Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wither The Wolf of Wall Street?

So far this year, without fail, every time I update my Oscar predictions, there's a release date announcement that essentially renders my work (and it does usually take me several hours to do it) dated. And now we know that The Monuments Men, George Clooney's WWII drama about saving art from the Nazis, will be moved to "early 2014," and therefore won't be a factor in this year's Oscar race. This comes on the heels of The Wolf of Wall Street getting a formal release on Christmas, meaning - for the moment - it is back in the race.

Of course, this sets up the obvious: WOWS (what a great acronym) will take Monuments Men's place in the Best Picture race, Adapted Screenplay race, and Director race. The lattermost should be interesting because it's becoming increasingly crowded: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) should easily find himself nominated, David O. Russell (American Hustle) seems like the safest bet of the remaining unseen films, and as 12 Years a Slave begins its march to (presumed) gold, Steve McQueen is a pretty sure thing too. That leaves two spots and a number of contenders, including Scorsese, who has the fact that he is Martin Scorsese on his side. But what does that mean for Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), J.C. Chandor (All is Lost), or John Wells (August: Osage County)?

The big one affected by this shuffle, though, is going to be the Best Actor race. Even last month, this category felt like it was going to be tough to break into. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Robert Redford (All is Lost), and Bruce Dern (Nebraska) feel like whatever the closest thing to "lock" there is, while Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) seem to be fighting for that final spot. Of that latter set, DiCaprio and McConaughey seem (at the moment) to have the best chance. When WOWS was doubtful to be released this year, I felt like McConaughey had the best shot at his first career nomination. But throwing DiCaprio back into the mix makes it much more murky.


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So let's pretend, for a moment, that Hanks, Ejiofor, Redford, and Dern are all safely locked into place, and that DiCaprio and McConaughey are the top contenders for the fifth spot. There are three ways this could unfold:

Scenario 1: The Wolf of Wall Street is a critical favorite, Dallas Buyers Club earns generally decent reviews that single out McConaughey's performance, but the Academy goes whole-hog for WOWS. DiCaprio edges McConaughey out for the final spot in Best Actor, but because McConaughey's career has been on-fire lately, the momentum he's built up over the past two years pushes him to be nominated for his role in WOWS for Best Supporting Actor. Basically, everybody wins.

Scenario 2: This one is trickier. Suppose that, even if WOWS, um, wows, the Academy has had a strange apathy towards DiCaprio. His career has plenty of iconic roles, and every role he turns in is buzzed about by the Internet as his "sure-thing winner," yet he only has three nominations to his name, the last of which was in 2006 for Blood Diamond (yeah, not The Departed, like everyone expected). Not Inception, which was never going to be considered an actors movie anyway. Not J. Edgar, which…let's not even go there. Not Django Unchained, which was a fine performance but, oddly, lacked menace and never really made an impression. So even though he looks, from the trailer, like he's having the most fun he's had in ages, there's no guarantee that the Academy will glom to him.

So in this scenario, DiCaprio misses out yet again, and McConaughey gets the final nomination. McConaughey also likely gets a spot in Supporting Actor, too, given how wide-open that category is: at the moment, Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks) are the only truly likely nominees, with a number of contenders duking it out. It seems reasonable to assume that McConaughey could earn the rare double acting nominations (along with Hanks, which would make this the first year since 1993 - and second all-time - that two actors scored two acting nominations in the same year).

Scenario 3: One of the other contenders keeps them both out, McConaughey still likely gets his Supporting Actor nod (basically, I feel really comfortable saying McConaughey will be nominated one way or another this year), and DiCaprio sits next to his BFF Scorsese at the ceremony and watches.

Where was The Monuments Men in all of this? Nowhere, really. Even though I kept it in my Best Picture predictions, I seriously had no idea how this would fit into the rest of the race, and I had honestly resigned myself to believing that the film would pull off the rare feat of being nominated for Best Picture and nothing else. It didn't really seem like an acting contender, despite the big names, nor did it seem to have heat in Director or Adapted Screenplay. So it's absence only really affects WOWS (as far as this article is concerned).

So, what say you? Do you think WOWS is as strong of a contender as I'm making it out to be?

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