Oscar Watch will come to you every Monday, sizing up the recent developments of the awards season. Who's up? Who's down? And why, if Christopher Nolan is such a perfectionist, couldn't academy members understand much of the dialogue in "Interstellar"? Read on for the answers.
Academy members finally had the chance to see Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic en masse Saturday night and their response pretty much mirrored that of critics and journalists who have praised the film's scope and ambition while opining that maybe, just maybe, the whole thing is just a bit too ridiculous for its own good.
"Matthew McConaughey just kept talking and talking and explaining and explaining but I still have no idea what that movie was about," one academy member groused. Added an Oscar-nominated producer: "You know that planet they visit where every hour they spend on it equals seven Earth years? That's how I felt watching the movie."
About 800 people turned out for the evening screening and, contrasted with last year's outer space Oscar contender, the reaction was subdued to the point on non-existent. Perhaps that owed to the 169-minute running time. Or maybe the Oscar voters were clapping and we just couldn't hear them because Hans Zimmer's score was still ringing in our ears.
But the take-away remains the same. "Interstellar" isn't going to win best picture, as a few pundits had predicted, sight unseen. It might not even win a nomination. And, despite the fact that (apparently) "Hollywood loves Christopher Nolan," the exacting filmmaker will likely still be looking for his first nomination as a director come his next movie.
"The Theory of Everything"
Meanwhile, you needn't know anything about statistical data to predict that Oscar voters would swoon over the Stephen Hawking biopic, "The Theory of Everything." Just check off the Oscar-friendly boxes: It's a crowd-pleaser. It's a true story about overcoming adversity. And its stars are British.
So when Eddie Redmayne (who plays Hawking) and Felicity Jones (fantastic as Hawking's beyond-supportive wife, Jane) took the stage at the Goldwyn on Sunday, along with screenwriter Anthony McCarten and producer Lisa Bruce, the rapturous applause rained down as expected. This was a movie that played to the afternoon crowd. You didn't need a degree in astrophysics to understand it. And you could actually make out what the people were saying.
So for every academy member who knew Redmayne only from their kids' (grandchildren's?) "Les Miserables" obsession two years ago, "Theory" proved a revelation. Never mind a nomination. As we said at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Redmayne will likely win the lead actor Oscar. And Jones, McCarten and Bruce will find themselves nominated as well.
Gyllenhaal's new movie, the thriller "Nightcrawler," played at Toronto too, where it won much love. It opened in theaters Friday to mostly fine reviews, with Gyllenhall receiving the kind of notices that usually thunder loudly through the Oscar pundit echo chamber. The catch with Gyllenhaal is that his "Nightcrawler" character is such a skeez that it's hard to believe that the same academy members who came to the "Theory of Everything" screening straight from high tea at the Huntington are going to vote for a guy playing a sicko who makes their skin crawl.
Of course, there's more than one type of academy voter. And maybe, just maybe, if Gyllenhaal continues to bring the cuteness in talk show appearances like this, voters possessing a more delicate sensibility will embrace this nice young man too.
Since we brought up "Nightcrawler," we should also point out that critics have been praising Russo too, for her turn as the L.A. news director desperate enough to hire Gyllenhaal's wacko, freelance cameraman to boost her station's ratings. Times film critic Kenneth Turan calls it one of Russo's best roles, and the 60-year-old actress possesses the kind of comeback story that plays with Oscar voters.
The supporting actress category isn't nearly as crowded as lead actor. Yes, we know Meryl Streep is still waiting in the weeds with her role as the Witch in "Into the Woods." But she can't be nominated every year, can she? What's that? She can, you say? Well, we still like Russo. And she doesn't really have to worry about Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain from "Interstellar" any more, either, so there's that.