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AFI Top 10 List: 2015

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Big Short poster

First I was dreading it. Then I was curious about it. Now I’m looking forward to it. How often does that happen? (Source)

The American Film Institute announced their Top 10 list today. They delayed the announcement so the members would be able to factor in Star Wars, and…you’ll see how that panned out.

I’m gonna go over the list and consider what each film’s Oscar chances are at the moment. Although this is still one of the more open races I’ve seen in a while, something like a consensus is beginning to form. I’ll get into that at a later date, but first, the list:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Inside Out 
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Room
  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Straight Outta Compton

By the way, I saw Room today. It was quite good, though not without its issues (the script is oddly problematic). Larson and Tremblay are definitely both worthy of awards attention. I’ll break it down further when I give it a full review, but to sum up for now, it’s a high ***½ and my #12 of the year to date.

The Big ShortThis, I think, we have to consider a serious threat to get on the Best Picture list. An Adapted Screenplay nod is almost guaranteed, and Editing likewise seems pretty safe. Acting nominations are another matter, but this has been popping up enough lately, and is timely and (so I’ve heard) galvanizing enough, that I think it really could make the cut. I stand to eat some serious crow if that happens.

Bridge of SpiesUnfortunately, this is very unlikely to happen. If the PGA or DGA go for it, I’ll reconsider, but this has missed way too many Picture and Director nominations to be considered a likely contender. Mark Rylance, the script, the production design…those will probably get noticed. But the film and Spielberg probably won’t. Which is really too bad.

CarolI think we can safely say that this is in. I just need to see it to see if I’m in agreeance. Aside from the NBR Top 10 list, it’s popped up pretty much everywhere it needs to, and if it misses out, I’ll be surprised. And while it’s a long shot…it could win. I definitely don’t mean to predict it–Spotlight is very much in the lead–but this has two near-mortal locks for acting nominations, while Spotlight has been surprisingly shaky in that regard. I consider Best Picture right now a three-way race between Mad MaxSpotlight, and this. And this could benefit from having an emotional core the other two don’t possess, at least not in traditional terms.

Inside OutThis one is tough. In a guaranteed 10-film lineup, it would definitely happen. But, as Sasha Stone of Awards Daily reminds us, under the current system the Academy voters only pick their top five films. And since it has Animated Feature in the bag, how many will give it one of those precious five slots? It’s beloved enough that I won’t count it out, but if it doesn’t make the final lineup, don’t be shocked. (I will be shocked if it misses Original Screenplay, but that’s an entirely different ballgame.)

Mad Max: Fury RoadBased on the traction it’s had from the moment the NBR made it their #1, it’ll be a major upset if it doesn’t get on…especially since it’s all but guaranteed a Best Director slot. I could see it missing out solely on the basis of the Academy wanting to make me miserable (and to shit on genre film), but this has been embraced at a level that tells me it’s going to happen. That I can hardly believe it doesn’t make it less true.

The MartianThe problem with this getting on is that, although it’s popped up quite a bit throughout the race, it hasn’t been winning much lately. In fact, the three awards the NBR gave it make up 75% of the awards it’s received so far. Which doesn’t mean it’s done for–the Globes will probably be very nice to it–but I think the hope of securing Ridley Scott a long-overdue Oscar is rapidly fading. It may have all peaked a hair too early. Will it get nominated? Most likely. But I’m really wondering what it could win at this point.

RoomBrie Larson is a very nice position to win Best Actress, and this doesn’t hurt her a bit. Her biggest competitor, of course, is Saoirse Ronan, whose film wasn’t eligible for this list (there’s been some question as to just how this film, with its Canadian-Irish backing, was eligible, but the cast is mostly American and so is the setting, so…). And Emma Donoghue, my reservations about the script aside, might well win Adapted Screenplay. The film is a pretty safe bet for Best Picture, but it’s the kind of contender that will definitely get in and definitely not win.

SpotlightThe only reason I think this might not win Best Picture is the lack of traction Tom McCarthy has for Best Director. It has 11 Best Picture wins under its belt with more to come, but only one Best Director win (from the New York Film Critics Online, no less). Original Screenplay has been theirs to lose for a while now, but aside from a possible Editing nod (and it’s trailing Mad Max in that field as well), it’s not a sure bet anywhere. And I don’t know if we’ll see the first Picture winner since 1952 (which…ugh) to win just two Oscars, or if we’re due for a surprise in Director, or what the hell will happen.

Star Wars: The Force AwakensOf course. There was almost no way it wouldn’t, since they pushed the announcement back. And the reviews have been generally delighted (though there’s a vaguely equivocal strain running through many of them which makes think this particular film won’t have much of a shelf life, at least on its own merits). But what are its Oscar chances? Will it take away from Mad Max and The Martian? Will we have three SF/space opera films in one race? Or will it have to satisfy itself with a few technical nods? Personally, I think the latter is most likely–it doesn’t feel like something the Academy will embrace at that level. I can’t really explain it just yet, but I think outside of the tech categories it’ll probably go overlooked.

Straight Outta ComptonThis is an interesting little wild card this season. This citation, the NBR Top 10 citation, and the SAG ensemble nomination offer some hope, but the Globes ignored it completely, the Critics’ Choice awards only nominated it for Best Ensemble, and it has no traction for Director, Original Screenplay, or Supporting Actor (Jason Mitchell, as Eazy E, would be the likeliest beneficiary of any such attention). It was, however, a major hit, a critical success, and a biopic–all points in its favor. I could see this sneaking into Best Picture. It wouldn’t shock me. What else it would get nominated for, though?

Looking at other contenders…

Anomalisa is probably not getting much past Animated Feature. I’m holding out some hope for Adapted Screenplay, but I think the Picture boat has sailed on this one.

Beasts of No Nation can’t be considered a major Picture contender at this point. The SAG nod keeps it in the conversation, but I think we’ll have to consent ourselves with Idris Elba getting his first nom.

Ex Machina and 45 Years aren’t eligible, though the former doesn’t have much Picture traction and the latter has nothing outside of Charlotte Rampling.

The Hateful Eight has yet to earn a single Best Picture nomination. Why, I cannot say, as it sounds delightful. I’d say it has a minor chance of breaking through at the last second, but don’t bet the farm.

Joy is pretty much screwed. Which delights me utterly.

The Revenant missing out is weird. I can’t imagine the Academy not nominating it, but I don’t know how the AFI didn’t, either. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this, but if it misses the Producer’s or Director’s Guilds, there might be a problem.

Sicario has been on shaky footing thus far. It has some Picture nods to its name (including from the Critics’ Choice), but it’s far from a sure thing outside of Cinematography (and maybe Editing).

Steve Jobs is probably a lost cause in this category at this point. It has just one nomination–from the Houston Film Critics. Best Actor is another story, but if it sneaks on here I’d be surprised.

Suffragette is done for. Too bad.

To wrap up, let’s look at last year’s list and see how that panned out:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Nightcrawler
  • Selma
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

6 of the 8 nominees. Foxcatcher probably missed Picture by a hair, Interstellar was too divisive, Into the Woods not quite beloved enough, Nightcrawler…not sure how that missed out, and Unbroken was a critical dud. In their place came The Theory of Everything, which wouldn’t have been eligible, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was struggling against early-release bias (and comedy bias) before its ultimate victory against both.

And this year The Big Short, Carol, Mad Max, The Martian, Room, and Spotlight–6 again–are the locks, with The Revenant a near-certain 7th, Brooklyn a possible 8th, and Bridge of Spies duking it out with Inside Out for that 9th and most likely final slot. But we’ve got a ways to go before we can really make any predictions like that.

 

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