Two years ago, Danny Boyle was atop the world, winning Best Director for “Slumdog Millionaire,” a movie that won eight Oscars, the second-biggest haul for any movie of the decade. And now, he may be poised to stand there again. His follow-up feature, “127 Hours,” is generating a whole lot of positive awards buzz.
But is it too soon? Two years is hardly any time to be back in the awards hunt. And usually, winners come back pretty under the radar. Boyle is back with all pistons firing.
Is it possible for a director to be back in the hunt for their follow-up movie to the one that won them Best Director? It has happened once in the past twenty years. Guess who did? James Cameron, although the nominations came 12 years apart for “Titanic” and “Avatar.”
The list of Best Director winners over the past two decades is hardly shabby (look for yourself if you don’t believe me), so we can reasonably assume that back-to-back nominations is something hard to come by. Danny Boyle is very well-respected and certainly very loved, but he doesn’t seem like quite enough of an Academy favorite to make him a sure bet to defy the odds. Before “Slumdog,” his movies were mostly cult favorites with niche audiences.
Then again, “127 Hours” isn’t your conventional movie. Its success will be mainly because of Boyle’s directorial skills as the movie requires a firm hand behind the camera. The movie tells the story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a camper who winds up stuck in a canyon for over five days, ultimately leading to … well, you know. It gets rough, and Boyle said he wants the movie to be a challenge to moviegoers. The premise doesn’t seem very translatable to the big screen, and making it work is surely a directorial triumph.
The movie is also highly dependent on Franco’s performance, since he’s the only person we will get to watch for most of the movie. Early reviews from Telluride and Toronto say he pulls it off marvelously, and a Best Actor nomination seems all but inevitable. Franco nearly got one in 2008 for “Milk,” but he’s been doing quality work for quite some time now that a nomination seems like it’s a long time coming.
The movie also has hopes in technical categories as Boyle’s vibrant style often leads to flashy displays of editing, cinematography, and sound. Not to mention that the score is being done by AR Rahman, the Oscar-winning composer of “Slumdog Millionaire.” I’d sure love to hear some “Jai Ho” cranking from those canyons.
Writing might be a little bit more of a stretch as the movie may be thin on dialogue, but with Boyle penning the script with the Oscar-winning writer of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Simon Beaufouy, it could happen.
As for Best Picture, I’d say that “127 Hours” has a very good chance. I hate to say it’s sure because some people have called it “too hard to watch.” But others have called it “life reaffirming,” and it’s people like that who will drive the film down the path to glory.
BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score