The Weinstein Co, is preparing its assault on the coming award season. Step one: like last year, Harvey Weinstein will preview some material from their upcoming 2013 award slate at Cannes, on May 17. (Last year's batch turned out OK: "Django Unchained," "The Master," and "Silver Linings Playbook").
Here's what they'll likely show:
Already viewable in full and booked into Cannes' Un Certain Regard section is writer-director Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" (July 12), which recreates the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, who at 22 years old was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer at the titular BART station on New Year's Day, 2009. Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire") and Octavia Spencer ("The Help") are getting rave reviews, and it's a gut-wrenching tearjerker in the "Precious" tradition. Last year, Fox Searchlight's best picture nom "Beasts of the Southern Wild" won the Cannes Camera d'Or for Benh Zeitlin after winning, like "Fruitvale Station," two awards at Sundance including the Grand Jury Prize. And Harvey Weinstein is no slouch when it comes to taking films like "The Artist" from Cannes to Oscar contention. "Fruitvale Station" treads in the heartstring-tugging, social realist tradition that festivalgoers and Academy voters embrace.
French "Haute Cuisine" is a portrait of Provence cook Daniele Delpeuch (Catherine Frot), who was French president Francois Mitterand's country chef (August 16). Word is good on this; who knows which film the French will submit for the Oscar this year?
Shane Salerno's documentary "Salinger" digs into the reclusive author's life and works. “Salinger” features interviews with 150 subjects, including his closest friends and colleagues who have never spoken about him before, and archival footage of the writer. Salinger died in January 2010, and he hadn’t published a work since 1965. Other notable personalities seen in the film include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal, among others, who discuss the cultural impact of this endlessly enigmatic figure (September 16).
Lee Daniels' "The Butler," starring Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard and John Cusack and Jane Fonda, wears its Oscar hopes on its sleeve. The question, of course, is whether this delicate true story will be well-served by Daniels' heart-on-sleeve approach to filmmaking. Actors love him, because he brings out their fearless best. With Daniels, it's all or nothing. With help from novelist Sapphire and Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher, Daniels pulled off "Precious," but arguably that is the only time he has connected with moviegoers. This time around, of course he has Harvey Weinstein pushing this movie into hitting the Academy's socially conscious sweet spot. The fact that the film is going wide October 18 suggests they may be hedging their bets. Word is Whitaker comes out strongest.
John Wells' film adaptation of Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," stars Oscar perennial Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as the strong-willed women of the Midwest Weston family, who come back together after the family patriarch kills himself. Word is both women are superb. Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and Ewan McGregor co-star. The film looks like an Oscar natural and boasts a prime awards-season release slot (November 8, limited).
Justin Chadwick's "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," written by William Nicholson, stars Idris Elba ("Prometheus," "The Wire") in the title role of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary and "Skyfall"‘s Naomie Harris as Mandela's wife of 39 years, Winnie (November 29, limited). This looks like it has all the right stuff.
Olivier Dahan's "Grace of Monaco" stars Nicole Kidman as the Hollywood star who married Prince Rainier III of Monaco (Tim Roth). Kidman should shine in this juicy role. (December 27, limited)
It remains to be seen if the Weinsteins will add "One Chance," directed by David Frankel ("Hope Springs") to their 2013 docket. The film stars Tony-winner James Corden as Welsh steel mill worker Paul Potts, who was catapulted to fame and fortune as an opera singer following his success on Britain's Got Talent. Julie Walters and Colm Meany co-star. "This is not a bullshit fairy tale," says Weinstein. "It's gritty, a great cast, it's grounded." The film has not been dated, but last minute additions and changes are de rigeur for the Weinsteins.