Monday, September 1, 2014

A Guide to Films Worth Checking Out During the Oscar Season

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice
As September begins, it is once again the glorious time in which The Oscar Season starts up. While the year has already produced a lot of top notch films (The Grand Budapest Hotel, How to Train Your Dragon 2), it appears that there will be plenty more where that came from. It is the exciting time where the prestige films are released and suddenly the conversation will change on a week-to-week basis. What will take Best Picture? Where last year saw 12 Years a Slave take the honors immediately, this year doesn't have a distinguished lead. The excitement is about to start.
In order to give you a better look at what films to keep an eye out for, here is a list of titles that may be entering the conversation quite soon.

The Boxtrolls

Release Date: September 26
Potential Categories: Best Animated Feature

Why: Laika Studios has had a perfect track record so far with Coraline and ParaNorman and continue to do enviably impressive things with stop motion animation that puts it leagues ahead of its competitors. While How to Train Your Dragon 2 has done wonders in making an impressive CGI spectacle, there's still a chance that this rugged film can make the cut.

Jimi: All is By My Side
Andre Benjamin

Release Date: September 26
Potential Categories: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Andre Benjamin)

Why: While the film has some legal issues regarding the ability to play Jimi Hendrix's music, there's still a chance that this film can charm. Controlling the film's script and direction is last year's Best Adapted Screenplay winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave). Provided that he brings the same intricacies to this script about one or rock and roll's most beloved guitarists, there's a chance that this could be a surprise success.

Gone Girl
Left to right: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike
Release Date: October 3
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Actor (Ben Affleck), Best Actress (Rosamund Pike), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography

Why: Ever since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher has been a name to look out for at the Oscars. Along with being one of my favorite directors, his films always come highly anticipated and are often leaps ahead of the competitors in terms of technical approach. As evidenced with his previous film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he can lead relatively unknown actresses to Oscar nominations and can likely take Rosamund Pike to her first nomination. Also, there's little fault in betting on him for Best Editing: a category that his past two films have won in.

The Judge
Robert Downey Jr.

Release Date: October 10
Potential Categories: Best Actor (Robert Downey Jr.)

Why: Because that is what this movie essentially feels like. With Robert Downey Jr. having played superheroes almost exclusively for the past few years, this break into a more dramatic role is the type of move that is meant to get attention. Will it be one that pays off? Who knows. He has been nominated before and it doesn't seem entirely unlikely that this could happen.
Michael Keaton

Release Date: October 17
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Editing, Best Special Effects

Why: It is the film that has come out of nowhere and garnered almost universal praise as the potential Michael Keaton comeback vehicle. Also rumored to be shot in a single take, this satire of the superhero genre seems like a deliciously dark and strange film that is necessary to make the Best Picture race... interesting. After last year saw Gravity push technical feats to interesting places, there is little doubt that if this film is successful, it will be joining those leagues very, very soon.

Brad Pitt

Release Date: October 17
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design

Why: It is strange that in the year that honors the 100th anniversary of World War I that there would be two World War II films opening during this Oscar season (Unbroken being the other). While this may come across as the lesser film, it still features Brad Pitt and a rather interesting cast in a film from the director of End of Watch. The only question is that now that Pitt is back in war for the first time since Inglourious Basterds, will he have the same success levels twice? 

Men, Women & Children
Adam Sandler

Release Date: October 17
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Jason Reitman), Best Actor (Ansel Elgort), Best Supporting Actor (Adam Sandler), Best Adapted Screenplay

Why: While Labor Day proved to be a bad move on Jason Reitman's part, his second film in 2014 looks to be way better and more interesting as it explores how social media influences our personalities. While we have only gotten a vague trailer to inform us of what to expect, I do want to believe that this is like Up in the Air great and will feature great commentary alongside surprisingly effective performances that Reitman is best known for having. While I do worry that its cutting edge commentary will be overlooked similarly to that of The Social Network, there is a good chance that it may have more than the trailers lead on.

St. Vincent
Bill Murray

Release Date: October 24
Potential Categories: Best Actor (Bill Murray)

Why: It's another one of those gambles that may end up being for naught. However, the trailers depict a more dramatic, troubled Bill Murray performance that brought him acclaim with Lost in Translation. His slacker wisdom looks to be embodying another performance that may be more of the same, but it could also be surprisingly sweet and funny in ways that the Academy will totally enjoy.

Big Hero 6

Release Date: November 7
Potential Categories: Best Animated Film

Why: Because Disney won in the Best Animated Film category last year (Frozen) and has a lot of power going for them since Pixar is not going to be present. It also helps that the film looks enjoyable and wacky in ways that give it a distinct personality. Even if How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still the most impressive film of the year, Big Hero 6 at least looks to make the first superhero film in this category to have some exciting prospects.


Release Date: November 7
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Actress (Anne Hathaway), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography

Why: My prediction is that this will mirror Inception in quite a few ways. For starters, I don't believe that it will sweep the awards and instead clean up on technical. Also, while I do have hopes that Christopher Nolan will eventually get a Best Director nomination, it does seem odd that he has yet to receive one. Maybe with Gravity earning Alfonso Cuaron a win, this could be new acceptance for outer space journeys. Also, with exception to Jessica Chastain, the three main characters have won Oscars in the past two years (Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club and Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress in Les Miserables), giving them some advantage when it comes to recognition. However, I do worry that this film will mirror all of Nolan's past work and simply get nominated but nothing greater.

Gael Garcia Bernal
Release Date: November 7
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Jon Stewart), Best Actor (Gael Garcia Bernal), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing

Why: If you were to ask if The Daily Show host Jon Stewart would have been in Oscar consideration even two months ago, it would seem laughable. However, the first trailer has dropped and it feels like a powerful, striking story of how modern communication and politics influence global journalism and freedoms. The trailer feels reminiscent of Argo's teaser in that it presents lofty goals in vague, stylized scenes that offer glimpses of brilliance. The only question is if the trailer is misleading.

Steve Carell

Release Date: November 14
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Actor (Steve Carell), Best Supporting Actor (Channing Tatum), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing

Why: While I have yet to see it, I do feel like Foxcatcher is primed to be the front runner at this point. After doing rather successful at Cannes, it will finally be released being delayed last year. The whole sell is on whether or not Steve Carell can be convincingly frightening in this strange, dark story involving murder and the Olympics. However, Bennett Miller has had success at the Oscars before with Capote and Moneyball landing major nominations. With the trailers serving the creepiness tenfold, this seems like one of the only almost guaranteed nominees from this early in the discussion.

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch

Release Date: November 21
Potential Categories: Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Why: After I illogically chose to predict a nomination for Benedict Cumberbatch last year with The Fifth Estate, I do hold out some faith that the beloved Sherlock actor can make an impression on cinema. With this film about Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi's code during World War II, there's even more potential for him to get a nomination. Also, provided that the film addresses his homosexuality, it may play into the Academy's recent recognition of gay characters, including last year's big success with Dallas Buyers Club.

Reese Witherspoon

Release Date: December 5
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography

Why: Speaking of Dallas Buyers Club, here is director Jean Marc-Valle's follow-up that follows a hiker as they go on a journey. With the film primed to be Reese Witherspoon's big comeback, it may end up being a spiritually uplifting film that explores grand themes and have the majestic wonder necessary to get it nominated. The film would follow in the footsteps of 127 Hours by turning nature into an uplifting backdrop for human discovery. Also, with Witherspoon having already won an Oscar (Best Actress - Walk the Line), she has her foot in the door and gives this film an elevated boost of recognition.

Inherent Vice
Left to right: Phoenix and Josh Brolin
Release Date: December 12
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson), Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay

Why: If you don't know by now that The Oscar Buzz was born because of The Master, consider this a lesson. With Paul Thomas Anderson's follow-up to said film, expectations are equally high and ready to hopefully be outdone. While the Academy has recognized Anderson's work in the past, it does seem like he doesn't get his fair shake every time. While The Master got three acting nominations, it missed out on other major categories. Maybe things will change this time around, considering that Anderson's one Oscar win was for an adaptation (Best Adapted Screenplay - There Will Be Blood). A lot of these proposed nominations are lofty and maybe a little illogical, given Joaquin Phoenix's notorious outbreak in 2012. However, it must be noted that after George C. Scott refused to accept his Oscar win as Best Actor for Patton, he still continued to get nominations. Since Phoenix isn't a rookie nominee, there's a chance that his behavioral problems will be overlooked.

American Sniper

Release Date: December 25
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay

Why: Much like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, war films have always managed to play well at the Oscars. With veteran Clint Eastwood turning in one of his most promising films this Christmas, it does propose an interesting case on whether or not he still has it. After failing to capture audiences with the decent Jersey Boys, he may be back with one of his strongest films since Gran Torino. With two-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper also leading the film, this looks to have a strong chance at potentially getting great buzz and being the big comeback that Eastwood has been needing.

David Oyelowo

Release Date: December 25
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (David Oyelowo), Best Adapted Screenplay

Why: After doing great work in The Butler, David Oyelowo is back with a meatier role in this Martin Luther King Jr. biopic. His ferocity and energy that made The Butler so enjoyable will hopefully be returning for this equal rights activist tale. While little has been seen of it, the Christmas release date does suggest that there is going to be a lot more to expect that will help to elevate the film's chances at the Oscars to something far greater, especially with last year's winner (12 Years a Slave) being a striking call for equal rights.

Jai Courtney

Release Date: December 25
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Angelina Jolie), Best Actor (Jai Courtney), Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Why: Of every World War II film to come out, this is the one that has gotten the most acclaim. With Angelina Jolie now a few films into her directing career, this could easily be the big, soaring epic that is needed to get her a nomination. While there was a suspicious axing of Kathryn Bigelow in the Best Director field in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty, Jolie is on a hot streak, following an Honorary Oscar last year and a high profile that makes it hard to ignore her if this film ends up being as great as the trailers try to make it. While it does have traces of Chariots of Fire scattered throughout, this looks to be striving for a lot more, and that's exciting.

Into the Woods
Anna Kendrick
Release Date: December 25
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Actress (Anna Kendrick), Best Original Song, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Hair and Make-Up, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design

Why: I am personally gambling a lot when I suggest that this is going to be a big deal when it comes out. The Academy LOVES musicals, and with Les Miserables only two years ago proving to be strong Oscar bait, Into the Woods stands a strong chance of getting into the race, especially when it is lead by former nominee Anna Kendrick (Best Supporting Actress - Up in the Air) and lead by Rob Marshall, whose film Chicago previously won Best Picture. This film has a lot of stakes in play, and I do feel like it stands a strong chance of being one of the surprise big nominees at next year's ceremony.

Big Eyes
Amy Adams

Release Date: December 25
Potential Categories: Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Production Design, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design

Why: It seems to be smart to bet on Tim Burton nowadays. While Alice in Wonderland wasn't a great film, it did win two Oscars (Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design) and Frankenweenie got a Best Animated Film nomination. He is doing all right with himself. With this film being an actual adaptation of a real life woman who painted strange, kitschy art, this may be one of his most honest and decent works since Ed Wood. Also, Amy Adams is overdue for an Oscar win and hopefully this will be the break that she deserves. Of course, that's pretty high hopes given the already impressive crop that she would be up against.

Films Released: TBA

Rooney Mara
Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Daldry), Best Actress (Rooney Mara), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing

Why: For better or worse, Stephen Daldry has been nominated in the sweet Best Director/Best Picture slots on every single one of his films. Even if this year proves to be different, there's still a strong chance that the Academy loves him and his Oscar bait films. The trailer for Trash looks to have a politically charged feel that makes it seem impossible to totally write-off the film. While it doesn't yet have a release date, there is little doubt that this film will be ignored by the end of this year. 


Potential Categories: Best Picture, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Best Actress (Jessica Biel), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Reubens), Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener), Best Original Screenplay

Why: David O. Russell is another one of those names that seems to create nothing but Oscar bait. While American Hustle proved to have some struggles when it came to winning, it still gained a lot of nominations and solidified the director with having three back-to-back-to-back bonafide hits that reflected excellent, surprising performances. Provided that this film gets released in time, I do expect this to show up in quite a few of the categories.

What movie do you think will get the most nominations? Did I miss one?

1 comment:

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