Awards SeasonFilmOpinionPreview

A Look at the Upcoming Awards Season

Wesley Emblidge ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Now that fall is upon us, it marks not only changing weather but changing movie seasons. Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the prestigious movies finally start rolling into theaters vying for the much coveted Oscar consideration. So before the slew of film festival darlings and movies starring Benedict Cumberbatch hit theaters, let’s first take a look back on what could resurface from earlier this year, and then look forward at what’s to come.

What We’ve Seen

There are already a few obvious front-runners from earlier this year, but the clear winner so far is Cate Blanchett. Her Blue Jasmine performance is a guaranteed nomination, and at this point in the race, it doesn’t look like she’ll have much competition. Monsters University will also prosper from the lack of competition in the animated field, and The Butler has a pretty good shot at a lot of categories, not because it’s any good, mind you, but rather because it seems to have been a big financial hit with the same audience that got The Help a best picture nomination.

Crime thriller Prisoners probably won’t find much luck with a nomination either unless some of the major contenders turn out poorly (although cinematographer Roger Deakins deserves to finally have a win amongst his ten nominations, and his work here is excellent). This year’s Sundance darling Fruitvale Station probably won’t score the nominations Beasts of the Southern Wild did last year, but might make it in for acting (which other indies Mud and Short Term 12 will shoot for). Derek Cianfrance’s very ambitious and divisive The Place Beyond the Pines also doesn’t seem to have much traction. Ron Howard’s Rush is pretty unpredictable at this point; depending on how it does with audiences it could get anywhere from nothing to a best picture nomination (although it has a good shot in a lot of technical categories).

On the documentary front, Stories We Tell has the best shot at a nomination, with okay documentaries Blackfish, 20 Feet From Stardom and We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks possibly having a chance, and one of the best films of the year The Act of Killing likely won’t make it in.

Lastly, we can only pray that Before Midnight can get a screenplay nomination the way its predecessor did, and maybe even an acting nomination for Julie Delpy. But now that we’ve recapped the first nine months, let’s move on to what to watch in the coming three.

Top Picks

Gravity (October 4th)

Already getting heaps of praise out of the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals, Alfonso Cuaron’s long awaited follow-up to Children of Men seems to have a good shot at a lot of major awards. Specifically picture, director for Cuaron, and best actress for Sandra Bullock seem like good bets, and a whole bundle of technical awards are even more likely.

12 Years a Slave (October 18th)

Director Steve McQueen (whose last two excellent films, Hunger and Shame, received no Academy love whatsoever) isn’t the most accessible director, but his latest looks to be the film that will finally give him the breakout he deserves. Audiences at Toronto and Telluride loved it, and at the former it won the People’s Choice Award for best film at the festival. Critics love it, and the cast is stacked with the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Paul Dano and more. Although it has been said to be a very raw, unflinching look at slavery, distributor Fox Searchlight can certainly find a way to make it a hit with the masses as well. If you were to bet on one film right now, I’d make it this one.

Inside Llewyn Davis (December 1st)

Since the Academy nominated a Coen brothers movie as outlandish as A Serious Man for best picture, the directing duo’s latest should have no problem getting in. A strong reception at Cannes and the three-year break since their last film won’t hurt its chances either. This is also a strong contender for the original song category. The only concern is about distributor CBS films, who has never had a movie that factored into awards season.

American Hustle (December 13th)

We’re seeing this combo all over the place: prestige director, all-star cast, and a true story. This variation of the Oscar equation plugs in David O. Russell, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence and the true story of con artists who teamed with the FBI to catch other cons. After team Russell/Cooper/Lawrence found such success with Silver Linings Playbook last year it’ll be a big surprise if American Hustle isn’t a major awards contender.

Monuments Men (December 18th)

Directed by George Clooney. Written by Clooney and Grant Heslov. Based on a true story. Starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and John Freakin’ Goodman, this movie is pretty much tailor made for the Oscars.

Still to Come

October

Captain Phillips (October 11th)

After struggling with Universal over his Iraq war film Green Zone, Paul Greengrass is trying once again to reach the heights of his incredible 9/11 film United 93, this time teaming with Tom Hanks (who could be headed for another best actor nomination) for a retelling of a 2009 Somali pirates hijacking. United 93 got Greengrass a best director nomination, so if magic strikes twice here we may see the film even get a picture nomination too.

The Fifth Estate (October 18th)

Coming off his Twilight paycheck, director Bill Condon (who has made successful biopics like Gods and Monsters and Kinsey) went on to adapt the very recent story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to the screen, just after Alex Gibney’s aforementioned documentary. However after playing Toronto, things don’t look good for the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring drama, as critics aren’t showing it much love (With only 20 reviews, it’s already at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes).

All is Lost (October 18th)

J.C. Chandor’s first film Margin Call garnered him an Oscar nomination for the writing, but with his sophomore effort, it looks like he may be taking a backseat to his star. The almost completely dialogue free one-man performance from Robert Redford has been getting praise ever since the film screened at Cannes back in May, and this seems like his best shot at an acting award since 1981. Chandor and the film itself could also pick up some nominations if the film is received well enough, but for now it seems Redford is a good bet.

The Counselor (October 25th)

Not much about the trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor suggests it has much potential come February, but a screenplay penned by Cormac McCarthy and an excellent cast indicate that there’s probably more than meets the eye. Still, in an awards season as crowded as this, The Counselor probably won’t be able to squeeze in.

November

Dallas Buyers Club (November 1st)

Matthew McConaughey continues his “McConaughey renaissance” with this true-life AIDS story, which is sure to get him the nomination he missed out on last year. Festival buzz around the rest of the film is mixed, although Jared Leto has been getting a fair share of praise for his supporting turn.

Diana (November 1st)

Hey, look, another biopic! This time we’ve got Naomi Watts going for Oscar gold, and with the actress just coming off another nomination last year and the lack of competition for lead actress, this could be a minor contender.

Nebraska (November 15th)

The reaction for Alexander Payne’s latest film out of Cannes wasn’t too enthusiastic. Although Bruce Dern won best actor at the festival, most critics weren’t raving about the film as a whole. Still, Payne’s last two films were nominated for a slew of awards including best picture, so depending on how it plays come November the film could still have a shot.

The Armstrong Lie (November 15th)

Alex Gibney already had one documentary out this year, the aforementioned We Steal Secrets, but his documentary on Lance Armstrong could also end up in the mix. Festival buzz has been positive, and Sony Classics will probably be giving it a higher profile release than Focus World gave We Steal Secrets.

Frozen (November 27th)

Even though Disney’s latest doesn’t look very promising, the year in general hasn’t been too great for animation. Unless this is really bad or Free Birds is at all good, we’ll probably see it pop up just like Tangled a few years back.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (November 29th)

Much like Diana, the biopic Mandela will probably focus on acting awards for Idris Elba’s portrayal of the South African president. With Harvey Weinstein behind this, it could manage to squeeze in, but after Morgan Freeman was nominated for the same role only a few years ago, Elba probably won’t end up factoring in.

December

Out of the Furnace (December 1st)

Unless it’s really great, director Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart) second feature probably won’t play a big role in awards season. It does feature a great cast including Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard, Casey Affleck and more, but it looks to be a bit more raw, personal and not quite as showy as the Academy usually goes for.

Saving Mr. Banks (December 13th)

Disney’s drama about the founder of their company (Tom Hanks) trying to persuade author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to give up the rights to her book has a good chance of making a splash come awards season since the Academy loves movies about movies.

Her (December 20th)

This movie falls into that sad category of “probably great and will probably get absolutely no awards recognition.” Spike Jonze’s latest features Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with his Siri-esque computer (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The movie is probably going to be a bit too weird and offbeat for the Oscars, but maybe it could sneak in for screenplay or maybe Phoenix for best actor.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (December 25th)

No one fully knows exactly what Ben Stiller’s latest directorial outing is. We’ve only seen a teaser that kept things pretty vague, but it looks at the very least to be different than anything else this year, seemingly filling the slot Life of Pi did last year with spectacular and surreal visuals. It’s hard to know what to make of it at this point, but keep it in mind as we get closer to the end of the year.

August: Osage County (December 25th)

Bring together the team of Harvey Weinstein and Meryl Streep, and you’ve already got probably the biggest awards monster yet. Having one of the most impressive casts of the year doesn’t hurt either. The movie features Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nichols, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, and Margo Martindale- and that’s just who’s on the poster. The film is also based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning play, and will be somewhat competently directed by The Company Men’s John Wells. Critics didn’t like it all that much at Toronto, but they didn’t like The Iron Lady either, and that won Streep her last Oscar (and also had Weinstein behind it).

Philomena (December 25th)

Weinstein is behind another film featuring a prestigious director (The Queen’s Stephen Frears), an excellent cast (Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in the leads) and a true story. It looks to be a lot less showy than some of the other contenders, but that could end up working in the film’s favor later on.

There are, of course, plenty of movies that I didn’t even mention, specifically nominees in categories like best foreign and animated film (not to mention the minor categories like costume design or original song), but hopefully this gives you a sense what the major players of the year will be.

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