‘Tis the season… for the Oscars! The buzz at this time of the year tends to be the Oscar predictions — which films will the members nominate for Academy Awards? One way to guess is to see which films were given audience awards at the North American film festivals 2015. Here’s a look at four hyped films in four different categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Documentary (Feature), and Best Foreign Language Film.
‘Room’ – A Favorite Among Critics And Audience Alike
“Room,” directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay, is a favorite among critics and audience alike, receiving a high score of 97% and 94% respectively on popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes.
Adapted from the bestselling novel, “Room” follows Jack and Ma, who spend their days and nights in a small, locked room. Having never been outside the room, Jack believes that everything he sees on TV is make-believe until his fifth birthday, when Ma decides he’s old enough for the truth. Jack’s world is turned upside down, but that’s only the start of a journey continuing with their escape into the real world. This forces a new dynamic between Ma and Jack to develop as they are carving out a new existence for themselves, while coming to terms with the past.
“Room” won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival and the Audience Award at Hamptons International Film Festival for Best Narrative Feature, and both festivals claim to have a strong track record with the Oscars for their audience-picked winners.
“Room” is masterly crafted with an entertaining and endearing surface, covering a strong psychological undercurrent of human relations affected by trauma.
The film has won numerous jury prizes and nominations during its fall run at the film festivals, and is currently nominated for three Golden Globes, which is also a good indication for the soon-to-be-announced Oscars nominations. However, Brie Larsen’s astonishing performance has additionally thrown her in the race for Best Actress, and Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg lists her as the most likely to win an Oscar on his list.
‘Where To Invade Next’ – A Humorous And Optimistic Travelogue
“Where To Invade Next” by Michael Moore follows the director as he travels to foreign countries to bring back home their better quality of life. It’s a both humorous and optimistic travelogue, showing how the solutions to many of America’s problems already exist in other countries.
The film opened at Toronto Film Festival to raving reviews, and continued its successful festival run winning the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at Hamptons International Film Festival and Audience Choice Award at Chicago International Film Festival, among other prizes and nominations. “Where To Invade Next” is a strong contender for the Best Documentary Oscar, and is listed as number three on the list put together by Indiewire’s Peter Kneight.
‘Spotlight’ – Star-Studded Ensemble Cast Winning An Insane Amount Of Awards
“Spotlight,” directed by Tom McCarthy, is the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions: the Catholic Church. The story unfolds at a steady and methodical pace, as one imagines the work itself to be, with the occasional glimpse into the reporters’ own relationship to the church. The star-studded ensemble cast features Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci.
The film is currently nominated for three Golden Globes, and has won an insane amount of awards during its festival run – 51 awards and 78 nominations to date, including the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative English-Language Feature at the Chicago International Film Festival.
In a touching moment, an audience member stood up during the Q&A after a screening at the Hamptons Film Festival, to confide he was molested in a similar way. He thanked the cast and crew for their portrayal of this tragic chapter in history, one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times. The film is listed as number one by The Cinemaholic’s Gautam Anand for chances to win the Best Picture Oscar.
‘Mustang’ – First-Time Feature Film Director On Oscars Shortlist
“Mustang” opened in Cannes this spring with two nominations and one win. It is Golden Globe-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and a festival favorite with 21 wins and 23 nominations, among them the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Foreign-Language Feature at Chicago International Film Festival. The film is on the Oscars shortlist for Best Foreign Film-nominations 2016, selected from 80 original considerations and now competing with eight other entries for five Best Foreign Film-nominations 2016. “Son of Saul” is one of the competitors, also made by a first time director, and a possible winner due to raving critic reviews and a similar amount of awards and nominations, but beating “Mustang” by receiving four wins and two nominations at Cannes Film Festival. “Mustang” is listed next to “Son of Saul” in many of the predictions, such as Best Foreign Film's frontrunners by Indiewire's Anne Thompson.
This article was originally written for an published on Liberal America Dec 29th 2015.