Contender Countdown: Should the Best Picture frontrunners fear ‘American Sniper?’

10.08.14 3 years ago 8 Comments

If it's mid October that means a number of expected Best Picture contenders are increasingly becoming questionable players. Guess things are getting serious, huh?

“Inherent Vice” received strong reviews, but mixed reaction from those on the ground at the New York Film Festival over the weekend. Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel won't open in theaters until December and Warner Bros. will slowly screen it over the next few months in Los Angeles as they hope it gets a better audience reception on the West Coast. Still, like “The Master,” the shine is somewhat off “Vice” as a potential nominee (although never say never).

David Fincher's “Gone Girl” is huge hit with significant critical support, but based on one Academy screening you'd think it has absolutely no shot at a nod. That's silly. 20th Century Fox has months to push the thematic elements of the thriller and let's be frank here — the more money it makes the better its chances of making the field are. At this point, it's still in the top ten.

As we hit mid-October there are still a number of unseen (or embargoed) potential nominees such as “Interstellar,” “Fury,” “Big Eyes,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Into the Woods” (don't call it a comeback with that one maybe?), “Unbroken,” “The Gambler” and “Selma.” Some have been seen and some haven't. One relatively new entry into the fray, though, is Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper.”

Based on Chris Kyle's memoir, this new drama centers on of his four tours in Iraq where he became the most decorated sniper in the history of the U.S. military. Bradley Cooper underwent a significant physical transformation to play Kyle and it will be interesting to see how Eastwood fashions his story on screen.

Now, Eastwood has entered the Oscar fray a number of times in recent years without the success in the Best Picture race he earned with 2004's “Million Dollar Baby” or 2006's “Letters from Iwo Jima.” “Sniper” is a dark tale, yes, but before you discount its chances step back a second and look at the bigger picture. Eastwood just had an incredibly disappointing summer with the release of “Jersey Boys” in June. It was a film that was unfairly criticized by most reviewers (odd since critics have been overly kind to Eastwood over the years) and earned significantly less than WB was hoping for at the box office. Why would the studio that Eastwood has called home for decades throw him into the season if they thought he had another disastrous “Hereafter” or “J. Edgar” on his hands? It just doesn't make sense and should make all the other studios with potential Best Picture winners very concerned. 

With that in mind, here's this week's edition of the Contender Countdown.

Oct. 8, 2014

1. “Interstellar”
Waiting, pt. 1

2. “The Imitation Game”
Watching all the other contenders come and go.

3. “Birdman”
Needs a big limited debut and even more critical acclaim to have a legit chance to win.

4. “Unbroken”
Waiting, pt. 2

5. “The Theory of Everything”
The anticipation for this one is higher than you'd think. Great marketing campaign by Focus so far.

6. “Boyhood”
Some pundits think it can go all the way. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Just get the nomination first and then see what happens.

7. “Gone Girl”
Now, now. It's not over yet.

8. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
The little jewel the Academy needs to be reminded about.

9. “Foxcatcher”
If there are nine it feels like the ninth.

10. “American Sniper”
Waiting, pt. 3.

On the outside currently looking in: “A Most Violent Year,” “Wild,” “Selma,” “Fury,” “Still Alice,” “Into the Woods,” “The Gambler”

Contender Countdown appears every Wednesday or Thursday except when it doesn't.

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