Despite the fact that the actual ceremony is roughly four months away, the
movie award season has already begun with many of
this year’s major contenders being either released theatrically or played at various film festivals. So now the question is what films appear to be the frontrunner? Most years it is easy to tell which movies are being loved particularly in the film community. Last year, Birdman and Boyhood were being praised as definite frontrunners and films that would go on to be classics. While the latter did not end up winning much at the end, Birdman ended up winning four awards, the most of the night, including best picture and director.
So what does 2015 have to offer? Unlike last year there is no one film eating critic’s praise. According to Rotten Tomatoes the highest rated film this year would be MadMax: Fury Road, an adrenaline-fueled summer action film that while incredible is far from what the Academy typically goes for. For one, action movies, outside of the war genre, rarely get nominated for best picture. The last time this happened was in 2009 when District 9 and Avatar were nominated but even those were not successful in winning anything outside of technical awards.
There are many movies that have been released theatrically that look to be strong contenders for best picture nominations. First there is Bridge of Spies directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. The Cold War drama seems perfectly positioned for a nomination seeing that other recent Spielberg historical dramas such as Lincoln, War Horse, and Munich have all received best picture nominations. Based on the Academy’s love of real life stories, Steve Jobs is also a very strong contender. The film is both an acting showcase for its star studded cast and comes from director Danny Boyle, who won back in 2008 when his film Slumdog Millionaire swept winning 8 Oscars. Other biopics that are potential threats are Black Mass, which is seeing great reviews for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of mobster Whitey Bulger and Straight Outta Compton, based on the rise of N.W.A. in the late 1980s.
Next there are many films that will be receiving plenty of fan support for nominations. As mentioned before, both Mad Max: Fury Road and Straight Outta Compton were huge summer hits between moviegoers and critics alike. Also in contention is Pixar’s best reviewed work in years, Inside Out. Animated films do not typically do well in the best picture category, Toy Story 3 was the last animated film to get a nomination here back in 2010, it is impossible to deny that Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best works and they will be working hard to see it get nominated. A more recent box office and critical success would be The Martian starring Matt Damon. As of now the film has earned $183 million in the United States, and has a 93% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes meaning it could end up being in a similar spot as Gravity which was nominated for best picture and won 7 Academy Awards in 2013. Avid readers might also be able to get behind Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her own novel Room. The film has gotten rave reviews and won the People’s Choice Awards at the Toronto International Film Festival, an award given to past winners 12 Years a Slave and The King’s Speech.
We cannot forget about the films that have been getting great early reviews that will be released in the coming weeks. Spotlight, which like Steve Jobs features a large group of critically acclaimed actors in a film based on real life events. The film center
s on how the Boston Globe uncovered a massive child molestation scandal in the local Catholic Archdiocese. Many critics seem to think the powerful subject matter, mixed with a great ensemble and script could lead the film to a best picture win. Another movie based on true events with powerful subject matter, The Danish Girl, starring last year’s best actor winner Eddie Redmayne centers on Einar Wegener, the first person to attempt to undergo a male to female sex change operation. The film, directed by The King Speech’s Tom Hooper has not received unanimous praise but could still be a contender given the talent involved. More contenders that will soon be released are Brooklyn, the 1950s love story that was breakout of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and Carol, another 1950s love story between two women played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara who won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival.
Finally, there are the films that have yet to be seen. The Hateful Eight, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino is sure to be a contender since Tarantino’s last two films were also nominated for best picture. Another director with a great track record from the Academy, David O. Russell has his third collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence coming out this Christmas with Joy. The film, which tells the story of the creator of the Miracle Mop also stars Academy favorites Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. The last big contender is The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Taking place in the 1820s, the film is about a frontiersman seeking vengeance against the people who left him for dead after being mauled by a bear. The film is written and directed by last year’s best director winner Alejandro González Iñárriitu and was shot using only natural light, which will make this a very ambitious contender.In my personal opinion, Spotlight seems to be the clear frontrunner for now with Bridge of Spires, The Revenant and Steve Jobs all certain for nominations. There is a possible 10 nominations though so it will be interesting to see which of these films will be able to make the cut and what will get snubbed.