Yes, it’s that time of year once again. The kids are off to school, the leaves will soon change, and football season is starting. It’s also time for the studios to start trotting out their Oscar bait for the awards cycle, and this year there are a number of esteemed directors with new films, and plenty of costume dramas, literary adaptations, and otherwise posh films to dazzle Academy voters. Some of them may even be good.
As with every year I’ve done this, I have no special knowledge except my inner Oscar radar. Some of these releases will sink without a trace. Last year’s winner, The Artist, was not on my list (it was in my “also possible”), so it’s a good chance the eventual winner of the Best Picture Oscar will not appear below. But of these ten films, there’s a good chance that about five will be nominated. Once again this year, there will be five to ten nominees.
Anna Karenina (Joe Wright), November 16: Tolstoy’s classic novel about adultery has been filmed many times without being nominated, so there’s no special reason to think this one will be, other than that is a getting a sumptuous production design and Wright is giving it a stylized treatment–it will be set inside a theater.
Argo (Ben Affleck)October 12: Affleck, after two films, has shown himself to be a capable director. I think The Town just missed getting nominated, and this film, a Wag the Dog-like operation about rescuing Iranian hostages, seems like it could be a winner.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) July 1: Given the expanded nomination list, this figures to be the “art film” choice, as it has received almost unanimous praise.
The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan) July 20: I don’t know about this one. Surely the reason the Academy expanded the field in the first place can be traced to the snubbing of The Dark Knight, but this film has not received as high as acclaim as that one did (though it’s a better movie). But the Academy might be ready to nominate a comic-book superhero movie, and instead of going with the box office mega-smash The Avengers, it can go with those more critic-friendly one.
Les Miserables (Tom Hooper) December 14: The Oscar blogs have anointed this as the front-runner, which goes against Oscar precedent. I do not believe any director has won Best Picture for two consecutive films, and Tom Hooper seems unlikely to pull that off. The familiarity of the material and big stars have drawn focus. It may well be nominated, but I’ll say right here that it won’t win.
Life of Pi (Ang Lee) November 21: Lee’s adaptation of a popular book about a boy and a tiger in a boat drew raves at Cannes, and I’m interested to see how it could be made into a movie–will the Tiger be real, or a puppet?
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg) November 9: Long gestating, this adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals finally hits the big screen. Daniel-Day Lewis looks great as Abe, and I’m intrigued, but expect Spielberg to overdo the schmaltz. Still, seems like a sure thing for a nomination.
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) September 14: We’ll find out very soon if this film is Oscar-worthy, and if it’s really about L. Ron Hubbard. I’ll be there, of course, will the Academy? I think if they were able to honor the difficult There Will Be Blood, they will honor this one.
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) May 27: The Academy hasn’t been overwhelmed by Anderson’s work–he’s gotten one nomination, for writing The Royal Tenenbaums. But this film has garnered the best reviews of his career, and for my money it’s the best movie of the year so far. Put it in the book.
Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow) December 19: A film about the killing of Osama bin Laden, this film figures to be a pretty good action/thriller, and has also raised some controversy by being accused by a Republican congressman that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal got classified information. That kind of controversy can’t hurt.
Also in the mix: Amour (Michael Haneke) Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino), The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson), Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michel), The Paperboy (Lee Daniels), The Sessions (Ben Lewin), Silver Lining’s Playbook (David O. Russell)