Oscar Preview: Weekend of Jul. 17-19, 2015

We had four films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Trainwreck

For years, Judd Apatow has been taking the Academy to task for its complete ignorance of comedy films. Unfortunately, his type of films aren’t the ones the Academy usually recognizes. Gone are the days of Billy Wilder where smart, sensuous humor drew big names and even bigger box office tallies. Trainwreck might be the first of his films to earn major consideration from the Academy. Too bad he didn’t write it.

Trainwreck may be Apatow’s directorial puppy, but the screenplay is the direct responsibility of Amy Schumer, one of the most prominent comediennes working in entertainment today. Like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Schumer has earned a certain level of cachet that has transcended her television sketch comedy show. She’s been shared so frequently and with great zeal that some have even started trying to label her racist without having a shred of proof (or having even watched the material).

As star and writer, Schumer seems to have earned quite a healthy reputation and if the critics are to be believed, this is the best reviewed Apatow film ever. That alone gives her a significant chance of a Best Original Screenplay nomination. The film, on the other hand, will have a lot more work to do before it can be considered a major contender in other categories.

The truth is that the Academy does have a blind spot for comedy, at least in the last few decades. They recognize performances on rare occasion (Robert Downey Jr. and Melissa McCarthy are recent examples), but in the big categories, they tend to go for more serious topics, which belie the truth that comedy is very hard to pull off successfully. Just ask McCarthy who’s had an embarrassing string of underperformers (even when they’re actually quite good, see Spy). I suspect that even the Original Screenplay nomination is an off-chance this year, but one that could ultimately pay off if the writers can’t find enough really good original material to fete.

Ant-Man

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may rule the box office roost, but the Academy is far more stingy with its praise of the franchise. This last year was the first time that films not featuring Iron Man received any Oscar nominations. Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy both secured Oscar nominations. The former in Best Visual Effects, the latter in the same category plus Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

So where does this leave Ant-Man. It’s one of two MCU films this year, the other being The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s also going to be a box office weakling compared to most of the other films in the franchise. However, reviews are strong, but the Academy has never been enamored with miniaturization films. Innerspace was nominated and won Best Visual Effects in 1988, but Honey, I Shrunk the Kids the next year wasn’t even nominated.

Perhaps technology has improved enough to merit consideration, but my guess is that the combination of comic book film and hefty competition will ultimately lead to the film being completely ignored.

Mr. Holmes

There was a time when director Bill Condon was the toast of Hollywood. Gods and Monsters and Kinsey were both Oscar nominated, the latter earning him an Oscar for writing. Dreamgirls was supposed to be his best chance at Best Director, but the film not only failed to secure a nomination, he wasn’t anywhere in Best Picture in spite of eight other nominations. Had it been released during a ten-slot year, the film assuredly would have been nominated, but Condon still would have been left off.

Once he finished with that, he took on the Twilight films and has yet to ignite interest since. This was the first film that had the potential to catapult him back into the Oscar limelight, but early reviews haven’t been kind to the film itself even if star Ian McKellen has received heaps of praise. Ultimately, the film will suffer from its mid-July specialty release and the good but not stellar reviews.

That doesn’t mean it won’t get nominated outside of Best Picture. McKellen is one of the year’s few certain contenders so far, which could give him an edge when it comes to year-end awards, especially to those who start trying to build buzz for Oscar nominations at this point of the year. McKellen will face stiff competition and his nomination is far from assured, but he’s in a decent position. The film could also make a small showing in the creative categories where Best Production Design and Best Costume Design will have no qualms recognizing a period film like this.

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