Tom O’Neil is at it again.
In a recent post, he had the audacity to blast virtually all of his fellow pundits for not placing “The Theory of Everything” higher on our lists of likely Best Picture contenders. In fact, he calls us “crazy” for not including it in our top three. That’s like R.P. McMurphy telling Nurse Ratched what pills to take.
“The Theory of Everything” is a wonderful film. It’s going to be a serious player throughout the awards season. But it is not going to win Best Picture, or even come close – as O’Neil suggests. Here are five reasons why.
1. The rooting factor isn’t that high. O’Neil states that “Theory” is “one of only six top movies this year that grips people so powerfully that they actually root for it.” Where is O’Neil getting this from? Jane Hawking? The biographical drama has been warmly received, but it has hardly generated the same type of enthusiasm as recent comparable films like “A Beautiful Mind,” “The Pianist,” “The Queen,” “The King’s Speech,” “Lincoln” and “12 Years a Slave.” (Those films either won Best Picture or had a real chance to win.) If you ask Academy members to name their favorite movie of the year so far, how many will actually say “The Theory of Everything?” I would argue that pictures like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Interstellar” have more pockets of passionate support. Again, “Theory” is a very good film – just not “great” enough to go all the way.
2. It probably won’t receive a Best Director nomination. So O’Neil ranks “Theory” third on his list of Best Picture predictions and thinks that it can actually win. Okay, so where he does he put its director, James Marsh? How funny…he’s not even in O’Neil’s top five! When was the last time O’Neil warned of an Oscar upset by a film whose director he didn’t even expect to be nominated? Sure, “Argo” claimed Best Picture two years ago after Ben Affleck was famously overlooked in the directing category. That was different. Affleck took both the Golden Globe and the Directors Guild Award, and Academy voters felt that he SHOULD have been nominated for the Oscar. If Marsh fails to get in, it’s hard to grasp any theory as to why his film would still prevail.
3. It won’t win any of the precursor awards. If “Theory” is a real threat in the Oscar race for Best Picture, we need to consider its prospects in other contests. Can it win at the Golden Globes? SAG? PGA? DGA? BAFTA? All of them seem pretty unlikely. And without any pre-Oscar prizes under its belt, it may be impossible for “Theory” to snag the top honor on February 22. You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to figure that out.
4. It’s being overshadowed by “The Imitation Game.” No, the two films aren’t the same. However, it’s easy to draw comparisons between them. Both are set in 20th century Great Britain. Both center on geniuses. Both deal with troubled romantic relationships. While both have received positive critical reaction, “Imitation” might have an edge due to its anti-Nazi protagonist and wartime setting. “Imitation” is also hitting theatres later than “Theory” and has a chance to peak closer to the prime voting period. If “Imitation” indeed proves to be a major factor in the Oscar race, any theory of a “Theory” upset becomes harder to justify. (That’s how the game goes.)
5. Its awards’ focus will be on Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor. When “The Theory of Everything” is discussed in this year’s derby, the question is almost always whether or not Redmayne can win the Best Actor Oscar. I think that the race is too close to call at this point, but he clearly does have an excellent chance. As has been discussed on Gold Derby extensively, Redmayne’s performance bears all the classic Oscar hallmarks. He plays a real person, has a disability, ages onscreen, overcomes adversity, etc. If Redmayne can overcome Michael Keaton in “Birdman,” Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game” and David Oyelowo in “Selma,” then the Oscar is probably his. And for “The Theory of Everything,” that win would very much be everything.