More years than not, at least one or two films from the Sundance Film Festival manage to wind up in the awards season conversation. This past year, we had contenders like Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Sessions make it into the Oscar race, while something like Smashed ultimately came up short, from the mountains of Park City. I’m personally thinking that there aren’t any solid Oscar players from the fest this year, but time will ultimately tell in that regard. Below I’ve compiled the ten most likely films that could see some sort of attention shined on them during the precursor season.
After Tiller: An often moving documentary about late-term abortions, it could be a bit of a hard sell for some Academy members, but it’s the type of work that I think can certainly make it past the first round. I’d say it’s a long shot for a Best Documentary Feature nomination, but stranger things have happened, especially if it becomes part of the zeitgeist during some part of 2013. I think the long list is possible, but that may be all.
An American Promise: Another potential documentary nominee, this one focuses on the journey of two African-American families pursuing quality education for their sons. I feel like this one would have had a better chance if Waiting for Superman (2010) had been a hit with voters, but it’s definitely in play…at least for now.
Before Midnight: It’s rare for a third film to do much for Oscar, but voters did nominate the screenplay of Before Sunset (2004). A number of people at Sundance found this to be the best installment of the franchise that Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater have been a part of for literally decades now. I think another Adapted Screenplay nod could be in the cards, with perhaps even a Best Picture campaign to go along with it, though Delpy really is deserving of a Best Actress nomination. This one will ultimately depend on if the audience supports it in a way that warrants a campaign, but I’m currently bullish on its chances.
Breathe In: More awards friendly than Like Crazy but also less original, this film from Drake Doremus will likely live and die by how voters respond to the performance of Felicity Jones in this slow burn romantic drama. She didn’t get much attention last time around, so perhaps this is a bit of wishful thinking, but Jones is certainly good enough again. This one will probably show up somewhere during the 2013 precursors, but any actually Oscar nods are long shots.
Fruitvale: Harvey Weinstein clearly thought this was a potential awards vehicle, considering that he purchased it at the festival, immediately giving it some extra buzz. Whether he can work his magic with this story of a notorious event in the Bay Area is another story though. I missed it at the fest, but the word of mouth was very strong and Terence thought it has some Oscar potential. This could be one of the strongest possible contenders that Sundance unleashes on the public in 2013, especially considering the festival itself rewarded this one more than any other when they did their citations.
Kill Your Darlings: One of Sundance’s biggest hits, this look at a young Allen Ginsberg could very well be vehicle for an Oscar nomination or two. Chief among those possibilities is the tremendous performance by Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr. Best Original Screenplay will also be somewhere that it’s given a chance at, though ultimately it’ll be one that’ll have to fight an uphill battle for nominations. The quality is there though.
Lovelace: The film itself isn’t worthy of awards consideration, but Amanda Seyfried is. Playing the legendary porn star, she owns the screen in a career best performance. Peter Sarsgaard is quite good too, but the only hope for this flick lies in voters falling under Seyfried’s spell. It isn’t an amazingly likely nomination, but it’s not one that’s out of the question either.
Mud: If Take Shelter couldn’t get any love from the Academy, I’m not sure this new film from Jeff Nichols can. Matthew McConaughey get his 2013 started off right with another strong performance, while Tye Sheridan shows why he’s among the most promising young actors in the business today. McConaughey and possibly Original Screenplay would be its plays, but the former has a better chance of happening than the latter.
The Spectacular Now: My favorite film at Sundance, this is sort of coming of age hybrid of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Smashed. There are actually a few places where an Oscar campaigned could be waged here, but the main spots are Best Actress for Shailene Woodley and Best Adapted Screenplay. Woodley really deserves strong consideration, and I’d love to see a Best Picture FYC before 2013 is out. Time will tell there, I suppose, but oh man is it worthy.
Stories We Tell: There are few movies I regret missing at Sundance more than this documentary from Sarah Polley. Apparently impossible to discuss without spoiling it, the film has earned admirers since it made some festival rounds last year, and the hype is only building this year. If it manages to remain eligible, I’d keep this one on your minds as the year progresses…
Most of these won’t even sniff the major awards, but the odds favor at least one or two doing it. We’ll see what happens during the course of the year, but it’s definitely something to chew on…
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!