Brooklyn, if it won Best Picture, would likely be the first Sundance get to do the trick. It has been flying nicely under the radar, not even being predicted by some pundits for a nomination. Early on in the year I hadn’t seen Brooklyn. I heard the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg say Brooklyn was his favorite film of the year. That’s funny, I thought. I knew next to nothing about it because the trailer didn’t really tell much about what to expect. A young Irish girl torn between two countries and two men. It sounded conventional to me, maybe even PBS-like. I wrote it off immediately as a potential winner.
What I find interesting is that both Room and Brooklyn are generating early buzz and excitement. Both are word of mouth movies – both are driven by a strong female lead. That means both could either cancel each other out, or one could inexplicably take Best Picture. I suspect if either did it would face backlash, which would be a shame.
The two films I enjoyed the most this year – purely on pleasure at the movies – have been The Martian and Brooklyn. That is, movies that simply take you away, ask not a lot from you, and deliver back tenfold. It’s like winning the lottery, seeing them. Of course, that might not mean anything in terms of Best Picture and yet, it might mean everything.
The best films this year aren’t necessarily the most enjoyable. Spotlight is easily one of the best and it, too, delivers tenfold. It is absorbing, skillfully made, deeply rendered. Unlike Brooklyn and The Martian it has gravitas – something important driving its plot. While I think the importance of The Martian is the celebration of science and the art of invention in extreme situations, and the importance of Brooklyn is about how America once opened its arms to immigrants who helped build this country – not to mention the importance of women helping women. But Oscar tends to need a little more heft to its gravitas. Except when it doesn’t. Neither The Artist nor Argo had a lot of it. Sometimes it just comes down to the most enjoyable film.
The reason I bring up Brooklyn now is not that I have ads for it blanketing my site (which I do because I asked, because I love the film) but because I keep hearing people talking about it as a potential winner for Best Picture. I don’t know if that’s buzz or not but it’s impossible to ignore and at some point must be addressed. What drove Room’s Best Picture win potential was that it kept winning audience awards. What is driving Brooklyn’s is this contagious enthusiasm. No responsible Oscar blogger could or should ignore it.
Does this mean I’ll put Brooklyn at the top of my predictions? No, but I think it’s in the top three. The way I’ve always defined a potential Best Picture winner is that it’s the film you can sit anyone down in front of and they’ll at least get it, if not love it. If anyone leaves scratching their head in confusion or hating what they just saw, its chances diminish (unless in the case of Birdman it’s about Hollywood, which can make up the difference but is unusual). The Martian, Brooklyn and Room fit the bill on this requirement. But I’d say Brooklyn and The Martian even more so. As more people see Brooklyn, they are going to keep falling in love both with the film and its young star. I suspect Saoirse Ronan could give Brie Larson a run for her money in Best Actress, too. I never thought, in a million years, that the Oscars could come down to two strong Best Picture contenders starring two actresses who may be vying for the Best Actress prize. I can’t remember the last time that happened – if it ever has happened – in Oscar history.
And to have maybe Todd Haynes’ Carol and David O. Russell’s Joy in the mix? It’s too soon to get excited about that potential but it’s certainly there.
You’ll hear a lot of naysaying on Brooklyn, or Room for that matter, being potential winners for Best Picture. For now, I still think The Martian is that one movie to beat – to bring back the public into the fold of the Oscar business. The Oscars and the movie industry need the public. They can’t survive in a bubble onto themselves. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the surge of these other two movies which are passionately loved and rising in the ranks.