They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

The Sony Leaks: Politics, Oscar and Hollywood’s “Women Problem”

By J. Don Birnam

December 23, 2014

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Like all political campaigns, each year the Oscar race has its fair share of dirt and tricks lobbed around. On top of that, there are always rumblings about the lack of strong role for women and a good place for women filmmakers in the industry and the award season. This year, it is possible that the scandals and the woman-problem have intersected in the form of the Sony leaks and their effect on the Oscar chances of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Indeed, politics and the Academy Awards are not new, whether we like it or not. Lest there remain any doubt, President Obama weighed in to say Boyhood was the top movie of 2014.

Today I’ll discuss women issues, politics, and the Academy Awards after updating the state of the race with the latest precursor awards.

Quick Precursors Update

Although no more guilds will speak until after the New Year, a large number of critics have named their top movies since we last spoke. Boyhood remains far ahead of the pack, racking up about three quarters of the critics’ top prizes so far, winning top kudos from critics’ groups from Detroit to Austin to San Francisco and Chicago. Nevertheless, Birdman is showing some signs of life, winning a few awards here and there, recently from Las Vegas, Kansas City, and Phoenix. A smattering of other best picture awards have gone to Nightcrawler and Snowpiercer.


The critics are, by contrast, all over the place when it comes to the acting races. While Julianne Moore’s “overdue” narrative seems to make her an impossible Best Actress favorite, critics have gone as often for her as they have for Marion Cotillard and for Rosamund Pike. Similarly, while JK Simmons seems unstoppable for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Ed Norton (Birdman) and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) are showing up repeatedly in the critics’ lists. True, Michael Keaton is winning most critics’ awards for Best Actor - but critics’ awards don’t involve campaigns like the Oscars do, so that race is not a foregone conclusion either.

Interestingly, Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu has won almost as many critical awards as Boyhood’s Richard Linklater. Could a record-breaking third year in a row with a Best Picture/Director split be in the offing?

Finally, the Broadcast Film Critics Association - a large group of critics that hands out its awards the day the Oscar nominations are announced - announced their nominees. The biggest story there is that maybe the BFCA is the new Golden Globes. They could not resist giving Unbroken and Angelina Jolie nominations in major categories, keeping alive that movie’s fading Oscar chances. Of course, Birdman and Boyhood also had strong showings with 13 and eight nominations respectively, and The Grand Budapest Hotel received a whopping 11.

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