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Chadwick Boseman Joins Early Contenders as the Pre-Telluride Season Closes

In just one month Telluride will happen and by then we’ll have a decent enough picture of the Oscar race for Best Picture.  The New York Film festival will deliver three heavy hitters, namely David Fincher’s Gone Girl, but also Inarritu’s Birdman and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.  It’s a good time to take stock in what we know so far heading into, what we here at awards daily like to call, the ovulation phase – that is, the most fertile time for Oscar implantation to take place.  Fertility and the Oscar race has a window of opportunity — the egg must be fertilized by the time that window of opportunity ends.  In Oscar season of late, for the last ten years or so, the doors close for a Best Picture winner after October.  Things might change, of course.  One never knows what could happen but that’s how it’s been since the last late comer, Million Dollar Baby, won.

Here is what I know so far, and have already stated for the record.

The strongest Best Picture contender is Richard Linklater’s 12 year opus, Boyhood.  Linklater has the built up clout, and the film is universally loved, for this film to be the most serious contender so far.  With 47 reviews and a total score of 100 at Metacritic, Boyhood is a record breaker already.  Nominations expected across the board for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (or lead) for Patricia Arquette, a possible nod for Ellar Coltrane in lead actor, editing.

Out of Cannes, and next in line is Bennett Miller’s exquisite meditation on wealth and privilege – Foxcatcher. A cool remove from humanity and a spot-on performance by Steve Carell, not to mention Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher seems poised for several nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo.  Anne Thompson always says you build an Oscar contender branch by branch and that is exactly how they will build up Foxcatcher.  Possibly cinematography, possibly editing.

Also out of Cannes, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, the only film festival goers could agree upon.  Leigh’s film is a long, brooding meditation on Britain’s greatest painter.  It will likely dominate, or come close to dominating, the BAFTAS and since the Brits now have a chokehold on the Oscars there is no reason why Mr. Turner won’t do well with voters. As of now, nominations expected for Picture, Actor, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume, Score – and possibly director and screenplay.

Tommy Lee Jones’ complex western The Homesman that stars Hilary Swank in one of the strongest female leads the year will produce.  Nominations expected, at the very least, for Swank, but possibly Best Picture, maybe screenplay and supporting actor for Jones. Time will tell on that one.

Finally, one of the darker films out of Cannes is David Cronenberg’s wonderfully bitter Maps to the Stars. This is a film that has a great shot at an original screenplay nod, at the very least, for the great Bruce Wagner, whose script will be among the year’s very best. It also has a really shot for the actors – especially the lead, Julianne Moore, who has yet to win an Oscar. AwardsDaily thinks she has a really good shot to win this year, even though it’s a dark performance.  Mia Wasikowska and Evan Bird could show up in the supporting categories.

Now, Get On Up has produced the rare African American acting contender with Chadwick Boseman earning rave reviews for his portrayal as James Brown.  Boseman is facing incredibly stiff competition, as always, in the lead acting category but this early out one can’t exclude him.  Get On Up is also in line for costumes, art direction and sound.  It has an outside shot for Best Picture — easier if there were a solid ten, harder with only five nomination slots for voters to fill in.

The big game cats are just about to show up. They could leave these contenders in the dust, or they could only make them look better by comparison.  It’s a mystery that has yet to unfold.