As summer draws its last breath, every film buff sits up and stares fixated at the run of pictures that will be flowing through our screens throughout autumn and winter because as we all know, Oscar season is fast approaching. It seems ludicrous preparing now given the ceremony isn’t until next February, but the film industry and distributors wait for no one; if you aren’t in the race, you’ll be missing out. So with this ethos in mind, it would be apt to access the films generating the most attention and those likely to be at least in the running for a chance at claiming an Academy Award in whichever category seem appropriate.
Like the title of this feature claims, this is merely a selection of potential contenders – its more than likely that One Direction: This Is Us 3D will walk away with everything…
The Academy love O. Russell, and why on earth shouldn’t they? The self-proclaimed hothead on set has captured some of the most memorable films of the last few years. Both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook earned his stars nominations and awards – the latter being the first film to have nominees in all four acting categories since Warren Beatty’s masterpiece Reds back in 1981. His latest American Hustle looks effortlessly cool and stylish, plus it’s rammed with talent including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Robert Di Nero, Louis C.K. and Michael Pena. Five of those seven names have either gained a nomination or a statue in a film directed by Russell. His works are simply fail proof to voters and its time they gave him a directorial prize.
His name was scribed into the Best Picture winner last year and once again the wonderful pairing of Smokehouse’s Clooney and Grant Heslov heads up the Oscar campaign. It wouldn’t be a ceremony without Clooney really, and his latest looks like the perfect top prize contender. Set during Hitler’s reign and starring an incredible cast including Clooney himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett and Bob Balaban (all bar one either winning or being nominated for an award), The Monuments Men looks like a rousing, thrilling and insightful work which depicts the movement of beloved art pieces rather than dwelling on past war accounts which have been filmed time and time again. Clooney knows how to construct a period piece – just watch Good Night, and Good Luck. I’d put big money on this one.
Once again Scorsese enters the race and like the previous two names, voters adore him; the man is one of the most important figures in cinema and its restoration for God’s sake. Everyone loves Marty and rightly so. However the Academy aren’t very kind to poor Leonardo DiCaprio who leads his fifth picture with Scorsese. Year after year DiCaprio provides exceptional performances and year after year he’s neglected. The man hasn’t had a nod since 2007 and since then he’s starred in some of the best American films. However one sincerely doubts this will be the case in 2014. After The Great Gatsby and now The Wolf of Wall Street - penned by The Sopranos/Boardwalk Empire‘s Terence Winter and starring Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau and Jon Bernthal alongside Leo, it seems entirely likely that star, filmmaker and film will be green-lit for nominations come February.
Old Happy Days isn’t any stranger to Academy success – in fact he’s won twice out of his four nominations. Howard’s latest picture Rush starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl depicts the ruthless and legendary rivalry between Formula One greats James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1970s when the thrilling sport was at the peak of its powers. Early footage and reviews have been gleaming, with many praising Howard’s direction, the central performances and the screenplay penned by Peter Morgan who also wrote Frost/Nixon which gained him Oscar nominations too. Sports films are often successful with voters because they are usually stellar character studies rather than commentaries on a said activity. Howard hasn’t been nominated since his big winner A Beautiful Mind so it seems fitting that 2014 will be his year again.
The Coen Brothers are big players at the Oscars winning a total of four as well as being nominated for a further eight. Their forthcoming feature Inside Llewyn Davis has also pretty much secured its chances at Academy success by scooping the prestigious Grand Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Any award or reef from the festival is visual gold for voters. Starring Drive‘s Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan as well as John Goodman and Justin Timberlake, the film showcases a young and struggling folk singer during the 1960s as he attempts to break into the music industry. The Coens are amongst the best at character-driven dramas – just watch Fargo, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing…damn watch all their films as they haven’t made many missteps – and the journey of Davis looks emotive, beautiful and laden with whimsy; just what the panel desires.
Back in 2011, McQueen made one of the finest films I’ve seen in many-a-year; Shame. I’m yet to see a film that has affected me so much since, but I bet he’s the man to do it again. 12 Years a Slave is the Brit’s first fully-American picture (funded and distributed to the US before his native UK) and it presents the ill abduction of a free black man forced into slavery in pre-Civil War United States. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, youngest ever Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis and McQueen’s finest creation Michael Fassbender, it looks destined for success at the ceremony. The voters were kind to Tarantino’s Django Unchained which had a greatly comic outlook on slave culture so a greatly more serious and provocative look will be something they desperately desire.
Three-time nominee Cuarón offers up Gravity; possible the least showy major release this side of 2014. Starring Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney only – just two actors in a 90 minute feature – the film looks set to be the most unnerving and atmospheric release in the running for awards glory. Horror, romance, comedy, sports and so on have all had their time at the Academy Awards and now its a chance for sci-fi to shine. Just the trailers alone for the film are enough to make the hairs on the neck stand, so if Cuarón is able to hold this tension for the film’s duration, it would be completely abhorrent if he’s left out of the directing category. Very little has been offered of the film just yet thankfully so audiences entering will be brimming with intrigue, and I believe the voters will feel the same also.
The legendary Tom Hanks is no stranger to Oscar success and the fact that he’s starring in the real life story of a man who Barack Obama himself claimed is ‘one of the truest American heroes’ basically translates to ‘will get nominations and/or awards’. Captain Phillips follow the man’s terrifying encounter in 2009 when the cargo ship he’s handling becomes hijacked by Somali pirates. The MV Maersk Alabama was the first ship to be overtaken in the last two hundred years. Also starring Catherine Keener and Michael Chernus, the film looks set to be undeniably taut and affecting, and even if you know the outcome, a sensational cine-craftsman like Greengrass isn’t going to let you leave his vice-like grip. The movie is opening this year’s London Film Festival where Filmoria will be watching it so keep eyes peeled for an early review.
No actor has had a bigger year than Benedict Cumberbatch; in 2013 he’s become one of the boldest and most desired actors and is starring in three potential Oscar movies during this campaign. Award-winning director Condon’s latest The Fifth Estate however is easily the daddy of the bunch. Also starring Rush‘s Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Peter Capaldi, David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci, the picture documents the relationship between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and eventual colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and how the site’s phenomenal growth struck the world. The voters love a biopic, and one focusing on such a recent scandal in our technological history is something they lap up. Its likely to follow in the footsteps of The Social Network which rocked the ceremony back in 2010/2011.
A face who has dominated our small and big screens for years is Nelson Mandela, who recently has been struck by a series of life-threatening illnesses. What a better way to celebrate the man in a time of need than a huge, sprawling 152 minute biopic focusing on his life, imprisonment and strive for a fairer world? Well that’s just what Chadwick is doing with his Idris Elba-led movie. Also starring Naomi Harris, Jamie Bartlett and Robert Hobbs, the film follows Mandala as he becomes the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Fewer political figures have lived a life as radical and engaging as Mandela, and its something simply destined for cinematic success. Expect big things come February as its likely the voters will be pushing Chadwick’s film for the biggest prizes, particularly a Best Leading Actor win for Elba.
He may be 76, but legendary director and three-time Oscar nominee Scott isn’t stopping until he gets his rightful prize. His upcoming picture The Counselor is a star-studded thriller focusing on a lawyer who becomes way over his head and in too deep when he starts investigating and becomes involved with drug trafficking. Starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer and Dean Norris, the film is simply brimming with past Oscar winners and nominees plus it’s written by none other than Cormac McCarthy – the man behind No Country For Old Men and The Road. If there is going to be a seedy film that worms it’s way into the shortlist, it’s this one.
It seems almost every Brit, but more importantly American, loves the ‘People’s Princess’ Lady Diana who passed away in 1997. The Academy adore anything to do with British royalty or monarchs; just look back at the crazy success of The King’s Speech…Starring last year’s Best Leading Actress nominee Naomi Watts, Hirschbiegel’s film follows the last two years of Diana’s life as she campaigns against the uses of landmines, but more importantly her secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan. From the stills and footage released, Watts looks the part as Lady Di – its almost uncanny; her voice, manner, posture…these things go down a storm with the panels because they present authenticity and attention to detail, something critically important when playing a person as famous and renowned as Diana. What light it paints her in is yet to be distinguished but one hopes its at least balanced and offers her good and darker sides.
Oscar nominee Miller returns after the wild success of Moneyball to tell another sporting tale, but this one infinitely darker and distressing. Foxcatcher follows professional Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and his rise to championship and how the paranoid schizophrenic John du Pont murdered his fellow Olympian and brother Dave. Starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as Mark and Dave, and perhaps the year’s most inspired casting of Steve Carell as du Pont, Miller’s forthcoming biopic drama looks like a real heavy hitter. The Academy loves it when an actor or actress associated with a certain genre breaks the mould, and that’s certainly what Carell is doing here. One can imagine how he’ll tackle this role and give a truly spine-chilling portrayal. For my money, Foxcatcher is this year’s wildcard.
The hit of the festivals this year is Coogler’s Fruitvale Station which covers the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant III – a 22 year-old Bay Area resident whose life of petty crime causes him to cross paths with the right and wrong people. The film stunned at Sundance at the beginning of the year and has held it’s title throughout the year too. Chronicle‘s Michael B. Jordan brings the real-life Oscar to the big screen and the waves of reviews from the States indicate his performance is towering and sobering. Coogler’s factual drama also stars Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer and Chad Michael Murray. Independent films are the lifeblood of the art form and truly express the wide ranges of talent that’s on the horizon, and the voters know what to look out for in this department.
Just like they like actors stepping out of their comfort zones, the panels also love it when a performer truly commits to a role and embodies their character. Christian Bale does this constantly, and now Matthew McConaughey is giving it a go in Dallas Buyers Club in which he plays Ron Woodroof; a Texan electrician who battles the medical corporations and establishments after he is diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986. McConaughey dropped 38 pounds for the role and his co-star Jared Leto also shed a lump of weight. Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn too flesh out Vallée’s cast here and considering the director’s 2009 film The Young Victoria gained three Oscar nominations, it’s likely that his forthcoming true events drama will gain massive attention.
He was the director who gained Sandra Bullock her Academy Award in the greatly appreciated The Blind Side and now Hancock is returning with a Disney biopic starring acting legends Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson so its safe to assume that Saving Mr. Banks will go down a damn treat with the Academy family. The film follows author P.L. Travers as she leaves London and heads for the bright lights of Hollywood to meet with Walt Disney so his production team can adapt her novel Mary Poppins to the big screen. Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved family films ever made, and it’s origins are fascinating, meaning that this film will probably be joyous and almost certainly successful with nominations come February. The film also stars Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and Paul Giamatti. It will be closing the London Film Festival so keep a look out for an early review on Filmoria.
Keeping in tradition of massive casts this year, take a look at those fronting Well’s adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County…Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch (third time!), Juliette Lewis, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard and Dermot Mulroney. The cast alone will cause rejoice with the voters as its littered with previous winners and nominees; just Streep alone has 3 wins and 14 nominations, so acting nominations here are basically a certainty. The film comments on the strong-willed women of the Weston family whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Its a film that couldn’t be more up the voters streets so don’t be shocked if this one pops up in a variety of nomination categories.
King of indie Linklater has only been nominated for an Academy Award once, but the sheer success of his third instalment in his Before trilogy might just be the push to get him some deserved attention from the voters. Perhaps the best reviewed film of 2013 thus far, Before Midnight is a brilliant and beautiful work reuniting Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine in which we meet them nine years on in Greece. It’s been almost two decades since their first encounter aboard the train to Venice and Linklater allows them to grow in ways we couldn’t expect. The film is likely to gain merits in both lead acting categories and a Best Director shout for Linklater seems fitting, but chances are the voters will push him for Best Original Screenplay as the dialogue here is so perfectly sure-footed, it’s doubtful that many other first-hand scripts will be this tight before the deadline.
After the great success of his masterpiece The Descendants, two-time Oscar winner Payne returns with Nebraska which opened to much acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The film stars big-screen icon Bruce Dern and Will Forte as a father and son who are reunited when they claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize. Perhaps the most striking thing about Payne’s latest dramedy (a sub-genre he practically owns) is that it’s filmed in black and white. Recently with The Artist taking the top prize, shooting in the infinitely more expensive black and white is the in-thing with voters and if anyone is going to do it with real heart and meaning, it’ll be Payne. Expect to hear big things regarding this one as we progress closer to the event.
Written and directed by four-time nominee Reitman and starring Best Leading Actress winner Kate Winslet, chips are down on the table for Labor Day. The film follows depressed single mother Adele and her son Henry who do a good deed by offering a wounded man a ride, but when the police land on their tail, truths begin to surface about the mystery passenger who they have seemingly welcomed into their lives. Reitman is famed for crafted brilliantly poised comedy-dramas such as Up in the Air and Juno (both big Oscar successes), but his forthcoming picture sounds like a full-blooded thriller and its certainly something both audiences and panel members will be excited to witness. The film also stars nominee Josh Brolin, Clark Gregg and Tobey Maguire.
So there are our predictions for the big Oscar contenders in February – which ones are you most excited to see? Did we miss any you’d consider? Let us know below and stay tuned with Filmoria for more information on all of these forthcoming features.