Wednesday, 18 December 2013

RACE REVIEW - 12 YEARS, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS UP, THE BUTLER, ALL IS LOST DOWN


Post-Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations, it remains the case that things only seem to be shaping up in most films' favour, while very few have experienced significant shifts for the worse in their fortunes. It's adding to the sense that this is one of the most crowded awards seasons in recent years, with many categories extremely cluttered with several more high-profile contenders than Oscar nominations can cater for. Perhaps, then, this year Oscar nominations may be seen as less important than in recent years, and films and people who have been rewarded elsewhere might be able to experience some glory in being recognised at all.

If the Golden Globe nominations were going to confirm anything, it seemed, they'd confirm the potential of some of the crowdpleasers which haven't caught on with critics. But Saving Mr. Banks and Lee Daniels' The Butler, two such films, fell hard upon announcement of the HFPA's choices: Mr. Banks reaping only a nomination for Emma Thompson, and The Butler shut out completely. These films saved some face with Critics Choice nominations, though not much. But their time may be yet to come. Another hit was felt for a less crowdpleasing film - SAG members, so numerous and (let's be honest) ordinary that they effectively serve as the general public, weren't bothered enough to watch All Is Lost, and didn't find room among their Best Actor nominations for its star, Robert Redford, though it was nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble with the guild.

Meanwhile, 12 Years a Slave is bulldozing the competition in the Best Picture category with critic groups. It has yet to win this award from any of the major groups, though the BFCA may put an end to that in January, or possibly even the NSFC. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o can surely now be classed as the frontrunners to win their respective awards, though look out for Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, a film which has been coming on very strong recently (not least due to its SAG Ensemble nod), and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, which has just killed it in limited release at the box office, and looks sure to succeed with both audiences and awards voters.

The Best Picture race, then, looks to be between 12 Years a Slave, the current leader, American Hustle, whose big moment looks to be ahead of it, and Gravity, which remains still a strong contender, certainly among technical categories, and even in Best Director, where Alfonso Cuaron has put up a very strong showing against Steve McQueen among critic groups. In terms of scoring Best Picture Oscar nominations, films such as Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska show no sign of letting up, with support across the board, including from the HFPA, whose Comedy / Musical nominations are, this year, perhaps even more formidable than their more surprising Drama nominations. And Captain Phillips has made up significant ground after getting rather lost among the competition with the critics. Four Golden Globe noms, six from BFCA and two from SAG reaffirm its chances.