It’s time to dive, dive in deep…well, at least as deep as you can in May. As I attempted to unveil the newest set of Oscar Predictions, I realized how many promising films are left to be seen in the remaining seven months. As of now, the only real Best Picture contender that has the legs to make it until the end of the year would be Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, and that’s a longshot at best given its genre. You can make arguments for films like The Place Beyond the Pines by Derek Cianfrance and even Mud by Jeff Nichols but those will need a well-placed DVD release with a focused campaign, something I’m not sure the studios are willing to bet on. Cianfrance’s film also has an outside shot for Screenplay and a Supporting Actor mention for Ryan Gosling. If anything, this helps him for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, if they’re feeling like recognizing him a second time. It feels like eons ago when Gosling was nominated for Ryan Fleck’s Half Nelson (2006) and then later missed other opportunities for Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Blue Valentine (2010), and Drive (2011). Not sure when it will be before he gets back onto the Oscar radar.
Down below, why don’t we start taking a look at the slate by each studio and assess where their money will and should go throughout the season.
Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, a film that many, including myself, have championed since it debuted at Sundance and Tribeca will have an uphill climb for recognition. The quality is there for several categories including Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, and possibly a surefire frontrunner for Adapted Screenplay. Ethan Hawke has delivered one of his most magnetic turns yet and Julie Delpy ignites the screen in a way she hasn’t done in some time. I can only hope that Sony Pictures Classics will have the faith behind it to position it for serious awards recognition. SPC will also release Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, a possible screenplay worthy project as well as Kill Your Darlings with standout Dane DeHaan.
When most critics and Oscar prognosticators look to the Weinstein Company for contenders, this year Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures will give the awards magnet a run for their money. Kicking off their hopeful season in October will be Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips showcasing a promising turn from two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. The trailer that was recently released shows lots of tension and suspense, two things that Oscar tends to love. During the week of Christmas, the studio will pull a one-two punch releasing George Clooney’s The Monuments Men and David O. Russell’s American Hustle. With Clooney, the year could end up being called “The Year of Clooney.” The Academy Award winner has six opportunities to be nominated or win an Oscar this year. He writes, directs, produces, and stars in The Monuments Men, has a producer credit on John Wells’ August: Osage County, and co-stars in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. He could make an Oscar record.
Warner Bros. will also have a strong slate, especially following their win for Ben Affleck’s Argo (2012). Though starting off on a bad note, the studio seems to have the first misfire in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Still a dark horse for Production, Costume, and Hair and Makeup, the film will be reaching high for any major citations like Leonardo DiCaprio. Their technical nomination potential is high with films like Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Both look solid for sound and visual effects mentions. Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners has started to rise on my anticipated film list with actors like recent Oscar-nominee Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and Viola Davis on board. Roger Deakins is also doing the Cinematography which should at least make a good time visually. Jackman is massively popular among Academy members, having hosted the show and was probably second in line to Daniel Day-Lewis last year for Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (2012). I think some of that good will could carry over and after some early word on footage seen from the film, Jackman looks to be hitting it out of the park again.
In October, the studio will release the highly anticipated Gravity with Sandra Bullock. With the trailer recently dropping, the film looks all but conventional and could be this year’s Hugo (2011) or Life of Pi (2012) and score a crapload of nominations. I’m predicting anywhere up to eleven including that for Bullock, Screenplay, and perhaps a long overdue win for DP Emmanuel Lubezki. The studio will close their year up with Sergei Bodrov’s The Seventh Son and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, two more potential duds on the roster but could be good for a tech or two.
Paramount Pictures will have all their eggs in two baskets this year with Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska with Bruce Dern. Scorsese’s film looks to be an important hybrid and blend of past films like Goodfellas (1990) and The Departed (2006) which could be right up the Academy’s alley. With an all-star cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin, I’m very intrigued. The elephant in all our predictions is whether this will be the year DiCaprio wins his first Academy Award. After getting edged out last year by co-star Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained (2012), and not being able to overcome the poor reviews for J. Edgar (2011), DiCaprio will have all eyes on him for the rest of the year. I’m holding off on a commitment as of yet.
When it comes to Payne’s Nebraska, Bruce Dern could be our veteran actor to be rewarded this year. After a career that includes an Oscar-nominated turn in Coming Home (1978) and roles in Django Unchained (2012) and The Great Gatsby (1974), the father of the underutilized Laura Dern, will have an opportunity be in the spotlight. More than that, Alexander Payne has been a beacon of Oscar recognition. His last four films have all received some type of Oscar recognition, and he, himself as won two Oscars for Adapted Screenplay. Though not penning the script this time around, Payne is still definitely in conversation for his first Director award.
20th Century Fox will release The Counselor, a film I can only suspect could give three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott his long overdue statue. After being nominated as the lone director twice, for Thelma & Louise (1991) and Black Hawk Down (2001), and a Best Picture winning film under his belt in the form of Gladiator (2000), truth be told, he hasn’t risen to occasion as of late. His last films, Prometheus (2012), Robin Hood (2010), and Body of Lies (2008) were all serious misfires. Perhaps this Cormac McCarthy script can put him back in good graces. Early readings of the script were positive and there’s a strong possibility for co-stars Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz to gain some traction. Not to mention, there’s still the the issue from Michael Fassbender’s horrendous snub for Shame (2011) that we need to address. If his role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is too evil and dark for voters, this could land him some recognition.
Speaking of 12 Years a Slave, the film is, at least as of today, the only possible awards player on Fox Searchlight Pictures’ roster for the year. Sure there will be dealings at the Toronto Film Festival but if that’s their main pony, perhaps a focused campaign on what could be one of the few films that will be produced, directed, starring, and written by African-Americans. The only other potential for the studio could be The Way, Way Back with Steve Carell, who will have his own shot in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher.
I would never place Ben Stiller in a category next to Ben Affleck, George Clooney, or Robert DeNiro as successful actors turned directors but his efforts have been far from offensive. I have a soft place in my heart for Reality Bites (1994) and I love Tropic Thunder (2008) much more than I think I’m suppose to. His next effort will be the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in which he stars alongside Kristin Wiig and Shirley MacLaine. I think if any of his future films manage to hit in a special and unexpected manner, we could see Stiller at a ceremony one day as a nominee. Fox releases the film on December 27.
More on the big studios will be released in Part 2 of the column later this week. Include your own assessment and predictions in the comment section.