Oscar Watch 2014: A bad year in film

As the 2015 Academy Awards draw closer, we are constantly reminded of 2014's dismally low standards.

Normally, Hollywood approaches January in a fog of dust and debris as the giants trade blows, hunting the Best Picture Award. In 2013 we had the beautiful 12 Years a Slave battling the groundbreaking Gravity all the way up the red carpet. Until Will Smith thumbed that envelope open last March, it was still anyone’s guess as to which would be victorious.

Both films were deliberately released between the months of October and January, otherwise known as awards season, aka the ‘I’m here, I’m here, I’m worthy of recognition!’ season. If, as a producer, you want your film to be considered and/or think it has a chance of winning some awards, between October and January is when you schedule release. It’s just one of those givens, nowadays.

But as we burrow deeper into 2014’s hallowed period, it is becoming clear that it is positively barren. The clear favourite? Boyhood.

Forget battling, jostling and snatching for top spot, this year Boyhood is resisting but a nip at the ankles from The Grand Budapest Hotel… InterstellarThe Imitation Game?! It is painfully hard to even draw up a list.

Not only that, but Boyhood was released in July, with its closest competitor The Grand Budapest Hotel released in March. When was the last time the favourites could barely see October, never mind occupy an awards season release date?

This isn’t to denounce the quality of either Boyhood or The Grand Budapest Hotel – premiere dates don’t denote merit. The problem is that the producers didn’t even consider they had a chance, clearly seen by their tellingly early releases. The fact is they shouldn’t, but the dearth of class this winter is allowing both films to sail into 2015 without a scratch on them.

In any normal year, they wouldn’t. Look at 2014’s nominees and even those who were resigned to loss just 9 months ago – The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club – you can imagine would be in serious contention were they released today.

There are those who have tried. Interstellar was casually slipped into that crucial term, but it has sadly failed to charm voters as it has the box-office; even Gone Girl tried but has already failed, as David Fincher continues to produce scintillating but soulless cinema.

Indeed, it has been a sorry year in film. All we can wish for is better next year… Taken 3 anyone?

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