Oscar Circuit: Contenders Set to Take Off for Awards Season

new gone girl image 8It’s here.  Awards Season.  The pinnacle of AwardsCircuit.com where we worship the road that will eventually lead to the 87th annual Academy Awards on February 22, 2015.  I’m not sure how you can look at the film year as a whole at this point.  I went on record last year as calling 2013 one of the finest collective years of films in quite some time.  Movies like “Her,” “Captain Phillips,” “Gravity,” and my eventual number one film of the year “Inside Llewyn Davis” all still resonate with me at this juncture.  This year, at least in early summer, looked like a mix bag of treats.  From the first half of the year, only “Boyhood” from Richard Linklater and “Life Itself” from Steve James caught the zeitgeist (or some minimal version of it).  There are some that will still champion “The Grand Budapest Hotel” from writer/director Wes Anderson but any chance of Oscar recognition seems like a longshot at this point.  Only the screenplay and star Ralph Fiennes seem remotely on the table.  After that, I come back to films like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” as a highlight of the year but am fully aware of its chances on the circuit.  20th Century Fox might have plans for a push but we might be able to live with a Visual Effects mention as a token.  Then again, the ever evolving landscape of the AMPAS voting body might yield some bigger mentions down the road.  I’m sure some still feel strongly about the work of Andy Serkis.  And we’re only mentioning films that played outside of the festival circuit right now.

Mike Leigh‘s “Mr. Turner” from Sony Pictures Classics landed at Cannes with open arms from critics and watchers.  Timothy Spall received career best reviews and will be gearing up for a well-positioned play for a Best Actor nomination.  Writer/director Leigh himself will be seeking a long overdue Original Screenplay win after five nominations (along with two director citations as well).  SPC will also have a big play with Bennett Miller‘s “Foxcatcher” which received glowing reviews from Cannes, Telluride, and the Toronto Film Festivals.  Steve Carell‘s campaign seemed in question for some time but after confirming his lead placement, along with co-star Channing Tatum, the 52-year-old actor looks prime bait for an Oscar run.  We can say the same for co-star Mark Ruffalo, who will benefit from a painstakingly weak Supporting Actor category (but with more to come hopefully).

Two mysterious contenders have emerged on the beat just the past week.  Tim Burton‘s “Big Eyes” from the Weinstein Company gave us a first look with a trailer.  After scoring her fifth Oscar nomination last year for “American Hustle,” Amy Adams has been long thought about as the one to rule them all.  The official word on that remains to be seen.  The other mystery contender is J.C. Chandor‘s “A Most Violent Year” with Oscar Isaac and now Lead Actress hopeful Jessica Chastain.  A gritty, impressive trailer premiered, along with a New Year’s eve release, and all we can do is hope that the A24 film will score big.  Early word is high for it.

The New York Film Festival will officially kick off this Friday (at least for the public) with David Fincher‘s anticipated “Gone Girl.”  With that, we will either tack another solid contender to the Best Actress race with Rosamund Pike or thin out a presumed weak Lead Female race.  Speaking of Lead Actress, look how much a week can change the climate.  Felicity Jones‘ campaign team finally nailed down a Best Actress run for “The Theory of Everything,” while other ones are bubbling to the surface.  Julianne Moore has been crowned by the internet as the winner for “Still Alice” after rave reviews from TIFF, Reese Witherspoon poses a threat for her second Oscar for “Wild,” and Marion Cotillard may be something bigger than initially suspected for “Two Days, One Night.”

katherinewaterston_inherentviceNext week, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “Inherent Vice” will premiere at NYFF (still with no trailer or poster accounted for), and all we can do is brace ourselves for what’s said to be a “trippy experience.”  As we saw with Anderson’s previous effort “The Master,” the acting categories can still very much be in play even if the film is not.  That bodes well for Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Katherine Waterson.

The closer of NYFF will be the already known “Birdman” from Alejandro González Iñárritu, which could put Fox Searchlight Pictures in line for another Best Picture winner one year after “12 Years a Slave.”  The campaign for Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone is getting ready to rev up, while we sit in anticipation to possibly see Emmanuel Lubezki win his second Oscar in a row.

On this week’s Power Hour, the staff and I looked at the release slate and realized how stacked Christmas Day is (like always).  Universal Pictures has Angelina Jolie‘s “Unbroken,” Walt Disney Pictures has Rob Marshall’s “Into the Woods,” Warner Bros. has Clint Eastwood‘s “American Sniper,” Paramount Pictures has Ava DuVernay‘s “Selma,” and The Weinstein Company has “Big Eyes” and the Animated Feature/live-action hybrid “Paddington.”  All of which are unknown, but will make plays on the circuit nonetheless.  By that time, the films would have screened for the major guilds and AMPAS voters but December releases usually trip up somewhere on the circuit leading to Oscar.  Past films like “Django Unchained” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” missed out on SAG nominations prior to the voting deadline for the organization.  As we saw with those, missing out on something like SAG isn’t detrimental to your campaign.  We just haven’t had a Best Picture winner from December since “Million Dollar Baby.”

You can see the latest update to the Oscar Predictions from the sidebar or the menu up top (or below).  This includes Foreign Language Film and Documentary Feature.  There is significant movement for Morten Tyldum‘s “The Imitation Game,” Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar,” David Ayer’s “Fury,” and James Marsh‘s “The Theory of Everything.”  Publicists, studios, and awards strategists are gearing up for their campaigns.  Get ready for a long and windy season.

CHECK OUT ALL OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

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