth discussing, so that’s what we’ll do right now…

The movie is an adaptation of the Nathaniel Philbrick book “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex”. It concerns a 1820 event in which a whaling ship struggling to find its fare is basically hunted by a giant whale, ultimately stranding the crew at sea for 90 days and far from home. The events depicted would wind up becoming the basis of the book Moby Dick, with Herman Melville even being a character in the flick. Howard directs, with the script being cowritten by Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, with the cast including the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley, among others. Anthony Dod Mantle handles the cinematography, headlining the tech contributors.

This type of film used to be catnip to the Academy. Just think back to how well Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World did with Oscar when it hit, harkening back to an older period for voters. I’m not saying that it makes this one automatically a true contender, but the early buzz was definitely promising. That inspired some chatter that this could surprise at the end of the year. Now, nothing right now suggests that it will happen, though there’s a field or two where Howard could see his film come into play. Keep in mind, Howard is an Oscar winner, and more often than not, that counts for something.

Awards wise, I doubt that In the Heart of the Sea will ultimately leave much of a mark, but I suppose anything is possible. Warner Brothers did move this one into Oscar season on purpose, after all. In a world where it lands as a hit, WB could mount last moment campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Howard), Best Actor (for Hemsworth), Best Supporting Actor (for Gleeson, Holland, Murphy, Walker, or Whishaw), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Jaffa, Leavitt, and Silver), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. Honestly, it might just wind up being Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, or bust. More likely than not, a shut out seems likely. It’s no foregone conclusion, but the odds do seem to favor it.

Ultimately, it seems like In the Heart of the Sea won’t emerge as a huge awards vehicle, but starting this weekend, audiences will take a look and see if they want to give it a push. Howard often is a crowdpleaser, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility. I’ll be keeping a pretty close eye on this one, waiting to see if it can make an money and start up a conversation. Worst case scenario, we have another movie for adults in the marketplace, and that’s a definite plus. This is a film worth seeking out if you’re keen on the material…

Be sure to check out In the Heart of the Sea, in theaters this Friday!

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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