Sizing Up 2013 - Best Picture - The Awards Circuit - By Clayton Davis

Sizing Up 2013 – Best Picture

Sizing up the emerging Best Picture field for 2013...


American HustleContinuing an annual fall tradition here at The Awards Circuit, I’m back with my Sizing Up series. The name of the game here is obviously to make an early grouping of the hopefuls for all the main categories and, well…size them up. I’m starting once again with Best Picture, categorizing the contenders by their assumed chances. I’m not ashamed to admit that my success rate has been only decent with these articles in the past, but that kind of comes with the territory of Oscar prognostication and last year was better than usual for me. I’m hoping for a good showing this year to build on last year’s strong tally, in which seven of the nine nominees came from my top group and the other two were highlights of my second tier group. This time around I’m sticking with the model of a larger slate than in previous years, which still has a lot to do with the relative uncertainty that this year’s race has surrounding it once again. For one thing, how many nominees will we ultimately have? Less than the nine we again had last year? How many films will actually be able to get the required amount of #1 votes to qualify for a nomination? All of this remains to be seen of course, but for now, I’ve tried to grab pretty much all the viable contenders for Best Picture and laid them out for you below in close to black and white (though really this entire endeavor is one big shade of gray). Lots can change between now and the nominations, but this is where I think things stand at this current moment. At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how this matches up to the eventual nominees. Enough delays though, let’s get on with the list!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

These are the films I’d say are 100% out of the race already, regardless of their quality (or perhaps lack thereof in certain cases). Some are strong films that either are too small or too problematic to be included in the bigger field, and others just plain didn’t live up to the expectations/hype that we had for them. There are lots of flicks that fit this particular criteria, but I chose to highlight 12 of them. The movies in question are:

Only-God-Forgives-2013142
The Bling Ring
The Company You Keep
The East
Elysium
Emperor
Gangster Squad
Man of Steel
Only God Forgives
The Sapphires
Side Effects
Trance

In the cases of 42, Elysium, Gangster Squad, and especially Only God Forgives, high expectations (and even predictions for wins in some cases) led to disappointment, to at least one degree or another. Something like Man of Steel was probably always unrealistic too, though those Malick-y trailers gave some hope. The rest are just sort of stuck in that middle ground that stops a contender before they even really get started. Essentially, count those movies out of the fold right now and move on. In another place and time they might have been slightly bigger contenders…just not this particular one.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This next grouping consists of 25 films this year that I think ultimately won’t be contenders for the big prize, but aren’t out of the race completely yet, so they bear mentioning. They either have subject matter that could be tough/unsavory to voters, or just don’t seem to have the right traction yet. Some of them are a bit bigger contenders than others, but for me I’m inclined to bet against them all right now. For many, if this was a mandatory year of ten, they’d be sitting a lot prettier than they are currently. The movies in question (though hardly all of them that fit this criteria) are as follows:

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines sizing up Black Nativity
Blue is the Warmest Color
Diana
Don Jon
The Fifth Estate
Frances Ha
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Immigrant
Kill Your Darlings
Lone Survivor
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Oldboy
Out of the Furnace
Parkland
The Past
Philomena
The Place Beyond the Pines
Short Term 12
Stories We Tell
Sunlight Jr.
The Way, Way Back
The Wind Rises

A couple of these have better chances than others of breaking away from the pack and moving towards a more realistic shot at a Best Picture citation, but they all have at least somewhat of a caveat. I’d say those include Frances Ha, Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Short Term 12, but there’s no way of knowing definitively right now, so it’s more than fair to bet against them all. A lot of these other players are worthy indie contenders that could possibly surprise with a nomination, but the odds are certainly not in their favor. Once upon a time The Great Gatsby had a chance but now…hardy har har. If you want one to try and pick from the bunch to maybe take a flyer on, it could be Stories we Tell or even Blue is the Warmest Color, but don’t go on too much of a limb there. The one with the best chance is actually Out of the Furnace, but there’s just no buzz at all about it right now. The rest could possibly better in other categories, but are going to need lots of help to make a dent in the Best Picture race (potentially due to festival buzz, like in the case of The Fifth Estate, which fell on its face in that regard), so I’d say they can be safely passed over right at this moment (as much as I’d kill to see Don Jon cited, since it’s a terrific flick). They haven’t been eliminated yet, but it’s likely only a matter of time for them. This goes to show how top heavy the Best Picture race is and how far you have to reach once some of the heavy hitters get delayed or shifted to 2014. The more realistic contenders are still to come in this piece…

The “Second Tier” Contenders

These films are solidly in play for some Best Picture love, but have enough question marks to keep them from being A-list/top tier players. I’d say that there will be at least one from this list that winds up making it to the big show, but many will no doubt fade away as well, so this is a mixed bag for sure. There’s a dozen of these particular flicks that would like to be considered big time contenders, regardless of the reality. I don’t see them as big time ones just yet, but like I just said, they’re not especially far off (for example, last year Amour and Django Unchained were in this category initially and managed to crack the Best Picture lineup). The movies I see in this specific light are:

Before-Midnight-poster All is Lost
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
The Book Thief
The Counselor
Dallas Buyers Club
Fruitvale Station
Her
Mud
Prisoners
Rush
The Spectacular Now

As always, I bet there’s some version of this year’s race where a good combination of these 12 films make up the Best Picture field, but there’s still another dozen films to come below with better chances. That means these flicks need to distinguish themselves in some special way, and that won’t be easy. Some will, but some won’t, and I’d say that most will fall shy in the end. The Counselor remains the biggest question mark/X factor, while I’m not buying the chances of Dallas Buyers Club and Rush like some are for Best Picture nods. Stranger things have certainly happened though. I’m not sure which one, but I have a suspicion that one of those left will end up a part of the final slate of nominees…the question is just which one. I’d love to see Prisoners make it, but I think the dark tone will ultimately undermine it there. All is Lost probably has the best shot, with The Book Thief and Fruitvale Station next in line, though longer shots like Before Midnight and The Spectacular Now are hardly out of it (the former certainly has a better chance than the latter, however). The titles from Sundance just simply haven’t remained in the conversation like we thought they were going to. As for Her…I’ll let you know when I see it at the New York Film Festival in a few weeks, but don’t hold your breath there, as it seems like something outside of the Academy’s comfort zone.

The “Pole Position” Contenders

These here are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Picture, at least now in September. My personal Oscar predictions (where I’m nominating ten flicks as per the usual) consist of all but two of these films, so suffice to say I’m pretty high on most of them (as mentioned above, seven of the films in this category last year for me went on to score Best Picture nominations). They each have a good amount in their favor, and seem to be sitting pretty in one way or another. They’re also some of the most mentioned films so far this year in terms of buzz, and I don’t exact that to change much anytime soon. Which 12 flicks are they, you might wonder? Well, they are the following:

12yearsaslave12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Labor Day
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The Monuments Men
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

There are no obvious locks to be nominated right now for Best Picture, but the general consensus is that 12 Years a Slave (especially off of its early festival buzz), American Hustle, and The Monuments Men are the likeliest to score nods, even if they’re pretty much sight unseen. Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks are one level down but still sitting rather nicely, especially with the former pretty well liked among those of us who’ve seen it. Then one level down we have Blue Jasmine, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and Nebraska stuck in the middle of this tier, clearly capable of getting in but far from locks at this point. That leaves Gravity (which has benefitted a huge amount from its initial festival word of mouth) and Inside Llewyn Davis, which certainly have their festival fans (especially the former) but could fare better in other places (I have the latter just barely getting in on a nod right now). The weak link here is now Labor Day, but don’t count it out. Finally, we have a major X factor in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I’m higher on it than most, but I’m certainly not alone in predicting major noms for the flick. I love how so much is undecided at this current juncture, since that doesn’t always happen, especially considering we’ve lost or likely are losing Can a Song Save Your Life?, A Most Wanted Man, and more notably Foxcatcher and likely The Wolf of Wall Street. Combine this group with the previous dozen movies mentioned, and I think those will make up the 24 films that get slowly filtered down to somewhere between five and ten nominees at the end of this long and crazy road.

There you have it ladies and gents. I see this year as being a race between 49 films for those elusive slots, though not all of them have a real chance, as you’ve no doubt noticed. Most of them have little to no chance at being nominated, but as I said, there’s about two dozen solid contenders right now, with some surprises likely still to come. I’m sure that the list will be adjusted soon enough, as we could also see it either decrease or increase as the festival circuit continues to reveal some new contenders for our prognosticating pleasure and others wind up inferior products. The one thing you have to be sure of is this though…it’s going to be a very interesting Oscar season again, so stay tuned!

-How do you see Best Picture shaping up? Discuss in the comments!

Joey Magidson (1481 Posts)

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 200 and 300 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Internet Film Critics Association as well. Today the IFCA, tomorrow the world!


  • http://jamiesplace.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ Jamie

    Your “pole” and “2nd tier” films seem about right though I would juggle them around a great deal. The one that surprises me in your comments is “Inside Llewyn Davis” given that the majority of reviews are four star and is decidedly a lock for nomination and my pick for the win.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Well, one of the four star reviews is going to be mine, but it’s a decidedly small contender…

  • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

    Stay tuned for the series to continue all season long, as always!

  • Greg

    I think that, from now, the 4 movies SURE to be nominated for Best Picture are: Gravity, 12 years a slave, Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips.

    Based on reviews and word of mouth.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      I can speak for their quality, but of those only 12 Years and Captain Phillips are sure to be nominated right now, though the other two are sitting very nicely right now…

  • Dan

    I have a feeling that when push comes to shove, it will be more financial successes that get the edge. That’s why I feel Prisoners and Rush and especially the Butler have good chances compared to Blue is the Warmest or Nebraska. People will have actually seen them (or seen the marketing). I have a feeling Labor Day will go the way of Young Adult and be overlooked. I have a feeling we’re in for a titanic flop pretty soon. Too many of these movies are getting raves and four star reviews. Either Mitty, Monuments, or Mr. Banks has bound to be disappointing. I doubt it will be Hustle.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      There could definitely be a flop in the near future…

    • http://jamiesplace.wordpress.com Jamie

      I’m with you about Prisoners though I don’t think it is a win, but definitely deserves a nomination. Any film that has people still arguing about what happened and why two weeks after its release not to mention a box office that rapidly pays off costs is certainly a worthy contender.

      • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

        Its box office hasn’t been Best Picture worthy though, so that hurts its chances in another way…

  • Genadijus

    Remember last year, “Argo” created buzz only in September and begining of October when it opened in cinemas, then everybody talked only about “Lincoln”, “Life of Pi” and were waiting for “Les Miserables”. And finaly, “Argo” started to pick up award after award where at the end of the season it became the best picture.
    This year it can be “12 Years a Slave” or “Gravity”, or it can be absolutely different situation. Actually, there were around a decade when when late premiere became a best picture winner of Oscars. Maybe it’s a chance for “American Hustle”, “The Monuments Men” or “Wolf of Wall Street”.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      The race is far from over, that’s for sure…

  • Dan

    I can’t believe the wolf of wall street wasn’t mentioned

    • Greg

      It’s pushed back to 2014…
      Dan,

      Dan,

      Dan,

      Dan:
      I can’t believe the wolf of wall street wasn’t mentioned

      Dan:
      I can’t believe the wolf of wall street wasn’t mentioned

      Dan,

      It’s pushed back to 2014…

      • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

        Indeed…

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      It’s looking like a likely 2014 release. If it winds up coming out this year, put it into my pole position contenders…

  • Ryan

    I can agree with a lot of what is on this list except I would exchange Blue Jasmine, Labor Day, and Nebraska for Dallas Buyers Club, Rush, and Her. As for the winner, I see this being a deathmatch between 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyen Davis, and Captain Phillips. Gravity and American Hustle are the types of films that I can fully expect to get nominated, but will have scarce chances of actually winning. If I had to take bets today, I would say 12 Years a Slave, but thankfully, I don’t have to decide now. Anything can still happen.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Her is certainly an X factor…

  • JamDenTel

    A few opinions:

    - Shame SIDE EFFECTS is considered a lost cause. It was excellent.
    - DIANA is finished. Utterly. I would love if it were nominated, because I wonder if the Academy would actually, out of embarassment, un-nominate it.
    - Why are people so quick to write off THE COUNSELOR?
    - THE BOOK THIEF will probably go nowhere. I’ve just heard way too little buzz about it.
    - I will be legitimately shocked if SAVING MR. BANKS actually gets nominated. I really don’t see this happening at all. It didn’t work for MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, it didn’t work for HITCHCOCK, I can’t see it working now.
    - Poor UPSTREAM COLOR. My #2 of the year thus far, and it probably won’t even get a nomination for its score (which is brilliant).

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Side Effects always going to be crippled by its early release, Diana is almost assuredly done, The Counselor just seems more pulpy and less in their wheelhouse, I mostly agree about The Book Thief but some are very high on it, I’ll hopefully know firsthand about Saving Mr. Banks soon, and I’m not wild about Upstream Color, but it’d at least be the oddest nominee ever…

  • JamDenTel

    The Academy needs to fall back in love with pulp. It’s not like Argo wasn’t a throwback thriller (though the Hollywood angle doubtless helped). And honestly, it took me a couple of viewings to really fall in love with UPSTREAM, but in any event the Academy nowadays wouldn’t bite (in 1969, however…)

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      No argument here…

  • Joey Magidson

    As an update, basically swap out The Monuments Men for The Wolf of Wall Street…

  • Kim

    So what is winning?

    • Joey Magidson

      Right now? I’d say it’s between 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, and Saving Mr. Banks…