Welcome to For Your Consideration, The Huffington Post's unapologetically obsessive conversation about the Oscar race. Ahead, managing entertainment editor Christopher Rosen and entertainment editor Matthew Jacobs look at the year thus far.
Rosen: Here we are, Matt, at the year's mid point. What a six months it has been! Who could forget Jason Bateman's sparkling usage of browns and other browns in "Bad Words"? Or Johnny Depp sleepwalking through "Transcendence"? What about that remake of "RoboCop" with that guy from "The Killing"? Oscar contenders all! I look forward to seeing the For Your Consideration ads on the sidebars of Variety articles.
That's the Clickhole version of the awards landscape thus far. The reality is that no film released during the first six months of 2013 scored an Oscar nomination in the top six categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director). In fact, last summer as a whole was only represented in those categories by two nominees: "Blue Jasmine" stars Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins. How does that translate to this year?
Well, not too well: Of 2014 releases to date with legitimate awards aspirations, only Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" feels like a true contender. But even that film has blemishes and obstacles in its path. "Grand Budapest" was unexpectedly tragic in a way that Anderson hasn't strived for in quite some time, but it still paled in comparison to the rest of his CV, and none of those films really made major impacts with Oscar voters. Other great movies such as "Edge of Tomorrow," "Obvious Child," "Neighbors" and "The Fault in Our Stars" all feel too slight to make it through the forthcoming awards gauntlet. We're at the point where it might be time to put all of our eggs in fall's basket and hope that 2014's remaining features are half as good as last year's incredible crop.
But where would the fun in that be? That's why we're writing this, after all: to push forth some crackpot theories about why Laura Dern should be an Oscar contender for "The Fault in Our Stars" and why "Obvious Child" writer-director Gillian Robespierre needs to be in the conversation for screenplay honors. Or am I just a fool who should focus his energy on real contenders like "Boyhood," aka the best movie of 2014 that hasn't been released? What do you think?
Jacobs: It's sad when a midyear checkup only serves to recall the malaise that's preceded us as far as stellar movies are concerned. I'm battling a constant struggle to forget almost anything with Johnny Depp or Jason Bateman the instant the credits roll, so allow me to ask what this "Transcendence" you speak of is.
It's true, though: Outside of superhero fare, these months have been rather revolting. Where's our "Midnight in Paris"? Our "Fargo"? Our "Silence of the Lambs"? Everyone is terrified of being forgotten. I'm surprised names like Darren Aronofsky, Clint Eastwood and Jim Jarmush are featured on the marquee at all during the early months. I do agree that Wes Anderson has given us what is surely the only legitimate contender so far, although I'll challenge your notion that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" pales. Months later, I'm still positioning my feelings on the film, but I might call it Anderson's best work yet. His name will rightfully reappear in screenplay considerations during the lead-up to January's nominations.
I'll see your Laura Dern (phenomenal) and Gillian Robespierre (refreshing), and I'll raise you an Uma Thurman for her electrifying turn in the otherwise dismissible "Nymphomaniac: Volume 1." Much like Viola Davis in "Doubt" and Beatrice Straight in "Network," Thurman appears briefly in the movie but steals the two-hour ordeal right out from Lars von Trier's prurient feet. Whether a von Trier performer -- save Emily Watson in "Breaking the Waves" -- can ever again catch the gleam in Oscar voters' eyes begs another conversation, but if there's one performance that deserves recognition so far this year it's hers.
Frankly, the rest of the summer is a bit of a downer, too, with the exceptions of "Boyhood" (July 11), "Love is Strange" (Aug. 22) and perhaps "Get On Up" (Aug. 1), if it can escape the paint-by-numbers biopic approach its trailer suggests. Is this where we are now? In an era where dialogues like this are rendered moot because January through June is peppered almost solely with movies that fill four-quadrant quotas and Wes Anderson's version of the sublime? No offense to "Edge of Tomorrow," but a person can only take so many Tom Cruises in one Oscar-averse calendar.
Rosen: I think the biggest "problem" with 2014 is that there have been stabs at more highfalutin, awards-y offerings, but the films have just missed the mark. Take "Noah": Aronofsky's previous film was "Black Swan," an Oscar darling four years ago, so there was definitely a group of little gold men forming around his Biblical epic before it was released. Then it was released. Eastwood, too, while flagging in these later years, is still a consistent awards player. People loathe "Jersey Boys," but it's a quality movie; its biggest sin is not being up to Eastwood's standards of yore. Before it was bumped to February, "The Monuments Men" was one of 2013's surefire Oscar contenders; now it's a forgotten and misbegotten relic from the year's first quarter. So, it's the movies. And they haven't been that good. Which leaves us with Hail Mary passes at Dern, Thurman (good one!) and Robespierre. (Though give me a big, messy, weird drama like "Noah" any day of the week. I still can't believe a major studio released that one.)
But let's focus on the positive! Literally every Best Picture nominee at this year's Oscars was released between October and December of 2013. That recent history is good news for "Gone Girl" and "Birdman" and "Unbroken," but maybe not so much for "Boyhood"? Nah. Let's make the case here that "Boyhood" is every bit as technically impressive as Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity," but with the added bonus of having an actual story and characters. (Before the hate mail comes rolling in, note that I put "Gravity" at the top of my personal best-of list in 2013. Story was not the reason why.)
We saw a screening of "Boyhood" last week, and you and I were talking about our favorite movies on the way there. I believe I asked you if any recent movies would crack your list of all-time favorites? Well, "Boyhood" would crack mine. I've seen it twice now. I'll see it a third time. It's breathtaking filmmaking, and it's the kind of movie that reminds me why I love movies. (The previous sentence brought to you by pull quotes.) I would throw Oscar nominations at this one with two hands: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette, Best Editing. The sky's the limit here, and with a lower-scale slate of fall releases forthcoming -- nothing from Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Steve McQueen or Cuarón -- I think "Boyhood" could stay in the race all year and into 2015. At the very least, Linklater, Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Ellar Coltrane (the boy of the title) should keep their calendars open for the Indie Spirit Awards.
Jacobs: My biggest hope, and I'm certain you'll agree, is that "Boyhood" finds a mainstream audience and sees a successful wide release. As worthy and sprawling as it is, it exists outside the typical awards wheelhouse. It's down-to-earth and not the least bit pretentious, a true coming-of-age tale. If it can score some decent figures at the box office, it could be an instance where sales receipts truly buoy the attention voters give it. Plus, the Oscars owe Linklater penance after not showering "Before Midnight" with more love. That movie should have nabbed a Best Picture nod, and "Boyhood" is only better.
Even Cannes felt less eventful this year. You mention "Monuments Men," which finds company in "Grace of Monaco." It's like "Diana" déjà vu! Poor Nicole Kidman. I so wanted her to remain a contender, but, like you say, we can't even rely on preordained Oscar fare. What's Harvey Weinstein to do? At least we have Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner" to look forward to.
But, okay, enough commiserating. Movies can't all be bad! I actually am looking forward to the directors who will bring us our buzzy prestige films: Bennett Miller, Paul Thomas Anderson, Todd Haynes (a personal favorite of mine), Christopher Nolan, Stephen Daldry ... even Tim Burton could make his biggest awards play in years with "Big Eyes." But hold on, I've suddenly grown excited about what's to come and lost sight of what we've already seen. How about this for a crackpot suggestion? If we had to determine the nominations today, Rose Byrne should be a shoo-in for "Neighbors." Also, Emma Watson was stunning in "Noah." Between them, Thurman and Dern, Best Supporting Actress is practically wrapped up.
That's all nonsense, though. In truth, "Boyhood" and "Grand Budapest" will be the only movies with any shelf life once the snow is here. It probably won't be "Get On Up," with the possible exception of Chadwick Boseman, nor will it be "Love is Strange" or Woody Allen's "Magic in the Moonlight." Although I will say, on that last count, that I had low expectations before "Midnight in Paris," and it wound up being one of my faves of 2011. I don't expect "Moonlight" to shine as brightly, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Until then, "Boyhood" is our only hope for anything excellent this side of September. Linklater deserves something singular for that achievement. If one film has to represent the excellence of an entire seven-month period, "Boyhood" is a pretty great one to do it.
Rosen: It's either that or "Tammy" ...