Will ‘Fury,’ Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman join the battle for Oscars?

Fury” came out blasting this weekend, ambushing the box office ($23.5 million), conquering film critics (81 score at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences, too (A- CinemaScore). But how will it fare at the Oscars?

That’s a tough call. The film lacks one key Oscar element – snob appeal – but it’s packed with many others. It may generate broad academy support with noms in various crafts categories (sound, editing, etc.) Most important, it’s such a slick, passionate action flick that it has a high Rooting Factor. That’s vital since a film must be the number-one choice of at least 5% of voters in order to earn a nomination for Best Picture. (Here is more detailed explanation of the voting process.)

Is that possible? Perhaps, yes. Historically, voters have adored war films (Best Pic winners “The Hurt Locker,” “Platton” and “Patton”; nominees like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”). That’s probably because the academy skews so heavily male (70%) and older (age 60-plus on average, according to a study by the L.A. Times). Mature guys landed in full force at theaters this weekend for “Fury.”  Audiences were 60% male; 51% over age 35.

But will voters fall for this war film? Only three Gold Derby’s pundits currently list “Fury” in their Best Picture predictions.

“Fury’s” best shot for a top Oscar nomination may actually be in the race for Best Supporting Actor where Logan Lerman is a serious contender thanks to his sensitive portrayal of a rookie soldier reluctant to participate in the brutality of battle. Lerman’s performance gives this film its heart and he even upstages the actor who gives this film its spark, muscle and star power: Brad Pitt. Their rivalry may end up getting played out at the Oscars.

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Presumably, Pitt belongs in the lead race for Best Actor, but that five-man category is already over-packed with seven frontrunners:  Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), Eddie Redmayne (“Theory of Everything”), Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Imitation Game”), Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) and David Olyelowo (“Selma”). Pitt gives a strong screen turn in “Fury,” but the role lacks the emotional vulnerability and complexity that voters usually seek in that race. Pitt might be smart to drop down to supporting, but, if he does so, he’ll land smack dab on Lerman. Either one could end up with the nomination, but it’s unlikely that they both could get in.



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