I have been itching to go on a limb and predict the Best Picture nominees for next year. We are more than half way through the year, so it's a good time to take a stab at it, right? Right? Best Picture was a LOT easier to guess when it was a certain number of nominees, but now that it can be anywhere between five and ten, it's a bit harder. Here is what I have come up with.
If I am sure of anything, it's that The Monuments Man will have some buzz around it. Directed by George Clooney, Monuments tells the story of a group of curators and art historians who team up to recover works of art that have been taken by the Nazis, and they must snag everything back before good, ole Adolf destroys them. In addition to Clooney directing, he stars alongside Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin.
I always say there's a movie up for Picture that's like an Oscar circle jerk, and this is it. On paper, it looks like a surefire contender across the board. It's a period piece...directed by a highly respected/powerful member of Hollywood...about taking down Nazis...and it has Oscar winners galore. We haven't seen anything yet (no poster, no trailer, NOTHING), so this could be a huge success or be like The Good German. Remember when Clooney said Blanchett was going to be nominated for that? You know, The Good German...exactly.
I don't know about you, but this premise reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart learns that Grandpa Simpson was part of the Flying Hellfish. Yup. I just ruined The Monuments Men for you.
I think another big awards player this season is going to be Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. I already went gaga went the trailer came out a few weeks ago. McQueen's film follows a free black man in 1841 who is deceived into slavery, and the film chronicles his survival. This film also features a pretty impressive cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. Watch the trailer. You will see what I am talking about.
I don't think it's wise to bet against Joel & Ethan Coen at this point. After No Country for Old Men won the Coens Best Picture in 2007, True Grit and A Serious Man were both nominated for Best Picture. Seems pretty stupid to bet against them, no? Their latest feature, Inside Llewyn Davis, won the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Oscar Isaac plays the title character, a folk singer navigating his way through New York's folk music scene in the 1960's. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman co-star. I'm not much of a music person (I'm Not There was completely lost on me), but the movie looks really mellow. Plus, Llewyn Davis has a cat. I'm down with that.
Sci-fi flicks don't have the best relationship with Oscar, but I feel like this year might be different. Back in 2009, District 9 and Avatar both were up for Best Picture, but that was when the category expanded to ten nominees. Alfonso Cuaron directed Gravity, and everything about it seems breathtaking. This will easily be up for technical awards, and I think it has the potential to creep into the bigger categories.
Can Cuaron snag a first Directing nomination? Can Sandra Bullock or George Clooney get nominated again for their performances? Who knows. It is set to open the Venice Film Festival, and it will play at the Toronto Film Festival.
I recently wrote about the trailer dropping for David O. Russell's American Hustle. Russell is on fire right now: both The Fighter and Silver Lining's Playbook were big Oscar contenders. The trailer makes it look like it could be a heavy awards player, especially for the acting categories. You can't put that many Oscar nominees and winners in one more and expect nobody to talk.
I am a little nervous putting August: Osage County up here. Film adaptations of acclaimed plays are usually miss with Oscar unless you're Doubt (I swear that would have been nominated for Picture of the category was larger that year). Carnage had whispers about its performances a couple years back, but that all fizzled. The ensemble drama (black comedy?) won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2007. The film focuses on the Weston family who come together when the patriarch disappears. Dysfunction ensues. I've never seen the play, but the script is staring at my from my bookshelf. I need to get around to seeing it before the film comes out.
I think this might be more of a performance thing. Meryl Streep will certainly be nominated, because it's a great role. Also doesn't hurt that it's Meryl Streep. Julia Roberts plays her eldest daughter who doesn't see eye to eye with her mother. People give Roberts a bad wrap and say she isn't a good actress, but I am looking forward to seeing her in this. She works well when she's pushed by a director or if it's something against her type (she was great in Closer, another play adaptation). See, I'm already talking about just the performances, but I will put this up here. August is more sprawling than its play counterparts. The cast could elevate it.
I've had a feeling about Ron Howard's Rush since I saw the first trailer. Based on a true story, Rush dramatizes the rivalry between Formula-1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, who I think could pull out a Best Supporting Actor nomination) in the mid-1970's. Hunt is a womanizing playboy who becomes racing's top dog after Lauda gets into a near-fatal car crash.
It seems to focus on more than racing as the trailer suggests it's the battle between two very different men. Howard is an Academy favorite, and if he can get a director nomination for Frost/Nixon, I think he could pull out some notice in the Best Picture race.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Captain Phillips will grab a spot. It is directed by Paul Greengrass who should have had his United 93 nominated in 2007 (sorry bout it, Little Miss Sunshine). Starring Tom Hanks, Captain recounts the true story of a cargo-ship captain who surrenders himself for the safety of his crew after a band of Somali pirates take control.
Greengrass is such a great action filmmaker, and it will be great to see Tom Hanks in a potentially notable role again.
Now this is where stuff gets tricky. There are a handful of movies out there that could get nominated for Best Picture, but we have to wait and see how they are received.
Philomena stars Judi Dench as a woman looking for the son she gave up for adoption when she was forced to live in a convent as a younger woman. Wherever Dench goes, awards seem to follow. She almost got nominated last year for Skyfall.
No trailer has been released, but it's directed by Stephen Frears who gave us Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen and Mrs. Henderson Presents. It will compete in this year's upcoming Venice Film Festival, so we will have more of an idea of its chances after it plays.
Usually the movies at the end of the year snag all the awards, and anything released in the first six months is ignored or forgotten. I am wondering about Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. The majority of the reviews focus on Cate Blanchett's performance, but could all the positive reviews push it into the Best Picture fray?
Blanchett plays a shamed New York socialite who moves in with her sister and her husband (Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale) after a Madoff-esque scandal leaves her flat broke. The movie currently has an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it's shaping up to be one of Woody Allen's most acclaimed recent efforts.
Like The Monuments Men, this might be stupid to bet against. The Wolf of Wall Street is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio. Is that enough to warrant a nomination?
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who managed to make almost $1 million a week in the 1990's. His life of excess leads to corruption and, well, more excess. The trailer is a bit over-the-top and silly, but it shows off actors. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin co-star.
If Wolf turns out to not be an Oscar movie, we still get this of Leo:
I'm still not betting against a Scorsese movie.
Fruitvale Station, now playing, might be too small to make it all the way to the Oscars. It kind of reminds me of last year's Beasts of the Southern Wild in the respect that it came out at Sundance to critical acclaim, and both movies received raves when they were released.
Station recounts the true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22 year-old African American who was shot while on the commute home on New Year's Day in 2009. His death caused social uproar and riots in Oakland, California.
I would love to see it go all the way, but it might be too small.
A movie that seems to be on a lot of pundits' lists is Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks (hello again) plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson steps into the shoes of Mary Poppins writer PL Travers. Saving focuses on Disney wooing Travers for the rights to film Travers' novel. Disney made a promise to his daughters to turn their favorite book into a movie, but she is reluctant because she doesn't want Disney to change her most beloved character.
The film is directed by The Blind Side's John Lee Hancock (that's a bad sign, to me), but I am really excited to see Hanks and Thompson go head to head. There have been movies recently that have dealt with a certain celebrity for a certain span of time. My Week with Marilyn. Me and Orson Welles. Hitchcock. I liked them all right, but I wasn't in love with them. Perhaps I am reluctant to dive into this movie because I think they will have the same result?
I don't know much of anything about Nebraska. It is directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt), and it stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte.
The movie centers around a father and son who travel from Montana to Nebraska to claim prize money. Along the way, they meet family members and acquaintances. Yup, that's all I got. Usually Payne is pretty reliable, but I am not hearing a lot about this. It was nominated for the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and Dern won Best Actor. I will wait for a trailer.
What's a Best Picture prediction without a completely left-field, batshit crazy guess? No guts, no glory, right?
How about Neill Blomkamp's Elysium? Blomkamp's District 9 nabbed a nomination back in 2009, and his latest hits theaters next week. Elysium is set in 2154 where the rich live on a space station paradise above Earth while the poor struggle to survive on the planet. Matt Damon plays a man who must get to the floating habitat to cure himself of a disease, and, ultimately, bring balance to the uneven living arrangements. Jodie Foster co-stars as the high-ranked official standing in his way.
The film obviously comments on immigration and class structure, but Blomkamp insists that the film is supposed to reflect the society we live in, not the near future. It's a long shot, but who knows, right?!
If I had to go with what I thought I would be nominated right now, it would be this: