Yes, it’s early to start thinking about the next Oscars; I’ll say it now so you don’t have to. But we can’t deny the influence of the Sundance Film Festival as a launchpad for later awards contenders. So for “Whiplash,” this year’s winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for dramatic films, what might we expect in the year to come?
“Whiplash,” starring Miles Teller as a student at a music school and J.K. Simmons as his teacher, was well received by critics and acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, the distributor behind recent Oscar titles “Blue Jasmine,” “Before Midnight,” “Amour,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” and “Midnight in Paris.”
Five out of the last six Grand Jury Prize winners went on to be major players in the later awards season, though with mixed results.
“Precious” (2009), “Winter’s Bone” (2010), and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012) were all nominated for Best Picture. “Frozen River” (2008) wasn’t nominated in the top category, but earned bids for Best Actress (Melissa Leo) and Best Original Screenplay.
“Fruitvale Station” (2013) was shut out of the Oscars this year, but it made an impact at various critics’ events and is nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards.
“Like Crazy” (2011) was the only recent winner that didn’t get traction at the end of the year, winning its star Felicity Jones breakthrough performance prizes from the National Board of Review and Gotham Awards, but little else.
Recent Audience Award winners have also had some success.
Like “Whiplash.” “Precious” and “Fruitvale” won both Grand Jury and Audience prizes, Audience Awards have gone to “The Sessions” (2012), which earned a Supporting Actress Oscar bid for Helen Hunt, and “Hustle & Flow” (2005), which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (Terrence Howard) and win for Best Original Song (“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”).
But Sundance’s ability to launch Oscar movies is a relatively recent phenomenon. Look beyond the last decade and you’ll find only a few Oscar contenders among major Sundance prize winners:
2003: Grand Jury Prize winner “American Splendor” earned only an Adapted Screenplay Oscar bid after receiving several critics’ awards. And World Cinema Audience Award winner “Whale Rider” reaped just an Oscar bid for Best Actress (Keisha Castle-Hughes).
2001: “In the Bedroom” received a Special Jury Prize for acting and “Memento” won Sundance’s screenwriting award. “In the Bedroom” lost all five of its Oscars races — Picture, Actor (Tom Wilkinson), Actress (Sissy Spacek), Supporting Actress (Marissa Tomei) and “Adapted Screenplay — while “Memento” contended for its original screenplay.
2000: “You Can Count On Me” was a co-winner for the Grand Jury Prize and earned Oscar bids for Actress (Laura Linney) and Original Screenplay.
1990: Audience Award-winner “Longtime Companion” earned a Supporting Actor Oscar bid for Bruce Davison.
1989: Steven Soderbergh‘s breakthrough film “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” won the Audience Award before earning its director an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.
But even if “Whiplash” doesn’t continue the trend of awards contenders from Sundance, its writer-director, Damien Chazelle, might benefit from this added exposure. After all, in addition to sometimes launching Oscar hopes, the festival has kickstarted the careers of filmmakers like the Coen brothers (“Blod Simple”), David O. Russell (“Spanking the Monkey”) and Darren Aronofsky (“Pi”). So, if Oscar attention doesn’t come now, it might some years down the line.
What will win win Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2.