|12 Years a Slave|
As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is commemorated, it’s interesting to see that the Oscar race this year is dominated, relatively speaking, by films that deal with black issues. Up to three films that focus on the struggle of black people in America (and another that deals with South Africa) could be nominated for Best Picture. Needless to say, that would be unprecedented. The three American films are all directed by blacks; only two have been nominated for Best Director in the history of the Academy (John Singleton and Lee Daniels) and only one film that has been helmed by a black director, Precious, has been nominated for Best Picture.
Of course, there are plenty of white-themed films in the mix this year, and there’s no guarantee that any of these African American-themed pictures will be nominated, but it seems likely that one or two will. What follows is my annual look at ten films that I think will be nominated; if my track record is consistent about five of them will make the actual cut. Only two of these have been released, and no doubt some of the other eight will sink without a sight, while films that are not on the radar right now will emerge. Again this year there will be five to ten nominees.
American Hustle (David O. Russell, December 13) Russell has a little streak of two straight Best Picture noms, and reteams his Silver Linings Playbooks stars Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence, along with his The Fighter co-stars Amy Adams and Christian Bale. The film centers around the ABSCAM FBI sting of the late ’70s, and seems to have the fashion and hairstyles that are historically correct. A cast this illustrious sets it up as a no-brainer if it’s up to Russell’s recent track record.
August: Osage County (John Wells, December 25) Another movie with a high-profile cast, with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts headlining. The source play won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony, and was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. But it was also three hours long, so writer Tracy Letts surely had to murder some of his children and cut it. Also, the director, John Wells, is primarily a TV director and does not have a particularly distinctive filmography.
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, July 26) Allen has been an Academy darling, holding the record for most wins and nominations in the Original Screenplay category. This film has gotten some of the best reviews of his career, and Cate Blanchett is the current front-runner for Best Actress.
Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, October 11) Tom Hanks returns to prominence this year with two big roles, this one as the title character in the true story of the Maersk Alabama, which was taken by Somali pirates. Greengrass is an excellent director of films like this, and seems a natural as an Oscar contender.
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, July 12) Since the Best Picture nominations expanded, there has been room for more indie films, and this one, the sensation of Sundance, seems like it will cop that spot. It profiles the current situation that black men face in this country, and with the “stop and frisk” laws in the headlines these days, along with the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it is extremely timely.
Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, October 4) Also getting more nominations since the field expanded are science fiction films, and this one has been on the horizon for a while. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, if it meets expectations it should be in the mix.
Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, December 6) The Coens are also working on a two-in-a-row streak, and their last three out of four films have been nominated. This one interests me because of its setting–the New York folk music scene of the early ’60s–but may not be catnip for the Academy. But you never know, and you can’t ignore them.
The Monuments Men (George Clooney, December 18) Clooney has run hot and cold as a director, but this one seems enticing–Nazis and stolen art (and a small role by Bill Murray). Clooney could have as many as six nominations this year if everything goes right–he’s also a producer of August: Osage County.
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, October 18) A true story about a free black who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Saw the trailer today; it looks absolutely harrowing. Chiwetel Ejlofer, Alfre Woodard, and Michael Fassbender star. Just a hunch, but I could see it winning it all.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, November 15) Scorsese in yet another collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. Four out of five of Scorsese’s last films have been nominated for Best Picture (Shutter Island is the only one since the turn of the century that hasn’t).
Also in the mix is Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which may very well be nominated and is on my bubble. I saw it today and will write about it tomorrow. Additionally, there is Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, Ron Howard’s Rush, Saving Mr. Banks (with Hanks as Walt Disney), Dallas Buyer’s Club, All Is Lost, Foxcatcher, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.