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The State of the Race: Oscar’s Best Picture Road Map Thus Far

In one sense, the Oscars continue to matter as much, maybe more, than they ever have. For the past ten or twenty years, the number of films that are good enough to get awards attention has been shrinking. If it weren’t for the Oscars and the additional money they generate, would the incentive to make prestige films be vanishing even faster? The Oscar race is virtually an industry unto itself. It spans the entire year, with films opening at Sundance, moving through Cannes, Telluride and Toronto, all hoping to hang on through year’s end. To say nothing of the smaller fests, like Santa Barbara and Palms Springs which operate as both Oscar showcase and a venue for smaller films.

So, yes, the Oscars still matter. They matter to actors, producers, filmmakers and audiences who still want to see movies that aren’t prepackaged and sold to the broadest demographic and lowest common denominator. They matter, still, to film preservationists and Oscar historians. Will they ever matter to critics who have a long tradition of writing them off? Perhaps if critics recognize that they’re the finger holding up the dyke they might someday appreciate their importance. If only the consensus choices by the industry were more often worthy of the title, “Best.”

With the homogenizing volume of 100,000 SAG voters, 4,500 PGA members, and 14,500 DGA members it is next to impossible now to find much variety among their picks. With the time crunch, and the sheer number of voters it seems there will never be a specialized Oscar preference that’s different from the larger industry choice for Best Picture. Do the guilds try to mimic or to influence the Oscars? Do people really think that much alike? It’s hard to say; though there does seem to be a trend afoot. Through the haze of nostalgia emerge the last three Best Picture winners — The Artist, The King’s Speech, and Argo — films that could have come from any decade because they aren’t about the times we’re living through.

By whatever means voters arrive at the final chosen few that wind up in the race for Best Picture, chances are their strategic positioning has begun long before the film gets to critics and certainly before it gets to audiences. How rare to have had so many $100 million earners last year vying for Best Picture, from Lincoln, which totaled out at $180, to Life of Pi, which earned $600 million worldwide, and the eventual winner, Argo, topping out at $120. What a year to witness and then to suddenly declare cinema is dead.

One aspect that few people see is all the schmoozing that goes on long before the Oscar race begins — HFPA members being flown out to visit various sets, before the movie even wraps is fairly standard practice. The realm of VIP parties and private screenings — all of that happens beyond the of all but the most well-connected among us. The films that are headed for the race, with the exception of those that get in by some miracle — like Beasts of the Southern Wild — are already knee deep into the race before they even open, which makes it somewhat easier to predict than if we tried to consider every one of the 300+ films released in a given year. The truth is that the “Big Oscar Movies” are just a handful of prestige films studios produce in hopes that they’ll capture some of the elusive buzz of enduring quality. What’s more, it’s been that way for nearly 90 years.

That brings us to the year at hand. Sight unseen, several titles rise to the top — those that, on paper, look the most like Oscar Movies .

The Contenders

Captain Phillips – (Sony) starring Tom Hanks, directed by United 93’s Paul Greengrass, to be released in October, the perfect Oscar window of opportunity – not too late, not too early. While Hanks isn’t exactly the guaranteed Mr. Box Office he once was, he’s lately been stretching himself as an actor, taking riskier roles. The story of brazen high-seas piracy is taken from recent headlines, so it’s more relevant than your average Oscar movie, and sure to be more raw than glossy.

The Monuments Men – George Clooney guided Ben Affleck through to his Oscar win with Argo and seems to know the Oscar game inside out. He knows it’s mostly political and he knows he has to talk to everyone from the top tier reporters on down to the lowly Oscar bloggers. He’s one of the few in the business who’s a master of the game, and he clearly schooled Affleck last year. He also, quite simply, makes great movies. He has sharp instincts as both as actor and director. That puts Monuments Men, sight unseen, in great stead.

Nebraska - (Paramount) If I were a betting woman this would be my call to win the whole thing. Not just because Alexander Payne is overdue, but because the film itself passes the crucial test: “you can sit anyone down in front of it and they will get it if not love it.” But we’ve been down this road with Payne twice before, and though Sideways and The Descendants got close they each faltered in the 11th hour.

American Hustle – David O. Russell is headed for a Best Picture/Best Director win. He keeps getting closer and closer. This film not only puts two of his Oscar winning performers in the same movie — Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence — but adds Bradley Cooper and Amy Adam n the mix. With a strong ensemble and Russell’s impressiveness track record of late this looks as promising as anything.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) – Scorsese and DiCaprio together again. Scorsese and the mob together again. (If one wants to call a bankster a specialized gangster — and I do). No one knows where this will land, but with this director there’s always a good chance for recognition.

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Fruitvale Station, the debut of writer/director Ryan Coogler won big at Sundance, then went on to Cannes, where it was also a standout. Though it didn’t win the top awards that Beasts of the Southern Wild did, it’s being rolled out in essentially same manner by the Weinstein Co. Helming an outstanding film already earning buzz, Coogler is a rising star as an African American filmmaker, one of the few. Fruitvale Station has a long way to go. It needs to face down a noisy gauntlet of bloggers and critics, but it’s off to a great start.

Inside Llewyn Davis. The Coens go deeper once again, delivering a film that is more subtle than many expected, but brilliant nonetheless . It won the Jury Prize at Cannes and wowed critics there. It’s never easy to call where a Coen brothers film will land but their last two each earned Best Picture nominations. It will be an easy call, naming Llewyn Davis one of the year’s best.

August: Osage County (TWC). It’s tempting to rename it August: Oscar County because it has ensemble written all over it, not to mention Meryl Streep. Though it will have to overcome the strange trend that often sees Meryl Streep hailed as the standout in films that otherwise miss the cut Best Picture.

The Counselor (Fox) Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. It might be too graphic, too violent, but you can’t count it out. Will Ridley Scott’s vision dovetail as tightly with Cormac McCarthy’s sensibilities as the Coens’ snug fit?

The Fifth Estate -(Dreamworks) the story of Julian Assange, directed by Bill Condon and starring Benedict Cumberbatch. How great to see Condon back in this rarefied realm. Stanley Tucci and Anthony Mackie also star. Another film — along with Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips and Nebraska — that touches flush against the tough issues of our times. We know Oscar likes to dwell in the past. Nevetheless, this year could prove different.

Gravity (Warner Bros)– the seemingly strange pairing of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney look to be perfectly matched in what has to be the year’s best trailer so far. The pic looks terrifying and if it hits the right emotional chords could be among those chosen for Best Picture. Gravity is directed by Alfonso Cuarón and is already garnering great word of mouth.

Before Midnight — It looks as though the third installment of the Jesse and Celine story could very well make a play for a Best Picture nomination. The reviews are the best of the trilogy thus far, though ultimately how do you ignore something at this level of artistry? It is most definitely in the race, though it will be a tough sell to get it a Director nomination to go with it. More likely are screenplay, picture and actress.

Twelve Years a Slave — Steve McQueen’s drama about a New York man sold into slavery on the wrong side of a wavering border, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch. McQueen’s films are often intense, to be sure, and not everyone takes to them. But this is a subject (unlike sexual addiction) that might be a more comfortable fit for Oscar.

Her (Warner Bros) – Written and directed by Spike Jonze, starring Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix. A prophetic fantasy film about a writer who develops a relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need. It could be a brilliant commentary on the virtual world we interface. This also looks to be Jonze’s first original screenplay for a feature film.

All is Lost – JC Chandor’s wordless film starring Robert Redford in career-best work. You’d think the film might be boring but it is compelling to the last possible second. It’s possible it will find its way into the Best Picture race, especially since Best Actor is almost a certainty.

These are, to my mind, the Big Oscar Movies demanding our long-term attention. There might be some other surprises here or there, like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, or something genre-y like Man of Steel. But for now, these seem to be the most prominent landmarks on the long road to Oscar.

The year is just beginning. For the past few awards cycles, the film that ultimately won Best Picture was seen before or during Toronto and Telluride, or thereabouts. When Telluride unfurls at the end of August, we’ll have a clearer picture of what’s coming.

84 Comments on this Post

  1. DAvid

    Will be putting these on my must see list. Thanks

  2. I think from the films that had been already seen, there are exactly 10 that could have a shot at a BP nomination…and I would be shocked if more than two, maybe three of those 10 actually made the cut.

    FROM THE 2012 FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
    1. Mud (Big indie hit + enthusiastic reviews)
    2. Stories We Tell (93 will be surely one of the highest MC-scores in 2013)
    3. The Place Beyond the Pines (decent BO + lot of fans)

    Honorable Mentions : Frances Ha, What Maisie Knew, The Iceman

    SUNDANCE STANDOUTS
    4. Fruitvale Station (Great early word + Weinstein factor)
    5. Before Midnight (96 MC…)
    6. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (if enough critics groups get behind it…)

    Honorable Mentions : The Way, Way Back, The Spectacular Now, Kill your darlings, Prince Avalanche, The East, In a World…

    BERLIN STANDOUTS

    Honorable Mention : Side Effects, Gloria

    CANNES STANDOUTS
    7. Inside Llewyn Davis (Reviews, Coens and their excellent track record)
    8. Nebraska (Cannes word is great and Payne IS overdue)
    9. The Immigrant (Promising early word, so if Weinstein doesn’t abandon it…)

    Honorable Mentions : The Past, All is Lost, Venus in Fur

    US RELEASES
    10. 42 (Great Box Office, Oscary story, but way too early release date)

    And as far as acting categories go, I feel most strongly about Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant). There was something about how those high profile reviews talked about her performance…it was very ‘Sophie’s choice’ kind of praise. Problem is there is a good chance Weinstein has to make some tough choices as far as his Best Actress campaigns will go this year, she already has 6 (!) potential nominees there, all of them already Oscar winners (Roberts and Streep for ‘August'; Kidman for ‘Grace'; Dench for ‘Philomena’, Cotillard for ‘Immigrant'; Swinton for ‘Snowpiercer’)…and all that assuming he will place Oprah in supporting, snubs the talented Naomie Harris in favor of his higher-profile contenders and won’t rush Portman’s ‘Jane got a gun’ for a 2013 release…oh, and there is still 7 months left from the year, who knows what else he might pick up at the Venice Film Festival OR at TIFF.

  3. Al Robinson

    Sasha, I noticed you didn’t include (Ron Howard’s) Rush, and (Bennett Miller’s) Foxcatcher. Did you not include Foxcatcher because it has not set release date yet?

  4. Kevin Klawitter

    I’m not sure we have to worry about Ridley Scott’s sensibilities conflicting with those of McCarthy… Scott was previously attached to a film adaptation of “Blood Meridian”, so he’s clearly a fan. Also, according to him, McCarthy also served as a producer on “The Counselor” and was on set a good deal of the time. I doubt with something as big as Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay Scott of the studios would risk compromising his vision.

    On the other hand, that might just be wishful thinking on my part. “The Counselor” is my most anticipated movie of the year, and I’m STARVED for more news about it.

  5. Al Robinson

    You also didn’t mention (Lee Daniels’s) The Butler

  6. Al Robinson

    Heck, even (John Lee Hancock’s) Saving Mr. Banks.

  7. Q Mark

    Clooney could be competing against himself, with both Monuments Men/Gravity battling for Oscar’s eye. Also, you wonder if voters may finally get a bit of Clooney fatigue….if these two films deliver like they should, it’d be a shame if Clooney or his movies got snubbed not on their merits but because AMPAS is just taking a break from George.

    It’s easy to complain about Clooney ‘schmoozing’ his way to recognition but I’d only have a problem with it if his movies weren’t deserving. It’s not like he’s working the circuit to get Batman & Robin or The Peacemaker an Oscar…..Clooney’s film choices over the last decade have been almost impeccable in their quality.

    I couldn’t be more excited for Gravity. Cuaron is such a master filmmaker and the concept seems so simple yet brilliant. I usually avoid IMAX but this one seems perfectly suited for the ultra-big screen.

    Sasha, you often mention that Alexander Payne is ‘overdue’ or ‘overlooked’ but I’ll say it again….the man has two screenplay Oscars sitting at home!

  8. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I’m not sure we have to worry about Ridley Scott’s sensibilities conflicting with those of McCarthy

    True. And there’s no mention of any conflict in that paragraph. Will Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy dovetail as perfectly as the Coens’ seamless fit? Who knows. But the sentence doesn’t imply anything about conflict or compromise, right?

    Tell you what we’ll do, Kevin. How about this adjustment:

    Before: “Ridley Scott’s sensibilities might dovetail less tightly with Cormac McCarthy than the Coens’ snug fit.”

    After: “Will Ridley Scott’s vision dovetail as tightly with Cormac McCarthy’s sensibilities as the Coens’ snug fit?”

  9. MUD is doing business and sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. It should absolutely be considered a candidate (although the Hollywood ending kind of kept it from greatness for me).

    CAPTAIN PHILLIPS looks like it has seaman-y, Maine accents. Not my personal favorite.

    THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was the most humdrum, rise-and-fall-of -an-asshole script I’ve read in ages. Leo is too old for the role. I’m telling you, there’s a been there, done that quality to the whole endeavor. But I’m open to being proved totally wrong.

    THE BUTLER – Lee Daniels has a campy, goofy sensibility that, if left unchecked, could sink the ship – especially one designed as earnest drama.

    I think THE MONUMENTS MEN might actually be a FUN movie. It’s a great story. I hope they get it right. Think Ocean’s 11 more than some heady, self-important Oscar-bait movie. I think.

  10. brace

    why is Alexander Payne overdue? for six movies he made, he won two oscars! why screenplay oscar doesn’t matter? why does it have to be best director accompanied with best picture to really matter?
    in my opinion he deserved only one of the two he won already (for sideways).

  11. “Steve McQueen’s drama about a New York man sold into slavery on the wrong side of a wavering border, stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.”

    Just wondering why practically all the descriptions of “Twelve Years a Slave” (short, i.e. one-sentence ones, granted) that I’ve seen, including this one, do not mention Chiwetel Ejiofor as one of its stars. What gives? Isn’t he the titular “slave?” He’s probably not as big a star as those other three, but it just rubs me the wrong way that his name keeps on getting forgotten. If the film is as much of an Oscar possibility as generally thought of, I’m assuming he should be right there as a leading Best Actor contender. Nathaniel R of The Film Experience at least has Ejiofor in his top five at the moment.

  12. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    That’s my fault, Ron. In proofreading I had more than one draft of the piece open in two tabs and the wrong draft got auto-saved. Chiwetel Ejiofor is right here in the correct save. I just need to click a button to bring him back.

    Thanks for calling that to my attention. It wasn’t an oversight. We’re well aware Chiwetel Ejiofor is the star of Twelve Years a Slave.

  13. As of right now The Monuments Men, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis are the ones that have definitely captured my interest enough to know I won’t wait for reviews, just be there as soon as shown.

    Some of the touted are of no particular attraction until I know more: Captain Phillips, American Hustle, The Fifth Estate, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

    Intriguing but not yet high on the radar: The Past and Ain’t These Bodies Saints.

    All in all its shaping up to be a good movie year mainly because of the acting and writing rather than a lot of special effects which is always good for Oscar season.

  14. Why don’t you mention The Butler? The subject material seems perfect for the Academy circa 2013. I think if it is good, it could be a big sweeper.

  15. drake

    “So, yes, the Oscars still matter.”—– i’m sure they do- but boy after “the artist” it really doesn’t feel like it, does it? i haven’t heard a person mention it at all in 2 years.

  16. How awesome would a Best Director lineup look with Linklater, Cuaron, and Greengrass in it?

    Going out on a limb and predicting the Polley documentary cracks BP

  17. K. Bowen

    I seem pretty unenthused this year, generally. Gravity sounds interesting, as does All Is Lost.

    Gatsby would not surprise me, honestly.

    Are you guys putting up the Lana Del Rey song for Best Song nominee?

  18. steve50

    Solid list with lots of promise, especially the issue-based fare in the hands of non-conventional filmmakers like Fifth Estate (best actor nom?), 12 Years (BP/BD?), Fruitvale and Cpt Phillips (you know it’ll be up for editing, minimum).

    Nebraska and LLewelyn Davis seem to be a perfect mix of actor and writer/director so I’m expecting unusual but flawless, and Cuaron, Linklater and Jonze are surefire for me, whatever the results.

  19. lenka73

    Ejofor is the STAR of 12 YEARS A SLAVE and currently he’s tipped for a nomination more than Jordan (FRUITVALE), Whitaker (THE BUTLER) and Elba (MANDELA)

  20. keifer

    Perhaps she was referring to a “Best Director” prize, rather than a screenplay.

  21. keifer

    “Man of Steel” hasn’t been released yet, but I’m wondering, given the early trailers I’ve seen, if it could be considered “Oscar worthy”? The film looks like a more reflective, deeper, and more complex depiction of Superman than we’ve been accustomed to in the past.

    Can’t wait to see this (release date I believe is June 14).

    I’m also anticipating “Snowpiercer”. You can never count out Tilda Swinton. She always seems to be in the Oscar conversation every year (deservedly so).

  22. keifer

    I’m personally quite tired of the Scorsese-DeCraprio film pairings. There are other actors out there, Marty. Come on. He’s no de Niro.

  23. RBanz

    I agree with most of your article, but I feel that we need to get away from the idea that “prestige” films were made specifically to win Oscars. Sure, the films are heavily promoted as such, but I don’t think that exactly correlates. It reduces an artist work (director, screenwriter) to a sycophantic drivel.

  24. Jpns Viewer

    I find David O. Russell’s directorial style in both Silver Linings Playbook, and The Fighter, relatively raw in a good way and interesting. O. Russell also managed to get the best of his main thesps, lead and supporting, in both films and I love such vista I have on my mind thanks to those two pieces. Looking forward to AMERICAN HUSTLE.

    [Singing: How many roaaad must Allen walk down / Before she’ll call him #da maaan? The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind / The answer is blowin’ in the wind. . . .] Meanwhile, I’m a bit disappointed for no love at all for BLUE JASMINE (on the list). Woody Allen has always given wondrous performances as director and writer of the same films. His movies are magic. Thus, my feeling, for now, is that by default, Blue Jasmine should have been mentioned for Screenplay, Best Actress, as well as Best Actor (Alec Baldwin) — at the #very least. . . .

    Thanks for a good read, Sasha.

  25. Best Actor: BRUCE DERN.

  26. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I feel that we need to get away from the idea that “prestige” films were made specifically to win Oscars

    That’s just the shorthand. But I don’t think we can dismiss the extended logic.

    Movies cost money so they have to earn money.
    Junk movies don’t have trouble making money…
    …because there are plenty of people who can be sold on junk.
    People who aren’t so gullible don’t fall for junk; they want quality.
    But in order to make money, quality movies have to be sold as well.
    For many moviegoers, Oscars are the seal of approval for quality.
    Filmmakers know how to maximize movies to make their movies Oscar friendly.
    Studios are more willing to take a chance on quality movies that are customized for Oscar potential.
    …to help ensure that costly prestige movies make enough money to justify their budgets.

    A nice way to describe movies that have been maximized for Oscar-friendliness is to call them ‘Prestige’ Pictures. We didn’t make that up. That’s been studio lingo for decades. It sounds better than Oscar-bait, yes? But it amounts to the same type of films. Films with enough prestige and quality to win awards.

    That’s not to say that every prestige movie is made with Oscars in mind. Not at all. Just ask Buñuel.*

    *(“Nothing would disgust me more than to win an Oscar. I wouldn’t have it in my home.”) ~ Luis Buñuel

    But it’s rash to say that the prospect of Oscars never enters the minds of people who write movies, greenlight them or agree to sign up to direct them or star in them.

    I’d never suggest that Oscar is the sole motivation for making movies. Nope, the greatest motivation is money. And after money comes the desire to create.

    It’s not crass to admit that, is it? Even Van Gogh wanted to make money. He wanted money badly. Pauvre Van Gogh.

    It’s really not even essential for a movie to win an armload of Oscars. The Oscar nominations alone are enough to attract the attention of casual moviegoers in search of quality. (not to mention, an Oscar nomination looks great on your resume. Looks great in your obituary).

    But a prestige movie that doesn’t get any Oscar attention at all? uh oh, that’s going to create financial problems. An expensive prestige movie with no Oscar nominations. Then you have a sad situation like Revolutionary Road. (a great film, but try telling that to people who think the Oscars always know quality when they see it).

  27. Jason B

    @ keifer,

    Man of Steel could be an Oscar-contender, but from my knowledge of reading AD for a few years now, I don’t think Sasha or Ryan will call the first in the (re-booted) franchise that until they see it.

    Sasha proposed The Avengers as being possibly Oscar-worthy last year after she saw it. So, Man of Steel might make the list afterward, but with those franchise films, it’s really difficult to tell.

    Zack Synder and Christopher Nolan teaming does deserve recognition, but after The Dark Knight trilogy being unrewarded for Best Picture… I don’t know how much better Man of Steel will do.

  28. Jason B

    Unless @RyanAdams or @SashaStone,

    Have you been given a sneak preview of Man of Steel that – due to it not being included – should have use lowering our expectations?

  29. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Have you been given a sneak preview of Man of Steel

    preview? ‘fraid so. It was called The Dark Knight.

    sucks, I know. Would love it if this year breaks the rule. We’ll know soon enough.

    Sasha proposed The Avengers as being possibly Oscar-worthy last year after she saw it.

    The Avengers would’ve been a better BP nominee than ____o _______d and __s __________s

  30. I PROMISE that Saving Mr. Banks will get nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress. Director and Screenplay are likely as well. This movie is going to clean up in awards season because it makes you cry like a baby. Its a done deal.

  31. Bball_Jake

    Also in the running for Best Picture nominations are:
    Snowpiercer
    The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
    Elysium
    The Past
    The Grandmaster
    Prisoners
    Blue is the Warmest Color
    The Immigrant

  32. David O. Russell will have to make a really amazing film. There’s no Harvey this time. The Fighter/SLP are both good but far from extraordinary and were heavily favored by the smart campaign.

    The list is very good. The eventual winner is likely among those. I’d easily add Foxcatcher, Saving Mr. Banks (you can’t deny the potential of a Walt Disney biopic starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson) and Labor Day (Jason Reitman is a two-time best director nominee).

    The only things we truly know this far: Inside Llewyn Davis is gonna be a Best Picture nominee, Meryl Streep will be nominated for Best Actress and any actor will have a hard time beating Bruce Dern.

  33. Thanks for addressing it, Ryan!

  34. This is the second time I’ve thought of Revolutionary Road this week after not having thought of it in quite some time. The 1st time this week was when the trailer for Prisoners looked like a remake of that movie. Well, not exactly a remake, but it felt like the same kind of movie.

  35. Just a hunch, but I feel that Bruce Dern is a nominee and not this year’s winner. I’ve seen Nebraska and he is very good, but I don’t see the Academy doing backflips over this movie. I hate to say it, but its almost too good for them.

  36. Fielding

    Don’t worry, when Blue Jasmine is released Stone will scramble to put it on her list. It happened with Midnight in Paris, even though it was obvious long before its release it would be an excellent film.

  37. The Dude

    Weinstein + Clooney= August, Osage County is an easy and obvious win. Unless the lobbying is so powerful it’s seen as overkill, but even so, it will probably take it.

  38. Bryce Forestieri

    REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is Sam Mendes’ second best film after ROAD TO PERDITION. Damn is it me the contrarian again? Never mind I don’t give a shit. Facts are facts, and it’s a goddamn near masterpiece.

  39. Bryce Forestieri

    Just 11 days and it’ll blow all of our minds!!

  40. Bryce Forestieri

    Its’ on Netflix and nobody touches it. I know A LOT of people.

  41. Q Mark

    I realize that’s what Sasha means but my point is that it can’t be argued that the Academy has already shown Payne a lot of love. I would submit that Payne is actually a better writer than he is a director, so it’s more “appropriate” than he has the screenplay Oscars.

  42. Bball_Jake

    I also forgot Labor Day and Blue Jasmine. I have an early hunch that August Osage County will take Best Picture, but last year at this time my hunch was that Lawless(at the time Wettest County) was going to win Best picture and it had no luck at the Oscars even with Weinstein behind it.

  43. Christophe

    What about Tom Hanks as Walt Disney? He could actually get nominated twice for best actor this year or couple a lead nom with a supporting nom.

  44. lenka73

    is it true they’re going to campaing BRUCE DERN as supporting role in NEBRASKA?

  45. The Pope

    I can only see two of those titles coming anywhere near a nomination and they both come from Cannes (in other words, we’re talking about Best Foreign Language… and speaking of which, that is likely the only category Snowpiercer will gain entry). The other film from Cannes, The Immigrants doesn’t have a hope. Not for the first time, James Gray failed to pull the gold from the mine. There was a hoard of great material at his disposal (New York, 1921) and Marion Cotillard learned Polish for the part but boy is the movie a dud.

    The Hobbit? The first one didn’t come near anything smelling of Oscar and as for Elysium. District 9 was a nice surprise but Elysium already seems overly familiar even from its trailer.

  46. moviewatcher

    “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS looks like it has seaman-y, Maine accents. Not my personal favorite.”

    Are you serious about this? It’s historically accurate so you’ve got nothing to complain about.

  47. moviewatcher

    Wow… The Avengers better than Django Unchained? The Avengers was average at best. Django had a great cast and one of the best scenes of the year (“old ben”). The Avengers had Robert “one-liner machine” Downey Jr.

  48. moviewatcher

    Man of Steel would have to be on par with The Dark Knight to become a BP contender. And that is a very hard thing to pull off. I’m hopeful, though.

  49. moviewatcher

    +1 man. You’re not alone.

  50. moviewatcher

    But is it any good? They say the script is great. That’s 75% of the work right there…

  51. moviewatcher

    I just wish Russell hadn’t strayed from his “Three Kings” style. That was an exhilarating experience to watch, and one of the best movies of 1999 (a great year onto itself).

    The Fighter was really good because of Bale and Wahlberg. SLP had a bad third act, but I was very impressed by Cooper in the first half.

    As for Woody Allen, I never get tired of him. Even Cassandra’s Dream has some wonderful pieces of dialog. The problem with that is that it was full of obvious foreshadowing, it meandered and it did have that magical Woody Allen quality. Even in “To Rome with Love”, a mediocre effort at best, I loved the idea of Alec Baldwin as a recurring figure that comments on the events as it happens. Woody Allen hasn’t ran out of ideas just yet. And he’s been wanting to work with Blanchett for ages, so I’m hopeful!

  52. moviewatcher

    Having read the book(s) and knowing where the movie will be broken up, the second hobbit movie will be much better than the first.

  53. The Pope

    lenka73,

    If Paramount do campaign for Dern as supporing, they will miss out big time.

    Some people think Nebraska has only a small reach but I firmly believe it will rake in silver dollars by the boat load. Brilliant as Dern is, Jane Squibb absolutely steals the show as his wife. So you’ve two nomination locks right there.

    Payne’s picture is in many ways as near to pitch perfect as you could hope (my favorites of his are still Election and Sideways). If the Academy really is made up of old, white dudes NEBRASKA gets a rake of nominations. Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Editing, Score. That’s eight. To start with.

    If Paramount handle it correctly, it could do Bucket List numbers. It’s nowhere near as broad as that movie, but it really does a helluva lot in depicting American lives.

  54. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Don’t worry, when Blue Jasmine is released Stone will scramble to put it on her list. It happened with Midnight in Paris, even though it was obvious long before its release it would be an excellent film.

    I don’t put things “on my list” until either I’ve seen them or they get great reviews. I don’t “predict” on the sidebar and certainly don’t go on “it was obvious long ago” before anyone had seen the movie. Actually I was one of the first to put Midnight in Paris down as a Best Picture contender and especially with my fellow pundits, was among the first to say it would get nominated. I agree that I sometimes miss movies but Midnight in Paris was not one of those times.

  55. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Just a hunch, but I feel that Bruce Dern is a nominee and not this year’s winner. I’ve seen Nebraska and he is very good, but I don’t see the Academy doing backflips over this movie. I hate to say it, but its almost too good for them.

    Hard to know — it could be like The Artist and just take every award on through the year or it could fizzle in the final lap while something else takes its place. It’s hard to know how it will fall.

  56. No, hes not. But I dont exactly see him getting lazy and choosing crap roles in the coming years, either. But who knows

  57. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Jason, I didn’t see Man of Steel at the screening they had earlier this week but I hope to see it soon. Hard road, no matter how good it is, to get a super hero movie nominated.

  58. Wholeheartedly agree with the last 2 paragraphs.

  59. Is Nebraska commercial?

  60. moviewatcher

    * I meant to say “Cassandra’s Dream” DIDN’T have that magical Woody Allen quality

  61. Clooney will also be competing against himself with August: Osage County, for which he is a producer. The year of the Clooney.

  62. I always look forward to the State of the Race pieces. One film that I think is flying under everyone’s radar that might surprise big is Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I know it doesn’t scream Oscar, and is a remake, but I wonder.

    I also agree that the best trailer of the year is Gravity. I was fortunate enough to see the trailer in 3-D on the big screen and I have to imagine it is this year’s Avatar/Hugo/Pi.

    My money is still on The Monument’s Men for a big year, and I’ll probably leave it in my #1 spot until we at least see a trailer. Too much pedigree involved, soft toss down the middle of AMPAS’ strike zone.

  63. DC Comics are actually in more favor than Marvel Comics. Batman and Superman are the staples that easily appeal to the older members rather than the more clearly of modern times members of The Avengers are. It will get the technical awards for sure.

    Frankly, I am rooting for a good Zack Snyder movie the way people were actually hoping Michael Bay would make a good movie without those transformers. I don’t know why. His gender and sexuality politics in his movies are troubling but he clearly has technical skill.

  64. A side-by-side ranking of DiCaprio vs. DeNiro in Scorsese movies is so embarrassingly one-sided and it is not even worth discussing. I don’t care how low and lazy DeNiro gets in advanced age, Leo has not reached anywhere near the highs and range.

    The real question is Scorsese has had DDL in two movies and yet after Gangs of New York (where that something of a failure of a movie still had DDL getting universal praise while DiCaprio’s performance was considered perfunctory if a mere cipher) chose to take Leo as his new leading man.

  65. The problem I have with movies made sometime after 1994 (when Forrest Gump won over Pulp Fiction aka when Scott beat Harvey) is that there are these movies that are made as prestige by serviceable to good directors, great casts, and great production values but the movies themselves upon re-watch are so hollow and hold no attention whatsoever. By design they are these movies existing for awards and almost nothing else. On re-watch they hold nearly nothing. They hold no memory after Oscar season, but their December releases hold up in the Oscar cycle (and even more benefit in the fact that season is shorter now) where they are over-praised and treated as the most important movies made. People eat it up and that includes people who should know better. Movies like The Grey, Moonrise Kingdom, and Magic Mike, held more to my attention than Argo that was clearly an awards movie by design that it will surprise me if it doesn’t become a distant memory in the vein of Slumdog Millionaire.

    You can tell me these movies always existed like an All About Eve or Lawrence of Arabia but there is something way more special going on. They hold you more. I dare anybody look up their old top ten lists and investigate whether you remember anything pleasant or engaging about them after all of this time since. This is more of a critic question than an AMPAS member question but critics seem to fall into traps that by now they should smell the potential stink factor of falling again for Oscar-bait that is not going to have any staying power. The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire, and Argo did have some critical bona-fides before the awards season sullied them for many.

  66. I Heart Huckabees is perhaps the most David O. Russell movie ever made and that was his Three Kings follow-up. After whatever happened to Nailed, he probably got a lot of the John Waters/Bunuel side to him out of his system but The Fighter is still a way more interesting family drama/sports movie than it has any right to being. Silver Linings Playbook felt like somebody else trying to be David O. Russell.

  67. Jpns Viewer

    (moviewatcher, thanks for your response.)

    *“. . . 1999 (a great year onto itself).”

    Ditto.

    That year, American Beauty era, was one of the best to me as well. To being with, it could have used a ten-nominee or so BP list.

    *“The Fighter was really good because of Bale and Wahlberg.”

    To me, The Fighter was really good not only because of these two thesps but also the two ladies et al. And in my opinion, #thanks to David O. Russell’s wonderful directorial effort, the thesps in question could find it possible to bring the best or at least the better out of themselves — that’s the way I see it.

    *“Woody Allen hasn’t ran out of ideas just yet. And he’s been wanting to work with Blanchett for ages, so I’m hopeful!”

    Again, ditto.

    Woody Allen is genius. One of my all-time favorite writers and/or directors. As long as he writes and directs his own films, I’m in. Not to mention his Godsend ability as director to bring out the best in his thesps. I am particularly interested to see how well Allen could help Baldwin reach the latter’s full potential as an actor more or less in Blue Jasmine.

  68. It’s honestly the lack of Harvey and the involvement of Megan Ellison that has me excited about American Hustle. At least in this case the movie will have to stand on its own (and this time stupid Oscar politics and a whisper campaign that plagued Sony/Annapurna’s Zero Dark Thirty will not be in the equation).

  69. moviewatcher

    “I Heart Huckabees is perhaps the most David O. Russell movie ever made and that was his Three Kings follow-up”

    I still have yet to see Huckabees, but what I said is Russell strayed from his Three Kings style. I didn’t specify WHEN exactly he strayed.

  70. moviewatcher

    OMG a top 10 for 1999 would have been glorious:

    ***(alphabetically)
    American beauty
    Being John Malkovitch
    Eyes Wide Shut
    Fight Club
    Magnolia (deserved Best Picture of ’99, IMHO)
    The Matrix
    Three Kings
    Toy Story 2

    And I know a lot of people like Boys Don’t Cry and The Talented Mr Ripley.

  71. moviewatcher

    [I]I also agree that the best trailer of the year is Gravity. I was fortunate enough to see the trailer in 3-D on the big screen and I have to imagine it is this year’s Avatar/Hugo/Pi.[/I]

    Why do people always forget to mention “Inception” along with “Avatar”, “Hugo” and “Life of Pi”?

  72. HA! I confused Revolutionary Road with Reservation Road. That happened a lot that year, before the movies actually came out. A little distance had me falling into the same old trap!

    Yes, Revolutionary Road is a seriously good, seriously depressing movie. I thought it was phenomenal actually, and so effective emotionally that I couldn’t imagine sitting through it a second time. It stung me pretty damn good. That’s the movie Winslet should’ve won for that year, and Dicaprio should’ve at least been nominated.

  73. It is indeed very good. Emma Thompson is an absolute pleasure.

  74. He has a shot, specifically because of a monologue late in the film, but it really depends on whether they go supporting or lead. Supporting is more likely.

  75. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    moviewatcher, I see what you’re saying, but the most obvious common denominator that links Gravity with Avatar, Hugo and Life of Pi is 3D, yes?

  76. moviewatcher

    That is indeed true. It’s just whenever I think of Avatar I think of “MASS blockbuster!” not “huge 3D movie!”.

  77. moviewatcher

    That’s great to know!

  78. Nebraska – I could support this as long as its not an ‘About Schmidt’ retread…
    Wolf of Wall Street – I, also, am tired of these MS/Leo collorborations. Though I find him very talented, to me, his boyishly young face nevers matches with the menace needed for most MScorsese characters. It always feel like some other actor could’ve handled this better. (I did find LDi to be great in Revolutionary Road.) For a BP nod…after viewing Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (but the audience does), this money-grabbing genre has seen its day.
    If one ‘popcorn’ movie could make the BP cut – my vote, so far, would be Oz: The Great & Powerful. I’m expecting it to be forgotten by nomination time anyways.
    Fruitvale – I’m sure that it’ll be critically lauded. Seems like its release time will be falling into the George Zimmerman trial which will certainly prevent most people from bothering with it. (I’ll wait for the film release of the last day in the life of Georgia resident Antonio Santiago.)
    Any early hope for The Bling Ring?
    Inside Llewyn Davis – I’m sure its praiseworthy, but I suspected it’ll go the same way as ‘A Serious Man.’
    Before Midnight for BP? Longshot

  79. Bball_Jake

    Why are people hating on Leonardo Dicaprio? Hes the greatest actor since Jack Nicholson.

  80. +1

    And why bring up his performance in GONY at all? It’s 11 years ago, DiCap was still damp from Titanic.His other collaborations with Scorsese have been great; at least one of those film will become classics.

  81. Movieram

    This list gets me almost tingly with anticipation.

    I will say that my expectations are lower on a few films, though I will be in line to see them all. I doubt that August: Osage County will deliver a home run because adaptations of plays rarely do. I have big reservations for Gravity because I generally find two-character films dull. Before Midnight would really be an oddity to make the cut: the third film of a trilogy where the first two films had little Oscar activity. and Her is simply not on my radar yet.

    I would add The Butler; its going to be interesting to see any supporting actress try to wrestle that gold statue from Oprah. If Saving Mr. Banks isn’t too schmaltzy, it’s in there. Probably the thing that hurts it is lack of importance. I’m excited about The Counselor too. And don’t count out Ron Howard’s Rush — though a racing movie isn’t my cup of tea. Snowpiercer, Foxcatcher, and Elysium all have my attention too.

    I thought 2012 was a great movie year; but 2013 has even more potential. I just wish things would be spread out more evenly. With the exception of Man of Steel, I’m not thrilled about any releases until August.

  82. Jason B

    I wouldn’t disagree. I’m just saying The Avengers or any other superhero films wouldn’t likely make the Best Picture of the year list before anyone has seen it, except the Dark Knight Rises perhaps… but then people saw it and it fell off many of those lists.

  83. Jason B

    @ Sasha,

    completely agree. I’d be skeptical until I saw it to even consider it in the top 50 Best Picture choices at the moment.

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