Next year's Oscar titles are lining up like planes at La Guardia. At Sony alone are a batch of movies inspired by true stories: Paul Greengrass’ Somali pirates adventure "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks (October 11); producer-director-star George Clooney’s fact-based World War II art retrieval thriller "The Monuments Men," starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin (December 18); and Bennett Miller’s still undated John DuPont murder mystery "Foxcatcher," starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Sienna Miller.
That movie is backed by 27-year-old billionaire Megan Ellison's Annapurna ("The Master," "Zero Dark Thirty," "The Grandmaster") which also funded another Sony release sure to be in the awards conversation, David O. Russell’s untitled Abscam movie, his follow-up to "Silver Linings Playbook," which cleaned up at the box office during awards season and should pass over $200 million worldwide. Sony has set the Abscam docudrama, which reunites Russell's "Silver Linings" stars Bradley Cooper and Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as well as Christian Bale, who won a supporting actor Oscar for "The Fighter," to open limited on awards-friendly December 13 2013 in advance of a wide Christmas Day release.
Based on a true story from the 70s and 80s, Russell's film is based on Eric Warren Singer's 2010 Black List script originally titled "American Bullshit," and focuses on an FBI sting operation led by Mel Weinberg (Bale) designed to reveal corruption in Congress. It was wildly successful and led to the conviction of a U.S. Senator, five Congressmen, one member of the New Jersey State Senate, members of the Philadelphia City Council, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Also starring are Amy Adams, Louis C.K., Jeremy Renner, and Alessandro Nivola.
Up against the movie on opening day are would-be studio tentpoles aiming at wide audiences and unlikely to factor in the Oscar race: Universal's Carl Rinsch’s long-delayed and over-budget martial arts epic "47 Ronin," starring Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada; actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s reboot of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan franchise, starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley (Paramount); and Ben Stiller’s "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," starring Stiller, Kristen Wiig, and Adam Scott (Fox).
My money's on Russell's movie, whatever its title may be.