Last week was rough on the Coen brothers, but it had a happy ending. Their folk musical “Inside Llewyn Davis” was overlooked by both the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild, but then it swept the National Society of Film Critics Awards. So where does the film stand now in the Oscar race?
The wins for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Oscar Isaac), and Cinematography from the National Society are especially significant given this year’s high volume of films that are not only critically acclaimed, but adored. In 2013, six films that can be called major Oscar contenders scored 90+ on MetaCritic (“12 Years a Slave,” “Before Midnight,” “Her,” “American Hustle,” “Gravity,” and “Llewyn Davis”), compared to two in 2012 (“Amour” and “Zero Dark Thirty“) and just one in 2011 (“A Separation“).
Now “Llewyn Davis” joins Oscar Best Picture-winners “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Hurt Locker” among recent National Society champs, as well as Best Picture nominees “The Pianist,” “Capote,” “There Will Be Blood,” “The Social Network,” and “Amour.”
Then again, the National Society is known for its independent thinking – that’s why it’s usually my favorite critics’ group – which means “Llewyn Davis” also joins winners like “Yi Yi,” “Waltz with Bashir,” and “Melancholia,” which came nowhere near the Oscars’ top race. So while the win comes with a lot of prestige, it may not presage the Oscars the way the Coens might hope it would.
The snubs from the industry peer groups could be more telling. It was shut out of the SAG Awards despite a cast of stars pulling double-duty as actors and singers. It was left out of the PGA Awards despite 10 guaranteed slots – the Oscars will have up to 10, but the last two years had only nine. And even though the WGA Awards seemed to disqualify every other script in the Oscar conversation, they still didn’t find room for the Coens in Original Screenplay.
But there’s still a chance for “Llewyn” to be recognized at the Oscars. The Coens’ “A Serious Man,” an even less conventional choice, was nominated for Best Picture in 2009, despite being snubbed by most industry guilds. The Coens are cool kids in Hollywood, and there’s likely built-in, passionate support for them in certain segments of the academy.
However, “A Serious Man” was recognized by the WGA, and in 2009 there were 10 guaranteed Best Picture slots at the Oscars; its only other bid was for its screenplay, so it’s plausible it just barely slipped into that 10th slot.
At the moment, the safest bet for “Llewyn Davis” is a nod for Best Cinematography. Five of the Coens’ films have earned nominations there: “Fargo,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “True Grit,” all for Roger Deakins. In “Llewyn Davis,” they worked for the first time with French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who also has a strong Oscar track record, with nominations for “Amelie,” “A Very Long Engagement,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
Do you think “Llewyn Davis” will also be nominated for Best Picture? Make or edit your Oscar predictions and post your comments below.