‘Sully’ could land Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood in Oscar race

Sully,” Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, landed with a bang nearly as loud as the forced crash-landing of the airplane disaster that is the center of this film. After scoring 76 on MetaCritic and 82% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes, “Sully” has made $167 million world wide to date, breaking records along the way. One such benchmark was the September haul for biggest global IMAX opening for a 2D film.

While “Sully” isn’t a film that is unearthing any new ground or breaking any new barriers, it’s very well-made. Particular praise consistently goes to Eastwood and, of course, Hanks (seriously, has he ever been anything but really good in a film? Okay, okay, “The Ladykillers” could have been better but come on, everyone loves this two-time Oscar winner).  To that end, will “Sully” have the strength to remain a contender this awards season?

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If we look at other films similar to “Sully,” it’s more or less the same pattern. Firstly, there’s “Flight.” And that 2012 film is very similar to this one; a pilot endures a horrific accident in a plane, pulls off a miraculous recovery, saves everyone and then has to deal with the aftermath of said event. Seriously, “Sully” and “Flight” are basically twins (imagine a spin off, though, where Hanks’ Sully and Washington’s Whip Whittaker meet and have an airborne fight to the death. I’m in!).

“Flight” was a praised picture that did well for itself at the box-office. It earned two key Oscar nominations — Best Actor (for Washington) and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Gatins) — but not a bid for Best Picture. However, another similar film, which also starred Hanks, fared better the following year. “Captain Phillips” earned six nominations, including Best Picture. However, it didn’t do as well as pundits predicted, missing out on expected nominations for Hanks (Best Actor) and Paul Greengrass (Best Director).

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These sort of films are well-respected and liked, but don’t set the awards world alight. They never reach the heights of a “Birdman” or “The Revenant,” for example. Rather, they get lost in the midst of more experimental films. “Flight” was in the year of  “Life of Pi”and “Django Unchained” while “Captain Phillips” competed against“12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity.” The academy tends to reward the projects which takes risks and produce something different, something we haven’t necessarily seen before. Yes, they acknowledge safer films like “Flight” and, potentially, “Sully,” but the pay off is never as big.

This year, such varied fare as “La La Land,” “Manchester By The Sea” and “Silence” are in the Oscar mix and all provide something new and exciting. “Sully” is likely to reap a Best Picture bid, especially if that roster runs to 10, and Hanks has a good chance of earning his sixth nomination. But will it have the staying power that a true Best Picture challenger needs?

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Sully” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over “The Birth of a Nation” taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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