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Assessing the 2014 Film Slate – Part 1 (Tracking a Future Oscar Contender)

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The off-season for any Oscar site can be very sad and lonely, no matter how satisfying or frustrating the preceding Oscar season was.  Here on the Awards Circuit, there’s no rest for the wicked.  Just two days after the Academy Awards ceremony, I revealed my Year-in-Advance predictions for this upcoming year which is, to be completely honest, simply educated guesses about what films may or may not be embraced.  In this first Oscar Circuit of the season, we’re going to take a look at the films listed in the first set of Oscar Predictions for Best Picture.

Let me just say from the jump, listing just 40 films was a difficult task.  There are a lot of films that peaked my interest and I’m sure there will be many that some will bring up in the conversation.

On the top of my list for this upcoming year is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice starring Joaquin Phoenix.  While Anderson has proved to be a divisive filmmaker that some worship and some can’t seem to get behind, rumors say that this could be something incredibly special.  Distributed by Warner Bros., the film has a strong-looking ensemble that includes Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, and Maya Rudolph.  Some that have read the novel, which is written by Thomas Pynchon, say that the 70’s detective story has plenty weird stuff but could translate prolifically.

One of the push backs from the last Oscar season was Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher starring Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum.  When Sony Pictures Classics announced the release date change, many were worried that the quality may have been compromised à la The Great Gatsby which had a similar push in 2013.  However, as we’ve seen with Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland, and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, a push back doesn’t always spell bad news.  There are some who think that the film could make a bow over at the Cannes Film Festival but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a Telluride showing in its future.  Another film that was on the delayed list was Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain.  After being picked up after the Toronto Film Festival last September, The Weinstein Company was thinking of creative ways to market the two-part film that tells two different perspectives on a married couple’s relationship.  It looks like that Harvey and his people may have settled on a 190 minute runtime, blended into one film, per its iMDB page.  Count me in.

Internet fanboys are already worshiping the coming of David Fincher’s new film Gone Girl, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn who’s also adapting.  After a huge loss for The Social Network, and to some a snub for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher will have a lot of fans and industry people in his corner singing his praises.  It also helps that Ben Affleck Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris are rounding out the cast.  Fincher’s film won’t be the only film that fanboys will be screaming for.  After Christopher Nolan was disgustingly omitted from a director’s lineup for his films Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception, these individuals will be sitting tight to see if his newest venture Interstellar will finally bring him his long overdue recognition.

angelina-jolie-unbrokenOne of the most underrated films from 2012 was David Ayer’s superbly crafted End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.  This time around, the talented writer/director will be taking on a World War II-era epic called Fury with recent Oscar-winner Brad Pitt, and a half-dozen other talents that include Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, and Shia LeBeouf.  Fury isn’t the only World War II-era film in contention this year.  Angelina Jolie will take another stab at directing with a script by The Coen Brothers, along with Richard LaGravenese (Oscar-nominee for The Fisher King) and William Nicholson (two-time nominee for Gladiator and Shadowlands).  Debuting its trailer during the Olympics, Unbroken looks every part of a fantastic cinematic experience, at least on the surface.  Jolie has also assembled one of the most technically marveled craftsman in the business including DP Roger Deakins (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), composer Alexandre Desplat (Philomena), and Editor Tim Squyres (Life of Pi).

Tim Burton has flown under Oscar’s radar for years, at least on the live action front.  Films like Ed Wood, Big Fish, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street all seemed likely at one point in their respective years but ultimately came up short.  His next film will team him up Academy Award nominee Amy Adams and Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz and is titled Big Eyes.  It’s going to be good to see Burton venture off in a project that doesn’t have both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

It’s never great predictions unless you take a few chances in the process.  Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman doesn’t seem like conventional Oscar-bait or even general audience cinema, but I’m sold on the premise.  Not to mention that it looks to finally offer up an opportunity for Michael Keaton to finally score Oscar recognition after sad misses for Clean and Sober and My Life.  Same goes for Edward Norton who’s last Oscar nomination was sixteen years ago for American History X (something you can vote on currently in our ACCA poll).

Stephen Daldry has scored Best Picture nominations for his last three films, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Reader, and The Hours.  He’s pretty much our British David O. Russell, or vice versa depending on how you see it.   Also, he’s been the lone director before that for Billy Elliot, which always shows respect.  However, his last two pictures had a huge consensus of “undeserving” that followed the nominations.  His next film, Trash, which tells the story of three kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong, sounds like something AMPAS may go for again.

Damn near the top of my most anticipated list of the year is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  Judging by early reviews, and Terence Johnson’s own opinion, we are in store for something pretty spectacular.  I am cautious given the 12-year storytelling aspect and if enough people will care to see it.  I remain hopeful.  I’m also anxious to see Patricia Arquette, who some are praising highly.

woods1We will also have the return of the movie musical again this year with Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, which will prove if Marshall is a one-hit wonder or not.  After repeating the same formula from his award-winning Chicago, to the misfired musical Nine, after stumbling somewhat with Memoirs of a Geisha, this adaptation will prove if he’s here to stay.  There’s also the cast that may present Oscar opportunities for Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, and maybe even Meryl Streep.

Oscar Predictions are all about looking at the “overdue” performers and Saul Dibb’s upcoming Suite française looks to have two top contenders in Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas.  Another World War II potential, Dibb also provides a vehicle for the ferociously talented Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone), who I believe is a millisecond away from super-stardom.

There’s also potential for dramedies to make their impact à la Silver Linings Playbook and Sideways and that could be Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, & Children starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner.  Then again, it could be just another Spanglish for all we know.  Source material is said to be very strong.

After having a very good talk with staff writer Robert, he has opened my eyes to the possibility of Tommy Lee Jones sophomore directorial effort The Homesman in which he stars alongside Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep.  Streep plays a mental patient, which should get the mouths drooling with Oscar-bait saliva. 

I keep crossing my fingers for the day the Academy decides to make it up to David Cronenberg for his inexcusable miss for A History of Violence.  While Map to the Stars doesn’t exactly scream “make up time” perhaps it’ll be something to get him back on the map (no pun intended).

There’s a whole lot more to talk about which will be featured in Part II by the end of the week.  For now, you can enjoy all the great Awards Profiles by the entire staff, on top of the updated Best Picture predictions.  

Discuss the contenders in the comments.


What do you think?

72 points
Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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