On Nov. 19, voting began for SAG nominations. On Dec. 1, art directors and producers kick off the guild voting, while the New York Film Critics Circle are first out of the gate by announcing their winners.
As we get down to the wire, Hollywood calendars are jam-packed with awards events. And at each gathering, voters trade notes about titles they’ve seen recently and the handful of films they need to see. The conversation is always dominated by the latest contenders — and yet this year, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” keeps coming up.
The Wes Anderson film premiered at Berlin almost a year ago and bowed domestically in March, which in an awards-season-timetable is the equivalent of 200 years ago. It has long been on VOD and video, so as a flock of terrific films open to fanfare and media attention, “Budapest” may seem like old news. Au contraire, mes amis.
Six months ago, people were singing its praises, but feared it might be too fun for awards consideration. But as new films step into the spotlight, people retain their affection for “Budapest.”
In terms of artisan voting, it seems like a shoo-in for attention in multiple categories including costume design. As for SAG, the best-actor race is overcrowded, but Ralph Fiennes passes two of the crucial tests for kudos consideration: It’s like nothing you’ve seen him do before, and you cannot imagine anyone else play the role. And the ensemble is first-rate (Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, et al.)
Could it be an Oscar contender for best picture, writer and director? Those goals may seem overly ambitious, but a few years ago, many had similar skepticism about “Midnight in Paris” and it scored Oscar noms in all those categories and more.
“Budapest” is definitely fun, but it’s not lightweight. Underneath its vivid colors, middle-European wit and Lubitsch-like touches, Anderson raises serious ideas, ranging from political oppression to the importance of good manners. It’s a portrait of changing times, which is why it resonates.
Whenever voters mention the film, they lean in, with a little smile, and talk as if they are the only human in the world who is aware of this film. Apparently it’s the kind of movie that people react to on a personal level. And with Oscar, you don’t need every voter to love it — you just need a rabid group of supporters. And “Budapest” has that in spades, which bodes well for the film as voting begins.