We’re still a couple of weeks away from the Oscar ceremonies, we won’t see the results until March 2, and not much is going to change between now and then as with twenty days left, voting is mostly done (though voters have until February 25 to submit). Whatever curve balls are to be left (like the Woody Allen situation) have to hit now.
But as was the case three months ago, the Best Picture race seems down to three contestants: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity. But why does it feel like none of these have become favorites? With The King’s Speech or Argo even, you could feel some momentum, some pull. But here there’s no gravitation heft. Perhaps it’s because American Hustle went wide and did good business, but hasn’t been pulling slow and steady numbers. It acted like a an adult drama, much like Captain Phillips, in that it did well, but tapered off and is now out of the top ten, and unless it wins, it won’t be coming back.
12 Years a Slave could have also rebounded some after the Oscar nominations, but the subject matter may have kept audiences from turning it into a hundred million dollar hit. It’s still playing, and will do over $50 Million worldwide, but where Chiwetel Ejiofor was once a front runner for best actor, it seems unlikely anything will stand in Matthew McConaughey‘s way. How did that happen? The thing is that McConaughey’s return is a good story. An actor who redeemed himself. An actor who went through serious weight loss for the role. Is it a better performance? Who’s to say, though it is by nature showier. It’s possible the only Oscar the film gets is best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o. Then again, we could see Jennifer Lawrence take one home again. Perhaps John Ridley will score for adapted screenplay. So, maybe two. But best picture seems unlikely.
And is it just me, or does American Hustle feel like it’s lost a little luster as well? There was the praise and the backlash, but it feels like it’s already left the pop consciousness. What this suggests is that Gravity has a stronger shot at taking home best picture now than it did three months ago.
The question, when it comes to this stuff, is “what are the actors thinking?” Critics such as myself love and appreciate actors, but we often see them at the service of the narrative. Or, to make it plainer, the central emotional currency of Sandra Bullock‘s character in Gravity, that of a mom who lost her child and has to fight to stay alive even if part of her wishes she was dead, is the least interesting aspect of the film to me. It’s a director underlining the narrative. Yet that underlining is the reason why the film could win best picture — it gives Bullock big moments and emotional heft.
For the most part, the Oscars have proven to have very dull taste. That’s not to knock the voters, it’s just the field of winners is often peppered with good films that won over something that was great. We’re close, but right now it feels like the box office, and the world at large, has little vested interest in this year’s Oscars. A couple years ago you would see people annoyed that The Artist was a, if not the, front runner. Who’s picking on American Hustle at this point? Who’s championing 12 Years a Slave? For a great year in cinema, there’s not a lot of energy left for the films of 2013.
Who do you hope wins best picture?