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Finding Oscar Contenders in Cannes

While Oscar season is a long way off, and the long march to the end of the year often discards films whose buzz can’t be sustained, a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. But we don’t always measure Oscar contenders that way. We measure them, usually, by who made them, how important they are in the business, what their career arc is. For instance, Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars might ordinarily be dismissed for playing too controversial of “difficult” a character. But given that Moore is so long overdue for an Oscar, given her place in the industry, it’s a good bet that she’s potentially in line for a lead nod.

There are four, maybe five solid Oscar contenders for the major categories so far, without having yet seen Michel Hazanavicius’ new film, nor The Clouds of Sils Maria.

When all is said and done the film that probably has the best chance overall getting to the big show is Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. This is a film that will likely hit all of the major nominations, starting with Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, etc. The director is usually the star of the Best Picture race and right now Bennett Miller is riding a career high.

The second possible contender for major categories would be Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, which should enjoy many tech nods, like Cinematography and Art Direction, but could also land for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor.

Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman is a wild card. It has sadly not yet been picked up by a distributor and its Oscar chances will depend on which studio takes it. It needs a passionate advocate and with that it could go far.

David Cronenberg’s brilliant Maps to the Stars is likely going to either hit or miss with voters. Remember how The Player did the same? Maps to the Stars is even darker and uglier than The Player. If it exposes this industry as an ecosystem driven by, as John Cusack said, fear, greed and desperation, that industry might just want the movie to movie to disappear as quickly as possible. Remember, voting happens in total isolation. The Academy isn’t ready for nor open to Cronenberg’s work overall so it won’t really matter how much the critics praise it, the Academy still might reject it. Too bad, because supposedly film awards are about rewarding quality.

Here is a quick and dirty rundown of possibles:

Best Picture
1. Foxcatcher
2. Mr. Turner
3. The Homesman
Long shots: Maps to the Stars, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Best Director
1. Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
2. Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner
3. Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman
Long shot: David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars

Best Actor
1. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
2. Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
3. Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher

Best Actress
1. Jessican Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
2. Hilary Swank, The Homesman
3. Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars

Best Supporting Actor
1. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
2. Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman (or lead)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Mia Wasikowska, Maps to the Stars

Original Screenplay
1. Bruce Wager, Maps to the Stars (should/could win)
2. Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner
3. E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
4. Ned Benson, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Foreign Language — a good many, depending on which country submits but possibly:
Run – Ivory Coast
Wild Tales – Argentina
Timbuktu – France (?)
(This category to be revisited later, after all films have been seen)