Beware: ‘Theory of Everything’ is a serious, secret Oscars threat

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.”

Join the fierce discussion about ‘Theory of Everything’ going on right now in our forums

“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.

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

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.

9 thoughts on “Beware: ‘Theory of Everything’ is a serious, secret Oscars threat

  1. I’m glad you think so highly of Theory of Everything. I saw it at TIFF and absolutely loved it. It helps that I’m a big Hawkings fan. I hope your predictions come true Oscar night!

  2. You may very well be right, but more and more I’m hearing from average audience members (which Oscar voters really are) that they are finding it boring and not emotionally gripping. But we will have to see.

  3. I think Redmayne stands an excellent chance of pulling a “mild” upset and actually winning Best Actor. Felicity Jones will get a well deserved nomination as well. No way will it win Best Picture. I think there is a possibility it may not even be nominated.

  4. Ugh, it’s not a top contender. I don’t care how many boxes it checks, the problem is, IT’S NOT A GREAT MOVIE. It’s a good movie. To win Best Picture people need to love it and people do not love it. Same thing happened with Saving Mr. Banks. It checks boxes but it’s not actually that good. Redmayne might win and I would be happy if he did, but I don’t think the movie even deserves a best picture nomination. And it has no shot at winning.

  5. O’Neill trying to inflate The Theory of Everything’s chances is merely a distraction from his refusal to admit his mistake in ignoring The Imitation Game. TIG debuted with stellar box office, the second best limited release of the year behind The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s per screen average was three times higher than The Theory of Everything’s PSA debut. (TIG has also been a big hit at the U.K. box office, where TOE isn’t opening until next year). Yet while O’Neill brags about TOE’s box office supposedly boosting its chances, he’s silent on TIG’s considerably better performance.

    O’Neill tries to argue that TOE is an audience pleaser, but while TOE debuted during the coveted opening weekend at TIFF with three screenings, it still didn’t crack the top three vote getters for People’s Choice. Meanwhile The Imitation Game won People’s Choice at TIFF, despite screening during the week and having already debuted at Telluride, The movie went on to win 15 more audience awards on the festival circuit, which TOE notably skipped. And will O’Neill mention The Imitation Game getting a rare A+ CinemaScore?

    The Imitation Game also has a higher RottenTomatoes score with critics than TOE’s score, which O’Neill finds so impressive, and the stars are higher profile (is Eddie Redmayne on the current covers of Time and People?) On all three factors O’Neill mentions (audience response/box office/critical rating) The Imitation Game is doing better than The Theory of Everything, yet O’Neill consistently ignores it as a factor.

  6. I wish the movie were about Hawking’s life, work and discoveries instead of all about their relationship/romance… they should have titled it “Hawking’s love life” not “The theory of everything”. Also, the edges have been smoothered (on purpose) to make him more likeable and to downplay her relationship with J. The result is there’s way too honey. The perfomances are good but no way it can win best picture. That said, according to my personal tastes I prefer TIG which focussed on Turing’s achievements, if they had made a movie all focussed about his gay life, they would have made Turing a(nother) tort. He was brilliant and deverved to be treated as a brilliant man. Hawking should have gotten the same treatment to me, his marriage shouldn’t be more relevant than The Theory of Everything.. many men are ill and struggle with illness and this affect their personal relationships, but none of them had one of the most incredible intuitions of the century.. that’s what the movie should have talked about, I don’t like the “pass me the kleenex” movies.. I mean it’s OK when the movie makes you emotional, but I don’t like a whole movie built up to be emotional… feel like I’m being manipulated..

  7. Secret? All I hear is ‘Theory of Everything’. But I don’t like its chances. It got bad reviews and looks schmaltzy and saccharine. Perhaps Redmayne might be nominated but that’s about it.

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