Oscar 8 Ball: ‘All Is Lost,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ set sail

Two of the year’s most accomplished movies are survival tales set on water. How will “All Is Lost” and “Captain Phillips” fare with film academy voters? Let’s peer into the Oscar 8 Ball for answers.
By Glenn Whipp

All Is Lost’

Total nominations: 2

Captain Phillips’

The Tom Hanks vehicle looks to claim many nominations

You may rely on it

Paul Greengrass’ film is an accomplished action-thriller, and even though it doesn’t quite reach the artistic heights of “All Is Lost,” it will likely outpace that movie with academy voters for one simple reason: Nearly everyone has already seen it. It will show up on a majority of ballots, landing high on some. Greengrass, an Oscar nominee for directing “United 93,” will probably earn his second nod for seamlessly integrating a bracing intelligence into the movie’s big-budget thrills. The film’s ending may have prompted some cheering, but Greengrass clearly intended to leave viewers as shattered as Hanks’ title character. By and large, he succeeded.

Most likely

Hanks’ last scene, among the most moving and powerful moments in this movie year, probably alone earns him an acting nomination. Of course, it works so well because every moment prior to it felt authentic. Hanks’ cast mate, Barkhad Abdi, is equally good as the leader of the Somali pirates and his unlikely success story will be very appealing to voters.

Signs point to yes

Though Greengrass’ authoritative signature dominates the movie, it’s certainly possible the writers branch will reward Billy Ray’s richly detailed screenplay. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, Oscar-nominated for “The Hurt Locker,” could win a second nomination as his documentary-style camera work was vital to the movie’s deeply engaging experience. We also like the chances of editor Christopher Rouse, another longtime Greengrass collaborator, to score what would be his third nomination. (He won in 2008 for “The Bourne Ultimatum.”) Add nods in both sound categories too — for voters, water and gunfire are an unbeatable combination.

All Is Lost’

The Robert Redford-starring adventure hopes to rustle up Academy votes.

Don't count on it

What is the barrier to people seeing J.C. Chandor’s amazing movie? The lack of dialogue? Fear of sea sickness? Lingering bitterness over having to read “The Old Man and the Sea” in high school? What? We’re grasping at straws, yes, but it’s puzzling and a little dispiriting that this great adventure tale, featuring Robert Redford giving the best performance of his career, hasn’t caught on. And not just commercially. The academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater was only about a quarter full when Redford turned up last month for a Q&A following a screening for voters. “Maybe they’ve heard him speak,” one wag joked. But we’re not in much of a laughing mood. “All Is Lost” is great cinema on every level — marvelously directed, beautifully shot and superbly acted. It should be a slam-dunk best picture nominee, but there’s already a sense that its chances are sinking like Redford’s well-equipped yacht. It’s not too late for momentum to reverse. Consider this a distress call.

Without a doubt

We did mention Redford, didn’t we? It’s difficult to separate his acting from the brilliant way that Chandor uses Redford’s iconic image to enlist our sympathy for his imperiled character. And Redford gets it — and then some — which makes the self-sufficient character’s moments of vulnerability all the more aching.

Outlook good

Sound editor Richard Hymns has won three Oscars — all with frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg. Hymns and Steve Boeddeker should easily be nominated for their work on an almost wordless movie that relies heavily on the sounds of wind and water to immerse the audience in the story.