Oscar Preview: Weekend of Nov. 26-29, 2015

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

Creed

39 years ago, an upstart boxing drama became the year’s Best Picture winner. Rocky spawned a series of successful sequels and became one of those Oscar winners that you either love or are indifferent to. Now, we have a semi-reboot of the franchise with Creed, following the life of the son of one of Rocky Balboa’s key opponents. Now that Rocky is beyond the prime age of his sport, he’s turned to coaching and becomes the tutor to Creed’s son.

Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young and Sylvester Stallone were each nominated for their performances in the original film. None of them won Oscars, but the film managed three wins out of ten nominations. While the sequels earned periodic attention, they never received the acclaim or Oscar consideration the original film did. 25 years after that first franchise ended its run and 9 years since the last attempt to reboot the franchise failed, Creed hopes to start a new franchise and, in doing so, secure several Oscar nominations to ensure that.

Perhaps it’s been too long since there was a viable boxing contender, but the commentariat seems to have gone over the moon about the film, inflating its potential for Oscar consideration even if it wouldn’t normally be considered. All the talk centers primarily around Sylvester Stallone who’s only Oscar nominations came from the original film. They say he’s a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor, but history doesn’t give him a lot of potential. Yet, these days narratives tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. If SAG goes for him, then his chances may be pretty good. If they don’t, you can probably forget about it.

The Good Dinosaur

Until Cars 2 and Monsters University, Pixar was guaranteed a slot at the Best Animated Feature race. This year already has one such contender with Inside Out, but with Disney having no viable contenders of its own, could a double-Pixar nomination be in the offing?

The film, which centers around a dinosaur family farm and the young dino whose swept away with his nemesis, a feral human child, and must find his way home in a Homeward Bound-style journey that pits him against various dangerous varmints in the Wild “West” like pterodactyls, T-rexes and velociraptors.

The scenery is beautiful, but the story is hamfisted and generic. Critics have been largely positive about the film, but they are not raving about it. Second-tier Pixar may be an apt description, which might give it trouble when it comes to the heavy competition of the Best Animated Feature race. Disney does often get what it wants, but its power has been diminished. If the film doesn’t do well at the Annie Awards, it may have a tougher time getting into the Oscar competition, but if it performs as well as or just slightly worse than Inside Out, it’s probably in.

The Danish Girl

Positive, but not glowing reviews are facing Tom Hooper’s latest big screen feature, an exploration of a young man’s transition into a woman at a time when transgender women couldn’t actively find safety in the world outside. It’s about the man becoming a woman and the woman who helps him realize and come to terms with himself as he goes through transitioning procedures.

Hot off his Best Actor win, Eddie Redmayne is cruising towards a second nomination. After well reviewed turns in My Week with Marilyn and Les Misérables, Redmayne has become a consistently recognized young actor. The problem is that his film may not have sufficient support to go beyond that.

The reviews are decent, but not nearly as superb as they would need to be to make a successful play at the Best Picture race. Still, the film earns placement on several prediction lists and sometimes a narrative drives success even if it wouldn’t have twenty years ago. Alicia Vikander is being campaigned in support, which could give her a leg-up on the competition in an ostensibly lead role. Unlike Rooney Mara in Carol, there hasn’t been enough discussion to merit the possibility of her not suffering category fraud.

The film is likely to earn nominations for Production Design and Costume Design, possibly even Makeup and Hairstyling, but beyond these three categories plus the two in acting, the potential becomes tougher. Weakly reviewed films sometimes make it into the Best Picture race, especially if a strong campaigner is behind them, but Focus has proven to be a poor general campaigner and that may hinder the film’s chances of breaking out of mediocrity.

A Best Director nomination is out of the question, there are only five slots and Hooper isn’t even close to one. I could see a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, but that category is more fierce in terms of competition than Best Actor. The only thing the film can hope for is a lot of support from precursors. Without that, it may not have much luck with the Academy.

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