Yes, kids, it’s that time of year. Not only has school started, but it’s time to start thinking about the Oscars. The fall schedule is loaded with Oscar bait and surely some out-of-nowhere surprises, so let’s get to it with my ridiculously early look at the contenders.
News is that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie just got hitched. Mazel tov you crazy kids! They may also be in the unique position of both having a film nominated for Best Picture–one as a director, the other as star. Pitt picked up an Oscar last year as a producer for 12 Years a Slave. Can he do it again?
In alphabetical order:
Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Oct. 17). The story of a washed-up movie star (Michael Keaton) who played an iconic superhero, this film just got rapturous reviews at the Venice Film Festival. May be too offbeat to actually win, but Oscar loves movies about Hollywood and it should be a lock for a nomination.
Boyhood, Richard Linklater (July 11). Some are wondering if this film has what it takes to be nominated, given that it is really an arthouse pic, but with ten possible nominees I think it’s a done deal. The film is the best reviewed film of the year, and it at least made it to the multiplexes.
Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller (Nov. 14). Pushed back from last year, this film, about a DuPont heir and his creepy association with wrestlers, is getting great festival buzz. Like Birdman, may be too weird to actually win, but a nomination seems imminent.
Fury, David Ayer (Oct. 17). Pitt stars a battle-hardened tank commander in what looks like an old-fashioned World War II film. Pitt has been on a pretty good role lately. This is not from his production company, Plan B, but looks like a solid chance for a nomination.
Gone Girl, David Fincher (Oct. 3). Fincher’s last adaptation of a smash-hit novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, did not score a best pic nod, but you can’t count him out here. The book was widely read (I didn’t think that much of it) and sure to be a box office hit, but will Oscar go for a pulpy murder mystery?
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson (Mar. 7) Maybe wishful thinking on my part, as the Academy has not loved Anderson’s films (except for the screenwriter’s branch). This was the biggest hit of his career, but the early release date may doom it. Fingers crossed.
Interstellar, Christopher Nolan (Nov. 6). The director’s branch does not like Christopher Nolan (he’s never been nominated) but this could be the year. After showing love for Gravity last year, the Academy seems to have shucked its reluctance to reward sci-fi films with major awards.
Into the Woods, Rob Marshall (Dec. 25). If it’s directed by Marshall, it’s probably bad, but every year there seems to be great hope placed on musicals. This one, despite it’s fairy tale setting, is fairly intellectual, but after seeing Nine I don’t know if Marshall can pull this off. It still may get nominated, though.
Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh (Dec. 19). Going a bit on a limb for this one, a biopic of British painter J.M.W. Turner. Got high praise on the festival circuit, particularly for Timothy Spall in the title role. Oscar has shown great love for Mike Leigh before, but it may be lost in the shuffle.
Unbroken, Angelina Jolie (Dec. 25). Jolie’s second directorial effort, and as baity a movie can get, being about a real hero and full of indomitable spirit and patriotism. The Academy, being mostly actors, over-rewards actors who direct, so unless this is absolutely horrid I don’t see how it won’t get a nomination here. Right now the de facto favorite for the win.
Also possible: American Sniper, Clint Eastwood; Big Eyes, Tim Burton; The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum; Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson; A Most Violent Year, J.C. Chandor; The Theory of Everything, James Marsh; Wild, Jean-Marc Vallee.