Still To Come
Of course, it should go without saying that there are many more performances still to come that could upset the existing apple cart. One serious threat is Tom Hanks, who's promising in Best Actor for "Captain Phillips," but may be a better bet as Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks." While his role is less emotionally potent than co-star Emma Thompson, playing such an icon might actually be a safer path to nomination that in the lead category, where he has tougher competition. Other Best Picture hopefuls that should provide potentials are David O Russell's "American Hustle," where Jeremy Renner has the most colorful role but Bradley Cooper has the more attention-grabbing haircut (and, more importantly, a more significant part), and Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," from which Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum could both compete.
We suspect that Matthew McConaughey's part in "The Wolf Of Wall Street" would be too small for him to be nominated even if he wasn't already looking promising elsewhere, so Jonah Hill (or someone else lurking in the ensemble) may be the better bet here. There could be a heavy hitter lurking in the "Monuments Men" ensemble, with any of John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin potentials for a slot with the right role. And while he missed out for "Skyfall" last year, Javier Bardem could return to the category he won six years back with another colorful villain, in Ridley Scott's "The Counselor."
All unknown quantities, but worth keeping an eye on, are Tim Roth and Frank Lagnella in "Grace Of Monaco," Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson in "Out Of The Furnace," Geoffrey Rush in "The Book Thief" and Eric Bana and Ben Foster in "Lone Survivor." Lastly, James Gray's "The Immigrant"? Sorry, but it won't be released until next spring, full details here.
If there's any buzz you've heard on any additional year-end films, let us know in the comments section. In the meantime, our early Supporting Actor predictions, and our first Best Picture chart, are below.
Best Supporting Actor - Predictions 09/18/13
Daniel Bruhl - "Rush"
Michael Fassbender - "12 Years A Slave"
James Gandolfini - "Enough Said"
Tom Hanks - "Saving Mr Banks"
Jared Leto - "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Picture Chart: September 18th, 2013
1. "12 Years A Slave"
Front-runner status confirmed by picking up the TIFF People's Choice award, suggesting that audiences are willing to embrace the tough material. But being a front-runner at this early stage isn't always a good thing, and its biggest question is whether director Steve McQueen will be able to suffer fools gladly on the circuit for the next five months.
2. "American Hustle"
David O. Russell's felt overdue for a while, and he's essentially gathered together the O. Russell All-Stars for this, which looks like "Silver Linings" by way of "Argo" and Scorsese. As such, this looks to be a major, major contender, even if it turns out to be one of the last films to screen.
Rave reviews out there, and the best chance at the big commercial 3D visual extravaganza slot, a la last year's "Life Of Pi." But more than most films here, it's dependent on box-office —if it tanks, it could get forgotten
4. "Saving Mr. Banks"
Fitting nicely into the movies-about-movies niche that worked so nicely for "The Artist" and "Argo," but does its more partisan feel—a Disney movie about Disney—mean it could be more divisive. Early word is pretty good, for what it's worth—we know one person who walked out and immediately put on a bet for it to win Best Picture.
5. "The Wolf Of Wall Street"
Scorsese is obviously an awards magnet more often than not, and the trailer looks terrific. There are rumors out there that Paramount, swamped with product including "Anchorman 2" and "Jack Ryan," are considering moving the film into first quarter of 2014, and it's unclear if that would include a qualifying run. Does that suggest the film's a more commercial proposition, or even not very good? Or is it just a studio exploring some options.
6. "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty"
Fox is sticking closely to the "Life Of Pi" playbook for this, from wowing audiences with CinemaCon footage to a NYFF bow to get the buzz out early.
7. "Captain Phillips"
Warmly received by those who've seen it, and has Scott Rudin's might behind it. That said, this feels like the kind of movie that'll get lots of second and third choice votes, but fewer in first place, but we'll find out for sure when the film opens NYFF next week.
8. "Inside Llewyn Davis"
The film has the critical support, and, despite a young cast who may be relatively unfamiliar to Academy voters, has built-in prestige thanks to the Coens. Our big question all along has been if CBS FIlms are up to an Oscar campaign, but we suspect quality will win out, whatever happens.
9. "August Osage County"
"August: Osage County" was received fairly tepidly at TIFF, but until we become more convinced by "The Butler" (see below), it remains the Weinsteins' biggest bet, and that in itself is reason enough to keep it in the mix Plus, its extensive and starry ensemble is the kind of thing that attracts the votes of the actors' branch, who are by some way the most significant voting block. Not yet a home run, but not to be counted out.
Somewhat under the radar at this stage (there's still no trailer), but Bennett Miller is two-for-two for Best Picture nominations, and he's got some potent material here. It's a tough year, so if the film disappoints in the least, it may fall outside the main nominees, but it's still a hot prospect.
11. "Dallas Buyers Club"
We were always expecting this to be a serious proposition when it came to Matthew McConaughey's central performance, but it was surprising the extent to which people really seemed to dig the film as well. It'll need some of the films above to fall out of favor to crack the final nine/ten, but certainly worth keeping an eye on.
12. "Monuments Men"
Are we underrating this one? Possibly. From the glimpses so far, it seems to be a principally commercial proposition, to the extent that Sony were at one point alleged not to even be planning an awards push. But the latter's subsequently been denied, and with George Clooney directing and starring, and an "Argo"-ish WWII vibe, only a fool would dismiss it completely.
13. "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Other prognosticators rate The Weinstein Company's summertime sleeper much higher than we do, but we can't quite see this one lasting the distance. That said, we said that about "The Help" back in the day, and "The Butler" can only be helped by the relative weakness of the rest of TWC's slate.
Some touted this as a potential Best Picture winner back during Cannes, but it seems to have lost traction temporarily, in part because it skipped TIFF, ceding the floor to others. It still feels smaller-scale and more minor than "The Descendants," but Academy voters could respond to it more positively.
Ron Howard's had his best reviews in years for this F1 drama, and audiences seem to be really responding too—it's already a big hit in the UK. Universal are probably going the right direction by rolling it out more gradually, but we wonder if the film's opening too early—it'll be tough to keep up this early momentum, no matter how much people like it.
Stephen Frears' film is principally going to be a push for star Judi Dench, but if Venice and TIFF proved anything, it's that audiences are going to eat this right up, with the film proving the runner up to "12 Years A Slave" for the People's Choice Award (last year's runner up? "Argo"). As such, don't be surprised to see this sneak up the roster as/when other films fall out of favor.
The other runner up at the TIFF People's Choice Award, which suggests that for all the film's darkness and grimness, it's connecting with audiences. But it's a long, long road to nomination for a movie that opens wide this weekend, though strong box office will help no end.
18. "All Is Lost"
It's a mark of the strength of competition that this one is all the way down here; J.C. Chandor's film has been picking up raves since Cannes. Star Robert Redford's locked in, but the film will need to work hard to appear more than just a one-man show, especially since "Gravity" has come in and somewhat stolen its thunder.
19. "Fruitvale Station"
Three of the last four years have seen a Sundance graduate among the Best Picture nominees, and Ryan Coogler's film is by far and away the most likely of this year's crop. That said, it's in third position among the Weinstein's slate, and might struggle to get a foothold among starrier competition.
There's no film we're looking forward to more in the last few months of the year, but Jonze has never been a major awards favorite, and it feels like the film might be too hip and offbeat for Academy tastes. But all that said, Warner Bros have some faith in it, and have been teasing it at the LA and Toronto Film Festivals ahead of a high-profile NYFF slot, so this could turn out to be a major player.
21. "The Book Thief"
The film lurking quietly on the calendar that doesn't really care what critics think (it's skipped festivals entirely), this could be a secret weapon of the series, or it could be another "Boy In The Striped Pyjamas." But Fox must have had a reason to move it up from 2014, so it's certainly worth keeping an eye on for now.
22. Out Of The Furnace"
Given that it's done for nearly a year (there was talk of a qualifying run in 2012 at one point), Relativity are bringing the picture to the Rome Film Festival in what will likely be a late season push for this Christian Bale-starring thriller. There's a solid cast in place, and director Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" was an awards season surprise, but this looks from the trailer mostly like a commercial proposition, albeit one with some potential for acting nods.
23. "The Counselor"
Similarly, there's Ridley Scott's all-star Cormac McCarthy project, which Fox seem to be positioning more as a commercial thriller than awards bait (again, it's skipped the festivals). Plus we've heard some slightly troubling buzz from test screenings, and the script was so violent and uncompromising that we wonder if the Academy will stomach it. Still, this cast get the benefit of the doubt for the moment.
24. "Blue Jasmine"
Cate Blanchett's certainly a lock for a nomination and maybe more, but a Best Picture nomination for Woody's latest feels like a longer shot—it's a little less accessible than "Midnight In Paris" was, and may be seen as more of a performance showcase. That said, 'Midnight' outlasted much of the other competition, so it wouldn't be totally absurd.
25. "Lone Survivor"
Universal moved this up so it gets a limited release before the end of the year before going wide in January, exactly mirroring the release of "Zero Dark Thirty." The true life story is emotionally potent, certainly, but Peter Berg is no Kathryn Bigelow, even if the film might benefit from being the last one to be seen. Our gut says that technical nominations like "Black Hawk Down" (which also had a similar rollout) might be the best case scenario, but we'll see.
Bubbling Under, Or Basically Non-Starters: "Before Midnight," "Grace Of Monaco," "Frances Ha," "Labor Day," "Mud," "The Past," "The Place Beyond The Pines," "The Spectacular Now'
Not Happening: "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," "The Fifth Estate," "The Invisible Woman," "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," "The Great Gatsby."