When looking over the Best Picture predictions of 25 Oscar experts at Gold Derby, don’t take most of their rankings too seriously. Only four of us have “The Theory of Everything” listed as a major threat to win – that is, we have it ranked in our top three: Scott Feinberg (Hollywood Reporter), Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com) and me.
Everybody else is crazy.
The reason I think it’s a hefty Oscar player: “The Theory of Everything” is one of only six top movies in this year’s derby that grip people so powerfully that they actively root for it. Others include “Boyhood,” “Birdman,” “Selma” among films with a realistic chance to win Best Picture and “Whiplash” and “Into the Woods” among those with a better shot at other top categories. Verdict is still out on “Unbroken” because we pundits don’t get to see it until this Sunday and Monday.
Meantime, Feinberg ranks “Theory” in second place behind “Boyhood.” He tells Gold Derby: “Why do I believe in ‘The Theory of Everything’? For one thing, few films have ever checked off as many boxes as past winners: British. Period piece. Biopic. Disability. Loving wife. Etc. Moreover, the performances are outstanding; the actors have been everywhere (and have been as impressive off screen as they are on); and, perhaps most pertinently, the film ends in an extremely powerful and tearjerking way, which is what voters leave the film remembering. With Stephen Hawking now firmly championing the film and Eddie Redmayne‘s performance, it couldn’t be in much better shape.”
“Theory” will nab five Oscar nominations, according to the latest predictions by Gold Derby pundits: Best Picture, Actor, Actress (Felicity Jones), Adapted Screenplay, Makeup and Music Score.
Like Feinberg and seven other Oscarologists, I have Redmayne out front to win Best Actor at this point. The reason: Voters love to see famous people transform themselves into other famous folk. Examples: Meryl Streep as Maggie Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in “Capote,” Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in “Ray,” Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II in “The Queen,” etc. Redmayne immerses himself so thoroughly into the persona of Hawking that he becomes invisible.
But more than all of that is the film’s powerful emotional tug. If Oscars are all about bestowing hugs – and they are – then academy members may find Hawking/Redmanye irresistible.
Clearly, audiences are embracing “Theory,” which has performed impressively at the box office over the past few weeks, entering the Top 10 even though it is in drastically limited release. That bodes well for its broader rollout to 700 theaters this holiday weekend.
Film critics have already embraced it madly with a score of 82 at RottenTomatoes. Stay tuned for more good omens ahead, but don’t write off “Theory” next week when it under-performs at the awards bestowed by the New York and L.A. film critics. That’s expected. “Theory” is too sentimental for those cynical, gritty mavericks who are more likely to opt for Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) over Redmayne in the Best Actor matchup. Voters of Oscars, Golden Globes and SAG Awards, however, love sappy stuff. Let’s see what happens later on this derby season.
Below: Watch my video chat with Redmayne.