Oscar Watch: Hillbilly Elegy

Junebug. Doubt. The Fighter. The Master. American Hustle. Vice. 

The World According to Garp. The Big Chill. The Natural. Fatal Attraction. Dangerous Liaisons. Albert Nobbs. The Wife. 

These 13 pictures represent, respectively, the number of Oscar nominations received by Amy Adams and Glenn Close. And there’s not a podium trip for either performer in the whole batch. It’s certainly fair to say that these actresses are both considered overdue for Academy gold. So it is no surprise that their headlining roles in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy have been circled for consideration of Oscar prognosticators for many months.

Based on J.D. Vance’s hugely popular 2016 bestseller, the adaptation hits Netflix on November 24th. The review embargo ended today. The critics have spoken and done so rather sharply. At press time, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a troubling 19%. However, before you write off the pic’s chances for any awards attention, you have to dig a bit deeper.

The trailer released weeks ago was met with some derision, but also some chatter that Close in particular has a very baity part for voters. The reviews today solidify that. I have had Close perched at #1 for some time in my weekly estimates in Supporting Actress. It is certainly possible that she stays right there when I update my projections on Friday. Ironically, her biggest competition may come from Olivia Colman in The Father. For those with short memories, it was Colman in The Favourite who scored an upset win over Close for The Wife in Best Actress just two years ago. There’s also Amanda Seyfried (Mank) generating solid buzz. That said, the 8th time may just finally be the charm for Close. Whether she can overcome the otherwise poor reaction from the critical community will be the question moving forward.

As for Adams, it’s more murky. Best Actress in 2020 is already shaping up as a crowded field. I’ve had Adams listed in third position for about a month, but now I’m questioning whether she even makes the final cut. Look for her to be in the 5-7 range when my Friday post is up and running.

Elegy could follow the example of 2013’s August: Osage County where its only nominations come for its two high-profile actresses (in that case it was Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts). The mostly weak reviews probably take it out of contention for Picture and Director. Same goes for the Adapted Screenplay by Vanessa Taylor (who was nominated in 2017 for her Original Screenplay in The Shape of Water). Lucky for Netflix, it has plenty of product that does appear headed for Best Picture inclusion (from The Trial of the Chicago 7 to Mank to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). There are two more nods that are feasible: Hans Zimmer’s score and its Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: Close is still a contender, but that’s the only category where I believe a victory is even imaginable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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