Contender Countdown: The ‘Interstellar’ Best Picture quandary

10.30.14 3 years ago 16 Comments

It's been a week since “Interstellar” finally screened. Critics were allowed to officially voice their opinions on Monday morning and, well, the reaction was sort of all over the place. There was some high praise, some qualified praise and a small, but vocal group of reviewers who clearly were not happy (perhaps if they had only seen it without that IMAX sound mix). In general, it was the sort of response you'd get for a film that currently has a a 77 on Metacritic and a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Considering the hype, is that the profile of a Best Picture nominee?

Um, probably?

What everyone should keep in mind is that, at the moment, the reaction from Academy members publicly has been vocally positive. More important, you only need a certain number of passionate supporters to get a film a Best Picture nomination these days. It's arguably how films like “Her,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “District 9” and “A Serious Man” were able to get in (and we're not saying those films weren't deserving, but they were clearly on the cusp of either making it or not).  Of course, “Interstellar” still has a long journey ahead of it. There is the official Academy screening this weekend and a second wave of national and global reviews before the film opens on Wednesday, and box office will no doubt be part of the equation, too.  

Will Chris Nolan's epic be a domestic blockbuster? (International does not matter). Will it make AFI's Top 10 list? Will it make National Board of Review's? Will it be on enough end-of-year top 10 lists for Paramount to hype? Can it get a SAG ensemble nomination? (“Inception,” Nolan's lone Best Picture nominee, did not). Will McConaughey crack the SAG or Golden Globe Best Actor fields? (The latter is a given.) Does it simply play more impressively to the industry than to critics?  

Clearly, the jury is still out.

That being said, “Interstellar” did not land as a definitive frontrunner in a year strangely lacking one as award season slides into a busy November. Almost all the other serious contenders to take home the Academy's most coveted prize have been screened and there would have to be a shocking surprise with a few of the year's remaining unseen players to really disrupt things. Some pundits are throwing down the gauntlet for “Boyhood” (though even those prognosticators appear to have asterisks next to their predictions), but it seems to be down to a three-picture race between that film, “The Imitation Game” and “Birdman” at the moment.

The last time there wasn't at least a clear indicator of two slam dunk frontrunners at this point in the season was in 2006 as we headed toward Oscar nominations wondering if “The Departed,” “The Queen,” “Babel” or “Little Miss Sunshine” could pull it off. Uncertainty is fun for those of us watching the game, but for those playing? Well, let's just say Harry Reid isn't the only person sweating it out the days.

With all this in mind, let's check out a revised Contender Countdown, shall we? Note: The top three are tied for no. 1 because, well, until there is a frontrunner, there isn't.

October 30, 2014

1. “Boyhood”
Will it play on screener? Will it continue to play to the Academy? Or will they react like this critic did?

1. “The Imitation Game”
Harvey hasn't been this quiet since he and Bob lost Miramax and were finding the funding for The Weinstein Company.

1. “Birdman”
Can it steal the top year-end critics prize from National Board of Review, NYFCC or LAFCA from “Boyhood”? Oh, and Barbra is clearly a fan.

4. “The Theory of Everything”
Could this be a surprise frontrunner waiting in the wings? It's a tearjerker!

5. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Still feels like a major frontrunner just waiting to be lit. Now where's that match…

6. “Gone Girl”
Unless (or until) the guilds reject it, it's in.

7. “Unbroken”
Screening in Australia in mid-November. American guild members and press will get to see it right after Thanksgiving. Can word travel across the Pacific in two weeks? (Wait, don't answer that…)

8. “Interstellar”
Stuck in a black hole singularity for now. Gravity might pull it back into frontrunner orbit, however.

9. “Foxcatcher”
The next publicity wave is coming. Barbra likes this one too.

10. “Whiplash”
Don't be surprised if Damien Chazelle pulls a Benh Zeitlin and lands a “surprise” Best Director nod.

Who do you think is really in this year's top 9 or 10 Best Picture contenders? Share your thoughts below or vote in our poll.

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