Fall is upon us, and it's bringing Oscar season with it. Snowden, the new drama from Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone about what drove Edward Snowden to leak NSA secret programs, thus making him the world's most infamous whistleblower (or most wanted traitor), is one of the first Oscar-bait movies to hit theaters this year, but it won't be the last. With early release comes the possibility of awards, but it certainly lessens the film's momentum, making winning Oscars relatively hard for any movie that is not a massive, long-lasting hit. Still, Snowden has every making of an Oscar film: a controversial subject, A-list director, and a charming, well-respected lead in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, begging the question, could Joseph Gordon-Levitt win an Oscar for Snowden ?
Snowden marks Gordon-Levitt's second leading role in an Oscar-bait film. Though he played supporting roles in Oscar-darlings Lincoln and Inception, as a leading man the work he's best known for — (500) Days of Summer, Looper — is too far out of the mainstream drama genre to earn Academy attention. Last year, there was buzz that the actor would be in the middle of a heated Best Actor race with his role as Philippe Petit in The Walk , but any Oscar buzz quickly fizzled soon after the film's October release. And, while Snowden could net Gordon-Levitt his first Oscar nomination, it's doubtful the film will get him a win.
Why so harsh? Well, for one thing, Snowden hasn't been getting the best reviews. The movie, which currently has a 53 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has received mostly mixed reviews, due in great amount to the film's treatment of the material — not actors' performances. Gordon-Levitt has, himself, earned a certain level of admiration and respect for his portrayal of Snowden. Variety's Owen Gleiberman, who gave the film a positive review, praised the actor's "meticulous impersonation of the Snowden manner." But even critics who didn't like the film seem impressed with Gordon-Levitt's performance. "The only real saving grace is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who... gives an understated and entirely committed performance," wrote Benjamin Lee for The Guardian .
Despite Gordon-Levitt's good reviews, it's extremely unlikely he'll be on stage accepting an Oscar for Snowden come 2017. No matter how good or Oscar-worthy his performance might be, the Oscar buzz coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where the film recently held its premiere, is simply not about Snowden. It's La La Land and Loving and Moonlight that have been getting the most press for the upcoming awards season.
Should Gordon-Levitt earn an Oscar nomination for his work in Snowden, it doesn't look like he'll win. But, in the grand scheme of things, I doubt it really matters. Gordon-Levitt is a beloved, young actor in Hollywood — if there is any justice in the movie business, he'll have plenty of Oscar-worthy roles ahead.
Images: Open Road Films; Giphy