Where Have All the Oscar Movies Gone?

What’s going on with the prestige pics this year? Where’s the buzz at?? It’s past the middle of October and there’s been little to no talk about awards contenders for 2017.

Positive talk, that is.

A strange trend’s emerged this year: all the supposed “good movies” are…not very good, while the pop fluff’s been getting pretty decent reviews. This isn’t too surprising as the past few years have hinted at this scenario happening. The disconnect between the execs and the common man has only grown larger with the advent of smaller avenues. but it’ll be interesting to see whether this will force Hollywood brass to make movies that, you know, people actually want to see.

The first sign of trouble was the total lack of buzzworthy limited release films over the summer. The end of August 2016 already had Moonlight and La La Land pegged as potential winners, while this year no “searchlight pic” has made any sort of lasting impact.

TIFF‘s usually a strong barometer of Academy interest, but this September’s festival brought very little to the table this year. Darren Aronofsky‘s capital-A capital-R capital-T mother! earned mediocre reviews from critics (69%), but fell absolutely flat with audiences. Sucks for Jennifer Lawrence, who hasn’t had a good movie in what seems like forever. Battle of the Sexes fared slightly better at 84%, which is fine but far from award-worthy.

Matt Damon dished out double misfires at the festival, first with Suburbicon (41%) and then Downsizing (65%). The Mountain Between Us sits at a dismal 47%. And how about this for a surprise: The Current War, a historical biopic about Thomas Edison starring Benedict Cumberbatch is rated an abysmal 31%!!!

Shocking. (Electricity joke)

There were of course some celebrated flicks, but here’s where it gets interesting.

The undoubted “winner” of the festival was Guillermo Del Toro‘s The Shape of Water— a hard science fiction film. Runner up? The Disaster Artist: a comedic look at the world’s best-worst movie, starring James Franco. Both highly unconventional picks in what has been an unconventional year.

Highly lauded blockbusters have been accepted as the new norm now thanks to the tireless quality control department at Disney, but as stated before, they’re graded on a curve and will probably not make the Oscar cut even if they are “BEST SUPARHERO MOVIE EVERRRRR”….which it seems like every new comic book flick is nowadays. So Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Wonder Woman will likely only scoop up technical awards. Interestingly enough, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a movie about the creation of the character, has been getting buzz recently. It’d be pretty ironic if it got award nods and Wonder Woman didn’t.

Horror movies have also had a resurgence in recent years, yielding lucrative franchises like The Purge, Sinister, and Insidious. None have come within striking distance of awards gold however. That might change this year though, with It and Get Out blowing the box office open and earning stellar reviews in the process. Not just “good for what it is” reviews like the comic book movies. Good good reviews. It would be downright ridiculous to write them off. Blade Runner 2049 also smashed expectations critically, though a poor showing at the box office might relegate it to strictly technical awards.

There are of course the usual suspects. Dunkirk is this year’s Saving Private Ryan and may well walk away with the top prize. Daniel Day-Lewis’ swan song The Phantom Thread will probably guarantee him a Best Actor statue and will likely be nominated for Best Picture. Fellow war movie Thank You For Your Service (starring Miles Teller) comes out next week and might pull an American Sniper. This week’s firefighter movie Only the Brave (also starring Miles Teller??) has also garnered some good reviews. Americans love their wars and fighting things so these might be contenders. Although last year’s presumed Oscar war trauma movie The Long Walk of Billy Idol (or whatever it was called) flopped.

Other very Oscary movies: The Florida Project. Marshall. The Work. The strangely similar God’s Own Country and Call Me By Your Name. Breathe. All fairly standard awards fare.

Potentially Oscary movies: Gotti (Travolta renaissance when?) and I, Tonya.

Movies you’d think would be instant Oscars but are not doing very good: LBJ and the Oscariest Oscar movie of all time, Victoria and Abdul, starring Judi Dench as the Queen.

This also isn’t taking into account any foreign films that might build buzz over the next few months. There’s also Netflix fare like Angelina Jolie‘s First They Killed My Father. Picking a Netflix original might be a LiTtLe ToO OuT ThErE for the Academy Judge Committee.

Omitting it would be another dumb move, because between the dearth of valid competitors for cinema gold and the Weinstein scandal, Hollywood’s looking like it needs a bit of an upheaval. Ironic, isn’t it? Those who typically champion progressiveness are now the ones stuck in the past– in every aspect.

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