What it’s up for: Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Makeup, Original Screenplay
Foxcatcher is a movie based on the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his relationships with his older brother David (Mark Ruffalo) and John du Pont (Steve Carell), a rich benefactor for the USA wrestling team. Mark tries to make a name for himself apart from his brother by taking du Pont on as a coach and financial backer for his training.
All in all, this is an unremarkable movie – with the exception of one thing: Steve freaking Carell. This movie is worth seeing JUST for his performance. I’ve seen 3 of the 5 movies that were nominated for best actor and I would pick him right now. His Oscar-worthiness comes from the fact that John du Pont is completely different from any character he has ever played. There is a dark, brooding nature to du Pont that Carell captures perfectly. He is menacing without any obvious reason for it. He’s that guy that you feel creeped out by but can’t exactly figure out why. Carell has played serious roles before, but none that have completely transformed him. A large part of that credit goes to the makeup department. Their nomination was not unwarranted. They did excellent work not only with Carell but also with Ruffalo and Tatum.
Speaking of Mark Ruffalo, he also did an excellent job but, to me, didn’t seem any more remarkable than some of his other roles. It felt like his role was meant to be expanded. He and Channing both altered their physical and vocal performances to match the unique athleticism that comes from being a wrestler. That being said, I thought Channing Tatum did an amazing job and created a character that was farther out of his wheelhouse than Mark Ruffalo. I wouldn’t nominate him for a supporting actor Oscar, but I thought his transformation was more memorable than Ruffalo.
Bennett Miller’s directing had its moments, for sure. There’s no doubt that the actors’ success was due to his direction. With the amount of unspoken tension and conflict inherent between different characters, their development was dependent on positioning, body language, and camera work. That being said, most of the cinematography was bland. There were some beautiful shots of landscapes but it came off as typical. There was also a big anachronism that could’ve been easily avoided. (Hotel room doors with card key entrances in the late 80s/early 90s? Although that’s when the transition began, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that most hotels had transitioned to key cards.) What’s funny is that the last time I noticed a big anachronism in a movie was in Bennett Miller’s previous Oscar nominee Moneyball…
The screenplay was only ok. I wasn’t impressed by the script as a whole. I often felt confused about the goals of the characters and the point of certain aspects of the movie. The pace stayed the same throughout almost the whole film and as a whole, it was rather boring. Since I did not know the full story of the Schultz brothers and their relationship with du Pont, I kept waiting for conflict in the plot and kept being disappointed because *SPOILER ALERT* the real conflict didn’t come until the very end. I did read Mark Schultz’ complaints about the movie before I went to see it, but I felt like his objections were unwarranted. It did not come across as if Mark actually looked up to du Pont as a mentor, nor was there any suggestion of Mark being emotionally fragile or weak.
The movie was good but not great. The winning aspect was definitely Steve Carell. It would be interesting to watch it again knowing how it ends to see if that makes the story more intriguing.
Leading Actor: Probable but I have a hard time convincing myself that the Academy would actually give Steve Carell an Oscar. I think he deserves it though.
Supporting Actor: Unlikely
Makeup: Very possible! Although the sheer amount of makeup required for Guardians of the Galaxy makes it quite the contender.
Original Screenplay: Unlikely. There are much stronger candidates in this category.