Oscar Predictions: Air

Air is the fifth feature directed by Ben Affleck and it closed out the South by Southwest festival this weekend prior to its April 5th theatrical release. The 1984 set sports drama focuses on Nike’s decision to make a shoe deal with an NBA rookie by the name of Michael Jordan. In addition to being behind the camera, Affleck costars as the company’s co-founder Phil Knight. The director’s buddy Matt Damon headlines as marketing exec Sonny Vaccaro with a supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, and real life married couple Viola Davis and Julius Tennon as MJ’s parents and chief negotiators. #23 himself is not played by an actor and appears only in archival footage.

Early reactions from Austin indicate that Air might be the first legit awards hopeful to be released on the ’23 calendar. Several of the reviews are outright raves with comparisons to Jerry Maguire and Moneyball (both nominated for Best Picture). If this hits with audiences (and indications are it’s a crowdpleaser), that only increases its chances to make the big dance.

Affleck, of course, was famously snubbed by the Academy in 2012 even though his second directorial effort Argo won Best Picture. He’s yet to be nominated for his filmmaking. However, three of his previous four pics (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo) achieved one or more mentions from Oscar voters. The one that didn’t was his last – 2016’s flop Live by Night.

It’s early, but the chances of Air garnering nominations is high. I don’t know if Affleck will get his first directing nod, but this already looks like it’s shooting for one of the ten slots in BP. The original screenplay by Alex Convery, cinematography from three-time winner Robert Richardson, and editing from William Goldenberg are all possibilities.

As for the cast, I’m curious to see category placement. Damon could be put in lead and vie for his fourth overall acting nom behind Good Will Hunting, Invictus, and The Martian. Amazon could also choose to campaign everyone in supporting. The other male performer drawing lots of attention is Chris Messina as MJ’s agent David Falk. Fresh off her EGOT, Viola Davis might have the best chance and it would be her fifth nom after Doubt, The Help, Fences (where she won), and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It might help that many felt she was just snubbed for The Woman King.

Bottom line: Air is a real contender in the game of Oscar and my prediction posts will continue…

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