Will ‘Sound of Metal’ be this year’s ‘Whiplash’ at the Oscars? It could drum up just as much academy support

In terms of its Oscar prospects, “Sound of Metal” initially seemed like mostly a performance vehicle for star Riz Ahmed. But as the season has progressed it has accumulated recognition that suggests it might be a contender for much more than Best Actor. If so, it will be reminiscent of another indie that started as an acting favorite but turned into a real Best Picture threat: “Whiplash” (2014).

“Whiplash” emerged from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival with journalists buzzing about the supporting performance by longtime character actor J.K. Simmons as an abusive bandleader trying to get the best out of his musicians even if he has to berate, humiliate and practically beat it out of them. Simmons dominated that awards season all the way to Oscar, but it turned out not just to be him that the academy was interested in. They also nominated it for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and it also won Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Similarly, “Sound of Metal” (which coincidentally is also about a drummer) appeared to be a Best Actor play for Ahmed, who plays a heavy-metal musician who suddenly loses his hearing. And like “Whiplash,” the film could also win an Oscar for its sound design, which aims to convey the auditory experience of deafness. But throughout the season we’ve seen signs that the film could make a play for even more nominations.

Supporting actor Paul Raci has racked up critics’ awards for playing a counselor for a community of deaf recovering addicts. The film was also named one of the top 10 films of the year by the American Film Institute. It was nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards, and it was nominated for Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards.

As a result, the film has been rising in our Oscar odds, currently ranked 12th with 40/1 odds for Best Picture as of this writing, so it’s knocking on the door for that award. We’re also currently betting on Oscar noms for Ahmed and Raci, and it’s right on the cusp for Best Original Screenplay. Do you agree that the film is an even bigger Oscar contender than we think? If so, will it carry Ahmed to a win just like “Whiplash” did for Simmons?

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