Trophy Talk: ‘Foxcatcher’ and ‘A Most Violent Year’
People love watching famous people accept trophies. So, every so often, The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen and ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan will speculate about these trophies and which famous person might win one. It will be fun. Let’s talk some trophies! Today, we discuss the Oscar chances of both ‘Foxcatcher’ and ‘A Most Violent Year.’
Mike: ‘Foxcatcher’ opens today, which is attempting to position itself as a big trophy player. Do you get the impression that this is movie might have peaked in May at Cannes? There seems to be a lack of Internet buzz—which may have something to do with the ‘Foxcatcher’ marketing strategy almost actively avoiding the Internet. Because, hey, who reads the Internet?
Chris: What is this Internet that you speak of, Mike? Because we love name-dropping, here’s a story for you: At last year’s Paramount awards luncheon, I was sitting next to Ron Yerxa, producer of ‘Nebraska.’ He told me how hard it was to premiere at Cannes and keep the Oscar buzz humming. That slot turns awards season into an eight-month stretch. ‘Nebraska’ was well-liked and perfectly fit into what we think of the Oscars’ demographic (old, white men). ‘Foxcatcher’? Not so much. It's a good movie—I don’t love it as much as some others—but not a slam dunk. The passion isn’t there. People seem to be like, “Oh, yeah, ‘Foxcatcher.’ I liked that one!’ This is to say nothing of the movie itself, which is a bummer. It’s drab and cold, in both visuals and mood. No one is walking out of ‘Foxcatcher’ and doing a fist pump.
Mike: I like ‘Foxcatcher’ quite a bit, but it just feels ‘over,’ as far as buzz is concerned. This is pure speculation on my part, but it almost feels like they are a bit too confident about their movie. First, they seem to be doing a pretty strong, almost old-fashioned, traditional campaign of print magazines and television. Which I’m not eschewing, but, again, not much Internet buzz. Which is a weird thing because Matthew McConaughey pretty much owned the Internet a year ago and even had his own Internet buzz word. (Spoiler: He won Best Actor.) My point is: I’ll never understand ignoring the Internet in 2014. Second, Steve Carell’s John du Pont is so obviously a supporting character. Channing Tatum is the star of this movie. Yet, Sony Pictures Classics is running Carell (and Tatum) as Best Actor, which he will lose. The thing is, he could have won Best Supporting Actor; it would have been Carell versus J.K. Simmons. (And Edward Norton for ‘Birdman,’ but as we’ve discussed before, I fear his past reputation could have an effect on voting.) Anyway, this decision, too, seems overly confident. I have no idea if that decision comes from Sony Pictures Classics or Carell’s people, but it is a mistake.
Chris: Even the magazine covers they did get for ‘Foxcatcher’ were stiff. The New York Magazine photo of the three leads in hoodies? That, incidentally, was published months ago? What is that selling? Who’s excited about that? Plus, not only is Carell going lead silly based on the movie itself—he is not the lead character, as you said—but I think that decision winds up getting him snubbed. We see it every single year: An actor we’ve all penciled in for a nomination getting left out. Last year, it was Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, and they are Hollywood icons. Despite a wealth of talent and a reputation for being just so nice, Carell is still “that guy from ‘The Office.’” That’s why Supporting Actor makes sense. You can see that guy from ‘The Office’ winning Best Supporting Actor.
Mike: Remember, ‘Foxcatcher’ was supposed to come out last year. So, this was filmed quite awhile ago, so Carell has been living with this movie for some time now and maybe has a different perception on how his career is currently viewed. Maybe he’s thinking, “Well, I’ve been doing serious drama for three years now.” I don’t know, it’s just such a bizarre decision, especially in a year in which Best Actor is so stacked. If he was in Best Supporting, he really could have won a trophy. And Sony Pictures Classics’ other movie, ‘Whiplash,’ has underperformed, which is surprising. I am curious how it will do now that’s it’s opening wide. I do think without Carell as his competition, J.K. Simmons is a done deal for Supporting.
Chris: I think ‘Whiplash’ is in a better spot than ‘Foxcatcher,’ only because that's a movie people like. When I get asked what movies people should see by friends and family, I bring up ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Nightcrawler.’ We've talked about that one before: It is a fist-pump movie. Fist-pump movies are what get nominated. As for Carell, we usually see category fraud go the other way: Christoph Waltz as a supporting actor in ‘Django’ instead of a lead; Philip Seymour Hoffman as supporting for ‘The Master,’ etc. I feel like Jessica Chastain is doing the same thing. I was told A24 is pushing her as a lead for ‘A Most Violent Year.’ That could change, I imagine—I don’t know how set in stone these things are to be honest—but she’s supporting through and through for that movie. And if she got nominated in Supporting Actress, I could make the case that she would win.
Mike: So, yes, we saw ‘A Most Violent Year’ on Thursday night and that is not a joke: Chastain is in that movie for, what, 20 minutes tops? I’m starting to feel this decision should be taken out of the hands of the studios and be decided by some sort of governing body. Or me. I would love to decide. And my decision is that both Chastain and Carell are supporting actors. [UPDATE: A24, the studio releasing 'A Most Violent Year,' has confirmed to Trophy Talk that Jessica Chastain will be submitted under Best Supporting Actress.]
Chris: Congratulations, Steve and Jessica! Mike and I just won you Oscars! Be sure to thank us and Chad Lowe in your speeches.
Mike: I wonder what Chad Lowe is doing right now. Receiving a Google alert, I imagine.
Chris: Hi, Chad. Let us know what you thought of ‘Foxcatcher.’
Mike: We will update this post if Chad Lowe responds. What did you think of ‘A Most Violent Year’? I’ll say this much: For such a violent year, there’s not a lot of violence in the movie.
Chris: There is not. But there is the very real threat of violence, which kept me on the edge of my seat. What did I think? I liked it fine enough. Oscar Isaac is amazing. Chastain is great. It looks really pretty and the score is top notch. But the story isn't very interesting. There are a lot of things the movie sets up, but few of them have a traditional payoff. That’s intentional, I’m sure, but it kept me at a distance. The movie in my head was way juicier than what ended up playing out on screen.
Mike: I really have grown to like J.C. Chandor. And now that we’re three movies into his career, there’s definitely a theme of nuanced, slow-moving anarchy in his movies. In ‘Margin Call,’ the financial world is crumbling, yet everyone goes about his or her day. In ‘All is Lost,’ we basically watch a man die for 100 minutes without him saying a word. Now, we get what is essentially a mobster movie without any violence, even though the word “violent” is in the title. Oscar Isaac plays a “connected” businessman who just wants to keep his shady heatingoil business running without killing anyone or being killed. That’s the whole plot. What a fascinating choice.
Chris: Who knew we’d be so interested in heating oil?
Mike: Well, it’s 37 degrees in New York City right now, so maybe he’s on to something.