Thinking of starting your Oscar pool a little early this year? Hedge your bets and double down on The Theory of Everything, one of the year’s strongest Oscar contenders. The film charts Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) harrowing struggle with ALS, his unlikely longevity and his emergence as one of the world’s most celebrated scientists. While this is obviously a recipe for Oscar gold, the film itself reveals a host of other Academy-friendly traits:
1. Eddie Redmayne pulls a Daniel Day Lewis
In spite of the film’s shortcomings, Eddie Redmayne’s performance is undeniably stellar. For viewers who have some idea of what Hawking looks like, it’s hard to miss the authenticity of Redmayne’s portrayal. Sure, he’s a little stiff from time to time, but that comes with the territory.
See also: My Left Foot (1989)
2. The Academy loves them an underdog
Hawking’s story draws upon any number of inspirational clichés. Like many characters in Oscar history, he beats the odds and triumphs over adversity (maybe a little too easily), proving the skeptics wrong. At times the film plays like a patronizing ode to victimhood, which is exactly what the Academy is looking for.
See also: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
3. Everybody’s British
If the history of the Oscars has taught us anything, it’s that the Academy has an insatiable appetite for all things British, and the only non-Brit that gets any real play in The Theory of Everything is Hawking’s iconic, American robot voice.
See also: The King’s Speech (2010)
4. It’s chock full of upstanding citizens
Even when marital strife and infidelity enter the picture, the characters in The Theory of Everything are endlessly well-intentioned and supportive of one another. As A Beautiful Mind illustrated back in 2001, the Academy can’t resist reality-based uplift, even if it’s not entirely accurate.
See also: Forrest Gump (1994)
5. Makeup plays a major role
For whatever reason, the Academy loves honouring movies with a heavy reliance on cosmetics. Conveying Hawking’s illness and the passage of many years on screen, The Theory of Everything owes much of its impact to the wonders of makeup.
See also: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
6. It keeps it simple, stupid
While The Theory of Everything might be richer if it went into the complexities of Hawking’s theories, its straightforward, user-friendly take on complicated ideas should prevent laymen from tuning out.
See also: Argo (2012)
7. There’s plenty of humour to keep the darkness in check
Let’s face it: The Academy’s tolerance for straight drama is diminishing with each passing year. While 12 Years a Slave was a recent exception, at least two-thirds of 2014’s Best Picture nominees relied heavily on comedy. Fortunately for The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking and his cohorts make wisecracks every chance they get.
See also: American Beauty (1999)