As the Summer blockbuster season draws to a close the big studios focus their attention on awards season. Even though the Oscars may be months away, the winter months are invariably a dumping ground for those big worthy awards contenders.
So far this year we’ve already had a few big hitters in the shape of The Grand Budapest Hotel which, although probably too left-field for the Best Picture Award (the Academy doesn’t do quirky), it could easily be nominated in the writing category, and will certainly get nods for Art Direction and Cinematography. Also receiving high acclaim when it did the rounds earlier this year, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a strong contender down to its innovative narrative and powerful screenplay.
Out this month is David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Fincher is no stranger to Oscars, winning a plethora for The Social Network, and this seems well built for an awards assault. Ben Affleck is a darling at the awards at the moment, so an acting nomination is likely, and the Academy likes dark brooding dramas, so a Best Picture nomination is fairly likely, as well as the usual Directing and Screenwriting nominations.
Coming up we have Intersteller, the new mind-bender from Brit wunderkind Christopher Nolan. Sci-fi never scores big at the Academy Awards aside from in the technical categories but Nolan has been doing sterling work recently and it will be getting harder to ignore him. With a cast full of previous Oscar winners (Matthew Mcconaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine) and an epic scale, even if it doesn’t make Best Picture, Nolan will definitely be one of the favourites for Best Director this year.
The Mexican conquest of Hollywood continues apace this year with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. Iñárritu has previous form with the likes of 21 Grams and Babel receiving their due share of acclaim, so it’s not unlikely that this outing will be something special. Telling the tale of a washed up actor, famed for playing a super hero, who wants to reclaim former glories and mount a Broadway show, it features a lot of the Academy’s favourite tropes as well as a roster of great acting talent (Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone to name three).
Clint Eastwood is back again this year with American Sniper, which ticks all the right boxes: based on an acclaimed best seller, a focus on the true life story of a Navy-Seal in Iraq, and starring the very popular Bradley Cooper. This is a definite contender for all the big awards, especially Best Picture but it remains to be seen whether it will live up to the hype. Eastwood has excellent form at the Oscars, but his last few attempts (J.Edgar, Invictus) weren’t as great and there’s a lingering fear that his best work is behind him.
A seemingly unlikely film drumming up buzz is Tim Burton’s Big Eyes. Burton isn’t known for his stabs at worthy Oscar drama (his last attempt, Big Fish, didn’t hit well and most of his other films only get nominated in technical categories), but this one is interesting. Another true life tale (Oscars love real life), this looks at the break down in the relationship and subsequent court case of a husband and wife team who painted a series of incredibly popular portraits in the 1970’s. The fact that it stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz won’t hurt its chances either.
Ridley Scott is also back with a bang this winter with his take on the Moses tale. Exodus: Gods and Kings shares many similarities with Scott’s previous Oscar darling, Gladiator which will surely win it some favour. When Ridley is on form nobody can beat him and it’s been a while since a big sword and sandal epic won anything, so this may be the year.
Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is getting a lot of attention in the USA, mainly due to some exceptional performances from an unrecognisable Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum. The (again) true story may give it good leverage, but it seems to be a quite dark tale and in the end it seems likely that if this wins anything it will probably be for Steve Carrell’s lead performance.
Brad Pitt and Shia LaBoeuf WWII drama Fury is also drumming up support at the moment with its gritty take on the last month of the Allies push into the heart of Nazi Germany. Historical dramas are always a good bet, and one of this quality is unlikely to go unnoticed, so expect nominations across the board
Although it failed to inspire audiences upon its release in the US last month, James Brown biopic Get on Up is likely to stir up an acting nomination for star Chadwick Bosema, whose portrayal as the troubled singer was acclaimed across the board. Carrying on with Biopics, Selma, Ava DuVernay’s Martin Luther King tale is also a strong contender for a best picture nod as well as a slew of acting awards.
On the British end, Enigma-code drama The Imitation Game is likely to see some good coverage (a likely nomination for Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing), and Mike Leigh’s artist biopic Mr. Turner will likely get a spin as well.
Everybody loves Paul Thomas Anderson, and for good reason, so his newest film Inherent Vice is likely to get some good notices when it lands shortly. With a stellar cast including Joaquin Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon, this is a good bet for the big prize.
In terms of comedy films, the Bill Murray starring St. Vincent is a massive crowd pleaser with amazing reviews to match. While the tone may be too light for some of the stuffy older voters at the Academy, a nomination for Murray in the acting field is a shoe-in. Likewise, the Kristen Wiig’s The Skeleton Twins may be seen as too small and indie to crack into the big awards, but Wiig’s acting work will more than likely be in for a nod.
In terms of Best Actress, the clear front runner at the moment is Julianne Moore who has turned in a career best performance in the dark and powerful Still Alice. It isn’t until January, however, so it’s unlikely to get much notice in the Best Picture category.
In all, it’s a strong year for the awards season, with a good selection. As ever it’s entirely possibly something will rise up unseen and dazzle the voters outside of what’s listed here, although for our money it’s a good bet that the Best Picture Oscar will go to something traditional like American Sniper or Inherent Vice.