Telluride has gotten the jump on Toronto, Oscar-wise, lately. But that doesn’t mean the same thing will repeat itself this year. Some movies that did well at Telluride this week might not have the same kind of impact in Toronto, where there are many more viewers.  It will be interesting to see if 12 Years a Slave captures the buzz, as it did in Telluride, for instance.  If Telluride can make you, Toronto can make or break you.

There is a very big movie about to land in the Oscar race that is going to tip it dramatically in a different direction.  It is embargoed until tomorrow when I and others will be posting reviews.  It’s not a film that is headed to Toronto.  But other than that movie, what other films might land with a giant splash into the tidepool the race has become so far for Best Picture? At most, the Academy will select up to nine Best Picture nominees.

From Sundance, the film that made the biggest splash:

Fruitvale Station, one of the defining films for our age, also the discovery of writer/director Ryan Coogler.
Before Midnight, the third installment of the collaboration between Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater.

From Cannes, the films that seem headed for the race were:

Nebraska – Alexander Payne’s moving and memorable story of a father and son figuring out who they are and what their lives have amounted to.

Inside Llewyn Davis – yet another brilliant work from the Coens. A tricky and intricate screenplay that involves parallel stories (everything comes in twos) and a wonderful commentary on the luck of genius and the luck of success.

All is Lost – the season’s frontrunner for Best Actor currently, Robert Redford.

From Telluride

12 Years a Slave – the biggest splash at the fest, moved everyone, instantly became a force to be reckoned with. An unflinching look at our collective, torturous past.

Gravity – unlike anything else, and the unlikely combination of an older woman’s inner journey as she’s fighting for her life in space. One of the strongest films of the year. It will dazzle audiences and probably voters. Add to that, Cuaron’s a charmer.

Labor Day – while the film’s reception at Telluride was mixed, Reitman’s growth as a director is startlingly evident. It is one of a handful of films that tugs at the heartstrings.

Hitting the public at large without finding a way in via the festival circuit —

The Butler, not only number one at this very moment, but breaks a record for African American film directors by holding the number one slot for three consecutive weeks (so far).  That is nothing to sneeze at. In many ways, the awards race now is an insular process. But when a film like this breaks through and captures the public’s attention, attention must be paid.

What might happen from Toronto?

The Fifth Estate – a potential Best Actor nomination for Benedict Cumberbatch, but could also change the Best Picture race.

August: Osage County – looking at Julia Roberts for lead and Meryl Streep for supporting.

Dallas Buyers Club – looking at potentially the Best Actor frontrunner, who will compete with Robert Redford and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

New York Film Fest

Captain Phillips – will post review tomorrow, but…
Her – Spike Jonze’s melancholy look at love that no one has yet seen

AFI Film Fest

Saving Mr. Banks – this has a lot of sight unseen buzz. That might mean something, might mean nothing.

Foxcatcher – shrouded in mystery but Bennett Miller and Oscar is 2 for 2.

Still waiting in the wings:

Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, David O. Russell’s American Hustle. These films need no introduction. Their place in line is waiting for them already. But hey, no pressure.

What seems to me like slam dunk Best Picture nominees right now:

The Butler
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

But things are about to change. How and in what direction is anyone’s guess.  But if a movie that had the buzz heading into Toronto deflates there it will be hard for it recover in the next few months.


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  • Christophe

    What about Blue Jasmine??? Decent reviews, strong BO and according to Deadline the Academy screening went very well: crowded theater, strong reception, BP lock according to some…

    Plus, we have our first Oscar winners of the year, honorary Oscars that is: Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Piero Tosi and Angelina Jolie for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

  • Devon

    I thought Gold Derby has already backpedaled on the Meryl will go supporting myth. It came out 8/30 or so that she may indeed be campaigned for lead. Julia will be lucky to get in as best actress, given that she has to fight for a spot with Sandra Bullock and/or Cate Blanchett. The big unknown to me for the gals is Nicole in Grace of Monaco. I hope for the best, because she is a great actress.

  • Jerry Grant

    Wow looking forward to that Captain Phillips review…

    Also: Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass, Coen Bros., Alexander Payne = alright by me (and not all white!!)

  • Craig

    It’s the strongest year for quality films since 2010. Makes me very happy. I make it a point to see every film nominated for the top 4 awards before the Oscars airs so I look forward to the bevvy of first class movies waiting for me.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    If I have to bet, yup. They’re both going lead yes or yes. Hell even if Meryl agrees to go supporting voters won’t give a shit and will nominate her in lead. I haven’t seen the movie but even if the role is chopped down by 25% (which would never happen), it’s still lead!

  • Bryce Forestieri

    For American productions it’s definitely looking that way, maybe even superior to 2010 –going Insane here- already plan to miss a wedding.

  • Aaron B

    Wow, after the initial tease of your “Captain Phillips” review tomorrow I was worried, but that quickly faded as I read on. Sounds like another strong contender.

    Not to mention “Rush” which, while early, is 10/10 right now on RottenTomatoes with an average rating of 8.1. After a disappointing start it looks like 2013 might end up being extremely stacked.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Seriously comprehensive Sasha, but did you forget to include George Clooney’s The Monuments Men in the Wing section. I know some people have claimed it’s a more of a future “commercial hit/crowd pleaser” than a prestige awards contender lol, but that’s just Heslov being sleazy

  • Sasha Stone

    Right Blue Jasmine, good call Christophe. I suspect that too will pick up buzz after the fest season ends and the critics votes start. I also think 12 Years a Slave is going to be the big critics’ darling.

  • david

    Hey Bryce Julia Roberts won’t get a best actress nomination you know why because its going to Brie Larson for her performance in “short term 12” the best female performance of the year. Also I know Ryan said it was impossible but “short term 12” deserves a best picture nom also James Franco should get a best supporting nod for “springbreakers” and springbreakers deserves a consideration for a best pic nom its one of the years best. What do you think Ryan or sasha

  • Aaron B

    David, I really liked “Spring Breakers” as well and would love to see Franco get a nom, but BP? Man that would be out there.

  • david

    Sasha you talk about the critics darling “short term 12” has been one of the best reviewed movies of the year its at a 98% critics like it on rotten tomatoes “blue jasmine” is only at 91% and “fruitvale station” is at 94% just saying

  • david

    Aaron you agree that Brie Larson deserves an Oscar nom for best actress I mean her performance is up there with Blanchett one critic said it was better than Blanchett’s?

  • Natasha


    What EVERYONE has said about 2013 (actually last third to half of 2013) having the potential for being one of the best periods we might have had in a while in terms of remarkably good films. 🙂

    Thanks goodness–I hope.

  • The Academy could choose ten nominees at most, Sasha. And yes, don’t neglect The Monuments Men!

  • #justsaying

  • Aaron B

    Unfortunately, I have not seen “Short Term 12” yet. But from all the praise it’s getting it certainly sounds like she’s worthy.

  • david

    Hey paddy what’s your prediction for best actress? Here our mine:
    1.Brie Larson
    2.Cate Blanchett
    3.Sandra Bullock
    4.Judi Dench
    5.Greta Gerwig

  • steve50

    Nice peek-a-boo on Captain Phillips, Sasha. A BD race between Greengrass, McQueen and Cuaron would be a dream come true.

  • Christophe

    🙂 Wishful hipster, aren’t you?

  • phantom

    What about Venice hit ‘Philomena’ ? Apparently it is a remarkably good crowdpleaser that not only has Academy friendly pedigree but can also rely on the infamous Weinstein machine. If Harvey could pull off BP/BD for a heartfelt British crowdpleaser based on a true story that was directed by Tom Hooper, I’m sure as hell we should at least expect him to do the same for the great Stephen Frears and acting giant Judi Dench who has never won Best Actress. Also, if he could get Streep her long-due third for the mediocre at best ‘The Iron Lady’, he will have probably no trouble securing Dench her first in lead.

  • brandz

    I too read Streep will probably be campaigned back to Best Lead Actress, FWIW.

  • At the moment it seems like a two-horse race between GRAVITY and 12 YEARS A SLAVE. However, GRAVITY could be this year’s INCEPTION and miss out on the big awards come Oscar night (remember, Nolan wasn’t even nominated as director). GRAVITY is a sure-fire nominee for Actress, Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound, though.

    12 YEARS A SLAVE ticks almost every Academy box going and I look forward it being more widely reviewed once it’s screened at Toronto. Remember, all the current hype is based on a handful of reviews out of Telluride. And it would be highly ironic if the first black director to win an Oscar was British! Except it is also in the unenviable position of being the early favourite and what recent years have shown us is that the early favourite rarely takes the Best Picture prize (think of LINCOLN last year, or THE SOCIAL NETWORK in 2010).

    We’ve yet to see some much fancied titles like WOLF OF WALL STREET, FOXCATCHER and AMERICAN HUSTLE. SAVING MR BANKS will probably be this year’s MY WEEK WITH MARILYN and get nods for its two leads, but little else. It seems to lack the necessary weight in terms of subject matter.

    However, I am someone who in the past three years predicted THE SOCIAL NETWORK, HUGO and LES MISERABLES to win Best Picture, so my track record is not good!

  • david

    Christophe are you talking to me? Gerwig might be a reach but the other 4 I think no will happen you disagree let me know?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I’m with you on both counts man (Larson + Franco). I was just putting my prognosticator hat on .I’m not even good at it so don’t take me too seriously when I’m on predictor mode. Unfortunately Larson might be ignored in favor of less worthy performances featured in films with higher profiles but not necessarily as good either. Similar to what happened to Ann Dowd last year for her revelation in COMPLIANCE.

    p.s. I wouldn’t compare performances in naturalistic SHOR-TERM 12 to anything in Woody Allen’s exquisite fable BLUE JASMINE –too different, both worthy

  • phantom

    OT : As much as I love her work, I think we can cross off Naomi Watts from this year’s Best Actress list. It seems the bad early signs will ring true and DIANA didn’t get a better distributor for a reason. UK reviews are trashing the film AND unfortunately the performance with a vengeance.

  • Saving Mr. Banks, for better or worse, is this year’s The Artist/Argo. I say this having seen the film. It’s a crowd pleasing heartwarming fable that reminds you of the magic of Hollywood with a bevy of charismatic performances. Emma Thompson is a shoo in for a nomination, and could easily win.

    Regardless of how the other movies do, I know a contender when I see one. This is in.

  • Is it surprising that the UK is trashing the Princess Diana movie? I’d wait till US critics have a crack at the film before writing it off completely.

  • steve50

    This from Kate Muir, Times/London, one-star (from 5) review:

    “I love feeling your hand there”, and “Yes, I’ve been a mad bitch”. Even when these lines are delivered by the fragrant Naomi Watts, doing her level best with a squirmingly embarrassing script, this film is still atrocious and intrusive.

    Kinda worse than bad.

  • julian the emperor

    Or another quote from a British critic about Watts’ performance:

    “Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would be more convincing”.


  • phantom

    I’ve read a few more, they are just as negative as this one. Let’s cut our losses and just put this in the ‘whatevah’ box because hopefully after a less than stellar year (Movie 43, Adore, Diana), Naomi Watts will be at the top of her game next year when she stars in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s BIRDMAN, Theodore Melfi’s very buzzy ST. VINCENT, not to mention the year after that (Werner Herzog’s QUEEN OF THE DESERT and Noah Baumbach’s WHILE WE’RE YOUNG).

    My guess is her hilarious, scene-stealing Russian prostitute will garner her her first supporting Oscar nomination and considering ST. VINCENT is backed by The Weinstein Company, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she even won.

  • julian the emperor

    The question now probably isn’t whether Watts will be Oscar-nominated as much as whether she’ll be nominated for a Razzie.

  • steve50

    What will it take to get H’wood to STOP with the tabloid biopics.

    I’m afraid this calls for comical weapons.

  • I had to tweet this observation.

  • Sasha Stone

    David, Short Term is great. I hope it continues to pick up buzz as the season wears on but I would suspect that if any “little” movie gets in it will be JC Chandor’s All is Lost and not Short Term, which I hope does get a screenplay and actress nod. Deservingly.

  • Future_Filmmaker

    Sasha, You really underestimate Prisoners, Rush, and The Invisible Woman. Prisoners has a 100 percent right now and the reviews are extremely positive.

  • “Also I know Ryan said it was impossible but “short term 12″ deserves a best picture nom.”

    I didn’t say that, David.

    I only said “it’s hard to think of precedent” to support the likelihood that it could happen. At the same time I said that a lack of BP nomination will not interfere with Brie Larson’s chances for a Best Actress nomination.

  • Future_Filmmaker

    Is just does not look good to me. The cinematography looks horrible, it doesn’t seem like there is a strong or intriguing enough story, and seems too light and playful. It might be this years Hitchcock.

  • david

    I’m sorry for misquoting you Ryan I just feel real passionate about this movie and brie Larson’s performance Im confident she’ll get nominated

  • PatrickR

    “There is a very big movie about to land in the Oscar race that is going to tip it dramatically in a different direction.”

    Can I guess? The Ultimate Life?

  • Alan of Montreal

    I wouldn’t be surprised if something came totally out of left field and garnered a batch of nods. I do think that Jared Leto has a very good chance of getting a supporting nod based on the DBC trailer–I didn’t even recognize him. (I asked myself, “Who is that actress?”

  • Chris L.

    “Her”…”that no one has yet seen.”

    Kent Jones (one of our most intelligent and informed critics) has seen it, and says, if I remember the press release correctly, that it redefines or revolutionizes cinema – something to that effect. So that’s quite a commendation right there.

    I am afraid you are right, though, about the direction things are headed. At least “Mr. Banks” provides a clearly defined object to deplore and root against. Hanks is probably quite good in “Captain Phillips,” but save us from a double shot of him on nomination morning, please. Let at least some of the little guys have a chance.

  • david

    That’s right Chris L
    Like Brie Larson

  • Al Robinson

    This is a question:

    Everyone talks about the critics being responsible for the Oscar noms, but do the critics even get to vote for the Oscars?

    I thought that the voters for the Oscars were made up of actors, directors, producers, and writers…?

  • One significant difference between critics and actors is that critics see virtually every movie all year long. Members of the AMPAS receive over a hundred FYC screener dics and invitations to screenings every December. Very few of them take the time to watch 400 hours of new movies and decide which ones are worthy of consideration. Filmmakers rely on critics as one way to let them know which films are essential viewing.

  • Al Robinson

    Ah, okay. I do remember now you guys during a podcast discussing how not everyone sees every movie, because that would require a lot of time, but that the Oscar voters use the critics reviews as guides.

    That makes more sense now.

    Thanks Ryan. 🙂

  • Duke

    Imagine a year when Cuarón, McQueen, Greengrass and Scorsese get nominated for best director and the prize goes to John Lee Hancock.

    Just like a shot in the balls.

  • steve50

    Trying hard not to, but the same thought keeps popping up in my head.

  • Imagine a year when Cuarón, McQueen, Greengrass and Scorsese get nominated for best director and the prize goes to John Lee Hancock.

    Imagine a year when Ingmar Bergman, Sidney Lumet, Lina Wertmüller and Alan J. Pakula got nominated for Best Director and the prize went to John G. Avildsen.


  • Watermelons

    “Labor Day – while the film’s reception at Telluride was mixed, Reitman’s growth as a director is startlingly evident. It is one of a handful of films that tugs at the heartstrings.”

    Now HERE’S the film to watch this season. Every new performance from Oscar-winning screen sensation Kate “The GREAT” Winslet (Sense & Sensibility, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is something of a unique gem mined and polished by Kate Winslet’s incomparable talent and effort.

    Thank you for reading.

  • I am already seeing an Oscar race shaping very similar to last year.

    Lincoln = 12 Years a Slave [Maximum nomination but will fall short at the finish line]

    Zero Dark Thirty = Captain Philips [Will blow people over but controversy prone]

    Life of Pi = Gravity [Will win all Tech awards, may be even director for Cuarón but not Best Picture]

    Though the question remains :

    Argo = ?? [American Hustle ??]

  • SallyinChicago

    I just saw a clip of Winnie Mandela w/ Jennifer Hudson, and oh boy, she’s going to get nominated for something — Golden Globes, NY Critics — something. Powerful scenes.

  • Duke

    Imagine a year when David Lynch, Robert Altman, Ridley Scott and Peter Jackson got nominated for Best Director and the prize went to Ron Howard.

    (Even though this cenario is not as atrocious as the JLH or JGA ones)

  • JamDenTel

    I’m a bit less bullish on Nebraska’s chances. I feel like it’ll get a nom for Dern, maybe one for Forte, and an Original Screenplay nom. Picture…I just don’t quite see it. To be fair, I really need to read the reviews, but I think it’ll be overshadowed in the BP race.

  • SallyinChicago

    Jennifer Hudson in Winnie. The reviews state she gives a strong performance.

  • Al Robinson

    Hmm…. Nice comparisons.

    We’ll find out….

  • Robert A.

    And Martin Scorcese wasn’t even nominated for directing Taxi Driver! *facepalm*

  • julian the emperor

    Well, since according to critics the movie is close to being awful, I think you can count it out of your awards speculation. It’s a waste of time. I hate to be the one pointing to metacritic, but 34 is hardly impressive figures, to say the least!

  • Of the seen and reviewed so far, I think you have to put the following on the BP list

    12 Years A Slave – Raves all around but hard to view
    Inside Llewyn Davis – My personal pick for desperate to see
    Prisoners (Yes I know everyone else is raving while you gave it a somewhat grudging “it’s good”)
    The Butler – Seems to be getting some downgrading but probably has to be there

    That leaves a potential five other slots. I’m most anxious to see

    Saving Mr. Banks
    All Is Lost
    Blue Jasmine
    August Osage County

    That leaves Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, and Captain Phillips that I will only see if reviews stir more interest than now. Which of all of the above will land in Picture and/or acting will make this year an interesting horse race.

  • Jon

    Don’t forget Foxcatcher, the wild card.

  • rufussondheim

    Well, the first two reviews up at Metacritic for Captain Phillips are barely above decent.

  • Wasn’t Bree Larson one of Charlie Sheen’s goddesses?

  • Foxcatcher was a bit of an oversight. I just haven’t heard enough yet to know whether I’m interested or should be interested.

  • Josh

    I would still put The Counselor as a possibility. Might be a long shot but you never know.

  • SFMike

    I thought Life of Pi = All is Lost 🙂

  • Josh

    EW has a story on how Fifth Estate’s Oscar chances have sprung a leak…


  • Bryce Forestieri

    Scott Foundas review is a mess tho.

    “Phillips” forms a loose trilogy of average Joes and Janes caught in the throes of politically motivated violence

    Wouldn’t give it too much cred. Do these people have to go college?

  • julian the emperor

    Yeah, just look at Sasha’s and Kris Tapley’s reviews. They are far more positive. I still believe this is an awards player to be reckoned with.

    And everyone seems to be raving about Barkhad Abdi for supporting role…interesting!

  • jerryg

    Let’s not forget Marion Cottilard for The Immigrant. She got raves at Cannes and has the Weinstein marketing team behind her. I will be seeing the film the end of this month at the New York Film Festival. Marion is scheduled to participate in the Q&A following the film. Can’t wait!

  • Unlikely hood

    From the outside, Nebraska looks like a little movie

  • Unlikely hood

    Has the best director race ever been majority-foreign born? (too lazy to check) Maybe in the 30s. I doubt it since; Kubrick was born in America and most of the “European” BPs of the 50s and 60s were directed by Yanks like Robert Wise and Joe Manckiewicz

  • Chris L.

    Is Harvey close to bestowing an actual release date on this film, or are things too crowded with Osage, Philomena, Grace, et al? Definitely do not want this one to be bumped, and betting Gray doesn’t either. Maybe it depends on NYFF reaction.

  • jerryg

    You make a good point, Chris. Harvey has a plethora of riches to choose from in the Best Actress category this year. However, I think by giving his blessing to Marion, he has a much better chance of having at least one sure nomination in this category since Marion was robbed of a nomination last year for Rust and Bone and academy voters will be more than happy to rectify this oversight. Plus. she learned and speaks some Polish in the film. I agree the NYFF will be the great equalizer..

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