(UPDATED: JULY 28, 2014)
Many of the lineups for the fall festivals have been announced and some films are positioning themselves to be surefire contenders. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) looks absoultely brilliant and being named the closer at New York Film Festival, and a Venice play, this could be something to watch out for. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood received damn near unanimous praise from critics and it may bring Linklater some long overdue recognition, though I think that may come in the form of a screenplay win. Gone Girl and Inherent Vice also have high-profile spots at NYFF while The Judge being named as an opener for Toronto has given me great pause. The last “semi-successful” opener they had was The Barbarian Invasions over a decade ago. This may be a Robert Duvall or bust. Major buzz is surrounding Focus Features’ The Theory of Everything and The Weinstein Company’s The Imitation Game. Weirdly enough, they seem like distant cousins at the moment and could be going for the same spot and demographic with the Academy. Unsure if we’re going to see films like Carol, Selma, MacBeth, and Suffragette this year but we’re crossing our fingers.
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SYNOPSIS: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
FOR IT: Innaritu was a near winner for "Babel" in 2006. There's always a lighter film in the lineup. Closer for NYFF and playing at Venice.
AGAINST IT: How different is this going to be? They haven't gone for Innaritu since.
SYNOPSIS: The story of Olympic Wrestling Champion Mark Schultz and how paranoid schizophrenic John duPont killed his brother, Olympic Champion Dave Schultz.
FOR IT: Terrific word out of Cannes. Highly anticipated from fans of "Moneyball" and "Capote." Miller is two for two with Oscar.
AGAINST IT: May be too dark for the Academy.
SYNOPSIS: Private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend in Los Angeles.
FOR IT: Paul Thomas Anderson is beloved by writers and filmmakers out there. Oscar has cited him many times before.
AGAINST IT: People that have read the book say that its "weird" which the Oscars don't like. They also passed on the "The Master."
SYNOPSIS: A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
FOR IT: World War II film directed by Angelina Jolie. The lines will be around the block. The story is uplifting. It COULD be THE ONE.
AGAINST IT: Will voters be able to take Jolie seriously as a director?
SYNOPSIS: A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
FOR IT: Looks like something that will get the big push from Harvey Weinstein. Tim Burton is due for some Oscar love especially in Director. There will be many pushing for this.
AGAINST IT: We've believed in a Burton project before and have been disappointed. This is a potential bomb.
SYNOPSIS: A woman mysteriously disappears on the day of her wedding anniversary. Based on the novel, “Gone Girl.”
FOR IT: David Fincher is off a big loss for "The Social Network" and there are some bitter from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" omission.
AGAINST IT: Is it TOO commercial for the Academy? How will lovers of the book feel?
SYNOPSIS: A thriller set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically one of the most violent years in the city’s history, and centered on a the lives of an immigrant and his family trying to expand their business and capitalize on opportunities as the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.
FOR IT: Chandor continues to show his skills a filmmaker with "All is Lost" and "Margin Call" under his belt. This seems to be his most accessible and ambitious.
AGAINST IT: Will it be too small for the Academy to embrace?
SYNOPSIS: English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.
FOR IT: Pushed by the Weinstein Company and is playing at TIFF. Looks like a smart biopic that could get a lot of support.
AGAINST IT: The Weinstein Company barely made a Best Pic lineup last year and they already look like they have a strong slate ahead. Which one will be their pony?.
SYNOPSIS: Set in an unnamed Third World country, three kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.
FOR IT: Everytime we underestimated a Stephen Daldry film, it's made the cut. There's no need to start now.
AGAINST IT: Eventually luck runs out.
SYNOPSIS: A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
FOR IT: Christopher Nolan has been credited as the reason we went to ten (or sliding scale) nominees. There's always a popcorn/science fiction film in the mix.
AGAINST IT: One year after "Gravity," will it seem too familiar?
SYNOPSIS: A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children’s stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.
FOR IT: Since "Chicago" won Best Picture, we've been getting musicals in contention nearly each time. This beloved musical was a hit on Broadway. Just might do the trick.
AGAINST IT: It is a darker story than what many may be used to.
SYNOPSIS: April, 1945. A battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Wardaddy and his men face odds in their attempts to strike at Nazi Germany.
FOR IT: World War II is the Academy's favorite time period. David Ayer produced an underrated gem in "End of Watch." Is this his chance for the mainstream?
AGAINST IT: There's another World War II film from a high-profile star in the mix.
SYNOPSIS: An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life.
FOR IT: Cannes praise was very loud with Timothy Spall winning Best Actor. Leigh is beloved in the Academy.
AGAINST IT: Mike Leigh is surefire in screenplay but in Picture, he usually comes up short.
SYNOPSIS: Martin Luther King, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the civil rights marches that changed America.
FOR IT: Late entry and a biopic that everyone will be paying attention to. Ava DuVarnay is becoming a force in Hollywood. Could she be our next Kathryn Bigelow?
AGAINST IT: She just finished filming. Will it be ready in time?
SYNOPSIS: A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
FOR IT: Focus Features is on a roll following "Dallas Buyers Club." This biopic has many excited and could be more of sure thing than many think.
AGAINST IT: In a year of many biopics, will this one stand out?
SYNOPSIS: A journalist is detained in Iran for more than 100 days and brutally interrogated in prison.
FOR IT: The early buzz is big for Jon Stewart's debut. An intriguing story that feels in the realm of past winners like "Argo." Also pushed by Megan Ellison who is fresh off two Best Picture nominations.
AGAINST IT: Will they be able to take Stewart seriously? How will they fair with this first time director?
SYNOPSIS: A look at the sexual frustrations that young teenagers and adults face in today’s world.
FOR IT: Jason Reitman continues to be a force in the filmmaking world. When it comes to the Academy, they either go all-in or nothing at all. This acclaimed novel sounds baity.
AGAINST IT: After "Labor Day," has he lost his touch with the Academy? Family-surrounded drama starring Adam Sandler doesn't sound like the Academy's forte.
SYNOPSIS: A drama centered around the relationship between journalist Michael Finkel and Christian Longo, an FBI Most Wanted List murderer who for years lived outside the U.S. under Finkel's name.
FOR IT: This film that's based on a popular book is said to be a very intriguing story that some Oscar voters may not be able to resist.
AGAINST IT: This looks like it can be more of an acting possibility than a big Picture contender.
SYNOPSIS: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
FOR IT: Wes Anderson barely missed out on a Best Picture nomination with "Moonrise Kingdom." This first quarter film has its vocal lovers.
AGAINST IT: Will they remember it by year's end?
PICTURE | DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE | PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT