Mike Leigh’s swoony, moody epic, Mr. Turner, seems to be quietly residing under the radar right now. But in a quick conversation with Movie City News’ David Poland he pointed out that it’s possible the film could be one of the sleeper success stories in this year’s Oscar race, and I have to agree with that assessment. Just because the pundits aren’t talking about it, or it isn’t on many lists, that doesn’t mean it isn’t “in their wheelhouse,” as they say.
The first thing to know is that J. M. W. Turner is Britain’s most famous painter. The newly morphing BAFTOscars will very likely remember this and that might mean a BAFTA frontrunner. As the last remaining films are screened (Unbroken will screen on November 30) they may or may not make the cut. But, as always, it’s best to go with what you know versus what you don’t know.
To that end, I’ve decided to follow in Anne Thompson’s footsteps and only predict films that either I’ve seen or have been widely seen and agreed upon. I’m doing it as an experiment to see how the chips fall by year’s end. I think it’s important to view the Oscar race this way, first because it lessens the pressure on films coming up, lowering expectations, and second because it does not give short shrift to the known successes.
What sight unseen predictions can do is provide much publicity for the upcoming productions, giving them Oscar buzz that hasn’t yet formed into an embryo. That’s great for these films, especially the ones that are racing against the clock to get into the race. But there are ways of writing about them and keeping them on lists without actually predicting them for certain categories. I think it’s a crap shoot, really, with no “there” there but after 16 years of this I’m always interested in ways that might shake up the race a little.
If I had an aggregate site like Gold Derby or Movie City News I might think of separating myself out by only predicting films that have been seen, just to see, by year’s end, who ends up being more accurate. But most other Oscar sites are into the “hope springs eternal” form of Oscar predicting and usually glom onto that which has not yet been seen.
Either way, as the movies open and enter the race, they can succeed or fail. If they fail, that opens the door for films people already knew were good enough to be remembered. That could potentially mean good things for Mr. Turner, a Cannes favorite, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of the year’s earlier hits.
Most of the time, the some of the year’s Best Picture nominees do come from earlier in the year — sleeper films that pundits already whip through but that the Academy maybe didn’t get to see. We forget about them while the Academy voters see them for the first time. With a few notable exceptions, this seems to always be the case.
Might 2014 be the year everything changes? It might be. We can’t yet know.
Mr. Turner has very good reviews already and if that continues it could end the year as one of the biggest money makers. Full of notable British actors, with sumptuous cinematography, art direction and costumes — it seems to be one that should be regarded in higher esteem at this point in the race.
While The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Wes Anderson movie, and the Academy isn’t Wes Anderson friendly, at least where Picture and Director are concerned, one thing it has in spades is a large ensemble cast, like Mr. Turner does. The Academy is ruled by actors — their branch numbering over double any of the second largest branches. That means they’re likely to lean towards films that give actors their due. That favors Birdman and Boyhood, also Gone Girl, Whiplash, Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, but it also favors Mr. Turner and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Either way, something to think about on this Saturday.