Before_Midnight_IMG_0044__120905172103We are a few days away from the close of the second quarter and the first half of the 2013.  I think it’s safe to say, it’s been an uneventful stretch of cinematic wonders that can go the distance.  Some films lived up to their hype while many fell short or were simply flat-out poor outings.

As the 2014 Oscar Prediction pages get spruced up and updated, the fog seems to be clearing up on some noteworthy contenders, both in film and performances.  Taking the film festivals out of the equation, we still have some strong contenders stateside that will have the ability to show up on some year-end top ten lists as well as major critical citations.

The most likely contender for any category would be Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight from Sony Pictures Classics.  While the studio declared itself as a true awards juggernaut last year when it managed to push in films like Amour (2012) and Searching for Sugar Man (2012), the third installment in the “Before” series may be the frontrunner in Adapted Screenplay.  Stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy will share the credit with Linklater if the nomination comes to fruition and after their inclusion for Before Sunset (2004), nearly a decade ago, it should be familiar for voters to return to our favorite European couple.  If the critics’ awards come swinging in the film’s favor, we may find a narrative form for Lead Actor and Actress as well.  The quality is surely there for an overdue citation for Linklater in Best Director.

SPC will have some traction from the independent circuit as well and could show up in smaller awards like Gotham and Independent Spirit for films like At Any Price starring standout Dennis Quaid and perhaps Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited, which seems to have many critics split on its quality.

Another smaller studio that has the goods to make its rounds is Roadside Attractions with the Sarah Polley documentary Stories We Tell.  As Polley continues to impress the likes of audiences and critics with her soft handed and maternal approach to her direction, she probably ranks in the top-tier of female directors working today.  The film was a hit out of the Toronto Film Festival last September and received the same amount of praise from Sundance earlier in the year.  With the sliding scale, AMPAS voting allows itself to include a documentary at some point in the future.  With Polley’s film, an early release date and unimaginative Academy at times, might have the film result in a shutout on all fronts.  It’s qualification for Documentary Feature is still in question.  If it can survive the summer heat and early Toronto noise, the film could manage an Original Screenplay mention.

Jeff Nichols’ Mud held its own in an April release month.  98% on Rotten Tomatoes and giving Matthew McConaughey one of his strongest performances yet, the film may have a resurgence in the later year.  If McConaughey’s other works in the later year, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, don’t catch on in the right manner, this is a good place for him to snag his first Oscar nomination.  It’s funny how a person’s career can come full circle when it includes Sahara (2005) and Fool’s Gold (2008).

Place-Beyond-the-Pines_510x316Anyone remember when Focus Features seemed like the distant cousin to Harvey Weinstein in terms of bringing a plethora of Oscar contenders and winners.  Films like Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2004) and Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008) both managed to walk away with several citations during an Oscar ceremony.  Last year, the studio was only able to push through Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012) into any major Oscar category.  You’ll typically get your poorly received yet visually pleasing period piece à la Anna Karenina (2012), but the studio hasn’t had a Best Picture nominee in nearly three years.  So far this year, the only passable piece that could garner any excitement from voters would be Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines.  Holding admirably at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film’s enthusiasm has been nearly mute.  To put things in a worse spot, the film is set for an August 6th DVD release.  Plenty of time to be forgotten about before the end of the year.  Perhaps the studio can fare better with Dallas Buyers Club in the fall.

Speaking of films that receive poor reviews and show up in techs, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby may find some love in Production and Costumes.  There are a few that think Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is worth noting but anything that happens for him in the year will be in connection to Scorsese’s picture.  Same goes for co-star Carey Mulligan who’s said to be superb and a contender in Supporting Actress for Joel Coen & Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

Your big budget studio films may wiggle their way into several technical categories as we’ve seen in previous years.  Iron Man 3 is the highest grossing film of the year so far and currently #15 of all-time and climbing.  With its two previous efforts capturing nominations in Visual Effects, it’s safe to say they’ll follow that suit once again.  Sound Mixing and Sound Editing could also follow.  Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel didn’t receive the critical reviews it was hoping for and didn’t retain a good amount of its audience in its second weekend.  That shouldn’t hold it back too much from sneaking into a Visual Effects category with a Sound Mixing on the side.  Walt Disney Studios will try their very hardest to push Oz: The Great and Powerful in categories like Production Design, Costumes, and Makeup & Hairstyling, which are all strong possibilities as we’ve seen in the past with films like Alice in Wonderland (2010) making their appearances.

I’m not sure how much pull Star Trek Into Darkness will have with branch members.  Makeup was an award that the franchise won easily last time around.  Visual Effects may be an uphill climb given all franchise and superhero films that have been released so far, and that doesn’t include the ones still to come like Gravity.

Other minor, and I do mean minor possibilities that will have fans screaming for citation include James Franco in Spring Breakers, a performance that has its audible fans.  I will champion the writing of Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s stunning screenplay for Frances Ha.  Unfortunately, both seem mostly mute in buzz and unlikely to generate any traction.

I can’t even muster the strength to talk to you about Best Animated Feature which looks like a wasteland and cesspool of talent.  You can probably call Monsters University the frontrunner right now but that will surely change soon.  I’ve got my eye on Pixar’s Frozen to do some serious damage in the race.

The other pages will be updated in the coming days.  For now, you can enjoy Best Picture, Best Director, and Lead Actor.  Don’t forget to include your own predictions in the comments or on the Oscar Prediction pages.

OTHER FIRST HALF CONTENDERS NOT MENTIONED

  • Michael Shannon in The Iceman
  • Nicole Kidman in Stoker
  • Chris O’Dowd in The Sapphires
  • Oblivion in Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Original Score
  • World War Z in Visual Effects?
  • Jack the Giant Slayer in Production Design
  • Much Ado About Nothing in Adapted Screenplay
  • To the Wonder in Cinematography

Discuss in the comments.