2014 Oscar Predictions – The Calm Before the Storm V. 2.0

waltermitty2We are exactly a week from the beginning of the Telluride Film Festival that takes place in Telluride, Colorado.  Last year, it kicked off a near unbeatable season for Ben Affleck’s Argo (2012), which would eventually win the Oscar for Best Picture despite a direction omission for Affleck.  This year, it looks as though the studios are putting focused energy on getting their films seen and seen by the right people.  No lineup is announced for Telluride until the press arrives but with the Toronto Film Festival lurking closely behind, we should have a good idea of where certain films and performers stand for the remaining of the year.  Simultaneously, the 70th Venice Film Festival will be unveiling a crop of contenders that include Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.  After TIFF wraps, we’ll be in New York, checking out the scenes for Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips and Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  It’s going to be an exhausting couple of weeks but this is what we’re built for.

Enamored by the recent news of categorization placements and alleged withdrawal from awards campaigns, the noise for the upcoming slate of pictures has been relatively quiet.  In recent Oscar years we were already zeroed in on films like Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004) or Rob Marshall’s Nine (2009), as the “ones to beat.”  I’m unsure if we have a film that fits that criteria at the moment.  Many of us are highly anticipating projects to come through as true cinematic juggernauts but deep inside, we feel as though Oscar won’t necessarily go for them.  With Sony Pictures having a lineup that includes Captain Phillips, George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, and David O. Russell’s American Hustle, they could have the sure-fire bets of the season.

Clooney has been the poster child for Oscar over the past few years.  In the past seven years, Clooney has racked up eight nominations from Oscar in six categories and won two.  That’s impressive in itself.  Something to note, he’s directed four films since his debut of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) and has only been cited for his filmmaking for Good Night, and Good Luck (2005).  I wonder if AMPAS is fully on board with him as a filmmaker.  The  Monuments Men, which takes place in World War II, will have lots of people excited.  This could turn it around for him.

On the last episode of Power Hour, I spoke about us beginning to take Walt Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks more seriously than we have been.  John Lee Hancock did something right to get his last film, The Blind Side (2009) in a Best Picture lineup.  Maybe he strikes the right chord with Oscar voters.  His new endeavor taking on the story of P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins is said to hit a few heartstrings.  Emma Thompson will be a force in Lead Actress with Tom Hanks likely going Supporting, though no decision has been made yet.  Anybody else feel that it’s strange to see Hanks as a Supporting Actor contender though?  Such a leading man.

Sony Pictures sister company, Sony Pictures Classics has an arsenal of contenders ready to plow through the competition this year.  Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, just announced for a December 20 release, seems to have all the makings of a Best Picture nominee if the quality is there.  There have been readers that saw a test screening and said that stars Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo all have equal screen time.  The plan might be for Carell, who plays the schizophrenic John du Pont, to go Supporting for his performance.  Not a bad move.  It just hurts Ruffalo’s chances significantly.

I guess the two elephants in the room are Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Russell’s American Hustle.  Both seem to have all the makings of Best Picture winners.  McQueen has been a dependable and creative filmmaker for years.  While his previous films, Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011) are two uncomfortable studies dealing with hunger and sex addiction, his new take on the world of slavery just may be mainstream enough for the Academy to embrace.  Will it be an uncomfortable and at times heart-palpitating time at the movies?  I don’t doubt it.  Likely to gain the narrative, “serious Django” – the film could be the next Schindler’s List (1993) for all we know.  Fox Searchlight has a lot to work with here.

Sony’s potential Best Picture winner, American Hustle will follow the footsteps of Affleck’s film last year.  This could be both a blessing and a curse.  The natural comparisons will come and may begin a “been there, done that” attitude from critics and voters.  On the other hand, Russell’s streak that has found himself nominated for his last two films, The Fighter (2010) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012), may have the injection to propel him to “overdue” status.  An outstanding cast looks to be having the time of their lives and I suspect at least three of them to find themselves nominated.   This could be the vehicle that get four-time nominee Amy Adams her long overdue statue.  It’s weird she hasn’t found herself in “serious contention” for the Oscar before.  Her closest run in was probably for Junebug (2005) and after that, she’s either the “other woman” from the film that’s nominated or a distant fifth.  This could be it for her.

There are so many other thoughts about the race I’m dying to share.  We just have to wait until this week’s Power Hour or other pieces that will follow over the next few weeks.  Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience will join us this week.  I’m sure we have the party that’s on board with Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or the strong ensemble of August: Osage County or the beauty that’s still evident in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight.  I just don’t have the clarity to write it all down today.

In celebration of the festival season getting underway, I’ve updated the Oscar Predictions in all the categories.  I’m heavy on 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle and climbing the charts significantly are Brian Perceival’s The Book Thief and Spike Jonze’s Her.  Check them all out and include your thoughts on the race in the comment section.

What are your current predictions before the beginning of the season?