For the past two years now, the New York Film Festival has unveiled a previously unseen Oscar contender towards the end of the fest in their Secret Screening slot. Two years ago it was Martin Scorsese impressing the masses with Hugo and last year it was Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln managing to live up to the hype. So, it goes without saying that expectations are high this year. Almost everyone until very recently were predicting Scorsese to return with The Wolf of Wall Street, but since that film may very well not even come out this year, it’s worth thinking about what else could play in this high profile NYFF slot. It’s very much become a big deal in the awards season, especially after how beneficial it was to those two aforementioned films. It’s really one of the last big platforms to launch an Oscar contender through the festival circuit. This is kind of the first year where speculation has run rampant about what will be chosen, so with the fest underway it’s a perfect time to stir the pot a little bit.
Yes, perhaps a very rough cut of The Wolf of Wall Street could surprisingly debut, but I doubt it. The same goes for Bennett Miller‘s just now delayed until 2014 film Foxcatcher (which bums me out considerably, but more on that another time). In fact, that sort of shock in either case would be a very odd choice, so don’t expect that. I’d say these next five titles that I’ll discuss are the far more likely (and frankly more or less only) options:
American Hustle– I think it’s about even money as to whether David O. Russell‘s film skips the festival circuit entirely or makes a big splash here. After coming close to a big win for Silver Linings Playbook, this movie could be the next step for Russell and be an Oscar juggernaut. The Secret Screening has contended heavily for Best Picture both times in addition to just getting nominated, so this might be the most logical selection this year. There are questions about if it’ll be done in time, but if it does, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it premiere here. If I were a betting man, this is the horse I might back.
The Counselor– After Scorsese and Spielberg, it seems like NYFF digs the big name filmmakers, so maybe the latest work from Ridley Scott would suffice? It’s not especially the type of movie that the committee seems to be geared towards, but it’s got an A-list cast in addition to its A-list writer and director, so that might be a trump card. Some folks are bigger on this one’s Oscar chances than others, but if it goes over well in a venue like this, it could really change the game. It’s not the most likely selection, but it’s not out of the question either.
The Monuments Men– One of the big contenders few are talking about for this slot but should is George Clooney‘s latest directorial endeavor. It actually would fit in with the high profile period pieces that have played in this particular spot before. It’s suffered a bit in the past month or so in terms of its Oscar chances due to a mixed reception to the first trailer, but wouldn’t a warm reception here change all of that? I really think this one is a bit more likely than most think, though hardly a slam dunk pick for sure.
Out of the Furnace– If NYFF decides to go lower key, this new Scott Cooper flick could potentially be what they pick. It would also be a sign of not necessarily going big and baity, but instead looking to pump up a film in need of a helping hand. It’d be a change in M.O. for the slot, but that sort of thing does happen at a festival from time to time. This is probably the least likely option of this group, but keep it in the back of your head at least…
Saving Mr. Banks– One of the most mentioned players for this slot happens to be this Disney movie by John Lee Hancock. It does make sense, though I keep feeling like this is more of a West Coast type of premiere than a Big Apple one. After all, Disney does have a theme park that they could use to their advantage over in California. This would also be a lower profile filmmaker than they’ve gone with previously, though that’s hardly a reason to cross it off your list. Many would be a bit let down if it were to be the choice, but folks might want to start prepping themselves for just such a situation.
Maybe it turns out to be something completely off the charts like Lars Von Trier‘s hardcore cut of Nymphomaniac (it actually would fit in decently well with this year’s NYFF slate), but I’d say it’s most likely either American Hustle or The Monuments Men, with Saving Mr. Banks as the vaguely disappointing other main contender. Those other two are obviously longer shots and not quite in the same league, though The Counselor could be an interesting dark horse (I’d say Out of the Furnace is the least likely by far, just going logically by what the fest seems interested in). I’ve heard rumors that neither Scott’s nor Cooper’s film will be playing here, but they’re just that for now, so make of it what you will. Last year I was mildly surprised when I heard it was Lincoln in the days leading up to the screening, so this year has been on my mind for a while now and a surprise could certainly occur. Then again, maybe we’ll still see Foxcatcher? Honestly, The Wolf of Wall Street is more likely at this point, but the prudent course of action for now is to just cross both of them off entirely. Feel free to let us know what you think it is in the comments section, since we’re almost as in the dark as you are…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!