Pop-Ed: Early Oscar Breakdown


Thanksgiving is over.  December just hit.  The NFL playoff picture is coming into focus.  I think it’s safe to write the first Oscar article of the year.  Think of this as the pre-season, a “This is where we stand” if you will.  With the biggest Oscar month in December still to go, I’ll only be talking about movies that have been released, so no Inherent Vice, Selma, Wild, or Unbroken just yet.  As I said, we still got plenty of films to go.

I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time locking down the Oscars.  I’m sure things will get clearer in a month, but right now we’re a bit jumbled.  It’s not because there haven’t been great movies, but there’s no 12 Years a Slave or Gravity garnering all the hoopla.  There’s no American Hustle or The Wolf of Wall Street waiting in the wings.  The problem is a lot of the Oscar movies are barely getting attention right now.  Movies like Whiplash, Foxcatcher, and The Theory of Everything are barely making a dent with audiences.

I’m here to give attention to some of these hopefuls though, as I break down all the major awards into four categories.  Here it is – my early Oscar analysis through November!


The Front Runners: Birdman, Gone Girl

Gone Girl has all the ingredients to win Best Picture: Critically lauded, commercially successful, tons of attention, a director who’s been to the dance, and of course Ben Affleck.  It also has that epic feel you need to win Best Picture.  Gone Girl has to be in the driver’s seat right now.  While a little slow out of the gate, Birdman has really struck a cord with people.  Everyone who talks about this film praises the shit out of it.  The performances are ridiculous, and it feels big, which I think will help its Best Picture chances a lot.  It’s also doing solid business, and will continue to stick around through the end of the year.  Birdman is in a good position right now.

Gone Girl

Middle of the Pack: Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Interstellar, Whiplash

I do not understand for the life of me why Boyhood was released during the summer.  Had it come out during Oscar time, I honestly think it would be a lock to win this award.  Even though releasing your movie before October is always the kiss of death, there’s no way in hell critics will let anyone forget about this one.  Foxcatcher has no chance of winning, but it’s a lock to get nominated.  Even though it’s getting no attention by audiences whatsoever, Whiplash is too good of a movie to be ignored.  And let me just say this about Interstellar – if you asked me two weeks ago, I would have said “no chance,” but for all the crap Interstellar got for its disappointing opening weekend, its maintained a strong box office, and is absolutely cleaning up internationally.  Word of mouth among the non internet movie blog crowd has been positive.  I’m not saying it’s definitely getting nominated, but it’s back in the conversation.

Long Shots: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler, I, Frankenstein

The Grand Budapest Hotel is beloved by all, but it came out too early, and the Academy usually limits Wes Anderson to the screenwriting category.  While Nightcrawler was strongly reviewed, we’re probably only looking at a nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s not happening.  Please don’t do this to yourself.  It will be thrown about at nomination time, but it’s not happening.  Get over it.  Maybe a screenplay nomination.  Maybe.


The Front Runners: Richard Linklater (Boyhood), David Fincher (Gone Girl)

I almost feel like Fincher has it in the bag already, mostly because the Academy owes him a make up call after embarrassingly picking Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech over The Social Network.  With the way Boyhood was constructed, Linklater has to be considered a major player for this award as well.


Middle of the Pack: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

As of right now, Inarritu is the only one who could challenge Fincher or Linklater.

Long Shots: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Darren Aronofsky (Noah)

Nolan getting a Best Director nomination?  I’ll believe it when I see it.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Even though this is Anderson’s most complex movie in terms of characters and pacing, as I mentioned before, he seems destined only for screenplay.


The Front Runners: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actor is always going to be the most packed category, and this year is no different.  If I had to pinpoint two locks right now, it would have to be these guys.  Keaton is getting too much buzz, and the type of role Redmayne plays is Oscar bait in its purest form.


Middle of the Pack: Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Miles Teller (Whiplash)

I have a feeling the nominations for this category are going to be piss me off the most, because I know Miles Teller and Channing Tatum will both get screwed.  While the talent pool for this year may not be as top heavy as last year, it’s probably more crowded.

Long Shots: James McAvoy (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Tom Hardy (Locke)

I hate to comment on a movie I haven’t seen yet, but I already know Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Imitation Game is going to be overrated.  Matthew McConaughey was awesome, but he’ll get bounced.  Tom Hardy would be a shoo-in had more than two people saw Locke.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

Never in a million years.


The Front Runner: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

This is probably the closest category to a lock there is so early in Oscar season.


Middle of the Pack: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

Patricia Arquette probably wasn’t in the film long enough to get the win, and much like Tom Hardy, had more than two people saw The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Jessica Chastain might even win this award.  Chastain probably had the most impressive overall showing out of any other actor or actress this year.

Long Shots: Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Keira Knightley’s name always get thrown around if she’s in a movie towards the end of the year.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Angelina Jolie (Maleficent)

This is another outside the box name that will be brought up at Oscar time, but it’s not happening.  I think more so than ever, the Academy wants no part of mainstream films.


The Front Runners: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

This category will probably be my favorite to follow all year.  Steve Carell and J.K. Simmons both gave legendary performances.  Carell is probably in the driver’s seat due to Whiplash not getting enough notoriety.  I really hope the studio gives that movie a push in the next few weeks.  When you’re talking about these two performances though, there is no wrong answer.


Middle of the Pack: Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

These guys aren’t too shabby either.  Ruffalo will ultimately be pushed out by Carell, but I could see Norton making a run at both the top guys.  Norton is the real show stopper early in the film before Keaton completely takes over.

Long Shots: Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Michael Caine (Interstellar), Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler)

I could see Ahmed getting a little buzz, similar to what happened with Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips.  The problem is that Gyllenhaal owns that entire movie.  I admit Michael Caine is a Batman homer pick, but I could see him making a run at a nomination.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Robert Duvall (The Judge)

If the movie did well, Duvall would definitely be in the conversation, but The Judge came and went faster than a Taco Bell Cool Ranch Dorito Taco.


The Front Runners: No one

I can’t in good conscious pick a front runner right now.  This is easily the hardest category to get a read on right now.


Middle of the Pack: Emma Stone (Birdman), Naomi Watts (Birdman), Vanessa Redgrave (Foxcatcher), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar)

If I had to pick one actress out of this group with a slight edge, I’d go with Emma Stone, only because she has the one monologue that really floors you.  If Interstellar wasn’t a Christopher Nolan movie, Chastain would be the clear front runner.

Long Shots: Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)

Russo has the same problem as Ahmed, in that it’s too much the Jake Gyllenhaal show.  Carrie Coon has been kind of the forgotten player in Gone Girl, but I could see her name crop up for a nomination.  She has a lot of big scenes, and is consistently great with Affleck.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Emma Watson (Noah)

Watson gives one of the most underrated performances of the year in Noah, and while the film will be up for technical achievements, it’s chances at major awards are very slim.

Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.