I like to pride myself on being a prognosticator who focuses almost exclusively on what I think will happen. The Oscar race is much more about figuring out who and what the Academy will vote for, as opposed to just putting forth my favorites of a given year. That’s just how I roll, for better or worse, and I do think it’s served me pretty well over the last almost fifteen years. Perhaps you call it playing it safe, but it’s my way. That being said, there are times where this sort of platform, especially in the past few years, can serve a greater good. To that end, awards season analysis, as well as predictions, can advocate, not necessarily for a favorite, but for something that the Academy might just need a little convincing about. After all, at one point, Parasite winning Best Picture would have been unthinkable. We’re in an age where voters can be bold. Today, I want them to think boldly about Red Rocket.
Red Rocket is the latest concoction from filmmaker Sean Baker and his writing partner Chris Bergoch. The movie follows Mikey (Simon Rex), a washed up porn star as he returns home to his small Texas town, complete with an estranged wife (Bree Elrod) who’s decidedly unhappy to see him. He finds a path for redemption in Strawberry (Suzanna Son), a sexy redhead he discovers at a donut shop. Planning on molding her into the next big adult film star, his scheme sets into motion, with deeply human but also hilarious results.
The film happens to be brilliant, top to bottom. Moreover, it’s a worthy awards player, as I detailed in my review out of the New York Film Festival here:
Oscar should be bold and embrace Red Rocket with arms wide open. If the Academy just went by quality, Best Picture, Best Director (for Baker), Best Actor (for Rex), Best Supporting Actress (for Son), and Best Original Screenplay (for Baker and Bergoch) nominations would be forthcoming. It speaks to just how much voters still veer towards more traditional fare that this isn’t a slam dunk for citations. It should be though, it’s just that good.
In a perfect world, voters would go for the flick in the categories I listed above. Furthermore, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to pitch Red Rocket as this little indie that could. It would just be a contender on par with anything else this season. I’m not suggesting that A24 has the same universally Oscar friendly player as something like current frontrunner Belfast, but it shouldn’t be the chasm that it is. In a perfect world, they’d compete on even footing.
Now, why does it have to be a perfect world? Red Rocket is impeccably made and features two of the year’s best performances. Shouldn’t that be enough? For example, while at Film Fest 919, the movie played like gangbusters. That film festival is down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which is hardly Los Angeles or New York City. If the flick can blow folks away down there, it stands a chance to captivate voters who might otherwise ignore it, either for being too small or because they hear it’s “dirty” or something like that.
If you look at Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress in particular, nominations for Rex and Son do actually have a path. Both categories have wide open slots, and especially when you look at the different sorts of contenders out there, they stand out from the pack. Will that ultimately translate? Rex has a better chance at the fifth spot in Actor than Son seems to, at least now, in Supporting Actress, but they’re in play. The Gotham nominations for both (along with Baker and Bergoch) clearly don’t hurt, either.
Elsewhere, the road for Red Rocket, give or take Original Screenplay, might be tough, but that could be temporary. Baker and Bergoch have proven to be masters at developing these realistic yet unique characters, and that’s certainly an achievement the Academy should eventually recognize. Will it be for this one? That remains to be seen, but they should be bold and go for it. They’d certainly have a nominee that stands out from the pack. In a year of ten for Best Picture, too, this would be a lot more fun of a nominee than generic Oscar bait.
All this is to say that members of the Academy should at least make it their business to watch the film. If voters don’t like Red Rocket, that’s one thing. Not even watching it, however? That’s unacceptable. Anyone who complains that this is shaping up to be a weak year needs to rethink that for several reasons, but this movie’s existence is one such reason. Whether it gets all of its possible nominations or is shut out, I just sincerely hope it’s legitimately considered. Everyone involved is working on such a high level, nothing short of that is warranted. Now, Oscar voters…go forth and be bold!
Prior updates here, here, here, here, here, here, and here have set the stage for the season. Last time around, I focused on the unseen contenders, and we’re only a few more weeks away from most of them actually being officially seen. For now, there are new predictions to share today, with tinkers across the board. Depending on when you’re reading this, I’ve also debuted initial Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature picks. If you don’t see them, check back shortly, as they’re in the process of being added…
You can once again see my Oscar predictions (remember when they were still Year in Advance ones?) here at Awards Radar. Take a gander and be sure to watch out for the next update, which is coming soon. They’re going to continue coming in hot and heavy these days, especially now that festival season is all but done with. Enjoy!