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Oscar Watching: Not Much on the Table This Week

Even though Oscar Watching is still relatively new, the norm has been to discuss the films that have recently hit theaters and then talk about how well they might do in the Oscar race. Usually there’s quite a bit to discuss in that regard, but nothing that recently arrived seems likely for awards traction. With that little snag in mind, here’s what hit theaters last week, though I’m not expecting much from them as Oscar contenders.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 share five Oscar nominations, the latter taking the Visual Effects trophy in 2004. Spider-Man 3 wasn’t quite as fortunate, though, arriving alongside other unasked-for threequels Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Shrek the Third in 2007 and appropriately receiving no Oscar attention. So what happens with Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man?

The Andrew Garfield-led reboot will soon surpass the grosses of Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, and the generally positive critical consensus will likely heal the cinematic wounds left by Spider-Man 3. It isn’t difficult to imagine that it might score some attention in the crafts races, but franchise properties like The Avengers (previously discussed), The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hunger Games currently seem far more likely for Oscar glory.

Moving on, there’s the Oliver Stone thriller Savages, based on the Don Winslow novel of the same name. While its story of two pot growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) trying to rescue their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively) from a Mexican drug outfit certainly doesn’t sound like Oscar bait, Stone’s been behind some huge Academy successes, including Born on the Fourth of July, Nixon, and Best Picture winner Platoon.

However, it’s also worth noting that the director hasn’t been at the helm of an Oscar-nominated film in almost twenty years, so it’s no surprise that the thriller opened to mixed reviews from critics and only mildly favorable box office. Even with a cast that includes several Oscar nominees – such as Demián Bichir who got in for A Better Life last year – and winner Benicio del Toro, it’s difficult to imagine the Academy taking Stone’s latest venture seriously in any capacity.

Finally, we have the concert documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me. As one might expect, the feature focuses on the titular pop singer’s rise to fame and her California Dreams Tour, but it also covers events related to Perry’s marriage with actor/comedian Russell Brand and its ultimate demise. The film hasn’t lived up to box-office expectations, but it’s already made back its production budget of $12 million. That’s far more than the nearly $3.5 million grossed by Bully, the most frequently discussed documentary of the year. It’s also worth noting that the reviews for Perry’s new movie are more impressive than one might expect.

Might this account of the “California Gurls” singer’s world tour make its way into the Documentary Feature race? Well, Madonna: Truth or Dare had recognition from the American Cinema Editors yet failed to impress Oscar enough for a nomination. More recently, the concert doc Justin Bieber: Never Say Never pulled in $73 million in the States and almost $100 million worldwide but failed to make any kind of impression on the awards circuit whatsoever. If the Academy’s documentary branch couldn’t make room for the Queen of Pop or teen/tween favorite Bieber in their respective years, then it’s doubtful that one of today’s pop princesses will be in the running for the honor this time around.

We can probably count Part of Me out of Documentary Feature, but Perry did co-write a new song for the movie that plays over the end credits titled “Wide Awake.” The ballad is among the singer-songwriter’s best work in a lyrical sense and could become an Original Song nominee. Still, the Academy’s music branch doesn’t shower mainstream music acts with nominations as it did in the 90s and especially the 80s. If “Wide Awake,” a current hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, does find its way into the mix, though, Perry can do something that Madonna can’t: call herself an Oscar nominee.

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.