'Big Eyes' Debuts, 'Foxcatcher' Finally Makes It to AFI Fest on Busy Night in Awards Season

THR's awards analyst weighs in on the prospects of the two contenders, both of which are being pushed for multiple acting noms, among others
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

On Thursday night, two very different Oscar hopefuls, which have tread two very different paths, both landed in Hollywood for the first time.

Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, a dark drama that was originally scheduled to have its world premiere at the AFI Fest last year before post-production delays forced it into this year's race, finally made it to the fest (better late than never!), having already screened at just about every other biggie (Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and New York). The film, which stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, was feted with a gala Los Angeles premiere at the home of the Oscars, the Dolby Theatre, to which Sony Classics hopes it will return as an Oscar nominee on Feb. 22.

Read more Channing Tatum, Steve Carell on 'Foxcatcher' Genre Jump: "People Think That Doing Drama Is Fine Art"

Meanwhile, across town, Tim Burton's Big Eyes, a biopic-dramedy that stars Academy favorites Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as married artists Margaret Keane and Walter Keane, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Weinstein Co. release screened as part of a Film Independent screening series — FI's Elvis Mitchell noted, in pre-screening remarks, that it was the series' first-ever world premiere — which struck some as an unusual way to unveil an awards hopeful, although it proved to be perfectly reasonable. It effectively managed hype and expectations, making it possible for the glossy film to more or less satisfy rather than disappoint its audience.

Foxcatcher has already been seen and dissected by me and others at length. Most knowledgeable pundits agree that it is a very fine if a bit overlong film with some exquisite scenes — i.e. Tatum and Ruffalo, who play brother-wrestlers, silently grappling like animals, and Carell putting on a show to impress Vanessa Redgrave, who plays his mother. It is probably on the bubble in a number of major Oscar categories, including picture, director, actor (Carell and Tatum), supporting actor (Ruffalo), perhaps even supporting actress (Redgrave) and original screenplay (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman). Both of Miller's previous narrative features, Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011), landed picture and actor noms, a streak that everyone associated with Foxcatcher is aiming to extend this year.

See more 'Big Eyes' Trailer: Tim Burton Makes a Movie About Normal People

The backers of Big Eyes possess more modest awards aspirations for their film, a paean to a female artist who was forced to live in the shadows of a male faker for too long, but who, quite predictably, eventually gets her day in the sun. The film was co-written by the same team (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski) that penned another biopic, Ed Wood, that Burton directed 20 years ago. Big Eyes is likely to be viewed as an atypical Burton pic, although one can see why the famously eccentric former animator would be drawn to a story about an animator who drew eccentric-looking people. While the Academy might expect the central character in a Burton movie to have some of the flamboyant style of a Johnny Depp performance, Adams' character is more of a Doris Day type.

Still, in an unusually thin year for the best actress and best supporting actor categories, one cannot write off the possibility that Adams and/or Waltz could slip in for noms. I wouldn't bet on it, but Adams is well-liked and both actors are revered. Adams has landed five Oscar noms in the last nine years (albeit none resulting in wins), and Waltz has won two Oscars in the last five. So if either or both score noms, it wouldn't come as a shock.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg