Will any film released so far this year be nominated for Best Picture?
At the beginning of each new year, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences announces their picks for what they consider to be the best films of the previous year. There are usually a few surprises on the list as well as a few disappointments when it comes to films that did not make the list and felt like surefire bets. Even with the rule changes and number of nominees changing over the pat few years, there is still going to be mystery into what will be nominated up until the day the nominees are announced. The Best Picture nominees for 2012 films are right around six months away and it is time to look back and see if anything released so far this year will be nominated for the top, coveted award of the night.
There have been many genres tackled so far this year that have catered to audiences in rousing numbers. Whether it was getting families back into theaters by making Brave, The Lorax, and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted bigger than any animated film released last year (the winner then was Cars 2), breaking comedy barriers with the wild success of 21 Jump Street and Ted, or finding something all audiences can connect to in The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games, audiences have definitely gotten their fill so far. Audience popularity does not necessarily mean an automatic nomination for the big award come early next year. When it comes to breaking down the statistics and predecessors, could any of the above films actually fight the battle and survive through to the January reveal?
Let’s take the big animated films of the year so far. Already, The Lorax and Madagascar 3 can be eliminated from the picture off the basis that they are not Disney films. There have only been three animated films that have been nominated for Best Picture and those being Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story 3, and Up which were all Disney films. Now just because Brave is a Disney film does not mean it is guaranteed a nomination. When Beauty and the Beast was nominated it was a breakthrough for animated films as they finally had a role model that could give them more prominence against the bigger, live-action counterparts. There was also never a Best Animated Feature during Beauty and the Beast‘s award run. The category was never introduced until 2001 and Shrek was the first film to earn the honor. Since the introduction of the award it makes sense that no other animated film popped up in the top category come nomination time. When the rule change occurred for the Oscars associated with 2009 films to where 10 films would be nominated instead of 5, there was wonder if an animated film would enter. Sure enough Up made it but it could very well be concluded that if the ranking were still 5, it would not have gotten a nomination. Toy Story 3 is a little bit harder to guess if it would have not been nominated on a field of 5 since it was so loved by not only critics but also Academy members.
So where does that leave Brave? With the latest rule change that went into effect last year with a switch from 10 nominees to any number from 5 to 10, Brave may very well be left in the dust. One reason is that critics didn’t love this film as much as Toy Story 3 or even Up and called it more middle-tier than what the studio is used to dishing out. Now critics are not the ultimate decider when it comes to nominations (if so Drive would have been nominated last year), but with a general consensus such as this looming over the film, that could very well attach itself to other Academy members. Also, there are so many big name directors with some of their most ambitious projects coming out this year that the Academy may not want to nominate a Pixar film that couldn’t even get the work done with just one director. Unless Monsters University is a huge hit with everyone, it may be a while until Pixar earns their next Best Picture nomination.
Will a big-time comedy release from this year, whether 21 Jump Street or Ted, get a nomination at the top honor of the night? The simple answer is no because big-time comedies such as these are more or less reserved for Golden Globes love. Both comedies will most likely get nominated in the Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) category come next January at the Globes and maybe one could surprise with a win. These types of comedies (R-rated humor) may be hits with audiences but they are not the kind of humor that the Academy is going to go for. They are more likely to nominate films that have instances of humor in them (such as last year’s winner The Artist) that still tend to put together in an overall story arc instead of a comedy that is more inclined on getting the most jokes into its 90-120 minute runtime. Once again, however, both of the comedies above should be noticed in overall production and maybe an acting nomination when the Golden Globes roll around.
The Hunger Games is one of the biggest success stories of the year. It is a film that not only came out of nowhere in its way to success but also brought new life to the middle-tier Lionsgate company and had more attendance than any Harry Potter film outside of the first for which even then Hunger Games is not far behind. With its wild success with audiences and critics, as well as a rising star performance from Jennifer Lawrence, does it have the willpower for a Best Picture nomination? No. Despite making over $400 million to date and being a proving ground for starting a successful franchise, there is not much for the Academy to hold on to here except for recognizing it as just another big time, fun blockbuster. Even with a four-time Oscar-nominater directing the production, Gary Ross (his film Seabiscuit was nominated for Best Picture in 2003), that won’t be enough to garner a big-time nomination this time around. When the Harry Potter series, which was just as beloved by audiences, could not get a Best Picture nomination (let alone any Oscar wins over eight films), it just seems impossible for this franchise starter to garner a nomination. Even with negative Best Picture aspects aside, the film should still fill in a few technical nominations. Also, lead Jennifer Lawrence could possibly be in some acting nomination discussion once those heat up later in the year. Though if Lawrence were to grab a nomination for a film this year (which would be her second after Winter’s Bone), it may be very well be a supporting nomination for the Silver Linings Playbook coming out in November for which she has gotten a lot of praise for.
This year has already seen three big comic book films make it to the big screen with The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises. Each have not only impressed visually, but they have also gotten audiences out into some of the largest numbers ever seen for film attendance particularly when it comes to the latter two films. The one problem is that a comic book movie has NEVER been nominated for Best Picture. The genre has grown at such a rapid pace in the last decade, but the Academy has yet to acknowledge that accomplishment. So do any of these comic book movies break tradition and become the first comic book movie ever nominated for Best Picture? Well, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers don’t stand a chance. The Amazing Spider-Man, despite being a well-received reboot and having strong lead performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, just does not have the extra oomph or buzz surrounding it to make any sort of impact. Sure, it will get a couple of tech nominations but even then it probably won’t win any. Despite breaking a lot of box office records including the opening weekend record and being the third film in history to gross over $600 million, The Avengers will also be a film left to the tech nominations, where it might win one or two. Despite a lot of praise for its action, one of the main complaints about The Avengers is its lack of story and a film needs a good story before it can even be noticed and given thought to a Best Picture nomination. The film may have broken barriers with audiences and the box office but it won’t break the high category barriers when it comes to comic book films and the Academy.
So where does that leave The Dark Knight Rises? Out of all the blockbusters released this year, it is the hardest one to pinpoint for a Best Picture nomination. The rule change to 10 Best Picture nominees in 2009 was made after the Academy admitted, without right saying it, that they should have nominated The Dark Knight in 2008. The big surprise of that film not being nominated was met with just as much power in backlash when The Reader was figured to be the film that most likely took its place. However, the Best Picture rule has changed again to the 5-10 nominee rule which puts the film’s nomination into some uncertainty. One of the biggest concerns comes down to the ruling of how a nomination is secured. When it comes to the 5000+ Academy members, at least 5% of the members must list The Dark Knight Rises as their #1 film of the year in order for a nomination to happen. There is plenty of love for the film out there as seen by its big opening weekend and its 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, with so many big name directors also competing for the throne, there is a very good chance The Dark Knight Rises may get a lot of #2 votes or a lot in the Top 5 at least. Some could argue that since Inception, director Christopher Nolan’s previous film, was nominated then this trilogy-ender is a no-brainer for a nomination. Inception got nominated during the 10 nomination period and it may very well have not been nominated under the new guidelines. Will Academy members though tweak their rankings so that Batman finally gets a Best Picture slot? Maybe so, but it is still too mysterious at the moment.
The Dark Knight Rises is still going to get a ton of nominations however. There is still a question into whether there would be any acting nominations this time around such as when Heath Ledger was nominated (and won) for Best Supporting Actor in The Dark Knight. If anyone from Rises had a chance to score an acting nomination it would most likely be Anne Hathaway. However, she is basically a lock to receive a supporting nomination for Les Miserables which she may very likely win. There is no double dipping in categories and it seems very unlikely that Warner Bros. would try a fast one and try to get Anne a lead nomination for Rises. So in the acting arena, Rises may very well not be nominated but it should score many tech nominations and wins and a potential directorial nomination for Christopher Nolan for which it would be his first as director.
Even with all the scenarios played out so far as to why a lot of these films will very well not be nominated, timing is another issue to consider. Since 2001 only four big time films (ones that made over $100 million) that have been released in July or before have been nominated for Best Picture and only one came from the time of five nominees (2003′s Seabiscuit). Two of the others were highly regarded Pixar films and the final one was Inception. Last year when the rule changed again only two films, no matter how much they made, were released in July or before then (Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life). It also helped that both of those films were directed by beloved directors (Woody Allen and Terrence Malick). All these factors tend to point out that of any of the films listed above, The Dark Knight Rises stands the best chance at a nomination this year but even that is not a guarantee.
If all the blockbusters above look unlikely to be nominated, then does any film released so far this year have a chance at getting nominated? The answer is yes, in fact there are two possible films. The first film is a smaller film that hasn’t quite made its way out into full general audience exposure and that is Beasts of the Southern Wild. This little independent film kind of just crept into playing with the top guns this year in a similar fashion that The Artist did last year. The film got nothing but universal praise at Cannes earlier this year and has played very well so far in limited release and with critics (it has an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes). The entire premise and way the film is playing out in awards discussions is just what the Academy loves to get their hands on. Add in that a five-year old newcomer is getting raves from those who have seen the film and that adds to the massive praise the film has received that should stay in tact when nominations come around.
The other film that seems most destined for a Best Picture nomination, that has been released so far this year, is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson has a very devoted fan base that are committed to his interesting take on film and he even managed a couple Oscar nominations so far, a writing nomination for The Royal Tenenbaums and an animated feature nomination for The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Moonrise Kingdom has helped Anderson break his fan base barrier and has allowed more people to grasp his take on film. The result is one of the best reviewed films of the summer so far as the film has garnered a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is also becoming a little bit of a small hit in the same way Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris did last year and that film went on to get a Best Picture nomination. Though they may just miss out on acting nominations, the entire adult cast and the tremendous finds in the two young leads have helped the flame of this film stay strong during the season. It should hopefully have the power to stay just as strong once the nominations are announced.
The Best Picture nomination debate is going to be just as fun to pick at this year as any other. Although none of the big names are likely to make it, The Dark Knight Rises still holds hope for the big money makers to make a presence. However, there are two very strong candidates that have been released this year, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, that give hope that a film released outside of “Oscar bait season” will be nominated for Best Picture. There is still plenty of mystery at play as the year goes on, especially with the 5-10 nominee rule still fairly new, but the twists and turns shall be interesting. Plus, you can never know what can happened when a horrible film like last year’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close got 5% of Academy #1 votes and somehow got a Best Picture nomination.
For fun, here are LaFlow Reviews’ current predictions for what will be nominated for 2012 Best Picture…
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Sessions (formerly known as The Surrogate)