Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate dug their heels deep into the Mud, making it the first official screener for AMPAS, marking the beginning of the long trek to the Dolby Theater next March. The Jeff Nichols-directed film, co-starring Matthew McConaughey, made $21 million dollars earlier this spring, making it one of the biggest breakout indie hits of the year. Not to be confused with the Blu-Ray that was sent to bloggers and critics for their awards, this plain-packaged DVD was reportedly received by Academy members this weekend.
Now, being the first doesn’t always guarantee Oscar gold (last year The Intouchables proved that) but quite often it does. In 2011 Summit did it with A Better Life, netting Damien Bichir a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Actor, beating out higher profile names like Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar and Michael Fassbender for Shame. An even better example was Crash in 2005. Also, a modest spring release with decent box office and, more importantly, another Lionsgate release, Crash went on to win the SAG ensemble and the Best Picture Oscar (in a huge upset) that can be all but traced back to its aggressive screener campaign.
What does this mean for Mud? In reality, not much in terms of Best Picture. But, an Original Screenplay nomination seems in play and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for McConaughey, who’s already poised for a Lead Actor nomination for Dallas Buyers Club (opening in November). Considering Roadside Attractions has its own Lead Actor contender in Robert Redford for All is Lost (opening in October), campaigning McConaughey in Supporting for Mud makes sense. Nichols’ first feature, Take Shelter, with Michael Shannon, didn’t light up AMPAS despite critical acclaim and starring a previous Oscar nominee. But, McConaughey has built a long career of likability and came somewhat close to an Oscar nomination last year with Magic Mike (on top of also being in Killer Joe, Bernie and The Paperboy). I imagine there will be a healthy dose of good will towards him this year as a result. He also has a small part in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street but that feels less like another potential nomination and more just another example of McConaughey’s diversity and ubiquitousness again this season.