On Friday, a number of 2013 awards hopefuls went into limited release in select theaters across the country. The one getting the most attention is Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years a Slave, since most pundits are projecting that film to be neck-in-neck with Warner Bros.’ Gravity for the best picture Oscar, at least for the moment. But one that I would argue is equally important to check out this weekend is Lionsgate-Roadside Attractions’ All Is Lost, the single best film that I saw at May’s Cannes Film Festival — even though it wasn’t even in competition, for reasons that the fest will have to figure out one of these days.
All Is Lost — which has subsequently played at the Telluide, New York, Mill Valley and London fests, among others — is the sophomore effort of writer-director J.C. Chandor, whose feature debut, Margin Call, earned him a best original screenplay Oscar nomination two years ago, and it is a film that features a landmark performance from 77-year-old Robert Redford, one of Hollywood’s greatest living legends. The film’s log line may sound rather familiar — a man is shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean and struggles mightily to survive — but I can assure you, having now seen the film twice, that you haven’t seen this same film before.
Unlike, say, Alfred Hitchcock‘s Lifeboat, it doesn’t feature a single shot of dry land or multiple actors — just Redford, alone in the middle of the ocean. And unlike, say, Robert Zemeckis‘ Cast Away, which mostly revolves around one guy, there is no “Wilson” with whom the protagonist can converse and, in so doing, rather easily convey his thoughts and feelings to the audience. Instead, this is a film that features one man who speaks virtually no dialogue — and yet remains as thrilling and gripping as any film that I’ve seen this year.
For that reason, I think that All Is Lost stands an excellent shot at a best picture Oscar nom, a very good shot at a best director Oscar nom, a shot at a best original screenplay nom (even though so few words are spoken it still required a detailed 35-page treatment from Chandor) — and is a slam-dunk for a best actor nom for Redford, which would be his first for acting in exactly 40 years. (His last and only previous acting nom came for The Sting.) As I’ve said for months, I believe that when Oscar voters mull over a best actor field that includes 77-year-old Redford, noting that he’s never been better than he is in All Is Lost and then realize that he’s never previously won, they will not be able to resist voting for him. (And if last year’s best actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence does indeed open the best actor envelope and announce his name, I would expect an extended standing-ovation.)
For all of these reasons, I was very delighted to be asked to moderate a conversation with Chandor and Redford during their recent visit to Gotham for the New York Film Festival — in the middle of which Chandor accidentally kicked over his water bottle and sent water spewing around Redford’s feet, prompting laughs from everyone in light of the fact that Redford had rarely been dry during the four months that he worked under Chandor’s direction. The actor had wanted to push himself to see how much he could handle as a septuagenarian, refusing to allow stunt men to stand in for him on almost every occasion for which they had been budgeted. And the writer-director obliged. As it turned out, both rose to the occasion.
You can watch a clip featuring highlights of our chat at the top of this post.